David Bruce: Tobacco Anecdotes




Mark Twain constantly smoked cigars. Sometimes he visited his friend and fellow novelist William Dean Howells, who declared that after Mr. Twain had stayed with him for a few days, he had to air out his entire house because Mr. Twain smoked from the time he got up to the time he went to bed — and sometimes later. Often, Mr. Howells would go to Mr. Twain’s bedroom at night and find him in bed asleep with a lit cigar in his mouth. (According to Mr. Twain, moderate cigar smoking consists of smoking “only one cigar at a time.” He also said that the first cigar he smoked was probably not a good one — “or the previous smoker would not have thrown it away so soon.”)

When famed Canadian portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh took a photograph of Winston Churchill to be added to the Canadian National Archives, he had only two minutes to take the photograph because the British Prime Minister was busy leading wartime Britain. The portrait became famous, and it made Mr. Karsh famous. Of course, Mr. Karsh had the lights set up in advance, but he had to get exactly the right pose from Prime Minister Churchill in the two minutes allotted for one shot—and Prime Minister Churchill meant ONLY one shot. Mr. Karsh decided that he wanted a photograph of Churchill without a cigar because a man like Churchill didn’t need a prop, so Mr. Karsh showed Churchill an ashtray. Churchill simply waved away the ashtray, but Mr. Karsh reached up and removed the cigar from Churchill’s mouth, then as quickly as possible took his photograph. The photograph captured Churchill as he was at the time: steely, without humor, and utterly determined—the perfect leader for wartime Britain. (Later, Mr. Karsh took a photograph of the Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Stafford Cripps, who held a lighted cigarette behind his back, saying that he was taking no chances because he had heard what had happened to Churchill’s cigar. In addition, American Secretary of War Henry Lewis Stimson asked Mr. Karsh for permission to smoke during a portrait-taking session. After getting permission, he said, “I didn’t want to take any chances after what I’ve heard you did to Churchill.”)

Leonard Bernstein was a chain smoker who recorded the Verdi Requiem in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Unfortunately, the Dean of St. Paul’s did not allow smoking inside the cathedral, so Mr. Bernstein ended up smoking outside on some bitterly cold rehearsal days. The recording went well, but of course some parts needed to be recorded again. For instance, some church bells from the neighborhood could be heard during one part of the performance. Mr. Bernstein was sweating, working hard, marking places in the score that he would record again after the singers and musicians had enjoyed a 30-minute break. He desperately wanted a cigarette, but he was inside the cathedral with no time to go outside. He moaned, “I’d give anything for a cigarette.” The Dean of St. Paul’s was present. He had heard and marveled at the Requiem, and he said, “Mr. Bernstein, after the unbelievable beauty you’ve given us tonight, something I’ll never forget as long as I live, please, smoke as much as you like!” The Dean then lit one of Mr. Bernstein’s cigarettes for him.

Not all rules in school are strictly enforced. For example, one school had a rule against students smoking on school premises. However, as you might expect, the school restrooms were frequently cloudy with cigarette smoke, and teachers were supposed to go occasionally into the restrooms and fill out a report on whichever kids were caught smoking. The teachers disliked doing this because the time spent filling out forms cut down on the time they could do their own smoking. Therefore, before entering a restroom, the teachers would yell, “Put them out!” Students threw their butts into the toilets, the teachers would walk into the restroom, and later the teachers could honestly say that they had not caught any students smoking.

While singing Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, Argentina, tenor John Brecknock was invited to a dinner party, where he noticed that the guests frequently disappeared for a short time, then reappeared. Because he was a guest, he did not ask the reason for such behavior. Eventually, he asked for permission to smoke a cigar, and he discovered that the guests had been disappearing because they were desperate for a smoke, and they had assumed that they should not smoke around Mr. Brecknock because he was a singer.

These days, we know that smoking cigarettes is very bad for your health; however, during World War II, cigarettes were a valued possession. When American soldier Jim Van Raalte helped liberate Buchenwald, camp survivors asked him and the other soldiers for cigarettes. One survivor got a cigarette, lit it, then ran over to another survivor—one who was missing a leg—and gave it to him. Fifty years later, Mr. Van Raalte still remembered this act of compassion.

Whittier College football coach George Allen had a strict rule against his players smoking, so if a player with a cigarette in his mouth saw him coming, the player would quickly throw the cigarette to the ground and hope that Mr. Allen would not see it. One day, however, Mr. Allen did see the lit cigarette, and he asked the player, “What about that cigarette?” The player replied, “You can have it — you saw it first.”

Before he quit smoking, comedian Bill Hicks used to ask his audience (while pulling out a cigarette), “How many nonsmokers do we have here tonight?” After the nonsmokers reacted by applauding, Mr. Hicks would tell them, “What a bunch of whinin’ maggots. Obnoxious self-righteous slugs. I’d quit smoking if I didn’t think I’d become one of you, I swear to God.”

