October 07, 2020

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”


Three years after
Jack Kerouac coined the term “The Beat Generation” a group of Beat poets gathered at the Six Gallery on Fillmore Street in San Francisco for a poetry reading.

The date was October 7, 1955 and Kerouac was there.

So were local Beat celebrities Gary Snyder, Phil Lamantia, Michael McClure and a then virtually unknown poet named Allen Ginsberg.

In his novel, The Dharma Bums (published in 1958), Kerouac called it “the birth of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance.” He then described this memorable scene:

“Everyone was there. It was a mad night. And I was the one who got things jumping by going around collecting dimes and quarters from the rather stiff audience standing around in the gallery and coming back with three huge gallon jugs of California Burgundy and getting them all piffed so that by eleven o'clock when Alvah Goldbook was reading his, wailing his poem ‘Wail’ drunk with arms outspread everybody was yelling ‘Go! Go! Go!’ (like a jam session).”

“Alvah Goldbook” was Kerouac’s humorous alias for the Ginsberg and “Wail” was the fictitious name he gave to Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” — which Ginsberg first read in public that October night.

“Howl” was a stylistically wild, groundbreaking poem that quickly became both famous and infamous.

The beginning of the long run-on sentence that makes up the first part of the poem is the most quoted bit:

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
       starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
       looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
       to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking
       in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating
       across the tops of cities contemplating jazz..."

“Howl” was instantly revered by the Beat crowd and eventually gained worldwide fame. But it had a rocky start in printed form.

In the poem, Ginsberg writes graphically about heterosexual and homosexual sex and about the use of illegal drugs — forbidden subjects in the uptight society of the 1950s.

When “Howl” was printed by a British book publisher in 1955, copies were seized as “pornography” by Customs officials.

In 1956, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and a popular beat poet in his own right, published “Howl” in the U.S., in a small collection of Ginsberg’s poems titled Howl and Other Poems.

Copies of the book were soon seized by the San Francisco police and Ferlinghetti was arrested for publishing and selling an “obscene and indecent” book.

At the trial, Ferlinghetti was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

During the course of the trial, Judge Clayton W. Horn listened to nine literary experts testify about the book’s literary merits. In October 1957, he issued a carefully thought out ruling in favor of the defense.

Horn concluded that Howl and Other Poems met the current legal test of having redeeming social importance and was not “obscene.”

Thus, Ferlinghetti was found not guilty — and “Howl” and Ginsberg moved on to wider and everlasting fame.

Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to October 7:

• Former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz’s infamous comment about blacks wanting “good sex, ‘loose shoes’ and ‘a warm place’ when they use the toilet” was published in the October 7, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

“Here is America struck by God Almighty in one of its vital organs, so that its greatest buildings are destroyed. Grace and gratitude to God.” - You may not remember those words, but if you were watching the news in 2001 you remember when Osama Bin Laden delivered them. They were the opening words in the videotaped statement he released on October 7, 2001, gloating about Al-Quaeda’s September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia.

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September 15, 2020

“Life is like a box of chocolates” – the misquote that launched a thousand variations…

Here’s another “Guest Post” from my QuoteCounterquote.com blog


THE FAMOUS MOVIE QUOTE:

“My mama always said, life was like a box a chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
       Forrest Gump (actor Tom Hanks)
      
In the 1994 film Forrest Gump
       These lines are usually misquoted as “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”  And, both versions are different than what Forrest says in
the 1986 novel by Winston Groom that the film is based on. What Forrest says in the opening line of the novel is: Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates.” He goes on to explain: “People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they says folks sposed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you — it ain’t always that way. Even so, I got no complaints, cause I reckon I done live a pretty interestin life, so to speak.”

