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For the Record

Letter from Eddie Cantor to Groucho Marx, Jan. 9, 1964:

Dear Julius,

Since being inactive as a performer I’ve done quite a bit of scribbling. This is my fourth year writing a column for Diners’ Club Magazine.

Will you please send me as quick as you can two lines which have brought you the biggest laughs. I would appreciate it for my next column.

Gratefully,

Eddie

Groucho responded:

Dear Eddie:

Briefly (and quickly) the two biggest laughs that I can recall (other than my three marriages) were in a vaudeville act called “Home Again.”

One was when Zeppo came out from the wings and announced, ‘Dad, the garbage man is here.’ I replied, ‘Tell him we don’t want any.’

The other was when Chico shook hands with me and said, ‘I would like to say good-bye to your wife,’ and I said, ‘Who wouldn’t?’

Take care of yourself.

Regards,

Groucho Marx

Wool-Gathering

Siren Elise Wilhelmsen taught a clock to knit a scarf. The mechanism’s progress is reflected on its face, which functions as a 24-hour clock; it adds one stitch per hour and one segment per day, producing a wearable two-meter scarf in a year.

“What I wanted to show was the nature of time in a different way,” the Norwegian designer says. The clock does this in three ways: The unknitted skein represents time to come, the clock itself displays the current time, and the finished scarf represents time past.

A Gumshoe’s Library

Unused titles from Raymond Chandler’s notebooks:

The Man with the Shredded Ear
All Guns Are Loaded
The Man Who Loved the Rain
The Corpse Came in Person
The Porter Rose at Dawn
We All Liked Al
Too Late for Smiling
They Only Murdered Him Once
The Diary of a Loud Check Suit
Stop Screaming — It’s Me
Return from Ruin
Between Two Liars
The Lady with the Truck
They Still Come Honest
My Best to the Bride
Law Is Where You Buy It
Deceased When Last Seen
The Black-Eyed Blonde

Chandler delighted in titles. In a 1954 letter to Hamish Hamilton, he invented a “neglected author” named Aaron Klopstein who “committed suicide at the age of 33 in Greenwich Village by shooting himself with an Amazonian blow gun, having published two novels entitled Once More the Cicatrice and The Sea Gull Has No Friends, two volumes of poetry, The Hydraulic Face Lift and Cat Hairs in the Custard, one book of short stories called Twenty Inches of Monkey, and a book of critical essays entitled Shakespeare in Baby Talk.”

Winning Colors

The Ferrari 250 GTO has been called the top sports car of all time. Only 39 were manufactured, so they sell for as much as $35 million among collectors.

Chris Smart of Bishopstoke, Hampshire, couldn’t afford to buy one …

smart ferrari gto

… so he painted one on his garage door.

The Shooting Room

You’re about to play a game. A single person enters a room and two dice are rolled. If the result is double sixes, he is shot. Otherwise he leaves the room and nine new players enter. Again the dice are rolled, and if the result is double sixes, all nine are shot. If not, they leave and 90 new players enter.

And so on, the number of players increasing tenfold with each round. The game continues until double sixes are rolled and a group is executed, which is certain to happen eventually. The room is infinitely large, and there’s an infinite supply of players.

If you’re selected to enter the room, how worried should you be? Not particularly: Your chance of dying is only 1 in 36.

Later your mother learns that you entered the room. How worried should she be? Extremely: About 90 percent of the people who played this game were shot.

What does your mother know that you don’t? Or vice versa?

(Paul Bartha and Christopher Hitchcock, “The Shooting Room Paradox and Conditionalizing on Measurably Challenged Sets,” Synthese, March 1999)

(Thanks, Zach.)

In a Word

philologaster
n. an incompetent philologist

nitigram
n. a second-rate epigram

cacography
n. poor spelling

Gun Play

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Doublebarreledcannonathensgeorgia-I.jpg

This would have been deadly if it had worked: In 1862, Confederate private John Gilleland of Georgia’s Mitchell Thunderbolts designed a double-barreled cannon. Gilleland intended that the barrels would fire two balls connected by a chain that would “mow down the enemy somewhat as a scythe cuts wheat.”

Unfortunately he couldn’t devise a way to fire both muzzles at the same instant, so in testing the chain simply snapped and sent both balls off on unpredictable trajectories. The cannon was never used in battle, and today it’s displayed as a curiosity before the city hall in Athens, Ga.

Inside Job

I hope this is true — Charles Whitehead’s Lives and Exploits of English Highwaymen, Pirates, and Robbers (1883) recounts a notable heist by one Arthur Chambers. Chambers rented a room from a wealthy landlord, and after winning his confidence, approached him one day with the sad news that he had just witnessed the death of his brother, who had enjoined him to convey his remains to Westminster Abbey. The landlord, moved by Chambers’ story, agreed to safeguard the coffin overnight in his own house, and Chambers arranged to have it delivered there.

That artful rogue was, however, confined in the coffin, in which air holes had been made, the screw-nails left unfixed, his clothes all on, with a winding-sheet wrapped over them, and his face blanched with flour. All the family were now gone to bed, except the maid-servant. Chambers arose from his confinement, went down stairs to the kitchen wrapped in his winding-sheet, sat down, and stared the maid in the face, who, overwhelmed with fear, cried out, ‘A ghost! a ghost!’ and ran up-stairs to her master’s room, who chid her unreasonable fears, and requested her to return to bed and compose herself. She, however, obstinately refused, and remained in the room.

In a short time, however, in stalked the stately ghost, took his seat, and conferred a complete sweat and a mortal fright upon all three who were present. Retiring from his station when he deemed it convenient, he continued, by the moving of the doors, and the noise raised through the house, to conceal his design: in the mean time, he went down stairs, opened the doors to his accomplices, who assisted him in carrying off the plate, and every thing which could be removed, not even sparing the kitchen utensils.

“The maid was the first to venture from her room in the morning, and to inform her master and mistress of what had happened, who, more than the night before, chid her credulity in believing that a ghost could rob a house, or carry away any article out of it,” Whitehead writes. “In a little time, however, the landlord was induced to rise from his bed, and to move down stairs, and found, to his astonishment and chagrin, that the whole of his plate, and almost the whole of his moveables, were gone, for which he had only received in return an empty coffin.”

Black and White

http://books.google.com/books?id=FyUCAAAAYAAJ

By A.B. Arnold, from the 1859 problem tournament of the New York Clipper. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

“Adverbities of Eros”

Yesterday too little nevertheless
Thereupon notwithstanding everywhere
At that point next together the way that
Such as at length thus at the time as much as
Formerly less thither of yore
Here always in enough already near
Quite so sometimes almost a lot all right
Evermore such still within hard never
When hither wrongly once again
Forthwith gladly late in the day henceforth
Maybe drop by drop indeed all the way
Why face to face fast to be sure quasi
Immediately unhesitatingly
Thoughtlessly frontwards backwards squattingly
Non-stop post-haste suddenly from now on
In succession torrentially finally
Incessantly tomorrow emulously
Whereas along in turn now over there
Elsewhere today of course so there pell-mell
Outside there all of a sudden round about
No way in brief no better than so-so
Worse rather than better out worse and worse.

– Noël Arnaud