I talked with our friend Martin on the phone yesterday on his birthday.  In the course of our chat, he thanked me for recommending that he watch the PBS ‘Great Performances’ documentary on Mike Nichols, broadcast this past week.

I’ve been a fan of Mike Nichols in all his ‘permutations’ since my high school days, when a friend introduced me to ‘An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May’.  The man was so brilliant that he “doesn’t really fit the strict definition of human”.  Beside that, never is heard a discouraging word about him.

That’s quite something.

On the other hand, I’m reading Frank Langella’s wicked ‘Dropped Names – Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them’ (B’day gift from Martin last week).  Even in the manner/guise of straightforward reportage, Langella’s ‘unveiling’ frequently becomes a trifle brutal.

The following anecdote, structured like a joke with a punchline, appears in the afterword of the book.  Famous as I am, this story doesn’t worry me one bit…

–     –     –     –     –     –     –

Walking up Madison Avenue one afternoon in 1980, passing by Frank Campbell’s funeral home on the northwest corner of 81st Street, I saw coming out of the door my old friend Peter Witt, a theatrical agent, blowing his nose.

“Hello, Peter.”

“Hello, Frank,” he said, wiping his eyes.  “We lost another one.”

“Who died?”

He told me the name of the renowned Broadway star whom he had represented for many years.

“He was such a wonderful actor,” I said.

“Yes, he was.  Wonderful!”

“I’m so sorry I never met him.”

“Ach!” he said.  “You didn’t miss much.”

At least once during the past six years I know I’ve posted these two:

“I had thought I would die young; now it’s too late.”

— Jeanne Moreau

“When I turned forty, I stopped taking appointments before noon.”

— Lauren Hutton

As predicted, I turn sixty-nine years-old today.  Damn.

Met with Stephen and friends for lunch, well past noon…

Here is my 1/20/2016 b’day selfie.  Ever in your life seen anyone so chipper?

causeimhappy

 

alexander_dane

In four days, I will turn sixty-nine years-old, so it makes sense that I would sit up and take more than routine notice of two gentlemen who made news recently by leaving us at sixty-nine, David Bowie and Alan Rickman.

Mr. Bowie and I were both born in January 1947.  Mr. Rickman would have turned seventy next month, so the actuary in me says his sixty-nineness is debatable.  Sexagenarian, septuagenarian, oldish person.

American audiences would have first taken notice of Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber in the first of the Bruce Willis ‘Die Hard’ movies.  Today he is probably thought of strictly for the ‘Harry Potter’ ones.  This brings us to ‘Galaxy Quest’.

In a movie rife with upstaging, Rickman plays a Shakespearian actor whose reputation is trapped in a once popular TV show, the cast now reduced to careers of attending sci-fi fan conventions.

My credibility here on Domani Dave sailed straight into the dumper with my love letter to the movie ‘Scrooge’ in my December post, so I am happy to include Mr. Rickman’s own assessment of ‘Galaxy Quest’, which I found in the New York Times yesterday:

“People didn’t get it when it first came out.  It is genuinely funny, however.  Extremely funny.  A truly great piece of writing.”

To ‘get’ the movie, a simple awareness of the ‘Star Trek’ television show will do, but the addition of a little affection, even a mere gossamer trace, helps.  Though I myself was never a ‘Trekkie’, in my time I have known such people, and even befriended some of their kind…

And, though this post is a de facto recommendation, I withdraw it as an overt one.  ‘Galaxy Quest’ is no ‘L’Avventura’, or ‘L’année dernière à Marienbad’, but it does move along at a faster clip than those two pictures.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

My ‘spouse’, is ‘a sweetheart of a guy’ — and don’t I deserve a sweetheart of a guy?  He puts flowers next to my reading chair from time to time.

So, I thought: a cheerful photo for the first post of the year.

Now, as to this ‘spouse’ I.D., I confess that even after three months, I’m still not onboard with ‘husband’ — anymore than I was ever onboard with the several historical choices from ‘lover’ to ‘significant other’.  (‘Companion’ never worked unless found with ‘longtime’ in an obit.)

