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.

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

 

20/20 BEHINDSIGHT

When the world ends, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always 20 years behind the times. –Mark Twain

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Today being the 20th day of the month, and me being a Cincinnatian of long standing (and other less upright positions), what better time than now and what better person than your humble scribe to put history in context with 20/20 hindsight, and delve into stuff you need to know. Why? You don’t want to go out as an ignoramus when the world comes to an end (20 years sooner for you than me), do you?

Starting with the basics, are you aware of the etymology of  the word TWENTY? It’s from ye olde English twënig (literally “two tens”). I hope you agree that lacking this knowledge makes it evident that your imagination was in need of intellectual stimulation. For example, now you should be able to see how much more memorable Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address could have been had it begun: Four twënigs and seven years ago….

Speaking of “two tens,” by counting the letters of the alphabet on the digits of your two meat hooks twice, you will find (unless you’re missing a finger) that the twënigth letter is T, which may come in handy in situations where you wouldn’t want to take off your stinky shoes and socks (not that counting on your toes is anything to be ashamed of).

Moving on as I sit on my behind, there was once a quiz show on radio and TV titled TWENTY QUESTIONS, based on an old-timey traditional game called TWËNIG QUESTIONS. While I am not quite ancient enough to give eyewitness to the latter, I was around in the 1950s when the former appeared weekly (or weakly, if you had bad reception) on the DuMont Television Network. If you are too dilatory to have been around at that time, here’s a DuMontstration of what you missed:

I could go on, but my vast research team and I don’t want to feed you more knowledge than you can digest at one sitting. Tune in again May 25, when (if I feel like it) I shall once again attempt to enlighten you with more of same. Remember, you heard it here last, because we are committed, and you can be too.

 

HUSBAND APPRECIATION DAY

The third Saturday in April, which happens to be today, is HUSBAND APPRECIATION DAY. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), I have but one wife to appreciate me. Not that I’m greedy, you understand, but I can’t help wondering what it would be like having many wives appreciate me — like in such open-minded countries as Afghanistan, where polygamy is a common practice. Speaking of practice, practice may make perfect, but prudence dictates that such things should be checked out before one plunges into it.

Luckily, one has only to turn to Googlepedia to find pertinent reports. For example, a well-educated Imam of Islam, Mohammed Bello Abubakar, was quoted in The Christian Science Monitor and the BBC as saying, “I married 86 women and there is peace in the house — if there is peace, how can this be wrong? A man with ten wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them.” By the time of his death on January 28 at 92 (years, not wives), he actually had not 86, not 92, but 120 wives, and had fathered 203 children. And I thought I was busy.

But Bello Abubakar was a piker at polygamy compared to that wisest of Old Testament wife hoarders, King Solomon, who is said to have had up to 1,000 wives….not to mention 300 concubines on the side. Apparently, it helps to get religion if one hopes to honey-up and handle hives of wives. Bee that as it may, the problem is that one can’t grab unto just any religion in order to have one’s fill of mates. For example, I was raised Catholic, which is not the most reasonable religion in the world when it comes to conjugal largesse. On top of that — though I am now free of such doctrinaire prohibition — the secular powers-that-be in America maintain equally unenlightened views in marital matters. So you can see what we poor, monogamous men are up against in so-called liberal democracies.

Of course, we could resort to bigamy, but at what cost? It’s a sad state of affairs when you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But never let it be said that I’m not a broad-minded guy — thus, I call on the following sexpert testimony, which unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be) includes no female witnesses:

Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same. –Oscar Wilde

The best argument against bigamy is that it leaves a man no place to hang his clothes. –Evan Esar

Bigamy is the only crime where two rites make a wrong. –Bob Hope

Why a man would want a wife is a mystery to bachelors; why a man would want two wives is a bigamystery. –Evan Esar

Polygamy, n. A house of atonement, fitted with several stools of repentance, as distinguished from monogamy, which has but one.–Ambrose Bierce (The Devil’s Dictionary)

Brigham Young originated mass production [in America], but Henry Ford was the one who improved on it. –Will Rogers

Polygamy: an endeavor to get more out of life than there is in it. –Elbert Hubbard

Every man should have four wives: a Persian, with whom he can converse; a woman from Khorasan, for the housework; a Hindu woman to raise the children; and one from Transoxiana, whom he can beat as a warning to the others. –Mirza Aziz Koka

That last quote seems a bit over the top, I must admit. How could the average person be expected to know where the hell Khorasan and Transoxiana are?

 

GANGSTER WRAP

I trust that you remember my March 30 post titled HOLLYWOOD, DEAD LEFT ON VINE. If not, maybe you could use a nudge from Police Lt. Frank Drebin to refresh your memory:

Maybe now you remember: my March 30 opus delicti distinguished between film noir (theme of that post) and gangster movies (this post’s theme), while allowing for crossover in films like WHITE HEAT (classified as film noir in one book, and gangster film in another). To anyone not ‘into’ such films, these thorny details may strike one as nothing more than a distinction without a difference….but I’ll assume you aren’t “anyone,” because I’ve got a job to pull — I mean, a post to write — and the subject ain’t roses.

That’s odd. I could have sworn the subject was not roses.

Wait a shrouded minute! Now I remember — the subject was supposed to be gangster movies. My bad. Sorry for the hold up.

In the introduction to his book CLASSIC GANGSTER FILMS, by (appropriately enough) Robert Bookbinder, he writes: “The gangster film has always been one of the staples of the American cinema. Though there were several motion pictures with a gangster theme produced as far back as the silent era, the genre did not really begin to flourish until the thirties, when it reigned throughout the decade as one of the public’s favorite kinds of “escapist” entertainment. Depression-era audiences responded strongly to all the action, violence and romance, and were more than willing to get caught up in the on-screen exploits of Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. In a sense, the movie gangster, with his rebellious breaking of society’s rules and regulations, and his aggressive drive to “get somewhere” regardless of consequences, became something of a hero to filmgoers of the period.”

It is worth noting that, although the gangster film by no means passed completely out of the picture, its most productive period (1930 to 1941-42) led to the era of classic film noir (1941-59)….which began with THE (never-surpassed) MALTESE FALCON. The above three stars were equally without rival in both genres.

Bookbinder’s book binds together the above transition, providing a fascinating look back at 45 gangster films (several overlapping into film noir), complete with credits, cast, commentary, photos and synopsis for each film, ranging from LITTLE CAESAR in 1930 to BONNIE AND CLYDE in 1967 and THE BROTHERHOOD in 1969. Of the latter, Bookbinder states: “It was not especially successful, and it has been almost completely overshadowed in film history by the more expensive and elaborate Godfather films of the early seventies. The picture deserves a better fate….what a truly entertaining gem it is.”

Now, I will admit that, in general, I am not as big a fan of gangster films as I am of film noir. I have an affinity for the more tangled and convoluted plots (in most cases) of the latter, compared to the more macho and less sophisticated gangster films….but then, “sophisticated” is not a term one normally associates with gangsters — so, by Sam, let’s call a spade a Spade. It’s not a bum rap.

But there is one bailiwick in which gangster films win hands down — I mean, hands up! (ha ha) — and that is in gangster film spoofs such as the all-time classic, SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959), which lost out to (would you believe?) BEN-HUR in practically every Academy Award category for that year. Oh, well — nobody’s perfect. 😦

And that’s a wrap.

 

 

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:

 

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: