Sunday, December 30, 2012

149 Quiz Answer

Here's the answer to this week's quiz.
Iago is a soldier who fought beside his general, Othello, for some years and who became his trusted advisor. At the beginning of the play, Iago claims to have been unfairly passed over for promotion in favor of Michael Cassio. Iago plots to manipulate Othello into demoting Cassio, and thereafter to bring about the downfall of Othello himself.
The three bloggers who came up with Iago as the correct answer are naturgesetz, Raymond Pert and Black Jack’s Carol.

(For Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Y" is for "Year")
Each week I’ve been posting a weekly quiz here. Folks seem to like them so here’s another one, a good way to start the year.
I wrote the following scene, inspired by one of the better-known Shakespeare characters. Your assignment – should you choose to accept it – is: the scene is suggestive of which character?

“That last liberty, that’s one I’ll never forget.”
“Yeah, that was something. Took me a couple of days to recover.”
“Made me think the Service as a career isn’t really so bad after all. But Jim, you don’t really agree with that, do you?”
“Why should I agree? Fifteen years of service, battles and combat all over the world, risked my life dozens of times, and what do I wind up with? Two metal bars and a few rows of ribbons – what good are they in civvie life? “
“Come on, you got your rank. Full Lieutenant isn’t too bad a pay grade for retirement.”
“But that – that – is exactly the point. I was due for lieutenant-commander and they bring in this Hughes, a total outsider. They make him a lieut-com and he’s now the fair-haired boy as far as the Captain is concerned. That should have been my job! It was as though it had been promised to me. For all practical purposes I already had it; the skipper depended on me for just about everything!”
“Yeah, I know. I thought it was – well – unfair.”
“Unfair is the least of it. For the good of the service you want experienced officers. This Hughes guy, he doesn’t seem to have been anywhere or done anything - he spent most of his time idling - and he is now the skipper’s right-hand man!”
“You don’t seem to understand that in the military, politics often plays a more important part than experience. You see, actually, Hughes has been places and done things.”
“Yeah, like what?”
“Well, he’s been to the right schools, the right university. He comes from the right family, an important family that seems to know all the right people. And you – let’s face it – you never set foot in a universibty and not very many schools as far as that goes; you came up through the hawsepipe.”
“There was a time when a guy who came up through the hawsepipe, who started at the lowest level and worked his way through all that petty-officer crap right on up to a commission, he kept up the pace and made the very best, the most experienced officer!”
“Yeah, yeah. Listen, I’m on your side. But Hughes has got the job. It’s obvious that he’s the skipper’s choice. You should relax and just accept it. What's the point of being defiant or to keep on nagging? A few years more, you’ll make lieut-com and you can retire.”
“In the meantime I’m supposed to take orders from the likes of this – landlubber! I don’t think I can stand it!”
“Hey, I hadn’t realized how much you were upset by this. Jim, you’ve got to calm down. You’ll get yourself all worked up and maybe do something stupid to try to get revenge.”

Go on; have a go. The scene suggests which Shakespeare character?
(Submitted also to Sunday Scribblings.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Meeting the Real Santa

(Submitted to Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "X" is for Xceptional.)
In the middle of this holiday season I thought I’d tell you about my visit with Santa. Not the tedious fat guy in the red suit in the department store, the real Santa.

Check out this picture; we're in the tropics. The sun has detonated an explosion of heat and beauty. There’s a magnificent beach and the ocean, it’s the Mediterranean, is dazzling. This is what they call the Turkish Riviera, and the name is justified; it can hold its own with the French Riviera.
Reason I’m telling you about this place is that some years ago I was in this tropical paradise and had a chance to meet Santa. Everyone knows that ol’ S. Claus lives up in the frozen north with Mrs Claus and a houseful of industrious, non-union elves, not to mention a stable of reindeer, and that Santa has always lived there.
Not true.

Santa Claus was originally Saint Nicholas, who lived in the fourth century and who never saw the North Pole (and maybe never saw any snow). He was born and lived comfortably right here in the hot, sunny Turkish Riviera, though the name would not have been familiar to him. I was there working on a tourism-promotion project for the Turkish government and I thought it would be interesting to show Santa’s real home, where he was born and raised.
As for the actual saint, Nicholas, he had been famous for his generosity, for the way he gave gifts to the needy. (Well, he should have; he was a saint.) He became known throughout the Christian world.
He wound up in Holland, where they changed his appearance somewhat. They also took his name and sort of Dutchified it: St. Nicholas became Sinterklaas. When the Dutch lived in New Amsterdam they celebrated Christmas with Sinterklaas and all the English folks living around them thought the old fellow was sort of cool so they adopted him for their Christmas too.

