The Stan Freberg Show: The Second Episode; Meet A The Abominable Snowman


Archive.org has this really nice system to embed media in other pages. Both videos and audio files. The scheme works really well if there’s a single file on the archive.org host page. If there’s multiple files on the page, though — if it’s an archive page with whole collection of something, like, every episode of a radio series — then it gets harder. The simple “Share This Item” link gives code that shares the whole collection. And that defaults to the first item in the collection. A bit of URL hacking can fix that. But I’m never completely sure I’m doing it right. So if you play this, and it’s just last week’s episode again, please let me know. I’ll try fixing it.

So here’s the rundown for this episode, from the 21st of July, 1957:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Cold Open. Stan Freberg interrupts one of his own comedy records again; only the one, this time. This record is “John and Marsha”, his first comedy record. The original is a story, in which a woman says “John” and a man answers “Marsha”, and that’s basically it. The comedy’s all in the structure; for me, it works. But that’s also why the interrupting Freberg saying they have a lot to say to each other is a punch line.
00:40 Opening Theme. So now you see how this quiet bit of customization is going to go.
01:30 Interview with the Abominable Snowman. This instance of the Abominable Snowman turns out to be ten and a half feet tall and wears size 23 sneakers. I do, really, have a friend with enormously long feet in real life and I’m not sure they don’t wear size 23. Not quite that tall, though. The narrator’s introduction about how the show “goes everywhere, sees everything, does everyone” riffs on newsreel hype.
08:00 Great Moments In History: the story behind Barbara Fritchie. Quick little sketch based on a poem that I only know because of a Rocky and Bullwinkle sketch, this bit, and a sketch from the Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America albums. The sketch shows that sort of cheery, lightly cynical existentialism that at least I see all over cartoons of the era.
09:15 Song. Peggy Taylor sings “Birth of the Blues”.
13:00 Carving A New Statue At Mount Rushmore. Absurdist bit about carving a 400-foot oleomargarine statue. The sort of sketch you can only do on radio or the cartoons. Mary Mararet McBride did a daily housewife-advice chat show on radio for decades, including what sounds like an admirably eclectic line of interview subjects. This sounds all respectable enough, although by 1957 she’d been on the air for roughly a quarter-century. Likely she served well as an old-enough-to-be-square reference. My favorite line is the carver declaring of someone, “I hate her but she’s a lovely girl”.
16:00 Wrong number. The major sketch this piece, without the political energy of last week’s Incident at Los Voraces. It’s a simple slow-build, slow-burn sketch where a onetime common accident just keeps getting bigger. My favorite line is its most instantly dated, the man declaring he’s so tired he “wouldn’t go out to see Davey Crockett wrestle Marilyn Monroe”.
23:50 Stephen Foster Medley. Is there any dated comic premise more wonderfully dated than the late-50s/early-60s hate-on-rock-and-roll bit? I say there is only if you divide the early-60s-hate-on-the-Beatles into its own genre. This sketch revives a record-producer character from Freberg’s record “Sh-Boom”, mentioned early on, who’d helped a recording get to true modern greatness by avoiding problems like the audience being able to make out a word the singers were performing. This is the same premise, doing a rock-and-roll version of Stephen Foster songs. It’s more cleverly done than funny, and I don’t think just because Freberg writes for clever. Nor because the premise is hilariously dated, embedded as it is in a moment when American popular music styles changed to what is still the default mode, and writing from the perspective of the now-obsolete styles. I think Freberg (or his writers) got caught in an authenticity trap. They got so committed to making plausible arrangements that, actually, “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair” set to the tune of “Rag Mop” works. I’ve been caught in this kind of authenticity trap myself. I suspect it’s caused by certain nerd personality traits. Particular strains of cleverness and industriousness and perfectionism can combine to where the goal becomes executing an idea perfectly. It’s easy to forget that you haven’t developed or escalated the idea past the original premise.
28:00 Closing Remarks. No teaser for next week; the first episode said the Barbara Fritchie bit would be here.
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From the August 2016 Scraps File And Yard Sale Bureau


I have my usual bunch of text I couldn’t use for something or other in August. Mostly writing. But it isn’t going to be free to a good home this time. We’re holding a yard sale this Saturday, for the usual reasons: there’s no space for it in our garage. The mice are holding their Squeak Olympics in it this weekend, at least until the International Olympics Committee hears about it. But the floor space is full of purpose-built stadiums and tracks and a mousethropology exhibit space and all. There’s no sense our interrupting that for our meager needs. Plus it’s so hard winning a bid for the Squeak Olympics.

