Short Shrifts/TWEETS 1

                   or, The Autocrat of the Algonquin Table

         Aphorism, adage, apothegm, axiom; proverb, maxim. What’s the difference?  You look up the definition for one and it’s defined by the others.  If A is equal to B and B to C, A must be equal to C.  Anyway Ben Franklin, he and Hippocrates, made them famous.

But just recently a game-changer has burst upon us -- the Tweet.  What Ben Franklin was for the adage, Trump is to the Tweet.  Nobody writes maxims any more; everybody Tweets.  Except me.  I mean, I don't have a Tweet account, never gonna get one.  So I tweet Short Shrits, in 120 characters or more.  But I'm so old I identify with Franklin, not Trump, or even Pat Sajak, currently my favorite Tweetist.  For one thing, I don't write Shrifts at 2:30 A.M., especially during Ben's Daylight Savings Time.

Nowadays, in the Trump Era, you hear no end of Tweets.  Everybody Tweets .  As to the ancient and beloved terms, You don’t hear any of those nowadays.  Google, which invented such a Googleable name for itself, turns around and calls what Franklin said merely “sayings” or “quotes.”   Franklinisms, certainly Kimeisms, deserve more than that, surely.

  It turns out that the sort of shorties herein presented, is a historic but comparatively recent literary form, arriving on the scene in primitive form called Maxims in the 17th century.  My research (via J. Barzun, not Google) discloses that a certain duke Rochefoucauld introduced them.  What made Rochefoucould's different from previous literary forms was brevity -- by comparison.  Maxims were not maximally compressed.

  Discourses shorter than a theological volume but hardly to be called quickie-reads existed before then, in the 16th century, under the designation "table talk," smacking at the witty conversation of the 20th century Algonquin Table and Holmes' the 19th century boarding house.  On the web I recently actually happened across one entitled  "Martin Luther's Table Talk," rare of course, Amazon lists it of course, and eagerly bought it.  Rather disappointing.  Each of the 95 theses Luther nailed to the cathedral door are shorter and more focused.  But by whatever term then current, they were nuggets of morality or common sense wisdom, there being really no difference, that being an aphorism or adage or axiom right there.  Anyway, morality or common sense compressed or extended has gone out of style.   Nowadays, it’s comedy

  The term you hear nowadays is “1-liner.”  Bob Hope made the 1-liner famous, Hope and Seinfeld did.  But there’s a difference between Hope’s 1-liners and Ben’s aphorisms, a cultural, watershed, crucial difference.  Ben’s convey wisdom and even hint at moralities.  Hope’s and Seinfeld's are just comedy.  But nowadays academic anthologists, mindless of this difference, call Ben’s aphorisms 1-liners too.  In fact some wise academician recently announced that Ben Franklin is the father of the American 1-liner, a unique American art form, more cogently designated "wisecrack."    If you call wit, which Franklinisms do have, humor, a bit of a stretch but let it pass, the academician has a point.

But frankly comedic 1-liners, a la Bob Hope, have gone out of style too.  I shed a tear.  Near as I can tell what now prevails is the  blog comment, more often notable for hostility rather than pure comedy, sarcasm more than wit, or just downright obscenity and f-words.

But I’m not into that, and I'm not calling mine any of those things.  I'm calling them “Short Shrifts.”  That’s because they give comprehensive discourse short shrift (by the current definition of the word "shrift"), and a chuckle.  But the main reason is that, as fluttered from the tongue, the ear perceives the sound of “Short Shrifts” as a musical riff.  So what if it’s only for the eye, not tongue or ear?  Anyway, they're supposed to be pithy, so howabout "short piths"?  Sigh...

  This territory may be random but it’s also rutted.  Early on the reader will discern a pattern of well-trod ruts coursing throughout.  For example, Postmodernism.  Deepening the rut a bit with each pass, I swish by Postmodernism over and over again, always giving it only a quickie and a tickle.

