THE SOUND OF SILENTS

You sure you can’t move? –what Harpo Marx “said” to the tied-up hero (Richard Dix) before punching him in the 1925 film TOO MANY KISSES (fortunately, the film survived)

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Italicized above are the only words ever “spoken” (but not heard) on film by the man whose birthday we note today, HARPO MARX. The audience didn’t hear those five words because the film was a “silent” — “talkies” didn’t come on the scene until 1927, two years before the first of thirteen Marx Brothers movies (1929-49). Harpo spoke in none of them.

But why, oh why-o, should I try-o to “bio” Harpo, when here-o you can click on the official thing from his offspring:

https://www.harposplace.com/

Because Harpo associated with Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and other wits in the famed Algonquin Round Table repartee, I expected to turn up a number of witty Harpo Marx quotes for this piece. No such luck — I found only one I enjoyed enough to post here (both the “she” referred to in the quote, and who it is addressed to, are unknown):

“She’s a lovely person. She deserves a good husband. Marry her before she finds one.”

One quote being three quotes short of a gallon, I shall return to giving you “the silent treatment” with a quota of four quotes of silence said by forethoughtful others:

“Listen to the sound of silence.” –Paul Simon, American singer, songwriter, and actor

“Silence is golden unless you have kids, then it’s just plain suspicious.” –anonymous

“If nobody ever said anything unless he knew what he was talking about, what a ghastly hush would descend upon the earth!” –A. P. Herbert, English humorist, writer, and politician

“I believe in the discipline of silence and can talk for hours about it.” –George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic

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Since I didn’t give Harpo the last word, I’ll let him give his audience the last laugh….and though he doesn’t speak, you’ll hear captivating sounds escape his lips 2:42 into this clip:

Bravo, Harpo!

EPILOGUE: Listen — 90+ years after the “silents” ended*, you can still hear….

*with the exception of two Charlie Chaplin masterpieces in the 1930s, CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES

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.

 

 

 

SOWING MY WILD QUOTES

….young men must sow their wild oats, and women must not expect miracles. –from LITTLE WOMEN, by Louisa May Alcott

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Usually, when I do a post of quotations, they’re organized around one subject….but, for this post (having amassed a wide range of seedy — correction: seed-bearing — reflections), I’ll throw caution to the winds and, as the saying blows — scatter and sow my wild quotes:

What I have seen of the love affairs of other people has not led me to regret that deficiency in my experience. –George Bernard Shaw

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. –Anatole France

The latter part of a wise person’s life is occupied with curing the follies, prejudices and false opinions they contracted earlier. –Jonathan Swift

Most African-Americans in this country will never know the true history of our ancestors. Our forefathers were densely packed into slave ships and transported across the Atlantic to be sold like common goods. Many died and their individuals histories with them. Those who survived had their ancestral names stripped from them and replaced with ones slave masters wanted them to have. Much of our African heritage has been irretrievably lost to the ravages of such as Gen. Lee, whose monuments pay tribute to individuals who took away and erased the history of thousands upon thousands of Africans through slavery, killing and destruction of black families by way of the auction block. Now some want to romanticize, revere and commemorate them as heroes. Well, excuse me if I’m not willing to buy that brand. Forgive me if I don’t shed a tear for your loss. All I can say is, welcome to the club. –Kevin S. Aldridge

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

There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking. –Thomas Edison

Enough is what would satisfy us — if the neighbors didn’t have more. –from “20,000 Quips & Quotes,” by Evan Esar

And with that, I think you’ve had enough. Evan, if you want more.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY? BAH! HUMBUG!

Here it is two days before March 17, and I’m resigning myself to be the Grinch who stole St. Patrick’s Day. Being a writer of (part) Irish heritage — and thus feeling obliged to beget my readers a post to celebrate the occasion — I’ve been roiling me brain to come up with something about Ireland’s fifth-century snake-chaser that isn’t the same old blarney, but I’ve hit a stone wall stouter than those that subdivide the Irish countryside:

The Stone Walls of Ireland

Enough already. If St. Patrick thinks I’m going to waste another second of my busy day refraining from raining on his parade, he’s got another think coming. There are plenty of other dead fish in the Irish Sea who merit time in the sun, and though it may raise a stink, I am going to turn this post over to them and say “Bah! Humbug!” to St. Patrick.