The ivory keys of pianos can get very yellow when they get very old — at least, that’s the usual explanation for the color. However, Victor Borge used to explain the yellow ivory keys on his piano by saying that the elephant smoked too much.

“More than one cigar at a time is excessive smoking.” — Mark Twain.


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William Shakespeare’s CORIOLANUS: Act 5, Scenes 4-5

— 5.4 —

Menenius and Sicinius talked together in a public place in Rome.

Menenius said, “Do you see yonder the corner of the Capitol; do you see yonder cornerstone?”

“Why, what about it?” Sicinius asked.

“If it is possible for you to move the huge cornerstone with your little finger, then there is some hope that the ladies of Rome, especially his mother, may prevail with Coriolanus. But I say there is no hope for this happening. Our throats are sentenced and wait for execution.”

“Is it possible that so short a time can alter the character of a man!” Sicinius asked.

“There is a difference between a grub and a butterfly, yet the butterfly was a grub. This Martius has grown from a man to a dragon. He has wings; he’s more than a creeping thing.”

“He loved his mother dearly.”

“So did he love me,” Menenius said, “and he no more remembers his mother now than an eight-year-old horse remembers its dam. The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes. When he walks, he moves like a war machine, and the ground shrinks before his treading. He is able to pierce body armor with his eye. He talks like a death knell, and his expression of disapproval is an assault. He sits in his chair of state, as if he were a statue of the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great. What he orders to be done is finished at the same time he finishes commanding it to be done. He lacks nothing that a god has except eternity and a Heaven to be enthroned in.”

“He also lacks the mercy of a god, if your report about him is true,” Sicinius said.

“I paint his character as it really is. Note what mercy his mother shall bring from him: There is no more mercy in him than there is milk in a male tiger. Our poor city shall find that to be true, and all this is due to you.”

“May the gods be good to us!” Sicinius said.

“In such a case the gods will not be good to us,” Menenius said. “When we banished Coriolanus, we did not respect the gods, and now that he is returning to break our necks, the gods do not respect us.”

A messenger arrived and said to Sicinius, “Sir, if you want to save your life, flee to your house. The plebeians have got Brutus, your fellow Tribune, and they are dragging him up and down, all while swearing that if the Roman ladies do not bring good news home, they’ll give him death, killing him slowly, inch by inch.”

A second messenger arrived.

Sicinius asked, “What’s the news?”

“Good news, good news,” the messenger replied. “The ladies have prevailed, the Volscians have left their military camp, and Martius has gone. A merrier day has never yet greeted Rome. No, not even the day when the Tarquins were expelled.”

“Friend,” Sicinius asked, “are you certain this is true? Is it most certainly true?”

“I am as certain I know this news is true as I am certain I know the Sun is fire,” the messenger said, “Where have you been lurking that you doubt this news? The swelling, wind-blown tide never hurried through the arch of a bridge as the relieved people hurry through the gates of Rome to greet the returning ladies. Why, listen!”

Musical instruments could be heard playing loudly in celebration. Romans shouted in joy.

The messenger continued, “The trumpets, sackbuts, psalteries, fifes, tabors, and cymbals and the shouting Romans make the Sun dance. Listen!”

The crowd of people shouted loudly.

“This is good news,” Menenius said. “I will go and meet the ladies. This Volumnia is worth a city full of Consuls, Senators, and patricians. She is worth a sea and land full of Tribunes such as you. You have prayed well today. This morning I’d not have given a small coin for ten thousand of your throats.”

The music and the shouting continued.

Sicinius said to the second messenger, “First, may the gods bless you for your tidings; next, accept my thankfulness.”

The second messenger replied, “Sir, we all have great cause to give great thanks.”

“Are the ladies near the city?” Sicinius asked.

“They are almost at the gates,” the second messenger replied.

“We will meet them and join in the joy.”

— 5.5 —

Two Senators escorted Volumnia, Virgilia, and Valeria on a street near the gate of Rome. Many other people were present.

The first Senator shouted, “Behold our patroness, the life of Rome! Call all your tribes together, praise the gods, and make triumphant fires; strew flowers before the ladies. Unshout the noise that banished Martius, and recall him to Rome with the welcome of his mother. All cry, ‘Welcome, ladies, welcome!’”

All cried, “Welcome, ladies, welcome!”


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William Shakespeare’s CORIOLANUS: Act 5, Scene 3

— 5.3 —

Coriolanus, Aufidius, and others met in the Volscian military camp.

Coriolanus said, “Tomorrow we will encamp our army before the walls of Rome. Aufidius, as you are my partner in this action, you must report to the Volscian lords how plainly and openly I have borne this business.”

