A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 17, 2011
“Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can”

Mark Twain (1825-1910) wrote in What Is Man? (1906), a dialogue between a young man and a jaded older man:

O. M.: “Well, canary birds can learn all that; dogs and elephants learn all sorts of wonderful things. They must surely be able to notice and to put things together, and say to themselves: ‘I get the idea now; when I do so and so, as per order, I am praised and fed; when I do differently, I am punished.’ Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a congressman can.”

Twain also criticized Congress when he wrote: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”


Wikipedia: Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called “the Great American Novel”, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to his older brother Orion’s newspaper. After toiling as a printer in various cities, he became a master riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, before heading west to join Orion. He was a failure at gold mining, so he next turned to journalism. While a reporter, he wrote a humorous story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which proved to be very popular and brought him nationwide attention. His travelogues were also well-received. Twain had found his calling.

He achieved great success as a writer and public speaker. His wit and satire earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.

However, he lacked financial acumen. Though he made a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he squandered it on various ventures, in particular the Paige Compositor, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. With the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, however, he eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain worked hard to ensure that all of his creditors were paid in full, even though his bankruptcy had relieved him of the legal responsibility.

Born during a visit by Halley’s Comet, he died on its return. He was lauded as the “greatest American humorist of his age”, and William Faulkner called Twain “the father of American literature”.

Wikipedia: What Is Man?
“What Is Man?”, published by Mark Twain in 1906, is a dialogue between a young man and an older man jaded to the world. It involves ideas of destiny and free will, as well as of psychological egoism. The Old Man asserted that the human being is merely a machine, and nothing more. The Young Man objects, and asks him to go into particulars and furnish his reasons for his position.

It is possible that this is one of Mark Twain’s satires, rather than an earnest outlay of his opinions about human nature. Though the serious tone of the work and the manner in which the character of the Old Man is presented seem to indicate otherwise. Issac Asimov possibly referred to this story in his short story called “That Thou Art Mindful of Him”. The title referres Psalm 8-4, the first part of which is What is Man, the title of a Samuels Clemens (Mark Twain) story where two persons talk about mankind, similarly to how two robots talk about the same subject at the end of Asimov’s story.

Google Books
What Is Man?
By Mark Twain
New York, NY: Printed at the De Vinne Press
1906
Pg. 106:
Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.

22 May 1910, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, “What Mark Twain Really Thought,” Plain Dealer Magazine, pg. 7, cols. 4-5:
O. M.: “Could you teach an idiot the manual of arms, and to advance, retreat and go through complex field maneuvers at the word of command?”
Y. M.: “Not if he were a thorough idiot.”
O. M.: “Well, canary birds can learn all that; dogs and elephants learn all sorts of wonderful things. They must surely be able to notice and to put things together, and say to themselves: ‘I get the idea now; when I do so and so, as per order, I am praised and fed; when I do differently, I am punished.’ Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a congressman can.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Monday, January 17, 2011 • Permalink


did not know that twain even used a printer? from what gen is he from? huck is so old..

Posted by color ink cartridge  on  06/20  at  06:25 AM

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