Thursday, February 28, 2013

hard to know

indescribable desire

What do I want?
More information?
Less information?
No celebrities?
a porch swing?

a cool, mirror-like pond?

a hairstyle?
an inspiration?

Minimal accessories?
good socks?
A stack of books?
Static connection?
dawn over a state line?

the excitement of a list of things you want to do?
substantive experience?

{"It don't mean a thing (if it ain't got that swing)"
--  Duke Ellington}


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

slings, arrows, and worn-out shoes

"How come you treat me like a worn out shoe"
is the phrase which recurs in my mind after reviewing Hank Williams music....

"...and say sweet nothings like you used to coo"...

"Why don't you say the things you used to say,
what makes you treat me like a piece of clay"...

"I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it."
-- William Shakespeare, from As You Like It

A review of Hank Williams songs generally leads to a consideration of the writings of Shakespeare --

"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
-- All's Well That Ends Well

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind."
-- A Midsummer Night's Dream

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
-- As You Like It

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves."
-- Julius Caesar

"I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed!"

"This above all:  to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
-- Hamlet

"Be not afraid of greatness.  Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them."
-- Twelfth Night

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts...."

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
-- Hamlet

"You speak an infinite deal of nothing."
-- The Merchant of Venice

"When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew."

"Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find."

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here."
-- The Tempest

"Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come."
-- Julius Caesar

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
-- A Midsummer Night's Dream

"To be, or not to be:  that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them?
-- Hamlet


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

like you used to do

After thinking about the Democrats' 1960 campaign song (Frank Sinatra's "High Hopes"), began imagining campaign songs for a more cynical era --
"Try, just a little bit harder"
"You Can't Always Get What You Want"
"Friends in Low Places"
"On The Road Again"
"Honky Tonk Women" -- all right, realize that one makes no sense, I just like it...I met a divorcee in New York Cit-ih -- I had to put up some kind of a fight -- The lady, then, she covered me with roses -- She blew my nose and then she blew my mind -- it's the honky tonk, honky tonk -- women -- Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues....

came across Hank Williams songs, and seemed like many of them had titles which could be applied -- or, re-applied -- for campaigns, or situations in politics...

"A House without love"  (about Congress)
"I Just Don't Like This Kind of Livin'"  (calling for positive change)
"Mind Your Own Business"  (to all critics)
"Calling You"
"Never Again (Will I Knock on Your Door)"  [only becaue I already knocked on it, asking for your support...]

"Wealth Won't Save Your Soul" (tax bills and budget debates)
"Why Should We Try Anymore"  (relations with Congress)
"Nobody's Lonesome for Me" -- that's for after you get elected and people blame everything on you...
"Cold, Cold Heart"  (Congress again)
"I'm So Tired Of It All"  (every day since being elected...)
"You Caused it All by Telling Lies"  [for the cable networks' opinion-heads]

and then just for fun, as long as thinking of Hank Williams...
Well, Why don't you love me like you used to do
How come you treat me like a worn out shoe
My hair's still curly and my eyes are still blue
Why don't you love me like you used to do.

Ain't had no lovin' like a huggin' and a kissin'
in a long, long while
We don't get nearer or further or closer than a country mile;

Why don't you spark me like you used to do
and say sweet nothin's like you used to coo
I'm the same old trouble that you've always been through
So, why don't you love me like you used to do.

Well why don't you be just like you used to be
How come you find so many faults with me
somebody's changed so let me give you a clue
why don't you love me like you used to do.

Ain't had no lovin' like a huggin' and a kissin'
in a long, long while
We don't get nearer or further or closer
than a country mile;

Why don't you say the things you used to say
what makes you treat me like a piece of clay
My hair's still curly and my eyes are still blue
Why don't you love me like you used to do.

The verbal audacity of Shakespeare, and the soul of James Brown, all packed into one human from Alabama.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Talk, personality

In posts previous to today's, was contemplating two songs:
Lloyd Price's "Personality"
and "High Hopes," performed by Frank Sinatra, and covered by others, including Doris Day.

Both songs came out in 1959.
(What is it with 1959?)

Both are songs which I heard little, short pieces of, at times, during my life on the planet -- and when hearing only a few lines, or measures, at a time, I would want more -- I'd be like, "What is that song?" 
"Where is that song?"
"Where can I find it?"
Where can I listen to it?
It sounds really good, and happy....

And -- I would not be able to find it, or have it, or hear it, with the resources then available to me.

Now, with the internet, I type in the title, or a line from the song, and it emerges, before my eyes.  A list of various references, or versions, of the same thing.  It goes on and on....

Last week, when I thought of those songs, was letting the threads of their lines run through my head, and for a short bit, thought maybe they were one song -- the same song.

