Sunday, February 23, 2014

208 Quiz Answer

Answer: Julius Caesar

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "G" is for "godlike")
I wrote the following scenelet, thinking it might remind you of a certain Shakespeare play.  Which play?

“Did you see that crowd as the general rode in from the airport?  What a mass of people! You’d think it was the president with that entourage and not just an army officer.”

“Well, I believe this army officer could be president, if he really felt like it.  The general returns bringing with him a list of victories that’s simply unprecedented.  The whole country is crazy about him.  To a great many he’s positively godlike.”

“You think he wants to enter politics?”

“It sure has happened in the past.  A great general returns from the wars and is practically handed the presidency on a silver platter.  Hard to turn down.”

“We should find out soon enough when he addresses the Senate this afternoon.  My guess is that all the senators are going to line up and offer their enthusiastic support without a single dissenting vote.”

“Yeah, but there are a few who are – well, just a bit worried.”

“I know what you mean.  There’s maybe too much enthusiasm for the general.  Too much applause, too much acclaim.  If the people are totally behind him, he’d have total power as head of state.  That would leave all that herd in the Senate without much to do.”

“And then there’s that wild rumor that’s been going around – I’m sure you’re aware of it.”

“Yes, I know what you mean.  It’s silliness.  That the general aspires to be appointed king, by acclamation.  Preposterous.  He knows this is a republic and is going to remain one.”

“According to the rumor…”

“You’ve got to stop listening to rumors.  This man was ready to give his life for the republic.  He’s not some kind of ungrateful beast who's going to be the one to turn our country into a monarchy.”

“But get this.  Leon, the driver who picked him up this morning, heard the general and his wife arguing – real loud, he says.  While he's slurping his morning coffee she's yelling at him.  She believes he actually wants that king deal and that it’s dangerous.  If he does have that ambition, she said, there’d be quite a few folks who’d try to get rid of him.  Including a number of senators.”

“I still think it’s just a silly rumor.  Hard to imagine a group of senators turning into murderers.”


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Berowne's 207

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "F" is for "film")

The prompt this week reminded me of a different apartment...

Gertrude Stein’s birthday was this month, so I thought I’d take a brief pause in my quiz-of-the-week contest and reprint one of my old posts about her.

Today I got to thinking of Paris, thinking back to the time, a few decades ago, when I was making films in France.

It was hard, arduous, tough work, traveling first-class (paid for by the films' budgets), eating insatiably almost every day at Michelin 3-star restaurants, staying in the best hotels; I don't know how I lived through it.

One of my documentaries had to do with the American expatriates, that time back in the 1920s when Yankee writers sort of inevitably wound up in Paris.  Since the franc was weak and the dollar was strong, it was the ideal spot for any feral American artist.

One of the places I wanted in the film was Gertrude Stein’s apartment.

Her home had been a place of pilgrimage for so many young writers.  You could make the case – oh, you’d get arguments – but you could make the case that this is where modern American literature began, because Gertrude Stein attracted the greatest writers of that time: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, among others.

They had told me that I probably couldn’t get in to the apartment; it wasn’t open to the public.  But I was able to get a few strings pulled at the French Government Tourist Office and I was ultimately allowed entrance into the famous home of Gertrude Stein.


As I walked about the place I remembered seeing pictures of it as it had once been when, much earlier, the walls were covered by avant-garde paintings as Stein discussed art with guys most people then had never heard of, young chaps named Picasso, Braque and Matisse.

It was said of Gertrude in the early years: “She knew where art was going.” 

As for the American writers, what attracted them?  Well, she was a sort of literary guru.  As a writer, she was often difficult to understand – some couldn't understand a shred of it - so she certainly wasn’t much as an author of best-sellers, but her gift was for analysis and criticism.  To many her judgment in literature was infallible.

When he met Stein, young Ernest Hemingway realized he had found a guide, even a tutor, and he took what she had to say very seriously.  He thought so much of her he asked her to be the godmother of his child.

Ernest listened and learned; what he learned became the famous Hemingway style that influenced the narrative and dialogue of a couple of generations of novelists.

When Ernest, age 22, came to her apartment he would sit by the fire as Gertrude spoke to him about writing.  He paid her a great compliment: “Writing used to be easy before I met you.”

