Monday, January 30, 2017

Chekhov, Tony Bennett and Lenny Bruce

In the past week, Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" noted the birthday of Anton Chekhov, born January 29, 1860, in Ukraine. And two days after his birthday, in 1901, his "Three Sisters" was given its first performance, at the Moscow Art Theatre, directed by Konstantin Stanislavsky, with Chekhov's wife, Olga Knipper, as Masha.

This brought to mind the fine West Coast Actors productions of "Three Sisters," "The Seagull" and "The Cherry Orchard," directed by Robert Graham and staged at Vancouver East Cultural Centre, with what may have been the most accomplished repertory group ever assembled in Vancouver.

And then, in a fascinating collection titled "Lists of Note," we found Chekhov's list of qualities of civilized persons. One is "If they have talent, they respect it."

Which immediately reminded us of something that Tony Bennett said "changed my life." Jack Rollins, Woody Allen's longtime manager, said of Lenny Bruce, "He sinned against his talent."

Respect for talent. Guarding the gift.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Not for Sensitive Ears

Overheard in a coffee bar, two days into the Trump presidency: "Please--don't use the T word."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Remember Coach Lombardi

The scoreboard would tell you the Green Bay Packers lost on Sunday, but the team's longtime and legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, would never admit the Packers had lost. He would say, "We just ran out of time."

Know how he felt.

--Slap Maxwell.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Turning to other news...

Be comforted. There is more in life than US politics. There are the NFL playoffs!

Packers vs. Falcons, Steelers vs, Patriots. Love 'em all!

--Slap Maxwell.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Inauguration Consternation

As the inauguration of the forty-fifth President of the United States draws near, whether to the satiric faux swing of Freddy "Schnicklefritz" Fisher or the doom and gloom tread of Chopin's Funeral March, some quotations come to mind.

The first is from Moliere: "All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing." We will watch nervously to see how President Trump performs at the Inaugural Gala Ball.

The other memorable lines come from a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore. "Inaugural addresses," she wrote, "can be lousy in a whole new idiom." Lincoln's, of course, was the notable exception, and Ms. Lepore also noted worthy addresses by Garfield, the two Roosevelts, Kennedy, and--for brevity, 176 words at his second inauguration--Washington. But then she came to R. Milhous Nixon, who said, "The American dream does not come to those who fall asleep."

And the final words, from H.L. Mencken, commenting on Warren Harding's inaugural address: "It is so bad a sort of grandeur creeps in."

What may we expect Friday, January 20? Perhaps the inaugural tweet.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Department of Obscure Words

There was once a radio program called "What Is the Word?" Its host was a crotchety lawyer with a Scots brogue as thick as orange marmalade; it was wonderful to hear the three-syllable burr he could get out of the "R" in "Word." This host would read a definition, and then challenge the panelists to come up with the word so defined. It was something like a crossword puzzle on radio.

We were reminded of this when a colleague passed on two words introduced by Michael Enright on CBC's "Sunday Edition." The first: "kaskistocracy," meaning "government run by the worst, least qualified or most unscrupulous citizens."

The second--which sounds Shakespearean: "cockalorum"--"a boastful, self-important little man."

Of course, neither of these words has any relevance today.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trump vs. Gravity

Devoted followers of this page may have noted an absence of posts over the past ten days. This was necessitated by repairs required for the mental processes of the proprietor. But now, following the latest astonishment from the Trump mob, we have been spurred into action.

Trump had declared earlier that he was going to "change the way government is done." This reminded us of Big Julie in "Guys and Dolls," who played with dice that had the dots removed. "I remember where they were," he said.

There is something of this in Trump, who will say and do outrageous things, and then despite film evidence, will deny having done so. "It wasn't me. Maybe Alec Baldwin." And there is a troop of people in his entourage ready to support him, thinking, "This is the best gig I've ever had."

Okay, the latest: Trump has announced he is appointing Robert Kennedy, Jr. to lead a committee investigating the safety of vaccines. Both he and Kennedy are skeptical of their value. Bugs everywhere are celebrating.

What next? Well, we may expect Trump to appoint someone to investigate Newton's theory of gravity. "It's only a theory, right?"

And then he'll take on Einstein's theory of relativity. "E=mc2"--what's that mean? Einstein--a very overrated scientist."

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Wisdom of Wass

"Thoughts while recovering from a hangover: It's better to have a few mornings after than never to have a night before." -- Jack Wasserman.