Monday, August 20, 2018

"The Factoid Fallacy"

You know… 

You do something – you think it’s good.

You don’t?

Well do something and think it’s good.  Not because I’m saying it’s good.  I have been consistently rewarded for doing that thing, meaning  “outside people" are saying it’s good, hence, the reward. 

If no one else said it was good, I probably wouldn’t think it was good.  Okay, I might think it was good anyway.  But I don’t have to, because they do.  

“Outside people” are telling me it’s good.

Have I sufficiently nailed that concept to the ground?

“Yes, thank you.”

Well, in case I haven’t…

Recent Example of What I’m Talking About (which, before mentioning the example, is this):

I have a natural gift for the retention of random, semi-relevant factoids, an ability perhaps not “up there” with being able to balance a nickel on my nose, but arguably on a par with people are able to spell and pronounce words backwards.  

I can remember things others totally forget.

Such as…

Biographical Tidbits. Like that my childhood friend Arny’s mother used to call hotdogs “ha’digs.”  (I re-met Arny at our recent Elementary Hebrew Day School reunion.  Arny, who had totally forgotten that maternal peculiarity, seemed genuinely impressed that I hadn’t.  Sixty years later, I recalled “ha’digs.”) 

Fragments of History: In a “Grade Ten” history class I attended at Bathurst Heights Collegiate and Vocational School, our teacher Mr. Coulthard told us that when Holland’s William of Orange was recruited to be King of England, he self-definingly proclaimed,  

“I don’t like bainting and I don’t like boetry.”

remember that about William of Orange.  And nothing else.  How many, I wonder, remember our “Grade Ten” history teacher was Mr. Coulthard?

Geography:  I know three things about Australia, two of them provided by travel writer Bill Bryson.  1)  Australia has more different species of snakes than any other country.  2)  Australia includes the geographical terrain – the Outback – where you are most likely than anywhere to end up drinking your own urine.  And 3)  I have no idea where this came from, but in Australia, the toilet water swirls in the opposite direction – hold on, I’ll check mine……………….. okay, theirs swirls counter-clockwise.

Wait!  I know a fourthone.  In Sydney, they pronounce “razor blades”, “rise-up-blides.”

This, by my reckoning, makes me a “near-genius” about Australia.  Though, in reality, it is only four things.  (And not even the most important ones.  Perhaps.)  Still, in my time, it may surprise you to hear, I have surfed the waves of popular acceptance knowing just one.

Recent Example from My Oxford Experience:

During my first lunch in “The Great Hall”, I find myself seated at one of the provided long tables opposite two women – guesstimatedly in their early thirties – of Chinese extraction but currently living in Australia, Crystal and Fan.  

We are chattering away – no, Iam chattering away, because I am excited to be lunching in “The Great Hall” – and I learn, among other fragments of personal history, that the two had originally met on-line.  (The bulk of the rest of the conversation was all me.)

Anyway, numerous days later, my cell phone suddenly breaks.  The screen went all milky and I was unable to call out.  That evening at dinner, I happen once again to be seated opposite Crystal and Fan, my defective smartphone in hand – or at least availably “in pocket” – and, solely because these women are, by several decades, youngerthan everyone else in attendance, and therefore presumably tech-savvier, I impulsively hand them my cell phone, saying,

“Can you fix this?”

And, miraculously – at least to me – Fan does!

For which my ecstatic response is an effusive “Thank you!” and a subsequent, heartfelt kiss on the hand, Crystal quickly, clarifyingly explaining, “She fixed his phone!”  (I just threw that in because gestures of gallantry are rare as hen’s teeth in this venue.)

As the dinner ensues, when somebody asks the young Australian companions how they know each other, I reflexively hear myself say,

“They met on-line.”

To which Crystal explosively responds,

“You remembered!

All excited, you know? Like she had lost some cherished possession and I had miraculously retrieved it.  

It’s what I do.  

I remember one thing. 

I know it’s not much, but people appear sincerely grateful when other people just listen.  

Then retain.

Then randomly regurgitate.

It’s okay – or at least harmless – having a minor gift people seem to appreciate.  The problem arrives when you know one thing about important stuff and you think you’re an expert..

Which happens more often than one is eager to admit.

