Sunday, November 22, 2015

Berowne's 295 Quiz

(Also for ABC Wednesday: "T" is for "trust fund")

The following scenelet should remind you of a novel by a world-famous author.  Name the novel.

“I realize I’ve said this before, but I promise to pay you back.  It’s just gonna take a little longer.”

“A little longer!  You’re already two months overdue!  When I loaned you that three hundred bucks you said I’d have it back in a month.”

“But look at the situation I’m in.  I’ve got to study like crazy or I won’t graduate, and my job only pays a lousy ten bucks an hour.”

“In other words, you never intended to pay me back when I loaned you the dough.”

“Well, actually, I guess that’s right.  I feel bad about it.  Tell you what, let me suggest this.  Isn’t there something you need to do – some chore or other - and you hate to do it?  You could turn it over to me and I’ll handle it for you.  I could pay you back that way.”

“Looks like I’ll never see any actual cash.  But wait a minute.  There is something…  I think you might be able to handle it.  You’ve heard of Miss Trent?”

“Miss Trent?  Sure, everyone in town knows about her.  Wait a minute; what are you getting me into here?”

“Relax; it’s nothing dangerous.  I owe her bigtime so I visit her on a regular basis.  However, I’m sort of tired of having to do it so often, so you do it.  Won’t be hard; all you have to do is visit an old lady for me and chat with her in a nice gentlemanly way.”

“But Miss Trent?  From what I’ve heard she’s, well, weird.”

“No question, Miss Trent is an unusual character but that isn’t important.  All you have to do is tell her I don’t feel well this week so I’m sending my best friend to visit for me.”

“I don’t know about this.  Why do you have to visit her anyway?”

“Well, long story short, way back when I was a kid things were tough financially.  Miss Trent did something that was like a miracle.  In total secrecy she created a special trust fund that paid for my education and just about everything else.”

“That’s kind of amazing.  Around town she has a reputation as a skinflint.  Anyway, I guess I could handle the visit okay.”

“Good.  Remember, that act of generosity was a secret and it’s still a secret.  So don’t mention that while you’re talking with her.”

“If it was such a secret, how could you be sure she’s the one who put up the money?”

(The answer will be posted Saturday)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Berowne's 294

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "S" is for "shrewish")

No quiz this week.  Instead I got to thinking about the enigmatic play we dealt with a couple of weeks ago: “The Taming of the Shrew.”

It’s strange that a work like this has been performed so often in our time; the feminist revolution of the past century or so would seem to have rendered portions of the play – shall we say, faulty? – for today.  But there have been plenty of staged productions, as well as Broadway musicals and major motion pictures (“Kiss Me Kate,” for example).  Somehow modern audiences seem to enjoy it.

Here’s the story.  Kate is angry.  She has quite a bit to be angry about.  She’s the eldest daughter, but she feels she has always been treated as second-rate while her younger sister, Bianca – who is regarded as more beautiful as well as “nicer” – receives attention and admiration from everyone.  So Kate has become sharp-tongued and quick-tempered and has been known to throw stuff about during a tantrum.
As we mentioned earlier, the father, Baptista, had the problem all fathers of that era had: he must find suitable husbands for his daughters.  He felt that it was important that Kate, the eldest, be married first, So Baptista’s rule was, no one could court (or marry) Bianca until Kate was married.

That’s the situation when our hero, Petruchio, arrives in town, openly planning to get married.

Well, Kate is available, but locals warn him that the girl is impossible.  However Petruchio, who can be as loud, boisterous and eccentric as Baptista’s oldest daughter, disregards everyone who warns him of her shrewishness.

When he goes to Baptista’s house to meet Kate, they have a tremendous duel of words. Katherine insults Petruchio repeatedly, but he tells her that he is going to marry her whether she agrees or not.  Hearing this claim, Kate is strangely silent, so the wedding is set.

One gets the feeling that deep down, Katherine rather likes the idea of marrying this brash young man.

Petruchio does all kinds of wild stuff to prove he’s the boss.  He shows up at the wedding under the alfluence of inkohol while wearing outlandish clothes, and he plays tricks on his new wife.  Today’s audiences tend to feel a bit uncomfortable during all this; it is clearly abusive behavior.

But it’s the final sequence that is the hardest to take.  Petruchio has succeeded in taming the shrew.  His wife has changed greatly; she has become passive and submissive.  When he orders her to drop what she’s doing and come to him, she practically grovels when she replies:

“What is’t your honour will command wherein your lady and your humble wife may show her duty and make known her love?”