Years later, when he became Papa Hemingway and very successful, when he became a legend in his own lifetime, he would downplay Stein’s influence on his writing.  But decades earlier he had felt differently: “Ezra (Pound) was right half the time,” he wrote, “and when he was wrong you were never in any doubt of it.  Gertrude was always right.”

When you shot a film in those days, a small crowd would always gather.  Among the people watching while I worked in the courtyard of Stein’s apartment building was an elderly lady who seemed to be very interested in all that was going on.  I spoke to her and was surprised to learn that she had been Gertrude Stein’s concierge, going all the way back to the old days.  This was quite a shock.

I was actually speaking with someone who had known them all as young people – Picasso, Braque, Matisse, as well as the American expats Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and the rest.  She assured me that they had not only been friends of Miss Stein, but her friends too.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

206 Quiz Answer

Answer: Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.
Part of the Kennedy family in 1931. In the background, left, is Jack, the 35th President of the United States. Teddy Kennedy was unable to make it for this photo, what with not having been born yet.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "E" is for "explosion") 
This week’s quiz is about a hero of World War II and this week’s question is, what was his name?

During that war the Nazis came up with some nastily creative thinking as far as weapons against Britain were concerned.  Usually they thought about rockets and such, but one interesting weapon was just a gun, a supergun.

 File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1981-147-30A, Hochdruckpumpe V-3.jpg
It was a very long, very effective cannon.  It rested on this unkempt frame inside an inclined tunnel near Calais.  The weapon just sat there; it never moved and it would launch cruel explosive projectiles across the English Channel that landed on London to ghastly effect, and it could do all this with impunity.

You see, Allied bombers, try as they might, could not bomb it.  The tunnel was located inside deep rock.

So the Allied types came up with some creative thinking of their own. 

In a top-secret, and very dangerous, mission (“Operation Aphrodite”) they loaded up a huge bomber, a Liberator, with 20,000 pounds of explosives.  They’d navigate this flying bomb until it was right on target for the entrance of the tunnel.  Then the pilot would lock in the auto pilot and bail out.  The plane would blow up the tunnel and the supergun within it.

A great plan, but…

What happened was a terrible tragedy.  Just before the pilot was to bail out, an electrical fault in the Liberator caused all that explosive material to detonate. 

In a tremendous explosion the plane and the pilot just disappeared.  Here’s his picture.  He had been an interesting naval lieutenant, still in his twenties.  Interesting because he came from a well-known New England family, the eldest of nine children, and he had had a charmed life up to that time.  His family had sent him to Choate and Harvard and had plans for the young man to become an important figure on the American political scene.
His father, a former Ambassador, had been convinced that ultimately he could become President of the United States.







Sunday, February 2, 2014

205 Quiz Answer

Here’s the answer: A Chorus Line is a musical with music by Marvin Hamlisch that centered on dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line.  The original Broadway production ran for 6,137 performances, becoming then the longest-running production in Broadway history.


(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "D" is for "Dan")
Here’s this week’s Berownial quiz question.  I wrote the following scenelet, thinking it might remind you of a well-known musical.  Name the musical.

“Dan – you’re here?  I thought you had a job.”

“‘Had’ is right; past tense.  I haven’t worked for weeks.  I heard a job was available here so I thought I’d better show up.”

“It’s not just a job.  There are eight spots open, so that explains the crowd.” 

“Right.  I never saw so many people for a job interview.  The line extends out onto the sidewalk.”

“Well, if they’re looking for eight folks, that means I may have a chance.  I really need this job.”

“Tell me about it.  I haven’t paid my rent for a couple of months.  You know Len Crain?  He’s the rogue doing the hiring.”

“Crain?  Oh god, now I know I’m not gonna make it.”

“Why?  You had problems with him in the past?”

“Yeah.  I ran into him a few times.  He just don’t like the way I look, or something.  I don’t know what he expects.  Should I come on real strong, accelerate and show I’m a takeover guy, real capable, or should I play it like more passive, more submissive – yes, Mr. Crain, you’re right, Mr. Crain.”

“I don’t know what to recommend.  I just hope the two of us don’t wind up in competition for the same spot.”

“Well, with eight jobs available, we’ve both got a shot.”

“Tell me, you ever consider getting out of this rat race, going into some other line of work?”

“Ha.  I’ve been in quite a few other lines of work.  From Burger King to Wendy’s.  No, seriously, this is what I should be doing.  I remember way back when I was five or so I saw this on tv and before I even knew for sure what it was I said – I can do that!”




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