WHEEL OF MISFORTUNE

When misfortune comes, take it like a man–blame it on your wife. –Evan Esar

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Many of us suffer an unanticipated misfortune at some point in our lives. It could be the missed fortune of being left out of the will of a rich cousin you loved like a brother (until the ungrateful s.o.b. left every cent he had to his actual brother)….or it could be distress under duress, like your mistress taking egress, leaving you in a mess, no less, with your wife. Or, if you are a wife, perhaps you got wind of, not only the mistress on the side, but the ‘steady at the ready’ and the ‘wench on the bench’ (otherwise known as having too many loins in the fire). Yes, friends, misfortune is an ill wind which blows no good…

Now, far be it from mistermuse to blame his misfortunes on his wife. As a matter of tact, if it weren’t for my wife, I don’t know what I would do (or is it, wouldn’t do?). Yes, friends, mistermuse has been a sappily married man for 49 years, 10 months, and 13 days now, and I can honestly say it doesn’t seem like a day over 49 years, 10 months, and 12 days.

That said, game on. Let’s see what other men have had to say on the subject:

Wives are people who feel that they don’t dance enough. –Groucho Marx

How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who treats her as if she were a perfectly natural being? –Oscar Wilde

If Presidents can’t do it to their wives, they do it to their countries. –Mel Brooks

No matter how happily married a woman may be, it always pleases her to discover that there is a nice man who wishes she were not. –H. L. Mencken

My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher. –Socrates

Some wives are like fishermen: they think the best ones got away. –Evan Esar

I’ve had bad luck with both my wives. The first one left me and the second one didn’t. –Patrick Murray

A man placed an ad in the classifieds: “Wife wanted.” Next day he received over a hundred replies: “You can have mine.” –Anonymous

NOTE: The last quote is absolutely NOT mine!

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BLANK

Normally, when I write a post, I think about what I want to say — the body of the post — and at some point during this labor of love (after considerable cogitation), a title is born. With my last post, the title came first and I then had to work to shape the body (after considerable consternation) in language of the what-have-I-gotten-myself-into kind. Believe me, friends — it’s a pain in the brain to be boxed in by a title, so with this post, I decided to leave the title BLANK. I feel better already.

But, now that I have a blank canvas, one would think I should be able to paint a word picture; yet it’s like I can’t see the blog for the fog. Have I become color blind?

So it’s just the time of day, a mere matter of mind over time. Tomorrow the fog will clear and this will seem like a black and white dream….

And you know what they say about a clear day….

LET US TURN BACK TO THE WRIGHT, BROTHERS AND SISTERS

PROLOGUE:
We had to go ahead and discover everything for ourselves.
–Orville Wright, 1901

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Friends, Readers, Countrymen —

If you have spent many a sleepless night
tossing and turning ’til dawn’s early light,
wondering if I’d e’er host another post,
take such worries off thy plate — they’re toast.

Yes, Brothers and Sisters, thy long wait is o’er.
I’m back, and who of you could ask for more
although I must confess
that most may ask for less. 😦

Never-the-less, Brothers and Sisters,
it is written in the stars that I must return to the scene of my rhymes and other crimes. It’s Kismet.

Notwithstanding the never-the-less, Brothers and Sisters, I digress.
I come here not to berhyme the Wrights, but to praise them.

Thus this follow-up to my May 17 post, THE DAY THE WRIGHTS DONE ME WRONG, because, by ancient axiom, it’s the Wright thing to do (If at first you don’t succeed, fly, fly again). And if this discourse has the unintended consequence of being the sleep-aid you need to catch up on those zzzzz, the added benefit comes at no extra charge.

But I doubt that will be the case with THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, which, it so happens, is the title of a book I just finished reading (by my favorite historian, David McCullough). It’s no less than you’d expect from a Pulitzer Prize winning author: a masterful biography which (quoting from the dust cover) “draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including personal diaries, notebooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence, to tell the human side of a profoundly American story.”

The Wrights spent years of trial and air working to construct the world’s first ‘aeroplane,’ but as reader Don Frankel noted on May 17, America paid scant attention even after their successful first flight Dec. 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (and Don wasn’t just whistling Dixie in his comment). Finally, in 1906, after numerous improvements (including a more powerful engine) and many test flights, “much of the scientific world and the press [began] to change their perspective on the brothers”, and they started to attract commercial and government–especially French, not American– interest.

To the latter point, President (and fellow Ohioan) Wm. Howard Taft spoke as follows in presenting the two brothers with Gold Medals on June 10, 1909, in Washington D.C.:

I esteem it a great honor and an opportunity to present these medals to you as an evidence of what you have done. I am so glad–perhaps at a delayed hour–to show that in America it is not true that “a prophet is not without honor save in his own country.” It is especially gratifying thus to note a great step in human discovery by paying honor to men who bear it so modestly. You made this discovery by a course that we of America like to feel is distinctly American–by keeping your noses right at the job until you had accomplished what you had determined to do.

There are many stories within the story of THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, many twists and turns and mishaps along the way. The Wrights weren’t ‘stick’ figures with no interests and little to commend beyond their mechanical genius. Wilbur, for example, wrote home from France in 1906 of long walks and “the great buildings and art treasures of Paris, revealing as he never had–or had call to–the extent of his interest in architecture and painting.”

Read this bio and you will surely be taken along for the ride, as was I, by “the human side of a profoundly American story” of two men most of us know only from dry history books.

So fasten your life jackets and come fly with me.

