28 January 2012

Literary Death Match #1: Papa vs. Joni

Ernest Hemingway, from "Soldier's Home" (Our Time, 1925):

Krebs looked at the bacon fat hardening on his plate.


Joni Mitchell, from "Coyote" (Hejira, 1976)

He's staring a hole in his scrambled eggs.

26 January 2012


The new Board of Regents for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities have come up with the following acronym:

ConnSCU (pronounced "Conn-Skew," I assume)

Brilliant, eh?

May I humbly suggest two more appropriate and easily pronounceable options:  




Media notes...

1. Who writes the descriptions of MSNBC television shows that appear on the screen when the INFO button is pushed?  "The forever-wired host Chris Matthews..." and "Analysis by the quick-witted host (Lawrence O'Donnell)"... Really?

2.  When did "prideful" replace "proud" as the adjective of choice in sports to describe people who believe in themselves?

3.  Does anybody actually have the home phone number of their banker, as shown in those Webster Bank ads?

4.  On The Food Network's Chopped, NEVER talk back to the judges.

Two very talented actors working very, very hard...

...while making it look quite easy, in a well directed show, with a fairly funny script: That's The Mystery of Irma Vep at Playhouse on Park.

The actors, Rich Hollman and Sean Harris, play all the characters in this spoof of every horror film and murder mystery anyone has ever seen.  Even in this most unsubtle of comedies, the two display deft touches of timing and chacterization each time they (re)appear on stage -- no matter the costume, the accent, the gender, or even the incredibly short time in which they have to make such changes!  As directed by Peter James Cook, the actors give their all but, even granting the limitations of the spoof form, the script, I feel, doesn't carry its part of the load.   

I learned (at the always engaging talkback after last Sunday's performance) that the play's been around for more than two decades and began at the playwright Charles Ludlum's own company and was first performed by the Ludlum and his partner for their friends.  That history explains to me why, while an enjoyable romp, the play isn't as tightly constructed and, as a result, not as exhilarating a theatrical event as, say, The Complet Wks of Willm Shakes (Abridged), which POP produced with these two performers previously.

Oh, I quibble.  The performances are indeed remarkable, and the show certainly enjoyable, and, since an evening of laughter is never something to sneeze at, you should take advantage of the kind of quality night out that we've all come to expect at Playhouse on Park.

The play runs through 29 January.

I saw "Macbeth 1969" last night...

...at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, which is an adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy into a six-person ensemble  -- always with the Bard's words -- set in a veterans' hospital in middle America during the Vietnam War.  Macbeth and Banquo are wounded soldiers, Macduff a draft dodger, and the three witches, Ladies Macbeth and Macduff, and various other characters (like the Porter), all rolled into a trio of nurses.

While a fascinating, and fairly compact evening of theatre (less than two-hours no intermission), I'm not sure that, as a whole that the play really makes sense.  Under what circumstances (tied to career/personal advancement), would a vet kill a political figure in an American VA hospital?  I just don't get it. 

That said, the play works best quite often when the nurses converse, while doing their nurse-ly duties...or in phone conversations, etc...THEN, the juxtaposition of the familiar with the Shakespearean really illuminates both the language and the actions.  Unfortunately that didn't happen enough for me.  The actor who achieved this synergy most frequently by far throughout was Jackie Chung, the "pregnant Nurse/Lady Macduff/Porter."  A wonderful performance: at times controlled, manic, funny, casual...excellent.

Two (perhaps very nitpicky/idiosyncratic) things popped into my head as the evening progressed:

1) The rant by Sally Kellerman's Hot Lips to Col. Henry Blake (in the wake of the shower incident) from the film M*A*S*H: "This isn't a hospital; it's an insane asylum!"


2) A skill the nurses need to practice more, given that they are asked to make up a hospital bed or two throughout the play is how to do hospital corners!  It's 1969 in a VA hospital; I think good crisp hospital corners would be mandatory.    

23 January 2012

While I respect tremendously Rep. Gabbie Giffords' decision...

...to resign, I'm pretty sure that I'd vote for her right now over any of my current representatives or senators.

Gutsy and willing to do the right thing -- even when it's inconvenient? 

That's pretty much a trait most of our current elected officials haven't demonstrated in the least.


19 January 2012

My syllabus for a...

...biblical business course would include, among other topics:

Using bad weather conditions to corner the animal market

Hardball negotiating tactics:  When are frogs and locusts enough? 

The profit you and your brothers should expect if you band together and sell the youngest


Resource growth: How to satisfy EVERYBODY and walk away with more than your initial investment of loaves and fishes 

18 January 2012

Which is the best marriage falls apart album?

Linda and Richard Thompson's Shoot Out the Lights

Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks

Paul Simon's Hearts and Bones

I ALWAYS am amazed at the beauty that comes from pain.

15 January 2012

We passed an Avalon on the road today, and older daughter made a Frankie joke, so I got to thinking...

