Sunday, August 30, 2015

283 Quiz Answer

Critics have claimed that Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s favorite film person, was the greatest female film-maker of all time.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "H" is for "haughty")

Here’s this week’s question: who was she ?

“She’s an actress, Fred.   A lot of actresses think they could make a film better than the director or producer.  That doesn’t mean you should let them try.”
“She’s different.  She’s seems to have some real talent.”
“Again, they talk a good game, but just because they were a success acting a part on the silver screen doesn’t mean they know anything about the nuts and bolts of film-making.”
“So let her have a shot at it.  She might do well.”
“You don’t understand; she's haughty and arrogant.  My people are complaining.”
“Who cares?  As long as she’s got the big guy everyone calls “MM” – which as you know means “Mr Master” - on her side, she’ll continue to do as she’s doing.”
“But it’s embarrassing!  She wants to run the camera itself – you know women don’t understand mechanical things – and highly qualified cameramen are expected to stand about and do nothing.”
“That’s right, and say nothing too.  If they’re unhappy tell them to go directly to MM and let him know they don’t approve of his way of doing things.   Somehow I don’t think they’ll take you up on that.”

“If we get the whole film community, all respected names, to let him know that this idea of an actress working as writer-producer-director of an expensive professional film is just not a good idea, he might finally agree.”
“You don’t seem to understand how things are done in this country.”
“But if we can show anyone the amusing things she does, or tries to do, it should change anyone’s mind.”
 “She’s trying bizarre camera angles no sensible cameraman has used before.  She had another fellow spend the day digging a hole deeply so she could shoot from a low angle.  That’s foolishness.”


“And she’s got a guy shooting film in a wheelchair, like he’s got both legs broken, even though we have perfectly good equipment for such stuff in the studio.” 
“But that’s the point.  She's elastic; she doesn’t want to work just in a studio, she wants to go outside.”
“Well, you can take it from me.  If she keeps up the way she’s working she’ll be going outside sooner than she thinks, and permanently.”

(The answer will be posted Saturday.) 

Sunday, August 16, 2015


(There was no Magpie blog last week so I take the liberty of re-posting this.)

When in World War II the enemy finally knelt in surrender one thing became clear: all the thousands of the American armed forces stationed in Europe wanted to leave immediately and – GO HOME!

What an exodus!  Every ship they could dig up, including a few that had been officially moth-balled - anything that had a propeller that could still rotate - was thrust back into service to carry the GIs homeward.
The ship they put me on then had, usually, a crew of twenty-five.  Most such vessels never carried passengers in peacetime but if they did there might be five or six, no more.  And here we were, jamming over a thousand into the same space.
We had told the soldiers, as they waited on the dock to board, that it was not going to be a pleasant cruise; in fact it was going to be pretty God-awful and they might choose to wait for a later ship that wouldn’t be so crowded.

To a man, as you might have expected, they sang out “No!  We want to go home!!”

Well, we filled up the ship with people.  Cheek by jowl might describe it.  Some of the poor guys couldn’t even sit down out on the deck, there was no room, and they stood up a good deal of the way.  Bird colonels slept on the deck in the ship’s wheelhouse.

Everywhere it was the same; ships of all kinds were jammed to the gunnels.

Huge drums – you couldn’t call them cans or tins; they were as big as oil drums – labeled “Tomato Soup” or “Pork and Beans” and other such culinary delights, were lifted aboard our ship by winch.  At least no one was going to starve.
And the weather gave us a break; lots of sunshine, very little wind and a calm sea.  We had wondered about the nasty result that could happen if the weather began causing problems and the ship started to roll.  The few lifeboats we had could hold but a fraction of our passengers.  Better just not think about that.
Once we got under way, our ship was skimming along at top speed.  Of course, our top speed was eleven knots, which is about thirteen miles per hour.  Many of the soldierie didn’t think it was moving.  “Hey!” they shouted, “Kick this thing into gear!” or “When are we gonna start?”
Then, on the third day out, after quite a bit of what I thought was smooth sailing, it happened.
The ship’s engine, which had been designed and built before World War I, evidently felt it had done enough for its country and it just coughed quietly and stopped.
No problem, no danger.  We sat there peacefully in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, unmoving, like a lump on a bog.  We waited.  And waited.  The GIs began cursing the ship’s officers, loudly.  “Ninety-day wonders!” they shouted, among other epithets.  It was embarrassing.
I went below and asked one of the engineering officers about when the engine would start cooking again.  He reluctantly said it was not that they were having trouble fixing the thing, it was that they couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

