Sunday, October 19, 2014

Berowne's 242 Quiz

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

I wrote the following scenelet, thinking it might remind you of a well-known historical event.  What event?

“I’m sorry, Ted.  You and I, we’ve been friends for a couple of years and I love you – but not, if you see what I mean, in that way.  I hope we can stay friends.”
“Sure, Jen, no hard feelings.  I always thought we’d make a great couple, but some things were just not meant to be.  Anyway, I’ll always be there for you, if you ever need my help.” 

“Well, now that you mention it, there is something you could help me with.  You might think it’s a bit silly, but I’d really like to meet Mr. Owen.”

"What!?" 

“I thought you might react like that.  I know, he’s the boss and I’m just an employee…”

“Jennifer, try to clamber back aboard reality!  Owen is the CEO of one of the largest Fortune 500 corporations in the country.  Your chance of ‘meeting’ him in some sort of social situation is close to zero.”
“I know.  But you know so many people in this firm, I thought…”
“I don’t know Owen!  He’s up there on the penthouse level and I’m down here on the third floor.  How did you ever come up with the idea of meeting the big cheese anyway?”
“Well, I read that after his divorce he’s now an eligible bachelor so I thought if he ever got to know me, the real me, he might think I was just the kind of girl he’s looking for.”
“I don’t think there’s any evidence that he’s ‘looking for’ anyone.  Jen, don't go on the defensive; forget about the CEO.  There’s a lot of nice guys on the staff here – me, as one example – that you can meet a lot more easily than Herr Owen.”
“I know all that but I can’t get him out of my mind.”
“But to get back to your original question, how on earth could I help you meet Owen?”
“Well Ted, you may not be aware of it but there’s a general feeling in the department that you are a guy with a fertile mind and a lot of good ideas.  Some of them are sort of wild and crazy, but often they seem to work.”
“So you want a wild and crazy idea as to how to meet the top boss?”
“Exactly.”
“Well – you know…  I do have an idea that just came to me.  You'd have to be pretty needy to do this , but I think it would be wild and crazy enough for anyone.  He’s having his office remodeled and I’m in charge of the new furniture, drapes, carpet and so on.”
“I’m listening.”
“Suppose – you did say ‘wild and crazy,’ right?  Suppose we had you rolled up in that huge new carpet, then when it’s delivered to his office you pop out and say, ‘Hi, Mr. Owen!  I’m Jennifer!”
“Wow.  I’m afraid that’s a bit too much.  That could never happen in reality.”
“But it did.”

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

241 Quiz Answer

Romeo believes, mistakenly, that Juliet is dead; he is devastated.
He decides that he does not want to live without Juliet, and says "I will lie with thee tonight".  He sees an apothecary and asks him for a deadly drug.  (Act V of “Romeo and Juliet”)
(Akso for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "N" is for "Neal")
A bleak story for you this week.
Neal is depressed because he has learned that the girl he loves has just died.  He wants to do away with himself too.  He goes to a drugstore to try to get some poison that will do the job.  I wrote the following scenelet because I thought it might remind you of a Shakespeare play.  Which play?
“Why did you come to me?”
“I read an article in the morning paper. Seems this old drugstore has been around for the last 100 years or so. A local landmark.”
“That’s right. My grandfather started it  He was a gifted pharmacist."
“And now the paper says the town is going to lose the landmark because you’re heading into bankruptcy and closing down the place.”
“Uh – what does any of this have to do with you?”
“Well, I thought I could be of help. I have a plan and I'd like to put it in motion. With the right amount of money you could avoid bankruptcy and fix this place up like new.”
“That’s kind of funny. The bank won’t loan me a cent and you, a drugstore customer I’ve never seen before, are going to loan me enough to pay off everybody? Is that what you’re saying?”
“I’m not going to loan it to you. As you say, I’m a customer. I’ll purchase stuff and pay you well for what I buy.”
“I think I’m beginning to see what you’re getting at. You want me to sell you items of pharmacology that the law prevents me from selling without a doctor’s prescription. And then you’ll give me a large amount of cash.”
“I couldn’t have phrased it better myself.”
“Listen, I made an intense  little vow to myself long ago. I’ll have nothing to do with druggies. The best thing you could do right now is just leave peacefully.”
“Sure, I’ll leave. But then your future will be nothing but bankruptcy and this fine old store will rot away. I can prevent all that with just one business deal.”
“Has it occurred to you, aside from the moral issue, that this would be illegal?”
“No one, absolutely no one, would ever know about it – just you and me.”
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep nights.”
“How many nights are you going to be able to sleep after you lose the store? And a guy your age, the only kind of job you’ll be able to get will have you saying, 'You want fries with that?'”
“How – how much money are we talking about?”
“Here. I prepared this envelope. There’s enough in it to solve all your problems.”
“I – I never would have believed I could do anything like this. If I do it, I’ll do it under protest.”
“Sure.  Then you go off and get a good night’s sleep – and I’ll get a good long sleep.”
(The answer will be posted Saturday)
 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