It’s bound to be easier for today’s gay gentleman to glom to the term ‘husband’, not so much for those of us who started off as a youth looking up the word ‘homosexual’ in the dictionary to see if that fit.

The title of this post is a Yiddish proverb, parked at the beginning of the book by Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.

Does everyone know about Primo Levi, and I am about to make a fool of myself supposing I might be introducing him to you?  We were ‘introduced’ by designer David Weeks (click), whose parents both used to live down the street from us, now only his mother.

Levi’s book takes 21 elements and uses each for a theme in 21 pieces, the final being ‘Carbon’ — tracing the journey of a carbon atom from its spot in some limestone, to a ‘spot’ in a sentence, literally the period at the end of it.

So, here at the end of 2015, I offer the last page of the book.  This morning we said goodbye to our friend Martin who was visiting from Los Angeles, and I’m feeling a little old and blue.

Be that as it may, I’ll muster a Happy New Year’s Eve to you!

–     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –      –     –     –     –

It is possible to demonstrate that this completely arbitrary story is nevertheless true.  I could tell innumerable other stories, and they would all be true: all literally true, in the nature of the transitions, in their order and data.  The number of atoms is so great that one could always be found whose story coincides with any capriciously invented story.  I could recount an endless number of stories about carbon atoms that become colors or perfumes in flowers; of others which, from tiny algae to small crustaceans to fish, gradually return as carbon dioxide to the waters of the sea, in a perpetual, frightening round-dance of life and death, in which every devourer is immediately devoured; of others which instead attain a decorous semi-eternity in the yellowed pages of some archival document, or the canvas of a famous painter; or those to which fell the privilege of forming part of a grain of pollen and left their fossil imprint in the rocks for our curiosity; of others still that descended to become part of the mysterious shape-messengers of the human seed, and participated in the subtle process of division, duplication, and fusion from which each of us is born.  Instead, I will tell just one more story, the most secret, and I will tell it with the humility and restraint of him who knows from the start that his theme is desperate, his means feeble, and the trade of clothing facts in words is bound by its very nature to fail.

It is again among us, in a glass of milk.  It is inserted in a very complex, long chain, yet such that almost all of its links are acceptable to the human body.  It is swallowed; and since every living structure harbors a savage distrust toward every contribution of any material of living origin, the chain is meticulously broken apart and the fragments, one by one, are accepted or rejected.  One, the one that concerns us, crosses the intestinal threshold and enters the bloodstream: it migrates, knocks at the door of a nerve cell, enters, and supplants the carbon which was part of it.  This cell belongs to a brain, and it is my brain, the brain of the me who is writing; and the cell in question, and within it the atom in question, is in charge of my writing, in a gigantic minuscule game which nobody has yet described.  It is that which at this instant, issuing out of a labyrinthine tangle of yeses and nos, makes my hand run along a certain path on the paper, mark it with these volutes that are signs: a double snap, up and down, between two levels of energy, guides this hand of mine to impress on the paper this dot, here, this one.

It seems that somewhere along the way I must have said the last time I blogged a photo of our ‘legendary’ creche would in fact BE the last.  But I’ve said so much, what’s one more broken promise.  This decision to showcase it one ‘last’ time has been prompted by a card we got yesterday, which I won’t imagine the friend who sent it will mind me including here.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The creche in question has been ensconced in a makeshift wall niche (formerly a practical electrical service panel cabinet in the front hallway) for a couple of decades.  Seriously.  At this point, we think of it as one of those roadside shrines.  Unfortunately, the thing has become a real Miss Havisham affair, because there is no possibility of maintenance.  Even a tiny gust of breath to dislodge a bit of dust would run the risk of domino-toppling the whole thing.

