December 30, 2014

Should auld acquaintance (or old lyrics) be forgot…


Contrary to what you sometimes hear, Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns (1759-1796) didn’t create the song “Auld Lang Syne.”

And, Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo didn’t start the tradition of singing the song at New Year’s Eve parties.

However, Burns did flesh out and popularize the lyrics of the song as we know it today (or, at least, kind of know it) in a poem he wrote in 1788.

And, Lombardo did popularize the tradition of playing and singing “Auld Lang Syne” (or, at least, trying to sing it) after counting down the final seconds to midnight on New Year’s Eve.

As explained by The Burns Encyclopedia, Burns based his poem on a traditional Scottish air (i.e., song) that he loved.

He kept some existing phrases, including “Auld lang syne” and “Should auld acquaintance be forgot,” then adapted and added to them, creating the lyrics of the version of the song that became famous worldwide.

Of course, since many of those words are in an old Scots dialect, few people can either remember or understand most of them.

The literal English translation of the phrase “Auld lang syne” is “old long since,” which means something like “old days long gone by” or, more simply put, “old days” or “old times.”

The basic gist of the famous first verse and chorus is that one should remember and think kindly about old times and old friends — and toast them with a drink.

In Scotland, the tradition of singing the song on various sentimental, ceremonial and holiday occasions dates back to before Burns’ time.

By the late 1800s, after Burns’ poem made the song familiar in other parts of the world, it was common for people in many English-speaking countries to sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve.

Mentions of this custom appear in old newsclips that date back to long before Guy Lombardo became associated with it. But he and his band did help cement the tradition into American culture.

According to most sources, Lombardo and The Royal Canadians first played “Auld Lang Syne” after the countdown to midnight on December 31, 1929 at the Hotel Roosevelt Grill in New York City. (Technically, it was January 1, 1930.)

They continued to perform the song on New Year’s programs that were broadcast live from New York, first on radio and then on television, until 1976 (the year before Lombardo died).

If you’d like to try to sing along when the song is played this New Year’s and need some help, the lyrics that come from Robert Burns’ poem are below.

The Wikipedia entry about “Auld Lang Syne” has a phonetic pronunciation guide for the Scots words in case you’re interested. Even if you’re sober, you’ll probably sound drunk when you try to pronounce them.

Cheers and Happy New Year from ThisDayinQuotes.com!

“Auld Lang Syne”

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

[CHORUS]

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

[CHORUS]

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.

[CHORUS]

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

[CHORUS]

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December 18, 2014

“Politics is not an exact science,” said Bismark. But is it an art?


On this date in 1863, the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismark made a famous remark about politics to members of the Prussian parliament.

“Politics is not an exact science,” he said, on December 18, 1863.

At the time, Bismark was serving as right hand man and Minister-President for Prussian King William I, who faced occasional challenges to his policies from Prussian legislators.

When legislators balked at the King’s proposal for more military spending in December 1863, Bismark told them: 

“An assembly of three hundred and fifty members cannot, nowadays, in the last resort, direct the policy of a great power...Politics is not an exact science...I am not afraid of democracy; if I were, I should give up the game. If the House refuses to vote supplies, we must take them where we can find them.”

The Prussian legislators were not convinced.

They refused to approve the King’s military funding proposal.

So, Bismark — a tough “statesman” known for his belief that state policy should be carried out “through blood and iron” when needed — had the King dissolve the Prussian parliament.

Problem solved.

In 1867, as Bismark was overseeing the unification of Prussia and other formerly separate German states into the German Empire, he uttered an oft-quoted variation on his earlier remark when he said: Politics is the art of the possible.”

Then, in 1884, in a speech to the German parliament as the Imperial Chancellor, Bismark made yet another famous comment about politics: Politics is not a science...but an art.”

Most of us would probably agree that politics is not a science, especially not an exact one.

But I doubt if many people would call what happens in the U.S. Congress or their state legislatures an art — unless they’re talking about the Surrealism genre.

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December 14, 2014

“An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.”