Aufidius acknowledged, “You have respected only the Volscian ends and purposes; you have stopped your ears against the petition of the Roman people; you have never allowed any Roman to make to you a private whisper — no, not even by such friends who thought that you surely would allow them to speak to you.”

Coriolanus said, “This last old man, whom with a cracked and broken heart I have sent to Rome, loved me more than a father loves his son; indeed, he made a god of me. The Romans’ last resort was to send him, for whose old love I have, although I showed a sour disposition to him, once more offered the conditions I first sent to the Romans, which they refused and cannot now accept as a point of honor. I did that only to show grace to him, who thought he could do more. A very little I have yielded to, but hereafter I will not listen to fresh embassies and suits, neither from the state nor private friends.”

He heard a noise and asked, “What shouting is this?”

He guessed the cause of the noise and said to himself, “Shall I be tempted to infringe my vow at the same time it is made? I will not.”

Wearing mourning clothing, Virgilia, Volumnia, Valeria, and some attendants arrived. With them was Martius’ son, young Martius.

Coriolanus said to himself, “My wife comes foremost; then my mother — the honored mold wherein this trunk of mine was framed — and holding her hand is the grandchild to her blood. But leave me, all affection and emotion! All bond and privilege of human nature, break and get away from me! Let it be virtuous to be obstinate and unyielding.

“What is that curtsy worth? Or those doves’ eyes, which can make gods forsworn? I melt, and I am not made of stronger earth than other men. My mother bows to me, as if Olympus, the home of the gods, would nod in supplication to a molehill, and my young boy has a look of intercession, to which great human nature cries, ‘Deny it not.’

“Let the Volscians plow Rome and harrow Italy. I’ll never be such a gosling as to obey natural instinct, but I will stand firm, as if a man were author and parent of himself and knew no other kin.”

Virgilia said, “My lord and husband!”

“These eyes are not the same as those I wore in Rome,” Coriolanus replied.

He meant that he had changed and no longer looked at her the same way that he had looked at her previously to being exiled from Rome.

His wife replied, “The sorrow that shows us thus changed makes you think so. Our sorrow has changed us so much that you think you have new eyes.”

Coriolanus said to himself, “Like a dull, unintelligent actor now, I have forgotten my part, I am at a loss for words, and I am completely disgraced.”

He recovered enough to say, “Best of my flesh, forgive my cruelty, but do not, because I have asked you for your forgiveness, say to me, ‘Forgive our Romans.’”

His wife kissed him.

Coriolanus said, “Oh, when I was exiled, you gave me a kiss that has lasted as long as my exile and that is as sweet as my revenge! Now, by the jealous Queen of Heaven, Juno, goddess of marriage and punisher of the unfaithful, I swear that when I left Rome, I carried away that kiss from you, dear; and my true lips have virgined it — been chaste — ever since.

“You gods! I prate, and I leave unsaluted and ungreeted the noblest mother of the world. Sink, my knee, in the earth.”

He knelt and said to Volumnia, his mother, “Let my knee do its duty and make a deeper impression in the earth than other sons make so that I can acknowledge my respect for you more than common sons acknowledge their mothers.”

His mother replied, “Oh, stand up, blessed one, while with no softer cushion than the flint, I kneel before you and improperly show my maternal respect to you, as I have been ‘mistaken’ all this while about the respect owed between the child and parent. Previously, I thought that you ought to kneel to show me respect, but now I ‘know’ that I ought to kneel to show you respect.”

This was shocking: A child ought to kneel to show respect to his parent; it is wrong for a parent to kneel to show respect to her child.

“What is this?” a shocked Coriolanus said. “You are on your knees to me! This is a rebuke to me!

“Let the pebbles on the barren beach rise up and strike the stars!

“Let the mutinous winds blow the proud cedars so that they strike against the fiery Sun!

“Let impossibility be murdered, in order to make what is impossible only slight work. Let the laws of nature be destroyed so that impossible things happen!”

Coriolanus valued valor and honor. Suicide can be honorable in some situations. A parent kneeling humbly to her son is not an honorable situation. He stood up and raised his mother.

“You are my warrior,” his mother said. “I helped to frame — shape and train — you.”

She then asked him, “Do you know this lady?”

The lady was her friend Valeria.

Coriolanus replied, “She is the noble sister of Publicola, an important Roman patrician. She is Rome’s Moon, whose goddess is the virgin Diana. She is as chaste as the icicle that’s crystalized by the frost from purest snow and hangs on Diana’s temple. She is dear Valeria!”

Moving Coriolanus’ son forward, Volumnia said, “This boy is a poor miniature of yourself, but with the execution of enough time he may show that he is completely like yourself.”

Coriolanus said to his son, “May Mars, the god of soldiers, with the consent of supreme Jove, King of the gods, infuse your thoughts with nobleness so that you may prove to be incapable of dishonor and so that you may prove to stand out in the wars like a great sea-beacon, withstanding every gust of wind, and saving those who see you!”

