CONFUCIUS SAY HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW

Today is birthday of Chinese philosopher Confucius, born September 28, 551 BC (not to be Confucius-ed with Chinese philosopher who long Ago Too Young die like fool, choking on egg). Confucius, of course, left us even more wise old sayings than the inscrutable Charlie Chan, which was pen name of writer called None the Wiser (not to be Confucius-ed with his agent — a gent named Ah So).

In any case, in the interest of being fair and balanced and sly as a Fox, we herewith present selection of Confucius sayings to go along with those in CHARLIE CHAN post of Sept. 15. No matter which you prefer, may you benefit from their wisdom, and may all your male children be wise guys.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.

He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.

The funniest people are the saddest ones.

Sad to say, my work here is dumb….make that done. On second thought, maybe right first time.

 

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LIKE WISE

Noble goal like chasing rainbow — beautiful while it lasts.

If the above quote sounds familiar, you have the memory of an elephant. It — the quote, not you or the elephant — appeared in my previous post as a Charlie Chanism which I made up after a trip to the latest local library book sale where my returns are becoming re-nowned and their books are becoming re-owned….and one of my new buys was titled CHARLIE CHAN — The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History, by Yunte Huang.

If you’re an old movie buff like me, you’ve probably seen a number of 1930s-40s Charlie Chan films (based on the 1920-3os novels by Earl Derr Biggers) in which Charlie chanted such gems of wisdom as these:

Hasty deduction, like ancient egg, look good from outside.
Mind, like parachute, only function when open.
Trouble, like first love, teach many lessons.
Facts like photographic film — must be exposed before developing.
Advice after mistake like medicine after funeral.

You will find these, and many more, Chanisms in Appendix I of the book. But that’s just a bonus — the real story of this book is “The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective”…. a story I can’t tell you because either I would have to kill you (leaving no clues), or it would spoil the story and leave you without a motive to buy the book. But I will tell you that the fictional Honolulu detective Charlie Chan was based on real-life Honolulu detective Chang Apana, who was a character in his own right and whose career included jobs ranging from gardener to gumshoe. So get the book, plant yourself in your favorite chair, and enjoy the read.

Speaking of flowery characters, Earl Derr Biggers was no shrinking violet. Before turning novelist, Biggers (a Harvard grad)) was an outspoken newspaper columnist and drama critic. In one of his columns, he wrote of “a citizen of Mingo, Okla., [who] whipped out his trusty six-shooter the other day and shot the mustache off another citizen. We sincerely hope that the gentleman who lost the mustache appreciated the fact that he had a mighty close shave.” Shades of such baldfaced punsters as Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and mistermuse! (The latter includes himself in such company on the grounds that the dead can’t object.)

But enough about me. Here’s Charlie!

 

A LAUGH AND A SONG AND DANCE

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. –Sir Isaac Newton

Comedian Sid Caesar, in his autobiography, CAESAR’S HOURS, quotes the above and adds, “I too stand on the shoulders of giants. Nobody does anything alone.”

To me, to call Sid Caesar (born 9/8/22) a comedian is akin to calling Newton a physicist — accurate, yes, but hardly adequate. In a down-to-earth way, I might even say that what Newton was to gravity in the 1680s, Caesar was to levity in the 1950s. The bottom line is, I was in my teens then (the 1950s, not the 1680s), and still reasonably sentient at the time; thus I can bear witness to the comic genius that I, as a geezer, still see in Caesar.

And just who were those giants on whose shoulders Caesar stood? He tells us in his book: “I always wanted to be Charlie Chaplin. He was one of my earliest comedic heroes, along with Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and W.C. Fields. Most of their comedy came from their character. They each believed in what they did, and I believed them.”

Caesar was an up-and-coming comic performing mainly in the so-called Borscht Belt in New York’s Catskill Mountains when this opportunity arose in the infancy of network TV:

It was called YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, and what an innovative show it was. It premiered live on 2/25/50 with writers like Mel Brooks, Max Liebman (who also produced) and (later) Woody Allen. Said Caesar: “For nine years, I presided over what was arguably the best collection of comedy writers ever assembled in the history of television, and possibly in the history of the written word — unless you think the U.S. Constitution is funny.”

Add co-stars Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris, and the show was both a commercial and artistic success from Hour One. Here, they show you why:

Again quoting Caesar: “Until that time, the only big things on television were bowling, wrestling and Charlie Chan. [Max Liebman] wasn’t interested in the American public’s lowest common denominator. He wasn’t going to dumb down. His goal was that the quality of the show would drive its popularity and ultimately elevate taste.”

As Charlie Chan might say: Noble goal like chasing rainbow — beautiful while it lasts.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Originally, I came to this post with the idea of making it a birthday (9/8/1896) tribute to Howard Dietz, one of my favorite lyricists, whose autobiography (titled DANCING IN THE DARK) I also commend. Then I learned that Sept. 8 is the birthday of Sid Caesar as well as Howard Dietz, and I thought I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN.

Hold on — it wouldn’t be right not to dance with the dude what brung me, so rather than ditch Dietz, I’ll sing his praises here too….starting with his first big hit (above), then an excerpt from early in the book, closing with a realization of the song which titles his story.

The following is quoted from the book’s forward by Alan Jay Lerner: As for that quality of life known as charm, I can only shrug sadly and chalk it up as another victim of that creeping nastiness called modern civilization. I think about the man whose reminiscences are contained in this book. They come to mind because of that special gift of charm that is so characteristic of his lyrics. Howard [Dietz]  is the Fred Astaire, the Chevalier, the Molnar, the Lubitsch of lyric writers.

Dancing in the dark
Till the tune ends
We’re dancing in the dark
And it soon ends
We’re waltzing in the wonder
Of why we’re here
Time hurries by we’re here
And gone

CHAN SONG D’AMOUR

It occurs to me that the subject of my last post, Charlie Chan, may be a mystery to those of you to whom such things are a mystery (things such as antique detective stories). Charlie Chan is a fictional Chinese detective (created by Earl Derr Biggers in a 1925 novel), played in movies by various actors, most famously and memorably by Warner Oland (16 films) from 1931 to 1937 and Sidney Toler (22 films) from 1937 to 1947.

I loved those movies when I was young and still enjoy watching the better ones now and then. As for the title of this post, it’s a play on the closest song title I could come up with to express that affection:

That title (being French) leads seamlessly — or should I say shamelessly — to this clip from Charlie Chan In Paris (1935):

1935 was also the year the Marx Brothers made A Night At The Opera, which has nothing to do with Charlie Chan, but serves to lead us equally shamelessly to Charlie Chan At The Opera (1936), one of the best films in the series. This movie also starred Boris Karloff and featured a “mock opera” composed by Oscar Levant, the pianist, actor and wit who was a close friend of George Gershwin. Here is the entire film:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeV5YBDs2tc

Of course, no Charlie Chan piece would be complete without citing some of his famous aphorisms:

Owner of face cannot always see nose.

Bad alibi like dead fish — cannot stand test of time.

Detective without curiousity is like glass eye at keyhole — no use.

Grain of sand in eye may hide mountain.

It takes very rainy day to drown duck.

Smart rat know when to leave sinking ship.

Bye now.