"Cause you've got -- personality, something - personality, High hopes, he's got hi-i-igh hopes, he's got...personality..."

"Personality," it seems, would have been a sort of bona fide, substantive R & B work -- "High Hopes" would be more in a category of the light-hearted pop tune.

And a thing I find startling and surprising is...
Well, when I imagine if any people look at Blue Collar Lit sometimes, the thought occurs to me that some might say, "That blog writes about politics all the damn time, especially Kennedy, for the love-of-Pete, it's all-Kennedy-all-the-time....!"
And any critics thinking along these sorts of lines would read the song lyrics I shared this week and say to themselves, Well thank goodness, at least it's not about Kennedy this time -- or -- for this blog's usual "change-of-pace," Nixon, for God's sake....!
But -- (sorry), but politics wanders back in because, believe it or not -- and I found it startling and surprising -- the "High Hopes" song was actually used in Senator John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign...! 

Sung by Frank Sinatra.

(And, why -- not - ? - ?...?)

That type of song in a campaign today would seem impossibly "corny" -- too "lightweight," or something....they'd never get away with it!  Their opponents would make fun of the "pie-in-the-sky" hopes....No politician would want to be associated with it.  Although some of the ideas and phrases with which they do associate themselves are, to my perspective, disgusting, awful, and mean.  But we're living in an era where some people confuse meanness and pettiness with strength.

For the 1960 campaign, they re-wrote the lyrics of "High Hopes" --

Everyone is voting for Jack
'Cause he's got what all the rest lack.
Everyone wants to back Jack;
Jack is on the right track.

'Cause he's got -- high hopes,
high hopes,
1960's the year for his high hopes.

So come on and vote for Kennedy,
vote for Kennedy,
and we'll come out on top --
Whoops there goes the opposition ker-
Whoops there goes the opposition ker-
Whoops there goes the opposition, ker-plop.


==================  {July 1960}  "Today our concern must be with the future.  For the world is changing.  The old era is ending.  The old ways will not do.  Abroad, the balance of power is shifting.  There are new and more terrible weapons -- new and uncertain nations -- new pressures of population and deprivation....

Too many Americans have lost their way, their will and their sense of historic purpose.  It is a time, in short, for a new generation of leadership -- new men to cope with new problems and new opportunities....I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier.  From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West. 

They were not the captives of their own doubts, the prisoners of their own price tags.  Their motto was not 'every man for himself' -- but 'all for the common cause.'...We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier -- the frontier of the 1960s -- a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils....

The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises -- it is a set of challenges.  It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them....Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure?  That is the real question. 

Have we the nerve and the will?...

Are we up to the task -- are we equal to the challenge?...That is the question of the New Frontier.  That is the choice our nation must make -- a choice...between the public interest and the private comfort -- between national greatness and national decline....All mankind waits upon our decision.  A whole world looks to see what we will do.  We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try."

{excerpts, JFK speech, Dem. Convention, L.A. 1960}

..."Everyone wants to back Jack --
Jack is on the right track,
'Cause he's got -- high hopes...."


Thursday, February 21, 2013

anyone knows an ant can't

Next time you're found,
with your chin on the ground --
There's a lot to be learned,
so look around...

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant?
Anyone knows an ant, can't
Move a rubber tree plant

But he's got --
high hopes, he's got
high hopes
He's got --
--high apple pie, in the sky-y hopes,

So any time you're gettin' low
'stead of lettin' go
Just remember that ant
Oops there goes another rubber tree plant

When troubles call,
and your back's to the wall
There's a lot to be learned,
that wall could fall

Once there was a silly old ram
Thought he'd punch a hole in a dam
No one could make that ram, scram
He kept buttin' that dam

'Cause he had --
hi-igh hopes,
he had hi-igh hopes,
He had big apple pie,
in the -- sk-y-y hopes --

So any time you're feelin' bad
'stead of feelin' sad
Just remember that ram
Oops there goes a billion kilowatt dam

All problems just a toy balloon
They'll be bursted soon
They're just bound to go pop
Oops there goes another problem ker-plop

{written / J. Van Heusen & Sammy Cahn.  performed / Frank Sinatra.  1959}


Monday, February 18, 2013

'cause you've got --

Over and over
I tried to prove my love to you
Over and over
What more can I do
Over and over
My friends say I'm a fool
but over and over
I'll be a fool for you

'cause you got -- personality,
Walk, personality
Talk, personality
Smile, personality
Charm, personality
Love, personality

and of course you've got
A great big heart
so over and over
and over, over, over
Oh, I'll be a fool to you
Now over and over
and over, over, over
What more can I do ?

