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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SLIM PICKENS

“Pickens,” in the above title, isn’t a typo. Granted, you may deem my blog slim pickins if you’re hoping it delivers posts that make your day….but this ain’t about that. No, friends, the title refers to Slim Pickens, the actor playing the U.S. Air Force Major who went hopping on a delivery that made his day in this film:

Contrary to what some readers may conclude, I wasn’t born yesterday — but Slim Pickens was (June 29, 1919); thus this celebration of the actor and his most iconic role as Major Kong in DR. STRANGELOVE or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb….not just any bomb, but as you saw in the clip, a

NUCLEAR WARHEAD
HANDLE WITH CARE

Pickens was born Louis Burton Lindley, Jr. in California, the son of a dairy farmer. An excellent horse rider as a boy, he grew bored with dairy farming (according to Wikipedia) and began earning money riding broncos and roping steers in his early teens, which his father learned of and forbid. Nonetheless, he entered a rodeo, despite being told by the dubious rodeo manager that there would be “slim pickin’s” for one so young. To keep his father from finding out, he registered as “Slim Pickens,” won, and pocketed $400. He went on to work as a rodeo clown until landing a role in the 1950 Errol Flynn western Rocky Mountain, beginning a long career in movies and TV.

As for DR. STRANGELOVE, if you’ve seen the film (made in 1963), there’s no need to go into detail, and if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. In brief, it’s a brilliant black comedy that provoked much controversy when belatedly released January 29, 1964. The very names of the characters (played by the likes of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and Pickens) paint a picture of the satire that caused such consternation in those cold war times: President Merkin Muffley, General Buck Turgidson, Gen. Jack D. Ripper, Maj. T.J. ‘King’ Kong, Col. ‘Bat’ Guano, Soviet Premier Dimitri Kissof, Ambassador Desadeski.

The idea that war is madness wasn’t new in 1963-64. Logically, war as madness comes with the territory when IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (another 1963 movie — though the comedy is much broader and more mainstream than DR. STRANGELOVE). So we should have standards, as in this closing classic admonition from President Muffley:

That’s it until July 10 as I go to a post-every-ten-days schedule, or perhaps a post-when-the-spirit-moves-me non-schedule (posting every five days has become a bit of a heavy load lately, so rather than cut corners on quality, I’m cutting back on quantity/frequency).

 

 

 

WHERE’S THE CHIEF?

Bridge is a trick-taking game using a standard 52 card deck. –Wikipedia

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I don’t play bridge, but in perusing last Thursday morning’s newspaper, I couldn’t help noticing this headline atop the daily bridge column: DISAPPEARING TRUMP TRICK.

Given the kind of column it is, I might’ve known what I hoped for was too good to be true. Let’s face it: the notion of learning how to make America’s Look-at-me President magically disappear is a bridge too far. As for voluntarily leaving office at the prospect of obstruction of justice charges, Donald Trump may be a master at the game of evasion, but a disappearing act isn’t in the cards anytime soon; he’s too addicted to tweeting/hearing himself talk. At times, one wonders where his lips shtick comes from: an out-of-control ventriloquist, or from being an egocentric blowhard & shameless con man (for the record, the word dummy appears in the bridge column six times…but I vote for choice #2).

Actually, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for an American President to disappear. Remember Jimmy Hoffa, ex-(in more ways than one)President of America’s largest union, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters? He was last seen in the parking lot of a suburban Detroit restaurant on July 30, 1975 — the day he was to meet with Mafia bosses Anthony Giacalone and Anthony Provenzano. He hasn’t been heard from since.

Speaking of a restaurant (not where one of the above two CEOs of their respective fiefdoms was last seen), do you remember this commercial?

In the case of Hoffa, the question isn’t “Where’s the beef?”, but “Where’s the Chief?” Two weeks before his disappearance, the feds discovered that hundreds of millions of dollars had disappeared from the Teamster’s largest pension fund. Hoffa’s remains remain unfound, although the FBI has checked out numerous tips: under a section of the now-demolished Giants Stadium in New Jersey; in the concrete foundation of Detroit’s Renaissance Center; under a horse barn or backyard swimming pool in Michigan; a swamp in Florida; a vacant lot 20 miles north of that last scene Detroit restaurant  — seemingly everywhere but under Trump Tower in Manhattan (no tip to the FBI intended).

There have been many other mysterious disappearances in American history (Ambrose Bierce, D.B. Cooper, Virginia Dare, Amelia Earhart, etc.), but I say none is more mysterious than the above….or my real name isn’t James Riddle Hoffa.