But there’s other good reasons to hold a yard sale this weekend. For instance, my love and I both hate going through our belongings figuring out what we want to sell. And we hate trying to figure out prices to put on them. And we hate getting up at awful hours on a Saturday to haul stuff out onto a dew-lined lawn. And we hate hour after hour of free-form interactions with strangers. And we hate strangers who’re yard sale divas come over to lie to us about the making of a water pitcher we marked for $2.50 because they want to get it for 25 cents less for crying out loud. Looking it over, maybe we’re just misdirecting our anger. I guess it’s better we do yard sales rather than, like, drive or vote angry. We’re getting less fond of our lawn too. Anyway, here goes.

If you missed last week’s, then let me summarize. You should wash your hands when: (a) You have to. (b) Your towels are too dry. (c) You want to. (d) You need to. (e) Some other reason. (f) No, you really, really need to. It’s okay. We’re not judging here. — cut from the second piece I somehow spun out of hand-washing because I used this same joke in a piece I wrote for my undergrad newspaper in Like 1990 and there’s easily one person out there who might, conceivably, remember it. And sure, I expanded on the joke, but did I make it new enough? No. You can try it on an unsuspecting audience for just $1.75.

you have to check your door at the door. it’s part of our open-door policy. if you can bring your door down here then it’s pretty sure to have got opened. of course there was that time last year when rick brought the whole thing door frame and all, unopened. that’s why we don’t talk about or to him anymore. — cut from my major expose on doors that I’ve figured would be good now that I found something I wrote around the same theme like twelve years ago. $3.50 obo.

lumber yard // 84 lumber //lumber miller // architectural salvage — cut from either notes I made while talking to my father about how to get a new screen window for the living room or from my failed attempt at Beat Poetry Night down at the hipster bar. It was actually karaoke night. $1.50 or your Zippy the Pinhead fanfic.

bake or boil or simmer or broil or maybe just let it sit and think about what it’s done until it’s ready to make amends — cut from a hilarious expose of recipes that I had to drop because I don’t really care about recipes or much about how to make food. Don’t mind me. I’m recovering from the discovery I’ve been making at least some kinds of Noodle-Roni all wrong for years and never suspected. $1.25 or $1.50 if it’s still on sale by suppertime.

statistics saturday: ten moments from the yard sale that didn’t make me want to curl up inside our pet rabbit’s hutch and die — cut because how can I write this when we haven’t even had the sale yet and my memories of last time are faint enough we’re going through it all over again? $0.75 no haggling.

the jute mill is exploded! — cut from Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic, the 20th of October, 1954, because it was just a dream Churchy La Femme was having. $4.00 because it’s in a hardcover book (the most recent attempt at Complete Pogo reprints) but you’ll have to hack my limbs off to get it away from me. “Jute” is too a thing.

We’ll be set up on the lawn from 9 am to 3 pm or whenever we’re sick with how much rain we’re getting on our heads. Tickets for the Squeak Olympics are going fast, because the mice are still shy.

Franklin P Adams: Rubber-Stamp Humor


We haven’t checked in with Franklin P Adams in a while. Though since he’s been dead an even longer while he can’t be taking it personally. Still, here, from Tobogganing on Parnassus, is “Rubber-Stamp Humor”, about the problem of being funny while talking about the same jokes everybody makes.

Alfred Austin was the Poet Laureate who followed Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and I never heard of him (Austin) either. “Crank” in this context means “fan”. And can you imagine there was a time when football was perceived to be a dangerously violent game?