Petruchio replies: “Kiss me, Kate, since thou art become so prudent, kind and dutiful a wife.”

So we are left with a question.  Is the play titled “The Taming of the Shrew” an indication of what William Shakespeare thought an ideal wife should be to have a good marriage?  Or is the play actually his attack on the hypocrisy of the customs and values of his time?

Your opinion?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

293 Quiz Answer

Will Shakespeare’s dad, John Shakespeare, had quite a career.  Beginning as an illiterate farmhand, he became skilled at the foul-smelling craft of tanning hides as well as a successful glover, then moved through the Board of Aldermen to ultimately become the mayor of the town of Stratford.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "R" is for "redolence")

Question: who’s this “John” person they’re talking about?
“Come in, sit down.  This shouldn’t take too long.”
“I appreciate the chance to talk with you about this, sir.”
“Sorry I don’t have good news.  True, there is an opening on the Board of Aldermen, but your friend just isn’t qualified.”
“I don't want to distract you but I hoped I could tell you his remarkable life story…”
“Wait a minute.  You’re going to tell me a life story?  My stomach is wiggling about and grumbling; it’s time for my lunch.”
“This will take just a few moments.  In one of your speeches you mentioned that Aldermen of our borough should represent everyone, not just the upper classes.”
“But that didn’t mean we should scrape the bottom of the barrel.  Your man – what’s his name again?
“Right.  Well, I don't mean to sound venomous but your man, from the information I’ve been given, is an illiterate farm worker.”
Was, sir, was.  That’s why his story is so inspiring.  Because of his incredible ambition and natural abilities, he has opened a number of successful businesses.  Someone like this is just what the Board of Aldermen needs.”
“You say businesses, but he has no place of business; he works out of his home.  We sent someone there to check.  He reported back that the incredible stink drove him out of the place.”
“Well, it is true that type of work, whitening leather, does create rather strong, er, redolence, but when John makes his specialty, beautiful white leather gloves, it all seems worthwhile.  As you know, the gentry love white leather gloves and will pay a lot for them, so it’s a successful craft.”
“Are you aware that the substance used in the whitening of leather is – urine?”
“Yes, I know.  So in his house I’m afraid there’s always a certain…”
“Well, I’d call it a certain pungency.  But all that will of course be gone when he joins the Board of Aldermen.  A true rags to riches story; he will become a civic leader; his son. by the way, has a great future as a writer.  John will be an inspiration to so many in our town.  His belief in our eternal values will always stay with him.”
“Wonder if that redolence will stay with him too?”

(The answer will be posted Saturday)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Berowne's 292

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Q" is for "quarrel")
Welcome to another in the exciting series titled “Berowne’s Mediocre Adventures.”

This week: My participation in the French Revolution.

No, not that one, not the one in the 1700s.  The more recent one, back in 1962.  Didn’t know there was a French Revolution in ’62?  Well, there was, or just about; it got snuffed out at the last minute.  And I was there.

A bit of background.  When WWII ended, there was a general thrust for independence on the part of various geographical possessions throughout the world.  The major powers lost most of their colonies.

France lost Indo-Chine – Vietnam – one of its two most important colonies.  And French leaders were seriously resolved that the other, Algeria, would remain French at all costs.  You see, Algeria was different.  It was not just a colony; it was legally classified an integral part of France.

Yet around 1960 many felt that it was time for Algerian independence.  And the President of France, our old friend Charles de Gaulle, was suspected of getting ready to grant it.

This threatened French political right-wingers. So there was quite a quarrel going on between the right and the left, occasionally a violent quarrel. A group of generals actually formed an army, the OAS, the “Organization of the Secret Army,” to assassinate de Gaulle and take over the country.  They planned a real revolution.

They got things boiling by setting off bombs, “plastiques,” planted in cafes and such places throughout the country.  At the right moment, with the President killed, thousands of OAS paratroopers would drop from the sky and take over all governmental agencies.

France would cease being a republique and would become a military dictatorship.

It was in 1962 that young Berowne, somewhat ignorant of the above, showed up to shoot a film to be titled “One Man’s Paris.”

I thought it odd that folks in the city were constantly looking skyward, and that there was a lot of talk about “plastiques.”

I had gone to a place to rent a battery for my camera.  All they had was a really ancient one; I think it must have been one of the first professional motion-picture batteries ever built.  It was an unsightly wooden, clumsily put-together item, about the size of a shoe box, with wires for the camera connection.

