Friday, March 29, 2013

the lap of luxury

...with fine and rare precision....

------------------[excerpt]-------A brilliant notion struck Benjy as he listened to this impassioned speech.  Though he liked the idea of holding public office and of the dignity it conferred, he knew that his golf would be much curtailed by his canvassing, and, if he was elected, by his duties....[from The Worshipful Lucia, by E.F. Benson.]

[excerpt]------ So, tranquillity being restored, they sat together...and began plotting out the campaign for the coming municipal elections.

"Better just get quietly to work, love," said she, "and not say much about it at first, for Lucia's sadly capable of standing, too, if she knows you are."

"I'm afraid I told her last night," said Benjy.

"Oh! -- well, it can't be helped now.  Let's hope it'll put no jealous ambitions into her head.  Now, l'Economie is the right slogan for you.  Anything more reckless than the way the Corporation has been spending money I can't conceive.  Just as if Tilling was Eldorado.  Think of pulling down all those pretty little slums by the railway and building new houses!  Fearfully expensive, and spoiling the town:  taking all its quaintness away."

"And then there's that new road they're making that skirts the town," said Benjy, "to relieve the congestion in the High Street."

"Just so," chimed in Elizabeth.  "They'd relieve it much more effectually if they didn't allow Susan to park her car, positively across the street, wherever she pleases, and as long as she pleases. 

It's throwing money about like that
which sends up the rates by leaps and bounds;
why, they're nearly double what they were when I


Mallards from sweet Aunt Caroline.  And nothing to show for it, except a road that nobody wants and some ugly new houses instead of those picturesque old cottages.  They may be a little damp, perhaps, but, after all, there was a dreadful patch of damp in my bedroom last year, and I didn't ask the Town Council to rebuild Mallards

at the public expense.  And I'm told all those new houses have got a bathroom

in which the tenants will probably keep poultry.  Then, they say, there are the unemployed.  Rubbish, Benjy!  There's plenty of work for everybody; only those lazy fellows prefer the dole and idleness. 

We've got to pinch and squeeze so that the so-called poor may live in the lap of luxury. 

If I didn't get a good let for Mallards every summer, we shouldn't be able to live in it at all, and you may take that from me.  Economy!  That's the ticket!  Talk to them like that, and you'll head the poll."

A brilliant notion struck Benjy as he listened to this impassioned speech.  Though he liked the idea of holding public office and of the dignity it conferred, he knew that his golf would be much curtailed by his canvassing, and, if he was elected, by his duties.  Moreover, he could not talk in that vivid and vitriolic manner....

He jumped up.

"Upon my word, Liz, I wish you'd stand instead of me," he said.  "You've got the gift of the gab; you can put things clearly and forcibly; and you've got it all at your fingers' ends.  Besides, you're the owner of Mallards, and these rates and taxes press harder on you than on me.  What do you say to that?"

The idea had never occurred to her before; she wondered why.

{The Worshipful Lucia, by E.F. Benson.  Copyright, 1935 Doubleday.}


Thursday, March 28, 2013

writhing under compliments

--------------------- [excerpt]--------------- His bicycle was ready for him; he mounted without the slightest difficulty, and the boy was soon left far behind.  Then with secret trepidation he observed not far ahead a man with a saucepan of tar simmering over a fire pot.  As he got close, he was aware of a silly feeling in his head that it was exercisng a sort of fascination over his machine, but by keeping his eye on the road he got safely by it, though with frightful wobbles, and dismounted for a short rest.

"Well, that's a disappointment," observed the operator.  "You ain't a patch on the lady who knocked down my fire pot twice yesterday."

Suddenly Georgie remembered the dab of tar on Lucia's shoe, and illumination flooded his brain.

"No!  Did she indeed?" he said with great interest.  "The same lady twice?  That was bad riding!"

"Oh, something shocking.  Not that I'd ever seek to hinder her, for she gave me half a crown per upset.  Ain't she coming today?"

As he rode home, Georgie again meditated on Lucia's secretiveness.  Why could she not tell him about her jugglings at the séance yesterday and about her antics with the fire pot? 

Even to him, she had to keep up this incessant flow of triumphant achievement both in occult matters and in riding a bicycle. 

Now that they were man and wife, she ought to be more open with him.  "But I'll tickle her up about the fire pot," he thought vindictively.

When he got home, he found Lucia just returned from a most satisfactory Council meeting.

"We got through our business most expeditiously," she said, "for Elizabeth was absent, and so there were fewer irrelevant interruptions.  I wonder what ailed her; nothing serious, I hope.  She was rather odd in the High Street this morning.  No smiles; she scarcely opened her mouth when I spoke to her.  And did you make good progress on your bicycle this afternoon?"

"Admirable," said he.  "Perfect steering.  There was a man with a fire pot tarring a telegraph post--"

"Ah, yes," interrupted Lucia.  "Tar keeps off insects that burrow into the wood.  Let us go and have tea."

"--and an odd feeling came over me," he continued firmly, "that just because I must avoid it, I should very likely run into it.  Have you ever felt that?  I suppose not."

"Yes, indeed I have in my earlier stages," said Lucia cordially.  "But I can give you an absolute cure for it.  Fix your eyes straight ahead, and you'll have no bother at all."

"So I found.  The man was a chatty sort of fellow.  He told me that some learner on a bicycle had knocked over the pot twice yesterday.  Can you imagine such awkwardness?  I am pleased to have got past that stage."

