She: "I want to go outside to see the stars." (Note perfect blank verse).
He. "I want to go to the bathroom."
She: "I want to go outside to see the stars." (Note perfect blank verse).
He. "I want to go to the bathroom."
I'm most fond of the gasplant, also called fraxinella or dittany or, when formality is called for, dictamnus albus. It's a beautiful plant. In flower it's an ornament to the perennial garden, and even when it's done blooming, it's neat and orderly and retains a lovely shade of green throughout the summer. Smells good too. It's a long-lived perennial, very hardy, but it takes a number of years to establish itself, but then lives almost indefinitely. If you have one, you treasure it. I have two, both of which I took from the garden of my late sister Phyllis when she died in 1998. Or should I say I had two, because over the winter one of them went missing.
In the location where there should have been and always has been a fully-mature gasplant, there was nothing -- not a leaf, not a twig, not a root. If the plant had died, it would have left some evidence behind. It's a woody plant which dies back to the ground each year, so every springs there is a bundle of dry hollow stalks or kexes. But this year nothing. Not a shred.
What happened to Mr. Dittany. Here's a possibility. I transplanted him, put him somewhere else, and then forgot that I had done so. An unlikely possibility. I searched my brain but can't' recall moving it. I searched the grounds -- no luck. If it wasn't me, was it someone else? Did some malefactor steal the gasplant? I have never heard of a gang of perennial thieves. Is it possible to believe that a nefarious individual entered the garden while I was away and heisted an out-of-season gasplant, roots and all? Not an hypothesis I can much credit. Did the plant have enemies? If it's being held for ransom, I have yet to receive the note. "We have your fraxinella. Either fork over $14.99 or we'll mow it."
Another possibility: there never was a dittany. It was always a hallucination of my decaying brain. Nope no go. It's been in the same place for years. Many people have seen it. I show it off -- it's so dramatic, so striking.
Or perhaps, it's a plot against me. Am I being gaslighted? With a gasplant?
The granddaughter, Lola, age 6 and a bit, has been reading to me -- a child's version of Romeo and Juliet. The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets distresses her. "Why do they have to fight. Why can't they just talk about it? Why don't they use their words?"
1) "My husband's niece, his sister's daughter, has been staying with us. She's nineteen just about to turn twenty. For a couple of months now. She's working on her English --the family is Finnish. She's also enjoying the local social scene; she's out a lot a night, but that's not a problem. She's old enough to be on her own. She's a nice girl, I thought, a good girl, kind of pretty in a northern way. She helps out with the kids if I ask her. I had no complaint until I started to notice that money was disappearing. At first, I thought I was crazy, but I did a couple of experiments to make sure. I left my purse with the wallet inside it in a place where only Anniki could access it. I counted the money carefully. Sure enough, when I came back a $20 was missing. I calculate she must have taken about $300 so far. What should I do? I can't ignore it. I could hide my purse, hide the money, but either she'd find it or she'd know that I knew. I have to tell my husband. I mean, it's his responsibility, isn't it? I don't care so much about the money, but I think, yes, she should reimburse me. And she needs to know that she's on a wrong path. She's too old for this. I think we should sent her back to Finland, tail between her legs. She needs to learn a lesson."
2) "I went back to South Dakota, haven't been there in a number of years, maybe three or four. I have second cousin, he's in his sixties. A decent guy, runs a wrecking service. Hard worker, no employees. Up all night sometimes. Twenty years ago, his son, Jake Leath Percy married this lady from Oregon. She got pregnant, had a baby, then skipped. No one ever saw her again. Returned to Oregon, we speculate Left the baby with Jake Leath. Well, Jake Leath proved to be as incapable as his wife. On the road a lot. So my cousin Herb Percy kind of adopted the child. He was a big kid for his age, didn't do particularly well in school, but not a real trouble-maker. Herb did right by him. But then, and here I'm unclear about the details, they did some sort of DNA testing, I don't know why exactly, and it turns out the kid isn't a Percy at all. Not biologically related to Herb's son. She was pregnant by someone else. Not a surprise, if you think about it. A cowbird kind of situation. But Herb brought him, feels responsible. Doesn't really like him so much, I think. He's six-four, takes up a lot of room in the trailer. Drinks beer. And now it turns out he likes to start fires."
Dr. M. "How long have you been a guard here?"
Guard: "Seventeen years. You can't stand still. You have to change your position, move around."
Dr. M. "Has anything ever happened. Someone try to steal a painting>\?
Guard. "No nothing. Nothing has ever happened."
Dr. M. "No one descending on ropes from the ceiling, try to snatch a sculpture."
Guard. "Nothing has ever happened. Wait, I forgot. Something did happen. Two or three years ago, there was a woman, she had a can of soda in her bag. She leaned over to look at one of the bronze sculptures, and the soda fell out of her bag. It broke and sprayed some soda on the statue. They called a special crew in to clean the sculpture. We closed down the entire wing."
Dr. M. "Must have been exciting."
Guard. "No, not really."
I worked for Ethiopian Airlines in Ethiopia.I have a degree in business. One time my wife came to America and she says she wants to stay here. I had so much paperwork and investigation but now I am a legal immigrant. America is the land of opportunity. I believe that one hundred per cent. I bought a house, it is my house. In Ethiopia, I would have to bribe many big shots and one day they could take the house anyway if someone wanted it. Here, no trouble. I had to leave Ethiopia because I was opposed to the government. We had an election and 100% of the people voted for the government, hah! We do not like Obama so much because he visited Ethiopia and said it was a democracy. Our government is fighting the terrorists in the Sudan so he pretends not to know the facts. I have two children, they speak English but also Amharic. My wife is a nurse. It is good here. I am an accountant at LAX but I drive for Uber on weekends and sometimes at nights, extra money. Los Angeles is very expensive to live.
Our sun is halfway through its life cycle. Its luminosity increases 1% every 110 million years. Therefore the Earth ineluctably grows hotter and hotter. In a billion years, life on its surface will be impossible. Global surface temperatures will reach 117F and the oceans will evaporate. Water molecules in the atmosphere will be broken apart by solar radiation and hydrogen molecules will escape the planet. Eventually the sun will exhaust the hydrogen fuel in its core. When it begins to exploit other material, its luminosity will increase a thousandfold until it stabilizes with a radius about 250 times its present size. It will consume Mercury and Venus but probably not the Earth which will become locked into an orbit with only one side facing the sun (as the moon does to the earth). This will mean impossibly hot temperatures on one side, impossibly cold on the other. The moon's orbit will reduce to 11,000 miles causing it to fracture, raining pieces of itself onto the Earth. Eventually the sun will lose mass and gravitational pull and the earth will drift away into a remote orbit -- dark, cold, and lifeless.