Another lesson in humility, of which I am certain, 

“More To Come…”

Friday, August 17, 2018

"Atomic Comedy"

I’d love to show you the video, but I can’t find it.  How’s that for a ray of encouraging sunshine?

There are certain approaches to comedy that, more than others, tickle my particular funny-bone. One, is impeccably executed physical comedy.  (See: A Buster Keaton short, where, stationed at third base when has never seen baseball before, Keaton sensibly dives away each time the ball whistles in his direction.)  (That is not the video I can’t find.  But I’d be unlikely to find that one either.)

The second form of comedy that inevitably gets to me is a style of comedy connected to music.  (See:  Leslie Nielson, playing an umpire desperately faking the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner” in one of the Naked Gun movies.)

The third type of comedy I enjoy is what I called in the title “Atomic Comedy.”

I was reminded of this delicious genre of comedy in the context of Friends, which I was talking about yesterday but cannot currently recall why.  (“Does it matter?”  “No.” “Then keep going.”)

Unplanned digression…

This should probably be twoposts but I shall combine them into one. No.  I’ll keep them two posts.  Although the second one may not merit a full blog post.   Or even the first one, for that matter.  Yes it does.  At least I’ll give it a try.  And deepest apologies for exposing my chronic uncertainty in public.

Okay, where was I?  Oh yeah.

If you notice – maybe less so today, but certainly in myday – sitcoms almost always included a character one can gratefully describe as “The Comedy Writer’s Best Friend”, being an easy character to write because there are totally unguarded boundaries as to what it is acceptable for them to say. 

Such characters can, in fact and practice, proclaim virtually anything.  And it does not necessarily have to make sense.  (Which is precisely what makes them funny.)
(And why they were created in the first place.)

Consider “The Innocent.”  (“Georgette”, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.) Or the congenitally “ditzy” character.  (The patented Gracie Allen.)  Remember the drug-ravaged “Reverend Jim” on Taxi? (“Whaaaat… do-o-o-o-oes… a-a-a-a…ye-e-e-e-llow… li-i-i-i-i-ght… meeeean?”)  

Then there are the characters naturally authorized to speak freely (“Mork from Ork”, a confused visitor from another planet), or any character over eighty (“Sophia” in Golden Girls, “Mother Dexter”, a character I created on Phyllis) backed by the justifying “I’m old, and I don’t give a crap!”

(By the way, that was the second post idea I was going to write, which is now gone, as I have little else to say about it.  Oh well, I guess there was just one.) 

The character on Friendsfilling this identifiable category – along with “Joey”; the show actually had two of them – was “Phoebe”, a “ditzy”, New Age-y, child-woman, cleared to blurt whatever arose in her unfiltered, free-associating mind.

Oneelement bubbling out produced “Atomic Comedy.” 

What is “Atomic Comedy”? I’m not sure; I just made it up. But this example – the one I can’t find – involves a dazzling moment when the character – a step or twenty behind the curve – suddenly realizes something everyone else already knows and takes comfortably for granted.

Why is that funny?

Because the “startling revelation” materializes before our eyes, an unusual occurrence on television (with the notable exception of “Lucy.”)  Jokes are generally carefully crafted.  You laugh at the cleverness, but their deliberate premeditation deprives them of the incendiary explosion of“Now!” 

The example from Friends…

Phoebe and the “Boyfriend of the Episode” are standing outside the coffee shop, locked in serious conversation.  Suddenly, she catches sight of the coffee shop’s name, prominently painted on the window.

Remember, this is, like, “Season Eight”, or something.  The emporium’s punning “joke name” has long ago been assimilated and laughed at. It’s called “Central Perk”, a play-on-words on New York’s Central Park.  Not a huge laugh, perhaps, but it’s okay.

In this, literally, illuminating moment – considerably “after the fact” – the light finally goes on in Phoebe’s uniquely oriented head, and she casually responds,

“Oh, now I get it.”

And, as she comes to that belated realization, the audience watches it happen!

And, myhead at least, went shatteringly “Ka-boom!

“Atomic Comedy.”

I checked Lisa (“Phoebe”) Kudrow’s background and my suspicions were confirmed.  She began her career at The Groundlings, an L.A. improv comedy school that supplied talent to numerous sitcoms and variety shows.  (And, I believe, still does.)  In my view, that sublime sequence could not have been executed as truthfully by a regular actor.  Improv actors are skillfully tutored to do “Now!”  