                         
THE 2020 PANDEMIC/POLITICAL CLUSTER$&*%/WILDFIRES VERSION:

“LIFE IS LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES...BUT 2020 IS NOTHING BUT NUTS.”    
       A sign on a 2020 Halloween installation in Medina, Ohio, which features a life-size doll version of Forrest Gump on a park bench. A photo of the installation was included in an article on the Cleveland.com website posted in September 2020.


LEONARD NIMOY’S POIGNANT LAST TWEET:

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”   
       Leonard Nimoy
       American actor and author, especially known for his portrayal of the Vulcan character Spock in the Star Trek TV series and movies
       Nimoy posted these moving words on his popular Twitter feed the night of February 22, 2015. It was his last tweet. Early that morning he was rushed to the hospital. A few days later he died, at age 83, from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The letters “LLAP” at the end of the tweet were his shorthand initials for “Live long and prosper,” the popular catchphrase he used in many Star Trek episodes and films. Nimoy first spoke the line in the “Amok Time” episode of the original Star Trek series, aired on September 15, 1967, as Episode 1 of Season 2.


BILL MAHER’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“Life is not like a box of chocolates. A box of chocolates is all good. I mean, it would be like a box of chocolates if there was a occasional turd.”  
       Bill Maher 
       American comedian and talk show host 
       A comment Maher made on an episode of his first major TV show
Politically Incorrect. (I watched that ep and wrote down the quip, but I forgot to note the date. The show originally aired from 1997 to 2002.)


THE WEREWOLF SUPERMODEL COUNTERQUOTE:

“Forrest Gump’s mother had a lot of catchy sayings. I never really understood any of them. Life is not like a box of chocolates. Life is more like a wad of gum stuck to the bottom of your favorite pair of shoes. The more you try to clean up the mess, the stickier it becomes.”  
      
Ronda Thompson (1955-2007) 
      
American novelist
       In her novel Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel (2007)


THE CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN’S RANT:

“Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you’re stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there’s nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there’s a peanut butter cup, or an English Toffee. But they’re gone too fast. The taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you’ve got left is a — is an empty box, filled with useless brown paper wrappers.”
       The “Cigarette Smoking Man”
       The X-Files character played by actor William B. Davis
      
In a 1996 episode of the The X-Files TV series

 
TOM LEHRER’S VARIATION:

Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.”  
       Tom Lehrer
      
American songwriter and satirist 
       Part of his spoken introduction to the song “We Will All Go Together When We Go,” on the album An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer (1953). The lyrics of the song include the line:
Life is like a sewer / And I'm trying to wade through her.”


NEHRU’S VARIATION:

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism. The way you play it is free will.”
      
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
       Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964
       This popular quote appears to have first been attributed to Nehru by Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, in a 1967 issue of that venerable periodical.

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September 07, 2020

Hope I die before I get old… then I can sleep when I’m dead…

  

The date September 7 has an ironic link to two famous rock music quotes associated with the deaths of two of rock’s most legendary bad boys.

On September 7, 1978, Keith Moon — the great, drum-kit-destroying drummer for the British band the Who — died of a drug overdose at age 31.

One of the Who’s first big hits, released in 1965, was “My Generation.”

That song includes a line that is well known and often cited by rock fans: “Hope I die before I get old.”

It’s in the first verse, which is repeated at the end of the song:

       “People try to put us d-down
       Just because we g-g-get around
       Things they do look awful c-c-cold
       Hope I die before I get old.”

As rock fans also know, Keith Moon was renowned for his self-destructive, drug-and-alcohol amped lifestyle.

Naturally, the famed “Hope I die...” line showed up in obituaries written for him in 1978 and in many articles and books later written about Moon and the Who.

In an odd coincidence, on September 7, 2003, exactly 25 years after Keith Moon passed away, American rock musician Warren Zevon died of cancer at age 56.

Like Moon, Zevon was legendary for his substance abuse and other excesses.

One of the best known songs from Zevon’s self-titled 1976 album is “I'll Sleep When I'm Dead.”

