Sunday, May 3, 2015

Berowne's 268

(Also for ABC Wednesday: "Q" is for "Queenie")

No quiz this week; just a little story...

“What does it say?”

“What does what say?”

“On the cup. The words on the cup.”

“Oh. ‘Winner, First City-Wide Dance Contest’”

“So it definitely says ‘winner’? Then we’ve got a problem.”

“Let’s go over this carefully again. The whole point of this dance contest was that it would be great publicity for Mabel Carswell, who as you know may be our next mayor. Her daughter Stella was to win and the two of them, Mom and daughter, would be writ up in our weekly Tribune and be seen holding the winner’s cup.”

“Right, and everyone understood that.”

“Evidently not everyone. Then, once the election was held, I was assured that I would be appointed City Manager. But now someone has messed up and allowed somebody else to win! You simply can’t depend on people anymore!”

“Well, it wasn’t that they were allowed to win. That girl Queenie Hasenlaufer and her partner were simply the best dancers.”

“What has that got to do with it? My job – and yours, as far as that goes – depends on Mabel’s daughter Stella winning that cup. Now, start thinking; how can we fix this?”

“Okay then, how about this? Those cups only cost thirty-five bucks. We could buy another cup, inscribe on it ‘Special Award’ or some such thing and give that to Queenie and her partner. The winner’s cup would then go to Stella and Mabel would be happy.”

“But Stella didn’t win. An unimportant point to us, but it’s of great interest to the residents of our fair city.  There’d be rioting in the streets if they thought we were trying to pull something crooked.”

“Well, who let this happen? Who were the judges? Don’t they know anything about politics? We spent thousands of dollars putting this dance contest together for one reason, as support for Mabel Carswell’s campaign, and we didn’t blow all that dough to give an award to someone named Queenie!”

“Let alone someone named Hasenlaufer.”

“Thanks, Phil. You’ve made your contribution. Now go sit over there.”

“Suppose we let it leak out that someone has stolen the cup, since it is so valuable. So the dance festival authorities, who are you and me by the way, have decided that the only fair thing to do is to acquire another cup and award it to both Queenie and Stella. They’ll be co-winners. Queenie will ultimately get the cup to keep and Stella in the meantime gets her photo op, holding the dam’ thing with her Mom for the local media.”

“You don’t know much about Mabel Carswell, do you? The only thing that would mean anything to her would for her daughter to win – which is what I guaranteed her would happen. Way things are going, someone else is going to wind up as City Manager and I’ll be back to convincing folks that they may be able to save fifteen percent on their car insurance, like that little green rodent on TV.”

“Well, as far as I can see, that ‘co-winner’ solution is all we’ve got. How about it, Phil? Have you got anything else to suggest?”

“Well, in tight situations like this it was always encouraging for me when I remembered what my Dad used to say: When the tough get going – or when you go getting tough – something like that, whatever – but it was always encouraging.”

Sunday, April 26, 2015

267 Quiz Answer

“Mending Wall” is one of the poet Robert Frost’s popular poems, a story of a wall that sits between two properties in the countryside.  Familiar lines from the poem are “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “Good fences make good neighbors.”

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "P" is for "Pell")

The following scenelet should remind you of a well-known literary work.  Give us its name.

“I really appreciate your seeing me on such short notice.  May I sit down?”

“What?  Oh, sure.  Uh - I don’t understand what this is about.”

“Well, it’s simple.  I represent your friend and neighbor, Mr Pell.”

“Pell sent you?  Why didn’t he come himself?”

“Well, I do work for him in his business, so he thought I could handle this personal situation.”

“What kind of work do you do for him?”

“I’m his attorney.”

“He sent a lawyer?  My next-door neighbor has sent a lawyer?  Again, what is this about?”

“Please relax, it’s nothing serious.  It’s about that land you both have out back.  It needs to be fenced in so there’s a clear line of demarcation between your property and his.”

“But who says that?  It’s fine as is.”

“Not really.  Now people can just stumble from one place to another, nothing to stop them.  Things on your side can easily drift over to his property.”

“I have a couple of glorious apple trees out back.  Far as I know, no apples have ever wandered over to Pell’s area.  And if they did, so what?  They’re fine apples.”

“Believe me, situations like this often cause problems, legal problems.  I’ve handled a number of such cases.  People can live side by side in peaceful propinquity for quite a while, but…”

“Did you say ‘propinquity’?  This is quite an occasion.  I’ve never met anyone who used the word ‘propinquity’ before.”

