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

 

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TELLTALE TITLES

How much time and thought do you devote to coming up with just-the-right title for your story, poem or article? If you take writing seriously, the answer is probably: as long as it takes to nail it — which could be almost no time at all, if it comes to you in a flash — or, more time than a less intense writer is willing to allot.

Ernest Hemingway, for one, evidently wasn’t the latter type. Case in point: in writing his definitive Spanish Civil War novel, he didn’t settle for less than a killer title that would encapsulate ‘the moral of the story,’ eventually finding it in this passage from a 1624 work by the poet John Donne: “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

As a writer of (mostly) humorous poems and posts, I’m inclined to go for witty and/or wordplay titles. Many times, the title to a particular piece all but suggests itself, but more often, no such luck, and I’m stuck — until eventually (as with the title of this post) a eureka moment rewards my resolve….or a poem resists my labeling efforts, and I just settle for:

UNTITLED

This poem’s title is Untitled —
Not because it is untitled,
But because I am entitled
To entitle it Untitled.

If I’d not titled it Untitled,
It would truly be untitled….
Which would make it unentitled
To the title of Untitled.

So it is vital, if untitled,
Not to title it Untitled,
And to leave that title idled,
As a title is entitled.

Moving on, suppose we try a title quiz based on the Papa Hemingway model (sorry, those of you who’d prefer the mistermuse model). Here are five passages from classic original works from which later authors lifted titles for their novels. Can you name the five later works and pin each tale on its author (ten answers total)? If you name all ten correctly, you win the title (with apologies to Cervantes) of Donkeyote Of All You Survey.

PASSAGES FROM ORIGINAL WORKS:

Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree/Damned from here to Eternity/God ha’ mercy on such as we/Ba! Yah! Bah! –Rudyard Kipling

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley/An’ lea’e us naught but grief an’ pain/For promised joy! –Robert Burns

By the pricking of my thumbs,/Something wicked this way comes. –Wm. Shakespeare

Come my tan-faced children/Follow well in order, get your weapons ready/Have you your pistols? Have you your sharp-edged axes?/Pioneers! O pioneers! –Walt Whitman

No Place so Sacred from such Fops is barr’d,/Nor is Paul’s Church more safe than Paul’s Churchyard./Nay, fly to altars; there they’ll talk you dead/For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread. –Alexander Pope

TITLES (WITH AUTHORS) FROM  ABOVE PREVIOUS WORKS:

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY –James Jones
OF MICE AND MEN –John Steinbeck
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES –Ray Bradbury
O PIONEERS! –Willa Cather
WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD –E.M. Forster

How many of the ten titles/authors did you get? That last title, parenthetically, became part of Johnny Mercer’s lyrics to this 1940 hit song composed by Rube Bloom:

And now I fear I must tread on out….before something wicked this way comes.

 

MISTER MUSE AND MISS QUOTES

I have made it a rule that whenever I say something stupid, I immediately attribute it to Dr. Johnson, Marcus Aurelius or Dorothy Parker. –George Mikes, British author

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Fellow and female Americans: In case you’re not old enough — as I am — to remember the Father of our Country, George Birthington’s washday was February 22nd. OK, I admit that after all these years, I may have a hard time recalling names and certain words correctly, but what does it matter? As Christopher Shakespeare (or was it William Marlowe) famously wrote, a ruse by any other name would smell anyway.

Anyway, my point is that quotes may frequently get mis-attributed, but Miss Attributed couldn’t care less, so why should we? Well, I’ll tell you why — because we’re righters, that’s why, and we righters deserve credit where credit is dubious. Therefore, with the aid of my busty — I mean, trusty — aide, Miss Quotes, the objective here was to do an extensive investigation into the subjective and dig up our quota of misquotes (our quota being whenever we decided to quit) . You are now about to be the beneficiary of our research, which we bent over backwards to have ready for this post (just to make it a bit more fun, I’ll throw in a few correctly-attributed quotes; can you pick them out of the pack?):

1. “I cannot tell a lie.” –George Washington
2. “Give me liberty, or give me death.”  –Patrick Henry  
3. “The British are brave people. They can face anything except reality.” –George Mikes
4. “Anybody who hates dogs and children can’t be all bad.” –W.C. Fields
5. “Our comedies are not to be laughed at.” –Samuel Goldwyn
6. “I never said most of the things I said.” –Yogi Berra
7. “Let them eat cake.” –Marie-Antoinette
8. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” –Mark Twain
9. “Elementary, my dear Watson.” –Sherlock Holmes (in the stories of A. Conan Doyle)
10. “I am the greatest!” –The Donald

Here are the misattributions:

1. The quote itself is a lie. An Anglican minister, Mason Locke, ascribed it to our first President in his pietistic biography of Washington as part of the made-up ‘Who chopped down the cherry tree’ story: “I can’t tell a lie, Pa; I did cut it with my hatchet.”
2. Possibly another biographical fiction, though not as clear-cut as the cherry tree story. Biographer Wm. Wirt based his attribution on the memory of two Henry contemporaries. The phrase resembles a passage from CATO, a 1713 play written by Joseph Addison.
4. Actually said by humor writer Leo Rosten in introducing Fields at a dinner.
5. An old Hollywood gag, not said (at least originally) by Goldwyn.
7. By all accounts, Marie-Antoinette never uttered those words. Several years before she supposedly said them, they appeared in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s THE CONFESSIONS.
8. Although Twain used this quote in his autobiography, he credited it to Benjamin Disraeli.
9. Doyle never put those words in the great detective’s mouth in any of his four novels and 56 short stories about Holmes between 1887-1927.  It was actor Basil Rathbone, playing Holmes in the late 1930s-1940s, who spoke those words and made them famous.
10. Donald Trump may think it, but it was Muhammad Ali who said it.

As a bonus, I leave you with this quote:

 

 

 

A WASTE OF BREADTH

People waste many things — time, money, talent, food (one way or another) — but I think the saddest waste of all is the mind. You probably do too — especially when you stop to think how mindless all those fools are who disagree with what you think. I believe it was Ivan Vasilyevich who first said A mind is a terrible thing to waste, the wisdom of which so impressed his comrads that he became forever famous as Ivan the Terrible (apparently he did not suffer fools gladly).

So, it should be clear from the above that almost all waste can be controlled if we but set our minds to it. If you’re sitting around on your ass just wasting away, there is simply no excuse for it. Remember, mind over matter –it’s the only way to go if you want to get ahead, if you will. If you won’t, you have no one to blame but yourself.

I hope I have inspired you to get a grip and stop squandering away your life, of which you have but one to live, unless you have faith in reincarnation. Even so, there’s no telling what you might come back as — a curably dying Christian Scientist, for example – so why take a chance? If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll listen to the testimony of these waste not, want not-ers:

I spent 90% of my money on wine, women and song and just wasted the other 10%. –Ronnie Hawkins

A day without laughter is a day wasted. –Charlie Chaplin

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. –Bertrand Russell

The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. –Muhammed Ali

If I don’t learn something every single day, it’s a wasted day. –Leonard Lauder

A Congressman’s idea of government waste is the money spent in another Congressman’s district. -Evan Esar

 I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. –William Shakespeare

I wish I could stand on a busy street corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me all their wasted hours. –Bernard Berenson