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)

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.

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