Volumnia said to Coriolanus’ son, “Get on your knee, young sir.”

He knelt.

“That’s my brave and splendid boy!” Coriolanus said.

“Even he, as well as your wife, this lady, and myself, are petitioners to you,” Volumnia said.

“Please, be quiet,” Coriolanus said. “Or, if you must ask, remember this before you ask: The thing I have forsworn to grant may never be regarded by you as denials to all of you. I cannot grant what I have sworn not to grant. Do not ask me to dismiss my soldiers, or to bargain and come to terms with Rome’s working class.

“Don’t tell me in which ways I seem unnatural. Don’t try to alleviate my rages and revenges with your colder reasons.”

“Oh, say no more, no more!” Volumnia said. “You have said you will not grant us anything, for we have nothing else to ask, except that which you already deny us. Yet we will ask it, so that, if you fail to give us our request, the blame may hang upon your hardness; therefore, hear us out.”

Coriolanus said, “Aufidius, and you Volscians, listen, for we’ll hear nothing from Rome in private.”

He sat down and then asked his mother, “What is your request?”

“Even if we would be silent and not speak, our mourning clothing and the state of our mourning bodies would betray what kind of life we have led since your exile. Think to yourself how much more unfortunate than all living women are we who have come here, since the sight of you, which should make our eyes flow with joy and our hearts dance with comforts, constrains them instead to weep and shake with fear and sorrow because the mother, the wife, and the child see the son, the husband, and the father tearing his country’s bowels out.

“And your enmity’s most deadly to poor us. You ban us from praying to the gods, which is a comfort that all but we can enjoy. How can we pray for the safety of our country, to which we are bound, and at the same time pray for victory for you, to whom we are also bound? Either we must lose our country, which is our dear nurse, or else we must lose you, who is our comfort in our country. We must find an inevitable calamity, even though we have our wish, whichever side should win: For either you must, as a traitor who helps a foreign power, be led with manacles through our streets, or else you must triumphantly tread on your country’s ruin, and bear the palm of victory for having ‘bravely’ shed the blood of your wife and children.

“As for myself, son, I do not intend to wait on fortune; I will not wait until these wars determine who is victorious. If I cannot persuade you rather to show a noble grace to both countries — that of the Romans and that of the Volscians — than to seek the end of one of those countries, you shall no sooner march to assault your country than you will tread — believe that what I say is true — on your mother’s womb that brought you into this world.”

She was threatening to commit suicide if he continued to march on Rome.

“Yes, and on my womb, too,” Coriolanus’ wife said. “My womb that brought forth for you this boy to keep your name living in time.”

Coriolanus’ young son said, “He shall not tread on me; I’ll run away until I am bigger, but then I’ll fight.”

Coriolanus said, “He who does not want to feel a woman’s tenderness must not see a child or a woman’s face. I have sat too long.”

He stood up.

“No, do not go from us like this,” his mother said. “If it were the case that our request did tend to save the Romans, and by so doing destroy the Volscians whom you serve, you might condemn us as being poisonous to your honor. But that is not the case; our suit is that you reconcile the two sides: the Romans and the Volscians. While the Volscians may say, ‘This mercy we have shown,’ the Romans may say, ‘This mercy we have received.’ And each person on either side will give the all-hail to you and cry, ‘May you be blest for creating this peace!’

“You know, great son, that how a war will end is uncertain, but this is certain: If you conquer Rome, the benefit that you shall thereby reap is such a name whose repetition will be dogged with curses. The history books will have this written in them: ‘The man was noble, but with his last attempt at doing a great deed he wiped his nobility out; he destroyed his country, and his name remains abhorred to the ensuing age.’

“Speak to me, son.

“You have sought the fine strains of honor in order to imitate the graces of the gods. You wanted to tear with thunder the wide cheeks of the blowing air.”

In maps of the time, illustrations showed wind issuing from the puffed-out cheeks and open mouth of Aeolus, god of the winds.

Volumnia continued, “And you wanted to load your sulphur into a thunderbolt that would split only an oak tree.”

In saying that the thunderbolt split an oak tree — rather than a man — she was leading up to an important point: An important grace of the gods is mercy, and that is the grace that her son ought to seek.

Volumnia continued, “Why don’t you speak? Do you think it is honorable for a noble man always to remember wrongs?

“Daughter, speak: He does not care that you are weeping.

“Speak, boy. Perhaps your childishness will move him more than can our reasons and arguments.

“There’s no man in the world more bound to his mother; yet here he lets me prattle like one publicly humiliated in the stocks.”

The stocks were pieces of wood with half-circles carved out of one edge; when two pieces of wood were put together, the half-circles would form circles. A person would be restrained by having his or her feet, hands, and/or head put in the circles. The person being punished might plead, but the people punishing him would ignore his or her pleas.