Click on the picture to enlarge it, and try to spot the handful of figures original to this ‘vintage’ nativity set.  Otherwise, additions are angels (even though one of them is a seemingly winged Wicked Queen from Snow White) to the upper left, underneath Good Witch Glenda.  Figures with arm upraised on the right (please notice the tiny creche next to the singing raisin).  Many of the personalities from Pee Wee’s Playhouse.  Bugs Bunny in Carmen Miranda drag.  A general mother-and-child theme in the foreground.  The Village People standing in for the Three Wisemen.  C3PO obscured by a pillar of the stable.  And one of my favorites, to the far right, a clown with crosses for eyes, who seems to be holding a pair of cocktail shakers.

Stephen made the matchstick backdrop for this tableau when in the beginning it resided impermanently on a credenza in the dining room at Christmastime.  The whole business was far more expansive then, and exponentially more tasteless.

Enjoy, or not, depending on the strictness of your adherence to piety.  One way or the other, sincere best wishes for your Christmas season!

Click to enlarge (it's big)

Click and click again (it gets bigger and bigger) to enlarge

metropolis

We’ve been fans of the design magazine Metropolis for a long time.  If one were to never actually read a word in it, the photographs/ads/layout, even choices like the suppleness and finish of the paper stock, make it a pleasure to leaf through.  Fondle a copy of it at a Barnes & Noble sometime if you don’t believe me.

The new issue arrived in the mailbox the other day, but I hadn’t glanced at the content highlights on the cover until this morning.  What I can tell you is that the articles aren’t routinely about cars, TV sets, and gifts.  On the other hand, I don’t suppose telling you that the last item on the list is more typical will do anything to persuade you to go out and grab a copy.

forgotten

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 22: Prince Harry leaves after a service marking the 75th anniversary of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) across the British Armed Forces at St Paul's Cathedral on October 22, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Pohle - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – OCTOBER 22: Prince Harry leaves after a service marking the 75th anniversary of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) across the British Armed Forces at St Paul’s Cathedral on October 22, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Pohle – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

This afternoon, I might watch the disc I bought last year (still shrink-wrapped) of ‘Scrooge’, the musical version of ‘A Christmas Carol’, which I haven’t seen in very many years.

I first saw ‘Scrooge’ in December of 1970, shortly after it premiered.  Inclined to see the picture anyway, I’d had my curiosity piqued by magazine photos by Marie Cosindas taken on the set of the movie.  She was working exclusively with Polaroid color material at that time, and the period subject matter and the muted palette of the Polaroid film were ‘kismet’.

My lingering affection for this movie has to do with a number of things, including its perfect casting, and sets having a kind of ‘pop-up book’ charm.  Albert Finney in the title role received an Oscar nomination (Alec Guinness gives one of the most peculiar performances ever committed to film as Jacob Marley), but the picture was not well-received and essentially ‘discarded’ after its initial release.

The movie’s legacy is the song ‘Thank You Very Much’, which accompanied a very clever sequence in which Scrooge, on a tour of Christmas-Yet-to-Come, is unaware that he’s being thanked for dying, not for his magnanimousness.

Along the way, Tiny Tim — a role absolutely ripe for cloy — has a solo called ‘The Beautiful Day’.  (Seriously.)  I’ve bathed in the guilty pleasure of this shameless number during each of the half-handful of times I’ve seen ‘Scrooge’.

One of those times, I watched a television broadcast of it with my mother, and caught a glimpse of her during this Tiny Tim performance.  In the modern vernacular, her expression looked slightly tinged with ‘Really?’.  I decided then and there that my embrace of the über-sentimental had gone… über.

Anyway, it’s just me and this big two-hour marzipan today.  Maybe I’ll finally come to my senses, but probably not.  Actually, I hope not.

 

jacob_marley

Interesting reading.

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/09/14/3701084/donald-trump/

The friend who sent us this link says:

“I doubt he can be elected under ordinary circumstances, but should something terribly frightening occur between now and the election …”

Why am I telling you this?

I started blogging in 2009, but recently ditched all the posts before June of this year. I think I'm going to blog until October, a tidy six years, then 'retire'.

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