They couldn’t quite pronounce “Sinterklaas” however; the closest they could get to it was “Santa Claus.” So somehow the old fellow had metamorphosed from a thin, limber 4th-century saint to a corpulent chap in a red suit who was always smiling about something.
One day I was standing on that beach, working, when an Orthodox Christian priest approached and asked if I would like to see the bones of St. Nicholas? Of course, I said.
He returned with a small case, beautifully made, lined with satin, that, he assured me, contained some of the bones of the Saint. It was something truly Xceptional. I was aware of the thousands of kids who go to see Santa at Christmastime and here I was getting to see the real Santa.
For a fleeting moment I thought of saying that I wanted a pony for Christmas, but I couldn’t be sure Orthodox priests had a sense of humor.
Merry, as the saying goes, Christmas, everyone!
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Berowne's Quiz Answer

Thanks to Dina, who came up with the correct answer, the movie in question is "Schindler's List." (Also submitted to Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "W" is for "Wheeling")
Each week I’ve been posting a little Berownial quiz. Folks seem to like them so here’s another one.
If we’ve had enough Shakespeare for a while, how about motion pictures as a topic? I wrote the following scene, inspired by one of the best movies of the past few decades. Your assignment – should you choose to accept it – is to figure out from the clues which movie it suggests.

“What is all this? I go on vacation for a couple of weeks and come back to chaos! What happened?”
“We’ve been closed down.”
“Closed down? What does that mean?”
“Well, it’s the opposite of ‘opened up,’ except it’s ’closed down’.”
“Come on, Irv. Skip the wisecracks. Tell me what has happened.”
“I thought you knew. It's been very eventful. We’ve got a new CEO and he’s moving the corporation to Wheeling, West Virginia. So he has very softly closed down our whole branch of the company.”
“Wheeling – where the hell is that?”
“I believe it’s in West Virginia, as I may have mentioned.”
“So why does this guy want to take the company there?”
“Well, it seems that he lived there as a kid and wants to move back.”
“You mean to tell me this whole huge corporation is being uprooted and torn apart and moved across the country, with all the hardships that implies, simply because the CEO wants to go back to his home town? Is that possible?”
“Welcome to Economics 101, titled ‘The Perks of Management’. Even worse, they're taking all our workers here in this division and shipping them off, almost like to prison.",
“But why would he shut us down? Our record is profitable.”
“But we’re manufacturing. Seems that in our country people who work in manufacturing, folks who actually make stuff as opposed to folks who just sit in front of computer screens, are on the way out.”
“But we make excellent products! We contribute to the national economy. We in manufacturing are what has made America great! There’s a moral issue here.”
“Sounds like you’re making a speech. As for the moral issue, that’s a pretty high-falutin’ term for what we’ve actually been doing here – making pots and pans for the military.”
“So what? They’re still excellent products!”
“Yes, but face it, they’re pots and pans that can be made by kids in Jiangsu Province or some such place for a fraction of what it costs here to make a pot. Or, as far as that goes, a pan.”
“Don’t worry. I’m going to look into this. They say there's a lot of prejudice in our country because of the positions taken by our Leader. But here I am doing business with a Jewish guy and we're doing fine.”
“I'm happy to hear it.”
"I mean it. I’m going to see that at least you, Irving Starr, will have a job. Let’s face it, I’m the one in the front office but I’m just an echo of what goes on here. I'm well aware that you’re the guy who made things run. This business would have been nothing without you.”
“And now it’s going to be nothing with me.”

Go on, have a go. Which movie is suggested by the above scene?
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Berowne's 12/9 Quiz

Here’s the answer to this week’s quiz.
I always had the feeling that of all the kings Will Shakespeare wrote about and thought about – and he thought about quite a number of them - Henry the Fifth was the one he admired the most. He was Will’s idea of the ideal English king.
But when he was young, the future King Henry – then known as Prince Hal – left the Royal Court to waste his time in taverns with low companions.
Hal's chief friend in living the low life was Sir John Falstaff. Fat, old, drunk and corrupt as he was, he had a charisma and a zest for life that captivated the Prince, born into the hypocritical world of the Court.
So the wild kid who turned into a decent young man was Prince Hal, the answer to our quiz for this week.
Laurence Olivier as Henry V.

Congratulations to Lyn and Other Mary for the right answer. I can now publish their original comments.

Here's the original post.
(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "V" is for "Victor")
All those tattoos made me think of today’s younger, wilder generation. And that got me to thinking of another Berownial quiz.
Folks seem to like them so here’s another one. I wrote the following scene, basing it loosely on one of the best-known Shakespeare characters (speaking of younger, wilder generations). Your assignment – should you choose to accept it – is, which character?

“You do understand that this is all top secret. If Mr. Axtell knew I had a private detective following his son around he’d be a bit upset.”
“Of course. I’m a professional. I report only to you. No one else knows this is going on.”
“Okay. What’s the bad news this time? What abnormal thing has Victor been up to?”
“Well, I don’t know how bad this news is, but he bought a motorcyle.”
“I suppose that had to happen, sooner or later. But even a used motorbike is – what? A thousand dollars or so? He’s a kid; he can't afford a lavish lifestyle. Where’d he get the money?
“Oh, he had money. Quite a lot of it. He took it from his trust fund.”
“That’s impossible. He can’t touch that trust fund till he’s 21 years old.”
“Young Victor is a bit more clever than you might think. He hacked his way into his fund on the internet. And you won’t believe what he paid for a new Harley-Davidson. Sixty thousand dollars.”
“Good God! I didn’t even know they made motorbikes for that kind of money.”
“Well, he had a lot of custom work done on it. You should see it; it’s kind of unbelievable. But it has made him king of the hill with that gang he hangs out with.”
“Mr. Axtell is going to have a heart attack. So Victor is still with that same gang?”
“Yep. And the real bad news is that they get involved in some nefarious activities from time to time.”
“And you mean to say he takes part?”
“No. He just likes to watch, from a distance. He gets a kick out of such goings-on.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to report this to Mr. Axtell. Here he is, CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Axtell Industries, and he’s got a teenage son who’s running wild. He’ll say Victor should be grounded, but that doesn’t seem to mean much. By the way, who’s – let me check this name here – who’s Fat Ferdy?”
“Oh, that’s one of the gang Victor especially likes to hang out with. They go everywhere together. He makes Victor laugh.”
“I’m glad someone has something to laugh about. Mr Axtell had great plans for his son. He always dangled the possibility before the boy that he would have a top position some day. That would seem to be out of the question now.”
“Well, you know, there’s an angle to this that’s – well, interesting.”
“More bad news?”
“No, not really. When I interviewed him, Victor told me that he knows just what he’s doing. He’s a kid having fun, screwing around, living it up, but he also knows very well who he is and what’s expected of him. I may be mistaken but I got the feeling that when he grows up he’s going to turn out all right.”

