Sunday, December 27, 2015

Final Act

Dear Followers of Berowne's "Savage Reflections." I'm very sorry to have to inform you that my father, John Savage, passed away on December 26, just a week shy of his 94th birthday. He had been in poor health for some time, but he always did everything he could to prepare his Sunday posts, which went up like clockwork. His blog stories and puzzles, and especially the camaraderie of the community of those who followed them, were extremely special to him, so I'd like to thank you for being an important part of his life in recent years. I know he would not want you to feel sad for him, as many of you know through his stories what a rich life he had. If you think of him please remember the warmth, intelligence, and humor of his exchanges with you on this site. Please feel free to post any thoughts or comments, or to e-mail me directly at With heartfelt thanks and best wishes, John Savage (Berowne's son)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Berowne's 299

(Also for ABC Wednesday: "X" is for exasperation.)

All my troubles seemed so far away.
But problems then showed up, as if to stay.
Though I believed in --

Something came to live in my hard drive,
A nasty virus that was real, alive.
No word of warning, just about midday.
I never will forget that –

I called my faithful old computer guy.
This time, it seems, he had an alibi:
He’d just left for his holiday.
In fact, he’d just left --

I like to think I’m good as blogging host,
But then I couldn’t even send a post.
The virus knocked my ‘pewter for a loop;
My very blog began to sag and droop.

But now it’s fixed, all set to meet and greet.
Tho I won’t soon forget the disarray
And all the mess that happened –

(Forgive the exasperation.  As the above indicates, Berowne had a little problem; hopes to be back to normal next week.)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

298 Quiz Answer

The play is “The Tempest.”  Prospero lives on a remote island and along with him is a slave of his named Caliban, who is sort of a half-man and half whutizzit.  Caliban was born on the isle (his mother was a she-devil, and you what they’re like) and he is one of the most debated figures in all of theatrical history.  Is he just a belligerent monster or is he worthy of our sympathy?  Some say this play was Shakespeare’s cogent comment on the excesses of colonialism.
(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "W" is for "worker")

Here’s another scenelet that should remind you of a well-known play.  Which play?

“I appreciate your seeing me on such short notice.”

“Well, it’s a pleasure; we don’t get many visitors on the island.  In fact, you’re the first.”

“It’s a fascinating operation you’ve got here.  Let me introduce myself.  My name is Thomas Pilbeam, of the I L O.”

“Is that like the A F of L?”

“Sort of.  I L O stands for the International Labor Organization.  You can spell ‘labour’ with a ‘u’ or without.”

“Good to know.  But I guess I don’t understand why you’ve come here.”

“The I L O is working hard to protect domestic workers around the world.  Domestic workers often work excessively long hours, without breaks, days off or holidays. The pay is often very low, with wages frequently delayed.”

“It sounds like you’re doing fine work, which I certainly support.  But again, what does any of this have to do with me?”

“You have domestic workers, do you not?”

“I don’t know where you got your info, but you couldn’t be more wrong.  This is a very small island.  I live on it and I run things but I have no domestic workers, if by that you mean someone to cook and clean and so on.  There’s just one man, my assistant.  He does odd jobs…”

“And he is paid?”

“Of course.  When I first hired him he was living wildly on the island with no job, no money, nothing.  Now he has employment, a place to stay and regular meals.  That’s pay, and good pay too.”

“I’m afraid that the I L O would disagree with you on that.  He would be the type of tense worker who has no legal protection, someone excluded from legal legislation.”

“But you don’t understand all the things I’ve done for this guy!  He was vengeful at first, living like a savage – a cannibal, practically - and I taught him language!  You ought to hear how he has learned to cuss!”

(The answer will be posted Saturday.) 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Berowne's 297

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

Berowne has no quiz this week; instead - a Love Story.

I had sat at the typewriter for over an hour, trying to figure out what to write. (This happened back in the days before ‘pewters.)

I had received an extraordinary letter.  It was from a man up in Rhode Island, a man I had known in the old days.

It was a delicate matter; I had known him and also known his wife, back before they were married.  I had known her, actually, rather well.

In his letter he said she had left him and he thought I might be able to help him find her. The problem of what to write was suddenly solved because the phone rang.  Since he hadn’t received an answer to his letter he decided to call me directly.  He got right to the point.

"Reason I wrote you, you went with her for a year or so back then, before we got married."

“A year or so?  It was actually a few months.  And ‘went with her’ isn’t really accurate; we were friends.”

“That ain’t what I heard.”

“So, well, anyway, how is Marilyn?  Okay I hope.”