Volumnia continued, “You have never in your life showed your dear mother any courtesy when she, poor hen, fond of no second brood, has clucked you to the wars and safely back home, loaded with honor. Say my request’s unjust, and kick me away, but if my request is just, then you are not honest and honorable, and the gods will plague you because you keep back from me the respect that a child ought to give to a mother.”

Coriolanus started to leave.

Volumnia said, “He turns away. Get down on your knees, ladies; let us shame him with our knees. To his surname ‘Coriolanus’ belongs more pride than pity to our prayers. He is a man of Corioli, not the conqueror of Corioli. Get down, ladies.”

The three ladies and Coriolanus’ son knelt.

Volumnia continued, “Let’s make an end of it. This is the last appeal we will make. And so we will go home to Rome, and die among our neighbors.

“Coriolanus, look at us. This boy, who cannot tell what he wants to have, but who kneels and holds up his hands because we ladies do, argues for our petition with more strength than you have to deny it.”

She paused; Coriolanus remained silent.

She then said, “Come, let us go, ladies. This fellow — Coriolanus — had a Volscian for his mother. His wife is in Corioli and his ‘child’ who is beside me resembles him simply by chance.

“Yet give us our dismissal, Coriolanus. I am hushed until our city is set on fire, and then I’ll speak a little.”

The little she would speak would be to curse her son as she died.

Coriolanus held her hand; he was silent for a short time.

Then he said, “Oh, mother, mother! What have you done? Behold, the Heavens open, the gods look down, and they laugh at this unnatural scene.”

The scene was unnatural because the mother’s successful pleading put her son’s life at risk.

Coriolanus continued, “My mother! Mother! You have won a happy victory for Rome, but as for your son — believe it, oh, believe it, you have prevailed with him in a way that is very dangerous and perhaps mortal to him. But, let it come.

“Aufidius, although I cannot make true wars, wars that are true to my promise, yet I’ll frame a suitable peace. Now, good Aufidius, if you were in my place, would you have heard a mother less? Or granted less, Aufidius?”

Aufidius replied, “I was moved by it.”

“I dare to swear that you were,” Coriolanus said, “and, sir, it is no little thing to make my eyes sweat compassion.”

He was crying.

Coriolanus continued, “But, good sir, advise me what peace treaty you would like to make. As for me, I’ll not return to Rome; instead, I’ll go back with you. Please, stand by me in this affair.

“Oh, mother! Oh, wife!”

As Coriolanus talked with his wife and his mother, Aufidius said to himself, “I am glad you have set your mercy and your honor at war inside yourself. Out of that I’ll manipulate things so that I regain my former fortune.”

Coriolanus said to his mother and his wife, “Yes, and soon. But we will drink together, and you shall bear a better witness back to and in Rome in your own person than words. We will give Rome a new peace treaty, which will have fair terms as did the old peace treaty, and which will be counter-signed and sanctioned.

“Come, go inside the tent with us. Ladies, you deserve to have a temple built to you. All the swords in Italy and all her military allies could not have made this peace.”


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William Shakespeare’s CORIOLANUS: Act 5, Scene 2

— 5.2 —

Two guards were stationed at the entrance of the Volscian military camp before Rome. Menenius walked up to them.

“Stop! From where have you come?” the first guard said.

“Stop, and go back where you came from,” the second guard ordered.

Menenius said, “You guard like men should; you do well. But with your permission, let me say that I am an officer of state, and I have come to speak with Coriolanus.”

“From where have you come?” the first guard asked again.

“From Rome.”

“You may not pass, you must return to Rome,” the first guard said. Our General will listen no more to anyone who comes from Rome.”

“You’ll see your Rome embraced with fire before you’ll speak with Coriolanus,” the second guard said.

“My good friends,” Menenius said, “if you have heard your General talk about Rome and about his friends there, it is more than likely that the sound of my name has touched your ears. My name is Menenius.”

“Even if that is your name, you must go back to Rome,” the first guard said. “The virtue of your name is not here passable and sufficient to get you entry into our camp. Your name is not a password that will gain you entry into our camp.”

“I tell you, fellow, the General is my loving friend. I have been the book of his good acts, and in me men have read about his unparalleled name, perhaps amplified and exaggerated, for I have always bolstered my friends, of whom he’s the chief, with all the size that truth would allow without collapsing. Indeed, sometimes, like a ball being bowled on a tricky, deceptive green, I have tumbled past the mark, and in his praise I have almost endorsed a falsehood; therefore, fellow, I must have leave to pass.”

“Indeed, sir, if you had told as many lies in his behalf as you have uttered words in your own, you would not pass here; no, even if it were as virtuous to lie as to live chastely,” the first guard said. “Therefore, go back to Rome.”

“Please, fellow, remember that my name is Menenius, and I have always sided with the faction of your General.”