(Submitted also to Sunday Scribblings)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Berowne's 146B

Here’s this week’s quiz answer.
In the play “Caesar and Cleopatra,” by George Bernard Shaw, Cleo gets to meet Caesar by being rolled up in a rug and then being unrolled before him.
They make such a perfect couple: she’s 21 and he’s 52. Evidently the meeting went well. Nine months later she had a baby boy she named Caesarion, “Little Caesar.”
In the 1960s there was the spectacular film epic in which Elizabeth Taylor played Cleopatra and went through the same routine: rolled up in a rug, unrolled before Caesar.
It appears, by the way, that this was historically accurate. The original Cleo actually did the rug thing, it wasn’t just thought up by G B Shaw. The French artist Jerome painted the famous event (below): Cleopatra has just daintily emerged from the carpet and presented herself to Caesar. She seems to be dressed, one might say, for the occasion.

Our three winners for this week are Dick Jones, Nicholas V and daydreamertoo, and I can now publish their posts.

Here's the original post for this week::
(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "U" is for "Ursula")
The above prompt got me to thinking about time and perhaps another weekly Berownial quiz. So I wrote the little skit that follows, based on a famous scene from a play by George Bernard Shaw. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is, which play?

Andy: Time is the problem! We don’t have enough time to do all this work!
Fred: Don’t worry; I’m hurryin’. Between you and me, you’d think President Elmore had enough to do without acting as interior decorator for the Oval Office.
Andy: Oh, he’s someone special, all right. There have been few presidents of the U S as interested in all aspects of life in the White House as this one.
Fred: So what does he want done here?
Andy: Well, his idea is to make it a completely new Oval Office – new wallpaper, furniture, carpeting, the works.
Fred: What about that little room there, on the left? You know, where he might take a girlfriend from time to time.
Andy: Fred, stop what you’re doing and come here! Now listen carefully. If you hope to hold on to this job, you’ve got to understand. Any remarks about the President and “girlfriends,” or anything like that, and you’re out of here.
Fred: Sure, I understand. It was just a joke. Sorry.
Andy: Since that last – uh – incident three weeks ago, this has become a kind of battle ground around here. We’re here to do the remodeling job; we keep any wisecracks to ourselves.
[Door opens]
Mr. Wheeler: You’re still here? Take a break for a half-hour or so. The President’s coming to go over the plans.
Andy: You bet, Mr Wheeler. [They leave]
Wheeler: Ah, good morning, Mr. President.
President Elmore: Hi, Paul. How’s the work going?
Wheeler: In a way it's harvest time and we seem to be right on schedule. The wallpaper samples are on your desk. And I believe the carpet has arrived. Would you like to have them bring it in?
President: Yeah, let’s have a look at it.
[A large roll of carpet is brought in and laid on the floor. Wheeler unrolls it. Out pops an attractive young woman.]
President: What in God’s name…
Wheeler: Good Lord!
Ursula: Hi, Mr. President! I’m Ursula, and happy birthday to you! I’m your birthday present.
President: Wheeler, get her out of here!
Wheeler: Come with me, Miss! You’ve got to leave here immediately!
Ursula: Sure, I’ll go. No problem. But first I want to be sure the President has a good look at his present. [She stands, and with a kind of fluid movement she adopts a more or less seductive pose.] They didn’t vote me Miss Far Rockaway for nothing!
Wheeler: Come on! Out, out! Don’t make me get rough with you!
President: Wait a second, Wheeler, let's not be too hasty. They keep criticizing me for spending most of my time with the upper classes. Maybe this is a chance to get to know an average American.
Ursula: Trust me, Mr. President. I’m not average!

(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Berowne's 145B

Here's the answer to this week's Berownial quiz.

SAMUEL. We don't seem to make piracy pay. I'm sure I don't know why, but we don't.
FREDERIC. I know why, but, alas! I mustn't tell you; it wouldn't be right.
PIRATE KING. Why not, my boy? It's only half-past eleven, and you are a pirate, one of us, until the clock strikes twelve.
SAMUEL. True, and until then you are bound to protect our interests.
ALL. Hear, hear!
FREDERIC. Well, then, it is my duty to tell you that you are too tender-hearted. For instance, you make a point of never attacking a weaker party than yourselves, and when you attack a stronger party you invariably get thrashed.
PIRATE KING. There is some truth in that.
FREDERIC. Then, again, you make a point of never molesting an orphan! It has got about, and what is the consequence? Every one we capture says he's an orphan. The last three ships we took proved to be manned entirely by orphans, and so we had to let them go. One would think that Great Britain's merchant marine was recruited solely from her orphan asylums -- which we know is not the case.

