Friday, August 08, 2014

Have You Joined 


Time to Load Up Those Kindles!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Nixon Resigns

I don’t know why I’m always surprised when told that a certain amount of time has passed. After all, this is what time does. It passes. And yet when I heard that it has been forty years since the resignation of Richard Nixon I was again astonished.

It was the summer between my junior and senior years of college, and I was working as a busboy in Lake Placid, New York. It would prove to be an event-filled summer, four of which will always come to mind. One of the events, the death of Mama Cass Elliot, was sad. Two others—an arrest and the acquisition of a certain type of body lice--would involve me personally, and so be even sadder. The fourth event would prove to be the most historic, and that was the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

We, the younger generation, all despised Nixon, or at least we were supposed to. I never really could generate much of hatred for the man, but generally went along with the notion that his being forced out of office, and into disgrace, was a good thing. It would be another three decades before I would fully understand what it was like to truly abhor a sitting U.S. president.

Still, I knew that Nixon’s quitting, much like the moon landing and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, was a happening of historic proportions, and I wanted to see it. We had been told by the news people of the time that Nixon would address the nation that night, and while nobody could say for sure that he was going to resign, that would certainly be the way to bet.

And then there was my girlfriend Mandy. We had met in Lake Placid at the beginning of the summer and after a somewhat rough beginning (See “body lice” above) we had settled into a rather pleasant Adirondack romance. Mandy was a waitress, and worked in the same dining room as I did.

Just about all of the other waiters, waitresses and busboys had completed their dinner shift responsibilities and had headed back to the dorm, most likely to gather around their portable televisions to gleefully watch Nixon’s farewell performance. Mandy, for some reason, hadn’t yet finished up, and so I found myself getting more and more frustrated with her.

Now, here’s where things get murky. I’m not quite certain why my heading back to the dorm was contingent on Mandy concluding her chores. I can think of only two possibilities: either I couldn’t finish my job until she finished hers, or I was waiting for her so we could walk back to the dorm together. I’d like to believe that I was enough of a gentleman that the latter was the case. I suspect it was. I know one thing for sure: If it had been ten years earlier and the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan that night, Mandy would have been walking that dark, wooded path back to the dorm all by herself.

I couldn’t shake then, and I can’t tonight, the vague suspicion that Mandy was dragging her feet that night, purposely taking much longer at her job than she needed to. But why? Was there some reason she didn’t want me to see Nixon resign? Was she being playful? Spiteful? Was she (gasp!) a secret Nixon-lover?

And now forty years have passed and it looks like I’ll never know the answer. And if she did have a secret strategy to spoil my television viewing pleasure on that historic night, well, she failed. We arrived back at the dorm in plenty of time to adjust the antenna of my tiny black and white TV and watch Richard Milhous Nixon become the only president in history to resign from office. Mandy and I would resign from each other about a year after that. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Guess Who #38

There are a few people, and not too many I think, about who I always find myself saying, “Someday I’m going to learn more about this guy.”  This is certainly true about today’s Mr. X, and has been for quite a few years. I’m sorry to say that while I have made a little progress towards that end, I still have a long way to go.

For most of my life I recognized his name, but knew little else about him. Oh, I knew he had something to do with the movies, but that’s as far as my knowledge of him went. Still, there was a part of me that just knew that this person was in some way important, especially for anyone who considers himself a student, or even just a fan, of film.

Over the weekend I saw that one of his movies was coming on, and so I decided to watch it. It was strange, I thought, that I approached it as half entertainment and half, well, homework. I was only a few minutes into the movie when I realized I had seen it before. This made me feel pretty good, as if, in my slow and plodding way, I actually had made some progress towards my goal of familiarizing myself with the work of Mr. X.

And that’s enough of that. After all, what sort of quiz would this be if I told you the man’s entire life story before I even gave you the first clue?

Mr. X was born in 1898.

Mr. X was the first person to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Mr. X was married four times.

Mr. X’s last name at birth was Biden.

Mr. X was born in Chicago.

Mr. X served in the U. S. Army Signal Corps in World War I.

Mr. X sold his Academy Award-winning screenplay for $1.00, in exchange for being allowed to direct the movie.

Mr. X wrote the play Strictly Dishonorable in six days. It ran on Broadway for 16 months.

Mr. X wrote his greatest comedies form 1939 – 1943. Four of them are on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest American Films.

Mr. X invented a kiss-proof lipstick in 1920 called Red-Red Rouge.

Mr. X was once the third highest paid man in America.

Mr. X signed a deal in 1944 making him one of only two writer-producer-directors in Hollywood. (The other was Charlie Chaplin.)

Mr. X did not start writing until he was 30 years old.

Mr. X died at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City at the age of 60.

Mr. X died while working on his memoir, which was titled, The Events Leading Up to My Death.

I think that’s all the clues you need. Who is Mr. X?

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight

Damn. I usually try not to see any reviews before going to a movie that I’m particularly interested in. But there it was: one star, and only one star, right next to Magic in the Moonlight, the new film from Woody Allen. I skimmed just a bit of the review, and finally was able to pull myself away. I’d read it in its entirely when I got back from the movies, assuming, that is, that I still wanted to go.

From what I had gleaned, the main criticism of the film was that the lead actor was in his fifties, while his love interest was in her twenties. These were not the ages of the characters portrayed, mind you, but of the actors themselves. The reviewer was apparently outraged that Woody Allen, with his well-known personal history, would create a story with such an age disparity between the main characters. The reviewer said that because this was written by Woody Allen it feels “pathological.” And no, those quotations marks aren’t there by accident. “Pathological,” if you can believe it, is the very word that was used.

And so to the movie. And while, yes, it is obvious that the male lead is older that the woman, I doubt I would have noticed it much at all had I not read about it in that review. The movie itself does make minor mention of the fact that the lead character’s rival is young, handsome and a millionaire, but overall age is not a much of a factor in the story.

So, the bottom line: Did I enjoy the movie? Yes, very much. I’m not about to jump up and down and declare it to be Allen’s best movie since Annie Hall and demand that you see it. I will tell you, though, that the recreation of the French Riviera in the 1920’s is a treat, and there is some very clever dialogue throughout the movie, especially towards the end. Perhaps there were times when a movie didn’t stand out just because it contained some snappy patter, but alas, we’re not living in those times.

That night Spike and I returned home to find a movie from NexFlix waiting in our mailbox. It’s  called Last Love and was made just last year. It stars Michael Caine as an eighty-ish widower who meets a woman about half a century younger. And when the final credits rolled Spike said, “I liked this one better.” And I readily agreed.
And so while we had both had enjoyed Magic in the Moonlight, never before had the difference between a Grade B movie and a Grade A movie been so plainly demonstrated for me. And now I find that I am jumping up and down, and demanding that you see Last Love. And again, there is nothing "pathological" about it. Trust me.
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