Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sudoku Sunday

Complete the grid so that each row, column, and 3-by-3 framed block contains the letters P A R K B E N C H (only once) RATED HARD

Friday, April 29, 2011

Important Message for Those Entering the Benchley Writing Competition

The deadline for entering the 2011 Robert Benchley Society Annual Humor Writing Award Competition is Sunday, May 1st. Entries have been coming in and I have been acknowledging them as they arrive. Over the weekend of April 30th and May 1st, I shall have long stretches of time when I am not at my computer to acknowledge receipt of entries, and, if this year is similar to prior years, many entries will be submitted in the final 48 hours, so that when I do have an opportunity to process them, there may be a "backlog" causing further delays. If you submit and do not get prompt acknowledgement, DO NOT WORRY. Your PayPal receipt and your e-mail with the submission attached will be proof of timely submittal.

I regret if not hearing from me immediately creates any anxiety. Goodness knows there's enough to be anxious about in this world already. Speaking for myself, I nearly had to be hospitalized fretting over the President's place of birth, whether Kate Middleton's dress might disappoint with tragic consequences for the fashion world, and what would happen if the local liquor store ran out of Bourbon for Kentucky Derby Day juleps next Saturday.

Nothing to Do with Baseball: On Writing

Sports writer Steven Goldman asks the question, "Is it possible to love your hero even more on the basis of reading an old letter?" in this posting on his blog Pinstripe Bible, read it at By the way, I didn't have an illustration of base ball, which explains why this story is accompanied by an illustration of basket ball. And I believe I speak for all of us when I say we are pulling for the American League to win the Super Bowl this fall.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

RBS Second-Hand Smoke Policy

In response to ongoing current concerns about second-hand tobacco smoke at public events, the Robert Benchley Society has adopted the following SECOND-HAND SMOKE POLICY to be observed at all meetings of the RBS:
"The Robert Benchley Society does not tolerate second-hand smoke at Society events. If you want to inhale tobacco smoke, bring your own smokes and enjoy Lady Nicotine first-hand. If you really want to get on our good side, bring a few extra to share."
We trust this POLICY will alleviate any concerns about SECOND-HAND SMOKE at RBS events.

One of these days I have got to go and see a doctor about my cigarette smoking. I am slowly but surely losing the knack. --Robert Benchley, from "Experience Meeting" (My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew, 1936)

Don't Miss May 1st Deadline for Entries: Mark Russell Could be Reading YOU!

The Robert Benchley Society is proud to welcome national humorist and entertainer MARK RUSSELL, who has agreed to serve as finalist judge for our 2011 Robert Benchley Society Award For Humor Writing competition.

Mark Russell's topical and political humor and music parodies have pleased us all for more than three decades in personal performances, television shows, and radio broadcasts.

The deadline to enter the 2011 Robert Benchley Society Annual Award for Humor Writing Competition is May 1, 2011. For more details visit our website

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Benchley "Around the World Backwords, Sideways," Fast-forward, and on Pause

This inquiry came in this morning:
My uncle was a Scot who went to America in the 1920s and became Dean of the Chapel at Duke. He regularly sent my parents [American books] and I grew up in the '50s with Chips off the Old Benchley. Since then I've added to my Benchley collection but am most frustrated that the DVDs of his shorts are only available in Region 1 format whereas Europe uses 2. I actually have the book The "Reel" Benchley but wondered if you wondered if you or any of your members knew if the DVD was otherwise available or indeed if pace its format it can play here (as some 1s can). If you could answer this I'd be most grateful. Many thanks, [Name withheld]

Thanks to Gordon Ernst, Eileen Forster Keck, and Eileen Mitchell, who all responded remarkably quickly (and clearly have too much time on their hands), we have the answer.

Thirty Benchley short subjects are available on DVDs that work in all regions at Amazon at this link Also, his film "I Married A Witch" is available for Region 2.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Robert Benchley "My Favorite New Yorker" Says Style Guy Glenn O'Brien

GQ writer Glenn O'Brien in a recent interview cited "Robert Benchley, the great Algonquin Round Table figure and New Yorker humorist who went on to write in Hollywood and have an acting career as a curmudgeon" as his favorite New Yorker, and aded "I love his resigned but noble sense of humor in the face of mass societal stupidity." Read the interview in New York magazine at

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sudoku Sunday

Complete the grid so that each row, column, and 3-by-3 framed block contains the letters P A R K B E N C H (only once) RATED EASY

Friday, April 22, 2011

Know All Men by These Presents...

