February 12, 2020

God’s mysterious ways...


“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.”

        William Cowper (1731-1800)
        British poet and hymn writer
        From his Hymn No. 35, “Light Shining Out of Darkness”
        These are the opening lyrics of the hymn, which was first published in Olney Hymns (1779). The first two lines are usually misquoted as “God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform” and often wrongly assumed to be a Bible quote.


“Insurance companies move in mysterious ways. Much like God...only far less generous.”
        The character Standish, played by actor Dan Duryea
        In the 1965 movie The Flight of the Phoenix


“The hippopotamus’s day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way
The Church can feed and sleep at once.”

        T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
        American-born British poet and playwright
        In his poem “The Hippopotamus” (1919)


“Life is mysterious to some, but God does not work in mysterious ways. The things which some consider as mysteries, others consider as revelations.”
        Zuriel Ann Murphy
        Nigerian-born UK inspirational author and speaker
        In her book The Spoken Word (2013)


“God doesn’t work in mysterious ways. He doesn’t give a shit. Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Shit happens. Having faith doesn't make any difference. It’s just something to do while you go from point A to point B.”
        John Rachel
        American novelist and non-fiction book author
        The inner thoughts of a character in his novel The Man Who Loved Too Much, Book 1: Archipelago (2015)


“When people are in the middle of the darkest storm imaginable, the last thing they want to be told is that God is working everything together for good, and to trust in God's mysterious ways. It is not helpful. It is not comforting. It does not bring healing...The implication that God has predestined pain and suffering is unloving and can drive people away from the church. Making them a sandwich would be a better plan. Or cleaning their house. Or taking their children for an afternoon. Or just listening to them or sitting with them in silence.”
        Natalie Toon Patton
        American essayist, blogger and author
        In her essay “8 Sayings Christians Use to Let Ourselves off the Hook”
        Posted on the Sojo.net “faith in action” website, August 29, 2017

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January 24, 2020

“THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS” – Woody Guthrie’s enduring words…


Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
       American folk musician and social activist
legendary words he put on guitars he played
Some sources say Guthrie got his famous slogan from inscriptions painted on the sides of planes used by leftist Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), in their ultimately doomed attempt to prevent General Francisco Franco from imposing a Fascist dictatorship in Spain.
       Guthrie was a committed leftist himself (even an avowed Communist at one time), so that claim may be true. However, I was unable to find any authoritative history books or sites about the Spanish Civil War or any historic photos confirming the presence of the slogan on Republican airplanes, either in English or in the Spanish form “ESTA MÁQUINA MATA FASCISTAS.”
       Woody owned many acoustic guitars during his musical career. Photographs of him show that he played at least two adorned with the slogan “THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS.” In the best-known, now-iconic photo, the words are hand-written in large letters on the body of a guitar Guthrie has in front of him, hanging by a strap around his neck. In other photos, the words are on what appears to a hand-lettered sticker at the top of a guitar he is playing.
       Guthrie was certainly sypmpatico with the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. But unsurprisingly, in light of his strong pro-union and anti-racist activism, his definition of “Fascists” was broader than the political term applied to 20th Century political regimes in Europe. 
       The lyrics of his song
“All You Fascists” (which Guthrie once performed with the great African-American folk blues musician Sonny Terry on a radio show in 1944) say, in part:
Race hatred cannot stop us
          This one thing we know
          Your poll tax and Jim Crow
          And greed has got to go... 
          I’m going into this battle
          And take my union gun
          We’ll end this world of slavery
          Before this battle’s won
          You’re bound to lose
          You fascists bound to lose!”


Pete Seeger (1919-2014)
       American folk musician
       Words written on Seeger’s favorite banjo 
       Seeger was a close friend of Guthrie. He was also an equally committed social activist. But he was always a strong believer in pursuing change through non-violent means and preferred to avoid even a metaphorical reference to the use of violence to achieve social change in America. In
a 2009 CBS News article, Seeger explained: “He [Woody Guthrie] had a sign on his guitar saying, ‘This machine kills fascists.’ I wanted something a little more peaceful.”


Roy Zimmerman 
       American musician and humorist
       Slogan written in a spiral on Zimmerman’s banjo
       One of the witty songs on Zimmerman’s 2010 album
Real American is “This Machine,” which ends with this funny final chorus: “This machine drives neocon, jingoistic, war-mongering, theocratic, faux-populist, anti-intellectual, drill-a-holic, social Darwinist, racist, sexist, isolationist, derivative insecurities, tax-cheating, C Street, hard line, strip mine, tea-bag, confederate flag, Birthers, Flat-earthers, hate-speak, crypto-fascists — and Brit Hume — screaming from the room.”


       A witty photoshopped version I saw
on the Democratic Underground site
       It’s a satiric poke at the infamous remark Romney made about the Muppet character Big Bird during his first presidential debate with President Barack Obama. Romney claimed to love Big Bird but said he would cut federal funding for PBS, which airs the hugely popular children's show that features the Muppets, Sesame Street.