(Although the line itself was certainly scripted – actors do not create their own material; if they did, I’d have gone home a lot earlier – the scene-ending “capper” may well have been suggested by the actor.  Exiting into the coffee shop, Phoebe, catching sight of its painted moniker, reacts again to its humorous intent.  

(Again, to me, better than a joke.)

It is rare when such blissful sequences occur.  Even Saturday Night Live reads for cue cards.  But that was a special one.  And, like an avid ornithologist sighting an exotic bird species,

I thought I would draw it to your attention. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"Too Real?"

Recently watching The Westerns Channel brought back a certain episode of Gunsmoke.  (For those of you charting “Blog Post Origins.”  Everyone needs a hobby.)

Gunsmoke ran on network TV for 20 years.  But they never produced another episode like this one.

An old friend of Marshal Matt Dillon’s visiting Dodge City comes to the aid of his compadre when the beleaguered lawman is in a tight scrape, facing a gang of gun-wielding Yahoos. (Because they shout “Yahoo!” when they dangerously fire off their weapons.)  (Perhaps.)

After Dillon dispatches the rowdy ringleader, ostensibly quelling the threatening “Hoorah-ing” (because they unruly revelers shout “Hoorah!’” during the commotion…. perhaps), his pal belatedly runs in to help.  Blinded by the harsh glare of the kerosene lamps leaving him unable to distinguish friend from foe, Dillon tragically shoots and kills his approaching compadre.

Now here’s the thing.

A real-life counterpart to this lamentable homicide actually occurred, involving the legendary “Wild Bill” Hickok, while marshaling in Kansas.  Gunsmoke apparently appropriated that unfortunate happenstance, and they developed it into an episode.

And you know what?

It just didn’t feel right.

Meaning, it felt different from all the rest of the Gunsmoke episodes, in its harrowing harshness and in its divergence from Matt Dillon’s habitual behavior.  In hundreds of episodes, Dillon never did anything wrong ever.  And yet there he was, dispatching a longtime compadre to “Boot Hill.”  

Leading to the conclusion:

In the planetary context of a television series – defined in this instance as an individualized “Real For Us” – a proposed story idea can actually be too real.  

Rather than grounding the credibility of the series, the episode stands out instead as a jarring anomaly.

Bringing to mind a similar misstep on Friends.

I regularly watched Friends because, for me, it was reliably funny. (Until the show went full “Soap Opera” in its terminal season.)  

Random examples…

On a recent rerun I watched, Chandler fondles one of those miniature liquor bottles provided on airplanes, explaining,

“Sometimes I hold stuff like this and pretend I’m a giant.”

In another memorable interlude, a character excitedly says,

“Guys!  Guess what, guess what, guess what, guess what!”

To which Chandler snappily replies,

“Um, okay.  The fifth dentist caved and now they’re all recommending Trident?”

I guess Chandler was my favorite character.

Anyway, once they attempted an episode based on the portrayed financial circumstances of the characters.

With a deliberate emphasis on “once.”

Someone on the Friendswriting staff seems to have noticed that three of the “Friends” made reasonable livings, whereas the other three were considerably poorer.  This led to the idea of doing a story about how the disparity in their personal incomes threatens to tear the sextumvirate’s relationship asunder.

Same problem as Matt Dillon massacring his longtime compadre.

The situation was real. But it was “tooreal” for that particular series.  (And had never been spoken about before.)

Pondering those strategic “boo-boos”, it occurs to me that I may have championed both of those ideas.  

Being the passionate “Truth Teller” that I am.

Comparative example…

Writing on the seventh and final season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I detected a down-turning – thought – trivialization in the storylines, where entire episodes now being devoted to yawning mundanities such as, 

“Mary Breaks a Nail.”

Or the like.

Distressed by the show’s narrative descent into “Who cares?” – andbeing a subliminal rebel – I come into a meeting and pitch a “heart attack” story.

“Let’s really hurt someone,” I recall myself saying.  (Meaning, “Let’s make ‘real’ legitimately and meaningfullyreal.)