It's not that I'm afraid of Postmodernism and dare only to dart at it, take a nibble, and flee.  But if I'm so fearless, why not write a book about it and not just droppings?  The definitive tome.  That's the thing to do nowadays.  But to write a book, at some point I would have to declare the subject finished and terminate it by a summary and conclusions, and epitaph, and walk away and leave it and dust my hands of it.  I would have to decree it dead and immune to further harrying and give it final and absolute shrift (original meaning).  That would be premature, like burying a corpse that keeps banging at the coffin.

I cannot simply flag down my train of thought.  A novelist can.  A standup comedian can.  Yea, he must drop it like a hot potato lest he lay an egg.  But I can no more cease and desist than the IRS or a buzzing fly can.   Or a blogger.

You are invited to sift my shrifts AND TASTE MY TWEETS -- HERE!

••••  When the Shrifts hit the fan.  Oops, I'm out-tweeting the Tweet in chief.



Updated  November 2017



            A bullet introduces each of these units. Maybe this anthology should be called "Biting the Bullets," a pretty good pun.  I pine for puns but this one wouldn't work right.  As Kipling meant it (he originated the phrase), it refers to biting a bullet to better endure a pain, which, come to think of it, not a few readers may find these bite-sized morsels to be.  So maybe it would have been appropriate after all.

• "Short Shrifts," the title of the anthology I wound up using acknowledges that to logic and nuance I  give short shrift.  Short Sheet, that is.

• So you ask  whence the title “Autocrat of the Algonquin Table”? It’s my  alliterative amalgamation of "The Autocrat of The Breakfast Table" and the “Algonquin Round Table.” I just pushed the tables together, like they do at restaurants for birthday parties.  One table is square and the other round.

“The Autocrat” is a book that I happened upon in my teens, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., consisting of harangues on sundry topics imposed by the Autocrat upon a captive audience of curiously submissive Boston elite, at a boarding house table in the 1880s, when people lived and ate at such places, and talked a lot. My idol, that autocrat. My teen fairytale, like American Idol is now (but wouldn't be for me, ever). But you know all about that if you read my title page.

     The Algonquin Round Table was another table famous in literary circles in the early 1900s, at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, where the likes of Franklin Pierce Adams, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, and Harold Ross (still famous when I was a teenager) would famously come every week ostensibly to hear each other radiate wisecracks, wordplay, and witticisms. Turns out that everybody, whether at the boarding house or the hotel, talked to themselves with witty elite fellow-talkers pretending to listen. (It's called Auto-tete-a-teteism). I was going to say that I am proud to carry on the tradition way past its time (but then, so am I way past my time) -- with absolutely nobody listening. (Everybody's listening to all those Fox round tables or American Idol.  But do bloggers really listen to each other?)

• This is a collection of my thinking for over 20 years.  But no entries are dated.  They are timeless, maybe timely.  Some more so than others.


•  In accordance with FCC, NSE, EPA, FDA regulations, be it known that this e-facility is a vaguely owned subsidiary of Al-Geezer, Inc, and is closely monitored by Smart Cremation, Inc.

•  Actually, nowadays there are more people talking to themselves just to hear themselves talk, than ever. It's called blogging.

•  My favorite desert is lemon harangue pie. In your face. Let’s do lunch.

•  All’s well that ends well. Does anything?

•  Speak softly and carry a big shtick. Who said that, Milty Roosenvelt?

•  To be iconic or laconic, that is the question.

• In the spirit of the scriptural injunction, if thy trainer maketh thee to go one mile, go two.

•  I love to tweak words and sentences – tweak and tweak tweak. Write a book? Naw, everybody does that.  Few seem to bother with sentences.

•  Cruising a suburb you can tell its affluence by the number of cop cars lurking in church parking lots and UPS and FedEx trucks pulling into driveways.

•  But everything Lib is nuanced – logic, compassion, lips, wrinkles, everything – by blather, rhetorical torc, botox, or silicone. But Libs think they’ve got a patent on nuancing, like on compassion. For a non-Lib to express compassion, that’s actionable in court, theft of creative property. I’m no Lib, in case you haven’t guessed, but if nuancing is the game, deal me in, but I’ll confine mine to sentence structure and neologisms, not the US Constitution or Genesis 1. And no silicone or botox, not for my slit lips or forked tongue.