After Pearl Harbor, the U S began hurriedly building ships, hundreds of ‘em.  Each of those vessels needed crews, so they took kids like me, taking day classes at UCLA and working in a grocery store at night, and after a couple of months of training anointed me as a ship’s officer.  They did the same with engineering officers.
In other words, we were all ninety-day wonders.
Since I was an officer, even if of the lowest grade, I had a room.  I was able to go hide in my room when not on duty and avoid the embarrassing “90 Day Etcetera” catcalls of the thousand or so commandos on deck.
Evidently an engineer down below finally figured out which switch to pull, or had found the users’ instruction booklet, and the ol’ engine began to purr again.
In spite of everything we managed ultimately to get everyone to the Brooklyn Naval Yard safe and sound.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

282 Quiz Answer

                                    The Battle of Thermopylae
The battle took place in 480 BC, in which an outnumbered Greek force including the famous 300 Spartans, among others, held off an overwhelmingly larger force of Persians.
(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "E" is for "embarrassment")

The following scenelet might suggest to you a well-known military operation…
 “You served as platoon sergeant at the time of the battle?”
“That’s right, general.”
“I haven’t been able to get much satisfaction from the officers so I thought I’d try a non-com.”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“You understand what this looks like – not just to our country but to the entire world?”
“Well, I believe that once they’re aware of the actual situation they can more easily understand our difficulties.  The terrain…”
“Is that it?  The terrain?  Every officer I spoke to wailed on irritatingly about the terrain; I thought a sergeant might give me some better information.”
“But sir, the terrain was the problem.  None of us had ever seen anything like it before.”
“Don’t you understand?  There’s always a problem with the terrain in any operation.  That doesn’t mean you can decide to pack up and go home.  What do I care about the terrain anyway, sergeant?  You were serving in a unit of several hundred thousand troops and the enemy, according to the latest information, consisted of a few hundred.  It’s ridiculous that they had you stopped.”
“You mention information, general.  We evaluated the enigmatic info we were given and that is all we had to go on.  Turned out that info was incorrect.”
“As often happens during wartime.  Again, we can’t get away from the ludicrous fact: a quarter million of you and a couple of hundred of them.  It wasn't a battle, it was an embarrassment."
“I know you don’t like hearing about it, general, but could I explain just why the terrain was so important in this operation?”
“Oh, all right.”
“They call it a pass.  It was actually more of a path.  And it was so narrow; in some places a couple of yards across.  We had cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other.  We sort of jammed our troops into this narrow path and when they emerged at the other side, the gruesome fact was the enemy could pick them off.”
(Sighs) “Well, I guess there’s no help for it.  It’s my job now to go and try to explain this to the emperor.”

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

281 Quiz Answer

In Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Paris isn’t a place; it’s a he.  He is handsome and wealthy and a member of the nobility - he’s Count Paris – and an eager suitor of Juliet.  However, she prefers Romeo.
(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "D" is for "drama")

It would appear that Will Shakespeare never visited Europe.

A claim has been made that he actually did make the trip across the Channel as a soldier. 

A book, “Sergeant Shakespeare,” was written to support this theory, in which the playwright was a feisty non-com in the army, involved in the filth of one of the many wars fought on the continent.  But there is little – (none, actually) – evidence to support such a claim.

However, though he never visited such places, most of his plays are set in foreign locales.  In some cases he lets us know right up front where the action will be taking place.  You can be pretty sure “The Merchant of Venice,” for example, is not set in Barcelona, and you have the feeling, when you come across the play titled “Timon of Athens,” that you know just which town Timon used to hang out in.

Even back in Britain Will could be specific as to setting.  “Merry Wives of Windsor,” anyone?

Surely the work titled “Romeo and Juliet,” set in Verona, Italy, is one of the best of the Shakespeare dramas.  I traveled to Verona once, while I was wandering about Europe, and I got to see what was claimed to be the actual balcony where Romeo spotted the Capulet girl.

It is the east and Juliet is the sun!  See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.  O that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek!”

The Veronese folks there tried to convince us addicted tourists that it was the real balcony of the play, and we pretended to believe them.

But of course it wasn’t.

There’s something kind of funny about Shakespeare’s handling of these overseas settings.  He defiantly makes no effort to present dialects or accents. 

In the plays, wherever we may be in Will’s foreign world, we have the feeling we’re back in his real world, Elizabethan England.  And the foreigners, where’er they’re from, all talk pretty much the same.    

Cyprus, for example, is an exotic locale for one of his plays.  But a Cypriot gentleman speaks like a chap from Warwickshire, where Will was raised.

Which brings us to our question for this week: Though “Romeo and Juliet” is set in Verona, how is it that Paris is so important in the play?

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)
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