“Even if you have lied in his behalf, as you say you have,” the second guard said, “I am one who, telling the truth under his command, must say that you cannot pass. Therefore, go back to Rome.”

“Has he dined, can you tell me?” Menenius asked. “For I would not speak with him until after dinner.”

“You are a Roman, are you?” the first guard asked.

“I am, as your General is,” Menenius replied.

“Then you should hate Rome, as he does,” the first guard said. “Can you, when you have pushed out your gates the very defender of them, and, in a violent popular ignorance, given your enemy your shield, think to confront his revenges with the easy groans of old women, the virginal, supplicating palms of your daughters, or with the palsied intercession of such a decayed dotant — dotard, dullard, and one who dotes on Coriolanus — as you seem to be? Can you think to blow out the intended fire your city is ready to flame in, with such weak breath as this? No, you are deceived; therefore, go back to Rome, and prepare for your execution. You are condemned: Our General has sworn not to give you reprieve and pardon.”

“Sirrah, if your Captain knew I were here, he would treat me with respect,” Menenius said.

“Sirrah” was a title used to address someone of a social rank inferior to the speaker.

“Come on, my Captain does not know you,” the first guard said.

His Captain was Aufidius.

“I mean, your General,” Menenius said.

“My General does not care for you,” the first guard said. “Go back to Rome, I say, go. Lest I let make you bleed the last remaining half-pint of blood an old man like you has, go back. That’s all that you will get from us guards — the command to go back to Rome.”

“But, fellow, fellow —”

Coriolanus and Aufidius arrived; they had heard loud voices.

Coriolanus asked, “What’s the matter?”

Menenius said to the first guard, “Now, you rogue, I have news for you. You shall know now that I am held in respect; you shall perceive that a Jack guardant — a rascal guard — cannot use his office to keep me from my son Coriolanus. Judge, after seeing how he receives me, whether you risk being hanged or suffering some other death that will take longer and involve crueler suffering. Look at what happens now, and faint in fear of what’s going to happen to you.”

Menenius then said to Coriolanus, “May the glorious gods sit in hourly synod about your particular prosperity, and may they love you no worse than your old father Menenius does!

“Oh, my son, my son! You are preparing fire for us. Look at my tears — here’s water to quench the fire. I was only with great difficulty persuaded to come to you, but being assured none but myself could move you, I have been blown out of your Roman gates with sighs; and solemnly and earnestly appeal to you to pardon Rome and your imploring countrymen. May the good gods assuage your wrath, and turn the dregs of it upon this varlet guard here — this guard, who, like a blockhead and an obstacle, has denied my access to you.”

“Go away!” Coriolanus ordered.

“What! Go away?” Menenius said.

“Wife, mother, child, I know none of them,” Coriolanus said. “My affairs are made subservient to the affairs of others. Although I am personally responsible for my revenge, my ability to grant remissions belongs to the Volscians.

“That we have been familiar friends, ungrateful forgetfulness — at first Rome’s and now mine — shall poison our friendship, rather than pity shall note and remember how much we have been friends. Therefore, be gone. My ears against your petitions to me are stronger than your Roman gates are against my army. Yet, because I was your friend, take this letter along with you. I wrote it for your sake.”

Coriolanus gave Menenius a letter and then continued, “I would have sent it to Rome. I will not hear you speak another word, Menenius.”

He then said, “Aufidius, this man was my beloved friend in Rome, yet you see how I treat him now!”

“You have a resolute mind,” Aufidius said.

Coriolanus and Aufidius exited.

“Now, sir, is your name Menenius?” the first guard asked.

“It is a spell, you see, of much power,” the second guard said, sarcastically. “You know the way back to Rome.”

“Did you hear how we are scolded for keeping your greatness away from Coriolanus?” the first guard asked.

“What reason, do you think, I have to faint out of fear?” the second guard asked.

Menenius replied, “I care neither for the world nor for your General. As for such things as you, I can scarcely think there are any since you are so slight. He who has a will to commit suicide and die by his own hand does not fear death from the hands of another person. Let your General do his worst. As for you, be what you are, live for a long time, and may your misery increase with your age! I tell you, as I was told, go away!”

Menenius exited.

The first guard said, “He was a noble fellow, I’ll give him that.”

“The worthy fellow is our General,” the second guard said. “He’s the rock, the oak that is not to be shaken by the wind.”

One of Aesop’s fables taught the lesson that pride can lead to a fall: “The humble reed that bends in the wind is stronger than the proud oak that breaks in a storm.”


