POST TIME

When last we met on June 30, I left open whether my future posts would be on an every-ten-days schedule or on a when-the-spirit-moves-me non-schedule. Seeing as how most of us live in a democracy (not to be confused with a demagogracy?), I decided to put the matter to a secret vote. My fellow Americans, base supporters, and gulliblites everywhere, I hereby and now and forever proclaim that the outcome is in!

Yes, friends, the results are in, and doubtless you are on tenterhooks, dying to learn the winner — as well you should be — but kindly hang in there. After all, I’m trying to build up a little suspense here.

DRUM R-O-L-L, please. It is my dis-stinked honor and privilege to announce that 100% of the eligible voters, consisting of me, myself and I (in cahoots with Charlie Barnowl — who? — let’s stop for a spell: it’s Barnet), have opted to vote for….

I confess that Barnet, being deceased, could vote in spirit only. But spirits are flighty, to say the least. Will the spirit stick around, pushing me to act when inspiration is at a peak to post? Other-wise, my frequency of posting will most likely depend on….

However, if my mood is down in the dumps, that doesn’t mean I can’t soar. You see, although I brook no Prohibition on drowning my sorrows — easy for me (not to mention myself & I) to speak — there are times….

Until next time, then — whenever that may be (ye know not the day or the hour) — me leaves myself and I with this reminder:

“The higher a drunk feels in the evening, the lower he feels in the morning.” –Evan Esar

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HIGH FIVE FOR FIVE STARS

Each of the five days since my last post was the birthday of at least one iconic figure in music or film who left lasting memories for those who appreciate legacies in artistry. I could easily go overboard writing in depth about any of these mid-May arrivals, but maybe it’s best to lessen my losses by not overly testing readers’ patience (O me of little faith!):

May 11 — IRVING BERLIN (1888-1989). Perhaps the most prolific composer in American history, with an estimated 1,500 songs to his credit, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films (three of which were Astaire-Rogers musicals). Writing both words and music (relatively rare for his era), his hits include seasonal evergreens White Christmas and Easter Parade, as well as the red, white and blue God Bless America. His lyrics may lack the wit and sophistication of Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart, but there’s no denying the emotional appeal of such songs as….

May 12 — KATHERINE HEPBURN (1907-2003). In the Golden Era of Hollywood, was there ever a more successful, fiercely independent woman than Katherine Hepburn?  Successful? It’s hard to argue against receiving a record four Academy Awards for Best Actress, and being named the greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute. Independent? Her own words say it all:

“I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man. I’ve just done what I damn well wanted to, and I’ve made enough money to support myself, and ain’t afraid of being alone.” (Hard as it may be to imagine the Bryn Mawr-educated Hepburn uttering “ain’t,” I ain’t about to correct her quote.)

“We are taught you must …. never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change, you’re the one who has got to change.”

“As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”

“Life gets harder the smarter you get, the more you know.”

“Politicians remain professional because the voters remain amateur.”

NOTE: For my ode to another May 12 bundle of joy, see my post of May 12, 2015.

May 13 — ARTHUR SULLIVAN (1842-1900). Can’t place the name? How about Arthur Sullivan of GILBERT AND SULLIVAN fame? Who doesn’t enjoy their great comic operas such as THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, THE MIKADO and H.M.S. PINAFORE — the latter of which I have loved since When I was a Lad:

May 14 — SIDNEY BECHET (1897-1959). This is a name you almost certainly can’t place unless you’re a classic jazz fan….but if you are such a fan, you know him as a major figure in jazz annals since his recording debut in 1923. New Orleans born, he spent the last decade of his life in France, where he died on the same day — May 14 — that he was born. Here he is on soprano sax in a 1950s recording from the soundtrack of Woody Allen’s magical MIDNIGHT IN PARIS:

