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.)
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