Thanks go out to Chris Morgan of the Boston "We've Come for the Davenport Chapter" of the Robert Benchley Society, who, with assistance from RBS Director Eileen Keck, designed our new membership cards and certificates which will be mailed today to dues-paying members of the Society. Mr. Morgan also donated the supplies and labor for the creation of the cards and certificates. The art work was provided by Horace Digby of the Longwood, Wash., "We Only Came to See if There Really is an Award" Chapter of the Society.

RBS Member Nominated by the NSNC

As you know, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists ("NSNC") is having its “Rebound in Motown” Conference in Detroit, June 23-26, 2011. Many exciting announcements are planned for the event, including the Columnist of the Year Award going to W. Bruce Cameron, winner of the 2006 Robert Benchley Humor Writing Award and author of the 2010 blockbuster A Dog’s Purpose, which is being made into a film by Dreamworks.

I was delighted to be notified by the NSNC that I have been nominated for Membership Chair. Elections will take place at the Conference: Announcement.
I am honored and looking forward to serving on the Board of Directors.

The Robert Benchley Society Ann Arbor Chapter “A Moderate State of Preservation,” is organizing a gathering during the NSNC Conference. Tom Saunders will provide details to the attendees.

Please join us in Detroit for an exciting weekend! --Rose Valenta

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mary Jane Eramian, 1936-2011

Those of you who attended the 2010 Robert Benchley Society International Annual Gathering in Boston last July may recall meeting Mary Jane Eramian (a.k.a. "Mary Millis"). Mary was born March 27, 1936 and died January 26, 2011. Mary was a poetess and photographer and her books of inspirational verse and beautiful images were a source of pleasure to her many friends in and around the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston where she lived.

Rose Valenta, authoress of Rosie's Renegade Humor Blog, met Mary at that Benchley event last summer and over a leisurely luncheon got to know her. Rose describes that pleasant afternoon with Mary in "Off the Beaten Path - Boston’s Touch of Class: Poet Mary Millis" a blog posting you may read by clicking on

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

This just in from the University of Dayton--
Today, April 19, we are exactly one year away from the kick-off of the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, which means we in Dayton have more work ahead of us than William and Kate. (They have an army of servants and subjects, right?) The fun part is that we get to laugh all of the way through it. Putting together this issue of the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop newsletter, for example, I got to:

You can have the same fun here, plus read advice from fellow authors and the latest publishing news:

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to be a Book Appraiser

This inquiry came in today:
Can you advise me of anyone who could appraise my collection of Robert Benchley?

To which Gordon Ernst responded:
The first name that comes to mind is James Pepper Rare Books. He handles a good number of signed Benchley books and manuscripts.

You might also contact Boston University which has a collection of Benchley material.

Thurber House is Pleased to Announce a One-Day Master Class with Columbus Dispatch Columnist Joe Blundo!

The man behind the beloved column, "So to Speak," will lead a master class in humor and column writing for a limited number of enrollees in this special Thurber House Adult Writing Workshop!
Date: Saturday, May 21, 2011
Time: 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Location: Thurber Center, 91 Jefferson Ave. Columbus, OH 43215
Price: Non-refundable $75 (a $1.50 processing fee will be added if paying by credit card or PayPal)

Enrollment is on a first-come, first served basis, and is limited to 25 students. You must be 18 to participate. Deadline for registration is Tuesday, May 17, 2011.

For more information click on

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Register Now and Beat the May 1st Price Increase for Benchley Soc. Annual Gathering

The Eighth Annual Gathering of the Robert Benchley Society will be Friday through Sunday, November 11-13, 2011, in Washington, D.C.

The main event will be the Saturday, November 12, 2011, Annual Humor Awards Dinner will be held at the University Club of Washington, D.C. At this event we'll be giving out two Robert Benchley Society Awards for Humor. Mike Tuck of Eden Prairie, Minn., will be presented with the 2010 Robert Benchley Award for Humor for his essay Story Time with the Children. At this ceremony we'll also honor the winner of the 2011 competion (which is ongoing with a submission deadline of May 1) Our 2011 celebrity judge of the competition Mark Russell is a member of the University Club where we'll hold the ceremony.

For more information and to register go to

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sudoku Sunday

Complete the grid so that each row, column, and 3-by-3 framed block contains the letters P A R K B E N C H (only once)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thurber Cartoon Caption-writing Contest

This just in from Thurber House:

For this year’s Thurber Treat, writers are asked to pick one from a predetermined group of Thurber cartoons, create a caption for that cartoon, and then elaborate on the caption with a funny story, limited to 1000 words. The three winning authors will be guests of Thurber House for dinner at the Wednesday, June 8 Summer Literary Picnic, and will read their sage or silly entries.