(Adapted from Douglas Palmer, Earth in 100 Groundbreaking Discoveries (Firefly Books, 2011.)
I am a bad sleeper. I don't know if I'm technically and insomniac but I can say in all honestly that for me, the nighttime is the hardest part of the day. It's been this way for a long time. I''m good at going to sleep and I enjoy the "first sleep" of two or three hours, but after that, say from 2 am on, it's an adventure. Nightmares, tossing and turning, "fluff in the lung and a feverish tongue," and mostly what I think of as "airplane sleep" -- that is, the kind of semi-sleep, semi-awake borderline limbo which you're in when you're sitting up in a crowded plane.
Moreover, things start to look mighty bleak in the 2-5 part of the morning. Is that pain in my toe a bruise, or is it the beginning phase gout or neuropathy. Cancer of the instep? Will they want to amputate my leg at the knee?
Not so in the 1950s. Return we now to those days of yesteryear and recall the most glorious sleepings of my life. I'm in my teens, and it's spring. A weekend. I spend the morning at the PS 217 schoolyard, playing basketball. I'm tireless once I get my second wind. After four or five hours, I drag myself home for a roast beef dinner, stuff myself. Then I lie down, turn on the radio and listen to Red Barber and Connie Desmond broadcast the Dodger's game (if it's Sunday, perhaps a double-header). By the second inning, I'm deep in the arms of Morpheus. Profound, incomparable. A sleep beyond an ordinary sleep. When I wake, it's the seventh inning. I've been in a sleep utopia for two hours.
Where are the sleeps of old time. Ah that I could recapture them.
When I saw Junebug for the first time shortly after it appeared in 2005, I enjoyed its gentle, affecting comedy. It's yet another "stranger comes to town" enactment, although this time, for once, the stranger is a woman. Madeleine Johnsen is a fortyish, worldly, sophisticated Chicago-based art-dealer. She arrives in a small North Carolina Christian-saturated community accompanied by her brand-new twenty-something husband, who is a native of the place. If they're not deeply in love, they're certainly enjoying a time of sexual frenzy. As the film proceeds, a series of exquisite culture-clash misunderstandings illuminate both city and country.
On last night's viewing, however, the film was far less amusing and more painful than I remembered. Did I see it with rose-colored glasses?
In the film's loveliest scene, the young husband George Johnsen, played gracefully by Alessandro Nivola, is prevailed on at a church-basement social to "give us a hymn," which he does rather beautifully, offering Will Lamartine Thompson's ""Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling" which is an extremely melodic but theologicaly naive piece of sentimentality. As he sings, obviously very comfortable with the milieu and with the surroundings, the director's camera focuses on his wife Madeleine's (i.e. Embeth Davidtz's) expressive face.
When I saw the film in 2005 or thereabouts, I thought Madelieine shone with wonderment and appreciation. O, I thought, she sees and appreciates a new dimension in her husband. This will lead to understanding between them and help her to navigate the gulf between her and her new family. How could I have been so undiscerning. This time, it was entirely clear that her reaction was exacty the opposite. Madeleine doesn't get it at all. It's not apprecation, it's incomprehension, perhaps even condescension. Madeleine, I'm sorry to say, doesn't understand her husband, his culture, his religion, or his family. And indeed,subsequent events in the plot confirmed my new pessimism, for every time Madeleine has to make a choice, she does so with no accommodation to her husband's upbringing or values
She's glad to leave the place, she says at the end, but it's clear to me that she's learned nothing and that there's trouble brewing.
Most of the attention that the film has garnered is owing to Amy Adams' performance as George's pregnant child-like sister, which is indeed a remarkable piece of acting. But for my money, it's the visiting husband and wife who steal the show (along with the intelligence and art of the director (Phil Morrison) and the writer (Angus MacLachlan)}.
On February 11, an "intruder" was discovered in the parking garage of the downtown condo where I now live. Actually, I found him myself. I had to run a late night errand, unusual for me, and there he was, scruffy and dirty, hanging out near the elevator. I said to him, "are you lost?" and he answered that he was staying with a friend who lived in the building. It seemed fishy, but I was in too much of a hurry to concern myself with him. But when I returned two hours later I found him curled up in a stairwell, apparently sleeping. I notified the police but I didn't stay around for the outcome because it was 2:30 in the morning and I was exhausted from the night's events. It turned out that he had stolen a bicycle and also entered a number of unlocked cars, including mine. We know he was in my car because the police found my Volvo S70 owner's manual where he had been sleeping. Whether he used it as reading material or as a makeshift pillow I don't know.
Yesterday I was called by the police and told that perpetrator had been arrested. It seems that he was recorded on a surveillance camera (I didn't know we had one in the garage) and that his image was shown to the police who specialize in dealing with our city's population of transients. ("Transient" is the current term of art for people who have at various times called "homeless," "hobos," "bums," or "vagrants.") He was well known to the authorities and was picked up; he readily confessed to the crimes. I asked what was going to happen to him and whether there was any chance that he could rehabilitated. The police lady with whom I spoke said that he would be sent to jail for a few months and then be back on the street. "Sometimes we have someone who turns his life around, but this guy has a history and he's not going to change. He's been in the system for years. He had a place to live a while ago but preferred (her word) to be out on the street. Drugs and alcohol. The shelters require that the inhabitants be drug free and he can't stay clean."
Our fair city is popularly thought of as a mecca for transients. I don't know if it's so, but I know that we have a very visible population of transients. All the downtown public institutions, such as the library, are dense with them. When I walk the four blocks of the downtown mall, I'll be approached by 3-5 beggars. And there will also be knot of five or six scruffy people with backpacks and blankets on two or three different benches. The local merchants complain, and the transients are moved on, but they return.
I don't like the situation. I find it morally challenging. Do I give a man a dollar, even though I know that the city and the churches provide adequate food, and the money will go for contraband, or do I avert my eyes? If I avert my eyes, am I treating the guy or gal as a non-person But if I engage in even the slightest conversation, I feel that I am condoning a way of life of which I thoroughly disapprove. If it is my obligation to support the poor, am I obligated to support the liquor and drug habits of the transient population. How do I deaul with my occasional, inconstant, but sometimes very strong feeling of repulsion that I feel for the "houseless heads and unfed sides." Are we not all members of the human population, of the family of man? If I ignore these people, have I turned into a complacent, unsympathetic, hardened, unfeeling old bourgeois, a scrooge, mouthing, "are there no prisons are there no workhouses?"
