Read an excerpt from "Blood Canticle":
Kids in school love true-or-false tests because they have a 50–50 chance of being right even if they haven't studied at all. Teachers like them because they're easy to correct. Tonight, I thought we'd have a little true-or-false test of our own, just for fun.
1. First question: "President Reagan was never nominated for an Academy Award." True or false? True, he never was. He's probably a better President than he was an actor.
2. "There's no business like show business." True or false? True, but there's no business like the insurance business or the used car business, either.
3. "Hamlet is the name of a small town in Iowa." False.
4. "Things will probably get worse." True.
5. "Houston, Texas, is bigger than Dallas." True, although a lot of people don't think so because there's no television show called Houston.
6. "There are 5,280 yards in a mile." False. There are 5,280 yards in three miles.
7. "The average Russian lives longer than the average American." True or false? False. Living in Russia, it just seems longer.
8. "The square root of the hypotenuse seldom comes up in real life." True, it seldom does.
9. "Abortion, gun control, nuclear energy and school prayer are three subjects to stay away from when talking with friends." False. They're four subjects to stay away from talking with anyone.
10. "A penny post card now costs 10¢." True or false? False. A penny post card used to cost 10¢. Now one costs 13¢.
11. "Students don't write English sentences as well as they once did because of television." True or false? False. Students don't write as well as they used to because of true-or-false tests.
So that's our little true-or-false test. If you got all the answers correct, you've got a warped mind.
Do you know the two biggest best-sellers in bookstores year after year?
Number one is cookbooks. Cookbooks outsell everything else in a bookstore.
Number two best-seller year after year? Diet books. How not to eat what you've just learned how to cook.
We picked a collection up in bookstores. I brought in from home. But these are just a few of the books that are available. Fanny Farmer and The Joy of Cooking are the American favorites.
Americans aren't really very good cooks, considering that they have the best ingredients to start with. We spend millions of dollars a year on cookbooks, and then we go home and open a jar of Aunt Millie's spaghetti sauce for dinner. I think we always have the idea that someone else's cookbook will save us: Italian, Japanese, Chinese, German. The Germans cook about as well as the British.
Take Betty Crocker's International Cookbook. Betty is one of those non-existent people.
It's hard to make things look the way they make them look in the cookbooks, isn't it? The pictures always look so great.
Then there are the all-time classics: Larousse Gastronomique and Escoffier. You really have to know how to cook to use these.
Julia Child couldn't get everything she knows in one book. Hers comes in two volumes. Good book, though. I like Julia. She assumes you aren't an idiot in the kitchen, even though you may be.
I also have a theory that the only people who should use cookbooks are people who already know how to cook. If you have to have a cookbook, you're in big trouble.
The best way to use a cookbook, I think, is just for incidental reading. Don't read it in the kitchen, when you're cooking; read it in the living room, in front of the television set, something like that. I keep a cookbook by my bed and often read one for ten or fifteen minutes before I fall asleep.
I love the idea of space exploration. I guess I'd rather see the government waste money on space exploration than on just about anything else there is. I suppose all of you watched the spaceship Columbia land Tuesday. It's always exciting. Makes us proud to be Americans.
There is a problem, though. Pretty soon I think they've got to let us in on exactly what it is they're looking for out there. We all knew what they were doing thirteen years ago when they went to the moon. They were trying to find out what the moon was made of.
NEIL ARMSTRONG (stepping onto the moon): One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.
ROONEY: That landing on the moon in 1969 was one of the single most exciting events in the whole history of the world.
PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON (on phone to astronauts on moon): For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives. And for people all over the world.
ROONEY: It's as if we had pictures of Christopher Columbus discovering America. The moon, of course, turned out to be one big dull rock. Cost us $25 billion to get there, and no one's been back in ten years. Most of us would rather see them go back to the moon, I think, than do what they're doing now. Maybe build something up there that we could see from down here. McDonald's, something like that—anything American.
I think we're beginning to look for practical results from our space shots. Tell us we'll be able to spy on the Russians—look right through the Kremlin windows. That's what we want to hear. We want someone up there looking down who can catch the guy breaking into our house. Maybe they could find some wonderful new place out there for us to go on summer vacation. We wouldn't even mind if they figured a way to get some of that speed into the trip to Chicago.