There’s a famous quotation about atheists associated with the date December 14 that is widely attributed to Bishop Fulton J. Sheen


       “An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.”

 
The source that’s usually cited for this quote is the December 14, 1955 issue of LOOK magazine. 


Sheen did use this line in an article in LOOK magazine and it’s one of his his best known quotes. 


However, despite what many quotation reference books and websites say, that article was not in the December 14, 1955 issue of LOOK


There was no December 14, 1955 issue of LOOK. The LOOK magazine published in mid-December of 1955 was dated December 13, 1955. And, Sheen wasn’t featured in that issue.


He was featured on the cover of the December 14, 1954 issue of LOOK and in an article inside that issue titled “Religion’s Best Sellers.” 


So, December 14, 1954 is the correct date for Sheen’s use of “An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support” in LOOK.

 
It should also be noted that, contrary to what some people think, Sheen didn’t coin that famed saying.


In the book On Being a Real Person, published in 1943, American clergyman Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote:   


       “An atheist, says John Buchan, is ‘a man who has no invisible means of support.’”  


That’s apparently why many books and websites credit the line to John Buchan, the Scottish historian, Governor General of Canada and author of the book The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915). 


However, Buchan didn’t coin the line either. His use, in a speech recorded in a law journal in 1935, was a reference to something he’d heard. Buchan said:


       “I have heard an atheist defined as a man who has no invisible means of support.”

 
Who created the definition that Buchan heard? Sorry, I don’t know. At this point, the real origin of the line is still a mystery.


I do know that, in his wickedly funny Devil’s Dictionary (1911), the great American writer, curmudgeon and atheist Ambrose Bierce defined the word prejudice as:


        “A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.”

 
Of course, from an atheist’s perspective “an opinion without visible means of support” might also seem like a reasonably good definition of religion.



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December 09, 2014

“Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” – the famous SNL catchphrase of Garrett Morris as Chico Escuela…


If you’re old enough to have been watching Saturday Night Live in the late Seventies you might have been watching Episode 5 of Season 4 when it first aired on November 11, 1978. (I am and I was.)

Buck Henry was the host. The Grateful Dead were the musical guests. And, there were several classic skits — including one at the end that introduced what would become a famous TV catchphrase.

The sketch takes place at a meeting of the St. Mickey’s Knights of Columbus.

After dealing with a few business items, the organization’s leader, played by SNL cast member John Belushi, announces that the club would have a special guest speaker that night.

Dan Aykroyd, playing the Knights’ treasurer, notes that the group had to go into debt to pay the speaker’s steep $900 fee.

Belushi then introduces this special guest: “the immortal” Chico Escuela, a former all-star baseball player for the Chicago Cubs who came to the US from the Dominican Republic.

After being introduced, Chico — portrayed by SNL cast member Garrett Morris — gets up, stands at the podium and says in a thick Hispanic accent:

“Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me. Thank you. God bless you. Gracias!”

Then he sits down.

Astonished by the brevity of this $900 “speech,” Belushi’s character asks: “Is that it Chico?”

Chico thinks about it a second, gets up again and adds: “Keep you eye...keep you eyes...on de ball.”

After which, he sits down again.

Belushi says sardonically: “Thank you, Chico. You’ve been an inspiration to all of us.”

Three weeks later, during the December 9, 1978 episode of SNL, Morris’s Chico made a second appearance and repeated his line “Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” several times — making this the night on which it gained official catchphrase status. 

In that episode (Season 4, Episode 8), the host was Monty Python star Eric idle. Kate Bush was the musical guest. Dan Aykroyd performed the insanely funny skit in which he plays a frantic Julia Child, who bleeds to death after cutting her finger. And, Don Novello showed up as Father Guido Sarducci.

Chico was in the
Weekend Update segment with Jane Curtin, who announced that he had been hired as the Weekend Update sports commentator.

After being introduced by Jane (this time as a former New York Mets ballplayer), Chico says:

“Thank you. Thank you, berry, berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me. Thank you, Hane.