Lucia did not show by the wink of an eyelid that this arrow had pierced her, and Georgie, in spite of his exasperation, could not help admiring such nerve.

"Capital!" she said.  "I expect you've quite caught me up by your practice today.  Now after my Council meeting I think I must relax.  A little music, dear?"

A melodious half hour followed.  They were both familiar with Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony as arranged for four hands on the piano, and played it with ravishing sensibility.

"Caro, how it takes one out of all petty carpings and schemings!" said Lucia at the end.  "How all our smallnesses are swallowed up in that broad cosmic splendor!  And how beautifully you played, dear.  Inspired!  I almost stopped in order to listen to you."

Georgie writhed under these compliments; he could hardly switch back to dark hints about séances and fire pots after them.  In strong rebellion against his kindlier feelings towards her, he made himself comfortable by the fire....--------------------- [end excerpt]
When I read these "Lucia" novels during the 1980s, I found them frothily entertaining, not even knowing why I liked them.  I told a friend about them, and gave her one, I think, and she too "got" the atmosphere & style....

Then in the 90s came the TV show "Friends" which I didn't like that much at first, but later learned to "get it" -- and then re-viewing the Lucia books now, comparisons with "Friends" often occur to me.
Not in superficial aspects --
"Friends" --
young people
in NYC
in the 1990s

"Lucia" --
middle-aged people
in small town in England
in the 19 -- not sure -- 20s maybe?

...but in substantive aspects -- the style of the story-telling and humor -- it's silly, but not dumb -- a tightrope to be "walked" with rare precision....

{Trouble For Lucia, by E.F. Benson.  Copyright 1939, Doubleday, Doran & Company.  Copyright renewed 1967 by Kenneth Stewart Patrick McDowall.  Copyright 1977 by Harper & Row.  First Perennial Library edition pub. 1984.}


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

a-b-c, easy as 1-2-3

...And one thing Jacqueline Onassis did to increase her clout at Doubleday was get Michael Jackson to write his autobiography, which came to be titled Moonwalk.

('I brought that in, now don't I get to do this project?...I felt sure you would support it.'  [Smile])

It said in Jackie as Editor that her grown children, Caroline and John Jr., brought Michael Jackson to her attention.  (Thought, she was unfamiliar with Michael Jackson??  In the eighties??!!  But then -- everyone has their own areas of focus, and there are only but so many hours in a day, and sometimes you don't know things that some other people know until one of them tells you, or you think to ask.

For example:  today, staring out at a band of colorful, small motorcycles, I asked, "Are those motorcycles?  Or are they some type of scooter, or something?"

"Crotch - rockets," came the deadpan answer.

[was almost sorry I asked, but -- it's good to learn something new.

...I think. ...])

Things I heard about Michael Jackson's book fell into two categories --
1) from media, at the time, negative stuff -- like his childhood was abusive or something, and

2) from the NYC publishing world -- disparaging remarks about the book's substance -- like, what was the former First Lady doing, stooping to be involved with a project about someone who's popular...?  -- or -- whatever....

But I checked Moonwalk, and found this:
[excerpt]---------------- After that first Steeltown record, we began to aim for all the big talent shows in Chicago.  Usually the other acts would look me over carefully when they met me, because I was so little, particularly the ones who went on after us.  One day Jackie [Jackie Jackson, one of his brothers] was cracking up, like someone had told him the funniest joke in the world. 

This wasn't a good sign right before a show, and I could tell Dad was worried he was going to screw up onstage.  Dad went over to say a word to him, but Jackie whispered something in his ear and soon Dad was holding his sides, laughing.  I wanted to know the joke too.  Dad said proudly that Jackie had overheard the headlining act talking among themselves. 

One guy said, "We'd better not let those Jackson 5 cut us tonight with that midget they've got."

I was upset at first because my feelings were hurt.  I thought they were being mean.  I couldn't help it that I was the shortest, but soon all the other brothers were cracking up too.  Dad explained that they weren't laughing at me. 

He told me that I should be proud, the group was talking trash because they thought I was a grown-up posing as a child like one of the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.  Dad said that if I had those slick guys talking like the neighborhood kids who gave us grief back in Gary [Indiana], then we had Chicago on the run.------------------------- [end excerpt]

{Moonwalk, by Michael Jackson.  Copyright, 1988. Doubleday.  New York, New York.}


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

we're going to psyche them out

In Greg Lawrence's book, Jackie as Editor, various folks the author interviewed discuss changes in the publishing business which took place in the late 1980s - early 90s.

Cost-cutting methods
profit-maximizing methods

at one publishing company which was bought by a German company are described ...
("More pr-r-r-ofits now!"...
[Vee haff vays of mekk-ing you talk!"])

The part that stayed in my mind & puzzled me somewhat was where it said that in the

earlier incarnation, the way of doing business as a publisher was -- you can make bigger money on some types of books, and then smaller amounts of money on books you publish that have a little more esoteric appeal, not so much mass popularity, but it's still important to publish those, too, for -- like --

A.  the good of mankind,
B.  status and prestige of the publishing company, and
C.  future opportunities if the author of that "little" book becomes better known.

The company's PROFIT would be the overall results (profit-and-loss results) (and -- cost / benefit analysis, right?) of all the various sectors, and the different books they published, put together, and then calculated and analyzed.

-----------But then after the co. was sold to the conglomerate, one of the things that changed was that Profitability Analysis was then applied in the same way to

every book that was proposed. 