May 15 — JOSEPH COTTON (1905-1994). I have previously mentioned Joseph Cotton in regard to his co-starring role (with Orson Welles and Alida Valli) in one of my favorite films, THE THIRD MAN. He first met Welles in 1934, beginning a life-long friendship and on-and-off association with Welles in numerous plays, radio dramas and films, as well as co-starring with Katherine Hepburn in the 1939 Broadway play THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. But it is in his role as Holly Martens in THE THIRD MAN that he stands alone (literally so, in the end), and I can think of no more fitting way to end this post than with that indelible closing scene from the film (to the tune of Anton Karas’ Third Man Theme):

THE DUKE AND THE COUNT

Contrary to what the above title may suggest, this post is not a narrative of two nabobs of European nobility in medieval times. Rather, it’s about two giants of jazz royalty in Big Band-era America: one whose birthday, and the other whose expiration day, occurred last week. I refer to Duke Ellington (born 4/29/1899) and Count Basie (died 4/26/1984).

If you’re of a certain age, no doubt you’ve heard of them, but unless you’re a pre-rock jazz buff, that’s probably the extent of it. Permit me, then, to introduce you to these musical titans of yesteryear, and to a sampling of their legacy.  After all, it’s not every day that you get to meet a Duke and a Count.

I could get carried away with all there is to say about the former, but in the interest of not getting carried away, I will confine my remarks mainly to this quote:

Ellington has often credited his sidemen with the success of his band. But those who knew Duke and his music best — and this includes those very sidemen — will invariably tell you that what set Ellington’s apart is just one thing: the brilliant conductor-composer-arranger-pianist-bon vivant and leader of men, Duke Ellington himself. –George Simon (from his book, THE BIG BANDS)

Here are two of the Duke’s many compositions, the first from the 1930 film CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK, and the second from a European tour decades later:

Let us now turn to that other distinguished composer-pianist-band leader, Count Basie, whose talents weren’t as multifaceted as the Duke, but whose orchestra likewise outlasted the end of the Big Band era. Quoting George Simon one more time:

For several years [after] the days of the big bands, Basie didn’t do well, and he was forced to cut down his group to a sextet. But then he made a comeback and, aided greatly by support from Frank Sinatra, who helped him get lucrative bookings in Las Vegas and appeared with him in a series of successful concerts, the Basie band [again] rode high. 

 Let’s jump to a conclusion with this swinging rendition (especially the last seventy seconds) of Basie’s own composition and theme song:

IT’S RAINING MUSIC, SON

He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade stand. –Elbert Hubbard, American author and philosopher, 1915

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Man can indeed make lemonade out of lemons, but is just as prone to do the reverse — for example, when a relationship turns sour. Such is life, my son. Wait a minute….I don’t have a son. Anyway — whoever you are, nowhere is love-gone-wrong more poignantly expressed than in rainy regrets captured in song, as rendered here by three of the most expressive singers in popular music history:

In my previous post last week, I might have asked Mother Nature this question:

Finally, it is right as the rain that the last of our three songs be sung by the one and only Ella Fitzgerald, who was born on this day (April 25, 1918):

NOTE: Stormy Weather was composed by Harold Arlen, who also composed the 1944 show tune Right as the Rain and many other all-time standards.

FOR YOU, MORE HUMOR

N’yuk-n’yuk-n’yuk! –Curly Howard, The Three Stooges

April being NATIONAL HUMOR MONTH, I thought I’d humor you with humor-us woids of wisdom from some of my favorite humor-ists. I’d have begun with a self-sample, but thought it best to start on a higher plane — and who in comedic history soared higher than Curly when it comes to debonair comedy? So it is written that I must take second place in my own post (third, if you count comedienne Joan Rivers’ intro to my poem):

THE DIVINE COMEDY CLUB

Humor is God’s gift to all of us.
–Joan Rivers

Thank God for funny
because seriously
we could be
dying out there.

