Years of Minutes

The Best of Rooney from 60 Minutes


By Andy Rooney

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 9, 2007. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Andy Rooney has been at it for twenty-five years. It’s time to celebrate. So here’s the ultimate gift for every Rooney fan: an illustrated collection of Rooney’s very best pieces from a quarter centur


Common Nonsense
Sincerely, Andy Rooney
My War
Sweet and Sour
Not That You Asked
Word for Word
Pieces of My Mind
And More by Andy Rooney
A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney
The Fortunes of War
Conqueror's Peace
Air Gunner
The Story of The Stars and Stripes

Forewords, prefaces and introductions are usually self-serving little essays that the writer puts at the front of a book describing how it was done, why it was done and who deserves all the credit. This is some of that but its also a plea for help.
Everything in this book was originally written by me to read aloud on television by me. Because no one speaks as he writes and no one writes as he speaks, words put down on paper to be read aloud are written in a different style than words to be read in silence by eyes alone. A speaker can add nuances of meaning with inflections in his or her voice or put in pauses and stops for which there are no adequate punctuation marks. For this reason I ask you to try to hear these words as you read them.
When these commentaries were shown on television as part of 60 Minutes , they were always accompanied by pictures. Usually viewers would see me saying something general about a subject and then, when I got specific, the editors, Bob Forte and after 1997 Keith Kulin, would put images on screen that illustrated or emphasized the point.
The one thing I know that a lot of writers dont know, is how satisfying it is to put down words that are accompanied by pictures. Its fun. When the pictures and the words supplement each other, the impact on the viewer/ listener is more than it would be with words or pictures alone.
There are times when the words dont need pictures but other times when the pictures dont need words and that doesnt come off very well in a book of words.
The one affectation I have forced on the publisher, Peter Osnos, the editor, Kate Darnton, my assistant, Susan Bieber, and the anonymous proofreaders are my apostrophe-free elisions. Because I write my scripts to read myself, I dont spell "don't" with an apostrophe. I spell it "dont." We all know the word and it seems foolish to put in an extraneous apostrophe. Punctuation marks are devices we use to make the meaning of sentences clear. There is nothing confusing about a word like "dont" printed without an apostrophe to indicate an omitted letter. Thats not true for all words that usually have apostrophes. Its difficult to make a general rule because there are places where leaving out the apostrophe doesnt work. If I wanted to elide "I will" without the apostrophe it would come out "Ill." That's another word altogether so I make an exception and spell it "I'll." Exceptions are based on nothing more than what I think might be confusing to me as I read the script aloud. Following is a list of elisions in which I dont use an apostrophe : arent, cant, couldnt, didnt, doesnt, dont, hadnt, hasnt, havent, Im, isnt, its, Ive, shouldnt, thats, theres, theyd, theyve, theyre, wasnt, werent, wont, wouldnt, youd, youll, youre, youve. That wont bother you, will it?


True/False Test

Kids in school love true-or-false tests because they have a 50–50 chance of being right even if they havent studied at all. Teachers like them because theyre 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. "Theres no business like show business." True or false? True, but theres 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 dont think so because theres never been a 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. Theyre four subjects to stay away from when talking with anyone.
10. "A penny post card now costs 10¢." True or false? False. A penny post card used to cost 10¢. Now who knows what one costs.
11. "Students dont write English sentences as well as they once did because of television." True or false? False. Students dont write as well as they used to because of true-or-false tests.
So thats our little true-or-false test. If you got all the answers correct, youve 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 youve just learned how to cook.
We picked up a collection in bookstores. I brought in some 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 arent 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 nonexistent people.
Its hard to make things look the way they make them look in the cookbooks, isnt 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 couldnt get everything she knows in one book. Hers comes in two volumes. Good book, though. I like Julia. She assumes you arent 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, youre in big trouble.
The best way to use a cookbook, I think, is just for incidental reading. Dont read it in the kitchen, when youre cooking; read it in the living room, in front of the television set, something like that.

Space Shuttle

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. Its always exciting. Makes us proud to be Americans.
There is a problem, though. Pretty soon I think theyve got to let us in on exactly what it is theyre 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.
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 . . .
Its 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 theyre doing now. Maybe build something up there that we could see from down here. McDonald's, something like that—anything American.
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. Thats 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 wouldnt even mind if they figured a way to get some of that speed into the trip to Chicago.
Americans are practical people. They dont 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 isnt 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, its just like what's happened to the dollar. Credits in television suffer from inflation. There are more of them and they arent 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 doesnt 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.
SENIOR PRODUCER He's worked for the company a long time, and they gave him the title instead of a raise.
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER 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 theres:
a COORDINATING PRODUCER This is often a woman named Linda.
and a PRODUCTION ASSISTANT This is the vice president's son or daughter getting a start in business after flunking out of college.
DIRECTOR The director's in charge of the cameras, of course, so youll notice that his name usually stands alone and stands there longer than anyone else's.
ART DIRECTOR He directs anyone named Art.
CONSULTANT He or she is often a friend of the executive producer's wife from a former marriage.
There are a lot more special credits, of course.
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 arent 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 its the one thing no one's blaming on him. Theres 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. Its 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 isnt like a lot of rain, and the places that get the snow dont 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 doesnt 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 doesnt 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 cant 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 its a Southern city, and it isnt. 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 isnt unusual. Three feet doesnt bother Vermont or Minnesota; an inch and a half brings Washington, D.C., to a standstill. The Government shuts down.
Two candidates for worst weather are New York and Chicago. Chicago probably has the edge. Ive 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, but people are best where weather is worst.


