IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT

On the dubious theory that you can’t get too much of a good thing, I’m going to follow up I’VE GOT A SECRET and TO TELL THE TRUTH (my last post) with a take-off from another old radio (1940s) and TV (1950s) panel show called IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT. Never let it be said, however, that I don’t have standards. Thus, I found 1940s-50s IGNORANT clips to be a bit beneath my readers’ level of sophistication, so I have opted instead for an updated 2013 spoof of the original program (the word “Alawite” in the clip refers to a religious sect in Syria):

Now, friends, we’ve all heard the old saying that ignorance is the sincerest form of flattery (or something to that effect). Therefore, in order to showcase certain public figures, past and present, in the revealing light of their own words, let us take a look at some of the more outstanding (though not necessarily funny) examples of why it pays to be ignorant (except when it doesn’t):

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the dumbest of you all? –Anne Robinson, British TV host, who “asked for it” when she left herself open to the answer on her own show:

Adolf Hitler was a Jeanne d’Arc, a saint. He was a martyr. Like many martyrs, he held extreme views. –Ezra Pound

Rural Americans are real Americans. There’s no doubt about that. You can’t always be sure with other Americans. Not all of them are real.Dan Quayle, former U.S. V Pres

My fear is that the whole island [Guam] will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize. –Hank Johnson, Democratic Congressman from Georgia

Everything that can be invented has been invented. –Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Patent Office, 1899

Hurray, Boys! We’ve got them. We’ll finish them up and then go home to our station. –General George Armstrong Custer, before battle at Little Big Horn

I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves. –John Wayne

Son, looks to me like you’re spending too much time on one subject. –Shelby Metcalf, former Texas A&M Head Coach to one of his players who got a D and four F’s.

Saving the most classless and gratuitous example for last, this comes with our best wishes for a full recovery from brain cancer for the object of this quote:

 

 

 

 

TRUTH BE TOLD

When in doubt, tell the truth. –Mark Twain

Truth be told, I just found out that July 7 was TELL THE TRUTH DAY.  Better late than never?  That may or may not be true, but today I’m in the mood to post, and at this “late” juncture, truth is doubtless as good a thesis as any (if you believe Mark Twain).

Friends, I don’t claim to be in the same league as such legendary and current truth-tellers as Pinocchio and Donald Trump, but I am (almost) always in favor of telling the truth. In fact, one of my favorite TV quiz shows back in the day was TO TELL THE TRUTH. But before we go there, I need to set it up with a clip from a quiz show I featured in a previous post (I’VE GOT A SECRET)….the reason being that one of the panelists on the latter program (a humorist who is little-remembered today) plays a big part in the surprise ending of the TO TELL THE TRUTH clip, and it helps if you know he was once famous.

Assuming you can abide a bit more truth-telling, I will close with some quotes on the subject:

The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and simple. –Oscar Wilde

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. –Aldous Huxley

If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor. –Albert Einstein

Beware of a half-truth: you may have gotten hold of the wrong half. –Evan Esar

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. –Charles Spurgeon

All men are born truthful and die liars. –Luc de Clapiers

Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move.
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
–William Shakespeare

 

WHERE’S THE CHIEF?

Bridge is a trick-taking game using a standard 52 card deck. –Wikipedia

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I don’t play bridge, but in perusing last Thursday morning’s newspaper, I couldn’t help noticing this headline atop the daily bridge column: DISAPPEARING TRUMP TRICK.

Given the kind of column it is, I might’ve known what I hoped for was too good to be true. Let’s face it: the notion of learning how to make America’s Look-at-me President magically disappear is a bridge too far. As for voluntarily leaving office at the prospect of obstruction of justice charges, Donald Trump may be a master at the game of evasion, but a disappearing act isn’t in the cards anytime soon; he’s too addicted to tweeting/hearing himself talk. At times, one wonders where his lips shtick comes from: an out-of-control ventriloquist, or from being an egocentric blowhard & shameless con man (for the record, the word dummy appears in the bridge column six times…but I vote for choice #2).

Actually, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for an American President to disappear. Remember Jimmy Hoffa, ex-(in more ways than one)President of America’s largest union, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters? He was last seen in the parking lot of a suburban Detroit restaurant on July 30, 1975 — the day he was to meet with Mafia bosses Anthony Giacalone and Anthony Provenzano. He hasn’t been heard from since.

Speaking of a restaurant (not where one of the above two CEOs of their respective fiefdoms was last seen), do you remember this commercial?

