What’s In YOUR Toilet?

In his incisive biography of Spencer Tracy, author Bill Davidson tells of a problem which arose during planning stages of a Tracy film based on a short story titled BAD DAY AT HONDO. He quotes Millard Kaufman, who was writing the screenplay, as follows:

Our picture still was called Bad Day at Hondo, when, to everyone’s surprise, there came the release of a John Wayne movie called HONDO. So our title went out the window.

Davidson continues, “Such coincidental flaps can cause weeks of delays at a studio, while everyone tries to think of a new title. In this case, Kaufman was out in Arizona looking for locations for another picture, when [he] stopped for gas at one of the bleakest places [that] was not even a ‘wide place in the road’, just a gas station and a post office. Kaufman looked at the sign on the post office. The name was Black Rock, Arizona. Kaufman rushed to the phone and called the studio. ‘I’ve got the title for the Tracy picture,’ he said. “We’ll call it “Bad Day at Black Rock.”

You may be wondering what the foregoing has to do with the title of this post….and the answer is diddly-squat (or just squat, for short). So what’s the deal? Simply to serve as a pun-gent example of a title’s potential to entice you in to a creative work, whether it be film, story, poem or poop. Did the serendipitous (and delay-saving) spotting of the Black Rock post office sign lead to a perfect fit for the title of the movie? Perhaps this scene will tell you all you need to know to answer that question (Tracy plays a one-armed WW II officer, just returned from the service, who goes to a middle-of-nowhere desert town to present a posthumous medal to the father of one of his soldiers):

But suppose, after chewing it over endlessly, you still can’t come up with a killer title for your opus delicti? Friends, just swallow the bitter pill that there are times indiscretion is the better part of valor, and settle for a title such as this post’s. And what if even doo-doo doesn’t do the trick? There’s still the when-all-else-fails last resort I used when I titled this poem….

UNTITLED

This poem’s title is Untitled —
Not because it is untitled,
But because I am entitled
To entitle it Untitled.

If I’d not titled it Untitled,
It would truly be untitled….
Which would make me unentitled
To entitle it Untitled.

So it is vital, if untitled,
Not to title it Untitled,
And to leave that title idled,
As a title is entitled.

NOTE: This is the Random poem leftover from my previous post

 

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RHYMES AT RANDOM

In a comment to my last post (CERF’S UP), I raised the possibility of re-publishing several of my poetic baubles from THE RANDOM HOUSE TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE. Generous soul that I am, suppose I add a bonus of bangles and beads to the baubles….for man does not live by words alone, but with the inspiration of Blyth spirit beautifully begetting beguiling music, without which our Kismet (fate) would be drab indeed:

Yes, my friends, I have rhymes — or, conversely, should I say….

And now, having strung my lead-in out this far / I wish upon a wishing star / to make appear my Random rhymes / from the pages of bygone times. / These rhymes abode in poems four / nothing less and nothing more / but not having used up all my string / I’ll save one of the poems for my next post-ing:

LOVER BOY

Narcissus was too perfect for sex or pelf —
He longed only to gaze in love at himself….
The moral of which is that, even in myths,
Too much reflection may be your nemesis.

THE BOOK OF WISDOM

Thou shalt not commit adultery;
Nor shalt thou covet thy neighbor’s spouse.
Shouldst thou succumbeth to temptation,
Thou shalt not do it in thy neighbor’s house.

CONCEIVABLY, THE COMPLEAT HISTORY OF HUMAN SEX

Adam and Eve,
I believe,
Were the start of it.

Everyone since,
I’m convinced,
Played a part in it.

NOTE: Ann Blyth, who played Marsinah (daughter of The Poet, played by Howard Keel) in the film version of Kismet, is one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

 

 

A TAXING SITUATION

Preparing an income tax return is like a girl preparing to go to the beach: you take off as much as the law allows. –Evan Esar

Speaking of which, I’ve mustered enough resolve to start on my federal and state tax returns (rather than procrastinate ’til it’s almost too late, as I’ve done for decades), so I’m going to strip some preparation time from this post by re-publishing an old poem. But at least it’s for a good cause — ’cause if I don’t get a move on, that age-old last minute stress could cause an old-age heart attack, which would not be in my best interest.

MAX AT TAX

“Hello, Sam!”
“Good morning, Max!”
“Have you done
your income tax?”
“Taxing though
it be to say,
know I did
it yesterday.”
“Did you take
your deductions?”
“I deduced
for reductions.”
Four reduced?
I laud your feat!”
“I took off
my hands and feet.”
“That’s the way
to keep ahead!”
“Yes, I used
my limbs in stead.”
“Instead of
head? Way to go!
That’s the way
to save some dough!”
“Have you done
your income tax?”
“Goodbye, Sam!”
“Good morning, Max!”

’nuff wisecracks! Jills and Jacks, here is Max on the stacks with the facts about tax, so relax:

ST. PATRICK’S DAY? BAH! HUMBUG!

Here it is two days before March 17, and I’m resigning myself to be the Grinch who stole St. Patrick’s Day. Being a writer of (part) Irish heritage — and thus feeling obliged to beget my readers a post to celebrate the occasion — I’ve been roiling me brain to come up with something about Ireland’s fifth-century snake-chaser that isn’t the same old blarney, but I’ve hit a stone wall stouter than those that subdivide the Irish countryside:

The Stone Walls of Ireland

Enough already. If St. Patrick thinks I’m going to waste another second of my busy day refraining from raining on his parade, he’s got another think coming. There are plenty of other dead fish in the Irish Sea who merit time in the sun, and though it may raise a stink, I am going to turn this post over to them and say “Bah! Humbug!” to St. Patrick.

I showed my appreciation of my native land in the usual Irish way by getting out of it as soon as I possibly could. –George Bernard Shaw

I am allergic to all Irish wit, charm and humor not provided by myself. –Denis Brogan

Good Lord, what a sight/After all their good Cheer/For people to fight/In the midst of their Beer. –Jonathan Swift (from THE DESCRIPTION OF AN IRISH-FEAST)

The lanky hank of a she in the inn over there
Nearly killed me for asking the loan of a glass of beer:
May the devil grip the whey-faced slut by the hair,
And beat bad manners out of her skin for a year.
If I asked her master he’d give me a cask a day;
But she, with the beer at hand, not a gill would arrange!
May she marry a ghost and bear him a kitten, and may
The High King of Glory permit her to get the mange.
–James Stephens (from RIGHTEOUS ANGER)

For the Great Gaels of Ireland/Are the men that God made mad,/For all their wars are merry/And all their songs are sad. –G. K. Chesterton

Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis. –Oscar Wilde

The actual Irish weather report is really a recording made in 1922, which no one has had occasion to change. –Wilfred Sheed

I saw a fleet of fishing boats…I flew down, almost touching the craft, and yelled at them, asking if I was on the right [course] to Ireland. They just stared. Maybe they didn’t hear me. Maybe I didn’t hear them. Or maybe they thought I was just a crazy fool. An hour later I saw land. –Charles Lindbergh (2nd day of first solo transatlantic flight, 5/21/1927)

 

THIS POST IS FOR THE BARDS

Larry was writing rhyme at the age of six; by 1910 [age 15], he’d been christened “Shakespeare” by friends. [He had] a passion for Shakespeare, a delight in wordplay, and a fondness for anachronistic juxtaposition. Not for nothing was Hart known as “Shakespeare.” –Dominick Symonds, author of WE’LL HAVE MANHATTAN (subtitled THE EARLY WORK OF RODGERS & HART)

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My previous post featured the words and music of Richard Rodgers and Larry Hart, which — along with the above — conveniently serve as segue into Shakespearean speculation:

BARD’S TUNE

What would William
have done with jazz?
Would he take jazz
where no one has?

Would jazz-you-like-
it, he accost?
Would he find jazz
love’s labor lost?