Submissions are due no later than Friday, May 27, by 5:00 p.m.

More information at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Mention in Australian Dispatches.

The newspaper, "The Weekend Australian" had an article on the 9th April, about best travel experiences.
The traveller, Kaye Fallick, author and publisher of a website for mature travellers, was asked various questions,
Stand out bar experience?
The Round Table Room bar at the Algonquin Hotel, on West 44th Street, New York for the the best whisky sour.
I'll put it on my bucket list.

Boston Benchley Chapter Gathers to View Benchley Short Subjects

The Boston "We've Come for the Davenport" Chapter of the Robert Benchley Society gathered on Saturday afternoon April 9th, for a visit to the Boston Athenaeum to see the "Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey" exhibit, followed by viewing of several Benchley short subjects ("How to Figure Income Tax," "How to Sleep" "How to Sub-Let," "Music Made Simple," "Opening Day," and "Music Made Simple") in the church hall of The Church on the Hill (Swedenborgian). Present for the festivities were Sharon Clarke, Jimmy and Eileen Keck, Jim and Lisa Micali, Christopher Morgan, David and Mary Trumbull, Larry Stelmack, and Jean Wilson.
After the films some of the members repaired to David and Mary's Beacon Hill home for 1930s through 1960s show tune sing-along with Chris on the piano.

REMINDER. If you have not already paid your membership dues in the Robert Benchley Society please do so now. Our membership year runs from April 1st through March 31. You may pay online at Dues are a low $10 per year and one payment covers up to two persons at the same address.

ALSO, REMEMBER to sign up for the free RBS news blog at and on our Facebook page. Plans for the next We've come for the Davenport Chapter will be announced at those two locations.

DISCLAIMER. The Robert Benchley Society assumes no responsibility for any loss, trauma, or mental stress arising from attendance at Society events. This declaimer of responsibilty includes, but is not limited to, bodily injury, memory loss, loss of consortium, or hangover.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sunday Sudoku

Complete the grid so that each row, column, and 3-by-3 framed block contains the letters P A R K B E N C H (only once)

The Drum Major Instinct Demystified

The Algonquin Hotel in NYC, is famous for the Algonquin Round Table mural painted by Natalie Ascencios, which depicts "the Vicious Circle" of columnists, playwrights, and novelists; such as, Franklin Pierce Adams, Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Robert E. Sherwood, John Peter Toohey, and Alexander Woollcott, who conducted important business in the Rose Room. Much of the agenda focused on the proper combination of gin mixed with vermouth and olives, and how to hail a cab.

Members of the vicious circle were immortalized in Aviva Slesin’s Academy Award-winning documentary, The Ten Year Lunch; lunches that spanned from 1919 to 1929. The New Yorker Magazine was born at the Algonquin, Orson Wells honeymooned there, William Faulkner wrote the first draft of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech there, composers Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner created songs there for “Brigadoon” and “My Fair Lady;” and yet, taking the bull by the horns to hail a cab was still a matter of concern.

In other words, “We call ourselves a free nation, and yet we let ourselves be told what cabs we can and can't take by a man at a hotel door, simply because he has a drum major's uniform on.” ~ Robert Benchley

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Boston Benchley Round-up Saturday

The Boston "We've Come for the Davenport" Chapter of the Robert Benchley Society will gather on Saturday afternoon April 9th, all are welcome. The program will begin at 2:00 p.m. with a visit to the Boston Athenaeum to see the "Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey" exhibit. Admission is free for Athenaeum members; $5.00 for non-members. Then at 3:30 p.m. we'll walk around the corner to The Church on the Hill (140 Bowdoin Street) where we have arranged for a room with large screen TV to watch a Benchley movie followed by pot-luck dinner.

If you are interested in attending contact David Trumbull at

The Robert Benchley Society was founded in Boston in 2003. Robert Benchley (1889-1945) was an American humorist in print, in the movies, and on radio. He is best know as one of the founders of the 1920s "Algonquin Round Table" wits in New York. Benchley, who was born in Worcester, attended Harvard College before making his name in New York and Hollywood. The Society has grown to have local chapters in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Ann Arbor, Mich., and Longview, Washington, as well as members in several other states, Canada, Mexico, France, and Australia.