If couples mated but for love;
    If women all were perfect cooks;
    If Hoosier authors wrote no books;
        If horses always won;
If people in the flat above
    Were silent as the very grave;
    If foreign counts were prone to save;
        If tailors did not dun —

If automobiles always ran
    As advertised in catalogues;
    If tramps were not afraid of dogs;
        If servants never left;
If comic songs would always scan;
    If Alfred Austin were sublime;
    If poetry would always rhyme;
        If authors all were deft —

If office boys were not all cranks
    On base-ball; if the selling price
    Of meat and coal and eggs and ice
        Would stop its mad increase;
If women started saying “Thanks”
    When men gave up their seats in cars;
    If there were none but good cigars,
        And better yet police —

If there were no such thing as booze;
    If wifey’s mother never came
    To visit; if a foot-ball game
        Were mild and harmless sport;
If all the Presidential news
    Were colourless; if there were men
    At every mountain, sea-side, glen,
        River and lake resort —

If every girl were fair of face;
    If women did not fear to get
    Their suits for so-called bathing wet —
        If all these things were true,
This earth would be a pleasant place.
    But where would people get their laughs?
    And whence would spring the paragraphs?
        And what would jokers do?

(That all said, I’d like to put in a good word for Christopher Miller’s delightful American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide to the Formerly Funny. It’s a hefty list of stuff that was always good for a joke, circa 1900 to 1965, and what it might have meant. If you’re at all interested in why people on old sitcoms were obsessed with the things they were obsessed with, Miller can make things at least a bit clearer.)

Franklin P Adams: The Dictaphone Bard


How about an amusing spot of medium-breaking poetry from Franklin P Adams, fresh from the pages of Something Else Again?

[And here is a suggestion: Did you ever try dictating your stories or articles to the dictaphone for the first draft? I would be glad to have you come down and make the experiment.—From a shorthand reporter’s circular letter.]

(As “The Ballad of the Tempest” would have to issue from the dictaphone to the stenographer)

Begin each line with a capital. Indent alternate lines. Double space after each fourth line.


We were crowded in the cabin comma
   Not a soul would dare to sleep dash comma
It was midnight on the waters comma
   And a storm was on the deep period

Apostrophe Tis a fearful thing in capital Winter
   To be shattered by the blast comma
And to hear the rattling trumpet
   Thunder colon quote capital Cut away the mast exclamation point close quote

So we shuddered there in silence comma dash
   For the stoutest held his breath comma
While the hungry sea was roaring comma
   And the breakers talked with capital Death period

As thus we sat in darkness comma
   Each one busy with his prayers comma
Quote We are lost exclamation point close quote the captain shouted comma
   As he staggered down the stairs period

But his little daughter whispered comma
   As she took his icy hand colon
Quote Isn’t capital God upon the ocean comma
   Just the same as on the land interrogation point close quote

Then we kissed the little maiden comma
   And we spake in better cheer comma
And we anchored safe in harbor
   When the morn was shining clear period

Robert Benchley: The Brow-Elevation in Humor



The Robert Benchley essay I want to share today is an unusual one in my selections. It’s from Love Conquers All, as often happens here. But it’s from the back half of the book, which collects his various book reviews. This review is a split between a little talk about Mark Twain, whose well-managed estate was putting out new books a decade after Twain’s death, and a book collecting the poetry of Franklin P Adams.

I’ve used some of Adams’s verse here, although not anything from the reviewed book. What interests me, though, is Benchley’s point about American humor. While it’s got a long anti-intellectual history, there’s also always a streak of good, popular stuff that is not. There are a lot of people who want jokes that assume intelligence and broad knowledge on the part of the audience.

That said, could there be a Franklin P Adams today? I don’t know. The kinds of classical allusions he would depend on seem to be less part of the common cultural pool. On the other hand, plenty of people still know this stuff, and it ought to be easier for them to find an author who writes about the kinds of things they like now. And it seems to be rather easy to come across a reference and use that to learn new things, and it can be great fun to find a writer that coaxes you into learning new things. I don’t deny that anti-intellectual is always around, but I would be interested to know how well intellectual can do.


After an author has been dead for some time, it becomes increasingly difficult for his publishers to get out a new book by him each year. Without recourse to the ouija board, Harper & Brothers manage to do very well by Mark Twain, considering that all they have to work with are the books that he wrote when he was alive. Each year we get something from the pen of the famous humorist, even though the ink has faded slightly. An introduction by Albert Bigelow Paine and a hitherto unpublished photograph as a frontspiece, and there you are—the season’s new Mark Twain book.

This season it is Moments With Mark Twain, a collection of excerpts from his works for quick and handy reading. We may look for further books in this series in 1923, 1924, 1925, &c., to be entitled Half Hours With Mark Twain (the selections a trifle longer), Pleasant Week-Ends With Mark Twain, Indian Summer With Mark Twain, &c.