In the case of Hoffa, the question isn’t “Where’s the beef?”, but “Where’s the Chief?” Two weeks before his disappearance, the feds discovered that hundreds of millions of dollars had disappeared from the Teamster’s largest pension fund. Hoffa’s remains remain unfound, although the FBI has checked out numerous tips: under a section of the now-demolished Giants Stadium in New Jersey; in the concrete foundation of Detroit’s Renaissance Center; under a horse barn or backyard swimming pool in Michigan; a swamp in Florida; a vacant lot 20 miles north of that last scene Detroit restaurant  — seemingly everywhere but under Trump Tower in Manhattan (no tip to the FBI intended).

There have been many other mysterious disappearances in American history (Ambrose Bierce, D.B. Cooper, Virginia Dare, Amelia Earhart, etc.), but I say none is more mysterious than the above….or my real name isn’t James Riddle Hoffa.

TRAINS OF THOUGHT

All my life I have been thrilled by the names of famous trains. The Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul, the Train Bleu rushing through the night to the Riviera, the Flying Scotsman and the Brighton Belle rolling north and south from London, the Twentieth Century Limited, the Santa Fe Chief and Super Chief crossing the vast continent of America — these were magical names to people of my generation, but on a dark November evening in 1963 the rather dingy train awaiting us in the Zurich station offered no interest until, at a second glance, I noticed that under the grime it bore a name in letters which had once been of polished brass — the Wiener Waltzer [Vienna Waltz]! My spirits rose. How charming, how romantic and how right, I thought, for I was on my way to Vienna to play the part of Johann Strauss in a picture.
–Brian Aherne, English-American actor (1902-86)

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I, too, have long been fascinated by trains — probably since the age of 12, when I traveled with my family by train from Cincinnati to Mexico City. Perhaps my most vivid memory of that trip: the elegant dining car, lined on each side of the aisle with tables covered by immaculate white tablecloths topped by spotless linens and tableware, at which we would sit like ‘big wheels’ eating leisurely meals as the scenery rolled by. “Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer” — like the old song, now echoing back over time.

On the wall near where I sit as I write this post, hangs a large 1966 calendar published by the Union Pacific Railroad (“Road of the Domeliners”). Above each month is a color photo of a scene which is presumably within viewing or dreaming distance of a Domeliner: Sun Valley, Idaho; Morro Bay, California; Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon; Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona; a covered bridge somewhere in northern California; and so on. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge in 51 years.

But the handwriting was already on the wall for iconic streamliners in America by 1966. Numbered were the days of such storied trains as the CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO and railroads like THE ATCHISON, TOPEKA AND THE SANTA FE. Sad to say, the new kid on the track, AMTRAC, would lack their imagery….not to mention, their soundtrack songs from films such as SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941) and THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946):

Those were the days, my friend. Clickety-clack, echoing back. It’s enough to give one the….

NOTE: I will be taking a one-post break. Until my next post on June 20, keep your dreams intact and your hopes on track.

 

 

CERF’S UP

In his comment to 20/20 BEHINDSIGHT (my May 20 post which contained a look back at TWENTY QUESTIONS), long-time blog buddy Don Frankel mentioned WHAT’S MY LINE? (another old TV game show). It so happens that one of the regulars on that show, humor writer and publisher (co-founder of RANDOM HOUSE) Bennett Cerf had chosen the 25th of May (1898) to be born; thus, today I honor his birthday by posting a selection of favorite Cerf puns and quotes (and high time I returned the favor, considering that lo, some twenty-plus years ago, RANDOM HOUSE published several of my poems in THE RANDOM HOUSE TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE).

But first, let’s take a look back at one of the WHAT’S MY LINE? programs from the same year as the TWENTY QUESTIONS clip shown in my previous post:

There is little question, I think you’ll agree, that WHAT’S MY LINE? was a step up in class compared to TWENTY QUESTIONS…..so it’s time to hit the Cerf (as beach bums refer to the swells) and ride the wave….to wit:

Gross ignorance is 144 times worse than ordinary ignorance.

The confused young man couldn’t decide whether to marry Kathryn or Edith. Try as he might, he just could not make up his mind. Unwilling to give up either, he strung them along far too long. This indecision continued until both women tired of the situation and left him for good. Moral of the story: You can’t have your Kate and Edith too.

Then there was the young female comic who was promised good roles in a hit TV show. All she had to do was divide her favors between the star and the producer. But it was just a sham; she never got any air time at all. You might even say she was….shared skit less.

There once was a student named Bessor
Whose knowledge grew lesser and lesser.
It at last grew so small
He knew nothing at all
And today he’s a college professor.

The Detroit String Quartet played Brahms last night. Brahms lost.

I shouldn’t be surprised  — it was four against one.

And on that note, I bid thee a fond fare well.

