Sunday, July 27, 2014

Berowne's 230 Quiz

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "c" is for "conniver")
The prompt this week reminded me that nations and clans of all kinds have a tendency to create long stories of their history, legends of their glistening, glorious past.

These sagas usually tell the story of an early leader, a hero of supernatural power.  Sometimes such a legend will include a sidekick of the ruler, a character known as the “trickster,” an imp or sprite who enjoys fooling around.
 
In Shakespeare’s day, this sprite was Puck, well known in British folklore.  When a farmwife came down in the morning and learned that the milk had soured long before it should have, it was natural for her to think that some sort of creature, some mischievous elf – Puck, in other words – had been responsible.

In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Puck plays an important part.  The best description of him would be: he's a conniver, always conniving, scheming, manipulating.  Officially he’s jester to the king, but he enjoys his remarkable powers for farce by screwing things up for people.

In the play there are several couples of young lovers; Puck gets a charge out of scrambling the arrangement so that the guys and the gals are no longer sure just who loves whom.  

Of course, one of Puck’s most famous achievements has to do with what he does to Nick Bottom, the weaver.  For Bottom it isn’t a fun job anyway - weaving stuff can be awful tedious – but it’s worse when a weird elfish prankster gives him the head of a jassack.


But he turns out to be lucky; the fact that this change somehow makes beautiful women fall madly in love with him makes up for it a bit.

 

Puck, as you might expect, brags a lot.  He claims he can fly around the world in a certain number of minutes.

Well, the folks over at NASA thought about this.  They had had astronauts circling the globe for years.  They knew, to a minute or so, just how long it took.  They wondered, would their guy win such a race, or would Puck?

So here’s your chance to win the huge cash award.  (Assuming I can find somebody to put up some cash – which doesn’t look likely.)

The question is, who would win, who would circumnavigate the globe faster?  Puck or the astronaut?

(The answer will be posted Friday)

 
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Berowne's 229


(also for three word wednesday and abc wednesday; "b" is for berowne's adventures)
No quiz this week.  Folks have been generous and liberal enough to show interest in my occasional personal history notes, so here’s another chapter in...
Berowne’s Mediocre Adventures!


Ah, those were the days.

Air travel was different, to say the least, in the days of pre-jet flight.

If you ever traveled in a 4-engine piston airliner in that era, you know all about its vibration and noise during a 12-hour flight.  You know about the jolly bouncing around you got in your seat because a prop plane couldn’t fly above the weather.

And perhaps you know that those magnificent piston engines had a small problem folks didn’t like to talk about too much.  They caught fire on takeoff.

Not every time, you understand, just once in a while.

Like when I was on board.

One summer day I was heading out to California and I was excited to be making the very first non-stop flight from La Guardia to Los Angeles.  (Previously, you had to make a stop in Chicago.)

There was no such thing as jet flight for passengers.

I had purchased an expensive home movie camera for the occasion.  It was magnificent, complete with a three-lens turret.  I was very proud of that li’l apparatus.

The takeoff seemed uneventful, except that of a sudden the plane appeared to be coming to a stop.  One of the engines was on fire.  The cockpit door opened and the pilot came into our area.  In an elaborately calm voice, he said: “We’re going to get everyone off this airplane about now.”

The fact that he was making such an effort to be calm somehow made it more alarming.  (Though I suppose it wouldn’t have been better if he had shouted something profane to the passengers, and added “We’re on fire!”)

He pointed at me and said, “You – go down the rope.”



Here I should pause to explain the emergency system for that particular aircraft.  Today evacuation slides are impressive, beautifully made and highly effective.  Well, in those days for that airline company such a slide seemed to be a sort of afterthought.

It consisted of just a large-area canvas like a tarpaulin that you tossed out and it hung there like a wet dishrag.  A heroic volunteer among the passengers had to go down a rope hand over hand and then stretch the canvas out so it could be a slide.

Since I was seated closest to him, the pilot volunteered me to go down the rope.  I wanted to point out that I was holding in my right hand an expensive movie camera, so hand over hand would be sort of out of the question, but what with the plane on fire I figured this was no time to be quarrelsome or for lengthy discussion.

I took the rope in my left hand and went whoosh! down to the tarmac in about one second.  I checked my hand; the skin was shredded and it was bleeding.  I carefully put down my camera out of harm’s way and stretched out the canvas.  It worked fine; folks began zipping down.  Everyone got off with no problems.

