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October 26, 1998 - #57
Mr. Mark Bakalor has created for me a place to which I go to write said column. Each week I click on the address for this place and there I go. This place consists of a bunch of white space into which I type words from my handy dandy keyboard. The first thing I do when I arrive at this place is type in "(part one)". You, dear readers, never see this "part one" thing because Mr. Mark Bakalor deletes it. It is merely there to inform him that what he is receiving is part one, not part two or three or four (which come later). Then I sit on my couch like so much fish and stare at the screen. And stare. And stare. Then I begin to type. I have no plan at all for part one. I just go with whatever happens. Que Sera Sera would be a good way to describe part one. For example, today I was sitting on my couch (like so much fish) and staring and staring and suddenly I decided to write about writing this here column. Why? Who can say? That's what came out. I just go with the flow, as they used to say in the 70s. If there is no flow I still go, because what are you going to do, not go just because the flow has decided to be a no-show? You must always go, column-wise, always move forward, because if you do not move forward then all the words start piling up in a hopeless jumble, kind of like what they've been doing thus far in this very column.
And so I write and write, flowing and going, moving ever forward. From this forward momentum we get sentences, then paragraphs. Slowly but surely the white space is filled with words and more words. Just what inspires these words? Anything and everything. You know what? This is boring, this explaining How To Write A Column. I'm tired of writing about writing. It is redundant and also redundant. You get the idea. I don't need to beat this into the ground like a useless piece of sturgeon. What I have learned in my treatise on How To Write A Column is How Not To Write A Column. I don't want to come right out and say that this whole column has been a waste of time so far, but why don't I just come right out and say it? This whole column has been a waste so far. I could just delete all these words and no one would be the wiser. I could do that but then I'd have to start from scratch. Don't you have to have an itch to start from scratch? Can you start from scratch without hearing from the itch first? Well, I'm going to have to resort to writing about Sondheim at this rate.
Ever since I wrote "How To Write A Column" I've totally forgotten how to write a column. I will never do that again, because frankly who cares how to write a column? Certainly if I knew how to write a column I wouldn't have to waste my time writing a column. I could do an infomercial like Tony Robbins and teach people how to write a column and make millions of dollars. But, I'd just rather go on the way I have and write a column even though I don't really know anything about doing so. Why should I change now? When you're as old as I (is anyone as old as I?) you simply cannot change. Which reminds me of that old joke in which a pickpocket is asked why he stole just coins out of someone's pockets, to which he replies, "I thought the change would do me good". (rim shot)
This column certainly has been a waste of time so far. I should write about something interesting. Let's see. Nope. Nothing interesting is coming to mind. I should write about something controversial. Nope. Nothing controversial is coming to mind. I should write about nothing. Yes. Nothing is coming to mind, so why not write about it? What can one say about nothing? Nothing, of course. Well, that's exhausted that topic, hasn't it? You know, this column is starting to feel like Footloose: Is there any real point to it? But enough about me.
Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, we had a machine go awry. Does a machine have to be wry to go awry? Can a machine go arye? How about asourdough or awholewheat? What the hell am I talking about? Oh, yes. The machine that went awry.
As you faithful readers know, I am on the cutting edge of technology. I have had a laserdisc player since they came out, way back in the early 80s. So, when DVD came out I had to get one of those or else I would lose my place on the cutting edge of technology. I got a combo player which plays both DVDs and lasers. So, I remain on the cutting edge of technology without giving up the edge that used to be cutting but is now blunted. However, it has recently become clear to me that while my DVD/Laser combo platter is on the cutting edge of technology, my particular machine has innards that are not working correctly. My machine's innards are awry. Askew. Askance. I will, for example, be watching a motion picture. I will be engrossed in said motion picture when all of a sudden my machine will just stop. It will just cease to play the movie. I sit there, engrossed to no avail. The machine then goes into some kind of "mode" where it flashes the words "flash sig" over and over again. While it is flashing this obnoxious message over and over again, none of the controls work. That's right. You can't turn the machine off, you can't restart the film, you can't do anything but sit there like so much fish and seethe at said machine. I called the dealer and told him what the machine was doing and he said he'd never heard of the machine doing such a thing. No one other than me has ever reported such machine behavior. Now, what this means to me, dear readers, is that this machine is doing this to me personally. This machine has something against me and is doing this "flash sig" thing on purpose to rile me up. What did I ever do to the machine I ask you? After a while the machine would just sort of right itself and I could continue with the motion picture although I was no longer engrossed as I couldn't even remember what the hell I was watching. But the problem has gotten worse and worse until I finally had a little chat with the machine today. I was not friendly. I smacked the machine upside the face, frankly, and it felt good to do so although it made not one or two whits of difference to the machine. The machine could have cared less. I finally unhooked the machine and took it back to the store where they were kind enough to give me a brand spanking new machine. I have the new machine but I can't