There is an interesting comparison between this sample bottle of the humor of Mark Twain and that contained in the volume entitled Something Else Again, by Franklin P. Adams. The latter is a volume of verse and burlesques which have appeared in the newspapers and magazines.

In the days when Mark Twain was writing, it was considered good form to spoof not only the classics but surplus learning of any kind. A man was popularly known as an affected cuss when he could handle anything more erudite than a nasal past participle or two in his own language, and any one who wanted to qualify as a humorist had to be able to mispronounce any word of over three syllables.

Thus we find Mark Twain, in the selections given in this volume, having amusing trouble with the pronunciation of Michael Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci, expressing surprise that Michael Angelo was dead, picking flaws in the old master’s execution and complaining of the use of foreign words which have their equivalent “in a nobler language—English.”

There certainly is no harm in this school of humor, and it has its earnest and prosperous exponents today. In fact, a large majority of the people still like to have some one poke fun at the things in which they themselves are not proficient, whether it be pronunciation, Latin or bricklaying.

But there is an increasingly large section of the reading public who while they may not be expert in Latin composition, nevertheless do not think that a Latin word in itself is a cause for laughter. A French phrase thrown in now and then for metrical effect does not strike them as essentially an affectation, and they are willing to have references made to characters whose native language may not have been that noblest of all languages, our native tongue.

That such a school of readers exists is proved by the popularity of F.P.A’s verses and prose. If any one had told Mark Twain that a man could run a daily newspaper column in New York and amass any degree of fame through translations of the Odes of Horace into the vernacular, the veteran humorist would probably have slapped Albert Bigelow Paine on the back and taken the next boat for Bermuda. And yet in Something Else Again we find some sixteen translations of Horace and other “furriners,” exotic phrases such as “eheu fugaces” and “ex parte” used without making faces over them, and a popular exposition of highly technical verse forms which James Russell Lowell and Hal Longfellow would have considered terrifically high-brow. And yet thousands of American business men quote F.P.A. to thousands of other American business men every morning.

Can it be said that the American people are not so low-brow as they like to pretend? There is a great deal of affectation in this homespun frame of mind, and many a man makes believe that he doesn’t know things simply because no one has ever written about them in the American Magazine. If the truth were known, we are all a great deal better educated than we will admit, and the derisive laughter with which we greet signs of culture is sometimes very hollow. In F.P.A. we find a combination which makes it possible for us to admit our learning and still be held honorable men. It is a good sign that his following is increasing.

Cheese, Spam, Poetry


I’ve only ever committed a few acts of poetry. Mostly they’ve been things written part-jokingly. This way I could run them in the unread left-wing student newspaper back at college in the “Ebb and Flow” literary section but could fall back in a bit of cowardice and claim I meant it for the Humor section (“about herring…”) instead. But my spammers are not so inhibited. Here’s one of their recent masterpieces:

Now I am ready to do my breakfast,

once having my breakfast coming yet

again to read additional news.

But maybe I’m just a sucker for any suggestion that events that are about to happen already happened and might just be happening again if I don’t miss them.

Also, I see in my notes the phrase “time cheese”. I do not remember at this point if it was a spam or funny search term, or if it was notes from a dream, or if I had ambitions of writing something particular about it. All I know is the idea is there, and some cheese-eating organism might be attempting to disrupt the normal flow of time from past to future. I’ll let you know if any cheese is had for breakfast in the past.

(Those were the actual section names for the creative-writing/photography section and the humor section, though the humor section’s name changed with each new editor. So now you know exactly how earnest a newspaper The Rutgers Review was in my day. When I finally was made editor of the humor section I named it “Humor”, because I felt like trying to be funny about the section name encouraged the reader to challenge whether this was in fact funny even before our blistering jokes about the campus bus system or the broken computers in the Roost. So now you know exactly what kind of person I am. Also I never actually got anything into “about herring…”, though I did better under other editors.)

