Tuesday, March 29, 2011

For ABC Wednesday: “K” is for Karen – Karen and Steve

[For Sunday Scribblings, see following post.]

Olga has a new job – maybe. But Steve has something else on his mind…
Olga: “I got it! I think I got it. Of course, I won’t know for a day or two; there were a couple of other actresses at the audition. One of them was really good. But I just have a feeling about this job – I think I got it.”
Steve: “Olga, calm down. We’ve got to talk.”
“Hey, enough with the ‘Olga’! Remember? I’m ‘Karen’ now. That’s important. The agency will be calling and won’t know who you’re talking about if you say ‘Olga’ isn’t here.”
“Olga Doubravka is a fine name; nothing wrong with it; it’s you. But we’ll go along with Karen if that’s what you want.”

“It’s not just what I want. There’s a whole new career out there for me. If I land this job I’ll be off to the races: I’ve got to have a suitable name. Who would have guessed that someday I’d be starring on TV!”
“I know. It’s exciting. But we have to talk about our – situation.”
“Ah, yes. The relationship. I thought we’d done enough talking about that.”
“Come on; some time soon I’d really appreciate an answer.”
“Sure. Of course. But asking me for an answer now, when I’ve just landed this great TV job, or just about landed it, is – well, this isn’t the time.”
“But by now you must know, deep down, if you want me as your husband.”
“Steve, listen. I have nothing against husbands. I imagine I’ll acquire one some day. And I admit, when I first met you I was impressed. You told me of your creativity, your artistic imagination, your dedication to original thinking, and how important these all were to you in your profession. So it was a bit of a letdown when I learned what your profession was.”
“Nothing wrong with my profession: the personal marketing of pre-owned vehicles.”
“Steve, you sell used cars!”
“Right. And that artistic imagination, that creativity, are extremely important in that type of work. I’m not just another salesman!”
“Anyway, there are other things…”
“You’re talking about that toothbrush, aren’t you?”
“That’s one of them, yes.”

“Look – um, Karen. That morning I had an urgent meeting with a customer and I couldn’t be late. For some reason my toothbrush wasn’t where I usually keep it, in the glass with yours. So just once, I used yours. I never thought it would bother you so much.”
“I thought it was disgusting. If that’s what life with you would be like, you using my toothbrush and maybe other personal things…”
“Wait a minute! It’s a gag, right? You saw that Seinfeld episode about a toothbrush and now you’re acting it out!”
“I’m acting nothing out. This is something I feel strongly about.”

“But it was just once! It was an emergency. And your brush looked really worn out anyway. God knows, we’ve done so many intimate things in so many ways I can’t see why my having your toothbrush in my mouth should be upsetting for you.”
“Well it is. Although… You know, this is kind of funny. This morning as I was rushing around getting ready for the audition, I couldn’t find my hair brush – so I used yours.”

“You used my new hair brush!? That brush is from the Mason Pearson Collection; it’s expensive! You got some of that sticky crap you use on your hair on my brush? Those are genuine boar bristles on that brush."
"I'm glad to hear they're genuine boar. There are so many fake boars running around these days."
"That hair brush has caused two different customers to tell me my hair looks like George Clooney’s”
“Well, speaking of Seinfeld, I would have said George Costanza’s. But anyway, I only used it once.”
“But it’s disgusting!”

Monday, March 28, 2011

[Magpie 59 and Sunday Scribblings -- the word is "messenger."]
“Well, we had just had a fine meal at a French restaurant, which had come highly recommended – though they didn’t mention that lunch at that place cost about the same as a new BMW – so we figured, hey, we’re in Paris so let’s go visit the Louvre.”
“And once you were in the Louvre, you and Mom made sure to visit the lady with the enigmatic smile.”

"And as you stood in the crowd looking at that famous painting, Dad, what message were you receiving?"