figure out where any of the wires go, so someone has to come here and hook it up and then I will have a new machine which will hopefully not go awry. We are surrounded, it seems, by machines. And these machines like to have sport with us mere humans. They like to taunt us, to torment us, to wreak havoc with our lives. That is why I like art and books. A painting doesn't go awry, a book's innards don't break down so that you can't finish it, a mountain doesn't go on the fritz so that you have to hire a mountain repairman or worse take the mountain back and get a new one. But, this is the price you pay when you are on the cutting edge of technology. But not having the machine hooked up right now means I can keep on writing this here column without interruption. Why not just use the VCR, you might ask, and I might answer you because you deserve to be answered. Because when I was yanking the wires out of the DVD player I accidentally unhooked wires from the VCR and I have no idea what goes where. I simply don't know from wires. Well, that was an interesting story, wasn't it? I tell you if I were teaching a course in How To Write A Column this particular column would be a perfect example of a column gone awry. I mean, who in hell is interested in any of this DVD stuff? I'm not even interested in it. I am trying gracefully to get the hell out of this section and on to the next section which I know will be pithy and witty and bright and smart and funny and charming, but nothing I write seems to put an end to this section, it just goes on and on, ad nauseum, without purpose, in essence flashing "flash sig" at you over and over again. Yes, this section of the column is awry all right, and we better just replace it with another section pronto quicko. Fasto, with mucho speedo. Stop me before I put any more "o"s on the ends of any more wordos.
I must say Miss Meryle Secrest is relentless in her picking away at the windmills of my mind. She keeps going round like a circle in a spiral like a wheel within a wheel. She told me just yesterday that she was trying to snatch these memories before they disappeared forever into the quicksand of my cranial jism. It occurs to me that I may have lost my sanity. "Cranial jism"??? Well, let's not dwell on it. When Miss Meryle Secrest said the word "snatch" it instantly brought back a cascade of "snatch" images. By "snatch" I am not using one of our beloved synonyms for genitalia, oh no, I am using "snatch" in the sense of "snatch" breakfast. Have any of you, dear readers, ever been involved in a snatch breakfast? Do they do this anymore? Well, they certainly used to.
And what exactly was/is a snatch breakfast? Well, here is the scenario as it played out on many occasions in my high school years. At six in the morning, friends would arrive at my house, creep into my bedroom and wake me up out of a sound sleep. These friends would all be wearing pajamas. They would rouse me from my nice comfy bed, hustle me into a car and off we'd go to DuPar's or the IHOP and there we would have breakfast, all dressed in our pajamas. There were several things about this that I never understood. Why would anyone want to do this would be the first thing. How did they get in my house would be the second thing. What if I slept in the nude would be the third thing. Somewhere I have pictures of one of these snatch breakfasts and perhaps I'll try to find it and share it with you. In said picture you will see ten or twelve very tired looking people trying to eat bacon or pancakes in their pajamas.
And then there were the times when I'd arise at three in the morning and "borrow" my father's car and drive over to a friend's house, pick up said friend, so we could drive, park, make out, and get back home, all within an hour. My brother had taught me the joys of "borrowing" the car in the middle of the night. He had done so when he was too young to drive, and as luck would have it he crashed the car one night, ran home and, if my memory serves me correctly, was safely in bed when the car was reported crashed. I do believe I held this insurrection over him for years.
And then there was the time when I was in "love" with someone or other, and I borrowed my friend's sister's Pontiac LeMans convertible so I could drive up to Atascadero to see said "love". I believe Atascadero is near Camarillo, which houses one of our finest mental institutions. Anyway, up I drove, and we had a lovely dinner, and saw a musical comedy entitled Annie Get Your Gun at some community theater. Then, of course, we made out for some time and then I took said "love" home. It was then about one in the morning. I began the three hour drive home. Unfortunately, I was very tired. I was driving on the freeway, and weird things would start happening, like I'd be driving then suddenly I'd be swerving because I'd nodded off for a second. I pulled off the road, got out of the car, ran around a bit and started up again. I kept the window open but it became too cold and I shut it. I was getting drowsier, but I managed to keep my eyes open. When I was about forty minutes from home (on the Ventura Fwy) I do believe I took an inadvertent nap, because all of a sudden I was awakened by the sound of crashing and honking. When my eyes opened the car was heading directly toward the edge of the freeway embankment. Luckily there was a wall there, into which I crashed loudly. I got out of the car as quickly as I could and assessed the situation. Certainly I wasn't dead. The car, however, was. Totaled. Totally. I was very disoriented and I finally came to the realization that in my slumber I had gone all the way across four lanes of traffic, crashed through the center divider, gone onto the other side of the freeway and all the way across those four lanes and then crashed into the wall. And do you know what, dear readers? I did not hit one other car. And more amazingly I did not have one scratch on me whatsoever. Not one. Not even a sore muscle. Isn't that amazing? The friend's sister whose car I'd borrowed was not so thrilled, although the car was insured. My parents were very upset with me but glad I was in one piece. But I did come out of the experience with one great thing: I fell head over heels in love with Annie Get Your Gun. The "love" I went up there for I never saw again. I have other fun car adventures which I will relate in future columns.