I asked the police person, who has been dealing with the transient population for many years, if she had any ideas about what to do. She knew of a number of experiments in various cities which had some success, but all had ultimately failed.
She said, "Lock your car door. Lock your apartment."
I never "got" T. S. Eliot. When I first became serious about poetry and "intellectual" stuff, in the 50s, Eliot was the presiding grand khan of English literature. Because Eliot liked Donne, my teachers liked Donne. Because Eliot was down on Milton, my teachers were down on Milton. Eliot had pronounced that "a dissociation of thought and feeling" occurred in the later seventeenth century, and we all tried to interpret literature in the light of that putative, imaginary divorce. Eliot discovered that Shakespeare's Hamlet was a failure because it lacked an 'objective correlative." We were enjoined to wonder exactly where that OC had gone. I thought Hamlet was an exciting success and still do. So do many discerning readers.
To me, Eliot's criticism was mysterious and his poetry was incomprehensible, unmusical and occasionally repellent. "The Waste Land," his masterpiece, was to me obscurantist, pretentious, show-offy and shallow. And yet I was unquestionably an outlier. I studied the "Four Quartets" for weeks under the able direction of a serious teacher and scholar, Arthur Mizener, but in the end there was nothing there for me. My own insufficiency? Perhaps.
I could not get around Eliot's public positions ("I am an Anglo-Catholic in religion, a classicist in religion and a royalist in politics"). To me, these views were absurd, reactionary, borderline fascist. Eliot was puritanical about sex, looked down his Brahmin nose at people not of his class (see the Sweeney poems) and couldn't abide Jews.
When I taught a course called "History of Poetry in English," which I did for many years, I would skip from the undeniably great poets of the World War I generation (Brooke, Rosenberg, Sassoon, Thomas, Owen, Graves, Hardy) right to Yeats and Frost, leaving Eliot in the deep lurch, possibly to the consternation of my more sophisticated students.
So it gives me great pleasure to say that I've finally found a poem by the old pretender that tickles me. it celebrates his second wife, whom he married in 1957 when he was sixty-eight and she was thirty, and remained unpublished until it just now appeared in the second volume of the new Johns Hopkins edition. It's not exactly juicy, but it seems to be honest and forthright:
I love a tall girl.
When we lie in bed
She on her back and I stretched upon her,
And our middle parts are busy with each other,
My toes play with her toes and my tongue with her tongue,
And all the parts are happy.
Because she is a tall girl.
Althea Goss Pearlman, 76, of Boulder, died February 10, 2016 at AltaVita Memory Care Centre in Longmont where she had resided for the last two and a half years.
Althea was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1939 to Daniel Goss and Anne Krull Goss, both teachers of mathematics. She was raised in Utica, New York and graduated as valedictorian from Utica Free Academy in 1956. She held degrees in mathematics from Cornell University (where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard University. She married Elihu Hessel Pearlman in June, 1960. She met him in a first semester chemistry class.
Althea had many interests but her life revolved around her two passions: teaching and family. Althea taught mathematics at Ithaca High School in Ithaca, New York, at Warren Junior High School and Newton South High School in Newton, Massachusetts, at the City College, CUNY, in New York City, at Platt Junior High School in Boulder and, for twenty years, at Boulder High School. In 1991-92, she was an Einstein Congressional Fellow in Washington, D.C, serving as an advisor to the House of Representatives on mathematics teaching. She also spent four years as a Clinical Professor in the School of Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she acted as a mentor and coach to prospective teachers. For Althea, teaching was not a job or a profession, but a calling. She was an artist whose medium was chalk and blackboard. She accumulated a wall full of teaching awards, including, most notably, the Presidential Award for the Teaching of Science and Mathematics (1987), but was most gratified not by certificates but by appreciative letters from students whose lives she had influenced.
Althea was an excellent and loving wife, mother, and grandmother. She is survived by her husband, with whom she enjoyed a deep, spirited, and ever-evolving love for more than half a century, by her children Nathaniel, Benjamin and Eve, by their spouses Connie Chang, Kyla Holcomb Pearlman, and Jonathan Soglin, by her seven grandchildren: Talia and Oliver Soglin of Alameda, California, Ella and Lola Pearlman-Chang of Washington DC, Luke, Caleb and Asher Pearlman of Boulder; and by her sister Paula Goss Gombas and her husband Allen Gombas of Lyman, New Hampshire. Althea's sister Phyllis Goss Murray died in 1998.
Althea's ashes will be buried in the family cemetery in West Bradford, Vermont. A memorial event in her honor will take place in the auditorium of Casey Mddle School, 1401 High Street, on Saturday, March 5, at 3:00 P. M.
The family would like to thank the skilled and sympathetic caregivers at AltaVita and at New Century Hospice who made Althea's last years as comfortable as possible.
Should anyone wish to make a gift in Althea's honor, the family recommends the Althea Pearlman Memorial Fund at Boulder High School. Checks should be made out to Treasurer, Boulder High School (at 1604 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, Colorado 80302) and designated "Pearlman Memorial." A scholarship will be awarded annually to an outstanding student of mathematics.
At a restaurant at the corner of Jena and Freret, the over-tattooed waitress, acknowledging our appreciation of the greens, fennel and kumquat salad, said, memorably, "People do not understand the beauty of the kumquat." An excellent instance of found poetry. And all the more brilliant in context, because I myself once asserted that "kumquat" is the most obscene-sounding word in the English language.
Cheerful, lively 70ish woman: "I was alone for thirty years. I didn't even have a date. He (man in a Mardi Gras green bowler hat) grew up in a French-speaking family in Rhode Island, We shacked up for a couple of years. Then he wanted to get married. At our age it's all about finances, so I said, why not? He's funny. He's very good to me. He likes to do things. We live six months of the year in Arizona and six months in Alaska, fifty miles south of Fairbanks. There's good fishing. We're just here for a couple of days. We're going on a cruise in the Caribbean. Now we're on our way to find a restaurant that has the best hamburger in the entire south, he says."
Folks who know me know that I'm not an imaginative or inventive human being. I'm kind of dull, actually -- predictable, routinized, even humdrum. what most people don't know is that I have an extremely vivid and creative nighttime life. I dream big and I dream weird.