'cause you got __ personality,
Walk, personality
Talk, personality
Smile, personality
Charm, personality
Love, personality --

And of course you've got
A great big heart
So over and over
And over, over, over
Oh, I'll be a fool for you
Now over and over
And over, over, over
What more can I do?

Over and over
I said that I loved you
Over and over, honey
Now it's the truth
Over and over
they still say I'm a fool
But Over and over
I'll be a fool for you --

'cause you got --
Walk, personality
Talk, Personality
Smile, Personality
Charm, personality
Love, personality

And because you've got
A great big heart
So over and over
And over, over, over
Oh I'll be a fool for you
Now over and over
and over, over, over
What more can I do?

--------------- {"Personality" a 1959 hit song by Lloyd Price}
================= Last week, contemplating the film, The Sting, read comments which referred to the "sizzling charisma" of the stars, Redford and Newman.  Sizzling charisma.  I liked that phrase; and "charisma" is a word you don't hear much these days -- words go in and out of fashion, in trends, like different styles in shoes, or clothes....Thought, "charisma, charisma."  And that made me think, Saturday morning, of -- ya-da, personality, bomp - personality, somethin' - personality, ta-dah - per-son-al-i-tee....and was thinking, What Is That Song???????

Cause you've got -- finger-snap, Personality - !!  It was thin and far-away, in my memory, yet insistent. ...


Friday, February 15, 2013

sizzling charisma; taciturn menace

Empire wrote: 
One of those instances where everything good about Hollywood just fell into one place at the right time, it's almost impossible not to get swept up in the


of The Sting as a whole.  Magnificent, timeless stuff.

Director George Roy Hill and screenwriter David Ward structure the movie episodically,

weaving together the components of the con

into such a beautifully layered web

that the viewer is hooked as easily as the mark.

With true economy of story-telling, Hill


from one scene to another, the action zipped along by Robert Redford's young buck, Johnny Hooker, and his wily old mentor, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman).  Both men breathe

sizzling charisma

into their characters; these con men work against such nasty types that they're almost morality Robin Hoods, albeit with their fingers in the coin purse.  And that those fingers tap to a now-iconic ragtime soundtrack only adds to the feather-light comedy touch.

In December 1973, A.D. Murphy wrote in Variety:
"The Sting" has all the signs of a blockbuster.  ...George Roy Hill's outstanding direction of David S. Ward's finely-crafted story of multiple deception and surprise ending will delight both

mass and class

audiences.  Extremely handsome production values and a great supporting cast round out the virtues....

Newman in a somewhat older role than normal opens the door wide to another facet of his career; his relationship with [Eileen] Brennan (in a sensational supporting role) rounds out his characterization of an old pro making his last big score.

The casting of Robert Shaw as the syndicate boss Doyle Lonnegan is a major coup:  his

taciturn menace

commands attention even when he is simply part of a master shot....
Art director Henry Bumstead and set decorator James Payne outdid themselves....
Setting up the film's period from the outset is the placement of Universal's old trademark (the lucite globe design which had been used from the middle '30s to the late '40s).

...The 127-minute film comes to a series of startling climaxes, piled atop one another with's a pleasure.

...Finally, Universal, which to date has had a record year, continues to hold a hot hand.

On the Chicago Reader site, it says,
Top-notch entertainment (1973), Paul Newman and Robert Redford as penny-ante con men who set up a hilariously complex "Big Con" to fleece Irish gangster Robert Shaw out of half a million dollars in Depression-era Chicago.  The Chicago locations are well used by veteran director George Roy Hill, and the wonderful 30s movie style (lots of horizontal and vertical wipes, flipping screens, irises in and out) enhances the sense of good, harmless, nostalgic fun.


On a site titled Static Mass, filmmaker Ben Nicholson wrote about The Sting, June 22nd, 2012:

The plot sees a young grifter, Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), playing small cons in 1930's Chicago.  He blows his dough gambling and has regular run-ins with a nasty cop named Snyder (Charles Durning) but when his partner, Luther, is killed after they scam a suit who works for New York big-wig Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), Hooker wants revenge.  In order to get it, he teams up with Luther's old pal, and master of the long con, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman)....

The Sting sets them up as the master and the apprentice, though they have a very similar drive in their desire to con bad guys.  Neither of them set their sights on Lonnegan as a mark due to the potential financial gain -- they do it because they love it, and because they loved Luther....

Newman in particular makes me laugh out loud during his drunken card game with Lonnegan aboard a train from New York to Chicago.  Knowng they need to ensnare the mark in their trap, Gondorff poses as a rich businessman and buys his way into an exclusive game of poker.  He proceeds to play the part completely drunk, brazen and obnoxious repeatedly belching and getting Lonnegan's name wrong.  ...It just cracks me up when he presses his cards to his chest and looks around suspiciously; eyeing everyone, expecting them to be attempting to see his hand.