The more I discover of this team's great work, the more saddened I am by the lack of respect that Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz have received. Not only have they received no respect, no one seems to know they even exist. Except you, dear readers, and you must spread the Gluckman and Fitz gospel. Meanwhile, here are yet a couple of more discoveries of their brilliant work. This first is a pungent piquant song that is both pungent and piquant.
I awoke this morning at nine. I rarely sleep that late, so I was grateful that I'd gotten a good night's sleep. Then I went into the den and saw that my VCR clock said it was eight. I hadn't shut the power off so I wondered how it had lost an hour and then I realized what had happened. And what had happened, dear readers, was heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). At two a.m. we lost an hour. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, at two a.m. it was suddenly one a.m. Daylight savings time was officially over. First of all, no one told me this was happening. So, here I wake up at nine and it is eight. One hour has disappeared, snuck off in the night like a thief. It's eight but why? Who made up these time rules? Who came up with the idea of Daylight Savings Time? What did he/she think we were saving? And suddenly now we're not saving it anymore? Now were sans savings, as it were? We all lost an hour, do you realize that? We had the hour then it was taken away. Oh, I know we were given the hour, but why should it be taken away? You don't take something away that you gave, it isn't gracious. It's bad form. And so, here I am, typing away at nine even though it is eight. And in one hour it will be nine, even though it is nine now. This day is already redundant. It's just too too confusing, this lost hour. When I get up at nine I expect it to be nine. I don't need eight when I think it's nine. I don't need to have my mind messed with in this fashion. I know that time is a fleeting thing but this is ridiculous. And how come my VCR knew about the time change and I didn't? They say the time is now, but the time isn't now, it's then. It's like The Twilight Zone. Even the bird is confused. It's out there singing I Didn't Know What Time It Was. I have to go reset my eBay mantel clock, which is as confused as I am.
Here are three more songs which "got" to me for whatever reasons. I hope they "get" to you, too. This first is by my other close personal friend, Mr. Rupert Holmes. I discovered Rupert way back in the early 70s. I heard the title song from his first album, Widescreen, on the radio, and ran out and bought the album. And what I discovered as I listened was a songwriter who was very visual, very clever, and very touching. I fell in love with the songs on that album, none more so than this.
LETTERS THAT CROSS IN THE MAIL
I WON'T LAST A DAY WITHOUT YOU
When I listen to Karen Carpenter's incredible voice weave its magic on that song, the sun comes out and I don't even care if I lost an hour or not or if my DVD machine's innards have malfunctioned beyond repair.
I'm afraid, dear readers, this Love On The Internet thing is difficult. Matching you up is difficult, because of geographical problems, religious problems, food problems, pantyhose problems and gender problems. But I am still working on it. Meanwhile, let's answer your letters, shall we?
William F. Orr asks which Oscar Hammerstein lyric is a "pantoum" (muotnap spelled backwards). Well, a pantoum is a form of verse writing in which the second and fourth line of a quatrain, recur as the first and third line of the next quatrain, and the first and third line of that quatrain, recur as the second and fourth line of the next quatrain. Can anyone out there guess? Extra points for those who do.
Tom Guest (from Oz) tells me that one of his favorite words is "awry". How prescient of me then to use it so very much in this particular column. How prescient of my DVD machine to go awry in the first place so I could use said word ad nauseum and therefore use one of Tom Guest's (from Oz) favorite words.
annyrose also had a birthday recently, although she was not given a trip to New York. She was given a subscription to that fine magazine known as The Sondheim Review which is a magazine which happens to be about the work of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. I do feel they should have called the magazine The Stephen Sondheim Review, because someone might mistake it for a magazine about the life and times of Gunnar Sondheim, a Swedish aviator and tie salesman who led a very interesting life. annyrose also wants to know if our resident language watchdog Spock is her very selfsame friend Spock who is playing ten year old Tommy in a musical entitled Tommy, which is based on a concept album entitled Tommy and which was turned into a film called, you guessed it, Tommy.
