Words of wisdom. May 9, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: aphorisms, Ben Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, Charles H. Spurgeon, wit and wisdom
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Apparently, our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, had a 19th-century imitator. But this man, a British Baptist minister, didn’t simply crib Ben’s sayings, as our friend Ben discovered this morning while reading a piece from The Week called “15 less-than-inspirational quotes from a book of moral advice” (read them all on TheWeek.com).
I was intrigued by the title of the article and assumed it would be poking fun at some outdated moralist’s misguided ideas. Instead, the Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon had a wealth of commonsense wisdom of his own to impart, in Dr. Franklin’s famous homespun style. Here are my favorites:
“Eggs are aggs, but some are rotten; and so hopes are hopes, but many of them are delusions.”
“Expect to get half of what you earn, a quarter of what is your due, and none of what you have lent, and you will be near the mark.”
“Make as few changes as you can; trees often transplanted bear little fruit.”
“It is far better to work with an old-fashioned spade that suits your hand than with a new-fangled invention that you don’t understand.” [Yeah! Go, Luddites, go!!!]
“It is true you must bake with the flour you have, but if the sack is empty it might be just as well not to set up for a baker.”
“Every minnow wants to be a whale, but it is prudent to be a little fish while you have but little water.”
Wow. I think Ben Franklin would agree.
Ben got that right. April 15, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Ben Franklin, Ben Franklin quotes, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin quotes, death and taxes
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“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
From the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished dept. June 18, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Ben Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, breaking up catfights, breaking up dogfights, bubonic plague, feral cats, pet safety, plague, plague in America
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Our friend Ben saw a headline on yesterday’s Yahoo! home page that could have come straight out of The Onion, but unfortunately was true. Clicking through, I saw that sure enough, a man in Oregon just landed in the hospital with the plague. (Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: the plague. As in bubonic plague, the black death, the Middle Ages.)
This was bad enough, but I’ve read over the past decade about how plague turns up every once in a while in the Southwest, apparently carried by mice rather than the rats that carried it through Europe. So, though it came as a surprise to find that it’s now spread to Oregon, it wasn’t as startling as first learning that plague was back, and was in the U.S. (Our friend Ben would be remiss not to mention that armadillos are also apparently acting as carriers of leprosy, which doesn’t affect them. They typically transmit it to people who eat them, just FYI for fans of wildcrafting and foraged food. But I digress.)
What was really bad was why the man came down with the plague. Turns out, he and his family had befriended a stray cat, which they fed and named Charlie. Charlie enjoyed hanging out at their house. So far, so good. Good, at least, until the man observed Charlie doing what cats do second-best (first-best is, of course, sleeping): hunting.
Charlie had caught a mouse. The distraught man rushed out to try to save the mouse, and ended up—shock surprise—being bitten for his efforts. (The doctors seemed unsure if the terrified mouse or the outraged Charlie had bitten him; my guess is both.) And because of the bite(s), he contracted the plague, is now fighting for his life, and poor Charlie was summarily dispatched and shipped off to a lab for analysis. (The mouse’s fate was not disclosed.)
All this reminded our friend Ben of the many winter nights when our then-senior cat, Jessie, would catch a mouse in our house and alert Silence Dogood with a “broken cat” cry that she made at no other time. The groggy Silence (this always happened in the dead of night) would lurch into the living room, turn on a light, grab the fireproof (and also mouse-proof) gloves from the woodstove, unlock the front door, and wait. Jessie would obediently trot over and drop the (unharmed) mouse on the doormat, and Silence would scoop it up in a gloved hand and toss it back into the yard. We have no idea why Jessie did this, though of course Silence always praised her lavishly after each catch (and swore that the same mice would come back in repeatedly to play their part in the game). Those of our other cats who’ve been hunters—by no means all of them, some just watch, and others pointedly ignore intruders—have killed and eaten their prey. (Or, at least, eaten some of it, but let’s not go into that.) Fortunately, we live in Pennsylvania, and I’ve yet to hear of a plague attack here.
