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Tomorrow I turn seventy-two.

I don’t feel seventy-two and am told I neither look nor act seventy-two.  However, nothing says ‘seventy-two’ like two procedures scheduled for the upcoming two months, cataract surgery and — like the one I had this time last year around my birthday — another cardiac ablation.

My medical tech friend says I should have gotten the extended warranty

Tomorrow is also the second anniversary of Trump occupation of Washington DC.  With something very like complicity on my part, the madness of the past two years has drained the life out of me.  I need some joy.

While I was in the hospital last week, Stephen gave me a new Apple Watch for my upcoming birthday.  I gave him the ‘old’ one I got to monitor my ‘vitals’ after I was in the hospital last year.  That model could read your pulse.  This new model can generate an instant electrocardiogram.

Nothing says ‘seventy-two’ like excitement over an instant EKG

Since deciding that I have not the wherewithal to blend subject matter, here is another unblended post.  This one has a Harper Lee half and a Truman Capote half, the author reunion completely accidental.

For reasons absolutely untraceable, I recalled the scene in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ recently wherein Miss Jean Louise Finch — witnessing poor Walter Cunningham ‘drowning his dinner in syrup’ — says, What in the Sam Hill are you doing?’

How in the Sam Hill did ‘What in the Sam Hill’ become an expression?  Wikipedia explains (click) and, serendipitously, I was introduced to the term ‘minced oath’.  Lightweights like gosh, darn, heck, moving on to ‘F’ and shoot, I had only known them as ‘euphemisms’.

Missing from these examples is ‘Jiminy Cricket’ (click) standing in for ‘Jesus Christ’, or more accurately ‘Jesus Christ’!  (‘F’ frequently interspersed…).

I don’t know about you, but I always find it a little disconcerting when sweet Dorothy Gale (under pressure, yes…) blurts this out in ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

The Truman half:

Last Saturday we attended a party, a large annual ‘Twelfth Night’ celebration hosted by two attorneys in town.  Our invitations to previous iterations had apparently been ‘mislaid’ — a fact that is actually pertinent, rather than petty.  Okay, a little petty…

Post-party, I thought of Truman Capote’s notorious ‘La Côte Basque 1965′, wherein one character asks another how such and such a party went, the reply: ‘Wonderful, assuming you’ve never been to a party before’.  Of another unfortunate character, she snipes, ‘She’ll attend the opening of an envelope!’.

At the party, I chatted with someone who is a fixture at every art opening I’ve ever attended here in town.  Parties?  How would I know [sad face]?  I said I’d just overheard someone say, ‘Most parties, all the same people. Not this one!’

He replied with a kiss (an air kiss, actually…) of ennui: ‘Hmm… no…’

We on the other hand had quite a nice time with old friends with whom we seldom cross paths anymore.  Captions for these (stolen) photos: 1) My beau with the remains of a plate of cheese straws he made  2) Ravaged buffet (cheese straws were coals to Newcastle)  3) Masks requested as a nod to Mardi Gras, I have no idea what we are looking at (mirror?), all I know is, nothing is that funny.

I tried and failed before Christmas to weave a festive narrative with the following elements; you will see the difficulty almost immediately.

1) A week to the day before Christmas, I was a micron away from a trip to the emergency room with food poisoning, apparently from a bowl of pho from a local Vietnamese restaurant.  Clearly delayed revenge for my participation in the U.S. military during the Sixties.

2) Someone backed into our new car in a parking lot causing a couple of thousand (not remotely difficult to do) dollars damage and just left.  Perhaps they didn’t realize they had struck a solid object when their own automobile stopped moving through space.  I don’t want to judge…

3) I was living on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean as part of an Air Force unit eavesdropping on North Africa in 1968, so this year is the fiftieth anniversary of the first time I’d spent a Christmas away from family.  It was a breath of fresh air at age twenty-one.

4) On the Winter Solstice, I wallowed in my annual viewing of ‘Scrooge’, the 1970 musical version of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.  This time I noticed that after the Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge walk away from peeping through the window at Tiny Tim, the ghost says: ’What an unpleasant child!’

In this case, the line was delivered as a sarcasm, but I considered for the first time how someone viewing this movie might simply agree.  I hope someone backs into their car.

Happy New Year to the rest of you!

Photo clickable.

While ordering member tickets to the Yayoi Kusama ‘Infinity Mirrors’ show at the High Museum in Atlanta, mysteriously got preview tickets additionally.  Did not question why, rather, attended the show on November 15th.  Will be returning on December 4th for another look.

Ms Kusama allegedly lives in a mental institution and practices her craft there.  I’m looking into a similar arrangement…  Here is my beau surrounded by tentacles.