Kristina (friend to annyrose, who is also in a musical entitled Tommy) wants to know exactly what corned beef is. It is beef which has somehow been corned, is what I imagine. What the "corning" process is I couldn't begin to tell you. Perhaps they cook the beef in a pot which has corn in it. Perhaps they cut the corns off feet that have corns and put them on the beef. Wow, that was gross, wasn't it? But if that were the case, wouldn't we have Bunion Beef? And Toe Jam Beef? I'll stop right there, thank you very much.
Mackoy (The Real Mackoy?) was reading some of our past columns and was disappointed because I repeated material. Which means Mackoy must have been reading our 50th anniversary "best of" column, because the only other time I have repeated material is when Tiffany expressed disappointment that Into The Whores wasn't included in the "best of" column. I never repeat material. Why that would be repetitious. I never repeat material. To repeat material is to just repeat material which I try never to do. Mackoy would also like to know what the songs we've done are from (I presume he means which tunes do they fit). I started naming the tunes at some point, but I'm in the process of going through all the early columns and putting in the tune references. Have I said that I never repeat material? I just want to make sure we're clear on that. Mackoy would also like to know where he can find information about Kander and Ebb on the Internet. If one can't find Love On The Internet, how on earth are you going to find Kander and Ebb on the Internet? I suspect much will be available once Mr. Mark Bakalor opens his new site at fosse.com.
Craig, prior to doing Tommy, did The Secret Garden, and he has the pictures to prove it, only Craig has been too too lazy to get them scanned so he can share them with us. Perhaps Craig will get over his laziness and scan said pictures so that we can put them up for all to see.
Spock (yes, Spock) commiserates with my UPS experience and feels the same sort of frustration for a company called Ameritech, which Spock describes as "the most obnoxious company in the known universe". Spock is also frustrated with his Senator and has written said Senator a scathing note. If you want to have real impact, I would sing a scathing note (perhaps A#) and send it to him.
Jon B. is happy I mentioned the film The Night They Raided Minsky's and wants to know if I own the soundtrack. I do. He feels it would make a fine stage musical, and if I'm not mistaken a stage version has been in the works for several years. Interestingly, Minsky's was co-written by Norman Lear, who would go on to create All In The Family, and it was directed by the hilarious William Friedkin, who also gave us the comedy classic The Exorcist.
Robert was victim to the hot and cold running October, and caught a cold. Luckily, said cold has abated and Robert is feeling himself again (no mean feat). I hope he doesn't catch a hot on top of having caught a cold. Robert hopes he's in the running for "most letters" as he would like to get one of our handy dandy Christmas gifts. We are tallying away, we are.
Gavin (aka grehf) wants to know if there's any way I could make a copy of the video material I have of Smile. Sadly, I cannot. I was given these tapes (all my tapes) on the proviso that they not be copied. Gavin also wants to know if I have videos of Romance In Hard Times and The Human Comedy. No, I have neither. There are places to get bootleg videos and I've even seen adverts for them in various theater magazines.
Rafael asks if Stephen Sondheim and Bob Fosse have ever collaborated and if not, why? No, they never have, and I believe that their artistic temperaments could not have been further apart. One can only imagine the collaboration that would have ensued. I also believe that had they worked together they would have killed each other. Rafael asks if I'm aware of the Mancini song Whistling Away The Dark from Darling Lili (I am - it's lovely) and the Coleman/Fields It's A Nice Face which was written specifically for the film version of Sweet Charity (I am - and I'm quite fond of it).
Everytime I think I've got you people stymied you amaze me. The following people all knew in which film there is a character named Steve Martin and why said character is in the film: Bob G., stevyray, Otto and William F. Orr. And the answer:
Godzilla. The 1954 American version of the Japanese film entitled Gojira. When the film was bought for American distribution, they decided to remove the political elements from the monster story and to Americanize it by shooting new footage with actor Raymond Burr as journalist Steve Martin. This footage was seamlessly edited into the Japanese film and the rest is history. But William F. Orr, who did a search of the Internet Movie Database, found there were many other films in which there was a character named Steve Martin, including Superman Flies Again, Thunder Bay and Violent Saturday. But the most famous film to have a Steve Martin character (besides Godzilla) was The Jolson Story, in which Steve was played by the great character actor William Demarest (Uncle Charlie in My Three Sons).
But none of you experts guessed who the mystery woman at Joe Allen table 20 was.
This week's trivia question: William Friedkin, who directed The Night They Raided Minsky's is known for his hard hitting films like The Exorcist, The French Connection and Sorcerer. Prior to Minsky's he'd directed one other semi-musical movie. Without cheating, name the film and its stars.
Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...
- Mark Bakalor
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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