• It’s easier for the rich to go through the eye of a needle than through the eye of the liberal beholder.

• An infant must learn how to tie his own shoes.  In a year or so, he will.  An adult must learn to remove child-proof lids from bottles.  He never will.

• From today’s news we learn that nothing is so damaging to the memory as living or working in the White House.  Must be a toxic leak somewhere.

• God’s truth presents new aspects and new perspectives of the same truth.  New facets of the same diamond, new anatomic details of the same praying mantis, undreamed of until the microscope was invented, then the electron microscope, and so on forever, deeper and deeper, into the same vein.  Best Postmodernism can come up with is new spins.

• The best parable of Postmodernism's lateral rather than deep dimensions turns out to be -- gulp! -- these very Short Shrifts.  A new one every day (some days, every minute).  Hmmm.....

• We are to love the sinner but hate the sin.  But disbelief isn’t sin, it’s just difference of opinion.  So hate the disbeliever but accept into thy bosom his disbelief?

• How can you find yourself if you've dropped out

• Looking to find yourself.  Sorry, he's under house arrest and can't come to the door.

• Remember FDR's sculpturally ju-u-u-u-utting chin?  Ideal for Mt. Rushmore, but how to sculpt a 300-foot-long cigarette and holder into the side of a cliff, was the problem.

• Sharpton wants Obama sculpted into Mt. Rushmore.  Why not?  That Batman grin and Teddy Rosevelt's grimace!  Great art, American original, beats "American Gothic."  Got to get FDR's great granite chin in too, somehow.

• How did you get that idea?  By poetic license or a leap of faith?  Or by spinning?

• In the lingo of logic the device, if A is true then B is too, is a "conditional."  Usually, a comical conditional.

• I'm a gentile Christian, so I suppose I'm expected to identify with all things Jewish, whence cometh Christianity, as the Old Testament begat the New.  I am duly sympathetic.  But the only Jewish thing I can identity with, really, to is the shtick and the Jewish mother.  So what else is new?

• Somehow it happens instantly -- instant legend, instant history, instant toast, instant icon.  Who decides that stuff anyway?

• His manager commanded him to have "fire in your belly."  So he did, and got an award and a vagotomy.

• Ideal or idealized, that is the question.

• A couple of centuries ago, The Grand Tour was the rite of youth.  Now the Spring Break is.

• What do you think of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”?  My wife thinks it’s the wrong rite.

• So what do I think of church clownz and puppetz?  Two wrongs do make a rite.

• If your feet are stuck in cement are you standing on a firm foundation?

• It doesn't matter whether your feet are stuck in the mud or concrete.

• Everyone needs to hear a human voice.  Preferably not his own.

• There’s so much a husband and wife can share, things no other two people on earth can, but an iPad is not one of them.

• It’s amazing how people can rise to the occasion.  It’s even more amazing what occasions they can rise to.

• Nowadays, to rise to the occasion is to raise hell.  At least a protest sign.

• I got my foot in the door OK, but then I put it in my mouth.  (My foot and the door)

 • Who can spin his wheels and pat himself on the back at the same time?  Well, OK, an acrobat.  But I was thinking of a philosopher.  Wrong, a politician gets the award and gala.

• You know an era has gone sour when it confuses chutzpah with courage.

• Alas, is there no light at the end of the carpal tunnel?

• Some things should be taken lightly, others, light-heartedly.

• Sex between consenting adults is at least legal.  It ought to be better than that.

• It’s nice when the storm’s silver lining is your stomach lining.

• Good question.  Pity the answer wasn’t.

• Does it mean anything that after His resurrection Christ never appeared at any church service in synagogues but only to individuals and informal meetings?

• Now TV brings more band width and less attention span.

• These Short Shrifts don't have a mass following.  A cult following?  Occult, is more like it.

• Watershed, seachange  -- SOS!  Man the pumps!

• Trump believes Putin.  Everybody believes an orange-haired 60-year old maiden who claims somebody touched her knee 50 years ago.  Ours is now the Age of Gullibility.


• July 2013.  Re. Snowden, you know the old saying, "Better leaks than never."

•  The Bible says the earth shall be cleansed of sin by fire. Look at it as cosmic pasteurization.