Dragging myself once again back to the point, our friend Ben would like to remind everyone of the perils of trying to do the right thing in the wrong way. Our friend Ben has read too many horror stories of people being badly mauled trying to break up a dog fight or even cat fight. Of course no one wants to see their beloved pet being ripped up by another animal. But rather than rushing into the fray, use a readily available and entirely effective weapon: water. Throw a bucket of water on fighting cats. Turn a hose at full blast on fighting dogs. It will definitely distract the assailants, and give you time to get your pet out of harm’s way before hostilities can resume.
But as our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, would doubtless say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What are you thinking, allowing an animal you care about to wander unsupervised and become a target for another dog’s or cat’s aggression?!
If your dog is outside, you should be, too, and your dog should never be roaming free. If you have a domestic cat, it should be indoors. And if, like Charlie’s family, you befriend a feral cat, for God’s sake, let it be what God intended rather than what you think it should be. If it’s outdoors, it’s going to hunt and eat birds, mice, bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels, or anything else it can catch, along with that nice bowl of food you set out for it. You have to decide if inviting its company and winning its friendship (which you will) is worth that price or not.
Finally, as of yesterday’s news article, Charlie’s “father” was in critical condition. Our friend Ben would like to invite all of you to send a prayer for his recovery. He may have been lacking in the judgement department, but his heart was in the right place. And no one who acts from the heart deserves to die for their actions. May this good deed go unpunished.
Fish, guests, and God knows what. June 9, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, critters, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Ben Franklin, Ben Franklin quotes, Benjamin Franklin, blog humor
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“Guests, like fish, start to stink after three days.”
Well, they’re not the only ones. Silence Dogood and our friend Ben were rudely awakened last week by a rifle shot in a neighboring farmer’s field. We knew the farmer had hit whatever it was because there was only one shot. What we didn’t know was that the unfortunate, mortally wounded creature was going to drag itself across the road, across our yard, and under our deck before succumbing to its wounds.
Sure enough, three days later, we were confronted by an appalling smell emanating from under the deck. A stench of death and decay that continues—now accompanied by a swarm of flies—to this day. And of course, ours is a ground-level deck with barely a foot of clearance, so there’s absolutely no way to get under it and extract the hapless corpse.
This would be horrible enough under any circumstances. But for our friend Ben and Silence, it’s tragic, and not just because of the death of the poor creature. Our deck is full of life and color: fruiting, flowering and foliage plants, colorful container combinations, a half-barrel water garden. We have literally hundreds of plants out there in the season, creating a little piece of paradise for us. We love to sit out on our deck in the morning, have cocktails or wine on the deck in the afternoon, and watch the sun set on the deck in the evening, with our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, in supremely contented attendance.
Our view from the deck extends past all the deck plants, across our stream, Hawk Run, through the backyard with its firepit and huge shade trees, to our greenhouse and sunny gardens, on through the farm fields behind our property, and ultimately to the mountains that ring our happy valley. “Utopian” is not too strong a word. We love to turn on our strings of chile lights in the evening, light a fire in the firepit, and enjoy each other’s and Shiloh’s company in slowdown mode as the light gradually fades.
No more. The stench and flies make sitting on the deck a non-option. We feel like prisoners in our own home, deprived of the most pleasant and looked-forward-to part of our day, the time when we can just watch the light glittering through the leaves and the goldfinches at our feeder, listen to the gurgle of our peaceful little stream, enjoy downtime with Shiloh, and not have to even think, much less worry, about anything.
Our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, famously noted when the stink would start. Too bad he didn’t mention when it would stop.
Fahrenheit 451. June 7, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Ben Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, Fahrenheit 451, Frank Herbert, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, Isaac Asimov, Michael Crichton, police state, Ray Bradbury, sci-fi, science fiction, The Matrix, The Prisoner, The Running Man, The Stepford Wives
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Our friend Ben saw in today’s news that Ray Bradbury had died, joining those other science-fiction titans Isaac Asimov, Michael Crichton, and Frank Herbert somewhere across the universe. This of course reminded me of Mr. Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451 (and the wonderful Julie Christie movie made from it). And that in turn made me think about censorship: Not the censorship of speech, but the far more dangerous censorship of thought itself.