With the larder of viable story ideas dwindling perilously towards “Empty”, they decide to give my suggestion a shot.  From that depleted circumstance arose an episode entitled, “Ted’s Change of Heart.”

Written by Earl Pomerantz.

The script won the (prestigious) “Humanitas Prize” and was subsequently nominated for an Emmy.  (Beaten out by the Mary finale.  Am I still bitter after 41 years?  How petty would that be? And yet…)

Anyway, when we assembled to watch its scheduled broadcast during an annual Mary Tyler Moore Company weekend excursion, following the final “Fade Out”,  Mary was heard to opine about the episode she had just witnessed,

“Strange show.” 

Ouch.

And also literally correct.

It was indeed like nothing they had ever done before.  

Confirming – for the third time in a single blog post – the immortal pronouncement in The Three Amigos concerning the inevitable consequence of stylistic transgression:

“We strayed from the formula, and we paid the price.”

But you know what?

I really liked that “heart attack” story.

So “So there.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

"Defending The Magic"

I should have known better.

Me, of all people.

But I didn’t.

Here’s the story.

We’re in our apartment in London.  Rachel’s boys, Milo (6) and Jack (4), visiting from their family’s apartment, burst into the living room where I am reading, and Milo says,

“Pappy” – they call me Pappy – “Something’s happening in the bedroom!”

I get up from the couch, following obediently into the bedroom, where a pointing Milo excitedly says,

“Look, Pappy!  The curtains are dancing!

Sure enough, I look at the bedroom curtains, which, it seems, are spontaneously undulating.

Then I realize why.

The bedroom floor fan – our apartment has no air conditioning – is turned on, its proximate breeze causing the nearby curtains to “dance.”  

Without thinking, I explain the cause of this curious behavior.

“The fan is blowing the curtains.”

And I immediately feel terrible about what I’d done.

The explanation was accurate, but the conversation was ended, seemingly with a thud.  Because alsoended was the joyful excitement of their “amazing discovery.”

No more “dancing curtains.” “Wisdom” had vaporized the “inexplicable mystery.”

I should really have known better.

I love magic.  Not just the “professional” kind, which I also love, with its sleight-of-hand card tricks, coins extracted from startled ears. 

What mean is the miraculous magic of everyday life, “magic” generically defined as, “This just happened, and I have no idea why.”

You may – if you agree – have personal examples of your own.  For me, I am talking about this:

Writing is magic.  

Every weekday, blog posts take clarifying shape before my astonished eyes, like ships in a gradually lightening fog. First, you are unable to determine its contours.  Then – I say, “magically” – there it is.

A post idea comes to me. (Not “I went to Oxford and I wrote about it”, but the contrasting majority of others.)

I do not know what delivered that idea to my consciousness.

I feel an urgency – as with this post – to write about it.

That perceived urgency feels externally induced.

The selection of words – the ones I use, and I ones I leave out – come spontaneously to me, the better examples of humor are unforced, and most amazingly, the post’s structural arrangement materializes virtually entirely on its own.

Yes, there is technique and writerly experience involved.  But the “Final Product”?  

I watch it successfully come together.  

Serving as “interested spectator.”  And grateful stenographer.

I feel genuinely amazed by the process, saying, frequently out loud when I’m finished,

“How exactly did that happen?”

Magic.

And there’s me, channeling magic on a week-daily basis, robbing children of their magical interpretation.  Growing them up, faster than necessary.  Child-like amazement, vanquished by “Adult Understanding.”

“The curtains aren’t dancing.  It’s just the breeze, blowing from the fan.”

P.U. on me.

But lesson, dutifully assimilated.  

It will not happen again.

At the Jewish camp I attended we did a show – in which I prominently participated – whose thematic message concerned the increasing disappearance of Yiddish, a European patios – the people’s “Language of Choice” over liturgical Hebrew – falling into the Diasporal disuse.

The show’s beseeching point was the finale’s plaintively sung,

“Use a Yiddish word
Use a Yiddish word
Please use a Yiddish word.”

Ipso and facto,

“Burgeoning Wisdom” drives day-to-day magic to the edge of extinction.

I say that’s a shame.

And that there is definitely room for both.

Science and technology are great.

But the magic around us – if we continue to see it – is wonder-ful.