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davidbrucehaiku: hard to make it to the top


Kindle Desktop Publishing Screenshot: David Bruce




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David Bruce: Television Anecdotes


By Witchblue – Witchblue, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16295043

Tex Avery is the cartoonist who gave Bugs Buggy his distinctive personality. Before Mr. Avery started working on the Bugs Bunny cartoons, Bugs was “just Daffy Duck in a rabbit suit.” Mr. Avery gave Bugs a coolness and made him totally in control of every situation. The line “What’s up. Doc?” actually came from the cool kids Mr. Avery remembered from his old high school in Dallas, Texas. Late in his career, when Mr. Avery was working on TV commercials, he directed on a commercial featuring Bugs Bunny. Someone actually asked if he knew how to draw Bugs Bunny. About that experience, Mr. Avery says, “I think that’s when I started making it clear just who created Bugs Bunny.”

In the early days of television, Paul Ritts directed a program about dogs on a local station. He recognized that he had a problem even before the program aired—live—because the man who would host the program frequently used the word “bitch” to refer to female dogs. In fact, the program host was hard of hearing, so he spoke loudly—so loudly that during the course of their meeting Mr. Ritts received a telephone call from a female employee complaining about the language coming from Mr. Ritts’ office. Of course, Mr. Ritts explained to the TV host that broadcast standards would not permit the use of the word “bitch” on the air, and the TV host promised to try to restrain himself. And so he did, although during rehearsal he said “bit … female” twice and “bitch” three times. Fortunately, during the live broadcast he didn’t use the words “bitch” or “bit … female” at all. Unfortunately, during the live broadcast, a large dog bit one of the cameramen, and TV viewers at home saw the cameraman walking across the stage while dragging the dog—which still had its teeth in his leg. The cameraman was also yelling—“SON OF A BITCH!”

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera worked together on many Tom and Jerry cartoons, as well as on cartoons starring the characters The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and Scoobie-Doo. Both were capable of causing mischief. When they were youngsters, Bill and Norma, his sister, cracked every window in the family’s barn. Of course, they had a good reason: They liked the patterns the cracked windows made. As a cartoonist working on Tom and Jerry, Joe once drilled a hole in a wall, then he inserted a soda straw into the hole. When the cartoonist who worked in the office next door sat down, Joe filled his mouth with water, then used the straw to spray the back of the cartoonists’ head with water. This is the artistic sensibility and the sense of humor that resulted in the Tom and Jerry cartoons winning seven Academy Awards. Nowadays, of course, the Tom and Jerry cartoons are shown on television

Actress Robia LaMorte, known for her role as Jenny Calendar on TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, became a born-again Christian after praying for a sign while driving her car on a freeway: “Ok, God, you know I believe in You, but I don’t get the whole Jesus/born-again Christian thing. If Jesus really is the way, then you need to show me. If you make it clear to me in a way that I can relate to and understand, then I’ll check it out.” Immediately after she prayed, her car was surrounded by a group of bikers that at first made her think of the Hell’s Angels—until she noticed that the jackets the bikers were wearing had crosses on the back—along with the words “We Ride For Jesus.” She says that becoming a Christian is the best decision she has ever made.

Johnny Ramone, guitarist for the Ramones, was a baseball fanatic. According to Howie Pyro, musician for D Generation, sometimes at a concert Johnny would be watching a baseball game on a TV set that was off to the side of the stage, not even looking at his guitar, but “just playing like a machine.” (In his juvenile delinquent phase just after graduating from high school, Johnny always enjoyed finding a TV set that someone had thrown in the garbage. He would lug it up to a rooftop, watch for pedestrians to come along, and then drop the TV set in front of them.)

Of course, stunt men and stunt women played an important part in the filming of the 1960s tongue-in-cheek TV spy series The Avengers. However, you may be surprised to read that in some cases stunt men performed the stunts of Diana Rigg, who played Mrs. Emma Peel. For example, in the episode “The Bird Who Knew Too Much,” Peter Elliott performs Mrs. Peel’s high dive into the swimming pool. In many cases, however, stunt woman Cyd Child designed and performed Mrs. Peel’s dangerous stunts.

The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Andy Griffith Show were filmed close to each other. One day, Don Knotts, who played Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, went to see the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show rehearse. He asked the show’s creator, Carl Reiner, what Mr. Van Dyke was like, explaining that he had never met him. Mr. Reiner replied, “You want to know how nice Dick Van Dyke is? I’ll tell you. You’re a nice guy, Don. He’s nicer.”

John Waters, aka the Prince of Puke, both writes and directs his films, which tend to be cult favorites. He once appeared on TV’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in the 1990s, but he was amazed that the episode ever appeared on TV. He says that during the episode, “I would point to stuff in my house and say things like ‘I found this in the trash,’ ‘This cost a nickel,’ or ‘I stole it.’”

Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers, was a Presbyterian minister. When he was ordained, he was given a special charge: To use the mass media to serve children and their families.

“Those who watch the news don’t sleep well. And those who take the news seriously, don’t sleep at all.” — Quaker pastor Stan Banker.

“Am I the only one who thinks they should put a laugh track on the show Cops? — Dennis Miller, Ranting Again.