240 Quiz Answer


“Show Boat,” a great classic of the American theatre, was first produced on Broadway in 1927.  There have been many other versions of the show since.  One of its hit songs was “Make Believe.”   
Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "M" is for "Meeting."
(I wrote the following scenelet, thinking it might remind you of a well-known theatrical production.  Which production?)

“The draft beer here is excellent.”

“What?  That’s your idea of a pickup line?”

“Well, it beats ‘You come here often?’”

“Not by much.”

“Let me start over.  I take the liberty of pointing out that you are a very attractive young woman.  Would you be interested in some friendly, not to mention entertaining, conversation?”

“If it you promise it won’t be too friendly.  I should explain.  I don’t usually hang out in bars, but today’s a special day so I thought I’d drop into this place for a celebratory drink.”

“What happened?  You’ve been made CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation?”

“No, I don't mean to sound arrogant or to showboat but I was just appointed head of my department.  I am now monarch of all I survey – all six cubicles.”
 
“Six cubicles!  We should celebrate together.  Are you interested in game-playing?”

“I was afraid there would be something crude like that.”

“No, no, this is a different idea.  I mean a real game, no hanky-panky stuff, which I thought we could play right here.”

“I – guess I might be interested.”

“That’s what this game needs, wild enthusiasm.  It’s a variation of an oldtime entertainment called Let’s Pretend.”

“And I’m supposed to pretend to be a farm animal or something similar, and make the appropriate noises?”

“No, this is a supple, modern version.  For example, when I saw you sitting there at the bar, someone I had never seen before, I thought it would be great if I could make believe we’d known each other for years.”

“And the ‘make believe’ part would be me doing the same thing?”

“Exactly.  Couldn’t you?  Couldn’t I?  Couldn’t we?”

“Yes, I see that could be kind of fun.”

“We could talk over old times.  Remember that night when we were in high school and my car’s carbureter broke down?”

“I was pretty sure you didn’t know what a carbureter was, but neither of us cared as long as it broke down.”

“Ha.  Those were great days together.”

“Yes, they were.”

“And of course there was that special moment when I told you…”

“Told me what?”

“You know.”

“When you said ‘I love you’?”

“Exactly.  Trouble with this game of make-believe is, the pretending breaks down and reality takes over - because, to tell the truth, I think I do.” 

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

239 Quiz Answer

Marie Antoinette had a rustic retreat built in 1783 in Versailles.  It was a private place for the Queen and her closest friends.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "L" is for "Laura")

I’ll call her Laura.

(Though that was definitely not her name.)

The thing to know about her is that she had everything.

Especially money.  Huge amounts of the happy cabbage.  If she wanted something, she bought it.  She couldn’t think of any good reason not to.

You might be surprised to learn that Laura rarely visited the houses of the top fashion designers; instead, those top designers came to her place. 

And the place she lived in was too much.  An incredible house; the word “mansion” is inadequate to describe it.

Naturally she had a staff of gourmet chefs routinely turning out masterpieces of l’art culinaire.  She could have, had she so desired, a complete meal of nothing but fabulous desserts.  But the trouble is, when life itself is nothing but desserts there’s a fly in the crème caramel: it gets boring.

She knew, vaguely, that there was such a thing as poor people, with barren lives, and she had even heard that such types strongly resented her and her profligate ways.  But she didn’t allow it to worry her too much. What was important for her was that her existence was getting monotonous.

So she had a great idea.

She was tired of her sumptuous lifestyle, tired of opulence – it was all artificial.  She wanted to live real life, the way real people lived.  She believed that farmers and peasants and such were happily enjoying a more authentic existence close to the earth.

Well, as we mentioned earlier, when she wanted something intensely she bought it.  So she decided to buy real life. 

She had architects design a bucolic farmhouse, saturated with rusticity, on her property.  She had top designers create simple peasant costumes for her. 