Fahrenheit 451 is about a society where reading books is banned, books are hunted down and publicly burned, and people caught owning or reading books are treated as criminals. (The title is the temperature at which paper catches fire.) People can not only not discuss ideas, they can’t even read them.
Other sci-fi classics address this concept, too: “The Running Man,” the wonderful movie created from Stephen King’s novella; the “Matrix” movies, where your thoughts are created for you; the TV series “The Prisoner;” and, taking the concept to an extreme, “The Stepford Wives” (original version). I’m sure there are many more, and I’m hoping you’ll chime in with your favorites.
I was hoping to end this post with an appropriate quote from our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin. I think this one fills the bill:
“It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.”
Death and taxes. April 17, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Ben Franklin, Ben Franklin quotes, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin quotes
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“Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
In honor of tax day, we here at Poor Richard’s Almanac are offering up a baker’s dozen wise words from our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin. They may not keep away the taxman, but if you take Dr. Franklin’s advice to heart, you’ll definitely be on your way to becoming healthy, wealthy and wise. Thanks, Ben!
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
“Half a truth is often a great lie.”
“Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.”
“A place for everything, everything in its place.”
“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.”
“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”
“Necessity never made a good bargain.”
“To lengthen thy life lessen thy meals.”
“There are no gains without pains.”
“A good example is the best sermon.”
“If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some.”
Happy tax day, everyone! May your refunds be prompt and no auditors ever darken your door!
It’s Ben Franklin’s birthday! January 17, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Ben Franklin, Ben Franklin birthday, Ben Franklin trivia, Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Franklin
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Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders would like to say happy birthday to our hero and blog mentor, Benjamin Franklin, on his 306th birthday. He was born today, January 17th, waaaay back in 1706, but in many ways is as alive to Americans today as ever. We invite you to join old Ben’s birthday celebration by taking this quiz by our resident blog historian, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame. See how much you really know about America’s most (ahem) well-rounded Founding Father! (Answers, of course, will follow. But no cheating, now!)
1. Benjamin Franklin was born in:
d. Washington, D.C.
2. Benjamin Franklin was called “Dr. Franklin” by his contemporaries. Why?
a. He had a doctorate from Harvard.
b. He’d gotten an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
c. He’d gone on to get a Ph.D. in electrical science at Oxford following his MBA from Princeton, then known as The College of New Jersey.
d. The title “Doctor” was an honorific bestowed on him as an honor because he was viewed as the leading scientist of his day.
3. Back in the day, Benjamin Franklin loved sports and games. Which of these did he not participate in?
4. With which of the following women was Ben Franklin not romantically linked?
a. Deborah Read
b. Polly Stevenson
c. Madame Helvetius
d. Sally Fairfax
e. Princess Ekaterina Dashkova
5. Which of these positions wasn’t held by Ben Franklin?
a. American Minister to France
b. printer and newspaper publisher
c. Postmaster General to the Colonies
d. President of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society
e. Grand Master of a Lodge of Freemasons
6. Which of these wasn’t invented by Ben Franklin?
c. the rocking chair
d. the woodburning stove
e. Daylight Saving Time
f. the catheter
g. the $100 bill
h. the phonetic alphabet
i. the first chart of the Gulf Stream
j. the concept of refrigeration
k. the lightning rod
7. Which of these plays, movies, and books doesn’t actually feature Ben Franklin?
b. Ben and Me
c. Isaac Asimov’s The Kite That Won the Revolution
d. “Ben Franklin in Paris”
e. “National Treasure”
8. What institution did Ben Franklin not create?
a. The public library
b. The fire department
c. The University of Pennsylvania
d. The post office
e. The first hospital in the Americas
f. The first American militia
9. At which seminal event of America’s founding history was Benjamin Franklin not present?
a. The creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence
b. The Constitutional Congress and the signing of the Constitution
c. The repeal of the Stamp Act
d. The Treaty of Paris
e. The inauguration of George Washington
10. What is Ben Franklin’s most famous quote?
a. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
b. “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
c. “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
d. “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
e. “There never was a good war or a bad peace.”