“The Pirates of Penzance,” Act One.

Here's the quiz from last week:
(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "T" is for "Tellers")
Surely there’s nothing more relaxing on these cold winter eves than to sit back in a comfy chair and work on a crossword puzzle or a quiz.
All of which is my clumsy way of introducing another Berownial quiz for this week. Here 'tis.
The basic idea for the skit that follows was provided by a familiar Gilbert and Sullivan musical work. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is: which G&S work?

“This places me in an awful position. The last thing I should be doing is offering advice to a bank robber.”
“Yeah, but Tom, you’re my brother-in-law. Family must mean something, and you usually know about things like this. It’s just that, I don’t seem to be doing it right and I need help.”
“Of course you’re not doing it right! You’ve never made a nickel at it, have you?”
“No, and that’s why you could give me some advice. I just thought I'd clench my teeth and ask Tom; he knows about such things.”
“Phil, listen. You don’t understand the first thing about robbing banks. Look at how you started out.”
“I know, I know. I made some foolish mistakes.”
“Foolish? Super-stupid, I’d say. You brought money into the bank!”
“Well, I was a bit confused. I heard they’d pay a high interest rate if I deposited some dough. So I thought if I did that money would come flooding back.”
“High interest rate, what a joke! They call less than one percent high interest. But put that aside; it has nothing to do with the process known as robbing a bank.”
“Yes, I could see right away that wasn’t the way to do it.”
“Your next try was just as dumb. You pulled off a couple of jobs but still wound up with nothing.”
“And yet you didn't have to prod me into getting ready. I was completely prepared! Look at this gear – mask, gun – everything I would need. I even bought a getaway car, an old used Studebaker which I got for eighty-five dollars. Outside of the fact that I nearly fainted the first time I walked into a bank with that mask, I was ready to be a professional.”
“Oh God, Phil, give it up! You’ll never be a successful bank robber! Look at the way you operate. You ask tellers if they have any financial problems because you don’t want to rob anyone who’s needy.”
“Well, I have standards. It’s important that I be a humane person.”
“So the result is that tellers all tell you they’re desperately poor and you turn around and leave. There’s no money in that!”
“I know, I know. I’m sure there’s a better way to do this kind of work, but I haven’t figured it out yet.”

(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Berowne's 144B

Here – (drum roll) - is The Answer to the Berownial quiz of this week.
In Mantua there’s a chap you may have heard of, name of Romeo.
At the moment, he is devastated. He has just learned that Juliet is dead. (Not true, but he doesn’t know that.) Despondent, he decides to end it all.
“Is it even so? Then I defy you, stars! Juliet, I will lie with thee to-night… Let's see for means. I do remember an apothecary…”
The apothecary’s shop is in very poor shape. Business has obviously been terrible.
“Noting this penury, to myself I said If a man did need a poison now, Whose sale is present death in Mantua, Here lives a sorry wretch would sell it him.”
To the druggist, obviously a desperate man, he says:
“I see that thou art poor: Hold, there is forty ducats: let me have A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear As will disperse itself through all the veins That the life-weary taker may fall dead.”
“Such mortal drugs I have; but Mantua's law is death to anyone that sells them.”
“The world is not thy friend nor the world's law; The world affords no law to make thee rich; Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.”
“My poverty, but not my will, consents.”
“Romeo and Juliet,” Act 5, Scene 1.

And here's the original post
(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "S" is for "Solution")
The prompt above, rough weather gear, reminded me that there are other types of storms – for example, the financial rough weather so many are going through these days. So I had a vision, an idea for another quiz.
The following is my somewhat altered version of a fairly well-known story. Your assignment, should you choose to take it, is: WHICH story?

“Why did you come to me?”
“I read an article in the morning paper. Seems this old drugstore has been around for the last 100 years or so. A local landmark.”
“That’s right. My grandfather started it”
“And now the paper says the town is going to lose the landmark because you’re heading into bankruptcy and closing down the place.”
“Uh – what does any of this have to do with you?”
“Well, I thought I could be of help. I have a plan and I'd like to put it in motion. With the right amount of money you could avoid bankruptcy and fix this place up like new.”
“That’s kind of funny. The bank won’t loan me a cent and you, a drugstore customer I’ve never seen before, are going to loan me enough to pay off everybody? Is that what you’re saying?”
“I’m not going to loan it to you. As you say, I’m a customer. I’ll purchase stuff and pay you well for what I buy.”
“I think I’m beginning to see what you’re getting at. You want me to sell you items of pharmacology that the law prevents me from selling without a doctor’s prescription. And then you’ll give me a large amount of cash.”
“Ha - I couldn’t have phrased it better myself.”
“Listen, I made a little vow to myself long ago. I’ll have nothing to do with druggies. The best thing you could do right now is just leave peacefully.”
“Sure, I’ll leave. But then your future will be nothing but bankruptcy and closing down this fine old store. I can prevent all that with just one business deal.”
“Has it occurred to you, aside from the moral issue, that this would be illegal?”
“No one, absolutely no one, would ever know about it – just you and me.”
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep nights.”
“How many nights are you going to be able to sleep after you lose the store? And a guy your age, the only kind of job you’ll be able to get will have you saying, You want fries with that?”
(A moment's silence) “How – how much money are we talking about?”
“Here. I prepared this envelope. There’s easily more in it than you make in two years. It’s the solution to all your problems.”
“I – I never would have believed I would ever do anything like this. If I do it, I’ll do it under protest.”
“Sure. That’s good. You protest to me and I’ll protest back. Then we’ll both go off and get a good night’s sleep.”
Go on; take a guess. Which story is this based on?
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Berowne's 143