EPILOGUE:
We dared to hope we had invented something that would bring lasting peace to the Earth. But we were wrong. We underestimated man’s capacity to hate and to corrupt good means for an evil end. –Orville Wright, 1943 (during WWII)

 

LIAR, LIAR, RANTS ON FIRE

One of my readers, who is obviously a glutton for punishment, recently expressed disappointment that I haven’t posted more of my poems lately. At the risk of triggering that old axiom BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, I thank her for having inspired me to address the deficiency thusly:

DECEIT DON’T STAND

As the twig is bent,
so grows the tree.
As the die is cast,
so shall it be.

If these be true,
why is it wise:
The Donald gets a pass
when he tells those lies?

Of course, I should also thank the President, without whose daily rants my inspiration for this poem would doubtless lie dormant. And now for a word from the truly wise about lies:

Carlyle said, “A lie cannot live”; it shows he did not know how to tell them. –Mark Twain

A man comes to believe in the end the lies he tells about himself to himself. –George Bernard Shaw

I admire liars, but surely not liars so clumsy they cannot fool even themselves. –H. L. Mencken

Pretending that you believe a lie is also a lie. –Arthur Schnitzler

If at first you’re not believed, lie, lie again. –Evan Esar

Not sure why the video is black. Maybe because the lies it laments aren’t white ones. But the sound is clear, and the voice shines through the darkness.

 

 

 

JAZZ DAYS IN THE JAZZ AGE

The 1920s were an era of great contradictions. After winning WWI, the United States seemed to be (on the surface) a more liberated country than previously, finally shaking off the restrictions of the Victorian era. Dresses became shorter, many more women entered the workforce, dancing became more exciting and sensuous, some movies actually hinted strongly at sex, the economy was prosperous, and jazz seemed to be everywhere as the country experienced something like a decade-long party [known as The Jazz Age and The Roaring 20s].
But a closer look reveals Republicans ruled the White House, liquor was illegal (even if gangsters and bootleggers made it widely available), the Ku Klux Klan was at the height of its popularity (with lynchings of blacks commonplace), racism was institutionalized, big business had few restrictions, poverty was widespread, and there was no safety net. It was a great era to be rich and white, but the poor and blacks were barely tolerated by average middle-class citizens. –Scott Yanow, author of CLASSIC JAZZ*

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The above puts Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 nonstop transatlantic flight (see my last post) in broader historical context. ‘Fellow’ aviator Elinor Smith Sullivan later said, “It’s hard to describe the impact Lindbergh had on people. The twenties was such an innocent time.” This helps explain why songs like LINDBERGH, EAGLE OF THE USA and LUCKY LINDY were written by wantwits with words which would make wittier writers wince.

Thus, the wittiest composer/lyricist this side of the Atlantic, Cole Porter, put the Jazz Age in earthier terms:

In other words….

Our flight of fancy, like Lindbergh’s, ends in gay Paree with a song (recorded in 1930) from Porter’s 1929 musical FIFTY MILLION FRENCHMEN:

*Kindle edition available online for as low as $17.99 (highly recommended for classic jazz lovers)

 

 

 

IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE….IT’S CHARLES LINDBERGH!

Taking off from my last post (where I left the Wright Brothers up in the air and me breezin’ along with the breeze), we come to May 20, a day second to none in aviation annals.*

On this May day in 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off from New York for Paris in the Spirit of St. Louis (his monoplane), to begin the second (and most famous) nonstop transatlantic flight in history. Yes, I said second — the first was made by paired English aviators in 1919, from Newfoundland to Ireland (about half the distance of Lindbergh’s solo flight).

On this date in 1932, Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland for Paris, but due to weather conditions, she had to ‘pull up’ short in Northern Ireland, nonetheless becoming the first woman to make a solo nonstop transatlantic flight.

We now turn to the musical portion of the program. Faster than you can say “It’s a bird,” Lindbergh’s fame brought songwriters down from the clouds to cash in, hatching a flock of insipid pop songs. Not so with Earhart’s feat, not even a peep of a song….although her lost flight over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 did inspire a few songs that didn’t long survive.

OK. If I had to eat crow in my last post, can I now soar like an eagle with these jazzed-up Lindberg hit tunes soaring over treacly lyrics:

Ladies and gendermen, the Spirit of St. Louis is coming in for a landing — and if we’re Lucky, Lindy will be in the spirit for a rousing finish.

*In addition to the Lindbergh and Earhart flights, May 20 was also the day Congress passed the Air Commerce Act licensing pilots and planes in 1926, and the date of the first regular transatlantic airmail flight (Pan Am, NYC to Marseille, France) in 1939.

 

 

 

THE DAY THE WRIGHTS DONE ME WRONG

Where were you on the morning of December 17, 1903? If you had been on the beach at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, at 10:30 a.m., this is what you would have seen:

As for yours truly, that’s too long ago to remember exactly where I was on that date, but wherever I was, I was most likely trying to think what I would write about when I learnt to write right….which brings me to my good friends, the Wright Brothers, who owned a bicycle shop right up the pike from me in Dayton, Ohio (about 50 miles as the crow flies).

In those days, a fifty mile trip was no breeze (not even with a breeze, as a crow knows). The Wright Brothers offered to sell me a bicycle cheap, but, though the price was right, I couldn’t find a crow to take me to Dayton, and they wouldn’t deliver it (the bicycle, that is). So I told them to go fly a kiteplain and simple. Next thing I knew, they were off to Kitty Hawk to fly a light plane — almost, if not exactly, what my directive to them directed. So you see, by rights, I’m at least partly responsible for the first heavier-than-air flight in history, though never given credit. After that slight, needless to say, I no longer considered them friends.

There you have it. The Wrights done me wrong, but am I bitter? No way — not this bird. I’m above that kind of pettinest. As you can plainly sees, I’m just….

As they used to say back in the day, “That’s all she wrote.”