Tuesday, July 26, 2011

For Sunday Scribblings and ABC Wednesday

“B” is for “Best Man”

Here's a story for you. Let’s go back a number of decades, back to when I first entered the service. I had a friend in boot camp – let’s call him “Ed” because that wasn’t his name – and we hung out a lot, talking about what we might do in the future.
One day, after we had finished boot camp, he confessed something to me. He was very excited about it. He knew it should be kept secret, but he just had to tell someone and he felt he could trust me.
It was a plan Ed had been working on for quite a while. Well before he joined the Navy he had been visiting a small city located in the central part of our state. What was unusual about these visits is that he had managed to obtain a uniform of a Lieutenant-Commander, complete with service and combat ribbons, and he illegally wore this when he paid the visits.
In that community there weren’t many military types and very few Navy personnel – and no Shore Patrol. A Lieutenant-Commander, especially one with a couple of rows of ribbons, was welcomed everywhere. He received an invitation from one organization to address their group; he received a standing ovation. He had also visited some local church affairs and other such functions and had managed to meet a beautiful girl.
Quite unbelievably, after a number of dates he had proposed and the girl, undoubtedly a bit dazzled by this remarkable young naval officer, had accepted. Her folks had met him and had welcomed him enthusiastically into their well-to-do family. He had managed to convince everyone there that his folks were in Africa doing some sort of relief work, so they wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding.
Now that Ed was out of boot camp, he was actually going to go up in his fake uniform and marry her. He wanted me to be his Best Man.
It all seemed weird and unreal. I bowed out of the Best Man job; I didn’t want to have anything to do with this operation.
But then I wondered: perhaps morally there was something I should do.
A: Should I call this family on the phone (I knew their name so I thought I could get in touch with them) and tell them that their future son-in-law was no heroic naval commander but an ordinary sailor of the lowest rank?
Or B: Should I notify the military authorities that there’s a guy illegally roving about that area in a fake lieutenant-commander’s uniform?
Or C: Should I just ignore it all and try to forget about it?
After all, the marriage might turn out well; the couple might be happy together, even after it came out that his officer’s commission, and his ribbons, were phony, but that seemed highly unlikely.
The above is true; it actually happened. Ed and I received our assignments and we went off in different directions so I heard no more from him. As far as I know, the wedding took place on schedule; I have no idea how it turned out.
But what’s your opinion? What would you have done in such a situation?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Magpie 75

The prompt this week, an ad for bicycles, got me to thinking about that wonderful part of French history known as the Belle Epoque…

The Beautiful Age, which lasted from about the 1870s to the beginning of World War I, 1914.

The Magpie prompt of the gal on the bike illustrates a fundamental difference between French ads of that day and ads in the U S. American advertising was designed to inform and persuade, as in the following. (Did you know they had portable typewriters in 1890?)

The American ad informs and perhaps even, just a bit, persuades. The French would have done it differently.

French women dressed appropriately for the time, which means the clothing they wore covered just about everything. But in the advertising, things were different. French ads of that day were made to seduce -- to attract, entice. Some of ‘em were pretty wild. Check out the following, an ad for gas. It’s an ad for gas!!!!!!!

Presumably if you bought this brand of gas for your home a magnificent young woman would come and dance about in the nude in your living-room.
Probably never happened. :-)

Whenever possible, it’s obvious that there would be an attempt to suggest the national pastime, l’amour. Above, a French beer ad from that era.

At the least, the ad should be suggestive. As in this ad for absinthe – you know, the stuff that makes the heart grow fonder. :-)
As one who labored in the advertising agency world for some years, I find this difference between American and French advertising of the Belle Epoque interesting.
Because, truth is, those same differences still exist. In our ads, we’re still trying to inform and persuade; the French ads are still trying to seduce.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

For Sunday Scribblings and ABC Wednesday

"A" is for "Abigail"