Spent Thanksgiving with friends at the home of friend Franklin A.  Next day he took us to a small six acre park, formerly the grounds of a residence in one of the tonier neighborhoods in Atlanta.  The residence — neat and somewhat severe in a good way — remains on the edge of the property, still privately owned, and ‘sometimes occupied’ Franklin says rather enigmatically.

Autumn did finally arrive, BTW.

In actor Lee Marvin’s acceptance speech for the ‘Best Actor’ Oscar for the 1965 comedy ‘Cat Ballou’, he said, ‘Half this award belongs to some horse out in the Valley’, referring to the then iconic shot in the film of he and the horse he’s on — both drunk — leaning against a wall.

‘Film industry’ word at the time, however, was that in reality half the award belonged to the other of his two wildly different back-to-back performances that year, the second one in the movie ‘Ship of Fools’.

‘Ship of Fools’ was a ‘return to form’ for director Stanley Kramer in the sense that he’d previously directed three black and white (for somberness) movies in a row with ‘important’ themes.  The third in that series was ‘Judgement at Nuremberg’, which like ‘Ship of Fools’ employed ‘Grand Hotel’-style casting, a laundry list of stars.

Set aboard a passenger ship in the days before WWII, the whole thing has such a soundstage look that it leads one to imagine its I’m-watching-a-play feel being intentional.  Whatever the case, it is a kind of buffet of discrete scenes, the ones between Simone Signoret and Oskar Werner heartbreaking.

This movie was the final screen appearance of Vivien Leigh, fittingly (I suppose) the forth of her four screen Southern Belles.  She has a couple of scenes with Lee Marvin, one very memorable climactic one involving his being whacked with a shoe.  However, one of her best scenes is with actor Werner Klemperer, who must have been thrilled to have this pairing in his resume.  (see: ‘Hogan’s Heroes’)

In this scene, Klemperer, who plays a ship’s officer, makes a pass at Leigh’s character, she rebuffs him and he proceeds to read her beads — over-the-hill divorcée on a cruise, etc, etc — and she replies, ‘How extraordinary that a person such as yourself would be saying such things to me… [silence…] probably all true…’  Then, after a beat, she valiantly collects herself, smiles triumphantly, flips the boa she’s wearing over her shoulder and says, ‘Well, I believe this evening’s festivities have come to a close!’ and strides away.

If I’ve used that once, I’ve used it a hundred times.  No boa.

Lee Marvin’s half-an-Oscar scene in the movie is opposite actor Michael Dunn.  Both drunk, Marvin’s character is lamenting his faded professional baseball career, pantomiming so concisely missed swings at the ball, he finally collapses with a sort of anguished bleat.  Frightening.

In 1966, enjoying his post-Oscar contract power, on intuition Marvin handed over his script approval, final cut approval, etc, etc to John Boorman, the director of his next movie, the hallucinatory gangster movie Point Blank’.

‘Point Blank’ has a permanent spot in my Top Ten films.  I will not reveal how many times I may have seen it since seeing it the first time on the big screen in 1967.  Premiering the same month as ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, unlike the violence in that film, the violence in ‘Point Blank’ is more ‘balletic’ than ghastly.  I’ve just said that, and I’m sticking to it.

I met John Boorman very briefly at a sneak preview of his movie ‘Excalibur’, and gushed all over the poor man based on my fandom of ‘Point Blank’.

Now, that was ghastly.

At this time last weekend, we were attending a wedding in Oxford, Mississippi.  This was the second time we had ever been to Oxford MS.  The previous time was also to attend a wedding.  No one in either wedding lives in Oxford…

Oxford MS is the home of author William Faulkner.  My first cousin Dr. Edwin Turner Arnold III is a William Faulkner scholar.  Growing up with him, I became aware very late that his name was not actually ‘Chip’.  I myself have never had a nickname, in fact, no one ever even called me ‘Dave’ until I was in the Air Force.

In addition to being a Faulkner scholar, Chip is also a Cormac McCarthy authority, and has written books on a variety of subjects including oddly enough one on film director Robert Aldrich (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) not to be confused with Robert Altman (M.A.S.H., Gosford Park, …5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean…).

During the research for that book, Chip had ongoing telephone contact with actor Lee Marvin, who had starred in Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen.  He once told me that it was a little surreal to answer the telephone and hear, ‘Chip, it’s Lee…’

Back to the wedding, this one was for the daughter of my lifelong friend Susan and her husband Hudson, who was — actually still is — a film producer.  After decades in Los Angeles, they have retired to Hudson’s birthplace, New Albany MS.

Los Angeles, California to New Albany, Mississippi.  The mind reels.