I wish people who sell things would stop trying to guess how many of something we want to buy. I want to buy things one at a time.
Saturday, I went to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for a Chinese beef dish. I wanted one green pepper. They came in packages of six. I didnt want six green peppers.
Every once in a while I have a desire to eat an apple. I dont have a desire to eat six apples.
Theyre packaging everything in groups now.
Ive got a package of four shoelaces. I know when one shoelace breaks, I should change them both, but I dont. My life just isnt that well-organized. I use shoelaces one at a time. I dont want four shoelaces.
Hangers come in packages of four. How do they know I dont want three hangers or five hangers or nine hangers? Why do socks and jockey shorts come in packs of three and hangers in packs of four? Batteries now always come in packages of two or four. It just so happens I have a flashlight that takes three batteries. What do I do with the odd one?
Hardware stores are packaging a lot of things now because its neater and more convenient for them. Angle irons, for instance, in packages of two. You need one angle iron, so you buy a package of two. You dont need another for three years, but by that time of course you cant find the one you had left over from the last package, so you buy two new ones—for a job that only calls for one. It isnt the cost, its the waste.
Vacuum cleaner drive belts come in packages of two. We've had our vacuum cleaner for fourteen years now, and it still has its original drive belt. Say that breaks tomorrow. I go buy this package of two. We use one. That'll take us another fourteen years, until 1996. If I can find this second drive belt by then, I'll put it on. The second belt should take us another fourteen years. That'll be the year 2010. Well, in twenty-eight years the vacuum cleaner will be forty-two, I'll be eighty-nine—and frankly, if I live to be eighty-nine, I wont care whether theres dust under the bed or not!


President Reagan wants to spend $216 billion on defense and war equipment next year. He's going to spend a lot of it on tanks. The Army's released a film it made with pictures of the new M–1 tank and an armored bulldozer that goes with it.
I think they have the same writer they had when I was in the Army. You notice that over the years when the Army shows us a new tank, the tank is always doing its fanciest stuff, but its doing it in an open field somewhere. I want to see the tank go into those woods there. Thats where the enemy is. But see, tanks dont work in the woods. Tanks have been a problem everywhere. The Russians always show their tanks rolling through Red Square. I hope Russia spends a lot of money on tanks because tanks are at their best in parades. But wars arent fought in Red Square or in open fields. Today's battlefield is not usually a field at all. Its a small city, or a town with narrow streets. Its woods, or beaches, or water. Tanks dont work in places like that.
Army films about tanks always have very shallow water. They dont talk much about Omaha Beach on D-Day when a great many of the tanks were unloaded in twelve feet of water, where their crews drowned.
I dont want to be negative about all this, though, and I do have a positive idea. The new M–1 tanks are going to cost $2.7 million each. That means for every tank you could buy more than 300 Chrysler LeBarons. From my experience in Germany with the Second Armored Division, I can tell you that 300 Chryslers would have been more help than one tank. The Army's going to spend $19 billion for 7,000 new tanks. Chrysler LeBarons cost about $8,000. So for $19 billion you could buy 2,375,000 Chrysler LeBarons. That means that every soldier in our Army could have three brand new cars all his own. I'd just like to see what that could do for reenlistment. They dont put an estimated mileage sticker on the new tanks, of course, because the tanks need four gallons of gas to go one mile. If I were President Reagan, I'd forget those tanks, buy 2,375,000 LeBarons, make Lee Iacocca their commanding general, and solve this whole budget crisis with a healthy rebate from Chrysler.


