Good Advice?

     In our last thrilling episode. We considered those postcards of about 110 years ago which offered good advice suitable for use in New Year’s Resolutions.  There is,. Of course, a flip side.  Some of the advice given is worth exactly what the recipient of the card paid for it.

     For the moment, I am ignoring those bits of advice which seemed good at the time and have fallen under disapproval in the modern age.  (You’d be surprised how many romantic postcards used the captions “Never Take No for an Answer”.)  I’m looking at the advice that was a little off even at the time, BUT which was offered up as worldly wisdom (then, as now, some postcards offered you dumb advice knowing you would enjoy the dumbness.  These folks don’t get into this blog, either.)

     Let us take the card at the top of this column.  My problem here is not so much with the advice as with the phrasing.  I kinda get what he’s telling us but what, exactly, is a “pawned opportunity”  You borrowed money on it and left it in the shop?

     And explain this one, will you?  I hate it when people try to improve on an old saying by adding words to make it deeper.  “Every dog has its day” is rather encouraging, making you think that one of these days, it will be your turn.  This feller seems to want to put a little more burden on you, making sure you’re the right kind of dog for the right kind of day.  Or am I missing something here?

     This artist did the same thing.  “Money talks” is a fairly broad saying, explaining how the world works.  What’s going on here, though?  If money really talked, why would we need an ear trumpet (I will forgive him the typo).  What’s he telling us?  Is this one more admonition to be on our toes, so we will respond when money talks??  But doesn’t that still contradict….

     One of the most common bits of advice of the day was about maintaining a positive attitude.  This artist goes a little overboard about it AND adds in a little anti-union sentiment to make it even cheerier.  By the way, on the subject of that positive attitude….

     It can go a long way, but that better not be all you have in your arsenal./  yet, lots of cards and motivational plaques our ancestors revered told the viewer over and over that if you weren’t happy, it was obviously your fault.  You weren’t looking at your troubles as opportunities, you saw only the clouds and not the silver lining, you weren’t really fit to compete in the business world, where it was the positive, cheerful chaps who made their way through.

     In the late 1930s, Thorne Smith made a great deal of a businessman whose motto was “Smile and Chase the Depression Away”.  He mentions the man’s hardworking and unsmiling partners who, by might and main, managed to keep him from smiling the firm into bankruptcy.  I’m not saying it’s the grouches who are the main power in business.  I’m just reiterating what the poet wrote when he said that if you let a smile be your umbrella you’ll wind up soaking wet.

     There were some people who pointed these things out at the time, and at least there were some postcards which seemed to realize it wasn’t always easy to smile every day.  (This was another popular theme of the day: Smile every chance you get and laugh once in a while just for the sport of it.)

     But I have strayed into critiquing philosophies I just feel are too shallow.  Let’s get back into serious advice.  I haven’t decided yet whether this is just quaintness, or if the Dutch kids have stumbled onto a real nugget of worldly wisdom.  You try this and let me know how it works out.

     On the other hand, here’s this.  As fatuous a homily as one could wish. No shading, no discussion of the man, just what is expected of a GOOD woman.  Frankly, I think a little depends on the dog having his day and what kind of dog he is.  To whom, out of curiosity, do you send this kind of card?  Your daughter-in-law?  Your Aunt Booney, on the passing of her fourth husband?

     Well, if you found some nuggets here for your resolution list, well and good.  Let me know if you find out how to pawn an opportunity.

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