PRESIDENTIAL JOKE DAY

If you love your country, you must be willing to defend it from fraud, bigotry and recklessness — even from a President. –Dr. DaShanne Stokes, author & sociologist

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Tomorrow, August 11, is PRESIDENTIAL JOKE DAY (but then, isn’t every day?). The joke has been on us since the November election, though pundits continue to poke pitchforks at America’s joke of a President (to no apparent effect). The point is this: such a President only comes along once in a very long lifetime (thank the Lord). Therefore, with dark days looming ahead, it is incumbent upon us to hang in there, to make hay while the sun shines/while the birdies sing. Are you ready?

Let’s all sing like the birdies sing
Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!

Let’s face it, friends: the President may be a joke, but it goes without tweeting that he has become a very tiresome joke — and if there’s one thing I can’t stand….

Well, fellow losers, it seems like we’re going to be Singin’ in the Rain ’til the bitter end of his reign, so we might as well Send in the Clowns and make the best of the imposter (or is it Send in the Imposters and make the best of the Clown?):

 

DOGGING IT

In my last post, I noted how politics has gone to the dogs. In this post, I’m thinking about how to retrieve dogs from such uninvited tie-ups and (with WORK LIKE A DOG DAY coming Aug. 5) work toward putting them in respectable company. Given the base point (and I do mean base), you’d think this entails no big feat, but it does give me paws….

Since there are already more blogs about dogs than you can shake a stick at (including a — dare I say — fetching one by a regular follower of this blog), I don’t want to be a copycat. That would be barking up the wrong tree. So, to give you a different kind of doggy post, I’ve been doggedly digging up old dog doggerel, similes and sayings….but I’ll start young:

What are little boys made of? Snakes and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails — that’s what little boys are made of. What are little girls make of? Sugar and spice and everything nice — that’s what little girls are made of. 

It’s a dog eat dog world.
It’s raining cats and dogs.
Time to rest my dogs.
Crooked as a dog’s hind leg.
Dog days of summer.

Dog and pony show.
Every dog has its day.
Gone to the dogs.
Let sleeping dogs lie.
Mean as a junkyard dog.

Sick as a dog.
That dog don’t hunt.
When you lie down with dogs, you’re going to get fleas.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
It’s a two dog night.

So, let’s call it a day with two high-class dog songs:

 

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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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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.