The Boston Chapter took its name "We've Come for the Davenport" from a college prank played by Mr. Benchley on Beacon Hill about one hundred years ago. According to Mr. Benchley's son, Nathaniel, Robert Benchley and a fellow Harvard student knocked on the door of a randomly chosen house on Louisburg Square and told the maid who answered, "We've come for the davenport." When the maid said she knew nothing about the matter, Benchley pointed to a davenport in the hall, said that must be the one, and with that the two college men carried out the davenport, knocked on another randomly chosen door and announced, "We've brought the davenport," leaving the sofa with an equally confused maid at the second house and leaving the families at both houses to try to sort out it out later.

Among the activities of the Society is the Annual Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor Writing. The deadline for submissions for this year's competition is May 1st. Our celebrity judge this year is Mark Russell, whose topical and political humor and music parodies, have pleased us all for more than three decades in personal performances, television shows, and radio broadcasts. For more information about the competition or to enter, go to the Society website

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'Ask That Man'

With summer approaching, I thought about all the men with wives, who insist that they ask for directions while traveling. You know them by virtue of insanity. There you sit in the front seat of the car with a road atlas carefully highlighted in yellow by yours truly - a task that you tediously performed the evening before departure. Your entire route is brightly highlighted, including pit stops along the way. You have, against better judgment, designated your wife as "navigator," so that you can stay focused on the friendly game of road rage that looms ahead… and she still wants you to ask for directions from a stranger.

I take you back to Robert Benchley's 1923 short story "Ask That Man" via an article in the Chicago Tribune, which describes how Mr. Benchley successfully broke his wife of the habit:

Do What You Think is Best

Be prepared!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Sudoku

Complete the grid so that each row, column, and 3-by-3 framed block contains the letters P A R K B E N C H (only once)

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Fables of Leonardo da Vinci

The Fables of Leonardo da Vinci is a small collection of fables created from notations for fables and half-finished fable ideas found in the back of Leonardo's famous notebooks. The collection teaches how little stories can drive home insightful human ironies, while displaying a bit of the literary thought-processes of the great genius. The book is also a delightful way to introduce children to Da Vinci and the Renaissance. One-of-a-kind, this book may be considered the first volume of da Vinci’s fiction. It is an attempt to reveal something of his inner moral core through his fable ideas, those celebrating such virtues as humility, self-sacrifice and egalitarianism; and those deploring pretension, pomposity and dogmatism. The writing and the illustrations have been done in a style fitting the period in which Leonardo lived.

Published March, 2011 by Roseheart Publishing, USA.

Author: Ed Tasca is an award-winning humor writer and novelist, and a student of da Vinci’s extraordinary life. This little book of fables is a homage to that writing genre, offering readers of every age a taste of the simplicity and clarity of one of man’s oldest and most revered forms of fiction writing. Author’s email:

About Leonardo da Vinci: Leonardo had mastered virtually all the known arts, sciences and engineering principles of his time (the High Renaissance – a period roughly between 1450 and 1550), without having had a formal education. If one could find one individual who represented the beginning of the modern intellectual world, it would be Leonardo da Vinci.

ISBN number: 978 0 9845470 8 9
Price: $12.95. Available on all online booksellers and from Roseheart Publishing.Order information: Direct Orders:

For more information see this promotional flier.

"The only other person to hold that distinction was humorist Robert Benchley in 1912."

To learn the name of the other person and what distinction is referred to click here to read the article on

W. Bruce Cameron Named Columnist of the Year by Newspaper Columnists Soc.

Syndicated columnist W. Bruce Cameron has been named 2011 Columnist of the Year by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. The full story is available HERE.

Above, 2005 Robert Benchley Humor Writing Award Winner Horace Digby Presents W. Bruce Cameron with the 2006 Benchley Humor Award at a Ceremony in Los Angeles.
In 2006 Bruce was chosen by Dave Barry as First Place Winner in the Annual Robert Benchley Society Humor Writing Competition for his essay Golf for the First Time.

The 2011 Benchley humor competition is open for entry now through April 30th. Our judge this year is Mark Russell whose topical and political humor and music parodies, have pleased us all for more than three decades in personal performances, television shows, and radio broadcasts. Mark Russell's own website is at For more information or to enter CLICK HERE.

BlogTalkRadio Interview Tonight at 7:00 PM

Yes, the newspaper headline in the cartoon reads "Limbaugh Elected." That's when I fell in. But that isn't the announcement.
Tonight, I have a BlogTalkRadio interview scheduled with Giovanni Gelati at 7:00 PM EDST. Giovanni publishes the popular Gelati’s Scoop and my book is among the “Top 25 Self-Published Books for 2010” on his website. We will be discussing humor, writing, and my book - Sitting on Cold Porcelain. Click here for details - Gelati's Scoop on BlogTalkRadio
Please curl up with a dry martini and tune in.