Take last night for example (an ordinary night by my standards). I was on my way by NYC subway to Ebbets Field to see a 7:30 pm Brooklyn Dodgers night game. I was accompanied by my elderly, arthritic father (in the dream I was in my 20s or 30s). For some reason the train took a wrong turn and instead of proceeding from DeKalb to Atlantic, took me and pop to Pacific Avenue. I couldn't figure how to find a train going back to DeKalb so we went out on the street to catch a cab. No cab would stop but a few people who were also lost decided to rent a limousine. I was told that it would cost $50 apiece but I agreed because my father was having trouble walking. However, when the limousine came, he and I had lost our way and the car pulled away without us. The next thing I knew pop and I were in a railroad car (it seemed like a compartment in a European railroad and he was stretched out asleep and I had in my arms a very pretty baby, whom I identified as my sister Susan who died at age 9 months in 1937. She was sweet and gurgling until she let loose with a tremendous flood of shit which covered my pants and even flooded over to contaminate my father. "Who diapered this baby," I shouted. I had no equipment to clean the child or myself. The conductor came over to help and offered to stop the train but then the baby girl started to spew a huge quantity of vomit all over me. I looked in her mouth and found a Band-Aid, which I removed, and then, looking once again, found a roll of gauze, which I also removed. And then, all of a sudden, I was no longer on the train but instead was visiting the home of George Bush (the elder, not W) in Houston. I had been invited for dinner, but before dinner was to be served I had to coach a grandson or great-nephew of the former president in basketball, teaching him how to dunk. Afterward we all sat down to dinner and I felt extremely awkward, wondering what would have caused Mr. Bush to invite me, a Democrat. One of the guests asked me if I ever shopped at Hill's In Bradford, Vermont and I had to report that Hill's had closed. Then I was asked if I had ever eaten at the salad bar in the old Greyhound station in White River Junction. I said that I had (it's true!!) and then I woke up.
Man o' man that was something else. Several novels worth of material for someone with a daytime imagination, I should think.
Sarah Palin, wordsmith, famous for her portmanteau "refudiate" (a blend of refute and repudiate) has struck again with "squirmish," a coinage which amalgamates "squirm" and "skirmish." Here's the relevant sentence:
"Those are legitimate questions on both sides of the aisle, and another big question that has to be asked is 'Are we at war?' I haven't heard the president say that we are at war, and that's why I, too, am not knowing: Do we use the term 'intervention'? Do we use 'war'? Do we use 'squirmish'? What is it?"
I cherish the irony that the Governor is concerned with precision in language and is troubled that our military actions in Libya lack proper definition.
I myself, an admirer of "squirmish," am puzzled by her use of the present progressive "I am not knowing" where a native speaker of English would say, "I do not know." Is it an alaskanism with which I'm not familiar? Did they neglect to teach the present progressive at the University of Idaho, where Ms. Palin earned her degree in Communication? Or is she perhaps an imperfectly- trained foreign agent smuggled into the country by the Stasi or the KGB with the mission of undermining the American polity?
Moreover, it is wonderful out of all hooping that "palin" means "backward" in Greek. As "trump" means "deceive" in French.
I published this reminiscence some years ago:
My daughter continues to urge me to write something autobiographical. To which I reply, it’s all autobiographical. But since she wants hard news, not indirect revelation, I offer this account of my grandmother, born Sonia Chafetz, later, by marriage, Sonia Usilewski and finally, after a legal name change, Sonia Green. She was born in 1884 somewhere in darkest White Russia (now called Belarus). I have no idea exactly where, but I know that she was a distinctly rural girl -- she loved to fish, to pick berries, to grow plants. Of her life in the old country, I know almost nothing -– only that she was raised in a cottage with a dirt floor and that the family brought the cow inside in the winter to keep the place warm. I know that she didn’t have a proper bed, and that at least for part of her childhood she slept on the mantle over the fireplace, which sounds mighty precarious to me. She couldn’t have had much in the way of formal education, but she did read and write Yiddish and still understood Russian in her old age. I know this because in the late 1940s or early 50s I would occasionally sit with her and listen to the broadcast of debates at the United Nations (in those days there were subsequent rather than simultaneous translations) and she would render the Russian to me, as best she could in her halting English. She never did become fluent in the only language I knew so our conversations were stilted and confined to utilitarian topics. When she was young--I’ve seen the pictures—she was dark, attractive, and voluptuous. By the time I came to know her, when she was close to sixty, her looks were long gone and she was disfigured by goiter and other diseases and no doubt by the consequences of her many self-induced abortions. The family story was that both she and Joseph were engaged to other people when they eloped to America (my grandfather deserting from the Russian army, where he had been drafted for the usual twenty-year term, and where his salary was a ruble every other month). They arrived in New York in August of 1904 from Rotterdam. How they found their way from Minsk to Rotterdam I was never told, but the Ellis Island records report that they came through London. My mother was born in June of the following year, or just about ten months after her parents arrived in this country. My mother’s story was that at first her parents had only one pair of shoes between them, so that Sonia had to stay at home until Joseph returned from work. The family settled in Harlem; my grandfather, who was urban and more sophisticated than Sonia, had been trained as a pharmacist, but never found work in his field in the new world. I don’t know what they did for a living (was he some sort of salesman?) except that for a short time my grandparents owned a delicatessen at the corner of 4th and 10th streets in Greenwich Village. I’ve gone to that corner many times and tried imagine such a restaurant, but of course not a clue remains. As far as I can guess, their marriage was uneasy. My grandfather was frequently absent (my father once darkly hinted, “I don’t know whether it was other women, or what”) and my grandmother frequently ill. My father also told me that when he and mom married, he laid down a prohibition—it was in the days when men made prohibitions-- that she wasn’t to act as intermediary between Sonia and Joseph any longer. I know that my mother had to leave school six weeks into the ninth grade to care for her mother and two younger brothers. But that’s about all I was told and there are no documents. I have a few memories: Sonia trying to teach me to play fan-tan and five hundred rummy -– I was as bad then as I am now at card games; Sonia planting in wooden Philadelphia cream-cheese boxes every orange or grapefruit seed that came into her house, so that her tiny apartment had the pleasant aroma of a hot-house; Sonia growing avocados in the winter but setting them in my father’s garden (just around the corner from her third-floor walk up) in the summer. And I also remember her attempt to cure my father’s sterile apple tree with an old-country remedy—rubbing the cut half of an apple on the trunk in midwinter. I remember also stuffed cabbage, the world's finest blintzes, and jars of apricot jam sealed with paraffin. In her last years, Sonia lived with my parents; she had her own kitchen, a room that had been remodeled from my former bedroom. She was weary of life and I suspect that she died at least in part of malnutrition. I remember also that she owned a pressed-glass ruby bowl that was always filled with hard candies. I was allowed one candy per visit. When Sonia died in 1971, she had no money and precious few possessions, but I inherited the bowl. It was pretty, and I’m sorry to say that after a few years I accidentally broke it. But it was easily replaced (it was in a popular pattern and every second-hand store had the item for sale) and I bought one for about $25.00. Some years afterward I broke the second one and bought another, but by that time the price had gone up to $50.00. So, although my inheritance in cold cash was a negative $75, I was left with grateful appreciation and many warm memories.