Being a comedian is a lonely occupation; you stand on the stage talking to yourself, being overheard by audiences. –Fred Allen

Humor is merely tragedy standing on its head with its pants torn. –Irvin S. Cobb

Humor is just another defense against the universe. –Mel Brooks

When humor works, it works because it’s clarifying what people already feel. It has to come from someplace real. –Tina Fey

Humor is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue. –Virginia Woolf

Start every day off with a smile and get it over with. –W. C. Fields

The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow; there is no humor in Heaven. –Mark Twain

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is. –Francis Bacon

I don’t want to run for office; there’s already too many comedians in Washington. –Will Rogers

Without a sense of humor, I don’t know how people make it. –Marlo Thomas

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We close on an upbeat note from this laughing-at-life jazz great whose birthday is April 7:

 

THE FLOCKS AND THE CROW, a play on Aesop’s fable THE FOX AND THE CROW

crow, v. To exult, esp. over another’s misfortune; to boast exultantly. –Webster’s New College Dictionary

You have no doubt heard many devotees of Donald Trump defend their support for America’s Crowmmander-In-Chief because “he says what he thinks” — as if such a character trait trumps all else as a Presidential prerequisite. Trust me: by that standard, a few of my in-laws are characters of sufficient grandiosity and shortness of breadth to be Prez. I declare, even Adolph Hitler (had he been born/raised here) might have ridden megalomania and bombastic B.S. to the White House. If drunk with power, no less a windbag than yours truly might rise to the occasion — Lord nose it’snot unthinkable.

My problem, however, is that I’m apt to think and think again before I crow what I think to my flock (otherwise, the by-line on my posts may as well be “by misterspews” instead of “by mistermuse“). Some might call this tendency over-thinking. Some might assert that was President Obama’s hangup. If so, then this guy certainly couldn’t cut it as President:

The Thinker by Rodin

The Thinker by Rodin

Well, then, shouldn’t we be seeking the fabled middle ground between extremes: under-thinking and over-thinking? But that smacks of compromise, and we certainly can’t have that.

What to do, what to do. Surely there must be a way to get ALL of what we want, if we’re foxy enough:

Any questions?

Any doubts?

Any rags?

02/20 VISION

In the tumult of men and events, solitude was my temptation; now it is my friend. What other satisfaction can be sought once you have confronted History? –Charles de Gaulle

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Indeed.  Where else but in my solitude can equilibrium’s vision be sought (much less found), if the following selection of February 20 events from “confronted History” is representative of “the tumult of men and events”:

1513 Pope Julius II (aka The Fearsome Pope and The Warrior Pope) died and was laid to rest in a huge tomb sculptured by Michelangelo [In those days, Catholic artists regarded such Popes as ‘Patron’ Saints

1839 U.S. Congress prohibits dueling in the District of Columbia [What a bad idea this turned out to be, given that since then, no one in D.C. has had a clue how to better resolve differences]

1907 President Theodore Roosevelt signed an immigration act which excluded “idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, and insane  persons” from being admitted to the U.S. [Unfortunately, there has not been a comparable act excluding such persons from becoming politicians]

1909 F.T. Marinetti, Italian poet, published the first Futurist Manifesto in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro and in Venice, including the statement “We want to glorify war – the only cure for the world.” [Evidently a utopian exception to “The cure is worse than the disease”]

1927 Golfers in South Carolina were arrested for violating the Sabbath [Talk about playing a-round!]  

1933 Congress completed action on an amendment to repeal Prohibition in the U.S. [and “I’ll drink to that!” rang out across the land]

1942 Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, was born [Coincidentally, the cartoon character Pruneface premiered (in a Dick Tracy comic strip) the same year]

1996 Gangsta rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg acquitted of murder in 1993 shooting of alleged gang member [Draw your own conclusions]

2002 The Pentagon stated that its recently created “Office of Strategic Influence” would not spread falsehoods in the media to advance U.S. war goals. Office was shut down six days later (Feb. 26) [Apparently the bummed guy in this snapshot was the last to get the message]:

Love’s labor lost. Lament in SOLITUDE. But despair not. It seems that Love, like the passions and madness of history, is where you — and a buoyantly young Julie Andrews — find it. So don’t be [Venetian] blind, it’s/all around you/everywhere.