Charles Dudley Warner and the newspaper

town crier Once upon a time ago the only means of receiving news was via the “mouthpiece” of a town crier… a person who because he could read and probably had a loud voice, would go about the town, stand in a designated location and impart to the public information from the King; where upon he would then “post” it on a door of an inn or other such place. It is said that he was protected by law since not all the news was greeted with civility. (Hence the expression, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”) And then, there was the invention of the mechanical printing press…thank you Mr. Gutenberg, a most ingenious fellow from Germany who opened the world of local news into mass communication in the 15th century… the printing revolution had begun…though it was a most laborious but effective means of reproduction. And as technology progressed, so has the system of mass producing; no longer are small blocks of letters needed to be placed individually to create independent words, but the voice of the writer now is digitally set.

There are very few places where the newspaper hasn’t graced our lives. For centuries news has magically appeared in the wee hours of the morning just waiting to be unfolded and read. They have traveled with us on the subway, found morning coffee dripped upon their pages , rolled up for an occasional disciplinary tool for that naughty puppy, lain flat across the bottom of the canary cage , and even insulated newborns in bitter cold apartments. The newspaper has dotted our lawns, provided job security for countless youth, and even though scoffed at for staining our finger tips with ink…it has been like a friend who not always tells us what we want to hear.

However, the 21st century has not been kind to our faithful companion, who even expanded its “greetings” to early and late editions. Folks today have changed their habits; like those who once ate a wholesome breakfast at the kitchen table, presently have little patience for even a café grande” in the car. So it appears that taking time to peruse a newspaper has diminished into moments to scan paperless waves ….

Charles Dudley Warner _2 Today’s blog reinstates esteemed thinker: Charles Dudley Warner to the forefront; friend to Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain; he is a noted and accomplished 19th century essayist and writer. Extracted from his essay “American Newspaper” I give you his “clever” writing that will take you on a cerebral sabbatical away from the hustle bustle of the day.

“… Yet it must be confessed that here is one of the greatest difficulties of modern journalism. The newspaper must be cheap. It is, considering the immense cost to produce it, the cheapest product ever offered to man. Most newspapers cost more than they sell for; they could not live by subscriptions; for any profits, they certainly depend upon advertisements. The advertisements depend upon the circulation; the circulation is likely to dwindle if too much space is occupied by advertisements, or if it is evident that the paper belongs to its favored advertisers. The counting-room desires to conciliate the advertisers; the editor looks to making a paper satisfactory to his readers. Between this see-saw of the necessary subscriber and the necessary advertiser, a good many newspapers go down. This difficulty would be measurably removed by the admission of the truth that the newspaper is a strictly business enterprise, depending for success upon a ‘quid pro quo’ between all parties connected with it, and upon integrity in its management…

The power of the press,” as something to be feared or admired, is a favorite theme of dinner-table orators and clergymen”… The power of the press is in its facility for making public opinions and events. I should say it is a medium of force rather than force itself. I confess that I am oftener impressed with the powerlessness of the press than otherwise, its slight influence in bringing about any reform, or in inducing the public to do what is for its own good and what it is disinclined to do..

The publication of the news is the most important function of the paper. How is it gathered? We must confess that it is gathered very much by chance. A drag-net is thrown out, and whatever comes is taken. An examination into the process of collecting shows what sort of news we are likely to get, and that nine-tenths of that printed is collected without much intelligence exercised in selection. The alliance of the associated press with the telegraph company is a fruitful source of news of an inferior quality. Of course, it is for the interest of the telegraph company to swell the volume to be transmitted. It is impossible for the associated press to have an agent in every place to which the telegraph penetrates: therefore the telegraphic operators often act as its purveyors. It is for their interest to send something; and their judgment of what is important is not only biased, but is formed by purely local standards. Our news, therefore, is largely set in motion by telegraphic operators, by agents trained to regard only the accidental, the startling, the abnormal, as news; it is picked up by sharp prowlers about town, whose pay depends upon finding something, who are looking for something spicy and sensational, or which may be dressed up and exaggerated to satisfy an appetite for novelty and high flavor, and who regard casualties as the chief news. Our newspapers every day are loaded with accidents, casualties, and crimes concerning people of whom we never heard before and never shall hear again, the reading of which is of no earthly use to any human being…
And there is scarcely ever a cause, or an opinion, or a man, that does not get somewhere in the press a hearer and a defender. We will drop the subject with one remark for the benefit of whom it may concern. With all its faults, I believe the moral tone of the American newspaper is higher, as a rule, than that of the community in which it is published…”