Now I want to complete the story of the sterile apple tree.
My father had three fruit trees in his backyard garden on East 9 Street. A pear tree, which produced abundant fruit but not every year (it was a Seckel, if I remember correctly, very sweet); a peach tree, which was only occasionally fruitful, probably because it was just a bit north of its proper range; and an apple (variety unknown) which was large and healthy, disease-free, but which for some unknown reason never produced even a single blossom, let alone an actual apple. My grandmother Sonia Green explained to my father that when they had a sterile apple in the old country, they would take a ripe apple, cut it in half, and rub it on the trunk of the tree in mid-winter. It always worked, claimed grandma. My father would have none of it. "None of your superstition here," proclaimed. But one January he caught grandma apple in hand applying the folk remedy. He didn't say anything, but the next summer, he bought some apples and tied them to the branches of the tree and took grandma to view them. She was an intelligent old lady who immediately saw through the plot --but we all had a good laugh and a good story to tell.
I didn't "get" Shane when I first saw it in 1953 when I just fourteen, and I didn't ''get" it again last night when I watched it for the fourth or fifth time, lifetime. It's a watchable film in my considered opinion but I have no idea why various canon-creators have ranked it third or fourth among all Westerns. I revere Westerns but I can't revere Shane.
Not that there aren't some splendid moments. The first scene, when little Joey with his kid-size rifle peers through the brush at a deer while, in the distance, and through Joey's eyes, we see the figure of Shane a-horseback is an excellent piece of film-making. We're going to see the whole movie through the eyes of a child, the cinematography tells us. Moreover, it's going to be a film about guns and Joey's love of guns and gunslingers. It's a very American story shot through with the romance of weaponry, as is made clear right from the get-go.
But it's downhill from there. The plot is minimal, classic, and familiar. A Stranger Comes to Town. Even when I was a dewy youth I knew that Shane was going to intervene in the struggle between the farmers and the ranchers. And that he would resist as long as possible getting out his gun, and that his conversion to violence would be cast as a Higher Moral Purpose. I' had seen it all before, even as an adolescent -- you can't negotiate with the bad guys; your weapon has to be better than their weapon.
Van Heflin is the homesteader. He's a great, unappreciated actor in my view. But Alan Ladd is not credible as the mysterious stranger. First of all, he's expressionless in face and monotonous in speech. Secondly, he lacks even a tad of the charisma that's required of him. And thirdly, he's too small and skinny for all the bareknuckle stuff. And Jean Arthur, I'm afraid, was simply too dowdy to attract anyone's interest. The cast can't carry it off. Too much burden on the child actor, Brandon de Wilde.
Why does Shane ride into the sunset at the conclusion of the story? Why is the most famous dialogue in the fil, little Joey's plaintive "Shane, come back. Come back, Shane?" There's really no good reason; nothing inside the film compels his departure. Shane rides off because that's what the heroes of Westerns do. The film is saturated with myth of the unconnected guy (well, he does have his horse and his rifle) riding off, untrammeled by home, hearth, kids and especially wives.
It's a powerful myth. My deep resistance to the film is that it is myth-driven rather than character- or plot-driven. Shane doesn't create a myth; the myth creates Shane.
Evolution was inordinately fond of beetles. According to the coleopterists, there are some 400,000 species, with many more still to be identified. Beetles are everywhere. Every time I introduce a new plant into my garden, along comes a species of beetle new to me.
Nevertheless, I must admit, to my shame and embarrassment, that I can call only a handful of beetles by name. Is it failure of curiosity, failure to pay attention, failure of memory? As Holmes might have said, I see but I do not observe.
Here are the few I can identify. The pestiferous, omnivorous Japanese beetle, a pest every year and occasionally a veritable plague. The Colorado potato beetle, voracious on potatoes and annoying on eggplants. The extremely stupid box elder but, which comes into the house every fall to die and desiccate. Ladybugs, supposedly eaters of aphids. Lightning bugs, beautiful in the night, helpless by day. The heavy bomber among beetles, the June bug. The rose chafer, early spring consumer and disfigurer of anything white, especially the white flowers of peonies. A variety of oil beetle that hangs out a couple of inches below the surface in good garden soil -- what does it do there?
That's about it; all the rest are unidentified and unidentifiable shard-born beetles. OK, off to the library I go to bring home some beetlebooks. This ignorance cannot stand.
As is well known, Vivian de St. Vrain, fully accredited prophet (Senior Fellow, American Society of Prophecy), has an unparalleled record of accurate prognostication. Vivian has once again retreated to the mountaintop and has returned with a new set of predictions for the coming year.
Read and be dazzled, fit audience though few. Here's what's going to happen!
1) there will be unusual weather patterns in North America;
2) a famous Hollywood actress will sue for divorce; moreover, another (or possibly the same) Hollywood star will become pregnant; another (or possibly the same) actress will gain and lose a great deal of weight;
3) a well-known American or possibly European athlete will be accused of taking drugs;
4) a politician will be accused of taking bribes;
5) questions will be raised about the safety of America's food supply;
6) there will be either a monsoon, an airplane crash, or a capsized ferry in Asia;
7) there will be fluctuations in the stock market;
8) there will be turmoil in the Middle East.
9) a religious leader will be involved in either a financial or a sex scandal. Or perhaps both.
You read it here first. Loyal readers: check back at the end of 2016. Let's see whether a senior but world-class professional prophet still has enough on the crystal ball to foretell the future one more time.
Which translates as "sleep is the image of death." It's a medieval commonplace: God has blessed us with sleep in order to prepare us for the long sleep of death. A daily premonitory death.
I can't buy the theology. However, I believe that there's genuine truth to somnus imago mortis.
