Sunday, April 29, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 115 and ABC Wednesday

"P" is for "Phil"
Dear Larry: I write to tell you of something truly remarkable in the field of personal investing.

As you may know, I was very active with Freemasonry for years. Well, some time back, I was seized by an idea – and by an ideal.

(Dolores feels I may be a bit crazy; you’d think a wife would support her husband and not spend most of the time criticizing.)

My objective, in this our twenty-first century, is to found a new and totally independent universal Masonic Lodge, an attempt to reach a generous and just standard in the way we live our lives.

It was clear to me that what has been lacking in the movement up till now is, in a word, leadership. With the right charismatic leader, we can set new goals, reach new achievements in world brotherhood.

I resisted the obvious conclusion for quite a while, but finally I gave in – I, Larry, am the person to become that leader.

I have spent most of my personal fortune to establish my new Lodge. I had a huge enclosure designed and built in the shape of a glass Mason jar – because, obviously, of the symbolism of the name – and it is capable of holding a human being who will use it for purposes of meditation and study.

There now exists a new ritualised format, which I developed over a period of time, that requires a person – so far it has been only me – to sit in solemn silence in the jar in a pool of heavily symbolic water for a specified meditation period.

I have been penalized in this endeavor because it has cost quite a lot of money. It is well worth it, however, because I know that once the aims and ideals of my new Lodge get out to the general public, a storm of interest will be created and folks throughout the land will flock to our banner, eager to join.

Offered over the internet, for the average person an annual payment of thirty-eight dollars will be all that will be required for full-time membership. This will include, at no extra cost, our monthly bulletin and of course the chance to use the Lodge Mason jar from time to time.

I offer this as a special investment opportunity to you, Larry, because you are my brother-in-law and you know how lucrative it can be to get in on the ground floor when something exciting and promising is about to take off. A mere three thousand dollars from you will do it – an investment that will almost certainly increase greatly in value over the years. (Don’t listen to your sister.)

It would be a tragedy if this marvelous step toward a new tomorrow failed just because of a few dollars.

Hope to hear from you – regards, Phil.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 114 and ABC Wednesday

"O" is for "Original"
The prompt this week reminded me of Shakespeare’s sad tale of a drowning.
This occurred as a result of a shipwreck that happened some years ago – quite a number of years ago, actually; it was in 1609.

A ship named the “Sea Venture,” which was on its way to Virginia, was caught in a tempest, something that we today would recognize as a hurricane, and crashed on a dangerous island, a bloody spot feared by all sailors of that day because of the rocks that surrounded it – they called it the “Isle of Devils.”

The ship was destroyed on the rocks, but all hands – 150 people and one dog – got ashore and lived to tell the tale.
They had landed on, of all places, Bermuda.

I have to admit that the place has changed a bit since then.
At any rate, the ship’s passengers learned, since they spent months there, that it wasn’t an isle of devils at all; in fact, it was a pretty great place to spend the winter. There was plenty of food: all kinds of edible plants, animals and birds, and the sea around the island was chock-full of fish.

The news about the Sea Venture, when it got back to England, created a sensation. Will Shakespeare read about it and sat down to write a play, named, as I’m pretty sure by now you’ve guessed, “The Tempest.”
For the playwright, the island was a magical, mysterious and enchanting place.
And he filled it with magical, mysterious inhabitants.
The main character of this play is Prospero, who lives with his daughter on this island. In exile, far away from everyone, he has somehow managed to acquire the power of magic to help him in his daily existence.
I’d have to list “The Tempest” as one of the most original and wildly creative of dramatist Will’s productions. The human and imaginary characters, the dramatic and the grotesque, are blended together in what has come to be regarded as a genuine work of art.
Among the various bizarre inhabitants of the isle is kinky Ariel, a sprightly spirit – or a spirited sprite :-) – who flits about in a positive marathon-race of service for his master Prospero. It’s Ariel who tells the poignant tale of the drowned man.
His lines are sad, tender and unforgettable.
“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.”

If you’ve ever heard, or used, the phrase “sea change,” three guesses as to where it came from. :-)
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 113 and ABC Wednesday

"N" is for Nostalgia
What is a Chagall?
A Chagall is – well, just about everything.
It’s a painting, a stageset, a tapestry, stained glass, even dishes and pots.
It’s cubism? Yes. Symbolism? Of course.
But it’s basically modernism, color-splashed modernism, with surrealism as a powerful driving engine.
If you can get past the Modern Art 101 terminology, a Chagall is also something very different.

Carefully examining the work of this painter, Marc Chagall, you will find a dependence on a theme that appears throughout: nostalgia. It is really his one long dreamy reverie of life in his native village.
That village, over a hundred years ago, was a town named Vitebsk, then part of the Russian Empire.
We know it as Anatevka.

Why? Well, of the many pictures of Eastern European Jewish life Chagall painted, one was titled “The Fiddler,” who was standing, strangely enough, on a roof.
To the artist, a fiddler, especially one trying to play on a roof, was a metaphor for Jewish survival in tsarist Russia, a life of uncertainty and imbalance.
That painting inspired the Broadway show, “Fiddler on the Roof,” which was the first musical to run for over 3,000 performances.
When rumpled Tevye, the milkman (who had five daughters, among other problems), sang about his humble home town, Anatevka, he was really Marc Chagall, who throughout his lifetime kept remembering his town, Vitebsk.
“People who pass through Anatevka don't even know they've been here.
A stick of wood. A piece of cloth.
What do we leave? Nothing much.
Only Anatevka.
Anatevka, Anatevka.
Underfed, overworked Anatevka.
Where else could Sabbath be so sweet?
Anatevka, Anatevka.
Intimate, obstinate Anatevka,
Where I know everyone I meet.
Soon I'll be a stranger in a strange new place,
Searching for an old familiar face
From Anatevka.”