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "R" is for "The Remembering")
(Strange. The prompt this week, the threat of violence in World War I, the forest seen in the distance, suddenlhree y had me thinking of an entirely different event, an entirely different era. It's a bit of a stretch but it made me want to post my version of a familiar story. Listen, as an old man speaks...)
I know, I know; I heard the news.
She took her own life. It’s just as well; she would have died anyway.
Because truth is, she died before she died. What is it, a creature that still contains the outline of human form but whose sanity is wholly, irretrievably lost?
Her constant babbling about the cause; the mind was broken, shattered.
But that is The Remembering, which is what I try to avoid because it belongs to the dim borderlines of the past; it implicates me in what has been done. Instead, I think of now. I think of my new life.
Yes, it’s a castle. But anyone can take a castle. This is more. It’s a fortress. And a fortress is – what is that word I want? Unassailable? Impregnable? Yes, that’s it! Impregnable! Safe. Secure.
That’s what I thought. That’s what I believed. Until...
The day came that I glanced out toward the horizon, as I do every day. I saw nothing. Nothing different. There are trees out there, not much else - a forest.
Then the Thing happened. The thing happened that could not happen.
In the long twisted history of man, in the millenia since humankind first emerged from that alluvial mud, such a thing had never before taken place.
The forest – began to move.
It moved toward me!
I thought for a while that my mind too was in a state of collapse. Hallucination, illusion, surely that must be it! But my mind was not broken; it was clear. I had thought, I had cerebration, I had reason. I could see and understand what was happening.
Even though it could not be happening.
But the forest kept moving, progressing slowly but inexorably toward me.
However, I was in my impregnable fortress. Safe.

[Forgive Berowne. He tried a little test, to see if somone would "get it." It was described as a version of a familiar story. Here's the question: What story? And here's the answer: "Macbeth"]
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Berowne's 142

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Q" is for "Qualified")

What with the U S presidential election so close, I thought the above looked like a typical political loser. :-)
Which got me to thinking about a very special event of a few decades ago.
In my heavy-handed, portentous way, I hereby state that the presidential election of 1948 was the greatest political upset in American history.
And - yes, I know it’s getting repetitious, but – Berowne was there. :-)
Virtually every prediction and poll had indicated that incumbent Harry S. Truman would be defeated decisively by Republican Thomas E Dewey.
We all – voters of every political party – seemed to feel that Harry Truman was about the least likely, least qualified presidential candidate anyone could think of.
He had, of course, not been elected; he had been thrust into the office by the death of President Roosevelt.
His previous record wasn’t all that awesome. He had run a haberdashery – men’s ties, gloves, hats, etc. - in downtown Kansas City, but had gone bankrupt. He had only a high-school education, no college.
The picture of him used during his campaign showing his service in World War I made him look more goofy than heroic.
But the biggest mark against Harry was the fact that FDR had obviously thought so little of him. Truman had been the vice-president but Roosevelt rarely even spoke to him, never informed him of decisions, met with him only twice.
So the Democratic campaigner in 1948, the haberdasher, stepped up to the plate with quite a number of strikes on him even before he began.
But all the foregoing wasn’t nearly as important as the disaster, the shipwreck that the Democratic Party, which Harry was supposed to lead, had turned into. It was like the Titanic and the iceberg, but with a twist.
If the Democratic Party was the Titanic, the iceberg had sliced it into three parts.
A huge chunk – the Southern wing - couldn’t stomach Truman; they just got up and walked out. They formed a new party, the Dixiecrats, dedicated to the racist idea of movimg forward with their beloved system, segregation, forever alive.
So Truman’s political right was gone. So was his left.
Another huge chunk, politically-left Democrats, who felt that HST was too middle-of-the-road for them, also took off and formed the Progressive Party.
That left Harry as the Dem’s presidential candidate, all alone by the telephone, heading up the tattered remains of the Democratic Party. There was some question that its wounds would ever heal. But anyway, everyone, including me, was convinced Harry Truman didn’t have a chance at winning.
For the Republicans, however, things looked bright, couldn’t have been brighter.
It’s true that their candidate, Thomas E Dewey, didn’t look all that impressive as presidential material. (One commentator wrote that “He looks like the little man on top of the wedding cake”.)
But Dewey, watching with pleasure the amazing disintegration of the Democratic Party, was convinced that all he had to do was avoid shooting himself in the foot and he’d be in. It made sense.
He traveled here and there around the country, giving speeches that were boringly predictable, with platitudes aplenty. He informed his audiences that agriculture is important. We must move forward. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. Our future lies ahead of us. That kind of thing.
Now, I was working in radio in New York at that time. On election night our announcers would go to the various headquarters to report back in. The choice assignment was the Republican HQ because the newspapers reported that they had been stocking up for an unprecedented party – a victory shindig with numerous buffet tables loaded with a spectacular collection of delectable viands and victuals, along with, of course, a wide variety of potables. The attending news media would be welcome to dig in.
At our station, we announcers all drew straws; the short straw got to cover the Republicans. I wasn’t a member of that political group, but I would compromise and put aside my prejudices if I could get at those buffet tables.
Believe it or not, I got the short straw; I eagerly headed for the big party.
Well, I was there for twelve hours, from 7 pm to 7 am, and there was no decision, no definite election results; it kept being too close to call. And all that glorious food stayed in the kitchen.
I gave up and went home at 7 am, not knowing – no one knew at that time – who had been elected, and I collapsed into bed. When I woke up around 2 in the afternoon, I learned that Truman had won.
Here’s the famous picture of that time: the Chicago Tribune, humorously referred to as “the world’s greatest newspaper,” couldn’t wait for the actual results.
Seems that Harry had spent his campaign with a solid discussion of the issues while Dewey stayed with his platitudes, and that had paid off for Truman.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Berowne's 141