Rewrite of the Bungled Experience:

“Look Pappy!  The curtains are dancing!”

“Oh, Milo!  They are!

(An ending I like.  And I have no idea where it came from.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"The Annoying Mirror Effect"

Another opaque post title, which, if I attempt to “Search” for it later I will be unable to identify.  

"Doctor, why do I keep doing that?"

As it turns out, our tickets for Alan Bennett’s play Allelujah! were for the final preview before the official opening, which was good because we would see the play free from any preconceptions about the production offered by professional reviewers.  Although we already like Alan Bennett, so that was one preconception right there, though it was a preconception of our own, which is better than the preconceptions of strangers we have never met and have no idea if our prejudices align.

What a long sentence. And yet, an interesting one.  Why “interesting”?   According to my preconceived idea of what’s interesting? Because it tells you all you need to know about my perspective concerning the professional reviewing of creative undertakings.

Saving a refreshing “wrinkle” for later.

Ooh, the suspense of it all!

Anyway, here’s what I have come to believe.  No.  I have pretty much always believed this.  I just thought “come to believe” seemed more thoughtfully ruminative.  (And then my congenital “honesty” kicked in and I had to embarrassingly come clean.)

One paragraph about me.  Which for this venue is miniscule.

I created half-hour comedy series for television.  And here’s what I noticed.  No show I ever created got either unilaterally positive or unilaterally negative reviews.  And wait, there’s more.  The positive reviews were invariably not positive for the same reason.  Nor “Ditto”, the negative reviews.  Critics had different reasons for liking them, and for, inexplicably to me, not liking them.  And yet, they all experienced the same show.  I know critical reactions are not – and cannot be – uniformly objective.  But one show!  And the reactions were all over the map!

Personal Observation

Critics do not review the artistic undertaking they are evaluating.  Critics essentially review themselves.  Through the convenient medium of the artistic undertaking they are currently critiquing.

Hence,

The unavoidable, annoying “Mirror Effect.”

“Unavoidable” because the filtering “You” evaluating the enterprise is you.  And the filtering “Them”, meaning the other reviewers evaluating the enterprise are them. Hence the maddening inconsistency in their reactions.  

Challenging Hypothesis Open To Dispute:

It’s not the “reviewed.”  It’s the reviewer.

Annoying consequence?

Instead of an artistic critical reaction, you get camouflaged information about the critics. Each of them differently programmed, and variously prejudiced.

Case In Point?

Allelujah!

Pay heed to two esteemed theatre reviewers from reputable London newspapers:

Michael Billington – The Guardian

Allelujah! –Critical Rating (according to Billington): “Four Stars”

Excerpted Quote: “… a smart, funny, subversively political play…”

Now…

Dominic Maxwell – The (London) Times

Allelujah! – Critical Rating (according to Maxwell): “Two Stars.”

Excerpted Quote“… a show that dawdles, then jabs you in the stomach with a point it wants to make.”

Offering the practical conundrum:

“Should we go?”

“Well it says, ‘Four Stars.’”

“But this one says, ‘Two Stars.’”

“And they witnessed the same play?  How very curious.”

“And also unhelpful.”

Additional Comment(for extra credit.)

From “Two Star” Dominic Maxwell’s review:

“… I’d rather Allelujah spent more time putting flesh on the bones of its pivotal characters.”

Note To Mr. “I’d rather…” Dominic Maxwell:

It’s not your play.

Do I know why one critic said “Two Stars” and another critic said “Four”?  No.  But that’s a major disparity.  And I’m betting it wasn’t the play.

Preliminary Conclusion:

Objective reviewing is off the menu.

But... the refreshing “wrinkle” previously alluded to…

From a recent example:

While reviewing AMC’s premiering ‘Lodge 49’, wonderful L.A. TimesTV critic Robert Lloyd reveals in his very first sentence, 

“If I wind up sounding a little daffy on the subject of ‘Lodge 49’… it is in part that it feels like a gift, tailor made to my sensibilities.”

Why “wonderful” L.A. TimesTV critic?

Because he agrees with me that critical objectivity is impossible.  

And he is willing to say so out loud.