Though the current couple were married in a lovely little chapel in the absolute middle of nowhere near New Albany (is that a redundancy in this case?), the reception was a fairly enormous tented affair in the parents’ backyard.  As the groom is Canadian (the new couple live in Calgary), there were not a small number of Canadian guests.  Also, many from California.  Culture shock.

Now, as to the title of this post.  At last…

The cast of the previous wedding in Oxford MS included the parents of the bride, Broadway production folk (currently ‘The Lifespan of a Fact’ with Daniel Radcliffe).  The groom, the son of another of Stephen’s business partners, had worked for the Ford talent agency in Los Angeles and then in New York where he met his betrothed, who continues in the family business.

The bride’s parents were/are lifelong friends of (late) actor Edward Woodward and his wife (not late) actress Michele Dotrice.  Ms. Dotrice had apparently requested participation in the wedding ceremony in the form of a recitation.

In the middle of the proceedings, with the bride and groom frozen in-place, Ms. Dotrice recited — nay ‘performed’ — Edward Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

[etc.]

Nothing remotely that… mm… ‘remarkable’ occurred during last week’s ceremony.

Today is October 18th.  October 18th.

The high temperature today was 70°F (21°C for all you Celsius eccentrics and contrarians).

The temperature is forecast to drop below 50°F tonight for the first time since the recent equinox.

Yesterday the high was 86°F, with all the previous recent temperatures reaching 90°F and above.

For the last decade or so, we have had fake winters here in Georgia.

Now, fake autumns, or rather, ‘bogus’ ones. I suppose.

We live in an old house, with tall ceilings and drafty rooms.

I should be happy about chilly weather arriving late.

I am not.

One word… actually two: Peggy Lee.  Actually… four words: the Peggy Lee bit.

Without permission from the New Yorker.

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What Most Disqualifies Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court?

By Adam Gopnik October 4, 2018

A book that every young man and woman starting out in life these days ought to have handy is Dariel Fitzkee’s “Magic by Misdirection,” a classic in the magical arts written decades ago by a once famous American performer. It basically tries to lay out all the varieties of misdirection—the ways that you can be asked to pay attention to one thing while the performer is doing another. A staggering catalogue not of gaffes or gimmicks but of behaviors, it’s a study in all the ways of drawing your attention away from this thing I’m doing here to that thing I’m doing there. The repeated moral is that everything I’m doing may be something other than it seems, and it doesn’t matter how brazenly I do it; you’ll still buy it. Intricate to the point of rococo, Fitzkee’s book makes a distinction between, for instance, simulation and dissimulation: “Simulation is a positive act. It shows a false picture. Dissimulation is a negative act. It hides a true picture. One reveals and the other conceals.” A good magician can be simulating with one hand and dissimulating with the other, and you don’t know which is which.

Donald Trump’s genius for misdirection is to pile so many obvious ruses upon so many ham-handed sleights that the easily fooled parts of his audience are impressed by the audacity, while the more sophisticated parts of his audience, on left and right both, become so fatigued by the constant motion that they stop paying sufficient attention to the core point of the deception. One is put in mind of Houdini’s most famous illusion, the “Vanishing Elephant,” in which an elephant was led into a large box that, at least according to legend, was then spun around by a large crew of stagehands. The huge animal “disappeared,” but you could see that it took a crowd to do it. Houdini’s name remains famous, but he was not a great illusionist by illusionists’ standards; the persistence of the elephant was obvious, but if you had bought a ticket you stayed for the next bit. The story shows that, very often, the most brazen kinds of misdirection are the most successful, especially in the hands of a brazen performer.

All of which is to put us in mind of the truth that the Brett Kavanaugh drama—with all the debates over the layout of suburban Maryland houses and the parsing of the repeated use of the letter “F”—is a distraction. Kavanaugh is not unqualified for the Supreme Court just because of something that he may have done when he was seventeen, or because of how he may have lied to the Senate about this or that specificity of his youthful behavior or about how he may have accepted illicitly obtained Democratic e-mails when he worked in the George W. Bush White House, or about his possible involvement in the effort to make torture seem acceptable. (Kavanaugh maintains innocence on all fronts.) He became disqualified for the Supreme Court the moment that he accepted the offer from Donald Trump. At this stage in his Presidency, Trump, already described in reports from his own aides as unfit for the office, implicated by his former lawyer as an unindicted co-conspirator in a felony, and now alleged, according to the Times, to have benefitted from tax schemes that in some instances amounted to “outright fraud”—not to mention being a liar and a con artist—should not be allowed to appoint Justices for lifetime appointments.