One day after a morning’s work, I stopped in a cafĂ© and took a coffee break.  I was getting used to French coffee – though that takes time, believe me.  I placed my ragged-looking camera battery under one of the tables and…

Suddenly the patron rushed in and shouted, “Plastique!” and the whole joint, all the customers, rushed full tilt out the front door.

As I sat there, pondering over this development, a couple of gendarmes ran in and escorted me out of the place too.  How they could have thought that crummy-looking wooden shoe box was plastique was beyond me, but I guess they were taking no chances.

Anyway, I convinced them the device was a camera battery and that I was a de Gaulle supporter from way back.

Speaking of whom, the OAS later set up an elaborate squad of snipers and machine-gunners at a special intersection to get the Prez as he rode by.  His car was riddled by bullets, but Citroen had provided a special vehicle and neither de Gaulle or his wife were hit.

With the President still alive and well, the Second French Revolution just sort of fizzled out.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

291 Quiz Answer

The play is “The Taming of the Shrew.”  In the Italian city of Padua, a wealthy old man named Baptista has declared that no one may court his beautiful daughter Bianca until first her older sister, the ill-tempered Katherine, is married. 

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday; "P" is for "Pam")

The following should remind you of a well-known play.  Which play?

Hi, welcome to the weekly quiz.  Who am I?  I’m Pam, a girl – young woman, to be accurate – who has a problem.
I’m about average height, a bit above average intelligence and a placid nature.  People tell me so often I’m beautiful that I’m beginning to believe them.  So I’ll say no more about that.
To top things off, my father – Popsy, I call him – has money.  Quite a lot of it.

Now, you’d think that a mademoiselle with a resume’ like that wouldn’t have too much trouble finding some cool dude to marry.  Well, dudes have come and dudes have gone, and I’m still sitting here, un – as the saying goes - attached.
This nondescript problem can be summed up very simply: my old man.
My father is the quirky old-fashioned type who believes that everything - manners, customs, even civilization - all stopped short a century or so ago.  In those days if you had a number of daughters your job was to marry them off, and to the right type of person.
But there’s more.  The eldest daughter had to have first crack at whatever suitor walked through the door.  The eldest, who happens to be my sister, had to get married first; then the youngest, me, would have her chance.
This may seem to you to be a reasonable plan, well thought out, so what was the problem?
Well, if my first problem was my progenitor, as I humorously refer to my dad, the second, the bigger problem, was my sister herself.
Oh, she was attractive enough.  And once the blokes in this town were aware that she had a huge dowry, they all came calling.  They’d come to visit, get to know her, and then they’d take off, like huge birds heading off into the sunset.
And we’d never see them again.
You see, my sis is a special sort of person.  My theory is that she’d love to meet a nice chap and get hitched, but basically she’s insecure.  She hates to appear vulnerable and weak, so she’s very sharp with her suitors.  She’ll casually toss off quasi-nasty remarks to some poor guy who’s just doing his best to please, and soon he’s looking around for the exit.
And as for me, I remain un – as I’ve mentioned – attached.

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Berowne's 290

(Also for ABC Wednesday: "O" is for "overwhelming")

No quiz this week.

An amazing thing happened a few days ago.  A theatrical company – primarily a dance group, I guess  - started to perform right outside my window.

What a show!  What pirouettes and jetees, what whirling about!

But then I realized, it’s October.  Some stagehand had thrown a switch and the nearby trees suddenly filled the autumnal air with falling, dancing leaves.  It really needed some background music, something overwhelmingly classical.

This took me back a few decades, back to the days when American francophiles were fascinated by the work – the poetry and the films – of Jacques Prevert.

Of course, speaking of music, I thought of his song “Les Feuilles mortes” – “Autumn Leaves” – especially as sung by Edith Piaf and Yves Montand.

Prevert’s poetry holds up well today and is perfect for an October day.

“C’est une chanson qui nous ressemble,
Toi, tu m’aimais et je t’aimais.”

It’s a song that’s like the two of us,
You, you who loved me and I who loved you.

“Et nous vivions tous deux ensemble,
Toi qui m’aimais, moi qui t’aimais.”

And the two of us lived together,
You who loved me and I who loved you.

“Mais la vie separe ceux qui s’aiment,
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit.
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants desunis.”

But life separates those who love,
Softly, making no noise.
And the sea erases on the sand
The footprints of lovers who are no longer together.

