22 October 2012

Foreign policy? As easy as pie.

     After listening to a bit of the third presidential debate on the radio, it seems to me that the international affairs issues are being complicated far beyond what is necessary.  I think all foreign policy decisions should be considered in terms of pie.  (Yep, the apple, cherry, cranberry/rhubarb kind!)
     Ask the key questions: With whom would we want to share our pie?  To whom would we want to send a pie?  Whose supply of pie would we want to cut off -- or, in more extreme circumstances, in whose face would we want to throw a pie?  With whom would we want to make pie?
     Consider it a new doctrine, the "Mrs. Wagner Doctrine" (of course, a tip of the allusive hat to the Paul Simon lyric of the great Simon and Garfunkel recording "America" From Bookends):

So we bought a pack of cigarettes
and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

20 October 2012

"I'm am just the sum of the books I have read..."

and of the music I have heard...
and of the people I have known..."

"Pieces of the Past," new music from John Wesley Harding.

I know some have wondered where'd I've been since I haven't been blogging.

The answer: Facebook, so here are some posts from the past 3 months:

Gilbert Gigliotti...:

thinks himself a "shrewd youth," like Robin.

hasn't cheered for the Detroit Tigers since Al Kaline was on the team, but is considering jumping on the bandwagon. My fear is that, given the results of my rooting thus far this post-season (Reds, Nationals, Orioles), they may not appreciate my support. So, unaffiliated I shall remain.

thinks an earthquake in Maine would explain the unusual shaking he noticed of the Ava Gardner photo in his office. Too bad he's not bright enough to think it anything but the rumbling of some system (heating/ventilation) in the never-silent Willard Hall.

is VERY psyched: The first two desk copies (of the novels By George and Misfortune) arrived in campus mail today in preparation for his class in Spring 2013 -- Eng 214: The Allusive John Wesley Harding /Wesley Stace.  CCSU Pre-registration begins November 5th; seats are sure to go fast...

wishes a happy 2082nd birthday to Publius Vergilius Maro, born on this date 683 a.u.c. (ab urbe condita, "from the founding of The City"). The Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid...that's a nice life's work!

"Now, Muse, let's sing of rats."

says, "ENOUGH with Big Bird. Any parent worth anything knows his/her kid is watching the Disney Channel."

says, "No, not Pet Shop Boys, not Erasure, COMMUNARDS."

is, after listening to it for the first time in a decade (or two), pretty sure that John Cougar Mellencamp's "Scarecrow" album (1985) couldn't be more georgic if his name were Publius Vergilius Mellencamp! Homespun, political, mythic, personal, nostalgic, patriotic, angry... and, like Vergil's, it ROCKS!

is pretty sure that "Glee" makes the original "90210" look like cinema verite.

is fairly certain that, after Paul's Aunt Lil heard "Paperback Writer," her response must have been, "No, really, Paul, just write a song about a horse."

has no horse in the race (because his phone is as dumb as he is), but he is really enjoying the Samsung Galaxy S III ads satirizing the iPhone linestanders.

wishes his mother a very HAPPY 80th Birthday!  And, while he knows one isn't supposed to love someone else for specific reasons, he loves her for her meatball recipe; her homemade cavatelli; that whole giving birth thing; her braciole; her caretaking of his father with MS for some 40 years; her traveling around the world without him (despite her first trip to Italy being with him and his wife!); her loving support of him, his siblings, and all their familiies (including her 9 grandkids); her cinnamon rolls; her family; and, for good measure, that whole birth thing again. Happy Birthday, Mom! ;)

has just returned from tap class: an alphabet soup of cramp rolls -- c's , z's, o's. (And trying to learn to convince an audience he is as light as a feather while Lindying. Quick question: how much has the audience been drinking? To think for a moment I'm light as a feather, it'll have to have been a WHOLE LOT!)

wonders if the release of every bleepin' iPhone will be news for the rest of his life. If so, his 100+ years is looking longer than ever.