•  I don’t know which is best, or worst, makes no real difference: -- to reject the whole Bible, dismiss God, and just pitch the whole business; or to hold onto the covers of the book and idea of God but doubt every last thing; or to hold and proclaim everything but nit-pick it to pieces.

• One of Christ's most glorious miracles involved taking some fish and breaking them into pieces and multiplying them, to feed the multitude.  But it's even more staggering when our pew progressives take our doctrines and break them into shreds and recycle them, to save the planet.

• Celebrities, celebs for short, are virtually always liberal.  Celibs for short.  Beware: that's not short for celibacy, which celib celebs are not icons of.

•  2010.  Old libs and celebs never die, they just get Nobel Peace Prizes. Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Barack Obama, and a web headline just said Michael Jackson is being considered. Must be a mistake. Must be Michael Moore.

•  The more our churches make themselves relevant to culture – oh how they yearn to be relevant! – the more irrelevant to life, certainly eternal life.

• “They married” somehow sounds more promising than “they got married.” They got divorced.  Better not say, "they were married."  That leaves the tense of the verb uncertain.  But that the whole business is, was, or got pretty tense, that part is certain.

• “Do you see what I see? Do you SEE what I see? Do you see what I SEE? Do YOU … see what I see? DO you see what I see?” This was the Christmas sermon and the pastor kept repeating the question. “Do you see … what I… see? DO. YOU. SEE. WHAT. I. SEE!” Well, OK, what ARE you seeing? He never said.

• But we’re even. Fair enough. He doesn’t see what I see in a shadowed hill, a backlit cloud, my watercolors of hills and clouds. Paintings. Nobody does. Do you see WHAT I SEE? …sigh…

• Maureen Dowd, famous Barack adulator-activist, had a NYT column out a while back entitled, “Heck of a job, Barry!” Barry? Barry who? Barry Goldwater? Dave Barry? Oh, right – Barack “Barry” Obama. Oh my -- now Barry must apologize to the world for the pop-Americanization of his Allah-bestowed name.  Riots get started over there for less than that.

• I think I’ll write a book on some scholarly theological thing, like everybody else. Already have the title: Hermeneutics And Stuff.

• I'm Biblically oriented, not theologically.  Our church has codified 28 or 30 Fundamental Beliefs.  You wouldn't believe the brawl that's going on over them right now. Me, I didn't even know we had a catechism.

• Christ told us to ask and ye shall receive -- but even He doesn’t get everything He wants, notably our hearts.  Remember that when you’re disappointed.

• Don’t you find painting relaxing?  No.  Absolutely not!  I’ve never found the most challenging things -- studying anatomy, physiology, biochemistry; reading St. John; sex -- relaxing.  Challenging, demanding, taxing, gratifying, yes.  Relaxing, no.  Afterwards comes the relaxation.  Not during.

• And now, children, today’s geography lesson is about Ohio’s two major crops, corn and coon. Corn is grown everywhere you look, from horizon to horizon.  Coons are there too, in tree upon tree, only you can’t see them.

•  Oh, the bomb-happy Levant, where the Sunni always shine and Shiite happens.

•  You can’t take it with you. That’s why there are garage sales. Estate sales , if all else fails,

•  To suffer martyrdom or inconvenience. In my heart of hearts I’m not sure which I could more graciously endure.

•  You can’t take it with you. Yes you can, at Chinese food bistros you can, and they box it up for you.

•  Putting everything you have, your whole self, all you own, into your church, its doctrines, its culture, it's kleiglights and video booms and expensive rock stage and lighting and drums for the youth, is not, you may regret to your eternal sorrow, the same as investing it in heaven.

 • Bomber and SWAT crews have changed but they are still stereotyped.  In the 50s war movies that I remember, every torpedo boat or B17 crew had the same obligatory Irishman, Italian, wise-off slum kid, handsome guy.  Now every bomber or antiterrorist (or terrorist, for all I know) crew has the obligatory female, black, gay, and hunk gratuitously bare chested.  I miss the old gang.

• A loving curmudgeon is even more improbable than a hooker with a heart of gold.