Making it more and more difficult to ever bring out a book that was about something that wasn't already hugely popular.  (So much for pioneering new ideas....)

[How much Money can each book possibly gr-rind in here...?]  And not looking at other aspects....

Instead of each book and sector making its own contributions which add up to a whole, it would be like each product (book) is supposed to yield similar profit-results as every other one.
(Because they say so.)

It sounds weird, to me, because if, with every business, they tried to run it that way, nothing would ever survive -- Oh, we didn't make a profit on Monday, so we won't work any more Mondays, only Tuesdays through Fridays.
Reason why?
Well, Mondays aren't profitable.
(See?  See those numbers?)

It's short-term thinking, being held up, not as something to avoid, but rather something to emulate.

It kind of sounds like Enron and then some of those other companies -- I asked somebody who understands accounting, once, What did they do?  And he said, they arranged the numbers so that the near-term quarter would look good.

Instead of actually doing the real work, making an actual profit, for the year, and then writing that down, for-real, on a real piece of paper.  Numbers which would not need to be arranged, but could just be written down, regular, reflecting actual profit.  Or loss, as the case may be.  (Like -- "Last year the losses were $----.  This year the losses, as you can see, were only $---.  The year after next we will begin to make a profit, and build from there.  The numbers support this projection, as you can see"....etc. etc.)

But instead of doing that, some "executives" found that it was more profitable for themselves (not the companies) to make it "look good" for the quarter, and then bail, or -- "skip town" ...

Since Enron the news has been full of such schemes and scams, from global to local, & in between.  (Is it Monkey see, Monkey do?)  And if one gets away with it, another one can, too.  Who has been allowing this?

The kind of books that Jackie Onassis liked to publish were, many times, the ones that some cynic would say, "That's going to sell about three copies," right after she got finished saying, "These are subjects that people should care about."

So when the "business" m.o. changed after the co. she worked for sold, she might have felt very discouraged -- however, what she did was develop strategies.  According to several different JBKO biographers, she would make plans ahead of time for selling her proposed acquisitions in meetings with the bean-counters:  she would prepare, with a colleague, telling the person, "We're going to psyche them out."

------------ I really like that, somehow.

To make good stuff happen -- two quotes to remember --

Kurt Vonnegut - "The triumph over anything is a matter of organization."

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - "We're going to psyche them out."


Friday, March 22, 2013

what happened no one's fun anymore

Outside, the snow was coming down.

This morning pushing curtain aside, to look and see what kind of a day it was so far, saw snow accumulated white on the ground -- and then a short time later, passed windows and said, Oh no, not more...!  Additional flakes were swirling down in a meandering multitude. 

And I thought about how, when it snows it seems like it gets quiet outside.  As if the snow brings Quiet with it.  Does snow actually muffle the everyday noises?  I think it does. 

It made me think of an SATC ("Sex And The City") episode from Season 6 where it snows in NYC during a party Carrie Bradshaw attends in the elegant Upper East Side apartment of a character on the show played by Candace Bergen.

You see an Exterior shot of New York buildings, and it's snowing, quietly, in the darkness.
Then, Interior shot:  Carrie opens the door to the bathroom.
The voice-over (her voice) says,

"Outside, the snow was coming down.

...And inside, it was going up."

In the bathroom another female party guest has this straw and is sniffing cocaine off of the counter-top.

(?)  Good grief.

"Close the door, close the door!  Want some?"
"Oh, no, thanks."

--------------------  In that same episode this actor I had seen before only a few times in my life, in various roles, popped up again -- Wallace Shawn.  What a card!  There's something about him -- you watch him act once, and you don't forget him.  He has an engaging "vibe" about him. 

First role I remember Wally Shawn in was Woody Allen's film, Manhattan.  Shawn was the former husband of Diane Keaton's character....he's only on for a few moments, and yet you don't forget him!

He showed up on "Taxi" in an episode about arranged dates -- he's one of two men having dinner in a movie called "My Dinner With André" (public TV in about 1983, I think), and Shawn also appeared in several episodes of "The Cosby Show" in the 80s -- he was Bill Cosby's neighbor who would borrow his tools and forget to return them -- or maybe Bill Cosby (Heathcliff Huxtable) borrowed his tools, can't remember which....

On the SATC episode, Candace Bergen had asked Carrie to bring along a date, for her -- (Carrie's boyfriend of the moment is a sort of jet-setting sophisticated artist, and Enid [Candace Bergen] may have assumed that all of this guy's friends would be the "dashing" type....)
As Enid greets Carrie and her man at the door, the date they've brought for her emerges from the background:  it's Wally Shawn!

Enid -- takes him in, visually -- and greets him with inflexible politeness, and when he goes to deposit his coat, Carrie says apologetically, imploringly, in a voice that's almost a whisper,
"He's very sweet!
And -- "
(pointing at her own head)
"-- smart !"

The way people generally do.

Candace Bergen growls irritatedly,
"He's - a - hobbit!!"

Wally Shawn starts to make points with the Candace character a little later, however, when the cocaine-partaking guest, in her tight, spaghetti-strapped dress, lights up a cigarette and Candace says, "There's no smoking in here, please go outside."

Cocaine and Nicotine Woman:  "We're twenty stories up, there's no outside."  And then proclaims to the room in general,
"What happened to New York?  This used to be the most exciting city in the world, now it's nothing but smoking near a f---ing open window.  No one's fun anymore!"