f. “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”
g. “God helps them that help themselves.”
h. “Little strokes fell great oaks.”
i. “Time is money.”
j. “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”
k. “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Ready for some answers? Here you go:
1. Ben Franklin was born in Boston, the tenth child and last son of the fruitful Josiah Franklin with his second wife, Abiah Folger Franklin. Josiah produced seventeen children in all. If the name Folger rings a bell, yes, Abiah was related to the coffee-producing Folgers. Ben ran off to Philadelphia at 17 to escape his cruel older brother Joseph, to whom he was apprenticed, and lived there the rest of his life (when not on extended stays in England and France). But his ancestors were indeed “franklands,” prosperous but not noble landholders in the mother country, England.
2. The correct answer is “d.” “Doctor” was an honorific, much like the honorary doctorates bestowed on famous people today. Harvard and Yale both bestowed honorary doctorates on Ben Franklin in 1753.
3. To our knowledge, Ben Franklin never played rugby. But he was an enthusiastic and accomplished athlete who enjoyed swimming the massive Delaware River for pleasure, and he loved chess so much that he carried one of the first tiny travelling chess sets with him everywhere. He not only invented a musical intrument, the “glass armonica,” but played violin, harp, and, yes, guitar.
4. Ben Franklin enjoyed a reputation as a rake even in his own time, though to our (and the best current historians’) knowledge he never was actually physically involved with any women beyond the unknown mother of his illegitimate son, William, whom he fathered as a very young man and raised conscientiously as part of his “legitimate” family, and his subsequent common-law wife, Deborah Read. Though he clearly enjoyed a good flirtation with a pretty young woman, and proposed after Deborah’s death to Madame Helvetius, the scientific prodigy and widow of the Swiss Ambassador to the French Court, there is no proof that Ben was actually intimately involved with any of the numerous women with whom his name was linked. One woman on this list was never linked with Ben Franklin, however, but with another American icon, George Washington: Sally Fairfax, wife of George’s best friend, George William Fairfax. Though George and Sally never “hooked up” in the modern sense, he loved her passionately and idealistically all his life.
5. This is a trick question. Benjamin Franklin held all these positions in effect, though his actual title for the postmaster position was “Deputy Postmaster General.” His colleague was a political appointee and Ben did all the actual work.
6. Ben Franklin’s mind ranged far and wide, and his diverse inventions are proof. But, though he designed the first dollar coin for the new United States, paper money (aka currency) was unheard of in Ben’s day. Though he appears on the hundred-dollar bill, he didn’t invent it. And, though Ben may have been the first to propose a version of Daylight Saving Time in a pamphlet, he was being sarcastic. The person who actually established it was William Willett, in 1907. Shocking (so to speak) but true, Ben didn’t invent electricity, either, since electricity is a natural phenomenon. What he did was discover that people could channel electricity, which led to the invention of the lightning rod and opened the door for all subsequent electrical inventions (such as the light bulb).
7. Ben “stars” in all these books and productions, with two exceptions: “M.A.S.H.” protagonist “Hawkeye” Pierce’s full name is Benjamin Franklin Pierce. And Nicholas Cage’s character in the “National Treasure” movies is named Benjamin Franklin Gates, who in the first movie follows clues left by Benjamin Franklin to solve the crime. Ben himself never appears in either series.
8. The correct answer is again “d,” the post office. Ben did an enormous amount to make the Colonial postal service viable, but he didn’t create the office.
9. Benjamin Franklin was the only American present for all four major events—the repeal of the Stamp Act, signing of the Declaration of Independence, signing of the Constitution, and signing of the Treaty of Paris (which ended the Revolutionary War). But Ben was old, and though he lived to see George Washington elected as America’s first President (and congratulated him wholeheartedly), he died on April 17, 1790 (aged 84), and was not well enough to attend the actual inauguration of Washington on April 30, 1789.