“Marilyn? You don’t even remember her name. It’s Maureen.”

“Oh, right. You know, it was a long time ago; I was just out of college.  I don’t remember everyone I knew in those days.”

“Well, as I wrote you, she left. Just got up and left.  Vanished."

“Yes, I was sorry to read that.”

“It got me upset; my whole family is upset. It even got her family upset. A married woman.  My wife.  Just up and leaves.  Anyway, I thought you might help.”

“Sure, if I can.”

“Here’s the thing.  If she should ever contact you – you know, call on the phone to talk over old times or whatever – could you tell her that what she really ought to do is go back to her husband.  And then let me know where she’s staying.  It’s important I find out where she’s staying.”

“Why do you think she left?”

“Who knows?  Maybe she just don’t like Rhode Island.”

“She told me, way back when she was first talking about getting married, that she felt vulnerable, that you weren’t – well – all that nice to her.”

“That’s baloney.  As her husband, I worked hard, fifty hours a week sometimes, to get her whatever she needed.  You can’t be much nicer than that.”

“But, you never – I’m just trying to figure out why she left -- you never abused her, never hit her or anything like that?”

His voice was resonant with anger: “What’re you -- a shrink or somethin’!?   I didn’t call you to get a lecture!  I’m a husband from the old school.  My whole family, we know how to treat women.”

“Well, I’m sorry I can’t be of much help.  But I'll go along with you; if I should ever hear from her, I’ll tell her to go back to her husband.  Goodbye.”  I hung up the phone.

“Was that him?” she asked.

“Yes.  I just hope he stays up there and doesn’t come down here to our placid life in New York.  As I remember, he was a pretty big guy.  I’d be inclined to avoid a confrontation.”

“Yes, we’ve got to be careful. When I mentioned divorce, he said he’d kill me first.”

“And that would mean me second.  I can just picture my possible obituary - guess this is what they call living dangerously.  But it’s worth it, Maureen, to have you with me again.”

Sunday, November 29, 2015

296 Quiz Answer

The film is “Chinatown.”  In 1937 Los Angeles detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by a woman claiming to be a Mrs. Mulwray to spy on her husband. Shortly after Gittes is hired, the real Mrs. Mulwray appears in his office threatening to sue if he doesn't drop the case immediately.  Gittes pursues the case anyway, slowly uncovering a vast conspiracy centering on water management, state and municipal corruption, land use and real estate, and involving at least one murder.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "U" is for "unfaithful")

Our quiz question is about movies this week.

Because of certain stories that are very much in the news these days, I got to thinking of a motion picture of some years back that has been described as a classic.

In some ways it was your typical detective story.  Our hero, a private investigator – we’ll call him “J” - is contacted by a woman who would like to know if her husband has been wandering over to the cheating side of town.

Rather banal and routine; another adultery case, usually not too profitable for a private eye.  Unless, of course, the characters involved, the angry woman and the adulteristic hubby, happen to have a lot of money and influence.

Which they have.  The male, in fact, is one of the most powerful and influential people in the entire region.  “J” begins to think he may have latched on to something big.  Big cases mean big billable hours.

He lackadaisically follows the gentleman about.  This has him attending various commission meetings and wandering in the hinterlands, for some reason visiting reservoirs and dams.

He also manages to take an intimate picture of the unfaithful husband with a friend, a nubile young woman of a blonde persuasion.  A nude photo and its juicy story make newspaper headlines all over the place.

With publicity like this, “J” figures he has it made.  All kinds of new business should come pouring into his office.

What actually did come pouring in was surprising.

A woman claiming to be the man’s wife – his real wife – shows up with her lawyer preparing to sue “J” for slander and defamation of character, among other things.

It seems the gal who originally hired him was pretending to be the wife, all of which has our private eye, and probably a lot of the film’s audience, pretty solidly confused.  Along the way there’s a murder, too.

As for the makeshift motivation of the film, “J” learns that in this part of the country the word “gold” was spelled with five letters – W. A. T. E. R. – and in his state that was a substance more valuable than oil or diamonds.  (It’s about that again today.)

Surely you remember the movie now.  What was its title?

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

295 Quiz Answer

The novel is “Great Expectations,” by Charles Dickens.  Pip, a poor orphan boy, experiences something amazing: an eccentric woman named Miss Havisham arranges to have his education and other expenses all paid for secretly.  Pip vows to be eternally grateful – until he learns that it was actually someone else, not Miss H., who had put up the money.

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

The following scenelet should remind you of a novel by an illustrious, 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, it's habitual; you never intended to pay me back."

“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 jumbled 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)
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