I tend to get lost a lot when I drive anywhere. Ive been lost in just about every State in the Union.
When it comes to getting lost, there are two kinds of drivers. The first kind hardly ever gets lost, but when he does he stops and asks directions. The other driver, my kind, gets lost a lot but never stops to ask anything of anyone. He just keeps going no matter how lost he is and no matter how mad the person sitting next to him gets.
The alternative to stopping to ask directions, of course, is the road map. I dont use maps much when Im lost, either. Very often, a map is the reason why Im lost. I dont know why it is, but where I am on the road never looks like where I ought to be on the map. On the map, the road definitely goes this way; in the car, the road sort of goes this way.
Exxon is the only oil company that still gives away free road maps. They have about twenty-three maps that cover forty-one states. I talked with their map maker, and he's got his problems too. The little states with a lot of roads and cities are the tough ones for him—New Jersey or Rhode Island, for instance. Rhode Island has 6,500 miles of roads, and its tiny compared to a State like Montana. California and Tennessee are tough for map-makers too. They have to fit on basically the same size sheet of paper, but Tennessee is long and narrow and runs east and west; and California isnt very wide, but its long up and down. And they have to go on the same size sheet of paper. What the map makers love are the square states without much in them, like Wyoming.
Most drivers arent satisfied having a passenger tell them which way to turn, even if the passenger has a map. The driver wants to see the map himself. That means pulling over and stopping—and then comes the hard part. First, you have to find out which side of the paper its on, the map you want; then you have to fold it so you can handle it, see where you are; then you try to locate your position. Now, none of these problems is the worst thing about a car map, though. The worst thing about a car map is trying to fold it back the way you found it, and get it back in the glove compartment.
To tell you the truth, I'd rather get lost. Sometimes getting lost is the most fun I have on a long drive.


The way I can tell when winter's about over is by my gloves. You can tell its been a long winter already, because I have ten gloves here without mates, six lefts and four rights. And of course, that doesnt include the pairs Ive lost both of. If I had my choice, I'd rather lose a whole pair than just one. One good glove is so sad. If you lose both of them, you forget it. The wound heals quickly. But it breaks my heart every time I look at some of these I only have one of. I cant stand to throw them away either. I keep hoping the mate will come home.
I dont know where gloves go. I lose so many and find so few. I dont buy expensive gloves anymore. I buy work gloves, even to play in. My daughter gave me the only really good gloves I own. Everyone said I'd lose them. Every time I go out of the house now, someone says, "Dont lose those good gloves Ellen gave you!" Well, I havent lost them. I havent lost them because Im so scared of losing them that I havent worn them.
I dont think Ive ever had a pair of gloves that were too short in the fingers. I must have stubby hands. I always have a little part left over.
Ive had one pair of mittens for years now. It says, "Genuine deerskin, full lamb-lined." Youd think the deer would have thought of that, wouldnt you? These are nice and warm, but name one thing you could do well if youre wearing mittens. Nothing!
Gloves always seem like a good idea when I leave the house on a cold morning, but I never leave them on my hands for long. I take them off to do something and end up carrying them in my hands, stuffing them in my pocket or losing them.
I guess I can make out with these work gloves for the rest of the winter. I just hope I dont have to go anywhere fancy.


There are fast people and there are slow people in the world. The same things keep happening to the same people all their lives, because they do things either too fast or too slow. Theres no in-between.
Eating, for instance.
A fast person is getting finished while everyone else at the table is just getting started.
The slow eater often puts down his knife and his fork as if he was done and talks for a while. In a restaurant, the waiter will come along and ask if he's finished. He isnt.
Fast eaters ask for a check, quick.
Getting off an airplane separates the fast people from the slow people.
Fast people unfasten their seat belts as soon as the plane touches down. Before the plane gets to the gate, they stand up. The pilot tells them to sit down.
Slow people on an airplane dont unfasten their seatbelts until the plane comes to a full stop, like the pilot says. Then they start getting their things together.
If youre a fast person trapped in a window seat, slow people drive you crazy.
At the movies, the fast person is out on the street before the credits are over.
The slow person is looking for his or her gloves on the theater floor.
Fast people get driven crazy more than slow people, because theyre always getting trapped inside or behind them.
Fast people dress in a hurry and get out of the house.Theyre waiting in the car in the driveway, for the slow people to come out.
Slow people are upstairs. Theyre making sure that all the windows are closed.
Fast people watch the traffic light like a hawk and take off the instant it turns green.
Slow people comb their hair in the rear-view mirror and wait until someone behind them blows the horn.
Fast people drive sixty-five in a fifty-five-miles-per-hour zone.
The slow people drive thirty-five, forty miles per hour in a fifty-five-miles-per-hour zone.
Fast people get where theyre going late.
The slow people get there early.
Fast people get up and switch all the channels looking for a better television show all the time.
Slow people set the channel once, early in the evening, and never really touch it again until its time for bed.
Im not going to tell you which kind I am, but if you see me coming—
I'd appreciate it if youd get out of my way.

Dumb Letters


On Sale
Oct 9, 2007
Page Count
544 pages

Andy Rooney

About the Author

Known to millions for his regular commentary on the television news magazine 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney is also the author of numerous bestselling books. His column appears in newspapers around the country. He lives in New York.

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