Whatever the effect of this truth on vote-counting congressional Realpolitik, it is the moral ground upon which all subsequent argument has to begin. Trump’s purpose in appointing Kavanaugh to the Court was clearly to provide himself with a protective vote for whenever one issue or another arising from his misbehavior makes its way there. Kavanaugh’s convenient late-arriving conviction that Presidents should be protected from investigation—late arriving since he evidently felt very differently when he was pursuing Bill Clinton—is catnip to Trump. And anyone who had illusions about Kavanaugh not being an acolyte of Trumpism should have been disabused by his partisan performance last week, in which he made it quite apparent. That’s the deal. That’s the trick. Everything else is simulation and dissimulation. Everything else is misdirection. However it happened, the elephant is supposed to have vanished. And yet there is still an obvious elephant in the obvious box.

The maddening part of this misdirection is the unwillingness on the part of people who imagine themselves to be full of good will to say who Trump is and what he remains. It has become an element of the orthodoxy of this moment that Trump is not the “cause” of all his catastrophes. Of course, he’s not the cause in some ultimate and singular sense, but Trump is the cause of Trumpism. No, he is not uniquely responsible for the existence of a revanchist core of white men who so fear the assertion of minority power that they will go to almost any lengths, and make any deal with any devil, to prevent it. That core has been a consistent feature of American life since the post-Civil War period. President Ulysses S. Grant basically faced the same two parties: a party that accommodated what is now called identity politics, reaching out to a coalition of people—those African-American, Jewish, Native American, and Irish petitioners whom Grant tried to favor—who thought that the world was getting better and who supported some kind of benevolent government protection, and a party rooted in a base of revanchist whites who believed that the world was getting worse, who wanted to keep other groups from exercising too much political power, and who hated the federal government for helping them.

But Trump is the direct cause of turning this enduring American fact into an active threat to democracy itself. There is no thread of double-sidedness to this process. Barack Obama may have had many faults, from his timidity on Syria to his timidity in pursuing the Russia investigation, but no sane person can accuse him of having been an immoderate or a non-conciliatory voice for his base. Indeed, his mistake was to vastly overestimate the reservoir of conciliation on the other side. That’s why he tried to appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court—a judge who had been cited by Republicans as an acceptable candidate—in the innocent belief that they actually meant it. Two-sidedness is, in itself, a classic piece of misdirection, designed to draw your attention as much to the hand that isn’t doing anything as to the hand that is. Trump’s assault on the premises of democracy is not only unique in modern American history but unique in the annals of modern liberal democracy. No duly elected leader of any mature democratic state has gone on repeated public rants against his enemies, fed cries of “lock her up” directed at a political opponent, or routinely threatened and abused a free press. No such democratically elected leader has openly sneered at women. George H. W. Bush was doubtless angered by Anita Hill’s testimony, but he would no more have come to a rally of his followers and slandered her name and libelled her testimony than he would have mocked a journalist for his disabilities. He had some saving sense of the Washingtonian residue in the American Presidency.

This is Trump, and Trump alone, degrading American politics, and we should not get lost in side debates and sideshows. Some may be wringing their hands about the unending and presumably two-sided intolerance of red for blue and blue for red. But there is no figure in the Democratic Party who in any respect shares Trump’s rhetoric or mirrors Trump’s threats or repeats Trump’s hatreds. Such figures exist only on the fringes of the left, whereas Trumpism has now become the central and defining faith of the Republican Party.

The issues that Kavanaugh’s past behavior raises are crucial ones, and there is time and the need for a deep dive into the persistence of sexual assault and the necessity of hearing out victims and recognizing pathological cultural patterns. But do not let the simulations and dissimulations distract you. Kavanaugh is an instrument of Trumpism, an insurance policy that the con man is writing for himself. The rest is misdirection.

This is my father’s mother’s mother’s father — which makes him my great-great grandfather — John Weiry Rudisill, in his Confederate States of America uniform, and his ‘fearsome’ beard, which apparently he sported until his death April 24, 1885.  Rudisill is an Americanization of the Swiss German Rüdisühli or Rüedisüli.

Once in my own lifetime I hosted a beard just this impressive in its own right.  One day, however, something told me its time had come and I marched to the mirror with a pair of scissors and it was gone.  I was surprised at how easy it was to part with.  Today I know that I am far too neurotic for a beard.

Looking at the photo of John Rudisill, Stephen says I have the same cruel eyes.  Another picture from my ‘Media’ trove puts the lie to that.

Cruel eyes!  What a lot of nonsense…

Why am I telling you this?

I started blogging in 2009, but in October 2016, I ditched the previous posts in a fit of cyber housecleaning. Some of it was really nice writing, but alas, as my old friend Susan once said: ‘Compulsion is a cruel master’.

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