Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cleaning Out My Wallet – Herb Caen Clippings

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Herb Caen, with his faithful Royal word processor

Actually, I have a black zipper bag in my briefcase that I throw things into when my wallet gets too encumbered. Sometimes the things I put in it can be overlooked for a very long time. Two go back to the days of Herb Caen’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle. I think I collected it long before his last column in 1996. Herb was a model liberal, but I think even he realized the political systems left of liberals didn’t make any sense. Maybe he didn’t, but he enjoyed the good life, mingled with the wealthy and elite, and didn’t exhibit the values of the Socialist Man. In fact, in one of his columns he included this:

The Six Miracles of Socialism (printed by the Yugoslav magazine Osmica)

“There is no unemployment, but nobody works.

“No one works, but everyone receives wages.

“All get wages, but nothing can be bought with them.

“Nothing is purchased, but everybody owns everything.

“Everybody owns everything, but they are all dissatisfied.

“All are dissatisfied, but everyone votes for the system.”

This reminds me of the dark humor, the jokes that came out of the Soviet Union in its heyday.

American tourist: “In America, we are free to call President Reagan a fool.”

Soviet worker: “In Soviet Union we are free to call President Reagan a fool too.”

In Russian, “Izvestia” is “news,” and “Pravda” is “truth.” They were also the names of the two largest publications in the Soviet Union. Pravda (Russian: Правда, "The Truth") was a leading newspaper of the Soviet Union and an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1918 and 1991. Izvestia also was a leading newspaper, and expressed the official views of the Soviet government as published by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. However, the Soviet on the street wasn’t fooled. A popular saying was: “There is no truth in Pravda, and no news in Izvestia.”

Now the Soviet Union, that great monument to Communism, is no more. Which brings me to another saved clipping from Herb Caen’s column:

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I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains.
Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley

Another gem from my wallet, a fortune cookie fortune: “Accept the next proposition you hear.” I actually found this in a fortune cookie almost twenty years ago. I remember thinking, “This is wasted on me.”

At one time I had a plan to replace the fortunes in “legitimate” fortune cookies with this one, thinking it would convey the right sentiments to my date, whoever the lucky lady might be.

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