The setting's also a real joy.  Filmed on the backlot at Universal, 1930's Chicago is recreated with a lovely nostalgic tinge -- a canvas of browns giving the film a sepia quality -- which is married perfectly with the tinkling of the piano as Marvin Hamlisch plays the famous Scott Joplin tune "The Entertainer."

...It's not about not knowing how they did it, or how it will end, but going along for the ride.  If you've not seen The Sting before, or it's been a while, I suggest you give it a watch; I was certainly glad that I did.

{end reviews}

Part of the fun of these reviews is, the different ideas of what's-up:  was The Sting filmed in Chicago?  Or on a Hollywood back lot?  Seemed like we had one vote each for those scenarios?  : )
Maybe some of both....


Thursday, February 14, 2013

the thing about The Sting

Most interesting aspects of The Sting:

-- the Scott Joplin ragtime music which was used to track alongside the action

-- the handsome and talented actors in the lead roles:  Robert Redford as Johnny Hooker and Paul Newman as Henry Gondorff

-- the twist embedded in the plotline which says -- insists, actually -- that the target of their Big Con never know he was taken....


All across the "Web," bloggers write about this film:  there are paragraphs about The Sting, and photographs from it, on The Warning Sign blog;
Three men on a blog calls it "breezy, twisty and damned enjoyable."

(Am bogged down -- I want to write about The Sting and cannot focus on what I need to say....Blogged down.  As my cousin Rick once wrote, "I'm in a blog fog.")

The thing about The Sting was, the movie was An Event.
As I was writing a couple of posts ago, it had effects upon my life, at the time when it came out, and I didn't even SEE it, then (!)....It's an example of how culture influences us, & becomes part of our lives and perceptions.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

walking nonchalantly

SNYDER  (not taking the fake):  Then you'll have to come up with another grand somewhere.

Hooker is beat and he knows it.

HOOKER:  All right.

He reaches into his coat, pulls out a stack of bills and counts out $2000 to Snyder.  Eirie looks on in amazement; he didn't think Hooker had it.

SNYDER  (pocketing the money and motioning his partner to put his gun away):  You're a smart egg, Hooker.  No use dyin' for 2 grand.

Snyder and his policeman friend get in their car and start down the street.  Hooker and Eirie walk nonchalantly in the other direction.

EIRIE KID:  I thought you blew all your money.

HOOKER:  I did.  That stuff I gave him was counterfeit.  They'll pinch him the first place he tries to spend it.

Snyder and his partner disappear around a corner.  Hooker suddenly takes off like a shot.


He runs into a drugstore and goes to the phone booth.  There's already a woman in it.  Hooker rips open the door and throws her out.  Hurriedly, he begins to dial.

EIRIE KID (standing outside the booth):  What the hell you gonna do when Snyder rushes his finger right to Lonnegan?  You're committin' suicide, kid.

HOOKER (waiting for the ring):  Aw Christ, it doesn't make no difference now.  If Snyder knows about it so does everybody else.  He never gets anything first...Damn, there's no answer at Luther's.

EIRIE KID:  Listen to me, Hooker.  Whatever you do, don't go back to your place tonight, don't go anyplace you usually go, ya hear me?  Get outa town or somethin', but...

Hooker, still getting no answer, slams the phone down and blasts out of the booth.


Eirie chases him frantically, calling him to come back, but he's giving away too many years and there's no stopping Hooker at this point.

=================== {excerpt, the 1973 script for The Sting, written by David S. Ward}


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

hell yes he does this every year

When the movie called The Sting came out in 1973, I didn't see it -- I was at an in-between age:  not terribly eager to go to a movie with my parents, but not old enough to drive, and no "older group" of teenagers with whom I might hope to be included in a trip to "the show," as they called the movie theater.

The jumpy, skippy, jazzy, dance-y Scott Joplin ragtime music which underscored that film was nearly ubiquitous from 1973 to 1975 (staying power!) -- "The Entertainer", performed by Marvin Hamlisch, was played on the radio and featured on television -- people I knew had the movie soundtrack on a record album.  I learned to play "The Entertainer" and other Joplin songs -- "The Easy Winners," "Pine Apple Rag," "Sunflower Slow Drag" -- on the piano, and I read the paperback book, which was what they call a "novelization."  (In other words, the book didn't come first with the movie subsequently being based on it -- instead, the movie script was written, the movie filmed, and the book was then written based on the movie -- part of a "marketing package"...)