is enjoying diving once again into one of his best used book purchases ever: the 1895 London edition of Benecke's translation of Domenico Comparetti's "Vergil in the Middle Ages," purchased literally for pocket change (.50 or $1!) at a Catholic University of America library sale of discarded books in the late 1980s. (The only time the volume had been checked out? 21 January 1961 --- some 10 months before Gil was born.)  "In the eyes of Macrobius, Vergil is not merely an authority in every branch of learning, but he is distinctly infallible" (64).  When was the last time anyone thought THAT about a creative writer? ;)

stopped briefly on "Entertainment Tonight" tonight, when he saw they were playing clips from "All The President's Men." The host (some guy he'd never seen before) said, "You may not know that the film won four Academy Awards, but didn't win 'Best Picture.' That award went to 'Rocky.'" Now, what did the host say next? 
     Not "What the hell were the Academy members thinking?"      Not "Boy, was that a dumb decision!"     No, he said, "That was a good year for movies!" Oy.

and, finally,

really likes the film The Day of the Dolphin but didn't remember it's a Buck Henry screenplay directed by Mike Nichols. Throw in George C. Scott, and, he figures, that's the recipe for a pretty fine film.  "Pha, find Bea!"

I watched the complete "Pillow Talk" with Doris Day and Rock Hudson...

...(not to mention Tony Randall, and Thelma Ritter) for the first time last night (having seen only clips previously), and I must admit I was entertained indeed.
     If I were intelligent at all, I'd be well over feeling amazed at how good Doris Day is (since I seem to re-make this "discovery" every time I watch her in something)!  And I don't know the current state of popular familiarity with Rock Hudson -- i.e., Has his AIDS-related death kept him and his career somewhat in the spotlight (or kept him from it) or is he ripe for a renaissance? -- but, man, is he fun to watch on screen.   
     Tony Randall was such a talented comedian, and his funny take on the plight of millionaires has a political currency that's almost scary, while Thelma Ritter plays the drunken worldly spinster like nobody's business.
     The telephone party-line plot makes the film seem like it was made 200 years ago (as opposed to 1959), but the girl-hates-rude-boy-so-boy-pretends-to-be-a-polite-Texan plot works as well as the best mistaken-identity farces.

     Earlier in the day, as part of the Classic Fridays Film Series at CCSU, I saw Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939) with Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur (to whom Georgia Engel should have to pay royalties every time she opens her mouth), Claude Raines, Edward Arnold, Harry Caray, and Thomas Mitchell, et alia, and, as a CCSU colleague pointed out after the screening, while the technology at play in the plot may date that film, as well, the social interaction at its heart makes it, too, as timely as ever.

Long live classic Hollywood.  

16 October 2012

Two Men (and some rabbits) R Us

One need not have ever read John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men to know of the two Depression-era drifters, Lenny and George, who dream of “livin’ off the fat of the land” and raising rabbits.  They have become a part of our collective American memory, a pair whose dream is, on some level, our own.
This sympathy – and the seemingly natural affinity we share with them – are felt immediately as they enter the stage in the production that opens the fourth season at Playhouse onPark in West Hartford.   And the performances by Jed Aicher (Lenny) and Shannon Michael Wamser (George) only deepen that connection as the play unfolds.  We come to understand – no, to feel – the bond (i.e., the frustration, the duty…the love) that helps the duo navigate the trials (economic, social, psychological) they face in their wanderings.
The action of the play is simple, and in some ways, inescapable, but, as directed by Playhouse-co-founder Sean Harris, that simplicity in no way stunts its power.  The chemistry between the two leads has both a natural ease and a palpable tension that has us living on the edge with them.
I saw the play during last week’s previews and, at that point, the rest of the company of talented actors – led by Clark Beasley, Jr. (Candy), Kimberly Shoniker (Curley’s Wife), and Dustin Fontaine (Slim) – hadn’t quite jelled as a unit.  Individually they were very strong (e.g., Ms. Shoniker’s fateful scene with Lenny), but, on the night I saw it, the larger the number of actors on the stage, the less a scene seemed to click.  Even despite that, however, the heart of the play – the relationship of Lenny and George – kept this reviewer riveted.
As always, it seems, at Playhouse on Park, the production values are spot on.  The set (by Tina Louise Jones), lighting (by Marcus Abbott), and costume (Erin Kacmarcik) design are straightforward yet evocative – allowing the audience to focus on the lives playing out in front of us.
The title of the play, of course, is taken from the famous line by Scottish poet Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft aglay” (i.e., “often go awry”), and, while that may hold true for Steinbeck’s characters, if your plans include an engaging and emotional night of theatre, then a trip to Playhouse on Park before October 28 will go exactly as intended