I went to a clinic there and they bandaged my hand up good, even gave me a sling, which I thought was overdoing it a little.  Everyone waiting in the La Guardia airport knew that a flight had caught fire on takeoff and they were all buzzing about it.  They turned to stare at me as I, heavily bandaged, strolled in. 

I felt that maybe I should just gather everyone around and say, “I’m not a poor victim of the airplane fire.  I’ve just been sliding down a rope!” 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

228 Quiz Answer


Shakespeare wrote:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes…
A fathom is six feet.  Five times six equals 30 feet.
(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "A" is for "Accident")

 
It was a tough way to travel, to sail from Europe to America four or five hundred years ago.

 
Not only did hurricanes spring up from the Caribbean with winds that could tear a sailing ship apart, but the trip was fraught with perilous islands along the way that were every bit as dangerous.

One of the islands that you had to get past to get to the American mainland was called by the sailors of the day “The Isle of Devils” because it was surrounded by menacing rocks.

It was in July, 1609, that a vessel named the Sea Venture was sailing to bring supplies to Jamestown, Virginia, and had a famous nocturnal accident: in the middle of the night it was caught up in a storm that battered the ship and caused it to run on the rocks of the Isle of Devils.


What the survivors were to learn was that the place wasn’t devilish at all.  In fact, the island they had smacked into we know today was Bermuda, and as many vacationers in later centuries discovered, it was an honorable and pleasant place to spend the winter - if you could afford it.

At any rate, when the news of the accident and the storm got back to England, Will Shakespeare sat down and wrote a play titled “The Tempest.”

It’s a very interesting work: the experts didn’t know what to call it – comedy, drama, history, tragicomedy.  They seem to have settled upon “romance” as its specific genre.  The reason for the confusion is that there a number of sub-plots in the play, peopled by actors who range from ordinary folks to fantastic characters of heavy-duty weirdness.

However, to get around to our weekly quiz, there’s a sequence where a man’s father has drowned and his body has begun to decompose as it lies in the water.

Shakespeare handles this rather ghoulish topic as you might expect – it’s ghoulish enough for anyone, but he can’t help but write of it in poetic style.

“Of his bones are coral made,

Those are pearls that were his eyes.

Nothing of him that can fade

But has suffered a sea change

Into something rich and strange.”

Now here’s the question.  The poor drowned guy is lying in how many feet of water?  (Do the math.)

(The answer will be posted Friday.)  

 
 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

227 Quiz Answer


"Send in the Clowns" is a song written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1973 musical A Little Night Music, an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's film Smiles of a Summer Night.

Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Z" is for "Zero."

(I wrote the following, thinking it might suggest to you a well-known song.  Name the song.)

Dear Brenda:

It’s a joke.  A really funny joke.

Know what it reminds me of?  At the circus that eerie moment when they send in the little car to the center ring and twelve guys get out; everybody laughs.

To put it in more guarded and different terms, when I think of the hours I spent knocking on doors, opening doors, mostly getting nowhere.

Because all that time I never realized that the only door I wanted was yours.

But I finally made it.

Big dramatic entrance.  I had rehearsed; I knew my lines.  I was ready.

But that was when the whole thing turned into pure farce.  Your door finally opened - and there was no one there.  It added up to a big zero.

Isn’t it rich?  Imagine the little car riding into the center ring – and no one gets out.

But maybe I’m wrong thinking it’s a joke; in a way it’s more translucent, more of a tear-jerker, a story of sadness.  How was it possible that I was so wrong, to think you were going to want what I wanted?

How could we have been so different?

I was constantly tearing around; you were on solid ground.

You were firm, unyielding.

So what’s in the future, the future for the two of us?

When that little car drives into the center ring again…

Will anyone get out?

 

(The answer will be posted on Friday.)
 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Berowne's 226 Quiz

Sorry, folks, my 'pewter had a breakdown so I had to release the answer early.  It's "The Glass Menagerie."

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Y" is for "Yvonne")

I wrote the following scenelet, thinking it might suggest a well-known play.  Which play?

(The living-room of Fred’s house.  Time: the 1930s.)

Fred:  Alan!  Glad you could make it.  C’mon in.

Alan:  Wow.  Really freezing out there.  Glad to be where it’s nice and warm.

Fred:  Here, let me take your coat.  Oh, this is my sister Yvonne.

Alan:  Didn’t know you had a sister, Fred.  Glad to meet you, Yvonne.  How are you?

Yvonne:  Hello.

Fred:  Good, Yvonne.  You handled that well.  I suppose you want to get back to your work, right?

