"Assume a Ladder" (1989); Re: Big Apple in a new book

bapopik at AOL.COM bapopik at AOL.COM
Thu Apr 7 03:16:08 UTC 2005


Please, Barry, don't look at Goldenballs and the Iron Lady: a little
book of nicknames, by Andrew Delahunty, Oxford University Press, 2004.
And if you MUST, then please don't look at the entries for "windy city"
and "big apple".  And if you do read those entries, talk a walk around
the block before posting your thoughts to ADS-L.

George A. Thompson

All right, so I was being good and didn't look until this Word Detective spoiled it all! I only did this 12 years ago. The Encyclopedia of NYC was published ten years ago. Delahunty probably can't even Google.


This was in a recent New York Sun editorial. There are many FACTIVA hits. Did George Will coin it? Can someone ask him?

I can't assume it's going to be in Fred's book. You all know what happens when you assume.

The Prescott Plan
914 words
5 April 2005
The New York Sun
There's an old story - we first heard it from the syndicated columnist George Will - about several persons trapped in a deep pit. They thought they were out of luck until the economist in the group said, "Assume a ladder."

Budget assumptions unrealistic; the joke may be on us
George F. Will
700 words
12 February 1989
Chicago Sun-Times

Adelightful joke stopped being delightful when it became national policy. The joke was: Two politicians fall into a deep ravine with steep, sheer sides. "We're trapped!" cries one. "No," says the other, "we'll just assume a ladder."

Right Man's Burden
Wallace-Wells, Benjamin
5,354 words
1 June 2004
Washington Monthly
Volume 36; Issue 6; ISSN: 00430633
Unilateral empire might work today if the world beyond America's borders were populated by five billion Buddhist monks, willing to calmly endure. But the truth is that even the most benign American unilateral efforts overseas spark deep-seated suspicion and antagonism, and send the most apolitical street kids heading for the local Kaloshnikov dealer. Remember the old joke, where an economist plotting his escape from the bottom of a well begins by saying: "Assume a ladder." Ferguson is similarly improbable: He begins his discussion of America's place in the world by saying, in effect, "Assume docile natives."

Old desert story worth remembering
343 words
20 June 1991
Milwaukee Sentinel

This is an old story.
An engineer, a politician and an economist are walking in the desert.
All of a sudden, they fall into a pit 20 feet deep and 20 feet square.
None is hurt when they hit the ground. The pit has sheer walls, with no hand holds.
There are no tools in the pit, but the engineer immediately begins to poke around, looking for a tunnel, an unseen flaw or some other physical way out.
The politician gives the engineer verbal encouragement.
As the engineer continues, the politician even progresses to offering, but never quite giving, help all the while plotting to decide how he will take credit for the eventual escape.
The economist just sits in a shady corner and smiles.
The engineer finds a spring of water, but no way out.
After several days, he becomes frustrated and the politician, sensing his mood, decides to shift his attention to the still-smiling economist.
"OK," the politician asks the economist, "you seem to be quite calm about all of this.
"My good friend, the hard- working engineer, has been diligently applying all the skills of our great assembly to finding a way out of our predicament, and I have been giving him constant and increasing support.
"But you, my friend, just sit there, smiling. May I ask if you have any suggestions for helping us?"
"Certainly," the economist says. "Actually, there are two solutions."
The engineer pauses for a drink, and even the politician stops speaking.
"First of all, we could assume a ladder," the economist said. "Or, in the long run, the market will adjust."
I like this story.
It shows that everyone brings different skills and different perspectives to a situation and that some situations are insoluble, even when analyzed in a number of ways.
It also shows the strengths and weaknesses of practical and theoretical thinking, and of the public and private sectors.
It is a story worth remembering when looking at the problems of the world.

Clinton's Vetoes Merely Cover Up His Emasculation
George F. Will
800 words
14 December 1995
Chicago Sun-Times
Clinton's tactic for limiting the sweep of his surrender has not been a stout defense of government as he wants government to be. Rather, his tactic has been to urge that the amount of spending restraint necessary for a balanced budget be calculated not according to Congressional Budget Office assumptions about inflation and economic growth but according to the assumptions of his Office of Management and Budget. Hence a new twist to an old joke: Two people, a normal American and an OMB economist, fall into a deep pit with sheer sides. "How will we get out?" asks the normal American. "Easily," says the OMB person. "We'll just assume a ladder."

Losing the UN plot.
337 words
3 April 2003
The Guardian
If the UN didn't exist, we would have to "assume a ladder" and build it until we arrived where we were earlier: having a serious debate among nations on whether war should be permitted. It was possible to avoid war, until the strongest nation slammed the door because the UN didn't bow to its will.


AMA is in today's New York Post. PUKK is in today's New York Sun. PIOLA is in today's Gothamist. I ate at all of them!

I attended a candy demonstration tonight at a bar on Broome Street (Happy Ending). It was a reading by Beth Kimmerle (Candy: The Sweet History) and Steve Almond (Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America). Unfortunately, Almond read a non-food, lusty short story from his latest collection. A folk singer began the program. Jeez, the Village did this stuff fifty years ago. Beth Kimmerle's partner, Will Noonan, cooked some chocolate and tried to deliver jokes like Will Ferrell. "Candy Samples"--yeah, we got the joke. Boy, did the New York Sun calendar overplay this event.

Anyway, a recent roundup:

PIOLA (www.piola.it) at East 12th Street and Broadway--I had the Piola pizza. It was OK pizza, definitely good if you're in the neighborhood (NYU), not worth a subway ride from another borough.

VONG at East 54th and Third Avenue--I ate here a month ago, during a Monday storm when I thought I could get in. A good French-Thai place.

MULDOON'S on Third Avenue and East 44th Street--OK Irish pub fish and chips. It's next to the Blarney Stone.

ISLE ("Thai Home Cooking") on Bleecker Street--Impressive new Thai place. Near John's Pizza and Fish.

FISH on Bleecker Street--This was featured on Gothamist about two days ago, so I went there. My piece of fish wasn't great by any means, though.

A-MIX (www.amix1.com) on East 34th Street between Park and Lexington--Inferior Asian to Sammy's and Lemongrass Grill. Probably would be great in Iowa, but a little lacking in NYC.

BAMIYAN Afghani restaurant (www.bamiyan.com) at 358 Third Avenue and East 26th Street--Good Afghan, maybe a little better than the Afghan Kebab House chain in Manhattan.

More information about the Ads-l mailing list