Cathy: “From the outside this place looks great, almost like a country inn. But inside! In the immortal words of Bette Davis: what a dump!”
Bob: “I know. It’s not the Hyatt-Regency. But it’s out of the way; no one’s going to know who we are.”
C: “Well, at the moment I’m not too certain who I am.”
B: “But I’m sure glad you’re here. When I first saw you, I thought you were the most attractive temp who ever came to work for our company. But you always seemed so distant. I thought I'd never get to know you."
C: “Well, Mr. Brock – I mean, Bob - here I am, already involved in a romantic interlude with one of the company’s executives. My business career is really taking off.”
B: “I love your sense of humor.”
C: “Good. Let’s see. What should we do? I suppose we can always sit on the couch and watch TV.”
B: “Oh, that. I tried it; doesn’t work. The wiring is faulty.”
C: “Ha. They should have named this place Faulty Towers. Look, I’m aware it’s a cliché, but I want you to know I don’t do this sort of thing oft – what in God’s name is that!?”
B: “Oh, that’s Abigail. My wife’s dog.”
C: “You brought your wife’s dog!?”
B: “Long story. The short version is this: the dog-sitter couldn’t make it today and my family is out of town – and I certainly didn’t want to cancel our little get-together – so I had to bring her. I hoped you’d understand.”
C: “Of course, no problem. Every time I’ve been to a motel with a guy in the past he has shown up with his wife’s dog.”

B: [Laughs] “I knew you’d take it the right way. She’s a wonderful pup. Look at her, lying there in the corner. Real good. She won’t cause any problems.”
[Phone rings]
B: “Yes?”
Motel Manager: “Mr. Brock, is it that you are with a dog in the motel?”
B: “Uh, yes, I’m here with the family pet.”
MM: “No dogs is permitted in the motel.”
B: “Don’t worry; she’s very quiet, doesn’t bark and that sort of thing.”
MM: “No dogs is permitted!”
B: “H’mm. Maybe we can work something out. Suppose I pay you an extra fifty dollars for the room.”
MM: “The dog must be gone – in three hours. That should give you enough time to… Anyway, I’ll add additional charge to your bill.”
B: “Thanks. [Hangs up] Well, that’s one hurdle I’ve jumped over.”
C: “I’m sorry, Bob, but a dog is a bit more than I bargained for.”
B: “Come now, look at her; you’d never know she’s there.”
C: “But that’s the problem; I do know she’s there. I don’t think I could, er, function with a dog in the room.”
B: “We’ll put her in another room, the bathroom.”
C: “Well, I’m no dog expert, no dog whisperer, but it seems to me if you lock up a pooch in a bathroom and close the door, she’s going to start howling.”
B: “No, no. She doesn’t howl; she’s no howler. At most, she might groan a little.”
C: “Howling, groaning. This is like when I was a kid in a fun house.”
[Knock on door]
B: “Who could that be? I didn’t want anyone to know I was here.”
C: “I don’t particularly want anyone to know I’m here. I’ll be hiding in the bathroom, case anyone needs me. If you hear any groaning, it’ll be me.”
[Door opens]
B: “Mrs. Hansen! What do you want?”
Secretary: “It’s a family emergency, Mr. Brock. I didn’t want to bother you; I know you must be busy…”
B: “Yes, I’m in the middle of a business meeting here, but what is it? What’s the emergency?”
S: “Well, your wife returned early from Chicago and Mrs. Brock found that your dog has escaped. She phoned me; she wants you to come home right now to search for the dog.”
B: “Oh well, that’s all right. Abigail is with me. I’d like you to phone Mrs. Brock and tell her that I’ve taken the pup for an afternoon romp in the park.”
S: “The dog is with you, here in the business meeting?”
B: “Yes, I’ll explain it all later. No need to mention the motel. Tell her I’ll be bringing the dog home, after our romp in the park, in three hours. The park closes in three hours. Thanks.”
[Door closes]
B: “Wow. Another hurdle I’ve jumped over. This is like a track meet.”
C: [Emerging from bathroom]: “Or a dog race.”
B: “Anyway, we can relax now. We’ve got everyone calmed down.”
C: “Except perhaps for me. Bob, I think we should chalk this up as a good try, but it didn’t work out. This is probably not what I should be doing anyway. Besides, there’s too much going on. I want to leave – before someone comes to check the whereabouts of your cat.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

For Sunday Scribblings and ABC Wednesday

You know the story of Scott and Zelda?
“Scott,” of course, was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who in 1920 was poised to become one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Zelda Sayre was the beautiful -- not just beautiful, captivating -- Southern girl he wanted to marry.