"Message? The message I received was, where's the smile? There really isn't a great smile. She's just a pleasant-looking woman sitting there, looking --er -- pleasant. Not much of a message, I admit, but of course I have a daughter who was an art history major so maybe she can serve as messenger.”
“Well, Dad, I can try. Reason I asked about a message is that so many have studied this portrait and have come up with a wide variety of theories as to its meaning. I believe that what's important is to first learn the facts."
"Which are..?"
"Well – you see, all that money spent on my art history classes wasn’t wasted – she’s the lady with the smile because that was her name.”
“I’m not following you.”
“Her name in Italian was sort of like ‘Mrs. Smile.’ You see, Dad, the woman was the wife of a rich guy named Francesco del Giocondo. He commissioned Leonardo – not DiCaprio, the other one – to paint a portrait of his wife because they had just had a son. When referring to her, they used the female form of Mrs Giocondo’s name, Gioconda, which is our English word ‘jocund’ – merry, jovial.”
“So she was Mona Smile.”
“Well, sort of. But Mona wasn’t her name; it was her title. ‘Ma donna’ meant ‘my lady’ and ‘Mona’ was a kind of slangy version of this: it meant, like, ‘ma’am’ or ‘madame.’ If today we were to refer to, say, Lisa Kudrow as 'Mrs. Lisa,' that would be the same deal. Anyway, the Italians call the painting ‘La Gioconda.”
“And that would translate as The Happy One.”
“Right, or something pretty close to it.”
“I wish you had been with us on that trip. You could have explained a lot of things.”
“Well, Dad, I wish I had been there too – especially for that lunch that cost as much as a new BMW.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Magpie 58, ABC Wednesday, Writer's Island and Sunday Scribblings)
“J” is for “January.”
Hamlet is very excited.
It’s January and it’s a bitter cold night in Denmark. We’re on a battlement of Elsinore Castle, where the young Prince has just learned that his late father was murdered, murdered by his own brother, the present King.

And Hamlet learned this from his father himself, who has appeared in the form of a Ghost who begs his son to avenge his murder.
Hamlet’s mind ranges wildly: was that really his father? Or could it have been an evil spirit, a fiend trying to trick him into performing an evil deed – to kill his uncle?

And of course there’s the possibility that he had imagined the whole thing. He has got to find out the answers to his questions.
He comes upon his two friends, who had also previously seen the Ghost.

Hamlet: “Good friends, as you are friends, scholars and soldiers, give me one poor request.”
Horatio: “What is it, my lord. We will.”
Hamlet: “Never make known what you have seen tonight.”
Horatio and Marcellus: “My lord, we will not.”
Hamlet: “Nay, but swear it.”
Both his friends readily swear to it.
But that’s not nearly enough for the young Prince. An oath is all well and good, but this is serious business. It calls for a special kind of oath.

Hamlet: “Upon my sword.”
Marcellus: “We have sworn, my lord, already.”
Hamlet: “Indeed, upon my sword, indeed!”
Quite astonishingly, the Ghost calls out from beneath the stage: “Swear by his sword!”
They swear again. Horatio's amazement is unlimited.

Horatio: “O day and night! But this is wondrous strange!”
Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

(For Writer's Island, ABC Wednesday, Magpie 57 and Sunday Scribblings)

Shure, and what with the celebration of the shamrock so close, I got to thinking of the Irish in Shakespeare.
For example, there’s Captain Macmorris.

You see, I’ve always thought that of all the kings Will Shakespeare wrote about, and he wrote about a lot of ‘em, Henry the Fifth was the one he admired most.
Hank the Cinq represented what our playwright thought a monarch should be: wise, courageous, patriotic, daring, you name it – and of course he was the hero of what was possibly then the greatest military success in the history of England, the Battle of Agincourt.

To change the subject for just a moment, you remember all those movies about World War II, whenever they showed the crew of, say, an American bomber, the crew would be made up of one guy from Brooklyn, one from the Deep South, one from way out West, along with maybe a stoic New Englander. The idea of course was to show that all these various types, though very different, were inseparable when it came to fighting for freedom.

Well, Our Will did the same thing in the play “Henry V.” He features a few soldiers on the field who represent the main groups who made up the King’s army. There’s Fluellen, from Wales; Jamy, from Scotland; Macmorris, from Ireland; and of course Gower, the Englishman.
They’re always arguing and disputing – they’re soldiers, after all – but Shakespeare makes sure they're also inseparable when it comes to the battle.
In the play, they’re engaged in the part of the great battle that had to do with mining. You see, when you were laying siege to a fortress or anything that was strongly held, for centuries a common military strategy would be to dig underneath to put an explosive device under the place and blow it up.
The device was called a “petard.” If it blew up before you got it in place, you were “hoist by your own petard,” which is where that phrase came from.
Well, it’s Captain Macmorris, of all the group, who’s upset that the mining work is not going well. He believes that everyone is standing around talking, arguing, and no one is really doing their job.
Macmorris: “By Chrish’ law, tis ill done! I could have blown it up in an hour! It is no time to discourse. The trumpets call us to the breach, and yet we talk, and be Chrish, do nothing!”
(Shakespeare was not noted for his accuracy as far as Irish brogues were concerned. :-) )
But it’s kind of interesting that it’s the Irisher who shows the real dedication and expertise in the operation they’re all involved in.
Top o’ the morn to ye, Captain Macmorris!

