Archive for July, 2011

Dolly Is Alive and Well

About ten years ago Sweetie and I journeyed to New York and spent a few days walking, eating and generally marvelling at the vibrancy of that great city.  One of the highlights included a trip to a theater whose name escapes me to see Carol Channing in Hello Dolly.  In one of those roles right up there with Marlon’s Stanley Kowalski, Carol entertained us with her vibrancy and wit…even though her frailty required the assistance of several cast members as she wheeled about the stage.

When we see a play at the Ojai Art Center or Ventura’s Rubicon, I am tempted to compare the lead actor with the one who made the role famous.  The poor shlep who was condemned to play Kowlaski for three hours at the Rubicon a few years ago comes to mind.  It was a painful evening for him and for us.

So, with some trepidation, Sweetie, Bert, Yoram and I bought our tickets and plunked ourselves about six rows from the Art Center stage waiting for Hello Dolly to make an entrance.  I’ve often found that some plays and movies are best anticipated with the worst in mind.  Whatever you get that’s worth savoring is all the more appreciated.

As it turned out, my trepidation and bah-humbug expectations were totally without merit.  I found myself smiling and tapping my toes during the entire performance.  I abandoned my usual habit of counting the number of songs left until I could mercifully depart the premises.  I was sorry when it ended.  I wanted more.

Our local physician, Jim Halverson as Cornelius, had a steep hill to climb.  Following in the footsteps of Michael Crawford who played the role in the movie…and then famously as the Phantom of the Opera…was no simple task.  Bravo Jim.  The versatile and always welcome Buddy Wilds, as Horace Vandergelder, was the right blend of curmudgeon and loveable dodo.  And the rest of cast seemed well-suited to their roles as they happily sang and danced their way through the evening with nary a sign of fatigue.

And then there was Dolly.  Oh god, I thought, please don’t let me think about Carol Channing.  Don’t make this painful.  And she didn’t.  From the moment Jaye Hersh walked down the aisle, looking at each of us like she knew us intimately, I knew we were in for a treat.  She was, this evening, Dolly.  She looked like Dolly should look.  She sounded like Dolly should sound.  She made us smile, feel warm and want to sing with her.  When she wasn’t on the stage, we missed her.

As with most community theaters, I find it best to award degree-of-difficulty points to the performances.  After all, these folks are volunteers, the staging normally falls well short of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the music is no Philharmonic and the, well, you know.  No special handicap points were required this evening.  We were at the Dorothy Chandler.  And we loved every minute of it.

A lesson unlearned

I felt that this July 15 letter written by John F. McBride of Seattle, Washington sums things up a lot better than I can.

“The men who served in my infantry company in 1969 – 1970 came from all over the United States, very much as do those who serve in our Congress. They came from all walks of life, from those who had graduated West Point and been commissioned, to Blacks from riot torn neighbors, to men from a still rascist South, to farm boys and college boys and war resisters.

We didn’t necessarily agree, men fought on occasion, there were those who were tireless and those who were plum worn down and worn out. But in the field, together, we were always brothers. We never, ever abandoned each other and we made happen what needed to happen even when it was enormously difficult for us to do it.

Over the fourteen months I spent in our now vanishingly distant war 12 of the men I served with died and 60 or more were wounded. I should know because as the company RTO I called in the wounded and I called in the killed. The dead I can still name. But not all of the wounded.

We’re still friends, most of us. The officers from West Point who we didn’t necessarily agree with then, but love, and the men we fought with and carried to safety and those we didn’t understand. We’ve all had to abandon positions we swore then we never would and had to get over conversations that seemed oh so gawd almighty important at the time.

As one who bent myself to my officers regardless, I find it peculiar that so many Republicans can detest the President to such a degree that they cannot bend themselves to the compromise of doing what is best for their “band of brothers,” their nation. I think those in my company who are Republicans, pushed to it in a conversation, would agree with me on this point. One would think their Senators and Representatives would, too.

Today, Bastille Day, marks the day one of our dead was killed in a tragic friendly fire incident. I think about him every year when this day rolls around and days in between. Unfortunate, isn’t it? In our Congress friendly fire is completely intentional.”

Still a good idea…apparently

A couple of years ago I told you about the movie Night Shift.  That’s where Henry Winkler manages the after dark goings-on at the local morgue.  His buddy is Michael Keaton, a loveable neer-do-well who has nothing better to do than hang out with Henry and his quiet companions, and conjure up money-making ideas that come well short of Einstein’s theory of relativity.  One night Michael says “Ya know, we spend far too much time squishing mayonnaise into a can of tuna.  It’s tough, hard work.  We could save time by simply feeding the mayonnaise to the tuna before we bash its brains out.”

I was reminded of that clever idea when the Huffington Post  published a summary of Senator McConnell’s proposal to solve the debt limit conundrum.  If I’ve got it right, Mitch wants to cede responsibility for raising the limit to Obama so long as the Prez also proposes expense reductions equal to the debt increase.  Congress (i.e. Republicans) could vote against the debt increase, but Obama could veto the negative vote thereby becoming solely responsible for further indebting the country.  Independently, Congress (again, i.e. Republicans) could vote against the expense reductions and Obama could veto the negative vote, thereby being solely responsible for taking food out of the mouths of the hungry, healthcare from the sick and guns from the troops.