The lyrics were written in Zevon’s darkly humorous trademark style:

       “I’m drinking heartbreak motor oil and Bombay gin
       I'll sleep when I'm dead
       Straight from the bottle, twisted again
       I’ll sleep when I'm dead.”

Inevitably, the line “I’ll sleep when I'm dead” was cited in many obits, articles and blog posts shortly after Zevon shuffled off his mortal coil.

It was also used as the title of a book about him, compiled by his former wife, Crystal, and published in 2007.

The book’s full title is: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon.

Talk show host David Letterman was a longtime fan and friend of Warren Zevon and had him as a guest on The Late Show many times.

On October 30, 2002, Warren made his last appearance on Letterman’s show.

At that point, it was public knowledge that Zevon’s cancer was likely to be terminal in the near future.

His fan and friend Letterman asked Warren during the show if facing death had given him any new insights about life.

Zevon’s reply included three words that became another famous quote: “Enjoy every sandwich."

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August 30, 2020

The origins of the Cold War term “hot line” and the mythical “red phones”…



Many books and websites note that the famed “hot line” communication link between the Pentagon and the Kremlin was established on August 30, 1963.

Press reports about this new tool, intended to provide a possible way to avoid a nuclear war between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), soon cemented the term hot line into our language.

It also added a new plot device and the image of the red phones into movies and TV shows.

Two of my favorite examples were in movies released not long after the new link was established: Fail-Safe (1964) and Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).

The term hot line (sometimes given as the single word hotline) had actually been used previously in other contexts, but not in the sense of the international hot line established in 1963.

That use is generally credited to Jess Gorkin (1936-1985).

Gorkin was the respected and influential editor of Parade Magazine, the widely-circulated Sunday newspaper insert. 

In the March 20, 1960 issue of Parade, Gorkin published an open letter to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Soviet Union’s Premier Nikita Khrushchev, titled “RE: ACCIDENTAL WAR.”

In it, he urged them to consider: “the establishment of a direct telephone line between you...to prevent the possibility of an accidental war.”

He ended his letter with the rhetorical question: “Must a world be lost for want of a telephone call?”

Gorkin didn’t use the term hot line in that open letter, but he did use it in a subsequent series editorials in Parade in 1960, promoting the idea to presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

According to language maven William Safire’s great Political Dictionary, Gorkin’s editorial in the October 30, 1960 issue of Parade mentioned an internal “hot line” that the US Strategic Air Command (SAC) maintained for emergency communications.

Gorkin suggested that SAC’s “red telephone” system was a model for the communication link he believed the US and USSR should establish.

After Kennedy was elected President, Gorkin ran more editorials pushing the hot line idea.

And, after the US and USSR came to the brink of nuclear Armageddon in October 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev decided it was indeed a pretty good idea.

On April 23, 1963, Kennedy sent a personal letter of thanks to Gorkin for promoting the concept, calling it “an excellent example of the most constructive aspects of our free press.” 

Gorkin proudly published the letter in Parade.

On June 20, 1963, in Geneva, President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev signed an agreement to create the crisis communication system Gorkin had suggested. The Washington-Kremlin hot line officially went live on August 30, 1963.

However, despite what we’ve seen in movies and TV shows, there never were red phones in the offices of the President of the United States and the Premier of Russia.

The hot line was actually a secure teletype connection between the offices of the Pentagon and the Kremlin. No phones, red or otherwise, were involved.

Sorry, movie fans.

As I was researching this post, I noticed there’s a fairly recent book titled Hotline that gives the term a whole new meaning. It’s a racy novel described with this memorable blurb: “A sex worker and a trust fund brat…It’s like Romeo and Juliet, but with less stabbing and slightly fewer dick jokes.” I haven’t read it, but if you do, let me know how it is.

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August 20, 2020

“Love me, love my dog.”


 
In the Catholic religion, August 20 is the Feast Day of
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a medieval French monk who died on that date in 1153 A.D.