“Well, to get to the point.  Please be assured that Mr. Pell likes you and wants very much to continue to be your friend and neighbor.  He would just like to avoid a situation that often leads to bitter problems and clearly marking off the two properties in this manner is the way to do it.”

“But I would have to go to the expense and trouble of …”

“Mr Pell would share the initial expense.  After that you would of course do the necessary maintenance on your side, repairing as necessary.”

“So I would have to constantly fix this thing, even though I see no use or need for it.”

“You’ll soon see the need.  Once it’s installed you’ll see how pleasant life can be when you have a good relationship with those who live near you.”

(The answer will be posted Saturday.) 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Berowne's 266

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "O" is for "Owen")

This is the week of Will Shakespeare’s birthday, which may – (or maybe not) - be April 23rd.  In the following scenelet, a conscientious father grills his son, Owen, on his Shakespeare homework.

“Did you find the play difficult?”

“Not really, Dad. I got through it okay.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Well, it’s about this couple, Lady Macbeth and her husband, Mister Macbeth.”

“That’s a good start. Go on.”

“They’ve got this friend – wait a minute, I’ve got his name here somewhere – yeah, it's Duncan; I knew it had something to do with donuts. Anyway, they’ve got this friend named Duncan who comes to visit. Didn’t turn out well. He sort of checked in and didn’t check out, if you see what I mean.”

“You mean he was killed?”

“You could put it that way.”

“And who did the killing?”

“Well, that’s the thing. They both were in on it, Lady MacB and her old man. Both of ‘em. At first it was just a whim; something they talked about, but then it got serious. Actually, MacB had a firm belief that you didn’t do crap like that – kill your best friend -- but she egged him on. ‘You can do it! You de man!’ she’d yell at him, and like that.”

“So he went along and committed the murder?  What about motive? Why did they kill Duncan?”

“Well, you see, Macbeth had a title; he was Thane of Cawdor. Now Cawdor may have been a beautiful town but it just wasn't important, so being whatever a Thane is was sort of small potatoes, if you see what I mean. He wanted something better.”

“As did Lady Macbeth?”

“Oh, man, did she ever! She was sort of desperate; she figured that if they offed Duncan she could wind up as First Lady. She’d be able to throw all the wild parties and so on. Which is exactly what happened.”

“But later she had a change of heart?”

“You’re assuming she had a heart to begin with. But yeah, after a while she began to feel pretty cruddy about having liquidated their friend. In fact, a hush fell over her; it seems she was totally heading over to the unhinged side of town, if you follow my meaning.”

“You do have a novel way of putting things.”

“Show you how crazy she was, she had a dog named Spot. An indoors-type of pooch; he never liked the outdoors. She’d yell at him: ‘Out, damned Spot!’ but he wouldn’t budge.”

“I see. So we are going to have a bit of humor along with our lessons.”

“Gotta do something to liven things up.”

“What later happened to Macbeth?”

“Well, actually, I didn’t read any farther than this. As I get it, the dude wound up in a forest named Dunsinane, or something like that. Probably got lost in it. Things like that happened a lot in those days.”

Sunday, April 12, 2015

265 Quiz Answer

Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States, from 1945 to 1953.
(Also for ABC Wednesday: "N" is for "noteworthy.")

Here’s a really quick quiz for you this week:

He had a record as a soldier that was not outstanding, but he served well and received an honorable discharge.
As an entrepreneur, a businessman, his record was worse than mediocre; he opened a shop that sold items for men – hats, ties, handkerchiefs, etc. – but the place failed.
He did not have a college education.

He had a rather unique relationship with Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Who was he?

P.S. By the way, this noteworthy gentleman had no middle name.  His parents had given him the letter "S," but only that, for a middle name.

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

264 Quiz Answer

“Mack the Knife” is a famous song from “The Threepenny Opera,” which opened in Berlin in 1928 and was introduced to American audiences in 1933.  “Meckie Messer” is an approximation (mine) of how the Germans pronounced Mack the Knife.

“Und der Haifish, der hat Zahne

Und die tragt er im Gesicht.

Und Macheath, der hat ein Messer

Doch das Messer sieht man nicht.”

“Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,

And he shows ‘em, pearly white.

Just a jackknife has Macheath, dear,

And he keeps it out of sight.”