(Additional Comment After I Am Essentially Finished:  Why is the issue of critical reliability important?  Because the artist deserves an honest review of their work, not of the critic’s emotional tendencies.  And the reader expects a truthful report on the artist’s intentions, not the critic’s personal prejudices.)  (I had to throw that in, in case you thought I was cultivating the obvious.)  (Though I may, sadly, be doing so anyway.)  (In truth, it is all a matter of degree.) (But you could say that about anything.) (And then, what the heck would I write about?)

Monday, August 13, 2018

"Because I Can't Quite Let Go..."

During an open afternoon while attending “The Oxford Experience”, I signed up for a tour for “The English Civil War.”  The involved history was fascinating.  Though our assigned tour guide was less than a “natural” at communicating it. Disappointed by her perfunctory performance, when we were done, I, of course, tipped her substantially more than I had originally intended to,  the prepared two pounds suddenly ballooning to five.

Why tip a person more for a substandard presentation?  Because her desperate delivery suggested she was secretly aware she was “bombing” and I felt uncomfortable confirming that (accurate) belief.  

So I rewarded her handsomely for doing a “so-so” job, hoping she would fail interpret my dishonest generosity.  Though her guarded “Thank you” said,

“Five pounds!  I get it.  He thought I was terrible!

Oh well.  You can do only so much to spare somebody’s feelings.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
I found valuable “Learning Moments” in my tutor Jim’s most trivial pronouncements.  

He was talking about… I forget what he was talking about… arriving at the philosophical judgment, “Life is not fair.”  Some disgruntled socialist probably said it though I am uncertain which one.  

Upon hearing this, I reflexively mentioned that even President Kennedy asserted “Life is not fair”, adding gratuitously, 

“And he had Marilyn Monroe and millions of dollars.”

To which my tutor Jim immediately replied,

“There was the back pain, I suppose.”

The joy of my “Oxford Experience” in a nutshell.  In issue after issue, there were holes in in my cherished pronouncements I had neglected to fully explore.  That time, the reminder was presented as a joke. Meaning, it more memorably sank in.

“Knee-Jerk Reactions ‘RI.”

Something to ponder when I got home.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
I think of Oxonians– students attending Oxford, like me – from earlier centuries, such as satirist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) and economist Adam Smith (1723-1790) walking the same halls and quadrangles and I did. And even thengoing,

“This place is old!

Imagine discovering a scribbled memo in my dorm room, reading,

Note To Myself: ‘Combined solution for Ireland’s population and famine problem:  ‘Eat the babies.’  ‘Too much’? I don’t think so.”  

What, I wondered, would that fetch on Antiques Roadshow?  A pretty penny, I would imagine. 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Heading from “The Great Hall” back to my dorm room during my first day, I came to an official painted sign reading: “Private”, so I went the other way and immediately got lost.  It turned out that, for that week at least, the direction that said “Private” meant “Private” for me.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This one’s about competence.  You can skip over it if you wish.  I’d just like it immortalized on “The Cloud.”

I am riding the Underground south on the Northern Line from Hampstead, headed back to our apartment, near St. Paul’s “Tube” station, when I look out the window at the arriving station whose posted identifying sign reads, 

“Angel.”

Which instantly tells me one thing:

I am traveling on the wrong subway.

Galvanized by this sudden awareness, I quickly exit the train, find the platform going in the… well, the platform doesn’t go anywhere.  But the subway pulling into it does.  I board the incoming train and head in the direction I had previously come from, retracing two stops.  I get off at Euston Station, and, choosing from eight available platforms, put myself – literally – back on track.  No confusion.  No muss.  And no fuss.

Lesson learned:  

Navigating the London Underground?

I still got it.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Three anecdotes, filed under, “The English Are Different”:

When their country’s team got knocked out during the semi-finals in soccer’s international World Cupafter advancing further than anyone expected them to, an English newspaper headline proudly proclaimed:

“Glory – Yes.  Immortality – Denied.”

From an American standpoint it felt like the England lost because they’d unconsciously settled for “Glory.”
---------------------------------------------------
Lunching at a pub, my original selection from the posted menu is the “Chicken, leek and brie pie.” Told they were sold out of it, I instead order my second choice,  “Steak, ale and mushroom pie.”  

“That’s our most popular item,” I am informed.

Making me immediately think, “Then why is the other one sold out?”