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David Bruce: “William Shakespeare’s CORIOLANUS: A Retelling in Prose” — Act 5, Scene 1

— 5.1 —

Menenius, Cominius, Sicinius, and Brutus talked together in a public place in Rome. Others were present. Previously, Cominius had pleaded with Coriolanus to spare Rome, but he had gotten nowhere.

“No, I’ll not go plead to Coriolanus,” Menenius said. “You heard what he said to Cominius, who was formerly his General, and who loved him with close personal affection. Coriolanus has called me his father, but what of that?

“Go, you who banished him. A mile before you reach his tent, fall down and walk on your knees to him — that is the way to reach his mercy.

“Since he was reluctant to hear Cominius speak, I’ll stay at home.”

“He pretended not to know me,” Cominius said.

“Do you hear this?” Menenius asked.

“Yet at one time he called me by my name,” Cominius said. “I brought up our old friendship, and the drops of blood that we have bled together. He would not answer to the name ‘Coriolanus.’ He forbade all names. He was a kind of nothing; he seemed to want to be without a title until he had forged for himself a new title out of the fire of burning Rome.”

Menenius said to the two Tribunes, “Why, you have done ‘good’ work! You are a pair of Tribunes who have wrecked Rome in order to make charcoal cheap. People won’t need to buy charcoal because they can warm themselves at their own hearth as their house burns down — that is a ‘noble accomplishment’ you will be remembered for!”

Cominius said, “I reminded Coriolanus how royal it is to pardon someone when a pardon is not expected. He replied that my implied request for him to spare Rome was a barefaced, shameless, paltry petition of a state to one whom the state had punished.”

“Very well,” Menenius said. “Could he say less?”

“I attempted to awaken his regard for his personal friends,” Cominius said. “His answer to me was that he could not take the time to pick them out of a pile of stinky musty chaff. He said that it was folly, for one poor kernel of grain or two, to leave the offensive chaff unburned and so always have to smell it.”

Mathew 3:12 speaks of God, Who is good and will gather the kernels of grain: “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will th[o]roughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (King James Version).

Menenius said, “For one poor kernel of grain or two! I am one of those; his mother, his wife, his child, and this worthy fellow Cominius, too — we are the grains.

“You Tribunes are the musty chaff; and your stink is smelled above the Moon and to the high Heavens. We will be burned because of you.”

“Please, be calm,” Sicinius said. “Even if you refuse to give us your aid in this crisis in which help was never so greatly needed, yet do not upbraid us with our distress. But, surely, if you would be your country’s pleader, your good tongue, more than the army we can raise on such short notice, might stop our countryman Coriolanus from attacking Rome.”

“No, I’ll not meddle in this,” Menenius said.

“Please,” Sicinius said. “Go to Coriolanus, and plead to him to spare Rome.”

“What should I do if I go to him?” Menenius asked.

“Just try and see what your friendship with Martius can do for Rome,” Brutus replied.

Menenius said, “Well, let’s say that Martius makes me return to Rome, just as he made Cominius return, without having listened to me, what then? I will return to Rome only as an unhappy friend, grief-stricken because of his unkindness. What if this comes to be true?”

“You will still receive thanks from Rome in the full measure of what your good will intended to do,” Sicinius said.

“I’ll undertake this embassy,” Menenius said. “I think he’ll hear me out. Still, his biting his lip and rejecting good Cominius much disheartens me.”

He thought a moment and then said, “Coriolanus was not approached at the right time; he had not dined. When our veins are unfilled, our blood is cold, and then we pout upon the morning and we are unlikely to give or to forgive, but when we have stuffed the digestive tract and these conveyances of our blood with wine and food, we have suppler, more flexible souls than we have during our priest-like fasts; therefore, I’ll watch and wait until he has dined well and so will be amenable to our request, and then I’ll talk to him.”

“You know the road that leads directly to his kindness, and you cannot lose your way,” Brutus said.

“Indeed,” Menenius said, “I’ll test him, and let the result be what it may. I shall before long have knowledge of the outcome of my going to him.”

Menenius exited.

Cominius said, “Coriolanus will never listen to Menenius.”

“He won’t?” Sicinius asked.

Cominius replied, “I tell you that it’s as if Coriolanus sat on a throne of gold, his eyes red and inflamed as if they would burn Rome; and his sense of the injury done to him is the jailer to his sense of pity. I kneeled before him; very faintly he said ‘Rise,’ and he dismissed me like this” — he demonstrated — “with a wave of his speechless hand. He sent after me a written note detailing what he would do, and what he would not do, what he would concede, and what he would not concede. He has sworn an oath that we must yield to his conditions.

“So now all hope is vain … unless his noble mother and his wife can revive hope. I hear that they intend to solicit him to give mercy to his country. Therefore, let’s leave here, and with our fair entreaties hasten them on to visit Coriolanus.”


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