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "P" is for "Paradise")
Ellen: “You’ve got me all excited. You still haven’t told me where we’re going on our honeymoon.”
Bob: “That’s because I want it to be a surprise. Take a deep breath; we’re going to honeymoon in Miami Beach!”
Ellen: “Oh. Good. I’ve never been to Miami.”
Bob: “Oh, you’ll love it. It’s kind of a paradise – even when it’s out of season, like now.”
Ellen: “Bob, I hope you won’t mind my mentioning this, but usually the bride gets to take part in things like deciding on honeymoon destinations and so on.”
Bob: “But then it wouldn’t be a surprise! Not only is it a paradise, but there’s an extra attraction that makes it perfect for us.”
Ellen: “What’s that?”
Bob: “Well, I’m so proud of my new bride I want to show her off to all the members of my family. And my sister Deb lives there, in Miami. I know you’ll love her.”
Ellen: “So we’re actually making a trip to see your sister.”
Bob: “And maybe a couple thousand aunts, uncles, cousins – ha! We’re quite a brood! I want to show you off to ‘em all.”
Ellen: “And they all live in Miami?”
Bob: “Well, not all. Mom lives here, as you know.”
Ellen: “Yes. Bob, I - I felt she didn’t like me very much. Though I really appreciated that she seemed worried about my sallow complexion.
Bob: “Oh, that’s Mom; she's very honest; there's not a false thing about her. And anyway, you know what mothers are like – there’s no girl good enough for her boy, and so on.”
Ellen: “Yes. That makes me feel better too.”
Bob: “Oh, by the way, there’s another reason for Miami. My sis lives in a big house so I figured, why shouldn’t we stay with her?’
Ellen: “What? We’re going to spend our honeymoon in your sister’s house?”
Bob: “Don’t worry; we’ll be all alone. Little Frankie is giving up his room to bunk with his sister, so we get his place. I think that’s really generous of him, actually. You know how kids feel about their rooms.”
Ellen: “Little Frankie must be happy about our visit."
Bob: “Don’t worry; he won’t cause any trouble. There's no risk. Seems there was a problem with the cops last year and they’ve had him on a short leash ever since; I'm sure he’ll be a perfect young gentleman while we’re there.”
Ellen: “This should be a honeymoon like no other.”
Bob: “Oh, there’s one other thing.”
Ellen: “Wait just a second. I want to be seated when I hear this.”
Bob: “Ha! That sense of humor, one of the things I find most attractive in you. Anyway, my mother hasn’t seen the other members of our family for quite a while so she’s planning a trip to Miami too.”
Ellen: “Oh, good; I’ll get to see her again.”
Bob: “You sure will. Uh – I don’t know how to put this – but Mom is planning to be on the same plane we’ll be on.”
Ellen: “I’m glad I was seated.”
Bob: “I know it’s a bit, uh, different. But you know, to illustrate her generosity, she paid for the tickets: she reserved a three-seat row so we can all be together. You’re really going to get to know her better.”
Ellen: “I have a feeling you’re right. Look, Bob, before we go any further, you and I have got to sit down and have a talk. A Long. Serious. Talk.”
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Berowne's 140

