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!

 

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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:

 

 

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):

EXCUSE MY DUST

Time goes, you say? Ah no! Alas, time stays, we go. –Austin Dobson

Busy weekend. So much to do, so little time. What can I post that will take little time? Maybe if I wished upon a star for all the time in the world….but When You Wish Upon A Star, your dreams are but dust — unless you’re Pinocchio, and Walt Disney is pulling the strings. No, that song is a lie. Perhaps my chances would be better if….

Yes, that’s it. I’ll Wish On The Moon. I’ll wish for a dream or two. I’ll Wish On The Moon for Billie Holiday to be with us still, singing songs with lyrics by Dorothy Parker. Yes, Dorothy Parker wrote I WISHED ON THE MOON, and Billie Holiday was one of the first to sing it. But Billie was born exactly one hundred years and two months ago today, and Dorothy died today, June 7, in 1967….leaving this epitaph on her tombstone: EXCUSE MY DUST.

IT IS BETTER TO AMUSE A FOOL THAN FOOL A MUSE

I’ll bet you don’t know what the above title is an example of….I mean, besides an example of a title.  And far be it from me to intend it as an example of an insult, or an insult of an example. It’s called chiasmus, which is defined as a rhetorical inversion of two parallel phrases. Friends, is this blog an education, or is this education a blog, or what?

Truth be told, I likewise had never heard of the word until I bought a book with the fascinating title NEVER LET A FOOL KISS YOU OR A KISS FOOL YOU, by Dr. Mardi Gras (my “made-in” name for Dr. Mardy Grothe — sorry about that). Of course, I’d read chiasmus for years not knowing what they’re called. As Dr. Grothe points out, profound thinkers and great wits have long been masters of the form: Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker and Anonymous, to name more than a few.

No doubt you too are familiar with some of the following chiasmus, but with the likes of these, if familiarity breeds contempt, you may have contempt for the familiar….or, more likely, I’m guilty of stretching a chiasmus / making much ado about nothing. Or something.

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. -Shakespeare (King Richard II)

The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man. –Germaine de Stael

I find Peale appalling and Paul appealing. –Democratic Governor/Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson (comparing conservative Minister/author Norman Vincent Peale and the Apostle Paul)

In the bluegrass region / A paradox was born: / The corn was full of kernels / And the colonels were full of corn. -John Marshall

I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. -Randy Hanzlick

When you have nothing to say, say nothing. -Charles Caleb Colton

Don’t worry that other people don’t know you; worry that you don’t know other people. -Confucius

A fool often fails because he thinks what is difficult is easy, and a wise man because he thinks what is easy is difficult. -John Churton Collins

Friendship is love minus sex plus reason. Love is friendship plus sex minus reason. -Mason Cooley

No woman has ever so comforted the distressed — or so distressed the comfortable. -Clare Booth Luce, on Eleanor Roosevelt

Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good. -Dr. Samuel Johnson, to an aspiring writer

Boy meets girl; girl gets boy into pickle; boy gets pickle into girl. -Jack Woodford, on typical plot of Hollywood movies 

That’s all for the present. I thank all present, and recommend the book as a present to all.

 

A LARK IN THE PARK-ER

Today, I’m in the mood to quote that great wit, Dorothy Parker. Actually, I was in the mood to do so yesterday (her birthday), but my computer wasn’t. No big deal —  better great than never, I always never say.

I’ve quoted Dorothy Parker (Aug. 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967) on several occasions, including in a Speak Without Interruption post of 6/7/12 titled DAYS OF THE ROUND TABLE, which, like yours truly, has somehow managed to survive to this day. I also recall writing a related SWI article on the ALGONQUIN HOTEL/ROUND TABLE (the group which included Dorothy Parker), but I don’t know if it’s survived. I haven’t the heart to search and find it missing.

Anyway, for those interested, a Google search will reveal much more on the Algonquin, so without further ado, I give you Dorothy Parker:

Asked to describe her Bucks County farm in two words: “Want it?”

“That woman speaks eighteen languages and can’t say ‘No’ in any of them.”

“It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.”

“You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks.”

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

“How can they tell?” – on hearing that Calvin (“Silent Cal”) Coolidge had died.

Epitaphs she suggested at various times for her tombstone:

EXCUSE MY DUST

THIS IS ON ME

WHEREVER SHE WENT, INCLUDING HERE, IT WAS AGAINST HER BETTER JUDGMENT

One of the three made it. Care to guess which?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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