                                  Jacques Prevert, 1900-1977


Sunday, October 11, 2015

289 Quiz Answer

In the play “Othello,” Iago is a soldier who has fought beside his general, Othello, for years, and has become his trusted advisor. But at the beginning of the play, Iago claims to have been unfairly passed over for promotion; he plots to bring about the downfall of Othello.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "N" is for "nefarious")

The following scenelet should suggest a very well-known play to you.  What’s the name of the play?

"You're still complaining?  Hey, you chose a military career and it isn’t really so bad after all.  But you don’t really agree with that, do you?”
“You bet I don’t.  Fifteen years of service, hellish battles and combat all over the world, risked my life dozens of times, and what do I wind up with?  Two metal bars and a few rows of ribbons – what good are they in civvie life? “
“Come on; you got your rank, not too bad a pay grade for retirement.”
“But that – that – is exactly the point.  I was due for promotion and now that wer're here in Cyprus they bring in this outsider.  He’s now the fair-haired boy as far as the general is concerned.  That should have been my job!  It was as though it had been promised to me.  For all practical purposes I already had it; the skipper depended on me for just about everything!”
“Yeah, I know.  I thought it was – well – unfair.”
“Unfair is the least of it.  For the good of the service you want experienced officers.  This guy, he doesn’t seem to have been anywhere or done anything, and he is now the right-hand man!"

"Relax.  It's not as though the general has committed some sort of nefarious act; he has the right to pick the man for the job."

"It's nefarious to me.  You know where he's from, the new guy?  From Italy, but most important, from Florence!”
”You know what they do in Florence?  They spend most of their time creating delicate art, making little objects out of spun glass and such.  That’s a warrior?” 
“You don’t seem to understand that in the military, politics often plays a more important part than experience.  You see, actually, he has been places and done things.”
“Yeah, like what?”
“Well, he’s been to the right schools, the right university.  He comes from an important family that seems to know all the right people.  And you – let’s face it – you never set foot in a university and not very many schools as far as that goes.”
“There was a time when a man who started at the lowest level and worked his way through all that greasy crap right on up to a commission, made the very best, the most experienced officer!”
“Yeah, yeah.  Listen, I’m on your side.  But this new guy has got the job.  It’s obvious that he’s the general's choice.  You should relax and just accept it.  A few years more and you can retire.”
“In the meantime I’m supposed to take orders from the likes of this – I don’t think I can stand it!”
“Hey, I hadn’t realized how much you were ignited by this.  You’ve got to calm down.  You’ll get yourself all worked up and maybe do something stupid to try to get revenge.”
(The answer will be posted Saturday.) 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

288 Quiz Answer

In Verdi’s “La Traviata,” a party is in progress at the Paris home of beautiful Violetta, who lives for such parties.  She thinks for a moment of the possibility of true love but laughs off the idea, declaring that her life will remain a whirl of pleasure (“Sempre libera” – always free).

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "M" is for "matchmaker")
This scenelet should suggest a well-known opera to you.  Which opera?

“You say he wants desperately to see me?  Who is this fellow?”
“He’s a friend of mine from the South.  He traveled all the way up here just to meet you.”
“You know how busy I am.  Much as I love to meet country bumpkins, I’ve got to get ready.  We’re having a tremendous party this evening, a huge blowout, the biggest of the entire season, and I'm absorbed with it.  People say I live for parties; well, tonight I’m going to prove them right!”
“Wait.  This is something special.  He’s a fine young guy I think you should get to know.  He thinks you’re the most wonderful woman he’s ever seen; he followed your career for years.  His name is Luther.”
“Yes, it would be something like Luther.  Or Li’l Abner.  He’s a groupie, in other words; that does sound boring.”
“He’s no groupie.  I know you’re going to find this a bit strange, but he tells me, and I believe him, he’s – well, he’s really in love with you.  Sort of by long distance.”
“That’s about the last thing I need in my life right now.  Sounds like you’ve been playing matchmaker behind my back.”
“No, not really.  But as your friend, I'm certain that one of these days you’re going to get tired of this glitzy life style and think about settling down.”
“Yeah, right.  That’s for me.  A fence with a white house around it – though I may have that a bit twisted – and me rocking away on the porch with one of my thirteen children.  Don’t you get it?  I don’t want that empty, settling down thing!  You know my motto, don’t you?” 
“I should; I hear it often enough.  ‘Sempre libera,’ always free.”
“Right.  And don’t you forget it.”
“Wait till you meet this young guy.  You’ve forgotten what true love is – maybe you never knew…”
 (The answer will be posted Saturday.)  
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