10. Your guess is as good as ours. Old Ben came up with so many famous sayings that it’s hard to pick just one. We think what matters is that, over two hundred years after his birth, so many of his sayings are still known by everyone. Talk about a great tribute!
We agree with those who call Benjamin Franklin “the first American.” We also agree that Ben would be one of the few Founders who’d be delighted to be alive today, doubtless blogging like us along with his numerous other activities. Happy birthday, Ben!!!
Creating a catchphrase. October 12, 2011Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ben Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, catch phrases, catchphrases, coining a catch phrase, Monty Python, Star Trek
Our friend Ben noticed that today, three people had come on our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, with the search-engine term (as WordPress calls it) “creating a catchphrase.” (WordPress, we love you, but please bear in mind that “term” is a single word, “phrase” more than one word. In terms of catchphrases —if you’ll pardon the pun—Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” would be a term, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be baaaack!” and Monty Python’s “It’s just resting,” from the famous Dead Parrot Sketch, are phrases.)
What is a catchphrase, anyway? To quote Wikipedia: “A catchphrase is a phrase or expression recognized by its repeated utterance. Such phrases often originate in popular culture or the arts, and typically spread through a variety of mass media (such as literature and publishing, motion pictures, television and radio), as well as word of mouth. Some catchphrases become the de facto ‘trademark’ of the person or character with whom they originated…”
Mr. Spock’s “Live long and prosper,” and “Beam me up, Scotty!” from the original “Star Trek” series, as well as Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s “Make it so” from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” are catchphrases. So are James Bond’s “The name’s Bond. James Bond” and “shaken, not stirred.” Yoda’s “Do or do not… there is no ‘try’” is a catchprhase, as is Dracula’s “I don’t drink…wine,” Seinfeld’s “Yadda yadda yadda,” and commercials’ enduring “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” and “Where’s the beef?!”
Our friend Ben’s favorite catchphrase is from that Western classic, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” when a thug is terrorizing Eli Wallach (“the ugly”) while he’s in a public bath. The guy drones on and on (and on) about how long he’s been waiting for this moment. etc.etc. Eventually, Eli Wallach pulls a gun out of the bubble bath, shoots the guy, and blandly remarks, “If you’re gonna shoot, shoot, don’t talk.” Words to live by!
Here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, we have dozens of catchphrases to choose from, courtesy of our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin. Whether your favorite Ben quote is “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” or “There never was a bad peace or a good war” or “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” old Ben had a bon mot for every occasion, and his sayings have stood the test of time.
If he could give you some timely advice for creating your own catchphrase, I think Dr. Franklin would say this:
- Keep it simple and memorable. If people can’t remember or understand your slogan, they won’t repeat it. “Better dead than Red” captures anti-Communist opposition memorably, as opposed to something like “I’m concerned that Communist regimes are opposing individuality and human rights, and I plan to oppose them.”
- Make people think, then make them remember. “Three men can keep a secret if two of them are dead” is a quote few of us are likely to forget. The drama Dr. Franklin put into this quote fixes it in our minds far more forcibly than “Most people can’t keep secrets; you shouldn’t trust them.”
- Bring everyone into the now. Telling people to live in the moment is all good and well, but giving them a catchphrase like “Be Here Now” can help them far more than providing a treatise on mindful living that requires a doctorate to comprehend. Ben Franklin believed in keeping it simple; so should we.
- Remind people that now is all there is. So much of human energy is spent on regretting the past and hoping for the future, yet our only reality is now, this moment.This isn’t an esoteric concept, it’s just the simple truth: Now is all we have, all our time is now, all the time we’ll ever have is now, so make the most of it. Dance now, sing now, paint now, learn a new language now, write now, play now, cook now, visit now. Later may never be an option.
So, what’s your catchphrase? Think on this and let us know!