Esteemed thinker: Charles Dudley Warner

snow_weather It seems as though everyone is complaining that the seasons are changing…this is the hottest spring, the wettest summer, or the coldest winter. For as long as men and women have communicated “weather” has been part of our daily verbiage. In fact it even affects the where and how we choose to live. Folks who live in the northern Untied States and Canada often migrate south to Florida where they spend their winters, earning them the title of “snow birds” by the locals … for they can be seen flocking to the beaches to bask in the sun. While those who live south travel north in the fall to see the changing leaves and receive a perfectly beautiful autumn gift.

And then there are those adages that help us predict what the day’s weather will be; “Red Sky at night sailor’s delight, red sky in morning sailors take warning.” For those who braved the oceans in the days of yore, it was a phrase most presumably uttered for survival in contrast to those today who need to decide if they should take an umbrella to work or not. And then I suppose dog owners and their four legged friends that venture out for an early (too early!) walk in the morning are the first to analyze the weather…that is if they chant this old wives- tale; “If a dog pulls his feet up high while walking, a change in the weather is coming.” Others of us who nurture lovely flower beds can also be considered a forecaster by looking to the garden …”The daisy shuts its eye before rain.”

If perchance you are a supporter or skeptic of a more scientific view of climate… we cannot over look global warming, the greenhouse effect, and the diminishing ozone layer as having contributed to Earth’s changing conditions. As a result of the aforementioned, a roller coaster of affects have been occurring around the world; which range from heat waves to droughts to negative arctic oscillation (a climate pattern where cold Arctic air slides south while warmer air moves north, bringing snow storms and record cold temperatures to much of the Northern Hemisphere) . On the flip side, Earth herself does go through natural warming and climatic revolutions and therefore not all are a factor of human intervention.

So…. if you decide to dash off and spend New Year’s Eve in Taormina, Sicily or take a jaunt to go skiing in Gstaad, Switzerland, you will most likely ask someone somewhere before your depart, “ What’s the weather going to be like?”

charles dudley warner I will now cast a favorable prediction on today’s blog in hopes that you will find it to be most informative. Let me bring to your attention the esteemed thinker: Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900), American author, critic, editor, and travel writer born in Plainfield, Massachusetts. Warner was the co- editor of Hartford’s Evening Press for thirty-six years. His friendship with Mark Twain led to a collaboration of writing… its outcome was a dual authorship of the book, The Gilded Age. Warner was a clever and skilled essayist that earned him the reputation during his lifetime as one of America’s most popular authors. Here is a sampling of a few witty quotes that are often repeated today: “Politics makes strange bedfellows” and “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it”. (Sorry for Mr. Warner…many believe these were from the pen of our illustrious Mr. Twain)

And so…. ‘neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this blog’s courier from the swift completion of the appointed round’ …. I present to you words from Charles Dudley Warner’s clever essay, “How Spring Came in New England”.

New England is the battle-ground of the seasons. It is La Vendee. To conquer it is only to begin the fight. When it is completely subdued, what kind of weather have you? None whatever.
What is this New England? A country? No: a camp. It is alternately invaded by the hyperborean legions and by the wilting sirens of the tropics. Icicles hang always on its northern heights; its seacoasts are fringed with mosquitoes. There is for a third of the year a contest between the icy air of the pole and the warm wind of the gulf. The result of this is a compromise: the compromise is called Thaw. It is the normal condition in New England. The New-Englander is a person who is always just about to be warm and comfortable. This is the stuff of which heroes and martyrs are made. A person thoroughly heated or frozen is good for nothing… The New-Englander, by incessant activity, hopes to get warm…
Let us speak of the period in the year in New England when winter appears to hesitate. Except in the calendar, the action is ironical; but it is still deceptive. The sun mounts high: it is above the horizon twelve hours at a time. The snow gradually sneaks away in liquid repentance. One morning it is gone, except in shaded spots and close by the fences. From about the trunks of the trees it has long departed: the tree is a living thing, and its growth repels it. The fence is dead, driven into the earth in a rigid line by man: the fence, in short, is dogma: icy prejudice lingers near it. The snow has disappeared; but the landscape is a ghastly sight,—bleached, dead. The trees are stakes; the grass is of no color; and the bare soil is not brown with a healthful brown; life has gone out of it. Take up a piece of turf: it is a clod, without warmth, inanimate. Pull it in pieces: there is no hope in it: it is a part of the past; it is the refuse of last year…
During the night there is a change. It thunders and lightens. Toward morning there is a brilliant display of aurora borealis. This is a sign of colder weather.
The gardener is in despair; so is the sportsman. The trout take no pleasure in biting in such weather.
Paragraphs appear in the newspapers, copied from the paper of last year, saying that this is the most severe spring in thirty years. Every one, in fact, believes that it is, and also that next year the spring will be early. Man is the most gullible of creatures…”