Yvonne:  Yes.  (She leaves)

Alan:  Nice girl.  Maybe a bit too talkative.

Fred:  Ha.  Truth is, she’s shy.  I mean, really shy.  One of the reasons I wanted to invite you over to meet the family was I hoped you might chat with her a bit so she could get more used to talking to guys.  She finds it too difficult as it is.

Alan:  Wait a minute.  Maybe there’s a bit of a misunderstanding here.  I had no idea you were asking me over to set me up with your sis.  I have a girlfriend, Fred.  You know that.

Fred:  No no, it’s not like that.  Let’s see if I can explain.  You see – truth is, I love my sister.  I’d do anything for her.  Her shyness keeps her at home so she never gets out to meet people. 

Alan:  I see.  Well, sure, I’d be glad to talk with her.  What is she interested in, mostly?

Fred:  I guess you could say it’s education.

Alan:  Well, I was interested in education, a little anyway, back in grammar school.  The interest sort of dropped off when we got to long division.

Fred:  Ha.  Her interest is different.  She might not want me to divulge this information, but she has constructed a little one-room schoolhouse, very small and even sort of insignificant, and has filled it with students and a teacher, and each one of them she made herself. 

Alan:  So she has a hobby.

Fred:  Yes.  We’re not sure if it’s good or bad, but she spends many hours at her schoolhouse.  She’s not really interested in much else.

Alan: Well, you know, Fred, working together at the shoe factory you and I are both finding out the world’s a tough, godless place.  If Yvonne can make her own little world, nicer than the one outside, maybe that’s not such a bad thing?

(The answer will be posted Friday.)

 

 

 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

225 Quiz Answer


The Book of Genesis is the primary source that mentions the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  According to the story, Divine judgment by God was passed upon the two cities, which were completely consumed by fire and brimstone.
(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "X" is for "Exit")

I wrote the following scenelet, thinking it might suggest a familiar story from the Bible.  What story?

“I don’t want to have to tell you again. You’ve got to get your things together now so we can get out of here!  We’ve got to make our exit.”      

“This is all so strange...”

“It’s more than strange; it’s dangerous. We’ve only got another half-hour or so before the whole place blows up. Where are the girls?”

“Well, they’re trying to get their things together too. It’s awful that we have to leave; they’ve been doing so well in school and of course they have their friends here. And I've got a week's food in the pantry."

“You just don’t get it! This is risky, a life or death situation! We should have been on the road an hour ago.”

“How did you learn about this – this emergency? Nobody else seems to know about it.”

“I haven’t explained it because it would take too much time, and you probably wouldn’t believe it anyway. But did you see those two strange-looking men around here this morning?”

“They’re from out of town, aren’t they?”

“Hah, you could certainly say that.  From way out of town. They aren’t really men, you see; they’re angels.”

“Angels?!”

“Right. You know what’s been going on in this place, all the drinking and carousing and screwing around and God knows what else. Well, Yahweh sent these angels to see if there are a few righteous folks in our town.”

“Who sent them?”

“Yahweh – you know, God.”

“This is all very weird.”

“The idea was that if there were at least ten righteous men in this place it wouldn’t be destroyed. Well, these two fellows – er, angels – couldn’t find even ten, so the whole area is in jeopardy, it's going to be blown sky high.”

“How will – er, He – do the destruction?”

“Not sure. Something to do with fire and brimstone, I suppose.”

"I've never really understood just what brimstone is, actually."

"Well, let's not wait around to find out.”

 “Oh, dear. I so like this place.”

“Yeah. A real fun town.  It's cathartic; there's been too much fun, as it turns out.”

“So where are we going?”

“I have been told that we can be safe if we get well outside the city limits. Ah, here are the girls. Seriously, my dear, we've got to get started.”

“It’ll be sad to leave. In spite of its rather racy reputation, I’ve really enjoyed living here. There’s a hill on the road out. When we get to the top of that hill, I’m just going to have a good look back at our dear old town!”

(The answer will be posted on Friday.)

 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

224 Quiz Answer


A Midsummer Night's Dream portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.  These include a group of working stiffs - Shakespeare calls them “rude mechanicals” – who struggle to produce a play as their part of the ceremony.  Among them is the famous Bottom the Weaver, who is later turned into a jassack.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "W" is for "Whalen")

I wrote the following scenelet, thinking it might suggest one of the Shakespeare plays.  Which play?

Jim: This meeting better be important.  We got three more trucks to load and they gotta be ready to roll out tomorrow morning.