I'm a bad sleeper, a tosser and turner. A person who's likely to read fifty pages of a novel or watch a few innings of pre-recorded baseball between 2am and 3am. Even when I sleep I rarely fall into that deep trance-like state that I remember from my childhood. I'm in a dream state or I'm far too aware of my body, my surroundings, my worries.
But a few years ago, when I had the surgery, I was thoroughly anaesthetized into a dead sleep. Nothing happened between the administration of the drug and the moment I awakened: no dreams, no thoughts, no awareness. Nothing. I went away and I came back, but from nowhere.
Let me tell you what happened when I returned to consciousness. I thought "wow, if that is what death is going to be like, then it's not so bad. It's nothing to worry about, nothing at all to fear."
And I've held on to that insight. Perhaps ordinary somnus isn't the image of death, but drugged sleep is unquestionably a state of being that gives real rational secular practical meaning to ancient wisdom.
I hit a ball sharply to right field into the cosmos and made it safely to second base. (By "cosmos" I do not mean that I hit the ball into the universal void, but rather into a patch of cosmos i.e. cosmos bipinnatus, the common herbaceous perennial that was growingly thickly against the stadium wall, something like the ivy at Wrigley.) I was standing on second, enjoying the applause of 80,000 spectators at the old Yankee Stadium, when my daughter-in-law suddenly appeared with her two-year-old toddler in tow and handed him to me, saying, "you're in charge." She disappeared, so there I was on second holding the boy by the hand. I told him to stay put, but on the next pitch he broke for third, running as fast as his little legs could carry him. So I called out to the shortstop, "Now you're in charge." At which point I cannot recall anything further, except that I tried to follow the boy to third but I could not run hardly at all and it felt as though I was running through mucilage.
A curious dream. Dream professionals and analysts will no doubt be attracted by the claim to significance embodied in the word "cosmos" and and by the dreamer's -- that is to say my -- transparent urge to shirk responsibility.
I asked some friends how they understood Senator Marco Rubio's very blunt statement that "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers." I received a variety of answers.
My linguistically conservative friends asserted that we obviously need grammarians more than either philosophers or welders, because Rubio doesn't respect the difference between "less" and "fewer." I admit that "less philosophers" clanks on my sensitive inner ear; nevertheless, I don't think that it's wise to hold presidential candidates to high standards of usage. It would be enough for them to grasp the issues. No one I know is so very prescriptivist that he or she will vote for the candidate who knows less and fewer. I confess to a longing for a more perfect language from our leadership, but traditional grammar is too much to ask, especially since it's evident that our electorate easily acclimated to the barbarisms of bushlingo.
Other of my friends took issue with Rubio's unabashed materialism. They parsed his statement to mean "welders make more money than philosophers and therefore we should have more welders than philosophers." Welding is better than philosophizing because it makes the bucks, gathers the green. If this is what Rubio meant, then his argument is not only crass but wrong. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics proves that both graduates with a philosophy degree and professional philosophers (meaning professors of philosophy) enjoy much larger salaries on average than welders. But even if welders did outearn philosophers, Rubio's argument would still be monumentally vulgar. I don't know anyone who, if push came to shove, assigns value strictly on the basis of earnings. Do we not value men of the cloth, social workers, nurses, small farmers, G.I's, smoke-jumpers and sometimes teachers more than we value pornstars and slumlords? Einsteins more than reality TV celebrities? And as much as we respect the crafts -- electricians, plumbers, tractor and auto mechanics -- we also know that it is not the craftsmen but the philosophers who now as in the past are going to help us think our way out of our plight. Just as Locke and Hume got us out of Aristotle and the Bible and into the age of reason, and Darwin laid the foundation for all the advances of the last hundred and fifty years in biology and medicine, so we now need someone, desperately, equipped with deep learning and an insightful brain, to generate the ideas that will get the new messy electronic world, bedeviled with fundamentalists/terrorists, into some kind of intellectual order. Welders are good, especially when you want something fastened to a steel I-beam, but philosophers have their place as well. Rubio is just too downright short-sighted for most of us. We know that money ain't everything and we want our statesmen to know it as well. Rubio's assertion that welders do more valuable work than thinkers participates in bottom-line American anti-intellectualism. We're a can-do practical people; we can see what welders do. Who knows what the heck those airy liberal philosphers do at those lefty universities? Can they fix a fuse? Can they meet a payroll?
Another bunch of my friends objected that there's no reason why a person can't be both a welder and a philosopher. Why set limits on human versatility? As it happens, I have in my own family a fellow who makes his living with his brain but who also builds his own furniture, can wire a house, and has, strange but true, taken up welding. But I think he'd be the first to admit that he's not a pro at any of these crafts. We live in a world of specialists and it's hard to be perfectly skilled at two crafts, let alone a craft plus metaphysics or epistemology or logic. I understand the longing for the philosopher-welder, but I don't think it's a realistic wish. It's utopian, prelapsarian, perhaps even Marxist. After all, it was Marx who developed the vision of post-capitalist communist society "where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, [where] society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, philosophize after dinner, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or philosopher" (German Ideology ). This is Marx at his least practical. I suspect that his hunters and fishermen would return empty-handed, his herdsman would find that his cows never come home, and his part-time philosophers would boggle over some elementary error in logic or language. So no dice to the philosopher-welder, I'm afraid. Not a starter, Karl.
What I myself would want to ask Rubio is this: how does it happen that there are not enough welders? Rubio puts his faith in the perfect workings of the free market. In theory, the market should have solved the problem of the missing welders by raising their salaries to make the job more enticing. And similarly, it should have lowered the wages of philosophers to dry up the supply. Wait a sec!! Is it possible that the free capitalist market is not doing its job. And if I or Marco Rubio propose that we establish more community colleges and offer potential welders training in their craft at little or no cost, are we not interfering with the proper working of capitalism and the free market? Picking winners and losers, in the dread phrase. It's centralized planning, almost socialism to do so-- certainly anathema to the wing of the party to which Rubio belongs. Riddle me that.
Bottom line: it's helpful for Rubio to advocate for more welders. It's not helpful (nor a credit to his candidacy) to set up a false antagonism between welders and philosophers. Below the bottom line: a democratic electorate need thoughtful voters (let us call them philosophers). Welder need to be philosopher-enough that they don't let themselves be snookered by some demagogue who himself is bookless and factless and history-less. It's a challenge to identify a thoughtful candidate when one of our major parties is offering a full slate of empty but noisy barrels.
It's a little late in the day for me to embark on a career in pteridology. Too many ferns, too little time. There may be a backup option: intimate, private pteridophilia or even pteridomania.