Mark Twain and Poets as Policemen

mark twain_color As writers of poetry we are witnesses of the past and legend makers of the future. Poets like poetry are incredibly dynamic, often painting a picture in words… using the least to exhume the most. And upon thinking about who is a poet; that can generate a multitude of answers.

In 1900 our esteemed thinker, Mark Twain, spoke at the Lotus Club; a well established New York City gentleman’s club. Well known for its membership, he was included in the roster along with other famous business men, publishers, artists, and physicians. It was here at The Lotus Club where periodic dinners honoring guests with speeches by unique individuals took place.

So…in thinking about poets I unleash today’s blog with more ingenious wit from Mr. Twain. Who better than to give us pause in our busy day!

“POETS AS POLICEMEN: Mr. Clemens was one of the speakers at the Lotus Club dinner to Governor Odell, March 24, 1900. The police problem was referred to at length.

“Let us abolish policemen who carry clubs and revolvers, and put in a squad of poets armed to the teeth with poems on Spring and Love. I would be very glad to serve as commissioner, not because I think I am especially qualified, but because I am too tired to work and would like to take a rest. Howells would go well as my deputy. He is tired too, and needs a rest badly. I would start in at once to elevate, purify, and depopulate the red-light district. I would assign the most soulful poets to that district, all heavily armed with their poems. Take Chauncey Depew as a sample. I would station them on the corners after they had rounded up all the depraved people of the district so they could not escape, and then have them read from their poems to the poor unfortunates. The plan would be very effective in causing an emigration of the depraved element.”

Mark Twain and babies

baby Once Upon a Time ago there was a great distinction between where children were permitted and where they were not. For example; children were not permitted at the race tracks and though I was a little girl who too, like so many, loved horses…one had to be of age to see them run…not because of the horse, but because there was betting going on. Children were not permitted in casinos, however today Las Vegas has opened its doors and created a family friendly place. And so, here come the babies… sweet darlings amidst what was once “no babies” permitted.

Babies are everywhere, they coo, they cry, they even have their own seats on the plane… (to the dismay of the poor parents who must pay full price.) They have their own little branding and specialty stores.. “Baby Gap” and “Babies “R”Us” (well, not all of us, if our’s are all grown up), even “Baby Pottery Barn” … Hmmm, are they being exploited or do we just adore them?

twain Today’s blog has taken a more humorous look at babies…after all they can be pretty funny…and we take a few moments to read the esteemed thinker, Mark Twain. From his speeches: “DELIVERED AT THE BANQUET, IN CHICAGO, GIVEN BY THE ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE TO THEIR FIRST COMMANDER, GENERAL U. S. GRANT, NOVEMBER, 1879” ( ohhh this should be really good!!) let us begin…

“The fifteenth regular toast was “The Babies.—As they comfort us in our sorrows, let us not forget them in our festivities.”