Wally (Hobbit) Shawn moves to take the situation in hand, goes over to the Party Girl -- gently, "Now, our hostess has already said, there's no smoking"...He tries to make the situation better, not worse.  And he doesn't just sit and stare, waiting for a train-wreck.  I admire people like that. 

(His "stock" went up with Candace Bergen, too, I think....)


Thursday, March 21, 2013

think outside

Someone informed me that socks do not have to match anymore.  It's the style.  We may wear an orange sock on one foot, and a periwinkle sock on the other.  And different patterns.  "Anything goes," I think.  She said they ("they" -- the -- Sock - Companies...) even sell socks that way -- a package with two mismatched socks inside of it.

I liked the idea of the freedom of that.  First, stopped pairing up the socks after washing-and-drying:  began simply dumping all socks into drawer. 

Time saved on unrewarding chore. 

That part works well for me.  But -- when I go to pick out two socks to wear, one for each foot, am finding it difficult to stop myself from sifting and sorting through, to find, for example, two basic comfy-white socks with exactly the same style of top -- the little line of stitched-pattern...

It's a long-established practice, in my existence, to wear matching socks and it's sort of hard to change that.  I ask myself,
"Does anyone see my socks?"
"Does it feel any different to me, if my socks match or don't?"
Answer -- "No."
"Can I just take these first two socks I grabbed and wear those, even though they don't match in the tiny little stitch-pattern that no one sees, including me, and -- just wear 'em?"
Answer -- "Mmh.  Don't know yet."

"It's in style.  It's the thing."

Sometimes it's harder than one would have thought, to do something new:  similar to

Thinking Outside The Box,

must learn to -- "think outside the socks."

---------------------------  which leads to other thoughts --
Delicatessans:  "Think outside the lox"
Investors:  "Think outside the stocks"
Rupert Murdoch's tabloid-television audience:  "Think outside the Fox"
People who are supposed to be relaxing:  "Think outside the clocks"
The N.R.A.:  "Think outside the Glocks"
Think outside the

Will just go barefoot.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

hell for leather; sweet

When I take you out, tonight, with me,
Honey, here's the way it's goin' to be:
You will sit behind a team of snow white horses,
In the slickest gig you'll ever see!


Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry
When I take you out in the surrey,
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!
Watch that fringe and see how it flutters
When I drive them high steppin' strutters.
Nosey folks will peek through their shutters and their eyes will pop!

The wheels are yello' the upholstery's brown,
The dashboard's genuine leather.
With isinglass curtains you can roll right down,
In case there's a change in the weather.

Two bright sidelight's winkin' and blinkin'
Aint' no finer rig I'm a-thinkin'
You c'n keep your rig if you're thinkin' that I'd care to swap
For that shiny little surrey with the fringe on the top!

All the world will fly in a flurry
When I take you out in the surrey,
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!

When we hit that road, hell - fer - leather,
Cats and dogs will dance in the heather,
Birds and frogs will sing all together, and the toads will hop!

The wind will whistle as we rattle along,
the cows will moo in the clover,
The river will ripple out a whispered song,
And whisper it over and over:

Don't you wisht you'd go on forever?
Don't you wisht you'd go on forever?
Don't you wisht you'd go on forever and would never stop
In that shiny little surrey with the fringe on the top!

I can see the stars gettin' blurry,
When we ride back home in the surrey,
Ridin' slowly home in the surrey with the fringe on top!
I can feel the day gettin' older,
Feel a sleepy head near my shoulder,
Noddin' droopin' close to my shoulder 'til it falls, ker-plop!

The sun is swimmin' on the rim of a hill;
The moon is takin' a header,
And just as I'm thinkin' all the earth is still,
A lark'll wake up in the medder.

Hush, you bird, my baby's a-sleepin'!
Maybe got a dream worth a-keepin'
Whoa! you team, and just keep a-creepin' at a slow clip clop.
Don't you hurry with the surrey with the fringe on the top!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

approximate like feelings

Sometimes if I read a poem or listen to a song I don't know exactly what each part of it, or every word of it, means -- and I like it anyway.  Or don't.

This aspect is addressed on The French Exit blog, Feb. 14th, 2013 post:

Knowing exactly what you mean is a sure sign that your poem is bad.  It is hard to know exactly what Jeff Alessandrelli's poems mean, and that's what makes them waver and shimmer, like the air above a fire.  They are approximate, like feelings.  If you have tried and failed to describe your own experience to yourself, you know what it's like to be in an Alessandrelli poem, a place where you can know something but not believe it, and vice versa; a place where understanding is not deeper knowledge but an alternative kind of access.

Reading that made me think of the Peanuts comics, when one of the "gang" would hear someone say an answer to a question that had been on his mind, and then, recognizing the right answer, the 'wondering' character would be drawn with his mouth open very wide, crying out, in the cartoon balloon for speech:  "That's IT!"  And the other cartoon character would be thrown, by the strong, loud assertion, into an involuntary somersault, head-over-heels....

Reading what the French Exit's poet wrote up there made me feel like I was going, "That's it!!!"  ...

"It is hard to know exactly what...poems mean"

"and that's what makes them waver and shimmer"

"Like the air above a fire"

"They are approximate, like feelings"

"a place where unerstanding is not
deeper knowledge, but --

an alternative kind of access."
========================== that'sitthat'sitthat'sitthat'sit

Tina Turner says something similar to that -- she says she doesn't want to give "a message" with a song -- she said for her it's not what the words are specifically, but more "the feeling that a song gives."


Monday, March 18, 2013

a desperately earnest man

Taking a little short glance into Finnegan's Wake, by James Joyce, caused me to pine for Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower.

Knew Finnegan's Wake was's really really difficult.  Even the Prologue explaining why it's difficult, is difficult.

[excerpt, Ike and Dick, by Jeffrey Frank]:
On the surface, the two men could not have been less alike.  Nixon was a talented speaker, but he often seemed miserable in his political appearances; the journalist Russell Baker saw him as "a painfully lonesome man undergoing an ordeal," and sympathized with "his discomfort with the obligatory routines of his chosen profession."

As a public man, he knew that he was unloved and sometimes spoke of the pain that cartoonists inflicted ("I'm not exactly amused to see myself pictured as a lowbrow moron," he said of the Herblock drawings that appeared with some regularity in the Washington Post).

The features that so delighted caricaturists -- the close-set eyes, dark, heavy brows, what Garry Wills called his "spatulate nose" -- were all the more striking in contrast to those of Eisenhower, who had an expressive, mobile face...and that dazzling grin -- a spectacular display of surface warmth.  Ike's appearance sometimes seemed to change as new thoughts occurred to him, which made him seem, as the military historian B.H. Liddell Hart observed, spontaneous and transparently honest.

Despite that surface candor, though Eisenhower was as private a man as Nixon....He [Nixon] came to realize that the president might refer to him in embracing terms -- "We are very close. . . . I am very happy that Dick Nixon is my friend" -- just as he was aiming to be rid of him.

...While Nixon acquired and kept a reputation for duplicity, Eisenhower was equally accomplished in the arts of deception and misdirection.  He had no trouble ordering Nixon to undertake some of his nastiest chores, such as firing his top White House aide, and he tried to disassociate himself from Nixon's meanest campaign rhetoric, as if his vice president was speaking for someone else.

...Nixon was always alert to the trap that he'd gotten himself into:  doing what the party and the president expected of him could undermine his future, and it could be worse for him if he rebelled.  It was a costly bargain.  He was always on call to express the angry id of the party, but when he did so his opponents would resurrect a label he acquired in his 1950 Senate race:  "Tricky Dick."

Because of this dilemma, Nixon often acted in a certain carefully controlled way; in his perfect, modulated responses, there was an aura of artifice -- not exactly calculating but as if he were measuring and judging each word, the "tight-lipped, over-tense, and slightly perspiring manner of a desperately earnest man determined to make no slightest mistake, but not quite at home and not likely to be," in the words of William S. White.----------------------- [end excerpt.  Ike And Dick:  Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage, by Jeffrey Frank.  Simon & Schuster.  2013]

I don't think I would have put the word "marriage" in the title; but -- everybody has their own ideas.  These two mid-twentieth-century Republican presidents did end up being related by marriage -- when Pres. Eisenhower's grandson and Pres. Nixon's daughter Julie married, in 1968. 

I remember that, sort of -- I was in grade school, and I kind of had the concept that Eisenhower's son and Nixon's daughter were married.  And my mother tried to adjust the concept -- no, it was former president Eisenhower's grand-son and Pres. Nixon's daughter -- and I remember the momentary confusion -- What?  It was easier for my brain to process this topic, which was only marginally interesting to me anyway, when there were only two generations involved.  But that was only in my head....

And can remember Tricia Nixon's wedding, at the White House -- that would be glamorous and exciting, I thought.  We looked at wedding photograph in newspaper:  my mother said, "She has her daddy's nose."


Friday, March 15, 2013

you meet 'em wherever you go

Do not let this song get into your head because if it does, it will never leave.
Up, up with people,
You meet 'em wherever you go!
Up, up with people,
They're the best kind of folks we know!

If more people were for people,
Than the peop--le ev--ry--where,
There'd be a lot less people to worry about,
And a lot more people who care there'd bee-yah

lot less people to worry about,
And a lot more people who care!!

aaaahhhhggggmmmmxxzzzlllk --

Try washing this song from brain, by playing other songs...

(Bob Dylan)  Close your eyes,
close the door
You don't have to worry
I'll be your baby tonight up up with people, you meet 'em wherever you go, up, up with people...

(Grateful Dead)  Arrows of neon and flashing marquees out on Main Street
Chicago, New York, Detroit it's all on the same street
Your typical city involved in a typical daydream
Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings they're the best kind of folks we know!  If more people --

(The Rolling Stones)  I met a gin soaked, bar-room queen in Memphis,
She tried to take me upstairs for a ride.
She had to heave me right across her shoulder
'Cause I just can't seem to drink you off my mind were for people, than the people everywhere, there'd be a lot less people to worry about, and a lot more ...

(The Dick Van Dyke Show theme song)  Baaahh  Daaahh -- da
da da
dah dah dah
dah dah dah
dah dah dah
ma nah - nah nah nah na na na na NAH,


Mah na dah - dah - dah
dah dah dah people who care there'd be a lot less people to worry about and a lot more

9 - 1 - 1 !
I've been hijacked by the up-with-people song !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Try:  Lydia, oh Lydia,
Say have you met Lydia,
Lydia -- the tattooed lady.

She has eyes that folks adore so,
and a torso even more so.
Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia,
Oh Lydia the Queen of Tattoo.
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo.
Beside it, the Wreck of the Hesperus too. ...

------------------------ isn't usually the type of song I would gravitate to, but investigating options to get Up With People to quiet down....