• Andy Warhol promised us all fifteen minutes of fame.  Testimonial dinners will be fast-food.

• Andy Warhol is limiting fame to fifteen minutes, and Mayor Bloomberg limits your soda pop to fifteen ounces.

• Is Andy Warhol limiting your fame to fifteen minutes or guaranteeing you get fifteen minutes?  Either way it sounds like another 18,500 pages of regulations coming up.

• Andy Warhol promised us all we’d be famous for fifteen minutes, on American Idol?  Facebook?  Oh, he meant virtual fame.  Hmmm...  What other kind is there?  Alas, even virtual fame is not eternal.

• Einstein's theory of relativity and Postmodernism are turning out to be equally cryptic. I've read not a few smart columnists cheerily admitting that they haven't a clue.  But that's exactly what Postmodernism does mean, right there -- nothing has any meaning.

• I would like to start a moving business and change my name just so I could name the business “Plato’s Prime Mover.”  Somebody else surely must have thought of that one, but if so Google doesn't seem to know it.  The best Google does is give "Ads related to Prime Mover":

• I believe God works with your brain only when, without a single metaphysical thought in your head, you simply and forthrightly ask Him to.  It’s called prayer, not metaphysics.  And you don't have to go to Fuller Seminary and get a doctorate to do it.

• Remember that commercial slogan, “Tough but O so gentle”?  Alas, for most of us it’s “Tough but O so fragile.”

• The idea seems to be that celebrities are some sort of miraculously generated beings (though hardly through virgin birth), aliens, a little higher than the angels.  Tejwee Howlz or Char — even their names are extraterrestrial.  I don't see them as spiritual, though.

• Deep thought too often begets low blows.

• What comes out of the mouths of babes is usually burp or urp – in the end, the ultimate wisdom.

• Graffiti: a grotto motto.

• Obama is doing contortions.  Boehner is bending over backwards.  The NYT says they are posturing.

• What explains -- philosophy, theology, or some sort of science -- why fat is so awful to behold, which keeps Jenny Craig in business, but so delicious to eat, which keep KFC in business?

 • Employing secret, cutting edge intelligence-gathering technology, or an inside leak, or creativity, Libs have discovered that the GOP is at War with Women, among a bunch of other wars against, oh, everybody and the planet to boot, all to the surprise of the GOP, especially GOP women.   Apparently real wars aren't so dreadful, for now ladies are heading for front-line combat.  So now they're eligible for purple hearts along with free contraceptives.

• It seems that the public will sooner believe that the GOP is waging war against women than Satan is warring against all mankind, and God. Nobody believes there is a Satan.  But Satan is a helluva lot more real than the GOP, which as of 2012 is toast.

• Speaking of Ben Franklin’s 1-liners, the wisest and funniest Franklin ever offered wasn’t published in “Poor Richard’s Alamanack” but was off-the cuff, in the best tradition of stand-up comedy.  It happened when he, a founding-celebrity, was mobbed as he exited the Constitutional Convention.  “What kind of government do we have?” shouted the crowd.  “A Republic – if you can keep it.”  That one cracks me up.  The night of November 4, 2012 it rang in my ears and had me rolling on the floor.

• Christian charity may cheerfully give the body to be burned, but give away the last word?  O Give me strength!

• If you wish to stand tall and walk upright through your Garden of Eden, you may have to trim the trees.

• The measure of the wealth and the tastes of the owner are shown by whether roaming the estate are chickens or peacocks. Race horses or ATVs.

•  Hey, ECO isn't just the ECOlogy, it's the ECOnomy too. Anybody for saving that funny little Eco?  It's endangered, plenty endangered.

•  Nowadays it sounds so unfamiliar to hear what once was so familiar.

•  Sitcoms offer valuable lessons on social interactions, if we could but learn them. When your best writers can’t come up with a smart riposte, just roll your eyes.

•  No point bothering to check any more. It’ll be made in China. One of life’s certainties nowadays.

•  Society more and more cherishes skin- or cartilage-deep contours which a good special-effects plastic surgeon creates or undoes, and less and less the core character possible only upon being born again.

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Wesley Kime