Thursday, January 28, 2010

An Old Guy Buys New Pants

I’ll bet you’ve done it, too, many times.

I’m filling out a form on my computer. The form wants to know my name, address, eccentric, eccentric. No problem; I type in the required information.

What’s strange is that when I come to the bit where they ask what state I reside in, something odd happens. If they’d permit me to just type it in, as I have written everything else, I’d write “CT” for Connecticut and be well on my way to the next part of the form.

My estimate is that it would take me approximately 3/8 of a second to type “CT,” but they’re not going to allow that.

No, I must click on a special gizmo there on the screen, something that would never have existed back in those halcyon, pre-digital, pre-internet days. Clicking on this thing suddenly turns it into a long list of states – good heavens, there must be nearly fifty of ‘em – and you must search out yours on the list. Mind you, it’s not hard. I can locate CT on that list with no trouble. It’s just that an action that would have taken 3/8 of a second if they’d let me type it in takes five times longer under this new system.

Again, it’s not all that difficult; it’s just symbolic of our way of life today: things that are supposed to make things better often wind up making things – well, “worse” might be too strong a word.

For example, I worked in film production for years. I remember what an experience it was then for a movie-goer to watch a great picture like “Lawrence in Arabia” in huge, wide-screen form. The high degree of clear detail in that film was an important part of its success.

Today you can watch such magnificent productions on gizmos that have screens the size of postage stamps – forget about detail. Progress.

Another case in point.

I’m standing in line at the cashier’s desk at Sears. I have just selected something for purchase: new socks. I have been standing there for quite a while. The reason for the delay is that there’s an old guy who has been trying to buy a pair of pants and he and the cashier are in the middle of a lengthy discussion. What kind of card – credit or debit – is he using, and why is it constantly rejected when they slide it through the slot?

I refer to the gentleman as “an old guy.” Not very nice on my part – I’m not exactly in the first flush of youth myself – but I believe his age is important. It would appear that he’s an example of a typical citoyen seigneur of our time who is having problems with this new-fangled digital age.

Some years ago that elderly chap would have handed a couple of bills to the cashier, taken his pants and left the store. And I wouldn’t have been standing there for three or four hours. (I have a tendency to exaggerate.)

The debating couple have now reached a new point in their fascinating discussion: the cashier has asked to see his driver’s license. (This can’t be good, I think to myself.) Naturally, the mature fellow has one; he just can’t find it at the moment – a lot of searching through pockets goes on.

Well, long story short, when I finally emerge from the store with my new lightweight summer socks the summer has ended and there’s a feeling of winter in the air, so maybe I should go back and stand in line for a heavier pair. :-D

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Face Lift

Everyone in Hollywood is having cosmetic surgery done; why not my blog?

I’ve only been involved in this blogging thing for a couple of months, but I got tired of that old home page of mine. It had a sort of generic, almost government-issue feel to it.

So I decided to go for a face lift.

What do you think?

Monday, January 18, 2010


I like the intro to the blog of The Kid in the Front Row:
“I don’t really care how much the latest superhero film took in at the box office. When I watch a film the main thing I am looking for is a good story.”

But “Super” motion pictures certainly sell. “Titanic” made more money than any other film in history, a nice round number of $1,842,879,955 worldwide. A billion eight; that’s a genuine, authentic blockbuster.

"Titanic” won all kinds of awards and prizes, and deserved them – for the special effects.

But the story was trite, formulaic and predictable; the directing was obvious and heavy-handed; the acting was broad, unsubtle and undistinguished.

But you can’t argue with that box office. A billion eight – that’s more than I make in a week!

And how about that earlier masterpiece, “Pearl Harbor”? As one reviewer put it: “It’s nothing more than 40 minutes of showoff stunts padded with more than two hours of a story that exceeds all known tolerance levels for sappiness.”

Another wrote: “Never have so many spent so much for so little.”

Now we’ve got “Avatar.” Same deal. Fantastic effects. Fantastically expensive production. Will win fantastic awards. And it’s on its way to being the most lucrative movie ever made.

But that story…?

I realize I may be holding an unpopular position, but I have to agree with the critic who wrote of “Avatar”: “Everything about the story, the setting, the dialog, and the parts that aren't purely visual, is awful.”

Or this one: “If you want to go to the movies and see nothing more than new breeds of alien creatures, weapons, plant life and spacecraft, and lots of things blowing up, then you’ll probably have a ball. But if you’re looking for something more – like a story or believable characters or artistry – I’d suggest seeking elsewhere.”

With any film, don’t you care about the story, just a little, too?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Anne Hathaway

I was under the impression that actress Anne Hathaway, who played an awkward American teen in “The Princess Diaries” and who was Jake Gyllenhaal’s long-suffering wife in “Brokeback Mountain,” was another example of a movie star who had been born with a name that didn’t seem right for film publicity, the way Greta Gustafsson’s last name had to be changed to Garbo.