She had a small private meadowland with a lake, a nearby grotto and a stream that turned a huge mill wheel.  There was no mill; the turning wheel was just for show.

Laura went whole-hog – yes, she had some of those too because she had farm animals brought in.  She enjoyed milking the cows, carrying her Sevres porcelain milk-pail with her.

You might think all this could endear her to the general population, but the opposite was the case.  Poor folks heard about her bucolic adventures and thought she was mocking their wretched existence.  Her remark about brioche was probably never made. 

A few facts.  Fact number one, her name wasn’t Laura (but you knew that).  Fact number two, who was she?

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

238 Quiz Answer

Birnam Wood, a forest near Birnam in Perthshire, Scotland. In Shakespeare's play 'Macbeth', Macbeth is told that he will only be defeated when Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. Later, his enemy's army comes through Birnam Wood and each soldier cuts a large branch to hide himself, so that when the army moves on it looks as if the wood is moving.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday:"K" is for "Karma")

I wrote the following more or less adequate scenelet, thinking it might remind you of a well-known play.  What play?

I call it the big R.

That’s for Remembering.

And that’s what I try to avoid because it belongs to the dim borderlines of the past; it implicates me in what I have done. Instead, I think of now. I think of my new life.


Living in a castle now.  Just imagine.

Such style.  Such elegance.  In a way I feel almost like a parasite, living in a castle and forgetting all about the big R, the Remembering.  It’s my wonderful new life.  It's karma.

The problem is, anyone can take a castle. So let me assure you: this is more. It’s a fortress.
 

And a fortress is – what is the word I want? Unassailable? Impregnable? Yes, that’s it! Impregnable! Safe. Secure.

That’s what I thought. That’s what I believed. Until...

The day came that I glanced out toward the horizon, as I do every day. I saw nothing. Nothing different. There are trees out there, masses of them, not much else.

Then the Thing happened. The thing happened that could not happen.

In the long twisted history of man, in the explosive millenia since humankind first emerged from that alluvial mud, surely such a thing has never before taken place.

All those trees, they - began to move!

They moved toward me!

I thought for a while that my mind too was in a state of collapse. Hallucination, illusion, surely that must be it! But my mind was not broken; it was clear. I had thought, I had cerebration, I had reason. I could see and understand what was happening.

Even though it could not be happening.

But there they were, all those trees moving as one body, progressing slowly but inexorably toward me.

However, I was in my impregnable fortress.  Safe.

Safe..?
 

The answer will be posted Saturday.

 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

237 Quiz Answer


“High Hopes”
Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can't
Move a rubber tree plant
But he's got high hopes
He's got high hopes
He's got high apple pie
In the sky hopes
So any time you're gettin' low
'Stead of lettin' go, just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant


(Also for ABC Wednesday: "J" is for "Japery")
Chairman: Our next speaker is Berowne, the noted scholar-philosopher and Professor of Insect Analytics at U.L.A., the University of Lower Alabama.

He will speak today on his favorite topic: “Our Friends the Insects.”

Berowne: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  People often ask me, why did you get so interested in insects?

Well, the answer is simple: they’re fascinating.  For one thing, they’ve been around a long time; it is estimated a hundred thirty million years or so.

It’s natural to be interested in creatures that were spoiling picnics a hundred and thirty million years ago. 

I refer to them as formicidae, and they include wasps, ants and bees.   Let’s examine one of these small beasts carefully.  Could I have the first slide, please?

You’ll notice his remarkably thin waist.  I understand this comes from the situp exercises he performs almost every day.


Pay special attention to his antennae; they are elbowed.  Think of it.  He has elbows on his antennae.  Scientists to this day do not understand the purpose of this; possibly he isn’t too sure of it himself.  

Next come the mandibles, lower down, which allow him to chomp away at just about everything.  It’s the male of the species who has mandibles; the female has womandibles.

 

These creatures are capable of carrying many times their own weight, though complaining all the while.  Scientifically speaking, they are animals who are eu-social, which means they like to live with, hang out with, others of their kind.

We, you and I, are also animals who are eu-social; we like to hang out with others, though not so much with formicidae.  

Now.  To deftly change the subject, let’s say you’ve been working for the same corporation for the past thirty years – seems like seventy, doesn’t it? – and you’ve retired. 

In previous years the company would give a gold watch to a retiree, but the economy being what it is they instead decided to give you this:  

It wasn’t a gold watch but that’s okay because it looked great in your living-room.

