I don’t remember where I got the strange book, although The Speaker’s Desk Book, edited by Martha Lupton and first copyrighted in 1937, is stamped with a law school library’s name. It has three sections: Sparklers Anecdotes, and Jewels of Thought. The first section consists of aphorisms grouped under alphabetical headings, such as Business, Marriage, and Revenge. Only a fraction of the pithiness is ascribed to anyone. The section contains a variety of supposed wisdom. For example: “Business won’t come back; you’ll have to go after it.” “Marriage is a state of antagonistic cooperation.—Schlossberg.” “The rocks we hold to throw at our neighbor have a way of getting into our own pillows.”

The Jewels are paragraphs or pages with the authors listed that seem to be a random collection of thoughts on diverse topics, including “Work!” and “Calamaties.”

The most intriguing to me, however, are the 1187 anecdotes which are preceded by a guide for their use. The guide says that the general topic index “should suggest many possibilities to the experienced speaker.” If talking about “courtesy,” look it up in the nearly 500 headings and there are twenty courtesy anecdotes listed. “Another helpful practice is that of grouping stories by race, or nationality such as Jewish, Irish, Scotch, Negro, etc. This aids the speaker who has a preference for dialects.” There are six “Italian stories,” five times that for “Jewish stories,” and even more for the Irish, but only one listed under “Japanese stories.” However, when a speaker really needed something, he could go to the more than one hundred “Negro stories.” The anecdotes, the compiler must have thought, would elicit a laugh or a chuckle from the audience, or at least a smile. Maybe back then they did, and that is frightening. Almost none is funny, and the ethnic “anecdotes” are overwhelmingly cringeworthy. The book makes me despair about our past, but it gives me a bit of optimism that our world has changed at least somewhat for the better.

Elon Musk is an immigrant.

A wise person said: “The remarkable thing is not the money makes fools of great people but that it makes great people of fools.”

He was sitting across from me on the subway. About 45 wearing a trendy jacket, a trendy spiky haircut that should have been too young for him, but he pulled off. He looked a little bit like Elon Musk. He was reading through trendy glasses with almost red frames. Unlike most who read on the subways these days, he was reading a paperback, not on his phone. It was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, a marvelous book. His lips moved while he read.

I am old enough to remember when mothers made their kids’ Halloween costumes.

I had an interesting dinner conversation about whether parents should distribute money equally to their children or give more to those who have the greatest need. No consensus. What do you think?


Narcissus was too perfect for sex or pelf—

He longed only to gaze in love at himself . . .

The moral of which is that, even in myths,

Too much reflection may be your nemesis.

                    Kenneth Leonhardt

I can’t get beyond the beginning of my new poem. Maybe somebody can advance it:

Tucker Carlson, Tucker Carlson/ Of smirk and rolling eyes.

Republicans’ new epithet is “grooming.” I was surprised that the conservatives were taking on the Catholic church.

Australians must be different from us. I am watching a Netflix series from down under, and many of the scenes take place in modern homes featuring glass walls. There is never a handprint or other kind of smudge on the surfaces.

The Supreme Court recently heard a case concerning a high school football coach who would kneel at the fifty-yard line after the game and pray out loud. That reminded me of my not-stellar days on the junior varsity high school basketball team when Johnny M. asked our coach if we could pray before the game. I was too timid to object and no one else did either, and the coach okayed it. No one was willing to lead the prayer, so someone suggested the Lord’s Prayer. (There were no Jews and certainly no Muslims, Buddhists, or “others” among the twelve of us.) Before the next game, we said it, and I learned about religious differences as I think others did. We now realized that Catholics had a different version of the prayer from the rest of us–it seemed to end abruptly–and the Protestants’ versions also varied depending on what translation of the Bible the denomination used. It made all of us feel awkward. We did not pray before other games.

I feel better now because I heard it is harder to kidnap overweight old people.

I opened a Twitter account because I read a report of a tweet I wanted to read. Since then I have not used the account. I have never tweeted. I am wondering if Twitter is important in shaping views, or is it merely an entertainment and only reinforces what is already believed?

Conservatives have rejoiced that Elon Musk is purchasing Twitter. They say they believe in free speech and want an open forum, which they believe Musk will bring to Twitter. At the same time, conservatives are punishing Disney for exercising its free speech rights. Go figure.

Luther: “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear the scorn.” Thomas More: “The devil . . . the prowde spirit . . . cannot endure to be mocked.” Quoted in C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

I liked the platform of a failed politician. He wanted to remove nationalism from the names of cheeses.