I look at that sequence now, and think, Why didn't I Just See The Darned Movie???  It was like -- I participated in the Phenomenon of The Sting in every way except the "Main Way" which would have been --


The main logo of the film -- Robert Redford on the left and Paul Newman on the right, wearing hats, and it's a drawing, not a photograph, I think -- with an old-fashioned, stand-up, two-piece telephone next to Robert Redford's right's as familiar as my own name and address -- stamped in memory.

Finally saw the film about five years later, in a second-run theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts -- on a date with a guy who -- nagged and criticized, now that I recall -- lol....One of these days I have to just
Watch.  That.  Movie.


Visible beyond the door and interior window of Combs' office is a large room, cluttered with tables, typewriters, clerks and adding machines.

COMBS [on the phone]:  Granger, this is Combs.  Why haven't we heard from ya?  Everybody else is in.

GRANGER:  We had a few problems with the Law this morning.  The Mayor promised the Jaycees to get tough on the rackets again, so he shut everybody down for a couple hours to make it look good.  Nothing serious, it just put us a little behind for the day.

COMBS:  You been making your payoffs, haven't ya?

GRANGER:  Hell yes.  He does this every year.  There's nothing to worry about.

=================== [excerpt, The Sting script, written by David W. WARD]


Monday, February 11, 2013

a rattling mix!

On a web-site called
TOTAL FILM -- The Modern Guide to Movies,
Nathan Ditum wrote about
The Sting:

For all its Oscars (seven, including Best Picture) this second collaboration between Robert Redford, Paul Newman and director George Roy Hill has been overshadowed by their more-iconic first, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (those hats, those six-shooters, that freeze-frame ending).

If anything, that's a testament to the staying power of cowboys versus the grinning conmen the pair play here.  It's certainly no judgement on The Sting itself...masterfully smooth...built on golden-age savvy but never feels like a rose-tinted throwback.

At the centre of it all is the glorious reunion of Newman and Redford, here teamed up against Robert Shaw's vicious crime boss.  The Sting is full of the accomplished ease and white-toothed star power that Steven Soderbergh successfully captured in Ocean's Eleven (the charms and payoffs of which owe far more to Hill's film [The Sting] than the Rat Pack original [the first Ocean's Eleven, made in 1960]).

But even armed with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Soderbergh couldn't match The Sting's devastating combo.  There's simply too much of them -- Newman's impossible blue eyes, Redford's inhumanly blond hair.  Alone, they swagger.  Together, they're a dream, a rattling mix of Newman's old-time charisma and Redford's fresh-faced determination.

Not that there was much of a gap between them -- a mere 11 years separate Newman's master scammer from his apprentice.  But in the shifting sands of the early '70s, those 11 years meant an era and a different way of making movies.

Their mix of styles and significance -- Redford, the soon-to-be poster boy for '70s cinema (and, beyond, the Sundance new wave), Newman the studio survivor -- add to The Sting's sense of historical place.

The film  is both timeless and oddly out of time:  made in 1973 and very much a part of the creatively free-wheeling New Hollywood, it's set during the Depression-era '30s -- those baggy-trousered pinstripes giving Newman and Redford the look of pre-war contract players -- and shot largely on the Universal lot.

The result is a slick, winning blend of industrial artifice with the restless creative edge of the new decade.  And it's a true one-off:  compare it to the films Redford would make soon afterwards -- shadowy conspiracy thrillers All The President's Men and Three Days Of The Condor -- and The Sting's too-bright backstreet sets and blustering performances (Newman's gin-sop poker routine is almost too big for the movie) are from another world, one that's always worth revisiting.
--------------------------------- {end Nathan Ditum review} -- he was writing about The Sting because it was being released on blue-ray, June 11th 2012....

"built on golden-age savvy but never feels like a rose-tinted throwback"

"Newman's impossible blue eyes"

"Redford's inhumanly blond hair"  (lol)

"Alone, they swagger."

"Together, they're a dream"

"a rattling mix"

"Newman's old-time charisma and Redford's fresh-faced determination"

"the shifting sands of the early '70s"

"in the shifting sands of the early '70s, those 11 years meant an era...."

the movie's "sense of historical place"

"both timeless and oddly out of time"

"made in 1973...set during Depression-era"

"(Newman's gin-sop poker routine is almost too big for the movie)"

"blustering performances"

"The Sting's too-bright backstreet sets and
blustering performances
are from another world,
one that's always worth revisiting."


Friday, February 8, 2013

I'd rather be Cerf-ing

There's a book written by Bennett Cerf, called, Try and Stop Me.  (A Collection of, Anecdotes and Stories, Mostly Humorous).  Published in 1944, it's interesting, to me, on a couple of different levels -- sometimes, "Ha ha, that was funny!" and at other times, "Huh -- that's what people thought was funny -- back then."  And at still other times -- "...Oh."