Would he have played
jazz instrument
measure for meas-
ure, or hell bent?

Or would he have,
a jazz voice, been —
the ‘King of Sing’
of noted men?

No! Peerless bard,
writer of wrongs —
if you dug jazz….
you’d write the songs.

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BARDSTOWN

is an itty-bitty city in my neighboring state of Kentucky, voted “Most Beautiful Small Town in America” and noted for its annual KENTUCKY BOURBON FESTIVAL, MUSEUM OF WHISKEY, and MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME STATE PARK, site of the farm which inspired Stephen Foster to write “My Old Kentucky Home” (the state song of Kentucky).

http://www.visitbardstown.com/

I find the story of Stephen Foster most interesting, starting with the date of his birth: July 4, 1826 — the same day that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died hours apart. Foster was a dreamer whose love of music trumped more profitable ways of earning a living. Though he composed almost 200 songs (many of them popular in his own time), his last years were marked by poverty, a craving for liquor, and suffering from what may have been tuberculosis, dying 153 years and one week ago today (Jan. 13, 1864).

Foster can truly be considered the original bard of American music, as this 1946 quote by the late American composer and music critic, Deems Taylor, suggests:

What quality have they [Foster’s songs] that gives them such tremendous staying power? After all, other men in his day wrote songs that were as popular as his, possibly more so. What was his secret? It was, I think, that he helped fill a gap that had always existed in our musical culture. Our ancestors, coming here from all quarters of the globe, brought with them the folk songs of their native lands, but they were not peculiarly ours. It is ironic that the only race that developed a folksong literature in this country is the race that was brought here against its will, and was and has been the most brutally exploited of all — the Negro. The Negro spirituals and Stephen Foster’s songs are the nearest to completely indigenous folksongs that we have. Nor is it a coincidence that most of the best of his songs are in Negro dialect and sing the woes of the Negro. 

But I will close, in keeping with the theme of recent posts, with one of Foster’s love songs:

 

THIS POST IS FOR THE BIRDS

January 5 is National Bird Day, a day to…. Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman (alias Clark Kent, alias George Reeves)! What’s more, January 5 is Reeves’ birdday — er, birthday! Of such happy ‘coincidences,’ ideas for posts are born.

No doubt you are too young to remember George Reeves as Superman in the early 1950’s TV series, The Adventures of SUPERMAN. These many years later, the above Intro-clip seems either unintentionally laughable or laughably camp, but the series was highly popular and made Reeves a national celebrity. Unlike Superman, however, the actor wasn’t made of steel and self-destructed (took his own life) in 1959 at the age of 45.

So much for the coupling of the birds and the Reeves. Bee-lieve me, the rest of this post is strictly for the birds.

BIRDS OF A TETHER

Chancing to glance out my kitchen window
one early spring morning, I notice two robins
in the yard battling over the prize one of them
has extracted from the ground. Having always
thought of robins as harmonious birds, I watch,
fascinated, as the feathered fiends engage in a
furious tug of worm to claim (you would think)
the last night crawler on the face of the earth.

Finally, one of the orange-breasted warriors prevails,
and down the hatch goes the winner’s breakfast.
I don’t know if the victor was the one who found
the worm first. All I know is the ill-fated victim was
the one who didn’t have much choice in the matter.

But let us not end on a downer. Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap; they sing and tweet. So let’s all sing like the birdies sing:

Yes, my friends, there was a once-upon-a-time when tweets were carefree, joyful and strictly for the birds/bird lovers. What has this world come to? Tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet!

HAIKU AUTUMN \ AFTERWORDS

SHORTFALL

The days early down….
winter nears by degrees….no
wonder….November

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BELITTLE SHORT DAYS? NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS

Oh the days dwindle down/To a precious few…./September…./November….
And these few precious days/I’ll spend with you/These precious days/I’ll spend with
you
–Maxwell Anderson, lyricist

….and they lived….happily ever after….once upon a time….once in every lifetime….

bridge-of-dreams-near-danville-oh