But in fact, empty enthusiasm is no substitute for knowledge. It's mortifiying that after all these years of treading upon, admiring and sometimes even transplanting them, I know almost nothing about the Ophioglassales or the Marattiales, the Equisetums (although I can identify both the scouring rush and the horsetail), the Hymenophyllales, the lygodium (which climbs with a twining midrib), nor the aquatic Salviniales. And then there are the twelve thousand separate and individual species of Polypodiales. Although I could not help being aware of polypody ferns -- they're all over the place, sparkling in the understory and thriving in forest clearings -- I could not name the name of a single one save the extremely distinctive and graceful maidenhair and the undistinguished plain (and poisonous) ineradicable bracken.
Nor, until I read Robbin Moran's enchanting A Natural History of Ferns (Portland, OR, 2004) did I have a clear idea of how ferns reproduce. Of course I was familiar with the folklore upon which Shakespeare drew -- that the seed of the fern is invisible and confers invisibility. There's a micro-debate on the truth of this imaginative idea in an early scene of The First Part of Henry the Fourth:
Gadshill: We steal as in a castle, cocksure; we have the receipt [i.e. recipe] of fern-seed, we walk invisible.
To which the skeptical chamberlain replies,
Nay, by my faith, I think you are more beholding to the night than to fern-seed for your walking invisible.
Our sometimes clever but often obtuse ancestors, knowing that all plant must have seeds, and that ferns don't, jumped to the conclusion that fern seeds must be invisible. Well, there's a theory. It took a surprisingly long time for the truth to out. In fact ferns bear very small, sometimes even microscopic spores, visible, at best, as a fine dust. It was not until 1794 that John Lindsay noticed that the spores produced a tiny green growth, nor until 1848 that Michael Jerome Leszczyc-Suminski deployed his microscope to determine that these so-called prothalli produced male and female sexual parts, and that from the union of egg and motile sperm an embryonic plant with roots, leaves, and stems was produced.
It seems like an unnecessarily complicated way to reproduce, but it's worked very successfully for 345 million years, more or less.
Of all the many ferns of past and present, the one that I would most like to see with my own eyes fell by the evolutionary wayside 225 years ago and are unlikely to be resurrected in some vegetable Jurassic Park. Theyr'e the giant lepidodendrons of the late Carboniferous, tree-size ferns that in the form of coal are very likely providing right now the power for your and my computer.
One oddity of some lepidodendra was that after fertilization they took an unusual (perhaps even unique) path. The plant's root aborted while the burgeoning shoot produced both the usual stem and a also downward-growing rooting organ -- not a true root though it anchored the plant, but a root-like system called a rhizomorph. Because the plant was a monocarp --that is, a plant that grows for many years until mature, then flowers, fruits and dies -- both the upside and the downside of the plant were, so to speak, term-limited. And because the stem went both up and down, above ground and below ground, it was remarkably symmetrical along the axis of the soil.
I wonder how a forest of lepidodendra would have appeared to a modern eye. Very exotic, I imagine. Lepidoptera differed from modern trees in many ways, but particularly in that their trunks were green with chlorophyll rather than bark-brown. I think the scene would have included many uprooted or rather uprhizomorphed plants. Quite a jungle, I should imagine, and quite a delicious menu for the lumbering beasts who fed upon it.
"Enough" is a mighty peculiar looking word, but a good one nevertheless. It frequently shows up in older texts as "enow." I don't know how the original medieval velar fricative signified by "ough" evolved into so many different pronunciations: e.g. although, through, hiccough, plough, rough.
My favorite enough proverb dates back to the fifteenth century, and is as pertinent now as then: "enough is as good as a feast." Our moralizing ancestors knew that "the avaritious scraping together that knows no bounds" was a vice, especially because it "renders us unfeeling to the wants of others." Yes to a bellyful, no to the excesses of the feast.
There's an oblique modern commentary on "enough is as good as a feast" in Maxwell Anderson/John Huston's Key Largo. The dialogue is notable and familiar, especially when we call to mind that the gangster Johnny Rocco is played by Edward G. Robinson and the war hero Frank McCloud is Humphrey Bogart.
Johnny Rocco: There's only one Johnny Rocco.
James Temple: How do you account for it?
Frank McCloud: He knows what he wants. Don't you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Sure.
James Temple: What's that?
Frank McCloud: Tell him, Rocco.
Johnny Rocco: Well, I want uh ...
Frank McCloud: He wants more, don't you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Yeah. That's it. More. That's right! I want more!
James Temple: Will you ever get enough?
Frank McCloud: Will you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Well, I never have. No, I guess I won't.
So there it is -- a nice contrast between "enough" and "more". And instructive, I think, in this day and age when our one-percenters seem to want more and more, and are incapable of grasping that "enough is enough."
When I taught Shakespeare for the first time, at CCNY in the mid-60s, fresh out of graduate school, I was mightily unprepared. I set myself the challenge of teaching a new play every week for thirty weeks. So every weekend I would tackle a play that I had read but not studied and then MWF try to explain it to my unwilling cherubs. I learned a lot but I can't imagine that I was an effective instructor, struggling, as I was, to keep my academic head above water (and by the way deal with a newborn at home).
But sometime during that first year I met Rose Zimbardo, who was teaching another section of the course, and it was from Rose that I began to learn my trade. She was a few significant years older than I, more experienced (and more imaginative as well). Rose invited me to go for lunch with her and her great friend Ed Quinn, who had recently completed, nominally with O. J. Campbell, but in fact all by himself, the still useful Shakespeare Encyclopedia. Quinn knew everything and Rose was chock full of theories about the plays, some sensible, some borderline daft, but all provocative. Lunches for me with Ed and Rose became a moveable seminar -- not an exaggeration to say as valuable as another Ph. D. I was challenged, inspired.
I lost that job (good fortune in the long run) and Rose moved on to Stony Brook. I didn't meet Ed Quinn for twenty years, when I encountered him at Boston hotel sometime in the 80s, and we had a moment to reminisce. I never set eyes on Rose again. But I thought about her and Ed often and I look back with fondness and gratitude for all they taught me.
Ed died a few years ago, a great loss. And now Rose.
Last year, through the miracle of the internet, I was able to exchange a few emails with Rose. I hope I properly expressed my appreciation for all she had done for me. It was my intention to visit her the next time I found myself in California (she had retired to Davis, which she professed to loathe) as part of my farewell tour. Too late, alas.