In Chapter Ten, entitled "This, Gentlemen, Is History!", Cerf writes about mayors of New York City...
---------------------- [excerpt]----------- First there was John Hylan, who escorted Queen Marie of Rumania on a tour up Fifth Avenue.  "What a wonderful avenue," exclaimed Her Majesty.  "You said a mouthful, Queen," agreed His Honor.

Hylan seldom bothered to read speeches that trusted ghosts prepared for him ahead of time.  In the middle of one speech he came to the phrase, "That reminds me of one of my favorite stories about a traveling salesman."  It developed that the Mayor had never heard the joke before, and when he finished reading it, he laughed so hard he broke his glasses.  The chairman of the dinner had to finish the speech for him.

...While Mayor Jimmie Walker answered, when asked by a publisher to name his ten favorite novels, "Son, I never read a book in my life!", the next NYC Mayor, John P. O'Brien, was said to have told delighted reporters that he was "a slave to literature."  Also, he endeared himself to his constituents when he referred to "that scientist of scientists, Albert Weinstein."...

[blogger's note:  LaGuardia's first name was Fiorello, which can mean "Little Flower" in Italian....]

Mayor LaGuardia, the present incumbent, rates a whole book for himself, but as long as he's mayor of the town we all work in, I'd better be careful.  Besides, he officiated at my marriage, and I owe him a debt of gratitude.  He whipped through the ceremony in three seconds flat, mumbled, "Don't blame me for anything that happens," and was off -- probably to attend a fire. 

Here's one nice story about him.  He presides occasionally in Police Court.  One bitter cold day they brought a trembling old man before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread.  His family, he said, was starving.  "I've got to punish you," declared LaGuardia.  "The law makes no exception.  I can do nothing but sentence you to a fine of ten dollars."

But the Little Flower was reaching into his pocket as he added, "Well, here's the ten dollars to pay your fine.  And now I remit the fine."  He tossed a ten-dollar bill into his famous sombrero.  "Furthermore," he declared, "I'm going to fine everybody in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a man has to steal bread in order to eat.

Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to this defendant!"-------------------

{Try And Stop Me, by Bennett Cerf.  Copyright, 1945.  Simon and Schuster, New York, N.Y.}


Thursday, February 7, 2013

your life is part of the main

I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin.  And I am proud -- And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who --

-- who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago -- Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum."  Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner."

[This transcription of President John F. Kennedy's speech in West Berlin, before 450,000 people, on 26 June 1963, is taken from the American Rhetoric web-site.  When there's a pause ("--") and the president repeats the phrase from before the pause, it's because the crowd has interjected cheers.  The audio can be listened to, on that site....]

There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world.

Let them come to Berlin.

There are some who say -- There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future.

Let them come to Berlin.

And there are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists.

Let them come to Berlin.

And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress.

Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen.

Let them come to Berlin.

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect.  But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in -- to prevent them from leaving us.  I want to say on behalf of my countrymen who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride, that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years.  I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope, and the determination of the city of West Berlin.

While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system -- for all the world to see -- we take no satisfaction in it; for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is -- What is true of this city is true of Germany:  Real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice.  In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people.

You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main.  So let me ask you, as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves, to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.  When all are free, then we look -- can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe.  When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

All -- All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.

And, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner."


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ish bin ein Bear LEE ner

The "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech was delivered, by President Kennedy, June 26, 1963, from the steps of a city hall building called Rathaus Schoneberg:  he spoke to an assembled audience of 450,000.

(Double-take.  450,000 -- yikes that's a crowd...)

The Berlin Wall had been built 22 months earlier, by Soviet-supported East Germany, as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West.

People really thought that wall was bullshit, and this feeling comes through in the U.S. president's speech -- a person can listen to it on a site called "American Rhetoric" ... I listened, and noted that the president's voice and force, as he spoke, sounded pretty intense -- and when two people passed by, not knowing what they were hearing, they glanced in at me, looking startled -- ("What is that??!") 
(Well, it is President Kennedy, and he's somewhat riled up....ok?)

It was
a moment
in the era
the contest -- or, competition -- between freedom and communism, two distinct theories; two different ways of life.  It was remaining fall-out, and continuing conflict and tension after WWII and the new geopolitical picture.

The U.S. President says,
"Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen" ("Let them come to Berlin"): 

this challenge is directed to "those who claimed we can work with the Communists"...