Monday, March 7, 2011

[For ABC Wednesday, Magpie 56, Writer's Island and Sunday Scribblings]
“H” is for “Head Over Heels”
Think of a beautiful woman, perhaps the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen.
She falls in love with a guy who has the head, a big head, of a farm animal.
And she falls head over heels.
That’s the story of Queen Titania and Bottom the Weaver.
You remember him – he’s the chap in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” who has his head turned into that of a jassack. :-)

Nick Bottom – who knew he had a first name? – is a simple workman, with the emphasis on “simple.”
He and his fellow working stiffs are planning to put on a play for the Duke’s wedding day; if the presentation is successful each performer will be in line to receive sixpence a day for the rest of their lives. (Which would be pretty much like winning the national lottery as far as they’re concerned, so they’re all taking this production of theirs very seriously.)
But Puck, a crafty, not to mention cunning, little character with magical powers, a prankster par excellence, decides to have a little fun with them.
He does the deed with Bottom’s head and leaves him in the forest.

Along comes the spectacularly beautiful Titania, Queen of the Fairies. She is what Shakespeare would have described as a “looker,” if he had thought of it. :-) Check out those gossamer wings.
She has herself been enchanted by a love potion made from the juice of a rare flower – and you know how powerful that stuff can be – administered by her jealous husband, who has rigged things up so that she will fall for the first individual she sees after waking up.
He says: “Wake when some vile thing is near.”
The vile thing turns out to be our friend Bottom.

The Queen falls head over, to risk repeating myself, heels for this guy; they make a handsome couple. :-)
Titania orders her minions to treat him well:
"Be kind and courteous to this gentleman.
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs and mulberries;
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies."
And it's a tribute to Bottom that he can adapt to any situation; he takes all of this in stride -- he’s enjoying every minute.
Later, when he’s back to his true self, he tries to describe that adventure. He figures it must have been a dream:
“I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say! The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, what my dream was!”
But now of course he’s aware they must all rehearse the play to be ready for the Duke’s wedding day.

(I knew, with a bit of luck, I’d be able to work this week’s Magpie prompt in here somewhere. :-))
Bottom: “Most important, fellow actors, eat no garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath, and I don’t doubt everyone will say, it is a sweet comedy!”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

(For ABC Wednesday, Writer's Island and Sunday Scribblings)
“G” is for “Gatsby.”
I’d like to tell you a story.
This happened way back in the twenties, soon after the end of World War I.
A young fellow named Scott fell in love with a girl, Zelda Sayre, whom he had met when he was stationed at an army post near her home town.

Scott was crazy about Zelda; she was the “golden girl” as far as he was concerned and he was determined to marry her.
Trouble was, Zelda was a wealthy, socially prominent young woman, living in Montgomery, Alabama, a part of the country where family and social position – and money – were extremely important, and it seemed that Scott had little to offer.
Back in his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, he was a raw, lower-middle-class youth who had a mediocre job in an advertising agency, making a fast twenty dollars a week; his father had just been fired from Procter and Gamble, and there was no family fortune. In addition, Scott hadn’t even finished college.

What Scott did have was this: he was a Writer.
So he came up with a Plan A. (There was no Plan B.) He would write a novel, and if it was a success perhaps the Sayre family, and Zelda, would take him seriously.
Rather a slim hope, it would seem. But, quite unbelievably, it happened.

His novel, “This Side of Paradise,” wasn’t just successful; it was a blockbuster. Three days after publication, the entire first printing was sold out. Seeing this, and realizing what this meant for his future, on the fourth day after publication he sent a wire to Zelda to come north to New York; they were going to be married.

She did, and they were. They embarked on an extravagant life as young celebrities.
Overnight, the twenty-four year old F Scott Fitzgerald had become the most famous literary figure in the country. He wrote a number of other works, but his masterpiece, as any college English major could tell you, was “The Great Gatsby.”
After the War to End All Wars, and we know how that turned out, the country had Prohibition, which made millionaires out of bootleggers – and that was Jay Gatsby's secret.
Fitzgerald was an autobiographical writer. You can see his own recent history in the story of Gatsby, an outsider who longed to be accepted by the “old money” society of New York’s Long Island. (In the book, Gatsby has fallen in love with a golden girl whom he met when he was stationed in an army post near her home town.)

His big mistake was that he thought he could spend his way into that society – one way was by throwing big expensive parties in his big expensive home – though in reality they would never accept him.
This remarkable book evokes not only the ambiance of the jazz-age search for the American dream of wealth and happiness, but also the larger questions of fading traditional values.

Later Fitzgerald was to appropriate his wife Zelda's life in what turned out to be its tragic dimensions for use in his stories and novels.

To put it briefly, “The Great Gatsby” is now regarded around the world as an American literary classic. It’s still a best-seller; half a million copies are sold every year. It is listed second on the Modern Library’s list of 100 Best Novels of the Twentieth Century.
By the way, Baz Luhrmann’s film of the Gatsby story – in 3D, yet – will start shooting in Australia, in August, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby.
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