If a person goes to Google, and types in
the philadelphia story  ly
the philadelphia story lydia the tattooed lady
will come up and you can click on it and watch, on YouTube, the scene from that movie where that song is sung. 

Two reporters arrive to report on the wedding of a "society," old-money, Philadelphia woman (Katharine Hepburn); she says, annoyed that the reporters are there,

"I'm for giving them a picture of family life that'll stand their hair on end!" 

She and her little sister make a plan, and it is the little sister who tiptoes, ballerina-like, into the room where the reporters are waiting, and greets them in an exaggerated, silly way, then plunks herself down on the piano bench and bangs out and belts out, "Lydia the tattooed lady"

Lady reporter:  "What is this?"
Man reporter (James Stewart, looking doubtful and a little scared):  "I don't know -- idiot, probably."

It's funny.


up, up with people, you meet 'em -- eeeerrrrgggghhhhzzzz~~~~~~~

Thursday, March 14, 2013

the wealthy and the mystified

Yesterday, typing about Joseph P. Kennedy putting up $$ for Dick Van Dyke Show pilot episode, & reading the script to be sure he liked it -- I thought, and typed:  "People want to be in the movie business." 

And of course that was television, not "movie"...
guess what I meant was "Hollywood."
The whole thing.
Entertainment Business.

With that much money stacked up, a person could play a little bit -- and feel like a "player," themselves.

Imagined Peter Lawford in his robe and slippers for the meeting.

Read someplace that Joseph Kennedy referred to Peter Lawford:
"The only thing worse
than an actor
as a son-in-law

is an English actor...."

I think I only saw Peter Lawford in one show, and that was "Bewitched."  In 1972, he appeared as a charming, attractive, wealthy man who is dating Samantha's cousin, the wild-and-kooky Serena.

(On that show, the suspense / tension / entertainment was -- when and where would the witchcraft surface, and how would they cover it up, or smooth things over so that the "mortals" would think they hadn't seen what they had seen.

"Oh, it was late, you must have fallen asleep and dreamed it!"
"Larry, you'd had a little too much to drink!")

The Peter Lawford moment I couldn't forget was toward the end of the episode -- he's by Samantha and Darrin's front door, talking with them, and he's mystified and a little stunned by the previous evening's activities with Serena....he says, with this sort of cultivated-sounding and dignified accent, "I remember, we were dancing -- and I was singing into her ear -- they were playing 'Fly Me To The Moon.'  [Awestruck and disbelieving]  And the next thing I knew -- I was on    my    WAY    !"

I thought that was very sophisticated and funny, at the time.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

the creative and the suave

"Any good show that you see on television is going to reflect one person's reality."
-- Carl Reiner.

[excerpt, V. Waldron - Dick Van Dyke Show Book / pub., Hyperion]--------------------- INTRODUCTION, by Dick Van Dyke, February 1994 -- Malibu, California:
...After all these years, people still ask me what made our show so special -- what was that secret ingredient in our success?  I always answer that our show represented a perfect marriage of players and playwright.  We had that great, great cast; and Carl Reiner understood exactly how to write to every one of our strengths.

Unlike a lot of writers, Carl never wrote a character and expected the actor to come in and play it as written.  Carl is a student of human nature -- before he'd write a script, he'd have his eye on us.  He'd watch us on the set; he'd listen to us as we talked.  Then he'd filter those observations...and out would come one of those terrific scripts he wrote for the show. ...

And it didn't take me very long to figure out how good I had it on that series, either. 

After all, I wasn't a kid when we started -- I'd already been knocking around the business for about fifteen years.  So I was acutely aware, every minute that I was on that show, that it just didn't get any better than that.  We had so much fun -- we had so much latitude to be creative -- that I knew even then that things would never get any better. 

And, as a matter of fact, they didn't!

I suppose the funniest part of it all is that if someone had walked on to our set in 1964 and told us that people would someday be writing entire books about our show, we probably would've had a good laugh.  And then we would have very politely shown them the door!  Who would have thought our show would still be around thirty years later?...
================ (end Dick Van Dyke Introduction)

In its September 20, 1958, issue, TV Guide carried the first public announcement of the series that would eventually evolve into The Dick Van Dyke Show.  "Carl Reiner has written eight of the first thirteen chapters in a new series," read the newsbrief, "tentatively titled Head of the Family, in which he will star.  Peter Lawford put up the money for the test film, which will be shot in October in New York.

...Peter Lawford's involvement came about after Harry Kalcheim discovered that the former matinee idol -- who himself had recently signed to star in NBC's Thin Man series -- was actively looking to get a toehold in the extremely lucrative production end of the business. 

Since Kalcheim was well aware of Lawford's ties to the Kennedy family -- the movie star was at that time married to Patricia Kennedy...the agent had good reason to believe that Lawford could, in fact, put his hands on sufficient capital to make a pilot film of Reiner's series.  And so Kalcheim submitted the first of Reiner's thirteen scripts to Lawford, who liked what he saw well enough to request a meeting.

Carl Reiner's first and only meeting with Peter Lawford took place one morning in early September 1958, in Lawford's suite in New York's swank Pierre Hotel.  "It was the kind of meeting you have with a producer who's not going to do much except put up the money," Reiner says. 

