Mark Twain and the Jumping Frog (1865 November 18th)


Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was first published in the November 18,1865, edition of The New York Saturday Press, under the title “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.” The story is set in a gold-mining camp in Calaveras County, California, and has its roots in the legends of the Gold Rush era. It was one of Twain’s initial writings, and helped launch his reputation as a humorist. He eventually included it as the title story in his first collection of tales.

What is The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County About and Is It Really True or Fake?

How can we not care about a frog that jumps really high except when he is force-fed lead shot? But really, this tale proves to us the power of storytelling, and that just about anything can be fascinating, if it is told well (and with an accent).

When Mark Twain headed out to Nevada in 1861, hoping to strike it rich in the silver boom, he began writing for a newspaper called the Territorial Enterprise. There, he and his fellow “journalists” would create news sometimes (for kicks) and would try to make the most ludicrous circumstances seem like the “real” news to readers. They would have contests to see who could create the most absurd yet credible stories (source). Basically, they were pioneers in the “fake news media.”

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Is It A Tale of Deceit or Cleverness?

Though Jim Smiley seems to be extremely lucky, it is partly through his wily and cunning ways that he is able to win bets. He is finally outsmarted by a stranger, who beats him through dishonest. Nonetheless, the story poses a moral distinction between honest and fraudulent cleverness. It also shows that you don’t necessarily have to be educated and well spoken to be clever, nor is a good education a defense against getting fooled.

Although this story is full of messages about the differences between the West and the East, and about education, the main lesson is about the rules of fair play.

Though Jim Smiley “deceives” people by betting on his animals that don’t look like they can ever win, his dishonesty is innocent in contrast to the stranger’s. All gambling is an attempt to deceive, so Smiley’s opponents should know what they are getting into.  As the saying goes…all fair in love and war, and apparently frog jumping too.

Contrast Of Regions, ie He’s From Over There:

Though the eastern and western United States aren’t exactly contrasted in this short story, we do see a difference between the educated, refined narrator from the East (who also happens to be “green”) and the uneducated but slick characters who populate Angel’s mining camp in the West. The characters in the West love a good tall tale, while the narrator appears to find it pointless and tedious, but maybe that’s because he doesn’t get it

The Melting Pot Before There was a Melting Pot and The Merits of Foreigners.

Twain was exploring the idea of America’s strength resulting from its status as melting pot of various culture, histories and ideologies even before it was known as “pluralism.”. The story was published in 1865 and while immigrants had always been a vital constituent of American growth, the long lines at Ellis Island was still a very long way off. In revealing that the prejudices of both the East and West may be unjustified and in showing that the frontier Americans could be trusted with spreading the literal concept and the symbolic weight of America as a grand experiment in democracy, Twain’s story can be read as an allegory of the American melting pot. It takes all kinds and all kinds are going to be necessary to make this idea work across such an enormous expanse of geography, the story says. At a time when much of the East’s negative perception of those settling the frontier was informed by the very real possibility that much of that land might be lost to Mexicans, Indians or some foreign power, one can only assume that the optimistic name of the westerner who gets the better of the easterner was not chosen randomly.

Fraud Prevention Week (November 17th

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Time to question: It is International Fraud Awareness Week, or Fraud Week, November 17-23, 2019 was established by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in 2000 as a dedicated time to raise awareness about fraud.  I can not ignore the fact the idea of calling it “fraud week” seems a bit odd.  As the notion is to avoid fraud and not to promote it.

Any road, this week-long campaign inspires business leaders and employees to take steps to minimize the impact of fraud by promoting anti-fraud awareness and education.  Perhaps we can hope that the idea can be furthered in our government too.

Whether or not the anti-fraud movement expands to include our politics, we can at least hope for some good music.  You are invited to join us through the internet on FM 102.7 KRNN Juneau Public Media on Saturday, Nov.16h at 5 pm (Alaska time) our show of cheating, lying, and pretending songs.

(Note: live feed link








“So It Goes” and Kurt Vonnegut 1922 November 11th


Kurt Vonnegut, born on 1922 November 11th, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation.  He was known, but not famous, when he took a two-year teaching position at the University of Iowa.  The Writers’ Workshop would become known and so would Vonnegut.

The house on the Iowa campus (see above) would become a lighthouse for student writers and those who sought to teach them.  Among his rules for writers, Kurt Vonnegut counseled: “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.”

Vonnegut’s honesty, his willingness to scoff at assumed wisdom, is such that reading his work for the first time gives one the notion that everything else is rank hypocrisy. His opinion of human nature was dubious, and that low opinion applied to his heroes and his villains alike — he was continually disappointed in humanity and in himself, and he gave voice to that disappointment in a mixture of black humor and great despair. He could easily have become an old nutter, but he was too smart; he could have become a foolish clown, but there was something tender in his nature that he could never quite suppress; he could have become irrelevant, but even at his most despairing he had an endless willingness to entertain his readers.

Vonnegut’s tenure at the University of Iowa 1965 to 1967 was a wonderful time for the young writers on the Iowa City campus.  Also, it was a smashing time for rock music with multiple influences of the mid-1960’s being played on the radio.  Our playlist of songs from 1965 in tribute to Kurt Vonnegut at Iowa City (along with his quotes) is as follows:

Ferry Cross the Mersey – Stereo; 1997 Remaster
Gerry & The Pacemakers

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” —A Man Without A Country

I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie)     Stop! In The Name Of Love – Single Version
     Four Tops                                                        The Supremes

My Girl                                              Help Me, Rhonda – Remastered
      The Temptations                                          The Beach Boys

Tired of Waiting for You
The Kinks

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: ‘The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.’” —A Man Without A Country

Mr. Tambourine Man
The Byrds

Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag                      The Game Of Love
   James Brown & The Famous Flames                  Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders

Jolly Green Giant                       Seventh Son
      The Kingsmen                               Johnny Rivers

There is no order in the world around us, we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.” —Breakfast of Champions

Like a Rolling Stone
Bob Dylan

For Your Love              You’ve Got Your Troubles
The Yardbirds                         The Fortunes

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.”

Laugh Laugh
The Beau Brummels

She’s About A Mover – Re-recorded 1968          Shake
     Sir Douglas Quintet                                               Sam Cooke

Nowhere To Run – Single                              Love Potion Number Nine – Stereo Version
       Martha Reeves & The Vandellas                         The Searchers

 “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”———-A Man Without a Country

Hang On Sloopy
The McCoys

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place – UK Single              I Go to Pieces
        The Animals                                                                           Peter And Gordon

The Last Time – Mono                                  The Boy from New York City
       The Rolling Stones                                              The Ad Libs


I Like it Like That – 2019 – Remaster
The Dave Clark Five

Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow the Sun)         How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
         Del Shannon                                                               Marvin Gaye

Treat Her Right                                                       Shotgun
         Roy Head & The Traits                                            Jr. Walker & The All Stars

Science is magic that works.” —Cats Cradle

Do You Believe in Magic?
The Lovin’ Spoonful

Ticket To Ride – Remastered 2009                  Silhouettes
          The Beatles                                                             Herman’s Hermits

You Turn Me On                         The Birds And The Bees
          Ian Whitcomb                                        Jewel Akens

“That is my principal objection to life, I think: It’s too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.”  —Deadeye Dick

I’ll Never Find Another You
          The Seekers

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – Single           The Tracks Of My Tears – Single
        The Righteous Brothers                                          Smokey Robinson & The Miracles


Wooly Bully
             Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs