Sunday, October 19, 2014

I shall never suffer from loneliness

All I have to do is go into the bathroom and close the door, and from one to forty of my blood relatives will immediately be knocking on the door or walking down the hall calling my name.

One sign of a good family

When children are taught to speak to their elders with respect, it certainly is an encouraging sign. Not a guarantee, of course, but a positive indicator.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Literary deficiency

I am reading Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I had never read one of her novels, but had seen this movie; and I was curious to see how closely the movie followed the book. Austen's writing, following the style of the day, is very wordy. Most of the time is taken up with conversations, and the speakers used the involved, formal verbage prevalent in that generation.

What struck me immediately is how deficient society is today in the use of language. I do not deny that Austen's expressions could have been made less unwieldy; my point is that most high school students today probably would not have the verbal skills, and certainly not the mental perseverance, to read this book.

We have become a society of technical experts, and the noble old English language has been left in the lurch. Sad. My concern is not that people do not choose to read after Austen's somewhat ponderous style, but that they would not have the skills and discipline to appreciate it if they were to read it.

Bonner's coalhole

Occasionally in the sermons and writings of Charles Spurgeon you will find references to "Bonner's coalhole." It appears that this was an underground dungeon into which many Protestants were crammed during Queen Mary's reign. It was named after the Catholic Bishop of London, Edmund Bonner (called Butcher Bonner or Bloody Bonner). When Queen Elizabeth came to power, Bonner found himself thrown into the very prison that he has used against the Protestants.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Virginia Cherrill - one more actress who married a blueblood

Virginia Cherrill acted from 1931 to 1936. She went through four husbands, including Cary Grant. Her third was George Francis Child Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey.

The Earl of Jersey and Virginia Cherrill

Another benefit of the law

"Law is honest man's eyeglass to see better."

(from Charlie Chan's Greatest Case)

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

In Society (1944)

Abbott and Costello are pure slapstick, and sometimes they get a little overmuch, but this movie is a lot of fun nevertheless. There is a good supporting cast, including the incomparable Arthur Treacher. In this entry, the boys are plumbers and get summoned by our old favorite Thurston Hall. Costello is sweet on female cab driver Marion Hutton (sister of the more famous but less pretty Betty Hutton). It happens that there is a masquerade party going on in the mansion, and Hutton mistakes a wealthy Kirby Grant, who is disguised as a cab driver, to be a colleague on duty. He does not believe she really is a cabbie, and a quasi-Cinderella story results.

One funny scene is the 6'3" Treacher butling for the 5'5" Costello.

Grant later was the star of the Sky King television program that we watched in my childhood.



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Hutton

What happened at the dog races?!

One of the great intriguing mysteries of literature in the English-speaking world is what actually happened when Lord Ickenham and his nephew, Pongo Twistleton, went to the dog races. This notable event is referred to several times in describing the fun-loving nature of Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Fifth Earl of Ickenham (which penchant for fun always gives Pongo a headache at the very mention of it). Perhaps most Wodehouse lovers have just assumed that that story was told in a book they have not read yet.

We do know that at the dog races, Uncle Fred and Pongo were in the hands of the constable within ten minutes. Ickenham gives his name to the court as George Robinson of East Dulwich, and so the family crest is not smudged. The bottom line is that we never get more than a hint of The Mystery of the Dog Races. In his book, Plum Sauce, Richard Usborne tells us that Sir Pelham Wodehouse died without ever having told us the whole story about the dog races.

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Pride and vanity

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonimously [sic]. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.

(from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)

More HERE about pride.

Scrupulous partners in crime

Lord Ickenham sighed. In principle he approved of his young friend's rigid code of ethics, but there was no denying that that high-mindedness of his could be inconvenient, lowering as it did his efficiency as a plotter. The ideal person with whom to plot is the furtive, shifty-eyed man who stifled his conscience at the age of six and would not recognize a scruple if you served it up to him on an individual blue plate with bearnaise sauce.

(from Service with a Smile, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

More HERE about plotters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The champion Wodehousean buzzer

In Plum Sauce, (A P. G. Wodehouse Companion), author Richard Usborne deals at some length with characters who "buzz" or agitate the conversation in order to "start something." For instance, he notes that Psmith does it frequently merely because he is bored and wants entertainment.

To the surprise of no one, however, his champion "buzzer" is to be found in one certain cheerful gentleman who appears mainly in the Blandings Castle stories. "Take a line through Psmith and fifty young heroes and heroines of stories and novels, and you fetch up at the biggest of all the irrepressible buzzers, Lord Ickenham. His talk is like the flail of a tank going through a minefield."

More HERE about the Uncle Fred and the dog races.

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These Wodehousean characters get no sympathy

At least they get none from me. Those are Alaric, Duke of Dunstable and Rupert "The Efficient" Baxter. Both are utterly self-serving, the Duke combining it with blatant and constant rudeness and Baxter with a condescending haughtiness. Neither apparently has any redeeming lovable characteristics. We feel that they deserve whatever negative consequences they get.

There are others who come close. Wooster's aunts, for instance. Still, one feels that if Bertie just had any semblance of backbone, they would beat an indignant retreat and become non-factors, so he bears much of the blame for their defects. Lady Constance is another character who comes close, but finally we see her dissolving into tears and remarrying, so she has at least that much humanity. Only Dunstable and Baxter emerge as complete negatives.

More HERE about Dunstable.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Adolph Deutsch - film scores

Not long ago we watched All Through the Night, a World War II comedy/thriller starring Humphrey Bogart. It is one of my favorites, and the musical score is great. Tonight we were watching Northern Pursuit, starring Errol Flynn and also a WWII thriller, and I got to noticing that the music sounded very familiar. I did a little research, and sure enough, Alolph Deutsch had written the scores for both. He was great at maintaining the tension in a film by means of the score.

More HERE about All Through the Night.

Bringing back memories of a snackless home

It was always so embarrassing in my youth when I would have friends over because we never had any snacks. If you went to the refrigerator the only things that would be there would be leftovers - of healthy foods, grown in our garden. The closest thing we had to snack food was something like molasses on cold cornbread. We were disgustingly healthy. I now have a dieting wife. She has lost 20 pounds and intends to stay after it. So now, when I go to the kitchen, what do I find? Healthy stuff! I am having to go through my second childhood. But (sigh) I am probably much better off for it.

More HERE about snacks.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

He resembled a barfing dog

The anguished look in Lord Emsworth's eyes became more anguished. It was as if the question had touched an exposed nerve. He gulped for a moment, reminding Lord Ickenham of a dog to which he was greatly attached which made a similar sound when about to give up its all after a too busy day among the fleshpots.

(from Service with a Smile, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)