He said,

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum ["I am a Roman citizen"].  Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"...All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

On a site called The Historical Archive, it says:
The concept of free people everywhere identifying with, and supporting, the West Berliners, and expressing it as, "I am a Berliner" was a last-minute inclusion by Pres. Kennedy, in the speech -- he practiced the phrase in German in the office of Mayor Willy Brandt.  The president also created a phonetic card for the phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner" to ensure  he would pronounce it correctly.

People can go to The Historical Archive web-site and see the cue card, in Pres. Kennedy's hand-writing.  (I thought that was cool.)

Ish bin ein Bear lee ner
Kivis Romanus sum ...

------------- Also on that site it says the speech was "very well received" but the president's National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy felt the speech was a bit too strong and the text was revised to a softer tone before JFK delivered it to the Free University later on the same day.

If a person listens to the speech on the American Rhetoric site, you're hearing the Rathaus Schoneberg, outdoor version, and you hear the crowd hollering and roaring with enthusiasm; you kind of have to fasten your seatbelt, so you don't get too startled, as my associates were when they walked by, and it was playing.  (Maybe McGeorge Bundy was a little "scared," too...."Play it cool, man"...)  President Kennedy fought in World War II, and had been dealing, like all Americans had, at various levels, with the communist threat for 18 years -- the Wall was the latest affront; it felt, to the free world, like a step in the wrong direction.

JFK had said in his inauguration speech that the contest between freedom and communism was going to be a "long, twilight struggle" -- and those are aggravating.  I don't blame him for getting enthusiastic:  and the West German audience loves it....


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I distinctly heard it

In the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech Pres. Kennedy said,

Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum."  Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner."

[I thought "ich" was pronounced "ick", but he says, "Eesh."]

There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world.

Let them come to Berlin.

There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future.

Let them come to Berlin.


Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen.
Let them come to Berlin.

Thinking about that speech I thought of the phrase, attributed to Bill Clinton:  "I feel your pain" -- some people would say that's a pale comparison...I'm not comparing, just -- thinking about empathy, and liking people, and having peace not war, and making things better not worse...After the school shooting in Connecticut someone commented on the internet that we need a new peace movement, that begins at home.  Like --

"Ich bin ein Berliner!"
You're a Berliner -- so am I!
We're with you!
We feel your pain....
I am you!
We are the same -- we all want peace;
be nice don't kill people

Be Nice And Get Along! -- I was thinking that, too trying to help in some way or at least be supportive, and then was frustrated, feeling like, Yes but sometimes it's a different situation, and each interaction does not mirror your own, and sometimes if you feel someone's pain too much, you can get it mixed up with your own pain, then you're mixed up....

Be Nice And Get Along -- BNAGA

It's OK; you're OK; misinterpretation -- B-NAGA!  B-NAGA!  they are nice, it's just the occasional misinterpretation, maybe....I feel like each person has to make it a point to Not see insult or intrusion where there may not be any....

There's a scene toward the beginning of the film Annie Hall, where Woody Allen highlights, and riffs on, this idea -- the sense that sometimes we might perceive insult, intrusion, or disrespect and it might not be....(even if it is, sometimes we can ignore it -- not dignify it -- choose to respond only to what we want to respond to....that's something else Kennedy did -- in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev wrote two letters, Kennedy responded to one & not the other, thereby getting some control & framing the discussion....)

(OK, Pres. Kennedy, you go and sit over there, we're going to back to Woody Allen.)

A Manhattan street -- nothing overpowering, romantic, or glamorous -- just a street, couple of pedestrians coming toward the camera and then disappearing beyond it.  You can hear Alvy Singer (W. Allen) and his friend Rob in conversation, but they're so far in the distance, you cannot see them until they approach close enough, moving into view, coming toward the audience.

ALVY:  I distinctly heard it.  He muttered under his breath, "Jew."

ROB:  You're crazy!

ALVY:  No, I'm not.  We were walking off the tennis court, and you know, he was there and me and his wife, and he looked at her and then they both looked at me, and under his breath he said, "Jew."

ROB:  Alvy, you're a total paranoid.

ALVY:  Wh-  How am I a paran-?  Well, I pick up on those kind o' things.  You know, I was having lunch with some guys from NBC, so I said ... uh, "Did you eat yet, or what?" and Tom Christie said, "No, didchoo?"  Not, did you, didchoo eat?  Jew?  No, not did you eat, but Jew eat?  Jew.  You get it?  Jew eat?

ROB:  Ah, Max, you, uh ...
ALVY:  Stop calling me Max.
ROB:  Why, Max?  It's a good name for you.  Max, you see conspiracies in everything.