SUMMER SHORTS

Tomorrow is the first official day of smelly armpits season (unless, of course, you live in the southern hemisphere of earth — or in any hemisphere of Ur-anus, where, they say, it stinks the year round). To greet the season, I’m saluting summer with a look back at several good old summer films (and I mean films that actually have “summer” in the title).

It’s unthinkable that there’s no unstinkable way of sweating as I wrack my brain composing a fulsome introduction to each movie, so I’ll make do with a minimum of b.s. (background setting) preceding each clip….then sum(mer) it all up with bonus b.s. at post’s end.

First we have SUMMERTIME (1955), starring Katherine Hepburn as a spinster vacationing in Venice. After meeting and being attracted to shop owner Rossano Brazzi in his antiques store, they unexpectedly encounter each other again in this scene:

Next: IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME (1949) starring Judy Garland & Van Johnson as lonelyhearts pen pals in a musical remake of THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940), directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Jimmy Stewart. Here is the trailer:

Last we have SUMMER AND SMOKE (1961), a film adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, neither of which I have seen, but which I include here because its title serves as a “Perfect!” lead-in to this anecdote told by the late actor Tony Randall (and which relates back to the first of our films):

David Lean, one of the world’s finest directors, is a meticulous and fastidious craftsman, compulsive and uncompromising about getting things exactly the way he wants them. There is a scene in Summertime in which the [female] owner of a Venetian pensione arranges a tryst with a young American guest at night on the terrace of the pensione. Lean put the couple in two high-backed wicker chairs that completely envelope them,  placed with their backs to the camera so that all the lens could see were her left hand holding his right hand and puffs of white smoke from their cigarettes curling above the backs of the chairs. The brief scene, which could have been shot with any two people sitting in the chairs and the voices of the couple dubbed in later, took an entire night and a carton of cigarettes to film. Lean made the two actors do it over and over. Just as dawn was about to break, Lean finally got a shot that satisfied him.
“Perfect! Perfect!” Lean exclaimed enthusiastically. “The puffs were perfect!”

It seems we’ve come to the end  — but where, you might ask, is the promised “bonus b.s.”? Will you settle for the bonus without the b.s.? Here is the trailer for the aforementioned THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, directed by that master of “the Lubitsch touch” of happy memory to Golden Age film buffs:

 

 

TRAINS OF THOUGHT

All my life I have been thrilled by the names of famous trains. The Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul, the Train Bleu rushing through the night to the Riviera, the Flying Scotsman and the Brighton Belle rolling north and south from London, the Twentieth Century Limited, the Santa Fe Chief and Super Chief crossing the vast continent of America — these were magical names to people of my generation, but on a dark November evening in 1963 the rather dingy train awaiting us in the Zurich station offered no interest until, at a second glance, I noticed that under the grime it bore a name in letters which had once been of polished brass — the Wiener Waltzer [Vienna Waltz]! My spirits rose. How charming, how romantic and how right, I thought, for I was on my way to Vienna to play the part of Johann Strauss in a picture.
–Brian Aherne, English-American actor (1902-86)

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I, too, have long been fascinated by trains — probably since the age of 12, when I traveled with my family by train from Cincinnati to Mexico City. Perhaps my most vivid memory of that trip: the elegant dining car, lined on each side of the aisle with tables covered by immaculate white tablecloths topped by spotless linens and tableware, at which we would sit like ‘big wheels’ eating leisurely meals as the scenery rolled by. “Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer” — like the old song, now echoing back over time.

On the wall near where I sit as I write this post, hangs a large 1966 calendar published by the Union Pacific Railroad (“Road of the Domeliners”). Above each month is a color photo of a scene which is presumably within viewing or dreaming distance of a Domeliner: Sun Valley, Idaho; Morro Bay, California; Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon; Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona; a covered bridge somewhere in northern California; and so on. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge in 51 years.

But the handwriting was already on the wall for iconic streamliners in America by 1966. Numbered were the days of such storied trains as the CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO and railroads like THE ATCHISON, TOPEKA AND THE SANTA FE. Sad to say, the new kid on the track, AMTRAC, would lack their imagery….not to mention, their soundtrack songs from films such as SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941) and THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946):

Those were the days, my friend. Clickety-clack, echoing back. It’s enough to give one the….

NOTE: I will be taking a one-post break. Until my next post on June 20, keep your dreams intact and your hopes on track.

 

 

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

 

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.