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "O" is for "Outta here!")
Somehow, the above reminds me of a medal.
What with Veterans Day coming up shortly, I realize that I’ve never told you about my Silver Star.
From time to time in this space, I’ve reported on some of the heroic adventures I was involved in during World War II. It usually turned out that they weren’t all that heroic, but they were adventures nonetheless.
So now I’d like to tell you about the medal that’s one of the highest awards for gallantry in action. Here’s the story.
In 1943 I was convalescing in a jungle hospital in New Guinea, the huge island that dangles just north of Australia. The hospital was in an American camp not far from Lae, which was the major Japanese base on that island.
This seemed to give them the idea that they had the right to bomb the hell out of the Yanks just to the south. I don’t think they had the field hospital I was in as the main target; it just appeared that way.
When the radar signaled that bombers were on their way, the patients who could move were supposed to stagger from their beds and hop out into one of the slit trenches that surrounded the place. Thus entombed, they could neatly lie in perfect comfort as they listened to the bombs gradually getting closer.
When they returned they would find that a platoon of New Guinea insects of all known sizes and shapes had taken over their bed, insects who had obviously moved in to stay. You have not lived till you have tried to sleep with huge insects each as large as a Swiss Army knife crawling over you.
All of which got me to thinking: get me outta here!
After all, I wasn’t performing any labor or doing anything. I wasn’t contributing to the war effort; I was just convalescing. I could convalesce to the south in Brisbane, Australia, just as well. Especially because that’s where my good friend Shirley M. lived.
So one day I quietly exited the hospital and headed for the airport. I found a pilot who was getting ready to fly to Port Moresby – the jumping-off point for Australia – and I asked if I could hitch a ride. I said I was desperate to rejoin my ship so I could continue fighting the war, and so on. (I didn’t mention Shirley.) He said okay, so off we went, into the wild blue etcetera.
The flight was scary; to get to Port Moresby you had to fly in a fairly small plane – no 747s then - over a huge jungle mountain range, with the ever-present possibility of an attack by the Japanese on the way.
So that was it. Not worth a Silver Star, you say? Well, I didn’t think it was either – until...
Years later I read about President Lyndon Johnson, and I was especially interested in his World War II record. He had been awarded the Silver Star.
When he was a congressman he thought it would help his career if he had a war record. He joined up and was immediately upgraded to Navy lieutenant-commander.
He was sent to the south Pacific as an observer. He wound up in Port Moresby and he climbed aboard one of eleven B-26 bombers that were getting ready to take off for an attack on the Japanese air base at Lae. It was definitely a dangerous operation. A number of the planes of the group were hit and one was shot down with everyone aboard killed.
However, not long after takeoff Johnson’s plane had developed generator trouble and had to turn back.
General Douglas Macarthur, in charge out there, believed that LBJ was a popular political figure who looked as though he had an important future - and the General needed all the friends he could get in the U S Congress - so he awarded Johnson the Silver Star.
So I wondered, where’s my Silver Star? I flew that same route in the same war. True, I did nothing heroic and the vital war mission I was on was to see my girlfriend in Brisbane. However, as far as action was concerned, I had seen plenty of that trying to dodge bombs, not to mention insects, back at the jungle hospital.
By the way, here’s a brief note of historical interest. The airport at Lae had become world famous a few years earlier.
In 1937 Amelia Earhart, on her round-the-world flight, landed at Lae. It was on July 2nd, at midnight, that she took off from Lae airport, never to be seen again.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Berowne's 139

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "N" is for Nearly)
“Midnight Snack” is the title of the above.
I rummaged about in my mind through the past decades, trying to find something to work with. Then I remembered.
There was a fairly well-known snack back in the forties that I have never forgotten. It was in India, of all places, and I was there.
I can hear groans in the background of “Oh no, not another of Berowne’s ‘I was there’ stories.”
Sorry, but I’m afraid it’s true – I was there – and I thought it might make for an interesting post. Or at least semi-interesting.
I’m sure you remember the movie back in the eighties, a real epic, titled “Gandhi,” starring Ben Kingsley as the Mahatma.
In the film there’s a sequence where Gandhi is in prison because of his resistance movement and he is visited by an American photographer, Margaret Bourke-White, played by Candice Bergen.
When I saw the movie, I felt like shouting “I was there!” and nearly dropped my popcorn.
Here’s the story.
Soon after Pearl Harbor, with the draft board busily preparing to bestow upon me the coveted title of Buck Private, U S Army, I enlisted instead as cadet-midshipman in the Maritime Service division of the U S Navy. The first ship I was on delivered many tons of stuff to the CBI, the China-Burma-India theatre of war.
So I was in Bombay – none of us had ever heard of Mumbai – when Gandhi was in prison. Instead of just quietly existing as a prisoner, he was causing problems: he was sort of rattling his cage. Living out his famous policy of non-violent resistance, he went on a hunger strike. There had been a desperate attempt to get him to eat something, anything – a snack, even. It was about this time that he was visited by Bourke-White/Bergen.
And it was then, while we were tied up at a dock, that a British officer came by and told us that Gandhi was in bad shape; he was nearly dead. It looked as though the hunger strike would kill him. If that happens, he said, we should slip our lines and drift out to the center of Bombay harbor and anchor there, because there would be a national uprising on the part of all India and Europeans would not be safe on the street.
I wasn’t much of a European because at that time I had never been to Europe, but I realized that distinction wouldn’t mean much to rioters.
As a student, I had always been interested in Mahatma Gandhi. He seemed to feel that his philosophy of non-violent resistance was not just something one should adopt for moral reasons; he really believed it would work as a practical substitute for war. I know now that he was probably mistaken. As World War II went on, I felt that Hitler proved him wrong.
After a time Gandhi was removed from prison for necessary surgery, and was to live for another five years. (Presumably he had a few snacks during that five-year period.)
What a man was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi!
He struggled for years to create a peaceful and calm India that would contain a wide variety of religions, all living together harmoniously, but the Muslim leader insisted on the formation of a fully independent Muslim Pakistan, a world apart.
The ironic truth is that in 1948 when Gandhi was assassinated it was not by a Muslim, it was by a member of his own religion, by a Hindu - who shot Gandhi three times at point-blank range with a .38 Beretta semi-automatic pistol - because of his tolerance of Islam.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Berowne's 138