Franklin P Adams: Sporadic Fiction


[ It’s been too long since I’ve posted a poem from Franklin P Adams. Let me fix that. From Tobogganing on Parnassus here’s a piece complaining about the way magazines of the early 20th century treated fiction. It’s a treatment completely, wholly, utterly alien to people searching for content on the Internet. ]

Sporadic Fiction

Why not a poem as they treat
The stories in the magazines?
“Eustacia’s lips were very sweet.
   He stooped to” — and here intervenes
A line — italics — telling one
   Where one may learn the things that he,
The noble hero, had begun.
   (Continuation on page 3.)

Page 3 —- oh, here it is — no, here —
   “Kiss them. Eustacia hung her head;
Whereat he said, ‘Eustacia dear’ —
   And sweetly low Eustacia said:”
      (Continued on page 17.)
   Here, just between the corset ad.
And that of Smithers’ Canderine.
   (Eustacia sweet, you drive me mad.)

“No, no, not that! But let me tell
   You why I scorn your ardent kiss —
Not that I do not love you well;”
   No, Archibald, the reason’s this:
      (Continued on page 24.)
   Turn, turn my leaves, and let me learn
Eustacia’s fate; I pine for more;
   Oh, turn and turn and turn and turn!

“Because— and yet I ought not say
   The wherefore of my sudden whim.”
Here Archibald looked at Eusta-
   Cia, and Eustacia looked at him.
“Because,” continued she, “my head — ”
   I never knew Eustacia’s fate,
I never knew what ‘Stack said.
   (Continued on page 58.)

My Spammers Are Becoming Found Poetry


I was cleaning out my spam folders around here and discovered this:

Precisely how is actually Very last. fm not really on this checklist… additionally, take a look at tuberadio. net daaah, considering that the concept claims: alternatives for you to the planet pandora and also LASTFM idiot!

nike pas cher

I’m honestly hypnotized by this, and I’d kind of like to read the short story that starts off from “Precisely how is actually Very last”.

I think it’s that last “nike pas cher” on a line by itself that makes the composition. I’m going to have to start using it as an affectionate farewell. nike pas cher, my darlings.

Ian Shoales: Temp Work


Ian Shoales, as I said in introducing this week, was the creation of Merle Kessler, and he’s a great character: sneering and cranky without, at least for me, losing his likability, even if I probably wouldn’t want to spend too much time with him. Kessler developed Shoales’s persona with a biography full of the frustrated ambitions that sound right for someone aiming to be a creative success and carrying on even though the lottery of fame doesn’t pay out much. Shoales’s life is marked with failed relationships and annoyed bosses and indignities petty and grand. I don’t know whether Kessler, or anyone he knew, ever was sued for libel by his high school principal, but it’s the kind of thing I find easy to imagine happening to someone like him, and to see it mentioned as an aside in an essay on, oh, say, Elvis Presley has an electrifying effect that I didn’t realize I wasn’t getting from Dave Barry or old Bob Newhart records (much as I cherished them).

Here, from 1984, is one of these partly biographically-informed essays by Ian Shoales. I can believe that what he describes in the first paragraph really happened, if not to Kessler then to someone. While it’s all quite funny, to me anyway, it’s also all fairly good advice if you’re hoping to make it as an artist. If I ever give it a try I’ll take this advice.


Temp Work

Along the way to my present success I’ve had to work for a living, usually at “temp work”, as it’s called in professional circles. I have moved furniture, filed, typed, answered phones, and I probably have the world’s record for getting fired. This is because I’d show up at work unshaven, wearing sunglasses, and not wearing socks. I figured, “I’m not an executive, who’s gonna care?” Well, after my third temp job in a week, I finally took Mom’s long-distance advice, and got a beige seersucker three-piece for five bucks at Goodwill. It fit me like a glove, and I wore it to my next temp job. But when the permanent employees saw me approach the water cooler, they all scattered. Nobody would come near me. Finally a little bald guy worked up the courage to ask me who I was. He had me pegged as some corporate honcho checking up on worker efficiency, I guess, because when I told him I was a temp worker, a look of relief passed over his face. Then he replaced that look with one of utter disregard. By noon, all employee fear of me had vanished. So the next day my suit vanished to be replaced by blue jeans, and the next day my job vanished to be replaced by poverty.

But if you’re an artist of any kind, it means you’re going to have to get the kind of job you get till you get to do what you want to do. So let me give you some advice about the temp-worker scene.