When Chagall left his Anatevka to go to Paris, he was no longer Russian; he became Russian-French, and one of the most successful artists of the 20th century.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 112 and ABC Wednesday

("M" is for "Marriage in Shakespeare's day")
The prompt this week got me to thinking about Kate.
You remember Kate, the shrew?
In Shakespeare’s play, “The Taming of the Shrew,” we are introduced to a young woman who was difficult – no, not difficult; impossible.
But if ever a female had a right to be, er, shrewish, it was a girl of that Elizabethan age.
In this play Will Shakespeare shines a light on the condition of women of his time. A girl of respectable family was raised to get married. There wasn’t much else for her. She usually had no education; she never got to go to school.
If she was bright, intelligent, witty, these would be handicaps she would be expected to try to overcome.
No wonder Kate wasn’t all that enthusiastic about marriage. It was often no treat. She would probably have agreed with Cher, who said: “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to spend their life in an institution?”
Shakespeare created a character like the girl in this week’s prompt: it’s Kate trying to break out of the egg – the traditions, conventions, of that era - that held her back.
And she knew that marriage in those days, even if she did finally get around to accepting it, wasn’t all that great. A married woman was owned by her husband. And not just her person; everything she had was his too.
In “The Merchant of Venice,” the beautiful Portia is a young woman of great wealth. She is, not to put too fine a point on it, loaded.
The day she marries, the piles of dough - what today we might call her financial portfolio - immediately becomes her husband’s and he will decide what to do with it.

To get back to Kate: she finally, inevitably, gets married. She locates a husband; Petruchio just picks her up and lugs her off. This, by the way, is usually played as comedy.
Once married, as I’m sure you know, she finally changes. What’s interesting is how drastically she changes.
In the last act, Kate has accepted the onerous restrictions of her marriage and assures us that she’s very happy. She's a picture of serenity; she has become a Stepford wife. She even gives advice to young brides.
“Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper. Such duty as the subject owes the prince, even such a woman owes to her husband. I am ashamed that women are so simple. To offer war where they should kneel for peace. Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway, when they are bound to serve, love and obey.”
It’s too much; it’s unbelievable.
Many scholars feel – and I, no scholar, tend to agree – that Will Shakespeare wrote this draft of the play with tongue firmly ensconced in cheek. They would agree with modern productions of this play that have Kate delivering these lines in a kind of bitter, sardonic way, to make sure everyone in the audience will “get” what she really thinks of her situation.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 111 and ABC Wednesday

"L" is for "Lecture"
To be able to catch genius when it's just beginning, just starting out; when it's in its embryonic form, or in its very nest.
It’s an unforgettable experience.
The following all happened a few years ago, when the world was younger.
And so was I.
I had a job in radio at the time, making a poor but meager living. Among the regular listeners to our little station was a man who had an unusual collection. He had amassed a remarkable pile of old 78 rpm records that featured performers of the early days of vaudeville.
You remember vaudeville?
Beginning some time after the Civil War, this strange type of theatre came into being and it was just about the most popular thing going, up until the 1930s.
As I’m sure you know, some of the greatest performers of the era – Al Jolson, W C Fields, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers – came from vaudeville and they used it later as a springboard to vault into the new medium of motion pictures.
Anyway, to get back to my story, since our radio station had an enthusiastic listener – (and there weren’t all that many of those) - who had this extraordinary collection of old discs of famous vaudeville performers, I thought I’d borrow them and produce a radio documentary on the history of vaudeville.
The station management liked my idea and they even presented me with a writer for the show, an intern.
My radio station always had some interns around, young folks who were willing to work for nothing just to get broadcasting experience. The director of my station always seemed to like people who wanted to work for nothing.
The intern-writer they provided me with was a young chap named Eddy A. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he might enjoy writing as a career so he looked forward to working on the script for the vaudeville show. We got along fine.
However, it soon became clear that he hadn’t grasped the idea. The first draft of the script he presented me with was – well, odd. It made me reflect. I had thought the subject of vaudeville should be handled in a light, enjoyable way, but his script was a heavy, even somewhat gloomy and depressing history of the era. For some reason, what he wrote emphasized that the entertainment known as vaudeville managed to exist in spite of terrible economic depressions, political struggles and the always appalling threats of war.
I was almost as young as Eddy A but I was convinced that I possessed more expertise than I actually did, and I suggested to him that maybe he should forget about trying to become a writer. I didn’t growl or become difficult; I was polite. I can’t justify it; it’s just what happened. I’m embarrassed now to admit that I even tried to give him a brief lecture on script-writing.
Well, he left the station and I heard nothing of him for a couple of years.
One day, I was surprised to learn that Eddy A had written a play, “The Zoo Story,” which opened at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York in 1960. There was a lot of hype and publicity about it because it was quite a success, ultimately a world-wide success. He then went on to write a number of other plays.

I’ve done some dumb things in my lifetime, but the dumbest was when I told young Edward Albee, who was to become one of the greatest dramatists of the century, that perhaps he should forget about trying to be a writer.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)
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