So I thought that this young woman chose, as a nom de movie, the name of William Shakespeare’s wife: Anne Hathaway.

But none of that is true; actress Anne Hathaway was born Anne Hathaway.

However, this interesting factoid got me to thinking about Will Shakespeare’s marriage. Most people don’t think of our greatest playwright as a family man, but he was, with three kids, by the time he was 21.

In fact, he had been forced to get married. As a lad, he had gotten mixed up with an older woman. (Did they have “cougars” back then?)

Actually, Anne wasn’t all that old, but she was eight years older than teenager Will. One embarrassment was that Anne had to go with her family to get the marriage license; the guy she was marrying was a minor so he couldn’t do it.

Years later Shakespeare wrote these lines:
“Between the acres of the rye
These pretty country folk would lie.”

And that’s evidently pretty much what they did.

From the evidence that exists, it would appear that young Will was not all that eager to get married. However, in his Puritan community once it was determined that Ms Hathaway was definitely preggers there weren’t many other choices. And Anne would certainly have insisted.

James Joyce put it this way: “Shakespeare hath a Will, but Anne Hathaway.”

Monday, January 11, 2010

Acai is Just Acai

I don’t usually burden others with my problems, but I have to tell you about a recurring nightmare I’ve been having.

I guess it’s because I’ve read so many good health-good nutrition articles over the past years.

In my nightmare, the setting is always the same. I find myself in a strange, surreal, fog-covered area, next to a large building.

Then it begins. A person who’s wearing a white coat – looking very much like a medical professional of some kind – emerges from the building and begins shouting at me.

I am of course asleep, so I can’t understand all that well but what he shouts seems to have something to do with almonds.

“Eat almonds!” he cries. “Almonds are IT! They make you live longer and happier. They’ve got protein and things like that.”

But as he’s shouting, he is brusquely shoved aside by another white-coated chap who hollers even louder: “No, it’s walnuts! Don’t listen to this guy. Walnuts are better because they contain both zinc and boron!”

At this moment, another individual, also wearing a white coat, emerges from the building, pushes the two men aside and then he too begins yelling at me:

“It’s blueberries! Here in our lab we have demonstrated conclusively that blueberries contain nutrients and nutriments – both of ‘em! So blueberries are all you need. Blueberry jam, preserves, any kind of blueberries.”

Sleepy though I am, I happen to notice there’s a quiet, kindly-looking gentleman off to the side who looks like he wants to say something too.

“Forgive me for mentioning it,” he says, “but I’d like to put in a word for Brazil nuts. They contain riboflavin.”

“YOU contain riboflavin,” one of the other men says in a rude tone, “and a lot of it.”

“Stop the presses! Hold the front page for replate!” shouts another guy who has just rushed out of the building and who has perhaps seen too many 1930s newspaper movies. “What you’ve got to eat is: acai! Acai is a miracle berry from the Amazon and it not only tastes good it will actually cure every disease you’ve got, including some you don’t have yet.”

At this point, I wake up from my nightmare, exhausted.

And quite confused. :-)

Monday, January 4, 2010


Let me take you back to an earlier day, the day when I, a callow youth, was entering high school. I found that among other classes I was scheduled for one titled “Beginning German.”

Well, that was okay. I didn’t know much about German – I was fifteen; I didn’t know much about anything – but I figured that was what the class was for: I would learn.

One of my first assignments was to prepare a report on a famous German writer, perhaps the greatest of them all, the writer whose name was spelled like thusly: G – O – E – T – H - E.

The day came for my report. No problem; I had done my homework. I was prepared. As I spoke, holding the class spellbound with my confidence and authority, I was nevertheless a bit unsettled to hear titters of amusement as I proceeded because I pronounced the guy’s name as “Goath” (rhymed with “both”).

Undaunted, I went on about Goath’s youth – well, I got “youth” right anyway – and how Goath had originally intended to be a lawyer, etc., etc.


One of my friends in the class told me later that, while I was orating, he noticed that our teacher, a nice, quite elderly gentleman, who was sort of out of it most of the time, was surreptitiously leafing through the text as the report continued. My friend was convinced that the teacher was a bit worried; after all, he was the scholar, he was supposed to know the key writers and it appeared to him that there was one, some chap named Goath, that he had never heard of. He was trying to learn something about him before the class discussion began.

I finished my report, sitting down to what should have been thunderous applause (though there wasn’t all that much, actually).

By the way, the writer in question, Goethe, went on to a fairly successful career, in spite of his difficult-to-pronounce name – difficult at least for 15-year-old Amerikanischers. :-)
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