  • Never drink beer at your desk. Supervisors don’t like it.
  • Permanent employees probably won’t appreciate your Joe Cocker impression.
  • If you’re moving furniture, don’t move a desk if somebody’s sitting at it.
  • Never call corporate executives by their first name, or ask them if they want to play a couple of holes on Saturday.
  • Don’t try to find Pac Man on the personal computer unless you’re invited by your supervisor.
  • Never ask the supervisor for a date.
  • If you’re answering the company phone, say, “Hello,” not, “Yeah, what do ya want?”
  • I know temp work can get dull, but never rearrange the filing system without permission.
  • Don’t rewrite business letters in blank verse.
  • If you’re supposed to show up at work on Tuesday don’t come in on Wednesday.

I know this is basic stuff, but don’t draw faces with white-out on the desk; don’t make jewelry out of the paper clips; don’t compose melodies on the Touch-Tone phone; don’t ask to borrow the Selectric overnight — remember always, you’re just a ghost in the working world.

Somebody will eventually publish the 1,500-page rock-and-roll novel gathering dust in your sock drawer. Your ship will come in, and then you’ll have temps of your own. And they better not call you by your first name.

         — Not rich, 1/15/84.

Franklin P Adams: Monotonous Variety


[ I realized it’d been ages since I last showcased one of the comic verses of Franklin P Adams, and that’s a shame. From Tobogganing On Parnassus once more, then, a bit of griping about writers who search the thesaurus for all the possible ways to indicate someone has spoken. It’s an old and familiar complaint, but FPA brings a wonderful melody to it. ]

Monotonous Variety

(All of them from two stories in a single magazine.)

She “greeted” and he “volunteered”;
    She “giggled”; he “asserted”;
She “queried” and he “lightly veered”;
    She “drawled” and he “averted”;
She “scoffed,” she “laughed” and he
       “averred”;
He “mumbled,” “parried,” and “demurred.”

She “languidly responded”; he
    “Incautiously assented”;
Doretta “proffered lazily”;
    Will “speedily invented”;
She “parried,” “whispered,” “bade,” and
       “mused”;
He “urged,” “acknowledged,” and “refused.”

She “softly added”; “she alleged”;
    He “consciously invited”;
She “then corrected”; William “hedged”;
    She “prettily recited”;
She “nodded,” “stormed,” and “acquiesced” ;
He “promised,” “hastened,” and “confessed.”

Doretta “chided”; “cautioned” Will;
    She “voiced” and he “defended”;
She “vouchsafed”; he “continued still”;
    She “sneered” and he “amended”;
She “smiled,” she “twitted,” and she “dared”
He “scorned,” “exclaimed,” “pronounced,”
       and “flared.”

He “waived,” “believed,” “explained,” and
       “tried”;
    “Commented” she; he “muttered”;
She “blushed,” she “dimpled,” and she
       “sighed”;
    He “ventured” and he “stuttered”;
She “spoke,” “suggested,” and “pursued”;
He “pleaded,” “pouted,” “called,” and
       “viewed.”

           *    *    *

O synonymble writers, ye
    Whose work is so high-pricey.
Think ye not that variety
    May haply be too spicy?
Meseems that in an elder day
They had a thing or two to say.

Taxing the Meter


Reuters reports — well, Reuters reports a lot of things, especially if you let them go on — but here, Reuters reports that Finland’s tax agency has decided to try encouraging businesses to file their tax documentation electronically by writing poems of encouragement. An example, as they translate it:

Pencil and eraser,
No longer a racer.
Electronic is in — a clear win!
Come and experience,
Drop your resilience!

I think this is the most prominent example of governmental tax poetry since Britain’s “People’s Budget” of 1909/10, which imposed fresh limericks on the upper classes but freed verse for villagers who lived in a city at least a year and a day. Could be an exciting time for fiduciary dactyls.

