Saturday, June 30, 2007

Amos 'n' Andy and Leo

Leo the MGM Lion first roared at moviegoers in 1924. He's even older than I am! I watch old MGM musicals just to hear him roar and to see those wonderful words "Ars Gratia Artis." Art for its own sake. Thank goodness I grew up back in those old, incorrect, insensitive days when we enjoyed radio, books, movies and all art forms just the fun of it. We didn't analyze it to death or indulge in hand wringing and teeth gnashing about the bad messages that were filling our minds.
Should I apologize to my 8 year old African American Grandson for loving the nightly radio adventures of Amos 'n' Andy when I was not much older than he is? I guess I could say I didn't know any better. The roles were played by two white guys using what in those days was "Negro dialect." Must I feel guilty for loving MGM's all Black film from 1943, "Cabin in the sky?" What a beautiful and touching tale. There was Ethel Waters, the great lady who kissed me on the cheek after I did a radio interview with her. Eddie Anderson, as her "Little Joe" was so closely associated with his long running radio and TV role as Jack Benny's valet that the movie credits call him Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. When Ethel Waters sings one of the great all time torch songs, "Happiness is just a thing called Joe," I lose it. Goosebumps big time. The song was nominated for an academy award. The title song is a superb piece of songwriting, too. The first eleven notes climb upward, just like the mystical stairway to the heavenly cabin that Petunia and Little Joe climb in the film's wonderful dream sequence. Ethel Waters continued to sing "Cabin in the Sky," along with "His Eye is on the Sparrow" in her later years when she joined the Billy Graham Crusades.
The DVD release of the film is preceeded by an apology for the racial stereotypes and it's followed by a long, detailed social commentary, complete with clips illustrating various stereotypical situations and characters. The commentator took a slap at what he perceived as the simple minded religious faith that was portrayed in the film. I didn't find it at all simple minded, but "simple" in the best sense of the word, a charming, well crafted and acted tale of the battle between good and evil, God and the devil. Lena Horne, now in her eighties, played the temptress who seduced Little Joe. She was on the commentary. I would like to have heard what she said, but I got bored to death before her part came on.
When my now 8 year old grandson gets older, must he apologize to his grandkids for loving old Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons?" They're violent, they're full of racial, ethnic and gender stereotypes. You can find something demeaning about some group in every famous cartoon character and story. Dangerous music, too. The NPR interview with a fellow who has written a book about cartoon music ended with Louis Armstrong's recording of "Chinatown My Chinatown" as an example of an unfortunate stereotpye. Will 8 year old Alexander have to wring his hands and gnash his teeth about his youthful cartoon habit when he gets to be an old granddad??

Monday, June 25, 2007

Flagged Blogs

I wonder what it takes to get a blog removed after being flagged. Can't be porno or "bad words." There's plenty of that. I don't think it's politically incorrect views about the government, individuals or groups. And with so many miilions of bloggers online, blog providers can't possibly have enough people to investigate every complaint.How many flaggged blogs wind up being deleted? Wouldn't it be interesting to get into the complaint department. Has a media reporter ever done a story about that? I think I will suggest it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Old Things

A good friend who collects everything gave me the magnificent, big-as-a-barn 1941 Zenith console Radio that's the centerpiece of the nostalgia corner of my room, along with pictures of a 1930 Packard, Theater Organ consoles and legendary pin-up girl Bettie Page busting out of her nurses uniform. (My son, who is not all bad, gave me the huge wall hanging of Bettie.) If I can clear a space on the wall, my old QSL cards and ham license plates will go up there.
This collector friend asked me the other day, "What's the good word?" I said, "It's not sex. Not money. I know, it's ANTIQUES!" He agreed. He would be happy to add an old Hammond Organ to my den of nostalgia, but I would want a Leslie speaker for it, and they are even bigger than the radio. I guess I could float a loan and add a room for my old toys. While I'm at it, how about a bigger garage to house an old Packard and a mid 80's Chrysler Fifth Avenue. How fortunate that my wife does not read my blog. I am saved from an untimely death by murder.

I love old things. Maybe it's because I am one.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Gay Life. Changing Times

Anybody out there young enough to remember a famous book (I think it was also a play) "Our Hearts Were Young and Gay"?
I have a note from a friend my age (real old) whose granddaughter's wedding will feature a gay man best friend instead of a bridesmaid. Granny says that if she had done that when she married, her country village forbears would have disowned her. If I had told my country village relatives I had a gay friend, they would have said, "That's nice. It's good for you to be with happy people."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Buster Keaton on Bikini Beach?

Even if you are not sick, you should go to a doctor's waiting room to look at amazing magazines you didn't know about. I was astounded to learn that Buster Keaton, the great silent film maker who some say was better than Chaplin, was reduced in later years to appearing in at least two Annette Funicello-Frankie Avalon beach bikini films in the mid 60's. Apparently he played himself, complete with his trademark porkpie hat. When I can find it, I will post a picture of me with Buster's widow and his co-star in one of his silents from the 20's. Eleanor Keaton has left us, but silent actress Adrian Booth is still around at 88.

Cynics Anonymous

Responding to my Fathers Day post, Etaoin Shrdlu finds it typically cynical. I am president of the local CA chapter. It has naught to do with my advanced age and associated curmudgeonliness. When I quit my first job at the radio station owned by the Methodist Church and told the boss it was clear that the church didn't want or
need a radio station, he said "We have a cynic here." I was in my early 20's. There is another thing young persons need to know when contemplating marriage: Your lover's little human peculiarities might become major irritants as he/she gets older. Oops, there I go again. I must call a CA meeting so we can share gripes and groans about life.

Fathers Day

Few men, maybe none, are quite the father that their wives wish they were. Is that cynical? I hope not. Male and female parenting needs are different. That's one of the thousand and one things you need to know before you cohabit and make babies. If I were a premarital counsellor I would remind the couples of that. But they probably wouldn't listen.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Phil and Robin

Dr. Phil is too hard on men. If he has never had a lusty thought about some babe in 30 years of marriage, Robin must be a helluva woman.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Not a very creative or original title for one who claims to care about words. But that's what it's about. Writing and life. The only time I am really happy, the only thing that I lose myself in, is writing. Doesn't matter whether I'm composing in my head or pecking away at the keyboard and watching those wonderful words pop up on the screen. That's probably a pretty neurotic thing. Writing is something you do alone. I suppose a shrink would say I need to check into Nurse Ratched's psych ward and get a real life. How I admire those writers who are great adventurers, living life to the fullest, living it and writing about it with equal balance, skill and passion.
I get some kind of vicarious joy watching people, especially musicians, who get happily lost in what they do.It's also great fun to read about bloggers' passions. I'm a pretty good amateur musician, but I never quite get lost in it like the real musicians do.I get close to that point and then something goes wrong, I leave the keyboard and don't touch it again for a long time. When I'm on the bandstand, doing the announcing at a Big Band Concert, it makes me smile to know that the audience thinks I'm up there going happily nuts to be involved with all that great music. They don't need to know that I'm lost in mentally composing my clever adlib introduction for the next tune on the list. Words are my music. I should have used that for the title.