BE MY GUEST

I’d rather be a great bad poet than a bad good poet. –Ogden Nash

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Today is the birthday, not of Ogden Nash, but of Edgar Guest (Aug. 20, 1881). And who, you might ask, was Mr. Guest, and why is he my special Guest for this post? (Sorry about that, but to paraphrase Will Rogers, I never met a pun I didn’t like.) Though he is all but forgotten today, in his day Guest was a poet so popular that he was known as the People’s Poet. Unfortunately for him, this lofty regard was not shared by more discriminating appraisers such as Dorothy Parker, who is reported to have declared:

I’d rather flunk my Wassermann test*
than read a poem by Edgar Guest.”

*a test for syphilis

Were his poems really that bad? Here are a few examples; you be the judge:

Home ain’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it’s home there’s got t’ be a heap o’ living in it.
–from his most famous poem, titled “Home”

When you’re up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face,
Lift your chin, and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
–from “See It Through”

Now, I’m not saying I’d rather flunk a syphilis test than read a poem by Edgar Guest, but August 18 was/is BAD POETRY DAY, and one wonders why that date was chosen rather than August 20, which would have coincided perfectly with the birth date of the critics’ poetaster child for BAD POETRY DAY. Of course, it’s possible there are worse poets than Guest, so perhaps neglected candidates for the honor would have raised a stink (as opposed to raising a stinker, like the parents of a certain GOP candidate for President).

But I digress (the devil made me do it). Back on message, your humble host is more than capable of vying for the honor; as proof, he submits the following for your disapproval:

RAINED ALL NIGHT THE DAY I LEFT

It was a dark and stormy night
On the day I left to stay.
The sun was shining brightly
On yon shadows afar away.

I be starting on a journey
Just as soon as I know where.
I’ve packed a lot of nothing
To unpack when I get there.

They say the spirit’s willing,
But the flesh is weak as sin;
The former is my future —
The latter is where I’ve been.

So come, sweet spirit, raise me
From the heap o’ living dead.
I surrender — set me free from
My behind to look ahead.

And should I meet up with trouble,
I’ll meet it squarely and not duck;
I’ll shoulder my chin, a face lift face,
And just show all-around pluck.

And if that doesn’t take me
Beyond that unbending bend,
I’ll just declare this is where
Both journey and poem end.

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Back to Mr. Nash. I opened this opus with his “great bad poet/bad good poet” quote. There was a method to my badness: he was America’s preeminent writer of humorous light verse from 1931 until his death in 1971, a favorite of mine, and, apropos to this post’s focus on an August 18-20 time frame, he was born Aug. 19 (1902). So Happy Birthday, Ogden Nash — a wit as a light versifier and, I might add, no twit as a lyricist; witness his words to this tune composed by Kurt Weill, as sung by Eileen Wilson (lip synced by Ava Gardner) and Dick Haymes in the 1948 Hollywooden film version of the play ONE TOUCH OF VENUS:

 

 

SAY WHAT AGAIN?

The use of wordplay in the titles of my last two posts (ROMANCE WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY and ALL’S FARE IN LOVE AND FOUR) doesn’t cancel the reservations I expressed in my 6/1/15 post (SAY WHAT?); i.e., it’s chancy to ‘pun’ old sayings because most people today don’t know them….and if they don’t know the sayings, they won’t get the wordplay.

Now, granted that some party-poopers may have known the actual sayings (ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY and ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR) behind those titles, but pooh-poohed the wordplay as hardly worth the strain my brain went through to get the end result. Be that as it may, my purpose here is to be ‘test assured’ that my readers are more familiar with once-familiar old sayings than “most people” in the first place — so, if you’re game, here’s a list of 4 old sayings, 4 song titles, and 4 made-up idioms. If you can pick — out of the dozen — 3 of the 4 old sayings, consider yourself a genius. If you get all four right, I will consider you a genius.