I’m not a Catholic. But as a dog lover and a quote lover, I’m a big fan of St. Bernard, because he’s the guy who immortalized a saying that’s now best known in the modernized form “Love me, love my dog.”

The older versions of this saying, cited by many books and websites, are “Who loves me, loves my dog” and “He who loves me, also loves my dog.”

Those are the more traditional and more grammatically correct translations of something Bernard said in a sermon he once gave on another Catholic feast day — the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, celebrated annually on September 29.

St. Bernard’s famous dog quote from that sermon was originally recorded in Latin as “Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.” (Back then, it was common for monks to use Latin for their written records and to deliver sermons in Latin to other monks.) 

The full sentence this quote comes from is “Dicitur certe vulgari proverbio: Qui me amat, amat et canem meum” which translates as “It is said truly in a common proverb: who loves me, also loves my dog.”

This makes it clear that Bernard was quoting an existing proverb. He didn’t actually coin it himself. But his use became famous and helped popularize the saying.

Contrary to what some people assume, St. Bernard of Clairvaux is not the Catholic saint associated with Saint Bernard dogs.

They were named after Saint Bernard of Menthon (a.k.a. Bernard of Montjoux), a different Catholic monk who died in 1008 A.D.

That St. Bernard established a monastery and hospice high up in the Alps. Over the centuries, the monks who lived there became famous for their efforts to rescue lost and injured travelers and for the large herding dogs they bred and trained to assist in their search and rescue missions. Since the 1700s, those dogs have been called Saint Bernards.

It’s not clear whether St. Bernard of Menthon or St. Bernard of Clairvaux were especially fond of dogs themselves.

St. Bernard of Menthon is the patron saint of skiing, not dogs or dog lovers. And, the breed of dogs named in his honor was developed by his followers after his death.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux is the patron saint of bees, beekeepers and candle-makers, apparently because Pope Pius VIII nicknamed him the “Honey-Sweet Doctor” for his honey-sweet style of preaching and writing.

And, for the record, the topic of the sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux that includes the words now paraphrased as “Love me, love my dog” wasn’t actually about canines. It was about angels and their love for humanity.

Bernard’s brief reference to dogs in the sermon was part of a metaphorical point he was making.

If you read (or use an online translator to decipher) the Latin transcription of his sermon, you find that he was comparing the relationship between dogs and people to the relationship between humans and Jesus.

“The holy angels...love us, in fact, because Jesus Christ loved us,” Bernard said in Paragraph 3 of the sermon. “It is said truly in a common proverb: who loves me, also loves my dog...We are the little dogs of the Lord...yes, like small dogs that want to feed on the crumbs that fall from the table of our masters.”

In case you’re wondering, there is a Catholic patron saint of dogs. His name is Saint Roch and his feast day is August 16.

According to legend, in the 13th century, Roch became gravely ill after ministering to plague victims and went off into the woods to die.

His life was saved by a dog from a nearby home. The dog accidentally found Roch, then brought him food to eat every day and licked his sores until he recovered.

I particularly like that legend because it fits my view that the creatures appropriately called “man’s best friend” are among the true saints of this world.

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July 30, 2020

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable…

Every once in a while, I like to do a “guest post” here, using something I previously posted on my other quotation blog, QuoteCounterquote.com. I recently heard some news commentator use the phrase “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” on a cable news channel and wondered how many modern listeners are familiar with that old saying. In case you’re not, here’s a post that discusses to origins of those words and some notable uses and variations…


THE LINE THAT LED TO A FAMOUS MISQUOTE:

“Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us...comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable.”
        Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936)
        American journalist and humorist
        Dunne put this quote in the mouth of “Mr. Dooley,” the witty Irish character who was featured in Dunne’s popular newspaper column relating what Dooley said on various topics in a heavy Irish brogue. The line was first used in a column titled “Mr. Dooley on Newspaper Publicity,” published in many US newspapers on October 5, 1902 and reprinted in the book collecting Dunne’s columns, Observations by Mr. Dooley (1902). Dooley’s remark led to many other quotes about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
        The full quote as Dunne wrote it is:
        “Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, conthrols th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”
        The plain English “translation” is:
        “The newspaper does everything for us. It runs the police force and the banks, commands the militia, controls the legislature, baptizes the young, marries the foolish, comforts the afflicted, afflicts the comfortable, buries the dead and roasts them afterward.”
        Dunne’s quote is often misquoted as “The duty [or job] of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Indeed, that version has become a kind of motto for defenders of the free press. Ironically, Dunne’s piece was not meant as praise of the press. It’s actually a negative jab at newspapers who Mr. Dooley thinks print far too much minutiae about almost everything and everyone and pokes into the private lives of citizens far too much.
        Mr. Dooley complains that, because newspapers regularly print gossip and photos about local citizens, “There are no such things as private citizens” anymore. Interestingly, many of his criticisms of newspapers sound similar to modern concerns about the internet and social media.


THE NEWSPAPER VERSION:

“Mr. Brady, it is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
        Actor Spencer Tracy, in the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind. Tracy, playing defense lawyer Henry Drummond, says the line to Fredric March, playing prosecuting attorney Matthew Harrison Brady.
        The film is an adaptation of the 1955 play of the same name, a fictionalized account of the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial.” Tracy’s famous line is not in the play, which was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. The movie script based on the play was written by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith. I suspect the famous line was created by Young, who was blacklisted as a Communist sympathizer during the McCarthy era and hired (secretly) by the film’s director Stanley Kramer. Young didn’t coin the saying. As noted in a post on the Quote Investigator site, a filler item in 1914 a newspaper in Danville, Kentucky said: “Mr. Dooley says the duty of the newspapers is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” That was followed by many similar uses of this saying about newspapers that predate the movie Inherit the Wind, which premiered in London on July 7, 1960.


THE FAUX CLARENCE DARROW QUOTE:

“The most human thing we can do is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
        Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
        American lawyer and free speech activist
        It’s interesting that many internet posts and some books published in recent decades attribute this quote to Darrow, the defense attorney in the real life Scopes Monkey Trial. I couldn’t find any evidence that Darrow ever said or wrote such a line. I think it’s probably a faux quote created after the movie line in Inherit the Wind became famous.


THE FAUX WOODY GUTHRIE QUOTE:

“It’s a folk singer’s job to comfort disturbed people and to disturb comfortable people.”
        Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
        American folk musician and liberal political activist
        This line is widely attributed to Guthrie in internet posts, but never with any specific source. As far as I can tell, he never actually said it.


THE CHRISTIAN VERSION:

“The business of the ministry is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
        Frederick W. Burnham (1871-1960)
        Pastor in Richmond, Virginia
        In an editorial published on March 11, 1944 in The Latrobe Bulletin, Burnham attributed this saying to an unnamed “young minister.” It’s an early version of many quotes that have applied the “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” concept to Christianity and Christian ministries.


THE ELEANOR ROOSEVELT APPLICATION:

“No woman has ever so comforted the distressed – or distressed the comfortable.”
        Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987)
        American author, Conservative Republican politician and US Ambassador     
        Luce used this line speech in which she praised Eleanor Roosevelt at and event honoring her on May 21, 1950. At that event, the left-leaning, Democratic widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt received an award for her service to the poor and “underprivileged.” Back then, political opponents from different parties actually said some nice things about each other.


J.K. GALBRAITH’S VARIATION:

“In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.”
        John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
        Canadian-born economist, public official, and liberal activist
        From his 1989 commencement speech at Smith College, Massachusetts, titled “In Pursuit of the Simple Truth.” (Because London’s Guardian newspaper reprinted the speech on July 28, 1989, that is the usual citation for the source, rather than the commencement speech.)

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