But she wasn’t all that eager to marry Scott. At the time, he had a mediocre job in an advertising agency, making a mediocre twenty dollars a week.
In effect, Zelda said to Scott: Come back when you’re successful. Maybe then...

The novel Scott proceeded to write, 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. He promised her "all the iridescence of the beginning of the world.”
After their marriage in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the young couple became instant celebrities.
What did you do in those days, if you found yourself suddenly rich and famous? You had a few drinks; you got drunk.

So Scott did, and stayed that way a good deal of the time. In the early days, Zelda matched him, drink for drink.
The newspapers of New York saw the couple as embodiments of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties: young, wealthy, beautiful, and energetic.
“Energetic” seems to have pretty well described them.
They were ordered to leave both the Biltmore and the Commodore hotels because of their drunken behavior. Zelda once jumped into the fountain at Union Square.
Another example of their behavior was when Dorothy Parker first met them; she wrote that Zelda and Scott were riding on the roof of a taxi.
When, in 1921, Zelda gave birth to their baby girl, Scott Fitzgerald carefully wrote what she said as she emerged from the anesthesia. He recorded Zelda saying, "Oh God, Goofo, I'm drunk. Mark Twain. Isn't she smart—she has the hiccups. I hope it's beautiful and a fool—a beautiful little fool". Many of her words found their way into Scott's novels; in The Great Gatsby, the character Daisy Buchanan expresses the same hope for her daughter.
Zelda was not dumb; she had wit and a sense of humor. When Harper & Brothers asked her to contribute to Favorite Recipes of Famous Women she wrote: "See if there is any bacon, and if there is, tell the cook which pan to fry it in. Then ask if there are any eggs, and if so try and persuade the cook to poach two of them. It is better not to attempt toast, as it burns very easily. Also, in the case of bacon, do not turn the fire too high, or you will have to get out of the house for a week. Serve preferably on china plates, though gold will do if handy".
Seeking an artistic identity of her own, Zelda wrote magazine articles and short stories and managed to publish a novel, Save Me the Waltz, in 1932.

But the days of rapture, excitement and world-iridescence faded: Scott and Zelda bickered and fought. The strain of her tempestuous, alcoholic marriage led to Zelda’s growing instability. She was admitted to a mental hospital in 1930. The end was a true tragedy. In 1948, the hospital in which she was a patient caught fire, causing her death.
Inscribed on her tombstone is the final sentence of The Great Gatsby: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

For ABC Wednesday

A “Y” Song (to the tune of “Yesterday”)

All my troubles seemed so far away.
But problems then showed up, as if to stay.
Though I believed in --

Something came to live in my hard drive,
A nasty virus that was real, alive.
No word of warning, just about midday.
I never will forget that –

I called my faithful old computer guy.
This time, it seems, he had an alibi:
He’d just left for his holiday.
In fact, he’d just left --

I like to think I’m good as blogging host,
But then I couldn’t even send a post.
The virus knocked my ‘pewter for a loop;
My very blog began to sag and droop.
But that was –

Today, the virus gone, my life is sweet.
I’m ready once again to meet and greet.
But I won’t soon forget the disarray
And all the mess that happened –

Monday, July 4, 2011

For Magpie 72

Studying this week’s prompt, a few lines from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” came back to me.

“It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
Between the acres of the rye,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino
These pretty country folk would lie.

“This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that a life was but a flower
And therefore take the present time.
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino.”

So the young country folk went out into the fields and – took the present time. What is so striking about the poem, and is suggested by Van Gogh’s painting, is that this seems to be the kind of field where the teenager named Shakespeare had carnival knowledge of his girl friend Anne Hathaway. :-)
But the light-hearted lines about young folk fooling around out in the fields signified something serious: Anne became pregnant and Will had to marry the girl.
So, a few years later, still a young man barely out of his teens, William Shakespeare found himself to be a solid pere-de-famille, a married man with three kids.
Had it been a forced wedding? Probably. The young lady would have been for it, but whether he liked the idea or not marriage was about the only option open to a decent young man of that time.
He may have been against getting hitched but, as James Joyce wrote:
“Shakespeare hath a Will,
But Anne Hathaway.”
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