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "M" is for "Meckie")

In the following conversation, Who is the well-known character they’re talking about?

“Take a look at this knife, Frank.  We think you can help us.  And maybe we’ll be able to help you.”

“Help me?  I don’t need no help.  When you don’t do nothin’ wrong, you don’t need help from cops.”

“Well, this was involved in a tense situation a couple of days ago.  Sort of a homicide.  You know that girl everyone calls Jennie T?”

“Yeah; heard of her.  Seen her around.  Why?  She in trouble?”

“Worse.  She’s dead.”

“Oh.  I don’t suppose it’s worth pointing out that I had nothin’ to do with it.”

“No, but we think you know who did.”

“Tell me, maybe I seen too much TV, too much flimsy evidence, but are you the good cop or the bad cop?”

“Oh, I’m a switch-hitter – good or bad, whatever the situation calls for.  Look, let’s cut to the chase.  We’re looking for your pal Meckie.  If that’s his name.”

“It’s his nickname, actually.”

“All we want to do is ask a few questions.  You’ll be helping him if you let us know where he is because we’ll be able to clear him that much faster.”

“Yeah, sure, I’d bet on that: all you want to do is clear him.”

“And by the way, you know that Meier robbery that’s been in all the papers?  We’re pretty sure he pulled that off.  So there’s a hefty reward if you want to cooperate.”

“I’ll tell you a funny thing about the guy, but maybe you know it already.  He does some heavy stuff but no one ever pins anything on him and whenever they question him he knows nothin’ about nothin’.  You got your work cut out, man.”

“But you had your disagreements, to say the least, with him in the past.  This is a chance to get back at him.”

“I'm not hungry to get back at him because I don’t want him to get back at me.  Let me tell you about this guy; he doesn’t even own a gun.  He usually strolls around with a just a knife, but you’d never see it until it was too late.  So I guess I’ll have to turn down your offer.”

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Berowne's 263

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "L" is for "Larceny")
Next Sunday is Easter.  Berowne, in a desperate effort to be topical and up to date, has dredged up the following:

Victor: I’ve told you before, I don’t like doing this.

Mike: I know, but this is something special.  I really need your help.  An expert like you can tell me if this thing is worth real money.  If so, well, there’s a big chunk of dough in it for you.

Victor: All right, let me have a look at it.

Mike:  There.  It's a special Easter egg.  What do you think?  Go ahead, take your time, no hurry.  Have a good, deep look at it.

Victor: I don’t need to look it over at all.  I know what it is.

Mike:  You do?  You mean it’s famous?

Victor: You could say that.  How did you get this?

Mike: There are two young men who sort of work for me.  They – er – acquired it.

Victor: Pure larceny, right?  And the two young men are punks who steal stuff for you, right?

Mike: Now, wait a minute.  How they got it or how it got here isn’t the question.  All I want to know from you is, what’s it worth?

Victor: What did you pay for it?

Mike: Well, I figured I could always sell it for fifty dollars – a hundred if I’m lucky.  So I gave them thirty-five bucks for it.

Victor: Thirty-five bucks.  Unbelievable…

Mike: It’s worth more?  A lot more?

Victor: To you it’s worth nothing.  You wasted your thirty-five bucks. 

Mike: What are you trying to pull?  It’s gotta be worth something.

Victor: Let me give you a bit of history.  Way back in the year 1918, the entire royal family of imperial Russia, the Romanoffs, were assassinated by the rabid Bolshevik secret police.  You’ve heard about this?

Mike: Sort of.

Victor: Then maybe you also heard that one of the daughters, Anastasia, managed to live through the assassination attempt and escaped.

She later lived in Europe for years under the name of Anna Anderson.  The word got around in recent years that she had moved to the States and spent the rest of her life here.  Nobody could verify this; she wanted to avoid all publicity.

Mike: And this thing belonged to her?

Victor: You guessed it.  She had this Easter egg with her at all times, the only thing she had been able to save.

Mike: And you’re trying to tell me it isn’t worth anything?

Victor: It isn’t worth anything to you.  That girl, just a teenager at the time of the assassination attempt, was a royal princess: the Grand Duchess Anastasia.  If you could put this up for auction you'd set the place ablaze; I imagine the bidding would begin at around twenty million.

Mike: Holy smoke!

Victor: But if you tried to sell it you’d have cops and FBI and Interpol and God knows who else after you.  And they’d dig deep into your operation and learn a lot you’d just as soon they didn’t know. 