Good idea, says Mitch.  “That way we can say we Republicans didn’t want the debt limit increased.  And we sure as hell didn’t want to cheat grandma out of her visits to Dr. Kildare.  Obama did it, so elect Michelle.”

Playing the Henry Winkler role, the Prez said that Mitch (playing Michael Keaton as though he were vying for an Oscar) had an interesting idea.  But that maybe it was better to address the problem head-on even if it cost Mitch a trip down the red carpet in November.

Supporting the Prez by pooh-poohing Mitch and, in the process continuing her insatiable quest for the Judy Holliday  Zany Brainie award of the year, was Michelle Bachmann.  Disputing the very idea that the government’s credit standing might be tarnished and that checks would surely continue to be mailed to her government subsidized husband, she said…“I’m a ‘no’ on raising the debt ceiling right now because I have been here long enough that I have seen a lot of smoke and mirrors in the time I have been here…”   Who’s to argue with that?

John Boehner, tearing himself away from coddling the Tea Party members of the House, offered praise for Mitch’s idea on Fox News…“I think everybody believes there needs to be a backup plan if we are unable to come to an agreement, and frankly I think Mitch has done good work.”   Deftly playing both sides of the street he added…“I don’t think such a proposal could pass the House in any way, shape or form…”  So there.

Well, I suppose the good news is that they are still talking.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually come up with a thought as eloquent as this snippet from Night Shift that focuses on the use of the movie morgue as a house of prostitution.

Henry: (disgustedly)  As we sit here and idly chat, there are women, female human beings, rolling around in strange beds with strange men, and we are making money from that.

Michael: Is this a great country, or what?


Rewriting History

My brother-in-law, Sandy, changed my reading habits dramatically when he bought me a subscription to the New York Review of Books.  Every two weeks an ungainly magazine arrives in our mailbox relatively devoid of advertising other than new books and the personals at the end of the magazine that include the pleas of widows and divorcees seeking the company of similarly oriented men.

What I enjoy most are the occasional glimpses of history that accompany the book reviews.  Being a relative neophyte whose exposure to history ended in the eighth grade, the information is fascinating.  Yes, some of the articles are beyond my comprehension such as a recent one dealing with the brain and how we think; that one might as well have been written by the ancient Greeks.

The June 23 issue contains an article entitled A New Approach to the Holocaust.  I am somewhat more conversant with that subject than others and, no matter how often I read about it, continue to be simultaneously repulsed and fascinated by the events contained in that human tragedy.  Like a moth to the flame, I am drawn to anything written about it.

The article contains the usual story line that the Nazis had not intended the extermination of the Jews.  Rather, deportation was the original preferred method of solving the problem.  But things change, especially when your plans begin to go awry.  And 6,000,000 died.  In particular I found the following intriguing…

The Final Solution took place, but not according to plan.  Rather than being a war aim, it became part of the war itself.  Hitler in August 1941 spoke of a war against Jews.  That December, after the Soviets began a counteroffensive at Moscow and the Americans entered the war, Hitler spoke of a world war brought about by the Jews.

One of my brain synapses clicked and I remembered Sunday’s call from our darling daughter Nancy.  A good girl, she regularly calls to check on the emotional and clinical status of her parents.  Following the usual organ recital, the conversation occasionally switches to politics and, in particular, the elected imbecile of the day…which, with the recent exception of Anthony Weiner, generally focuses on Republicans.  Must be genetic.  Nancy launched into a five minute dissertation of Michelle Bachmann’s recent confusion of Founding Fathers and slavery.

Asked by George Stephanopolous if she stood by her earlier comments that the Founding Fathers fought to eliminate slavery, Michelle incorrectly identified John Quincy Adams as one of the Founders.  Stephanopolous, with a far greater grasp of history than I, pointed out that it was John Adams, Quincy’s dad, who was the Founder and that many of those guys were inveterate slave owners.  Given the opportunity to recant and admit her mistake, she did not.  In support of the Bachmann version of history, her supporters altered the John Quincy Adams page on Wikipedia to include him as a Founding Father (he was eight years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed.)  That alteration has since be corrected.

Michelle also misspoke the day before while in Waterloo, Iowa announcing her run for president, saying that John Wayne was born in Waterloo, Iowa, when in reality John Wayne Gaycee the serial killer was born in Waterloo, Iowa. The Wikipedia page for John Wayne was also changed to make his birthplace Waterloo, even though John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa.  Good thing the Duke isn’t around.

Having laughed this off as something not worth worrying about and having said good-bye to Nancy, I was then confronted with the Ventura Star’s Monday headlineGOP Pins Budget Cuts on Democrats.  The world’s greatest newspaper then went on…

Republicans hope to pin the blame for massive spending cuts to social  programs and higher education on Democrats, while claiming credit for holding  the line on taxes. Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, stressed  that the budget was “not ours…They’re the ones that chose who got cut. They are the ones that made their  priorities, and so if people are suffering and hurting, they need to contact the  people that did that to them.”

What?  Duh?  Refusing to negotiate any kind of revenue increase, these minority party bozos sat by and watched the Democrats slash and burn in order to try to balance California’s budget.  They gleefully participated in the travesty that allows a minority of the legislature to block any kind of tax increase.  And the Star, knowing full well that most of their subscribers only read the 16 point print, stoop to being co-conspirators.

Maybe I should go back to the eighth grade and pay more attention.  And maybe we should all stop laughing.



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