...about products that could be sold under the name FUNICELLO!

a wine: the Funicello Rosso is great with a good cut of beef

an opera: Il Funicello is best known for its wonderful aria in Act II

a Renaissance artist: the still life by Funicello is currently on loan,

but mostly

a sports car: Who wouldn't want to drive a Funicello Annette?

14 January 2012

An extremely weird and incredibly odd experience...

A couple days ago, Martha had in fact asked if we had a copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I had read a couple years ago,because she wants to read it.  I said that I'd find it for her.  My bookshelves, much to her chagrin, are unorganized AND stuffed to the gills, making easy retrieval unlikely, so when she expressed interest I told her I'd get it for her.  Which I did last night, taking it off the bedroom bookcase and dusting it off. 

This morning, remembering that I had in fact found it but hadn't given it to her yet, I spent a good deal of time looking to see where I had put it.  I looked all over our bedroom and was confused that I couldn't spot it right away since not enough time had passed that other things (clean laundry, mail, stuff for the new semester, my laptop, other books, etc.) might've covered it up. 

I looked on the bookshelf to see if, after getting it, I had just put it back on the shelf, but it wasn't there -- and I was struck by how I couldn't even find a place where the book had been.  (But then I remembered how crammed my bookshelves can be, so that tight-fittedness wasn't out of the realm of possibility either!) 

So I looked all over the house (the kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, and basement) thinking, maybe, just maybe, on the way to giving it to her I put it down to do something else. 

I thought back to last night and remembered being puzzled that the cover, which I couldn't now describe to Martha, was different than the one I was expecting (i.e., the one seen above).

Then, looking in the basement again, I found it -- with the correct cover -- on a bookshelf.

Clearly I had never found the book last night.  Clearly I had never dusted it off last night.  Clearly I had never seen a cover I didn't recognize last night.

It must have all been a dream.  An incredibly vivid dream.

Either that or I'm being gaslighted!

13 January 2012

Congratulations to our older daughter for winning ...

...the Anne Bradstreet poem category of the first Norton Anthology Recitation Contest!

Here's her winning performance:

All that reading Anne Bradstreet from an early age REALLY has paid off, Cecilia!  Excellent job!

11 January 2012

So Hostess declares bankruptcy...

...and there's no mention -- in any of the coverage I've read -- of the SNOBALL!?!  Who's writing these news reports?!!! Snoballs are, after all, far better than Twinkies EVER could DREAM to be!

Busy reacquainting myself today...

...with the great 1977 collaboration of Pete Townsend and Ronnie Lane, Rough Mix!


Here Pete is at his most relaxed and playful (since I usually find him a bit too, shall we say, earnest)!

For example, "(I Want to be) Misunderstood" (take that Eric Burdon!):

I wanna be obscure and oblique
Inscrutable and vague
So hard to pin down
I wanna leave open mouths when I speak
Want people to cry when I put them down

And Townsend's ten my babys before I LOVE her, yeah toward the end of "My Baby Gives it Away" even rivals Sinatra's ten-baby early-Reprise recording of "Don'cha Go 'Way Mad"!

Should I be amused or annoyed that...

...the Doomsday Clock isn't digital?

09 January 2012

Listening to too much Dylan on my walks obviously...

...for, aside from learning today that the distance from my house to the WW I Memorial at the top of Walnut Hill Park in New Britain is the distance from "Rainy Day Woman" to "Brand New Leopard Skin Pill-box Hat," the walk inspired me to "create" the following cento --- the original sampling!**

A Petrarchan Blonde on Blonde Cento Sonnet

She’s delicate and seems like the mirror                                
of your balcony wond’ring where you are,
with pockets well protected and streetcars,
sayin “I’ll go out and say a prayer for                                               
the cracked bells and washed-out horns                                
at your feet while phony false alarms
furnish me with tape deep inside my heart.
I just can’t do what I done before…”
But you said, “Don’t forget everybody                     
must give these promises you left for me      
with your silhouette, when the sunlight high-           
way blues is so stuffy I can hardly
whisper, ‘Not even you can hide, you see,                

but this time I’m not gonna tell you why.’”

**A cento is an ancient poetic genre made up of lines and parts of lines from other texts.  In this case, all come from the lyrics of Dylan's 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. My favorite cento is Ausonius' Vergilian one about a marriage night: Taking a sword out of its sheath takes on a whole new meaning!


Next time I win something, I want $1000 more per year than the highest paid Early American Neo-Latinist!

From today's Chronicle of Higher Education:

A win in [tonight's] BCS national title game would give LSU coach Les Miles a $5.88-million salary increase, CNBC’s Darren Rovell reports. That’s thanks to a clause in his contract guaranteeing him a minimum of $1,000 more per year than the highest-paid SEC coach should he win the national title.

05 January 2012

Who's got the bug-zapper?

So, Randy Newman's "The Great Nations of Europe,"

John Wesley Harding's "Darwin,"

and Elvis Costello's "Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs are Taking Over),"

all deal with the end of human civilization brought by disease-carrying insects.

It's 2012 now, so why not, right?

But, am I missing any other good apocalyptic entomological tunes?