It never occurred to you that your friends the insects might cause a problem.  You were sure that tiny formicidae would never be able to harm such a huge plant.


Well, you were wrong. J              

While reading the foregoing japery, you may possibly have been reminded of a popular song of a few decades ago.

What was the song?                                          

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)

 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Berowne's 236

(Also for ABC Wednesday: "I" is for "International")

Men cluster to me like moths around a flame
And if their wings burn, I know I'm not to blame

Falling in love again
Never wanted to
What am I to do?
Can't help it.

Love's always been my game
Play it how I may
I was made that way
Can't help it.

That was Marlene’s song, her signature song.

She had been a Berlin showgirl, struggling to make something of herself, and all she had achieved in the thirties was a position in a vaudeville group named “The Girl Kabarett,” when she hit it big in a movie.

Marlene – surely you don’t really need the last name – starred in the internationally successful film “The Blue Angel,” the story of a cabaret singer who pretty well destroys a respectable school teacher, and Hollywood called: Come on over and do some of that for us.

But she was German, and it was the thirties, and the Nazis were in power, so she did what you might expect.

Except she actually did what you might never have expected.  Marlene Dietrich was strongly anti-Nazi right from the beginning.  She came to the U S and became an American citizen.  She wrote:

In “Blue Angel,” she sang the song she became known by.  It became “Falling in Love Again,” in America, but her version went like this.

Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß
Auf Liebe eingestellt

I am from head to toe with love involved.

 Denn das ist meine Welt.
Und sonst gar nichts.

That’s about my world; there’s not much else.

Das ist, was soll ich machen,
Meine Natur

That is, no matter what I do, my nature.

During the war Marlene traveled everywhere, selling war bonds like crazy, visiting wounded American soldiers and so on.  She was an international star and she had traveled a long way from a tiny part in the vaudeville group “The Girl Kabarett.”

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Berowne's 235

(Also for ABC Wednesday: "H" is for "Hearst")
 
I’ll begin this with an apology: Sorry, Marion!

Now, to get on with my post, if you go back to when Berowne was a little kid – and that’s going way back – there came a time when my family decided to do something adventurous.

We decided to visit Santa Monica.

There were, of course, no freeways in Southern California in those days.  Santa Monica was quite a trip from where we lived in Los Angeles, and you made it with little winding roads.  It was like driving to a different state. 

I remember my mother pointing out to me a huge residence on the beach there.  “That’s Marion Davies’ place,” she said. 

I was a more or less innocent tyke at the time; I had heard of the early film star but I was completely unaware that she was the mistress of William Randolph Hearst or that the famous newspaper magnate had built this incredible “beach cottage” for her. 
Incredible it was: a massive three-story Georgian mansion with thirty-four bedrooms and three guest houses.  In it Davies and Hearst threw some of the most elaborate social functions Hollywood had ever seen.

When Hearst had met the 19-year-old Marion Davies she was a dancer; he fell madly in love with her and he wanted to turn her into a film actress and, ultimately, make her a great star.  And he had the power to tell the studios what to do.

Movie-goers would see Marion’s pictures, but they often suspected that she was in a given film because Hearst had put her there; she didn’t get there by herself.

As I’m sure you know, the motion picture “Citizen Kane,” produced in 1941 by Orson Welles, told the story of a power-mad character named Kane who greatly resembled Hearst.

In addition, the film shows Kane meeting a performer, an attractive young girl, and how he tries to take over her career.

The girl is a mediocre singer, but Kane decides he will turn her into a star – not just a talented singer of songs but an international star of grand opera.  It’s hopeless and the girl knows it, but Kane persists.

The movie audiences usually assumed this was not just the story of Hearst but also of his petite amie, the actress of dubious talent named Marion Davies.
But over the years there has been a reevaluation, a new, closer look at the actress.  It is now clear that the fictional girl in “Citizen Kane” wasn’t like Marion at all.  Commentaters and critics have studied the body of her work and have come to the conclusion that Marion Davies was indeed a fine actress and, especially, a gifted comedienne.

Hearst wanted her to perform in filmed epics, classic costume dramas, but what she wanted, what she was good at, was romantic comedy.  His patronage turned out to do more harm than good for her career.

I have to admit I used to be one of those who felt that Marion Davies was a performer of slight talent.  But I later checked out a few of her best films and I certainly changed my mind, so I’ll take this opportunity to offer her an apology.

(A bit late, I know; she died in 1961.)    
 
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