Americans are practical people. They don't care what effect orbiting the earth has on a ballpoint pen. This last trip they said they wanted to find out what effect the sun would have on the tail end of a spaceship. That isn't good enough, NASA. For this kind of money, we expect you to find out things like how many miles outer space goes; and if it ever ends, what's just beyond there. The space program's been getting a little vague since Walter Cronkite dropped out of it.
At the end of every television broadcast, the names of the people who worked on it are listed. Why, you may ask yourself sometimes, would so many people want to take credit for such a bad show? Well, it's just like what's happened to the dollar. Credits in television suffer from inflation. There are more of them and they aren't worth what they used to be, even on the good shows. It used to be a television broadcast had a producer, a writer and a director. Now a show can have something like this:
SENIOR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
He doesn't do anything. If the show is being done in New York, he flies to Los Angeles a lot. And if the show is being done in L.A., he's always having to go to New York.
He's worked for the company a long time, and they gave him the title instead of a raise.
The Associate Producer is important usually but none of the other producers will associate with him because they all make a lot more money than he does.
Then maybe there's:
a COORDINATING PRODUCER
This is often a woman named Linda.
an ASSISTANT PRODUCER
an ASSISTANT TO THE PRODUCER
and a PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
This is the vice president's son or daughter getting a start in business after flunking out of college.
The director's in charge of the cameras, of course, so you'll notice that his name usually stands alone and stands there longer than anyone else's.
the ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
He directs anyone named Art.
He or she is often a friend of the executive producer's wife by a former marriage.
There are a lot more special credits, of course.
HAIR DESIGNED BY
HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS PROVIDED BY
This means the show was too cheap to pay its own hotel bill.
And of course:
MR. ROONEY'S WARDROBE BY
This means someone gave the star a suit with square shoulders.
But even the credits on 60 Minutes have changed. On the second show fourteen years ago there were thirty-five names. On January 24 of this year there were sixty names. And of course, 60 Minutes is still the same length it always was—fifty-two minutes.
You may think credits go by too fast to read but you aren't supposed to be able to read them. Credits are only meant to be read by the person's agent and his mother.
And if all of us in television had to choose between credit and money, we'd do the right thing.
President Reagan must be happy over how bad the weather's been this winter, because it's the one thing no one's blaming on him. There's nothing television news likes better than bad weather, and we sure get a lot of it in the United States.
Several times a year one part of the country or another provides cameras with great flood pictures. President Reagan himself had his picture taken putting his finger in the dike in Fort Wayne, Indiana, recently.
The Gulf Coast of Florida is often hit with a photogenic hurricane for television. It's called a hurricane when the winds reach seventy-three miles an hour; sixty-nine miles an hour is just a strong wind. Parts of Colorado got forty feet of snow this winter, and New England had a lot. A lot of snow isn't like a lot of rain, and the places that get the snow don't usually mind. They know how to work in it—and to play in it. They know what to do with snow. They like snow.
The Midwest and the Southwest often get a tornado or a cyclone. My dictionary doesn't make it crystal clear what the difference is between a cyclone and a tornado.
In the California desert, they have some of the worst heat in the world. It
often goes as high as 130 degrees in the summer. Heat may be the worst weather we have, but it doesn't make as good pictures for television as floods or snow.
Because the weather's been so bad this winter, I was trying to think which city in the United States has the worst weather. You can't count out Bismarck, North Dakota. It goes down to 40-below in Bismarck in the winter, and it has been as high as 114 in summer.
Omaha, Nebraska, is no bargain. Neither is Louisville, Kentucky.
Los Angeles would win the worst weather award, if you were talking about what people have done to ruin naturally good weather.
Washington, D.C., does the worst job with what weather it gets. Washington keeps thinking it's a Southern city, and it isn't. Three or four times a year, it gets snow, and everyone goes around talking about how unusual it is for them to have snow. It isn't unusual. Three feet doesn't bother Vermont or Minnesota; an inch and a half brings Washington, D.C., to a standstill.
Two candidates for worst weather are New York and Chicago. Chicago probably has the edge. I've taken a little survey among CBS News people who travel a lot. Their vote for the city with the worst weather was a tie. Those cities are Houston, Texas, and—
Sorry about that, Buffalo!