The domain name, halostatue, is based on a joke my father told me years ago. It’s a joke that plays on the stereotypical conflict between people who consider themselves sophisticated urbanites and those they consider naïve fools. It is often used to reinforce negative views of one of the stereotypes involved, depending on the version and the status of the person telling the joke. When researching versions of the joke, I found a number of versions that were explicitly racist or anti-ethnic (the naïve character was cast as a member of the target race or ethnicity).
With the rise of cellphones and decline of landlines, the joke is substantially less relevant than it used to be. Funnily enough, one of the recurring search terms that leads people to my website is “halo statue”—people are looking for small statues of Halo characters (usually “Master Chief”).
I learned this joke as a dialogue between a Southerner from an unidentified state and a New Yorker, so that’s how I tell it. In my version, I don’t really think either character is a fool, and I treat it as both a funny pun and a reminder that communication is an active process for both the speaker and the listener.
An old rural Southerner inherits a small fortune. He’s always wanted a big house with central air conditioning and a big lawn and all the amenities, but he doesn’t know where to start. He’s heard that New York has the best architects, so he hires one to design and build his mansion. Most of the initial design session goes reasonably well (as the old man learns about what’s possible), but just as the architect is leaving, the old man says “I want you to make sure you put in a halo statue.” The architect is confused. Worried that asking what the old man means will jinx the contract, he just nods and leaves with a promise to return in a couple of weeks with a maquette model of the mansion.
Three weeks later, the architect returns with the model and shows the old man the features of the house that he’s designed. The old man is pleased, but asks where his halo statue is going to be. The architect smiles and points to a statue in the foyer. He knows just the sculptor to produce this nine foot statue of an angel with a halo encircling its head. The old man looks at the architect oddly and says, “that’s not a halo statue. It’s pretty, though.” The architect nods, his pride punctured, and promises to return with a new model correcting the problems and this time, there will be a proper halo statue in the house.
The architect returns two weeks later to talk further about the house and the landscaping. When the meeting is wrapping up, the architect shows the old man the new halo statue: it is just the angel this time, with no halo. The halo will be beamed onto the angel with a state-of-the-art light and mirror system that will use the sunlight during the day and LEDs at night. The old man is impressed, but “that’s still not a halo statue.”
Four weeks pass and the architect returns. He’s certain that the latest model is going to meet full approval so that construction can start. The statue of the angel is missing, but in its place is a hanging circle of mirrors that with the light system he talked about last time, it would appear that the old man has a halo floating in the middle of his foyer with no support whatsoever. Once again, the old man is impressed, but says “that’s not a halo statue. I thought you New York architects where bright hotshots that knew what you were talking about. I’m just gonna’ have to hire someone that knows what he’s about.”
The architect is understandably miffed. “Sir, I’ve brought you three models for your mansion. You’ve liked all of them, but refused them over this one little item—the halo statue. In all of my years as an architect, I’ve never heard of a halo statue. Would you care to explain to me what a halo statue is?”
The old man is surprised and looks at the architect as if he had just grown wings. “How can you not know what a halo statue is? It’s one of them things that goes ring, ring for a little while until you reach it and then you pick it up and say: halo, ’stat-you?”
Thank you, and good night.