Saturday, August 02, 2014

Ars Repulsis by Bob Rempfer

Most people don't know, but my middle name is Rempfer, so named after the family who took care of my dad while he was growing up in Forest Grove, OR. Bob and Gert Rempfer were college professors at Portland State University, Bob in Math and Gert in Physics.

Bob was also a prolific letter writer and budding humorist, something my namesake and I have in common.

Recently, when I was helping my mom go through some of her old letters, I came across a couple of essays Bob had written and sent to my parents back in May 1973. I thought his essay Ars Repulsis, was funny and is the kind of thing my dad always enjoys. All his missives were written on a typewriter, and had the kinds of tabs and spacing I would expect from a frequent and frenetic typer — something else we share in common.

I took the letter and retyped it here, unedited, so I could share it with my readers.

Ars Repulsis by Bob Rempfer

In Medical Schools (one of its professors told me the other day), people study the course of DISEASE and how to prolong it by prolonging the life of its victims. They do not, alas, study HEALTH and how to prolong it.

I was reminded of that recently when taking inventory of my friends who still correspond with me. As, in days of approaching senility, my own correspondence GROWS I have found to my surprise that my incoming correspondence is DIMINISHING.

I conveyed this dilemma to an acquaintance, Horst Wottaflab, who always SEEKS ME out, and he came up with what must be the answer:

"You have rediscovered one of the secrets only known to the Ancients -- the Ars Repulsis. It was practiced by a sect of those who Wanted to Be Alone. They are known to have succeeded brilliantly. Of course, they died out in the process."

Having said this, Horst went on

"Since mankind today appears to be groping toward a rediscovery of that Art, and since you appear to be a Foremost Exponent of the Art, you appear to be destined for UNDYING FAME. You have only to write your Memoirs in the Ars Repulsis and your name will go down to a Glory that will Last as long as the Human Race, which is to say on present estimates about FIVE or SIX years, i.e. until about the middle of the Agnew Administration (in other words about the time everybody would rather be dead anyway)!"

So, in quest of this FEEBLE GLORY, I hereby write my Memoirs in the Ars Repulsis.

The easiest is to develop this in a series of case histories.

1. A half dozen friends of mine had investment interests. You all know of the "friend" who looks at the pictures on your walls (some of which you drew yourself) and says "some people have execrable taste in the pictures they put on their walls." That's sure-fire for the Ars Repulsis! I achieve this by writing a PARABLE that lampoons the "investment interests" of my correspondents and indicates what anyone in his right mind "would do." I can tell you that one is a real winner.

I now have six fewer people with whom I correspond.

2. When we first moved to our farm, we had -- let me think back -- perhaps ten friends in this area. They gave us chickens, ducks, horses -- a whole animal population for this farm. Being at the time an unconscious practitioner of the Ars Repulsis, and a would-be humorist, I wrote a FAMOUS X-mas CARD that went on at length about the broken-down saw-bones and spavine freaks that populated this farm!

I got several polite titters. "Heh! Heh! How utterly witty!"

And we had ten less friends in this area!

3. I dimly recall that I had a friend who was taking care of her aged mother, at home, in circumstances of considerable difficulty. Ostensbily to show how sympathetic I was (but secretly in my growing mastery of the A. R.) I indicated how anybody in his right mind puts old folks in homes where they will be happy with "their own kind."

I was just thinking, the other day, I don't seem to be in touch nowadays with people who are caring for antiquated relatives.

4. One of my friends is an overworked teacher who does handicrafts (beadwork, etc.) for her pupils.

As a master of the A.R. I went on one day about how a teacher should never overwork (you need to maintain the smoothness and "charm" of your own personality and you can't do that if you are overworked -- you see how "vivacious" I am and the secret is avoid overwork). I went on to say (and this was the crowning glory) that above all one does not do handicraft work -- you make the District buy those materials!

Come to think on it, this friend has owed me a letter for the last three years!

5. One of my friends, an Irishman by heritage, listened to me carry on about St. Paddy who rid the snakes from Ireland, and his amiable foibles and superstitions. I was positively witty as I indicated how many traces of this charming naivete are still to seen in the descendants of St. Patricks contemporaries of the "Owd Sod!"

A strange look came of the face of my Irishman friend and I knew that he must be moved at my sensitivity and considerateness of "his sort."

Come to think on't, I haven't seen him since -- and since last I knew, we live in the same town, that is a bit strange.

6. One of the two Young Things who used to ride with me to Portland (to save gas) got a strange look about her face as I was going on "I don't know what so and so can be thinking of, wearing those contact lenses! They cost a hundred and fifty dollars, are easily lost, and scarify the cornea!"

"I wonder if you have seen a contact -- I must have dropped it!" said the one Young Thing quietly to the other.

For some strange reason, I now Ride the Bus to Portland, or I Drive Alone.

7. "I always deliver my lectures in class without notes, extemporaneously!" said I while visiting with another professor. "I think prepared lectures and use of notes is deadly!"

"You'll forgive me -- I must now go and write out my Extempore Lecture for my tomorrow's class!" said the professor.

Come to think on't, I haven't seen this colleague lately. I wonder if he's been ill.

Let's see -- I had a point when I began this, but I've forgotten what it was. Oh, there's Joe! I must sign off. I want to advise him about that piece of property he's in the market for. I'm sure he'll appreciate my views!


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