Pete: Right.  We’ll keep this short.  As you know, our CEO is getting married next week and they’re planning a special ceremony for him.  Couple of the departments will be doing some stuff so I thought we could do something too.

Dan: Why?  Mr Whalen is up there on the top floor.  He never comes down to shipping to see what we do.  I don’t think he knows we exist.

Pete: Well, here’s your chance to let him know.

Fred: We’re supposed to perform - sing and dance?

Pete: No.  Mr. Whalen studied classics in college.  He’s very familiar with classical drama, the playwrights from ancient Rome and Greece.  So I had a great idea.  He’d be absolutely bowled over if some of his employees, blue-collar guys, connived to do a scene from Euripides for his entertainment.

Jim: Are you kiddin’?  Maybe bowled over from laughing, more like.  We ain’t actors; we’re working stiffs. 

Dan: There's a certain amount of intrigue here; you got this idea because you think it’ll make you look good to Whalen. 

Pete: It’ll make us all look good.  Now come on, here’s your parts all typed up. You’re going to get a kick out of this once you get into it.

Fred (vehemently): What’s this?  I’m supposed to play a lion?  Forget about it; there’s no way I could remember my part.

Pete: I figured that, Fred.  All it consists of is roaring.  Anyone can do that.

Jim: Why do I have the feelin’ this is a disaster lookin’ to happen?

Pete: If we all get together and work as a team I know we can do a good job.  As I said other departments will be doing something for the occasion too, but if we concentrate on this and rehearse it well we can knock the socks off everyone there.

Dan: They can keep their socks on, far as I care.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Berowne's 223

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "V" is for Victory.)

I had a strange feeling when I saw the prompt of a tape machine.  Years ago I owned a TEAC just like that one.  "Where are the tapes of yesteryear?"

Speaking of the past, I was glancing through the paper recently and I saw an article on the actress Mariska Hargitay.

Suddenly I was thrust back a half-century or so, back to when young Berowne was trying to make it as a film maker – documentaries and commercials to order.

I found myself sitting in the dingy waiting room of a small company who had called me there because they needed a film made and I had promised that I could offer something most others couldn’t: I worked cheap.

Hey, working cheap is how you got started.

The place was the Superior Welding Alloys Company and I was hurriedly reading their brochures in an effort to learn what welding alloys were.

Don't mean to gripe but their waiting room was undistinguished, to say the least, so I was sort of amazed to find myself sitting next to someone who was also waiting there to see about a job.


Amazed because she was a young woman about whom it is no exaggeration to say that she presented a spectacular appearance.  In the parlance of the time she was a knockout – not the type of person one would usually find waiting to see about a job with your average welding alloys firm.

We got to chatting – after all, she learned that I was a film producer but how was she to know I was just a beginner? – and she told me of the plan she had carefully worked out to become famous.

Later, when she was known to just about every sentient life form in the land, she seemed to many to be playing the role of a dumb blonde.  But her earlier university grades proved that she had been an intelligent student.

She said she wanted fame.  She wanted to be known.  She wanted stardom.  The agents she had contacted had been unimpressed.  They stalled, wouldn't send her out on a call-back.  Sure, she was something to look at, but it seemed she was not all that special when it came to singing, dancing, acting, etc – the things agents were usually looking for. 

She felt there was a crisis.  She sat down and carefully evaluated herself and decided that since the agents weren’t doing much for her, she’d do this fame thing herself.  She had a small inheritance so she made it her job to spend her days methodically going around to companies – not the big corporations but rather the smaller outfits – and explaining to them that she was available as a model for any of their advertising or promotional photography. 

She didn’t have to be paid much, in some cases nothing.  She just wanted lots of pictures of herself published; she thought this way she’d become known.

Well, it worked.  She gradually became Miss Photoflash, Miss Direct Mail, Nylon Sweater Queen, Hot Dog Ambassador, Miss 100% Pure Maple Syrup, Miss Potato Soup and a page-full of other such titles.   And she got parts in a few films.


She achieved victory: she became known to just about everyone in the country.  Her name was Jayne Mansfield.


Our story takes a dark turn.  In the middle of a June night in 1967, Jayne and her family were being driven to New Orleans when they crashed their 1966 Buick Electra into a huge tractor-trailer that had suddenly slowed in front of them.  She and two others were killed. 




Her three-year-old daughter Mariska survived the crash.  You may be familiar with Mariska Hargitay.  Google tells me that she is best known for her role as NYC Detective Olivia Benson on the NBC television drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a role that has earned her multiple awards and nominations, including an Emmy and Golden Globe.
 
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