Rose was a fine scholar, an excellent teacher, and a great lady. Rest in peace, old friend.
I enjoy good relations with animal -- respectful, sometimes even affectionate. I remember with great fondness the many purring, playful cats and kittens of my youth. I was once very taken with a calf named September and, I confess, almost in love with the matriarch of a small herd of Morgans, a lovely lady named Gillian. The twin Nigerian dwarf goats, Orville and Wilbur, were, I think, special friends. But for some reason I've never taken to dogs, even though I know the story about dog/human co-evolution. Doggy dogs are moderately acceptable, but the various special breeds of dogs, dog-show dogs, seem to me to be freaks and monstrosities. We should have left them as wolves and not meddled.
Of all the various teratological breeds my least favorites are the ones who have been hybridized into snoutlessness. Dogs deserve and need a snout.
I was once attacked by a snoutless ugly bulldog; its owner, who, incidentally, had quite a snout himself, instead of apologizing profusely, made the utterly unjustified claim that I had provoked the attack. The incident reinforced my prejudice against bulldogs. It's not just that bulldogs are aggressive; let's make no bones about it, it's that for some inexplicable perverse reason they've been bred to be hideous. A travesty of a dog.
Nevertheless, I was startled to read the following paragraph in Richard C. Francis' new book on domestication of animals (Domesticated, Evolution in a Man-Made World, 2015):
The squashed face carries a heavy cost in and of itself. It starts with breathing problems. The shortened snout causes the soft palate to bunch up in front of the trachea in a way that impedes airflow. Since panting is the primary way for dogs to cool, bulldogs are also vulnerable to death by overheating. The mouth of a bulldog is also too small to accommodate its teeth, so they are crowded and grow at odd angles, trapping food debris. Gum disease is rampant. A bulldog's eyes don't seat properly In the skull and can pop out, even from straining at a leash. Often the eyelids cannot close completely, resulting in irritations and infection. The excessive skin folds often become infected. Perhaps most telling, the bulldog's head has become to large to pass through the birth canal; most births require Caesarean section.
Big mistake, the bulldog. We humans should have learned to leave well enough alone.
There are two memorable moments in Kent Haruf's competent, enjoyable and posthumous novel, Our Souls at Night (2015). The first is the proposal that Addie Moore make to Louis Waters that starts it all off. Addie and Louis are long spouseless and in their seventies, solitary. Addie calls on Louis and says, without much preparation, "I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me." The second takes place after Addie and Louis have become a couple and the local Holt, Colorado Nosey Parkers are beginning to gossip. The lovers decide to confront the talkatives directly. "They stood at the corner of Second and Main in the bright noon sun waiting for the light to change and looked straight back at the people they met and greeted them and nodded and she had her arm entwined with his and then they walked across the street to the Holt Café where he opened the door for her followed her inside. They stood waiting to be seated. People inside looked at them. They knew about half of those sitting in the café, or at least knew who they were. The girl came and said, is it the two of you? It is Louis said. We'd like one of those tables out in the middle." The forthrightness, the honesty in both of these scenes is rather wonderful. And so it's sad that eventually the puritanism of the Colorado plains wins out and the novel becomes a trifle ScarletLetter-y. But good for the septuagenarians, I say, who show a lot more grit and juice than their townsfolk and family.
When I was a boy, a boob was simpleton, a nimcompoop, what Shakespeare calls a mooncalf and what in an earlier life I might have called a schmuck or a schmendrick. "Boobs" was an everyday expression; so common and pervasive that The Three Stooges might just as easily have been called the The Three Boobs. There were other related uses of the word; "booby hatch" -- a semi-humorous appellation for what used to be called an insane asylum, and also the "boob-tube"-- though whether the boob in that doublet denoted the machine itself or the or the schmendricks who stare at it was never clear to me. But at some point in my linguistic career the word "boob" re-emerged with a new primary signification. It now seems to have become the most common word for the female breast.
I do not like it when a breast is called a boob. It is disrespectful. A breast is soft and nurturing but also erotic and enticing. A boob is neither; it is a denatured object, stripped of its warm associations and joined instead to foolishness and boobery. "Boob" is a deliberately unsexual and undignified term. It is also, as Shakespeare says in a different context, "base, vulgar and popular."
And available. If a person should happen to google the word "boob," perhaps searching for information of an etymological kind, the first, second, third and perhaps hundredth entries that he or she will encounter are for "boob selfies." A "boob selfie," for readers equally as naïve as me, is a photograph which a woman takes of her boobs and posts on the internet. Jane Austen did not do this. Neither did George Eliot. I can't demonstrate that the word "boob' is responsible for such a decadent display of immodesty, but I do note that "breast selfies" or "bosom selfies" are both inconceivable.
Nor did suicidal Cleopatra say, when bringing the venomous asp to her breast, say "Peace, peace/ Dost thou not see my baby at my boob/ That sucks the nurse asleep."
A friend recalls seeing a film, many years ago (1950s or 60s), in which a character speaks the wonderful line, "0il the women." My friend cannot remember the name of the movie or much about it, except that it was a desert movie in which a sheik or pasha or emir or something else very "Orientalist," preparing for a lubricious but acceptable-to-the-League-of-Decency orgy, utters the fabulous phrase.
I can't identify the film and the words don't google. Does anyone out there in blaguelandia know where such an inspired bit of dialogue occurred. Who said it? And more importantly, what genius wrote it?
In the absence of real information, I'm free to create my own scenario. It's got to be a 1950s film in now-faded Technicolor, and really cheesy. It's not a real desert but a sound stage with minimal sand and and a few plastic rocks. The inferior lighting allows you to see shadows on the stained backcloth that passes for a vista. The costumes are off the rack and every once in a while there's a visible zipper. A microphone appears briefly and intermittently at the top of the screen. The part of the sheik is played not by Steve Cochran but by one of his less-accomplished imitators. The dialogue is in pseudo-archaic phony-middle-Eastern-accented English.
News comes of a victory in battle and the bejeweled and beturbaned emir, whose heavy eyebrows dance above his too-heavily-kohled eyes, turns to his muscular bodyguards and shouts, "bring out the food, bring out the drink, oil the women."
Anyway, that's the way I imagine it. But it's also possible that the line comes from a parody of such a film. Could it be tucked away somewhere in a Marx brothers movie? Or somewhere in one of Mel Brooks' historical skits. It's Monte Pythonish but alas before their time.
Please help, friends of Vivian de St. Vrain. Who oiled what women?