ALVY:  No, I don't!  You know, I was in a record store.  Listen to this - so I know there's this big tall blond crew-cutted guy and he's lookin' at me in a funny way and smiling and he's saying, "Yes, we have a sale this week on Wagner." [pronounced VOG-ner]  VOG-ner, Max, VOG-n er -- so I know what he's really trying to tell me, very significantly -- Wagner.

ROB:  Right, Max.  California, Max.
ALVY:  Ah.
ROB:  Let's get the hell outta this crazy city.
ALVY:  Forget it, Max.
ROB:  -- we move to sunny L.A.  All of show business is out there, Max.

ALVY:  No, I cannot.  You keep bringing it up, but I don't wanna live in a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.

================== B-NAGA


Monday, February 4, 2013

end of a long dirt road

Sometimes when I read about presidents or other public people -- people who are known -- I feel like some of the authors treat the subjects as if they were paper dolls:  dressing them in different outfits, both literally and figuratively.  Selecting a story-line and then taking dates, facts, events, quotes, etc., and "shoe-horning" them into the pre-selected story-line.

JFK was a great guy.
JFK was a bad guy.
Jackie Kennedy was good.
Jackie Kennedy was bad.
Princess Diana was beautiful and nice.
Princess Diana was beautiful but not smart.

And there's a market for both kinds of books -- ones that compliment the subject, and ones that tear the person down.

Some of what I read in Mrs. Kennedy, I wonder -- how could the author know this?
"Tonight, in Franklin Roosevelt Jr.'s company, Jackie was wide-eyed, breathy, and flirtatious."  O-kay.

And when she writes that Pres. & Mrs. Kennedy were excellent "actors" -- that description would not "play" as a compliment to all audiences, though the author clearly means it that way.

Some passages, for some reason, seemed a little lonely and sad, or dark, though I can't say why....

"It was nearly 5 P.M. when the Caroline landed.  Accompanied by Secret Service men, Jackie descended the steps of the plane, her over-sized dark glasses in place, as press and another crowd of the curious watched her."

"Jackie plied her guests with Dom Pérignon champagne in the hope that they would be tipsy by dinnertime."

"Jackie hoped to stuff her guests with caviar so that by dinnertime they would be too full to care about the execrable White House food."

(She's "stuffing" the guests with caviar!  She's getting them drunk!)
I don't know about that.
And -- how bad could the food be at the White House?  For heaven's sake, are these people snobs, or what?
..."the cold, cavernous Family Dining Room...."
"...the finicky Alsop" --
"There had been no time to bring the White House food and décor up to Jackie's standards, let alone those of the finicky Alsop...."

And that finicky Alsop -- "Jackie knew that if all did not go well, Alsop, devoted though he was to the new president, would be only too happy to trumpet the news in the morning." of those "With friends like that, you don't need enemies" sort of situations.

I liked the part where it said, "Characteristically, Jackie's strongest statement was a purely visual one."

This part in Chapter 13, toward the end of the book, registered in my consciousness:
------------ [excerpt]  Like her mother-in-law, Jackie craved solitude.  That summer of 1963, rather than stay in the Kennedy compound, she and Jack had rented an isolated house called Brambletyde on Squaw Island.  Jackie was the one who had first been drawn to the big, gray-shingled house set at the end of a long dirt road on the tip of a peninsula, with only the beach and water beyond.  When she brought her husband out to see Brambletyde, he quickly fell in love with the romantic location, where one heard the perpetual lash of waves against rocks and the whip and snap of the American flag outside the master bedroom window.  They thought perhaps they would buy the house, but, unable to come to terms with the owner, they negotiated a rental instead.

It was to this isolated location that Jackie, almost seven months pregnant, went to await the birth of her baby.  She arrived tense and troubled.--------- [end excerpt]
See, they describe this place, and the Kennedys love it, apparently, whereas to me it doesn't sound so good.  I know I'm supposed to understand how terrific it is, but -- what if there's a storm and the ocean waves get big and come into the house?  ("I hate it when that happens....")  And that flag outside the window.  Whip, snap.  Whip, snap.  Whip, snap.  Whip, snap. 
(Once I was sick in a motel room and there was a noisy flag outside the window and some kind of metal clanging that went with it -- nonononononono...Different strokes for different folks....)

Right in the chapter before, in June, 1963, President Kennedy gives the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.  My dad used to talk about that speech, and refer to it:  it was the symbolism of saying "I too am a Berliner!" meaning we are all people together, and we must get along for the sake of world peace.
"I am one of you."
And saying it in German -- jumping over to their language -- was significant, as well.  Stories like that were in my awareness along with crayons, cat, sand-box, Barbie and Midge and Skipper, Schwinn bicycle....("Ich bin ein bike-owner!")

{excerpts, Mrs. Kennedy, by Barbara Leaming.
2001.  Simon & Schuster.}