Mike: You wouldn’t consider buying it, would you?

Victor: I would not.  There’s never going to be anything but headaches with this.  Way I see it, the person who owns it – or owned it before it was stolen from him – was keeping it very quiet, and probably for good reason.

Mike: So what am I supposed to do? 

Victor: I’ll tell you what you should do.  Pay the two hoodlums who stole this to carefully take it back to the home they stole it from.  Leave it on the doorstep with a note saying “Easter egg.  Happy Easter!”  Then press the doorbell and run like hell.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

262 Quiz Answer

“Twelfth Night” is a reference to Epiphany, or the twelfth night of the Christmas celebration.  In Shakespeare’s day, this holiday was celebrated as a festival in which everything was turned upside down—much like the upside-down, chaotic world of the play.
As for the calendar, Twelfth Night was actually January 6th.
(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "K" is for "Karma")

You like convoluted plots?

Of course you do; everyone likes a little convolutedariness in their plots.

Well, this is the plot of a glorious play, the story of a petite young woman whom we’ll call Girl One, or G1.  She had been in a shipwreck and found herself alone in the land.  If you’ve ever been in a shipwreck you know how depressing that can be.

In those days, 4 or 5 hundred years ago, a female might find it a bit dicey to walk about alone.  So our friend G1 dressed herself as a male, a bloke, and went to get a job.  She was hired as a servant of a certain Duke.

She learns that the Duke, who is otherwise a fairly normal person as far as Dukes go, has a problem.  Seems he has managed to convince himself that he is in love with a noblewoman whom we’ll call Girl Two, or G2.

She is a very different type of person from G1.  She is of high noble rank, she’s beautiful and she’s affluent, a technical fiduciary term meaning she’s loaded.

Turns out the Duke is crazy about G2; he doesn’t hold any of the above - beauty, nobility, lots of money - against her.  She, however, is chilly towards him and doesn’t reciprocate, Duke or no Duke.

He has a brilliant idea: he’ll have this young chap who recently joined his staff serve as an intermediary to carry the good news to her of how enamored he is. 

If you’re familiar with the story, G2 forgets all about the Duke, who she wasn’t thinking so much about anyway.  For her, it’s karma, fate, that she should meet and fall for the young intermediary guy.

To top things off, Girl One, though skillfully dressed in masculine duds, has managed to fall in love with her boss, the Duke.  So what you have now is the familiar theatrical device known as a love triangle, though a bit different from the usual.  Duke loves G2; G1 loves Duke; G2 loves G1.

Once you’ve got all that straight, the play is ready to begin.

It was first produced a few weeks after Christmas, which actually had a lot to do with how it was named.

What was the name of the play?

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Berowne's 261A

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "J" is for "Joys of Summer")   

Here’s another in the series “Berowne’s Mediocre Adventures”

Tess Kincaid likes to travel, so this week instead of a quiz I thought I’d offer a travel suggestion to her or anyone else in our blogger community who enjoys travelling.

Enroll at Oxford!  A perfect summer vacation; I did it myself. 
Here’s Berowne at Oxford a few decades ago. 
By the way, this is not some kind of annoying advertisement.  I have no connection with Oxford and I don’t stand to make any money on the deal.  It’s just that I found it a painless and unforgettable experience and thought others might too. 
Now, you understand, you don’t enroll as an actual student.  You just take summer classes.  (I took Shakespeare.)  For over 100 years the Oxford University Summer School for Adults program has been making it possible for everyone to take advantage of courses there. 

The joys of summer.   One of them is lying on a beach; another is the joy of pursuing your studies at a world-famous university.

I was at New College, Oxford.  The hushed beauty of the campus calls attention to its name: “New,” though it was established in 1379. 
Up on the wall in the dining hall is a portrait of the Reverend Spooner, Warden of New College for years.  He is famous for “spoonerisms,” because he was prone to deliver talks that mixed up consonants and vowels in fairly hilarious arrangements. 
Examples: “The Lord is a shoving leopard.”  “Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?”  The word spoonerism has lasted right up to our time: “Resident Pagan.” 
Having spent a summer there, your reputation as a name-dropper is greatly increased.  In the future while engaged in any conversation, on almost any topic, you’ll be able to casually toss off the phrase “When I was at Oxford…” thus getting everyone’s undivided attention. J 
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