1.  FAINT HEART NE’ER WON FAIR LADY

2.  A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY

3.  DISCRETION IS THE BETTER PART OF VALOR

4.  ANY PLACE I HANG MY HAT IS HOME

5.  GOOD FECES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS

6.  FISH AND VISITORS STINK AFTER THREE DAYS

7.  ANY TIME’S THE TIME TO FALL IN LOVE

8.  DON’T CHANGE CORPSES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREAM

9.  DON’T THROW COLD WATER ON THE FLAME OF LOVE

10. GO TO BED WITH THE CHICKENS, WAKE UP WITH THE ROOSTERS

11. WHILE THE CAT’S AWAY, THE MICE WILL PRAY*

12. GENIUS IS ONE PERCENT INSPIRATION AND 99 PERCENT PERSPIRATION

*Apparently they’re church mice.

So, how do you think you did? If you can’t stand the suspense, hold on to your pants, because I will keep you in suspenders no longer — the old sayings are #1, #3, #6 and #12. Speaking of #12, if you weren’t right at least 3 times of 4, obviously you don’t perspire enough to be a genius.

As for the other two categories, I made up #5 (“feces” for “fences”), #8 (“corpses” replaces “horses”), #10 and #11 (“pray” is a play on “play”), and the song titles are #2, #4, #7 and #9. What’s that you say — #9 sounds like something I made up, not a song? Well, I hate to throw cold water on your hot tamales, but the proof is in the pudding:

In  closing, take pride, ye geniuses who passed the test and could dig the rest; let the record show, The wordplay’s the thing.

 

 

 

ALL’S FARE IN LOVE AND FOUR

With my mind drawing blanks and little time to spare
….as this post comes due, I hope you will bear
with four poems previously published, not saying where….
but near in spirit to my last post’s bill of fare:

LOVER BOY

Narcissus was too perfect for sex or pelf;
He longed only to gaze in love at himself….
The moral of which is that, even in myths,
Too much reflection may be your nemesis.

THE BOOK OF WISDOM

Thou shalt not commit adultery,
Nor shalt thou covet thy neighbor’s spouse.
Shouldst thou succumbeth to temptation,
Thou shalt not covet in thy neighbor’s house.

FAIR WARNING

And so, when wise men say to you
Love’s a game for dreamers and fools….
Buddy, beware
That a lady fair
Doesn’t play by the wise men’s rules.

TREASURE CHEST

\/    Madame’s cleavage so fair; yet
xx    he must pretend not to see;
~~   he knows well the song:
/\    Let it beLet it be.

She may say, if he peeks,
he’s just looking for thrills….
but innocence is a broad, and she
gets There’s ogle in them thar hills.

ROMANCE WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY

To a romantic girl, all roads lead to Romeo. –Evan Esar

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August is ROMANCE AWARENESS MONTH. I’m not sure why a month is needed to raise awareness of romance (a week, or even a day, seems more than sufficient to awaken all but the most world-weary of libidos)….however, if it must take a month, I suppose August will do as well as any other. But then who needs Valentine’s Day  — enough is enough!

That may sound tantamount to telling Cupid to take a hike, but before you Romeos and Juliets go Roman off in a huff, be aware I have nothing against romance so long as it doesn’t get out of hand….which, as it happens, makes the title of my previous post (DON’T LOSE YOUR HEAD) appear as if I’d simultaneously had today’s post in mind. Alas, I am not that far-sighted, but as a killer of two birds with one stone, and as a preview of coming attractions, I must admit the title was prescient (and I assure you that the two birds killed weren’t lovebirds).

Anyway, what can I say about romance that hasn’t already been intimated by many others? Not much, I’m happy to say, because it comports with my creative energy level in these dog days of August. Therefore, I shall turn to those others who have already waxed eloquent about puppy love and the like, and relieve myself of further arduous cogitation:

Love is the emotion that a woman always feels for a poodle, and sometimes for a man. –George Jean Nathan

Romance has been elegantly defined as the offspring of fiction and love. –Disraeli

Marriage is a romance in which the heroine dies in the first chapter. –Cecelia Egan

This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, Doc, my brother’s crazy! He thinks he’s a chicken. The doc says, Well, why don’t you turn him in? And the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that’s how I feel about relationships. They’re totally irrational, crazy and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs. –Woody Allen

Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties. –Jules Renard

The realist always falls in love with a girl he has grown up with, the romanticist with a girl from “off somewhere.” –Robert Frost

Fools rush in where bachelors fear to wed. –Evan Esar

Men always want to be a woman’s first love. That is their clumsy vanity. Women have a more subtle instinct: what they like is to be a man’s last romance. –Oscar Wilde

By the time you swear you’re his, shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is infinite, undying —
Lady, make a note of this: One of you is lying.