“I like that. We have not all had the good fortune to be ladies. We have not all been generals, or poets, or statesmen; but when the toast works down to the babies, we stand on common ground. It is a shame that for a thousand years the world’s banquets have utterly ignored the baby, as if he didn’t amount to anything. If you will stop and think a minute—if you will go back fifty or one hundred years to your early married life and recontemplate your first baby—you will remember that he amounted to a good deal, and even something over. You soldiers all know that when that little fellow arrived at family headquarters you had to hand in your resignation. He took entire command. You became his lackey, his mere body-servant, and you had to stand around too. He was not a commander who made allowances for time, distance, weather, or anything else. You had to execute his order whether it was possible or not. And there was only one form of marching in his manual of tactics, and that was the double-quick. He treated you with every sort of insolence and disrespect, and the bravest of you didn’t dare to say a word. You could face the death-storm at Donelson and Vicksburg, and give back blow for blow; but when he clawed your whiskers, and pulled your hair, and twisted your nose, you had to take it. When the thunders of war were sounding in your ears you set your faces toward the batteries, and advanced with steady tread; but when he turned on the terrors of his war whoop you advanced in the other direction, and mighty glad of the chance, too. When he called for soothing-syrup, did you venture to throw out any side-remarks about certain services being unbecoming an officer and a gentleman? No. You got up and got it. When he ordered his pap bottle and it was not warm, did you talk back? Not you. You went to work and warmed it. You even descended so far in your menial office as to take a suck at that warm, insipid stuff yourself, to see if it was right—three parts water to one of milk, a touch of sugar to modify the colic, and a drop of peppermint to kill those immortal hiccoughs. I can taste that stuff yet. And how many things you learned as you went along! Sentimental young folks still take stock in that beautiful old saying that when the baby smiles in his sleep, it is because the angels are whispering to him. Very pretty, but too thin—simply wind on the stomach, my friends. If the baby proposed to take a walk at his usual hour, two o’clock in the morning, didn’t you rise up promptly and remark, with a mental addition which would not improve a Sunday-school book much, that that was the very thing you were about to propose yourself? Oh! you were under good discipline, and as you went fluttering up and down the room in your undress uniform, you not only prattled undignified baby-talk, but even tuned up your martial voices and tried to sing!—Rock a-by Baby in the Tree-top, for instance. What a spectacle far an Army of the Tennessee! And what an affliction for the neighbors, too; for it is not everybody within, a mile around that likes military music at three in the morning. And, when you had been keeping this sort of thing up two or three hours, and your little velvet head intimated that nothing suited him like exercise and noise, what did you do? You simply went on until you dropped in the last ditch. The idea that a baby doesn’t amount to anything! Why, one baby is just a house and a front yard full by itself. One baby can, furnish more business than you and your whole Interior Department can attend to. He is enterprising, irrepressible, brimful of lawless activities. Do what you please, you can’t make him stay on the reservation. Sufficient unto the day is one baby. As long as you are in your right mind don’t you ever pray for twins. Twins amount to a permanent riot. And there ain’t any real difference between triplets and an insurrection…”

Esteemed thinker: Mark Twain and memory

Mark Twainjpg 21st century… narcissism… the era of immediacy…the fret of being left out of the social media…the age of sound bites…it is a time when we find ourselves archiving our every move. Moments will no longer have to be left to memory, but are chronically digitalized in such a way that even those things and events we wish to leave in the past, forgotten, swept under the rug, will eventually… sometime in the future … rear its ugly head (or not so ugly head) and become resurrected into the present.

Good or bad, whatever you may think, these are our times.

Today’s blog takes us on a pondering of Memory. To bring the point home I present the esteemed thinker, Mark Twain (1835-1910) (Samuel Langhorne Clemens was his given name being the former was his pen name). The great American author and humorists is often credited as being the father of American literature. Best known to contemporaries for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, he was a prolific writer beyond the novel.

So from his work, Mark Twain’s Speeches by the title’s author; I give you a bit of his witticism to contemplate and react to. Take heed to his remarks for we have or soon may be in the same boat!

“January 11, 1906.
Answer to a letter received this morning:
-I am forever your debtor for reminding me of that curious passage in my life. During the first year or, two after it happened, I could not bear to think of it. My pain and shame were so intense, and my sense of having been an imbecile so settled, established and confirmed, that I drove the episode entirely from my mind–and so all these twenty-eight or twenty-nine years I have lived in the conviction that my performance of that time was coarse, vulgar, and destitute of humor. But your suggestion that you and your family found humor in it twenty-eight years ago moved me to look into the matter. So I commissioned a Boston typewriter to delve among the Boston papers of that bygone time and send me a copy of it. It came this morning, and if there is any vulgarity about it I am not able to discover it. If it isn’t innocently and ridiculously funny, I am no judge. I will see to it that you get a copy.” ….