[A photo of major league player Pete Rose, who had recently signed a four year, 3.2 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, appears behind Chico.]

Pete-ee Rose...Baseball been berry, berry good to Pete Rose. Three-point-two-million-dollar para Pete Rose. Charlie Hustle, you bet. Thank you berry, berry much.

In foot-ball... I don’t know football. In Dominican Republic, football is — how you say, Hane? Um, Oh! Soccer! Your football... I don’t know.

In National Hockey League... I don’t know hockey.

In baseball… Baseball been berry, berry good to me! Thank you berry much. Thank you. Thank you berry much. Hane? Thank you, Hane.”

Hearing Chico’s fact-challenged report, Jane responds sarcastically: “Great job, Chico. I’m glad that we haven’t hired just another stupid ex-jock sportscaster.”

Morris went on to appear as Chico Escuela eight more times before leaving the Saturday Night Live cast in the summer of 1980.

Each time, he repeated “Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” (sometimes written as “Beisbol been bery, bery good to me!” and in various other ways). It remains one of the most famous of the many memorable catchphrases created by SNL.

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December 01, 2014

The “shocking” quote by Dr. Joycelyn Elders that got her fired by Pres. Bill Clinton…


Dr. Joycelyn Elders endured a lot on her rise to becoming the first African American to be appointed Surgeon General of the United States.

She was born in 1933, the daughter of a poor sharecropper in a segregated community in rural Arkansas.

As a child, she had to balance working in the cotton fields with attending an all-black elementary school 13 miles away. But she studied hard, made it through high school, and earned a scholarship to Philander Smith College, an all-black college in Little Rock.

After graduating, Elders served for several years in the United States Army’s Women’s Medical Specialist Corps. In 1956, she entered the Arkansas Medical School on the G.I. Bill, where she was the only black student and was required to eat in a separate dining room with the cleaning staff.

Elders persevered, obtained her M.D. degree in 1960, then a Masters in biochemistry in 1967. She became a respected professor, an expert in pediatric endocrinology and a pioneering researcher in childhood growth problems and juvenile diabetes.

In 1987, Dr. Elders became the Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, where her efforts led to major increases in early childhood screenings and immunizations.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her as the US Surgeon General. Like many Surgeon Generals before her, Dr. Elders was outspoken on the need to address current health-related issues, such as the growing AIDS epidemic.

On December 1, 1994, she was a featured speaker at the United Nations-sponsored World AIDS Day conference in New York City.

In a Q&A session after her formal remarks, a conference participant asked her if it might be possible to reduce the spread of AIDS through “more explicit discussion...of masturbation,” as an alternative to heterosexual or homosexual sex.

Dr. Elders answered:

“I think that is something that is a part of human sexuality and it’s a part of something that perhaps should be taught.”

Her remark generated a firestorm of criticism by Christian groups, Clinton’s Republican critics and even some Democrats.

Elders was already controversial for speaking out in support of sex education, birth control and legalization of marijuana.

And, by God, how could anyone not be shocked and offended by someone who suggested publicly that masturbation exists and that maybe people should get some factual information about it to counter all the myths and misinformation they hear when they’re growing up?  

It was almost as shocking as if she’d said something crazy like: it might be OK for Presidents to have secret sexual affairs with young White House interns.

President Clinton, who would soon be having a secret sexual affair with a young White House intern, decided that Dr. Elders’ remark about masturbation was causing too much media frenzy.

So, Clinton fired her. Technically speaking, he demanded her resignation. Of course, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta told the press she would have been fired if she had not resigned.

Panetta explained somberly: “There have been too many areas where the President does not agree with her views. This is just one too many.”

A few years later, Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky created a much bigger media frenzy and almost caused Clinton to get fired as president by means of impeachment.

In light of all that, his decision to axe Dr. Elders over a fairly mild and now forgotten quote seems like an even lower blow than it did at the time. (So to speak.)

On the positive side, Elders went on to have a successful post-Clinton career as a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a popular speaker on the lecture circuit, speaking against teen pregnancy and in favor of birth control.

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