Statistics Saturday: The Forgotten Days


The most popular forgotten days of the week:

  1. Bragiday (traditional day for the complaining about the poetry of others)
  2. Hellinsday (traditional day for doctor’s appointments and hacky jokes about hospital gift shops)
  3. Tuesday (except in its two-fer form)
  4. Meimeirsday (good for running about like one’s head had been cut off; removed by the Council of Nicaea and put aside “for Miss Manners”)
  5. Sagasday (nobody knows when this was)
  6. Ransday (day of the sea and/or misunderstood Paul McCartney albums)
  7. Wednesday (the remake; lost in the 1922 calendar reboot)
  8. Gefjunday (position in the week given away to Bragiday, then left in the back of the closet until it was forgotten)
  9. Hoenirsday (no records of it, sorry)
  10. Voersday (traditional day for realizing what you should have said instead; in French, le jour d’escalier, the day for remembering one should have pushed someone down the escalator)

Franklin P Adams: Office Mottoes


I’d like to bring out another of Franklin Pierce Adams’s poems, as collected in Tobogganing On Parnassus. And for a poem from (at latest) 1911 it’s nevertheless mocking something that I guess is stil relevant, at least assuming that anyone ever actually buys and hangs those inspirational Successories posters in an actual office.

Office Mottoes

Motto heartening, inspiring,
   Framed above my pretty ‘desk,

Never Shelley, Keats, or Byring*
   Penned a phrase so picturesque!

But in me no inspiration
   Rides my low and prosy brow —

All I think of is vacation
When I see that lucubration:

DO IT NOW

When I see another sentence
   Framed upon a brother’s wall,

Resolution and repentance
   Do not flood o’er me at all

As I read that nugatory
   Counsel written years ago,

Only when one comes to borry*
Do I heed that ancient story:

TELL HIM NO

Mottoes flat and mottoes silly,
   Proverbs void of point or wit,

“KEEP A-PLUGGIN’ WHEN IT’S HILLY!”
   “LIFE’S A TIGER: CONQUER IT!”

Office mottoes make me weary
   And of all the bromide bunch

There is only one I seri-
Ously like, and that’s the cheery:

GONE TO LUNCH

[*] Entered under the Pure License of 1906.

Franklin P Adams: A Plea


[ Liking words is a tricky hobby, because you never can tell just when some of them are going to really get to annoy you. For example, I can’t stand the phrase “grow your business”, which is all the more annoying because I can’t fault it for being a ridiculous metaphor or anything. I just don’t like it. But sometimes a skilled writer such as Franklin P Adams gets annoyed by something and turns that irritation into something lovely, eg: ]

Writers of baseball, attention!
   When you’re again on the job —
When, in your rage for invention,
   You with the language play hob —
Most of your dope we will pardon,
   Though of the moth ball it smack,
But — cut out the “sinister garden”,
   Chop the “initial sack”.

Rake poor old Roget’s Thesaurus
   For phrases fantastic and queer;
And though on occasions you bore us,
   We will refrain from a sneer.
We will endeavour to harden
   Ourselves to the rest of your clack,
If you’ll cut out the “sinister garden”
   And chop the “initial sack”.

Singers of words that are scrambled,
   Say, if you will, that he “died”,
Write, if you must, that he “ambled” —
   We shall be last to deride.
But us to the Forest of Arden,
   Along with the misanthrope Jaques,
If you cling to the “sinister garden”
   And stick to “initial sack”.

Speak of the “sphere’s abberation”,
   Mention the “leathery globe”,
Say he got “free transportation” —
   Though that try the patience of Job.
But if you’re wise you’ll discard en-
   Cumbrances such as we thwack —
Especially “sinister garden”
   And the “initial sack”.

Franklin P Adams: The Rich Man


[ It’s been a month or so since I last swiped a spot of public domain verse from Franklin P Adams and Tobogganing on Parnassus. Please, enjoy a spot more. ]

The rich man has his motor-car
   His country and his town estate
He smokes a fifty-cent cigar
     And jeers at fate.

He frivols through the livelong day,
   He knows not Poverty her pinch.
His lot seems light, his heart seems gay,
     He has a cinch.

Yet though my lamp burns low and dim,
   Though I must slave for livelihood —
Think you that I would change with him?
     You bet I would!

Misconstrued Poetry Restorations


The North American Council on Poetic Quality has issued the following guidelines of words that can no longer be used in consumer- or industrial-grade poetry. Exemptions will be applied for cause. The Council also reminds all that National Haiku Pedantry Month starts the first of November, so be ready to help them enforce the rules about cutting words and nature imagery by leaping up on desks and shaking golf clubs about while insisting it’s everyone else on the Internet that has the issue and they should go write limericks instead.