And his portrayal of an embarrassed ignoramus, commenting on classical music in inane non sequiturs, harks back to Robert Benchley.

Read the rest in The Wit and Wisdom of Barack Obama
by Paul Shlichta in The American Thinker.

Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

The following column appears in today's edition of the (Boston) Post-Gazette newspaper.

Res Publica - Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink
by David Trumbull - April 1, 2011

Some Boston residents are resisting the city’s latest drinking water conservation measures, especially the proposed tap-by-tap monitoring of individual water consumption, claiming this is an unwarranted and possibly unconstitutional invasion of privacy.

The new water restrictions can be traced back to the May 2010 water main rupture that left Boston with no drinking water for a few days. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (“MWRA”) fixed the problem and conducted a thorough inspection of the system. What they found was alarming, especially for City of Boston residents. While last year’s leak was in Weston, it was actually here in Boston that the inspection revealed the most weakness and potential faults. The situation was so bad that the MWRA was forced to undertake substantial unscheduled maintenance and repair work in Boston and now those cost are being passed on to Boston municipal government—at a time when City Hall does not have the money to cover these additional fees and must pass them on to the residents.

As we found during last year’s “boil water” emergency, there was no shortage of clean water for purposes other than drinking or food preparation—the problem was in getting enough water that had undergone the additional steps to make it safe for drinking. The same thing applies now. It is specifically drinking water than the city will be paying more for, and that cost must be recovered from the citizens.

Here’s how the new system will work, according to a press release from the mayor’s Office of Citizen Outreach and Public Service:

o In restaurants, in addition to the 6.25 percent meals tax, a three cent per fluid ounce “Safe Drinking Water Special Assessment” will be charged, so that an 8-ounce glass of water will have a 24 cent water tax. For a family of four that’s an additional buck on your bill. The tax will apply to bottled water as well even though that does not come from the MWRA and costs the city nothing. “Those the bottles themselves are a strain on our recycling system, therefore they will be taxed the same as tap water so that people will not switch to bottled water to avoid the tax,” said city spokesperson, Bill Wetmore.

o Particularly hard hit will be Starbucks and shops where coffee or tea is the primary beverage sold. “Those coffee shops use a lot of drinking water,” said Wetmore, “and coffee, being a natural diuretic, rather than replenishing bodily fluids, actually dries you out so you need even more water,” he continued, explaining why, in the case of coffee and tea the tax will be doubled to six cents per ounce. That means that on a Starbucks “Venti” (20 ounces of java) the additional tax will be $1.20.

o In schools, hospitals, and offices in Boston one half of the total number of drinking fountains or bubblers in the building will be disconnected or drained of water. The idea is “out of sight, out of mind” – if there are fewer drinking fountains available perhaps people won’t think so often about getting a drink of water.

o As mentioned earlier, the most controversial step is the individual tap monitoring of water usage by Boston households. Water usage is currently metered and residents get quarterly bills from the city for water, but that measures all water consumption in a household, not just drinking water. Under the new measures, workers from the Department of Hydration Regulation and city’s Healthy Housing Initiative will enter every residence in the city and attach meters to every drinking water tap. Some residents are opposed and have said they do not want to let the city workers in, but the administration is insisting that all homes, apartments, and condos must get the new meters and that workers will enter by force if necessary. The city’s chief legal council says that this is constitutional and warrants are not required as the workers have been strictly instructed to ignore and not report any illegal or questionable activities they may happen to see while installing the meters. “There’s no issue of illegal search or seizure,” said city attorney William (“Bill”) Drinkwater, “nothing will be search or seized, just the installing of some necessary plumbing.”

Some citizens are highly critical, even outraged, at the mayor’s proposal to use the household water tap metering data to shame the city’s “guzzlers.” Billboards in each neighborhood will identify, on a per capita basis the household that drink the most water. Not all residents oppose. For example the Reverend Phil M. Upton of Sts. Judy and Liza Episcopal Church jokingly said, I just follow the advice of the Bible at 1 Timothy 5:23 – “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.” But it is fair to say that opponents outnumber the supporters of the new drinking water conservation measures.

The backlash has even generated a new grass-roots political organization, the Beer and Wine Party, which is similar to the TEA Party only with a vow to avoid water and all beverages, such as tea, brewed with water, until the mayor backs down from his plans. Now if you think that is ridiculous, check the date of this newspaper.

Robert Benchley Society

For more information about the Robert Benchley Society, local chapters near you, our annual Award for Humor, and our Annual Gathering, visit The RBS Website