"But I'll never forget it."  As he recalls, it was already past 11:00 A.M. when he and his agent arrived at Lawford's suite; even so, the suave actor answered the door dressed in nothing but a thick, plush bathrobe and a pair of matching velvet slippers.  In his palm, Lawford cradled an oversized snifter of what Reiner describes as "one of those giant red drinks -- something and grenadine on the rocks.  At eleven in the morning!"

As it turned out, the meeting didn't last long.

"Lawford agreed to put up the money to do the original pilot," recalls Reiner.  There was, however, one slight condition.  "They said I had to send a script down to Joseph P. Kennedy in Florida!"

Although Harry Kalcheim had correctly surmised that Lawford's financial backing would come from the Kennedy family coffers, the agent never dreamed that Lawford's financial arrangement would be dependent on script approval from the Kennedy family patriarch himself.  But, apparently, that was the case.

  "Joe Kennedy had to read it," explains Reiner, "before any of his family's money went into the product."  And so, a few days later, the script was dutifully submitted to Joseph P. Kennedy in Palm Beach, Florida.  The elder Kennedy was apparently impressed -- or so Reiner has always assumed, since he got the official go-ahead to start casting his pilot within a few days of the Florida submission.
-------------------------- [end excerpt]

People want to be in the movie business. ...
{excerpts from The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, by Vince Waldron.  Copyright, 1994.  Hyperion.  New York, New York.}


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

how hard could it be?

As his confidence grew, the writer soon moved from one-page play descriptions to three-page character studies....From there, it was just a matter of time before he started composing short stories.

[excerpt, The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book]

(One of the most memorable of them was "Fifteen Arthur Barringtons," a tale that concerned the anxieties of an actor named Arthur Barrington who finds himself sitting at a casting call with fourteen other young actors of his exact age, weight, and physical type....)

"...One day I said, 'Gee, I'm thirty-five years old.  I'd better do something with my life.'"  Though Carl Reiner could hardly have been described as lazy -- he'd just completed three seasons in the cast of Caesar's Hour -- the actor nonetheless felt himself trapped by a vague feeling of creative fatigue....
By the middle of August 1957, Reiner had completed Enter Laughing, his fictional memoir of one David Kokolovitz, a struggling actor trying to break into show business despite his family's insistence that he continue to pursue a trade in the millinery business.

...Reiner originally planned Enter Laughing as a far more encompassing work.  "I intended to record the life of a Bronx-born person like myself," the writer told a reporter in 1964, "from his entry into the theater at the age of 17 to his mature years as an actor and writer and husband and father."  But, Reiner notes, once he'd completed 250 typewritten pages and discovered that he'd barely covered a single year in his young protagonist's life, he "decided it was time to stop."

"Variety shows were almost extinct," says Reiner today, "so I knew I had to find something else." 

Of course, the former Broadway star might have considered returning to the stage. 

And, in fact, it was around this time that the actor's old friend Neil Simon offered Reiner a lead role in the comedy that was set to be the playwright's first Broadway show, Come Blow Your Horn.  But despite Carl Reiner's abiding respect for his old crony from Your Show of Shows, he had little interest in making a return trip to the Great White Way. 

"I'd been on Broadway," says Reiner, "and I didn't want to go back.  Once you're in television, there's an everyday excitement to the work that's not there on Broadway, where you have to do the same thing three hundred and sixty-five days a year."

...His agent Harry Kalcheim had only to point to the careers of Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, and Danny Thomas, three situation-comedy headliners who, like Reiner, had each been long-established variety performers before they made the switch to situation comedy, and all of whom ended up getting very, very rich in the process. 

There was certainly no reason why, at the age of thirty-six, Carl Reiner couldn't make an equally successful transition to the half-hour form.  All Reiner had to do, suggested Kalcheim, was find a situation comedy vehicle that seemed reasonably well suited to his particular talents.  "Is that all?" Reiner remarked.  "Well, how hard could that be?"

The answer to that query would become painfully obvious almost as soon as Reiner opened the first in the small pile of proposed situation-comedy scripts his agent sent around for his approval.  To the actor's dismay, what he read in that first script gave him pause.  "It really wasn't very good," recalls Reiner. 

Nor did he find much to hold his interest in any of the subsequent half-dozen scripts that his agent submitted to him over the course of the next few days.  "None of them were any good," he says.  "Or, if they were good, they weren't for me."  Finally, just as the actor had begun to wonder if he'd ever find an appropriate vehicle to propel him to the next stage of his career, the answer came to him from a wholly unexpected source -- his wife.

Estelle Reiner finally picked up one of the scripts and began reading it herself.  A few minutes later, she set it down, satisfied that her husband's appraisals had not been far off the mark.  "You're right, these aren't very good," she volunteered, adding, quite matter-of-factly, "I'll bet you could write a better script than any one of those, yourself."

It was intended as a casual observation....After more than thirty-five years, Carl Reiner is still struck by the lasting impact...."My wife, in her infinite wisdom, said I could write better than that.  Of course, I'd never written a sitcom. 

But when your wife thinks you can -- you can."

..."I was influenced by the flavor of Father Knows Best," Carl Reiner explained.  "And Leave It to Beaver....And he created Rob and Laura Petrie at least partially as a response to the retrograde approach to domestic reality he had observed on I Love Lucy and a least a dozen other situation comedies from the era that immediately preceded his own series.  "The battle of the sexes was the big plot device," he explains.  "It's the easiest one to write -- you scream at me, I'll scream at you.  And a lot of people identified with that. ...

As for the immensely popular I Love Lucy, Carl Reiner confesses..."I didn't like their premise.  They were hilarious -- no doubt about it -- but it was always Lucy fooling Ricky.  Lucy and Desi made you wonder why they stayed together.  You'd say, 'How could they love each other?  He never caters to her, he always calls her a dope!'"  And so, when it came time to create his own series, Carl Reiner was determined to shoot for a different sort of truth -- one that was firmly rooted in a reality that he knew.

"My show was based on a mutually respecting husband and wife.  It was two against the world.  And even when it was one-against-one, it was the kind of one-against one you have in a family that loves each other.  I was trying to pattern it off a life that I knew."

{excerpts, The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book.  Vince Waldron.  Copyright, 1994, Hyperion, NY, NY.}


Monday, March 11, 2013

you knew you were going to see a crazy play

"I'd learned to type on a teletype in the army," Reiner explains, "so I used to go to that office, just to see if I could still type.  And I found out that I could."
[excerpt, Dick Van Dyke Show Book]----------

In no time at all, Carl Reiner had graduated from simple typing exercises to composing short humorous pieces for his own amusement.  For his earliest exercises, Reiner would frequently contrive to create the cast, characters, and setting for short comic plays that he had absolutely no intention of ever writing. 

"I would write a little one-page cast of characters for a play," he recalls, "that's all.   Just the cast of characters -- what they do, where the play is set.  A lot of them were satires of some play that already existed."  Then, having created the characters and setting for an imaginary play of his own design, Reiner would simply move on to the next. 

"You knew from the description alone that you were going to see a crazy play," he explains. 

"That was all you needed.  I thought they were hilarious.  I wrote dozens of them.  I think I might still have them someplace."

As his confidence grew, the writer soon moved from one-page play descriptions to three-page character studies. 
---------------- [end excerpt]

{The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, by Vince Waldron.  Copyright, 1994.  Hyperion, NY, NY.}


Friday, March 8, 2013

the kibitzing didn't stop

-------------------- [excerpt]-------- Your Show of Shows provided Carl Reiner and his fellow second banana Howard Morris with more than ample opportunity to add their own comic contributions to a weekly format that somehow managed to embrace the disparate styles of silent comedy, rollicking musical numbers, and exacting social parody with equal fervor.  The show's brash, rapid-fire, musical comedy approach seemed ideally suited to the talents of Carl Reiner....

But despite the acclaim that Reiner derived from his work as a performer on Your Show of Shows, it wasn't long before he began to grow impatient with his somewhat limited role as a supporting actor on the show.  "Even though I acted once a week on Saturday and rehearsed all week, I didn't feel like an actor."

Finally, to break the monotony of his long rehearsals as a performer, Reiner cautiously poked his head into the show's noisy writers' room, where the roster on any given day might include Mel Brooks, Lucille Kallen, Mel Tolkin, Tony Webster, and on occasion Neil Simon and his brother Danny. 

Naturally, with some of the sharpest comic minds in America stuck in a single room for as many as eight or ten hours a day, the actor soon discovered that things were rarely dull in the writers' office, and within a matter of weeks, Reiner himself became a fixture at the show's daily writing sessions, where his keen wit and gregarious nature soon earned him the respect of the show's writers. 

Before long, Carl Reiner found himself functioning as an active participant in the show's writing sessions -- though it was clearly understood that his contributions were to be made strictly without attribution.

"I was a writer without portfolio," explains Reiner.  "I was in on all the sessions, and I contributed as a writer.  But I didn't get my name in the credits, because actors didn't do that in those days.  The writers were very solicitous of their credits."  And with good reason, as he explains.  "I didn't blame them, because as actors, we got all the credit anyway.  Everybody thought we made the lines up."  And, as Reiner soon discovered, this tendency -- coupled with the writers' own naturally aggressive personalities -- often made for an intensely competitive environment in the writers' room. 

"If you got your joke in -- fine," says Reiner.  "But you knew somebody was always gonna try to improve it."

He recalls a particularly vexing session at which one of the show's writers managed to blurt out no more than the first three words of a comic premise before his idea was seized upon by his colleagues and offered up for extended comic debate.  "The guy started out saying, 'So, it's Thursday--'" recalls Reiner.  But then, before the hapless scribe could even stammer out the rest of his sentence, one of the show's other writers had already decided that the idea was ripe for improvement. 

"Somebody else said, 'Not Thursday--make it Friday!  Friday's funnier.'" 

And, of course, the kibitzing didn't stop there.  "Then somebody else says, 'why not make it a Saturday?  Isn't Saturday funnier?"  And, as Reiner quickly discovered, as a lowly performer he was at a decided disadvantage during such debates.  "When they'd fight you for a joke," he recalls, "some writer would always say, 'What the fuck do you know?  You're an actor!'"

Though his colleagues' frequent putdowns were invariably offered as good-natured jibes, Reiner finally came to view their barbed accusations of his own lack of writerly credentials as a challenge.  And he was determined to meet that challenge head-on. 

After a time, whenever things got hot in the writers' office, Reiner would slip out of the room and retire to a vacant office down the hall -- a quiet sanctuary that just happened to come equipped with an old manual typewriter.  And it was there, in the relative solitude of this unclaimed office, that the novice scribe began to practice his craft in earnest. 

"I'd learned to type on a teletype in the army," Reiner explains, "so I used to go to that office, just to see if I could still type.  And I found out that I could."
------------------------ [end excerpt]

{The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, by Vince Waldron.  Copyright, 1994.  Hyperion, NY, NY.}