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "M" is for Mary Arden)
The prompt this week is of a sick woman.
I began sifting through my rather limited cranial capacity, trying to think of a historical character who would be appropriate for such a topic.
Then I thought of Will Shakespeare’s mother. In the year 1583 she was miserable because she was sick, but she was sick with worry, with fear.
And she had good reason.
It seemed quite possible that she was going to be charged as an accessory to an attempted assassination of Queen Elizabeth.
Let’s go back a bit.
As a teenager, it would have seemed that Mary Arden could have had her pick of the young fellows of her town for marriage; she came from a respected home, her father was a prosperous land-owner and she had an impressive dowry.
Yet many of that time were puzzled that the person she chose was not much more than a peasant. His background had been that he was barely (if at all) literate; he had had no money, no education, and a job of working in her father’s fields. His name was John Shakespeare.
But you see, Mary Arden was one of eight daughters, the youngest of the eight. For eight daughters there weren’t all that many eligible bachelors available in that area. She settled for John.
John S.’s story is amazing – from illiterate sharecropper he had a brisk rise to mayor of the town of Stratford – but that’s for a different post. We’ll concentrate on his wife, Mary.
But first let’s do a smooth segue to the story of another woman of that era, Queen Elizabeth I.
She was in mortal danger. When? Every day of her life, from the moment she was born. Every day that she was alive there were thousands of people who were dedicated to her assassination. She was Protestantism personified; Catholics in various parts of the world believed that England should return to the old religion and they were told they would be blessed if they killed her.
By the year 1583 the Queen had built up a remarkable collection of organizations that existed to prevent that assassination; she had spies and her own Secret Service, CIA and FBI.
Another smooth segue and we come to the story of Margaret Arden, a dear cousin of Will Shakespeare’s mom.
Encouraged by a local priest, Margaret Arden and her husband had made the mistake of becoming involved with him in a plot to shoot Queen Elizabeth. They were all arrested and taken to London.
Anyone who planned such an act, or even knew about it, was punished. The punishment was severe. The men were hanged, drawn and quartered and Margaret was burned at the stake.
Suspicion shifted to Stratford and a key part of the investigation had to do with Mary Arden Shakespeare; had she known about this plot? For quite a while she, and her family, were in extreme peril.
The Queen’s chief investigator, her J Edgar Hoover, was Francis Walsingham. He sent word to his subordinates up in Stratford that more guilty folks must be found and the way to determine if they were guilty was through torture.
Well, ultimately, things more or less blew over. Mary stayed alive, as did her family. However, Stratford was a dangerous place for a young guy whose family was under suspicion; Will Shakespeare detached himsself from the whole situation. He set up a strategic retreat, leaving town and heading for London.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Berowne's 137

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "L" is for Lausanne)
Let’s see now. The above prompt is titled "It must be time for lunch now."
I thought to myself, what are some of the most unusual lunches I’ve had, lunches worth a blog post?
Well, there was one that was really special, a lunch I had on a train way back in the early 1960s. Let me tell you about it.
I was working in France when I got a phone call from my mother-in-law, whose voice was ripe with worry. She lived in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Seems she had some kind of terrible legal problem. The police said they could do nothing; the lawyers she had consulted were incompetent. She felt she was all alone. She desperately needed my help.
I felt like pointing out to her that my knowledge of Swiss law was perilously close to zero, and in addition, this came at a bad time. I was in the middle of an important job: i..e., making a living. However, family is family, so I dropped everything and hopped on the next train to Lausanne.
It’s a beautiful city, of course, so in a way I was pleased to be able to visit it again.
We had been under way for just a half-hour or so when they announced lunch. Great timing; I was starved. I looked forward to something good. Meals on trains in France, as you probably know, can be very special.
The dining car startled me. It was beautiful, but in a sort of old-fashioned “belle époque” style, drippig with dignity. I inquired around and was really amazed to learn that I had, quite inadvertently, hopped on what was quite possibly the most famous train in the world, The Orient Express: Paris to Istanbul; first stop, Lausanne.
This was the train that Agatha – sorry, Dame Agatha – Christie had written about in one of the most famous of her 66 detective novels, “Murder on the Orient Express.” As you may know, she was not just wildly creative, she was one of the best selling writers of all time; her novels have sold roughly four billion, that's with a “b,” copies.
There were not just lacerations and murder in her works; in this train there was also usually romance - (none on my trip, however).
My compartment was in the same period style. Agatha’s room must have been just like this one. She took this train to Istanbul and wrote her famous book about it in her hotel room there.
Well, I got off at the first stop, Lausanne. As things turned out my mother-in-law’s legal problem had been solved before I arrived; it seems there had just been a misunderstanding. But that was okay; I had had an adventure: a very special train-ride.

Here’s a photo of a couple of fellow-passengers. I chatted with the chap on the left; he had had a most interesting life. Someone, I thought, should write about him. :-)
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)
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