I showed my appreciation of my native land in the usual Irish way by getting out of it as soon as I possibly could. –George Bernard Shaw

I am allergic to all Irish wit, charm and humor not provided by myself. –Denis Brogan

Good Lord, what a sight/After all their good Cheer/For people to fight/In the midst of their Beer. –Jonathan Swift (from THE DESCRIPTION OF AN IRISH-FEAST)

The lanky hank of a she in the inn over there
Nearly killed me for asking the loan of a glass of beer:
May the devil grip the whey-faced slut by the hair,
And beat bad manners out of her skin for a year.
If I asked her master he’d give me a cask a day;
But she, with the beer at hand, not a gill would arrange!
May she marry a ghost and bear him a kitten, and may
The High King of Glory permit her to get the mange.
–James Stephens (from RIGHTEOUS ANGER)

For the Great Gaels of Ireland/Are the men that God made mad,/For all their wars are merry/And all their songs are sad. –G. K. Chesterton

Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis. –Oscar Wilde

The actual Irish weather report is really a recording made in 1922, which no one has had occasion to change. –Wilfred Sheed

I saw a fleet of fishing boats…I flew down, almost touching the craft, and yelled at them, asking if I was on the right [course] to Ireland. They just stared. Maybe they didn’t hear me. Maybe I didn’t hear them. Or maybe they thought I was just a crazy fool. An hour later I saw land. –Charles Lindbergh (2nd day of first solo transatlantic flight, 5/21/1927)

 

MARRIAGE TO A-MUSE

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution? –Groucho Marx

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My wife and I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary yesterday. You may think that, unlike the 50th, a 48th wedding anniversary is no big deal — and I wouldn’t disagree. But, being in need of an idea for this post, I wasn’t about to look a gift source in the mouth; thus, yesterday’s anniversary became my inspiration to write about….divorce.

Ha ha — just kidding (my wife might kill me if I were serious). This post will, of course, be about MARRIAGE….a fate which, as fates go, beats being killed (almost) any day. Ha ha ha. Just kidding again! Lest there be any doubt concerning my true feelings about marriage:

Yes, just as in the song, ask the local gentry, and they will say it’s elementary. But why stop with the local gentry? I believe my readers are nothing if not broad minded:

Marriage is the most licentious of human institutions — that is the secret of its popularity. –George Bernard Shaw

Getting married, like getting hanged, is a great deal less dreadful than it has been made out. –H. L. Mencken

It’s no disgrace for a woman to make a mistake in marrying — every woman does it. –Ed Howe

A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband. –Michel de Montaigne

Marriage is like paying an endless visit in your worst clothes. –J. B. Priestley

When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife. –Prince Philip

Marriage is a feminine plot to add to a man’s responsibilities and subtract from his rights. –Evan Esar

Before marriage, a man declares he would lay down his life to serve you; after marriage, he won’t even lay down his paper to talk to you. –Helen Rowland

The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin. –Honore de Balzac

I haven’t spoken to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her. –Rodney Dangerfield

Ha ha ha ha….I mean, Yes, dear — I’m listening. Seriously.

 

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.

 

DO CYNICS CARE?

The unexamined life is not worth living.  –Socrates

I readily admit to being somewhat cynical — to what degree, I can’t be absolute — and I readily submit to being a realist. Really, is it possible to be a realist without being more or less cynical? Perhaps more significantly, is it possible to be a cynic without caring? Let other cynics  speak for themselves; I wouldn’t be cynical if I didn’t care.

Of course, I wasn’t born cynical. One only gets that way out of an abundance of living in the real world, which usually happens — or begins to happen — soon enough. We were all believing children once. I doubt if children are even capable of being cynical, although God knows, shamefully, that many have reason enough to be.  But what of adult true believers — those who have stopped growing, stopped wanting to know why, even if the answer begs the question?

Do a search for quotes about cynicism, and you will find many by cynics, as well as many by scoffers of cynics — and if you really think about it, doesn’t that make scoffers cynics too? Here is the mix; you be the judge:

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.  –George Bernard Shaw

A cynic is just a man who found out when he was about ten that there wasn’t any Santa Claus, and he’s still upset.  –J. G. Cozzens

Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.  –George Carlin

A cynic sees little to admire in the world, while the world sees even less to admire in him.  –Evan Esar

Show me somebody who is always smiling, always cheerful, always optimistic, and I will show you somebody who hasn’t the faintest idea what is really going on.  –Mike Royko

I’m not ready to let the youthful part of myself go yet. If maturity means becoming a cynic, if you have to kill the part of yourself that is naive and romantic and idealistic to claim maturity, is it not better to die young but with your humanity intact?  –Kenneth Cain

Every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.  –Glen Cook