–Dorothy Parker

Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy. –Henry Kissinger

In as much as we began this romantic excursion with several punning allusions to Rome, it seems fitting to close with scenes from one of my favorite films, the Audrey Hepburn-Gregory Peck romantic comedy, ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953):

DON’T LOSE YOUR HEAD

What would you do without your head? Well, you might become a candidate for President of the United Horsemen of Sleepy Hollow….or President of the United States of America. Just the thought of the latter naturally points to the strange case of one Donald Trump, a septuagenarian who appears to have a head — but every word emanating from said head makes it apparent that it isn’t a real head, but a cartoon head, with real drawing power.

And here all the Time

Now, it’s possible that Sir Donald, of House of Orange fame, was born with an ordinary human head (hard to picture, but possible). If so, it seems obvious that at some point he irretrievably lost it (perhaps in a naval exercise, or maybe it was told “You’re fired!” when he was an ANT (Apprentice Narcissistic Tycoon). Of course, it would never do for someone of his stature to appear headless (not great for the image), so no doubt he struck a great deal with a great cartoonist to draw a big replacement head on his shoulders that would not only be the envy of every bird seeking a nesting site, but would look great and inspire many tweets in the bargain.

Needless to say, the cartoonist succeeded in creating an artistic wonder, notwithstanding the fact that every time the head said something, it made its bear-er look like an ass. Of course, that’s not the cartoonist’s fault, but Sir Donald blamed him anyway, because that’s what winners do to losers (of everything but heads). Naturally, Sir Donald’s followers drank it up, because everything he says goes down like Dr. Trump’s Original Snake Oil, ‘still-made’ right here in the good old U.S. of A. by Mexican aliens, and guaranteed great for the constitution, for soothing fear, and curing everything that aliens you.

And so, my fellow Americans, the choice is queer (heterosexually speaking). The time is now. Or is it the choice is now and the times are queer? Anyway, if your mind (assuming you haven’t lost your head reading this post) was undecided as to who or whom to vote for at the start of this treatise, I trust that is no longer a problem.

This has been a public service announcement brought to you as a public service. I thank you.

P.S. Thanks also to Wayne Hogan for providing the cartoon which provided the idea for this post. If his name sounds vaguely familiar, another great Wayne’s world classic appears on the cover of my book SEX SCELLS, which I seem to recall a few of you buying under duress way back when (and of which I just happen to have some leftover copies, in case anyone’s interested).

LET BYGONES BE BYGONES

It’s nice for children to have pets — until the pets start having children. –Evan Esar

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I think if I owned a pet (be it dog, cat, or rock), I would name it BYGONES….if for no other reason than just thinking of that name suggested the idea for a post such as the one you’re reading. But beyond that, there is this: by God, any pet I own deserves a name that is not only as unique as some of the names we give our kids, but reflects my forgiving nature. Thus (for example), if my pet rock would decide to follow a cat up a tree and get stuck, I’d be willing to tell my rock I forgive it for being stuck up….and let Bygones be Bygones.