 

 

 

20/20 BEHINDSIGHT

When the world ends, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always 20 years behind the times. –Mark Twain

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Today being the 20th day of the month, and me being a Cincinnatian of long standing (and other less upright positions), what better time than now and what better person than your humble scribe to put history in context with 20/20 hindsight, and delve into stuff you need to know. Why? You don’t want to go out as an ignoramus when the world comes to an end (20 years sooner for you than me), do you?

Starting with the basics, are you aware of the etymology of  the word TWENTY? It’s from ye olde English twënig (literally “two tens”). I hope you agree that lacking this knowledge makes it evident that your imagination was in need of intellectual stimulation. For example, now you should be able to see how much more memorable Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address could have been had it begun: Four twënigs and seven years ago….

Speaking of “two tens,” by counting the letters of the alphabet on the digits of your two meat hooks twice, you will find (unless you’re missing a finger) that the twënigth letter is T, which may come in handy in situations where you wouldn’t want to take off your stinky shoes and socks (not that counting on your toes is anything to be ashamed of).

Moving on as I sit on my behind, there was once a quiz show on radio and TV titled TWENTY QUESTIONS, based on an old-timey traditional game called TWËNIG QUESTIONS. While I am not quite ancient enough to give eyewitness to the latter, I was around in the 1950s when the former appeared weekly (or weakly, if you had bad reception) on the DuMont Television Network. If you are too dilatory to have been around at that time, here’s a DuMontstration of what you missed:

I could go on, but my vast research team and I don’t want to feed you more knowledge than you can digest at one sitting. Tune in again May 25, when (if I feel like it) I shall once again attempt to enlighten you with more of same. Remember, you heard it here last, because we are committed, and you can be too.

 

HIGH FIVE FOR FIVE STARS

Each of the five days since my last post was the birthday of at least one iconic figure in music or film who left lasting memories for those who appreciate legacies in artistry. I could easily go overboard writing in depth about any of these mid-May arrivals, but maybe it’s best to lessen my losses by not overly testing readers’ patience (O me of little faith!):

May 11 — IRVING BERLIN (1888-1989). Perhaps the most prolific composer in American history, with an estimated 1,500 songs to his credit, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films (three of which were Astaire-Rogers musicals). Writing both words and music (relatively rare for his era), his hits include seasonal evergreens White Christmas and Easter Parade, as well as the red, white and blue God Bless America. His lyrics may lack the wit and sophistication of Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart, but there’s no denying the emotional appeal of such songs as….

May 12 — KATHERINE HEPBURN (1907-2003). In the Golden Era of Hollywood, was there ever a more successful, fiercely independent woman than Katherine Hepburn?  Successful? It’s hard to argue against receiving a record four Academy Awards for Best Actress, and being named the greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute. Independent? Her own words say it all:

“I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man. I’ve just done what I damn well wanted to, and I’ve made enough money to support myself, and ain’t afraid of being alone.” (Hard as it may be to imagine the Bryn Mawr-educated Hepburn uttering “ain’t,” I ain’t about to correct her quote.)

“We are taught you must …. never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change, you’re the one who has got to change.”

“As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”

“Life gets harder the smarter you get, the more you know.”

“Politicians remain professional because the voters remain amateur.”

NOTE: For my ode to another May 12 bundle of joy, see my post of May 12, 2015.

May 13 — ARTHUR SULLIVAN (1842-1900). Can’t place the name? How about Arthur Sullivan of GILBERT AND SULLIVAN fame? Who doesn’t enjoy their great comic operas such as THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, THE MIKADO and H.M.S. PINAFORE — the latter of which I have loved since When I was a Lad:

May 14 — SIDNEY BECHET (1897-1959). This is a name you almost certainly can’t place unless you’re a classic jazz fan….but if you are such a fan, you know him as a major figure in jazz annals since his recording debut in 1923. New Orleans born, he spent the last decade of his life in France, where he died on the same day — May 14 — that he was born. Here he is on soprano sax in a 1950s recording from the soundtrack of Woody Allen’s magical MIDNIGHT IN PARIS:

May 15 — JOSEPH COTTON (1905-1994). I have previously mentioned Joseph Cotton in regard to his co-starring role (with Orson Welles and Alida Valli) in one of my favorite films, THE THIRD MAN. He first met Welles in 1934, beginning a life-long friendship and on-and-off association with Welles in numerous plays, radio dramas and films, as well as co-starring with Katherine Hepburn in the 1939 Broadway play THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. But it is in his role as Holly Martens in THE THIRD MAN that he stands alone (literally so, in the end), and I can think of no more fitting way to end this post than with that indelible closing scene from the film (to the tune of Anton Karas’ Third Man Theme):