       Sign held by a protester opposing a renewed ban on assault rifles in the US 
       The protester and his sign, which juxtaposed the slogan with a drawing of an assault rifle, were featured in a January 2013 story about the gun control debate
on Reuters.com.


“This machine kills people.”
       Caption on a photo of an assault rifle I saw posted on the now defunct “Social Polemics” website

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January 12, 2020

“Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.”


“Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.”
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
       American poet and writer
       A line from Sandburg’s epic prose poem The People, Yes (1936)
       In the 1960s, several variations of an anti-war slogan began appearing on posters, in print and in songs. The version that became most common (as shown by the
comparatively huge number of Google hits it gets) is “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” Other variations include “Suppose they gave a war and no one came” and “What if they gave a war and nobody came.” It’s not certain who coined the most familiar version, but this much is clear: all of the various iterations of the saying are ultimately descended from a line in Carl Sandburg’s book-length ode to America and it’s citizens, The People, Yes, first published in 1936.
       In the poem, the line is said by a little girl who sees a group of soldiers marching in a parade. It’s from a part of the poem in which Sandburg seems to foresee the potential devastation of a second and possibly a third world war:
The first world war came and its cost was laid on the people.
       The second world war — the third — what will be the cost.
       And will it repay the people for what they pay?...
       The little girl saw her first troop parade and asked, 
       ‘What are those?’
       ‘What are soldiers?’
       ‘They are for war. They fight and each tries to kill as many of the other side as he can.’
       The girl held still and studied. 
       ‘Do you know ... I know something?’
       ‘Yes, what is it you know?’
       ‘Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.’


“Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” 
       Possibly coined by
James R. Newman 
       American mathematician, writer and editor of Scientific American magazine
       In the 1960s, several updated versions of Carl Sandburg’s line became popular. They were often used in the context of opposition to the Vietnam War. The most common version, “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came,” was used as a slogan on posters that were sold in Hippie shops in the late Sixties (like the blacklight poster shown at left). It was also used as the title of
a comedy movie in 1970, giving it even broader recognition. Some posts on the Internet claim the now familiar words were first written by Bertolt Brecht in the 1930s. However, they give no source and I couldn’t find one, so I deem that claim doubtful. (As Abraham Lincoln said, “The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine.”) 
       In contrast, the origin of the variation “Suppose They Gave a War and No One Came” is well documented. It was used as
the title of a widely-read article written by the American poet and author Charlotte E. Keyes (1914-1980). The article, about her growing admiration for the anti-war activism of her son Gene, was published in the October 1966 issue of McCall’s magazine. Charlotte’s other son happens to be the quote and phrase maven Ralph Keyes. He noted in his excellent book The Quote Verifier (2006) that his mother saw the phrase “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came” in a 1961 letter to the editor in The Washington Post, written by James R. Newman. Newman was referencing, but apparently misremembering, Sandburg’s line. Charlotte cut out and kept the letter for future reference and later adapted the title of her article from it. Newman may or may not have coined “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” That paraphrase of Sandburg may already have been floating around at the time. However, I found no use of those words dated earlier than Newman’s 1961 letter in any newspaper archive or anywhere else online. So, he may deserve credit for creating the Sixties slogan (though perhaps inadvertently.) 
       Another variation, “What If They Gave a War and No One Came,” surfaced in 1968 as the title of a song by the now forgotten "Symphonopop" composer and musician
Jonna Gault. And, in 1972, poet Allen Ginsberg echoed her version in his 1972 poem “Graffiti,” which included the lines “What if someone gave a war & Nobody came? / Life would ring the bells of Ecstasy and Forever be Itself again.”


“What if they gave a debate and nobody came?”
       Brad Knickerbocker
       Staff writer and editor for the Christian Science Monitor 
       His humorous question
in an article about the December 2011 Republican “debate” hosted by Donald Trump, which all but two Republican presidential candidates declined to participate in. (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were the only candidates who agreed to appear.)


“What if You Took Viagra and Nobody Came?” 
       Double entendre title of
an article in the Jan.-Feb. 1999 issue of Mother Jones magazine
       The tongue-in-cheek article discussed some non-drug alternatives to Viagra, such as an artificial nylon-polypropylene penis, penile implant surgery — or a Corvette.

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October 27, 2019

“I never promised you a rose garden.”