O: as a particulate extrapolation that fills in those little bits where it feels the sentence hasn’t quite got started yet, the word-letter “O” has suffered from extreme overuse and fatigue, bringing the population of the word-letters to the brink of extinction. Therefore the word-letter “E” is to take its place, as the stocks of this are much more robust and have a tendency to get into the garage if not thinned out some. Use with abandon, the long E only.

Continue reading “Misconstrued Poetry Restorations”

Franklin P Adams: Poesy’s Guerdon


[ Please let me draw another bit of verse from Franklin P Adams and the Tobogganing on Parnassus collection. ]

( *   *   * I do not believe a single modern English
poet is living to-day on the current proceeds of his
verse. — From “Literary Taste and How to Form it,”
by Arnold Bennett.)

What time I pen the Mighty Line
Suffusëd with the spark divine
As who should say: “By George! That’s fine!”

Indignantly do I deny
The words of Arnold Bennett. Why,
Is this not English verse? say I.

And by the proceeds of that verse —
Such as, e.g., these little terc-
Ets — is not filled the family purse?

Do we not live on what I sell,
Sonnet, ballade, and villanelle?

     *   *   *
“We do,” She says, “and none too well.”

Franklin P Adams: To a Thesaurus


[ My first selection of poetry from Franklin P Adams seems to have been received well, so let me bring out another piece from Tobogganing on Parnassus. My eyebrow is raised — well, my raising-eyebrow eyebrow is raised — by the spelling of favour, and both “sustention” and “opitulation” are new ones on me, but “meseems”, I like on this first meeting. ]

O precious codex, volume, tome,
    Book, writing, compilation, work
Attend the while I pen a pome,
    A jest, a jape, a quip, a quirk.

For I would pen, engross, indite,
    Transcribe, set forth, compose, address,
Record, submit —– yea, even write
    An ode, an elegy to bless —–

To bless, set store by, celebrate,
    Approve, esteem, endow with soul,
Commend, acclaim, appreciate,
    Immortalize, laud, praise, extol.

Thy merit, goodness, value, worth,
    Expedience, utility —–
O manna, honey, salt of earth,
    I sing, I chant, I worship thee!

How could I manage, live, exist,
    Obtain, produce, be real, prevail,
Be present in the flesh, subsist,
    Have place, become, breathe or inhale.

Without thy help, recruit, support,
    Opitulation, furtherance,
Assistance, rescue, aid, resort,
    Favour, sustention and advance?

Alas! Alack! and well-a-day!
    My case would then be dour and sad,
Likewise distressing, dismal, gray,
    Pathetic, mournful, dreary, bad.

Though I could keep this up all day,
    This lyric, elegiac, song,
Meseems hath come the time to say
    Farewell! Adieu! Good-by! So long!

Franklin P Adams: Ornithology


[ Franklin Pierce Adams was a humorist who wrote a newspaper feature that, as best I can tell, has just plain vanished: the newspaper poem. He’s known, at least among baseball-history fans, for composing “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon”, a ditty about the Chicago Cubs’ double-play-making machine of Tinkers and Evers and Chance, often credited with putting those three in the Baseball Hall of Fame together. Here’s a bit from the collection Tobogganing on Parnassus, a title which by itself shows his expectation that readers won’t be thrown by classical references or an erudite turn of phrase. I’m sympathetic; I like to think I skew to the higher brow, but I admit reading his stuff makes I’m glad I can run off to the Internet to look up what he’s talking about. It’s hard to fully believe that the typical reader of 1913 quite got all of it. This selection, at least, isn’t too obscure. ]

Unlearned I in ornithology —–
    All I know about the birds
Is a bunch of etymology,
    Just a lot of high-flown words.
Is the curlew an uxorial
    Bird? The Latin name for crow?
Is the bulfinch grallatorial?
       I dunno.

O’er my head no golden gloriole
    Ever shall be proudly set
For my knowledge of the oriole,
    Eagle, ibis, or egrette.
I know less about the tanager
    And its hopes and fears and aims
Than a busy Broadway manager
       Does of James.

But, despite my incapacity
    On the birdies of the air,
I am not without sagacity,
    Be it ne’er so small a share.
This I know, though ye be scorning at
    What I know not, though ye mock,
Birdies wake me every morning at
       Four o’clock.