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Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Conning Tower

Franklin Pierce Adams was a giant in his day. Through the first four decades of the 20th Century, his initials were perhaps as well known as any other set, including TR and his nephew, FDR. He was a journalist and versifier, a translator of Horace, and a panelist on the radio quiz show, "Information, Please." He was also a cultivator of young comic talent, and his well-loved column, "The Conning Tower," showcased early writings by such writers as George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, Morrie Ryskind, and Ira Gershwin.

"The Conning Tower" was a kind of humorous miscellany. Readers contributed comic verse and jokes. FPA winnowed through the contributions and contributed his own verse, notes, jokes, and epigrams. He delighted in setting up the vaious tidbits in specials fonts and doted on its look. On Saturdays, he would recount his doings among the members of the Algonquin round Table in "The Diary of Our Own Samuel Pepys."

Long before the advent of blogging and the ubiquity of the Internet, I had among the list of Projects-I-Never-Got-Around-To the idea of reviving The Conning Tower. If I remember correctly (and I probably don't), I had thought of trying to market it to the ever shrinking number of local newspapers around the country, from the big city dailies to the small town weeklies. It never got done.

It has occurred to me, though, that this is an approach that blogging is probably perfectly suited for. Of the blogs currently of my ambit, only Phil Austin's Blog of the Unknown comes close to being this.

It would not be hard to do. I could set up a new blog called "The Conning Tower" (if that title is not already taken), contributors could e-mail me stuff, and I could compile it and publish it. I don't see this as being a daily event, but as an occasional group effort, I think it might be fun.

What do you think?

P.S. A Dialogue entitled, "WWJD":

Person: Rev. Robertson, what would Jesus do about Hugo Chavez?

Robertson: Whack him!


Robert G. Margolis said...


A revival of "The Conning Tower" would, I think, be a welcome relief from and alternative to the never-ending attempts in Trouble Town to revive the people's credulity in the "Lost Tower". (As you, I, and one or two other readers will remember, the "Lost Tower of Trouble Town", and its full-spectrum attack on "the facts", made its debut as an unknown on Phil's Blog.)

You once observed to me that (I near quote from memory) 'the future of radio is in its past'. Here, it seems to me, is another future whose future is in the past.

I for one would be pleased to be I for one.

Len said...


Thanks. It's great to have you onboard. I'm hoping for a couple of others as well.

I went and done it. The url is Send me any contributions and I'll start putting one together.

Anonymous said...

So what is the source of the word "conning?" Is it as in to "con" someone? Whenever I have a half-way entertaining thought I tend to post it on Phil's blog. I don't know if I have enough of such to contribute in two places- would posting the same thing at both smack of laziness? Or is that just syndication? I am reactionary, so maybe I can react to things I read on the con, which would only make sense there. In any event, I salute you!

Shortcut Trail

Len said...

Mr Trail:

Per Merriam Webster's Collegiate, a conning tower (1886) is defined as "a raised structure on the deck of a submarine used esp. formerly for navigation and attack direction." what that has to do with the price of milk, I have no idea.

To be honest, I'm planning on recycling huge bunches of things I've written on the Blog of the Unknown. Well, maybe not bunches, but a couple of things. All that's worth resurrecting. I encourage you to do the same.

I'll get the link to The Blog of the Unknown up in the next couple of days. I want people to know the connection. The difference, I feel is that Phil's Blog is mainly improvisatory, while The Conning Tower will have a greater feel of having been composed. (Or decomposed, in the case of my scratchings.)

It's also an experiment in the idea of the blog, again like the Blog of the Unknown. What is this thing and how can it be used? Are there possibilites for it other than just for political screeds and personal confessionals? Will it withstand some literary deadweight? Who knows? The whole thing might turn out to be a disaster, but it might be fun along the way.

And you remind me: I need to bother Phil for a contribution or two. He might just do it.

Or reuse something he's already put on The Blog of the Unknown.

Connie Mack