Now, I’ll admit that “Bygones” may not be the most sexy pet name in the world, but as you might conclude from the opening quote, “sexy” & “pet” aren’t the mix I’d look for if I were looking for my ideal pet (more up my platonic pet alley would be, not a cool cat or hot dog, but an ugly rock). After all, how are we to control the pet population if we keep giving our pets such seductive names as these actual pet names gleaned from Google-eyed research:

BABY CAKES
BIG DADDY
BLOSSOM BUTT
BOO BOO
BUNBUNS

CHUNKY BUNNY
CUDDLE CAKES
CUTIE PATOOTIE
FLUFFER-NUTTER
HONEY PANTS

HOTNESS
HOTTIE
HUGGALUMP
KISSY FACE
LADY KILLER

LOVE MUFFIN
LOVER BOY
LOVER GIRL
McSTEAMY
MISTER CUTIE

MONKEY BUNS
MOOKIE-POOKIE BEAR
NUM NUMS
PARADISE
POP TART

PUSSY CAT
SCHMOOOOKY POOKIE POOO
SEXY MAMA
SNOOGYPUSS
UNCLE UPRIGHT

Come on, admit it — even if you perchance to be the most domesticated of creatures, you might turn into a tiger if you were called any of the above by a sex of the opposite member….not to mention, if called such censored terms of endearment as these:

So, until we meet again, my little winky-dinky petsy-wetsy….

 

 

 

FACING THE SERIOUS STUFF

Blessed is he who takes himself seriously, for he shall create much amusement. –Strictland Gillian

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Picking up from my last post, this post will re-print selected serious parts of old clippings left hanging on July 15. If you’re still into that post’s humor act, this character (actor) should help set the stage for transitioning from reacting like this 😀 to reacting like this.

Now that the appropriate mood has been established, I trust that you are in a frame of mind to engage in some serious Trump-like introspection as you consider the following. It’s going to be great, believe me:

No matter how many prayers uttered, no mater how many [guns fired] or coffins draped, a nation cannot heal itself without self-awareness. We seem not to want to recognize that we are the problem. –Kathleen Parker

We learn not from what we know, but from what we don’t know. — T. C. Collins

What is it in the American character that squirms in the presence of eloquence, that revels in barroom disdain for brainpower? The irony is that this country was founded by intellectuals, the Constitution written by men enlightened by the top thinkers of the day. We’ve gone from Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to [Donald Trump*] and Dan Quayle. What happened? –Joe Robinson  *my proxy for a long-forgotten senator 

Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups. –John Kenneth Galbraith

There is still another reason to grant literature an important place in the life of nations. Without it, the critical mind, which is the real engine of historical change and the best protector of liberty, would suffer an irreparable loss. This is because all good literature poses radical questions about the world in which we live. –Mario Vargas Llosa

What is woman’s basic physical metaphor? It is mystery, the hidden. Psychoanalyst Karen Horney speaks of a girl’s inability to see her genitals and a boy’s ability to see his as the source of female subjectivity and male objectivity. The female body’s unbearable hiddenness applies to all aspects of men’s dealings with women. Mystery shrouds woman’s sexuality. This mystery is the main reason for the imprisonment man has imposed on woman. Modern feminism’s most naïve formulation is its assertion that rape is a crime of violence but not of sex, that it is merely power masquerading as sex. But sex is power, and power is inherently aggressive. Rape is male power fighting female power. It is no more to be excused than murder or any other assault on another’s civil rights. Society is woman’s protection against rape, not, as some feminists absurdly maintain, the cause of rape. Whenever social controls are weakened, as in war or mob rule, even civilized men behave in uncivilized ways. Sex crimes are always male, never female, because such crimes are conceptualized assaults on the unreachable omnipotence of woman and nature. –Harper’s Magazine, May 1990

The great physicist Hans Bethe said, “Well, I come down in the morning and I take up a pencil and I try to think.”  It’s a notion that appears to have gone the way of the rotary phone. Americans not only seem to be doing less serious thinking lately, they seem to have less and less tolerance for those who spend time wrestling with important and complex matters. If you can’t say it in 30 seconds, you have to move on. Donald Trump (“You’re fired!”) and Paris Hilton (“That’s hot!”) are cultural icons. Ignorance is in. —Bob Herbert, Feb. 2005

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There are more clippings where those excerpts came from, but the above should be enough to chew on for a while. If you like to fantasize, perhaps a few of these topics will be raised in the upcoming Presidential debates, as I’m sure The Donald would be more than delighted to discuss his views on such matters in depth — not that his supporters (or even the average American) seem to believe the capacity to think in-depth is an asset of any particular value for a President.

A penny for your thoughts?