“I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” 
       Hannah Green (pen name of Joanne Greenberg; 1927–1996)
       American author
       Title of
her 1964 novel              
       This novel is the apparent source of the saying, though it was made even more famous by country music singer Lynn Anderson’s 1970 hit song
of the same name. The well-known opening lyrics of the song, written by singer/songwriter Joe South, are: “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.”
        Greenberg’s novel is a semi-autobiographical account of her struggle with schizophrenia as a teenager. In an emotional scene in the book, psychotherapist Dr. Clara Fried tells the main character, Deborah Blau: “I never promised you a rose garden. I never promised you perfect justice and I never promised you peace or happiness. My help is that so you can be free to fight for all of these things. The only reality I offer is challenge, and being well is being free to accept it or not at whatever level you are capable. I never promise lies, and the rose-garden world of perfection is a lie...and a bore too!” Dr. Fried is based on Greenberg's real psychiatrist, Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, who treated her at the Chestnut Lodge hospital in Rockville, Maryland.
       The novel was adapted into a movie in 1977. It starred Kathleen Quinlan as Deborah and Bibi Andersson as Dr. Fried. Mel Gibson made his screen debut in the film, in a small uncredited role as a baseball player. Many years later, Mel uttered his own scary quote about a garden. (See below.)



“We didn’t promise you a rose garden.”
        U.S. Marines recruiting slogan
used from late 1971 until mid-1984
        The “Rose Garden” slogan was used in the first series of posters and ads that featured the tagline “The Marines are looking for a few good men.” Several posters in series showed Marine Drill Instructors yelling at new recruits, like the one shown here. The drill instructor in it is Sgt. Charles A. Taliano, who passed away in 2010.




“Nobody promised them [prison inmates] a rose garden…They have been convicted of crime, and there is nothing in the Constitution which forbids their being penalized as a result of that conviction.”
       William Rehnquist (1924-2005)
       Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 
       From his written decision
on the 1981 U.S. Supreme Court case Atiyeh v. Capps, explaining why the court rejected a lawsuit brought by a group of Oregon prison inmates against the State of Oregon. The inmates wanted Oregon prisons to be forced to reduce prison overcrowding conditions they contended were inhumane and illegal.


“Apparently Mel Gibson did promise his babymama Oksana Grigorieva a rose garden…But totally not in a good way. In the latest round of the seemingly endless parade of embarrassing tape leaks purporting to capture the Passion of the Christ helmsman in full meltdown mode, a new snippet of conversation has emerged, in which Gibson reportedly threatens to bury Grigorieva in the flower bed of his Malibu, California, mansion.”
       From a now-deleted
post on the PEACE FM Online site, July 9, 2010 



“I never promised you a rose garden but I guess [Press Secretary] Ron Nessen did. So, I hope you enjoy this new setting and the new format, and I hope I enjoy it, too.”
President Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006)              
       Comment in a
news conference on October 9, 1974
       Ford was joking about his newly announced plan to hold press conferences in the White House Rose Garden. When Ford and other presidents later started using this option during campaign periods to avoid the usual campaign travel grind while still generating news stories and looking presidential, it was dubbed the “Rose Garden Strategy.”



Col. Steve Austin (actor Lee Majors): “Now wait a minute, Jaime, you're not going out a torpedo tube. Now you felt the sub, it’s gonna be rough out there.” 
Jaime Sommers (actress Lindsay Wagner): “You never promised me a rose garden.”              
       Banter from the
“Kill Oscar: Part 3” episode of the American TV series The Bionic Woman (Season 2, Episode 6, first aired in 1976).              

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October 1, 2019

“Whatever is worth doing...”


“Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.”
       Lord Chesterfield (Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; 1694-1773)
       British statesman and diplomat
       One of the many bits of fatherly advice Chesterfield imparted in letters to his illegitimate son, Philip Stanhope. This one is from a letter dated March 10, 1746.
        Chesterfield’s use is generally thought to have led to the modern proverbial version: “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”


“If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing slowly — very slowly.”
        Gypsy Rose Lee (Rose Louise Hovick; 1911-1970)
        American Burlesque queen and author
        This quip has been widely attributed to Lee in the decades since her death and appears to have been a favorite witticism of hers. However, there doesn’t seem to be any record of her saying it or using it in any of her books while she was alive.


“If a thing is worth doing it is worth doing badly.”
       G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) 
       English writer, philosopher and critic
       A line from his book What’s Wrong with the World (1913). In context, it was his way of praising hobbies and other activities done by amateurs for pleasure, even if they have no special talent for them.


“My philosophy is that anything worth doing is too hard.”
        The character Wally, in the December 27, 2004 edition of Scott Adams’ comic strip Dilbert.


“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”
        This saying is widely attributed to Mick Jagger, but without any specific citation of when he may have said it. The Yale Dictionary of Modern Proverbs says it dates back to at least 1962, when it was used in the headline of an ad for Jantzen Sportswear.


“Anything worth doing is going to suck at the beginning. Anything worth doing is meant to require pain and sacrifice. Herein lies the problem facing America, which originally was built on the moral of impulse control. What once used to be a country filled with people sacrificing momentary pleasure for a better future, the overpowering message of today is live for the moment.”
        Benjamin P. Hardy
        American columnist and author
        In one of his posts on the TheLadders.com site (Jan. 22, 2019)

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