I don’t know, are the English naturally more gullible?
----------------------------------------------------
They drive on the left. Turning on the overhead lights, their light switch flicks down.  Their First Floor is our Second Floor. The positioning of their sink’s “Hot” and “Cold” faucets, at least in our apartment, are the opposite to ours.  Making me think,

Who exactly is being “difficult”, them or us?

I guess that’s why we travel.  

If it was all the same, we could happily stay home. 

As many understandably do.

On their original visit, they probably turned on what they thoughtwas the “Cold” faucet, got horribly scalded, and they never came back.

(Or looked the wrong way crossing the street and couldn’t.)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Okay, the trip’s out of my system.  I can now comfortably move on.

Though be prepared for the occasional relapse.

Possibly soon as tomorrow.

I loved that trip!

This is my class.  (Tutor Jim is three down to my right.)  That adjacent door is supposed to be the door that inspired "Alice In Wonderland."  But when someone else told me that story, they were equally sure it was a different door.  But it's definitely one of those doors.




Friday, August 10, 2018

"Extra! Extra!"

Regular readers are aware of the enjoyment I experience, studying newspapers from other places. Whether it’s London or Michiana – possibly the first pairing of those locales in the same sentence ever – articles from elsewhere, to myeye, seem to be more varied and interesting than the ones regularly found in the L.A. Times, which are mostly the president‘s nuts and the Dodgers are losing.

Cases in point:

Our recent trip to England coincided with the annual Wimbledon tennis tournament.  Being, I guess, tired of boring coverage about winning and losing, a probing London reporter unearthed this tidbit:

Headline:  (Which pretty much lets the cat out of the bag)

“Rufus the hawk working overtime to outsmart Wimbledon’s pigeons”

“Stop the Presses!”

Apparently, for the past decade, or so, Wimbledon has employed a scavenging “bird-of-prey”, an itinerant hawk-for-hire – “Have Claws, Will Travel” – brought in to frighten the pigeons away from “Centre Court.”  Because you do not, of course, want,

“Serena looks up to deliver an “overhead slam” and… Oh, dear!  Some pigeon poop plopped into her eye!”

Apparently, Rufus makes sure that does not happen.

Unfortunately for this valuable enterprise, the ongoing construction of a retractable roof over what they call Court 1, “has given the pigeons a new range of hiding spots to roost and lay eggs”, making Rufus’s job considerably more difficult.

Explained professional hawk handler Imogen Davis, 

“… it does mean more work indeed… it’s practically doubled the work.”

There was no mention of a boost in compensation, but “fair play” demands that be the case.

Extra carrion in Rufus’s pay packet, perhaps?
---------------------------------------------------------------------
And then there was this.  (Not in some “tabloid” but in the generally respected London Times):

Headline: (again, of the “beans spilling” variety) 

“Scientists find way to make paralysed mice walk again”

A godsend for disabled mice everywhere, though the news is less hopeful
for makers of tiny wheelchairs and matchstick crutches.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Finally, speaking of the president, who visited England on his way to stink up the NATO conference, unquestionably my favorite story of all.

A subversively subtle response to the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, whom on a technicality privately characterized as “We hate the guy!” no member of the royal family was willing to meet with. Other than the Queen, who had to. 

Here’s what she did.  God bless her.  Age 91.

Quoting the article in its entirety because it’s worth it:

“For years we have believed the Queen to be politically neutral, figurehead who suppresses her views underneath the weight of the crown. However, this week we have learned that she does express her opinions through the medium of accessories.

“On Tuesday a royal jewellery blog – who knew there was such a thing? – observed and decoded the brooches worn by Her Majesty during Donald Trump’s recent visit to the U.K.  These included the “Canadian snowflake brooch” – “snowflake” being a derogatory term used by the far right for liberals who protest about things such as putting children in cages – and a brooch” – Get this!– “given to the Queen by Barack and Michelle Obama, Trump’s sworn enemies, on their recent visit.

“Unless she’s been wearing a hat made of tiny orange hands that spell out “F*** YOU”, she could not have made her apparent distaste for Trump any clearer.  So, total shade thrown, without a word.  The Queen’s the Queen for a reason.”

Protocol requires me to leave Her Majesty the last word.

But, is that girl cool, or what!