30 May 2020

Lesser Known Facts About Historical Figures

Mata Hari was into caves.
I have recently used some of the spare time that the quarantine has afforded me to do historical research. What I've looked for and found is some interesting tidbits about some of the most famous people in world history. I confess to having known none of these fascinating facts before embarking on my research. In reading these, I hope you that will be as edified and entertained as I was in compiling them.

Charles Dickens was one of the first contestants on The Price is Right. He won a dinette set.

According to biblical scholars, Jesus Christ frequently complained about his commute.

Sigmund Freud’s original quote was “sometimes a spigot is just a spigot” but a friend who was an executive in the cigar industry talked him into changing it.

Before signing the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock said, “let me put my me on it.”

Charles De Gaulle was once mistakenly arrested for stealing a harpsichord. The real culprit was his doppelgänger, Irv Kettlebaum.

Adolph Hitler’s last meal was Oreos and milk.

In Vittoria DeSica’s original script, instead of stealing a bicycle,  the main character was going to borrow sugar from a neighbor.

Ironically, Julius Caesar never ordered the Caesar salad.

Exotic dancer and convicted World War I spy Mata Hari was an avid spelunker.

Katharine Hepburn and Eleanor Roosevelt once braided each other’s hair.

Abraham Lincoln often complained that Thai food gave him indigestion.

While it is well-known that the famous French novelist Marcel Proust liked to write in bed, less well- known is the fact that he liked to sleep at his desk.

Babe Ruth and Mahatma Gandhi once shared a cab.

Former Secretary of State Cordell Hull lost his Nobel Peace Prize in a poker game.

In addition to being a great orator and writer, Frederick Douglass was reputedly a kick ass shuffleboard player.

Intimates of George Washington called him G Dub.

Lee Harvey Oswald graduated magna cum laude from Roscoe Arbuckle High School.

Maria Callas was an avid crescent wrench aficionado with over 200 different wrenches in her collection.

At the time of his death, Samuel Morse was working on a modification for the telegraph that would have allowed for face time.

Much to the annoyance of Louis XVIII, Cardinal Richelieu regularly came down with Spring Fever.

Alexander Graham Bell hated being put on hold.

28 May 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day 74, Entry 18, Howlers, Singers, Soccer, Birds and Squirrels

The bird I've unimaginatively christened, Red.
At 8:00 every evening my neighborhood is subjected to the sound of people howling like coyotes. I understand that this occurs in other neighborhoods throughout the United States. I'm ready for it to stop post haste and indeed have been since the night it started. The howling -- in addition to being a rude interruption to reading, watching a film or engaging in conversation -- serves as a nightly reminder that we are in the midst of a pandemic and are sheltering in place. I do not need this reminder. The howling also suggests that humankind is not that far removed from wild beasts. Recent actions of police officers, racists and the president are sufficient to drive this point home. So, yeah, I hate this baying at the moon business. It does not build a sense of community (there's but a few loud practitioners in our area) but it does annoy the hell out of me.

We also have on our block a few souls who gather every day at noon to sing. In principle this is not a bad idea. In practice it is another annoyance (though not so loud as the howlers) as the sound they produce reminds one of a wolverine being choked to death. We are relieved of this caterwauling on Wednesdays when our neighbors stroll up the block to a bigger gathering of "singers" including denizens of other blocks. Thankfully they are too far away to offend our ears. The singers on our block mostly in their fifties and sixties. Maybe older. The sound they produce (which we really don't have to deal with provided windows are closed) is bad enough, but they accentuate their amateurism by swaying and sometimes even dancing along with their tuneless vocalizations. Again this is easily avoided by drawing the shades, so I've really nothing to complain about. Indeed one should probably compliment them for finding a way to maintain a sense of community during the shelter-in--place order.

A few weeks ago I was able to start getting a sports fix as the German Bundesliga (my favorite name for any league of any sport in the world) began playing again. While my great love is for English football (soccer to you Yanks) the German game is, like the Italian, Spanish and to a lesser extent, the French, a decent alternative. But of course they are playing before empty stadiums and the absence of crowd noise is just plain weird. Imagine watching a comedy special on HBO or Netflix in which the comedian performed before, well, no one. Especially odd is when a goal is scored. The excitement is not nearly the same when there is no roar of the crowd accompanying the goal. A few days ago I watched a match in which they played recorded crowd noise over the sound system. Whoever was in the control booth was able to masterfully and quickly switch from general background noise to whatever sounds would accompany a particular situation such as a goal, a near miss, a nasty foul or a sudden counter attack. The English league is scheduled to re-open on June 17th which will be a huge improvement for me as I'm much more familiar with the teams and players and more emotionally vested in the results plus, of course, I'll be able to see my favorite team in action (Arsenal). I still wait with bated breath for news of college football in the Fall although it is difficult to be hopeful of it being anything at all like the normal deal.

Meanwhile the wife and I continue to enjoy the company of the birds and squirrels that congregate on or around our bird feeder. It's been sad to note that a couple we got to know is no longer together. There were two birds, one red-breasted, that were frequent diners, always arriving and leaving together. "Red" continues to avail himself of the feeder but his partner has not been around. Are they Splitsville? Is she ill or -- heaven forbid -- deceased? Is she visiting family? Maybe it's just a trial separation. We also now have three different squirrels who visit. We've taken to putting a lot of feed on the ground beneath the feeder so they can feast there instead of going through all manner of contortions to eat at the feeder and in the process keep the birds away. One of our new furry friends is a little chap with a copious appetite. He's more fearless than his older counterparts and does not scare easily. I've got to get around to naming the bloke.

So other than all that business about howling and singing and the lack of sports and missing birds, I'm fine.

24 May 2020

Ten Lists of Ten Films For Your Memorial Day Enjoyment

Au Revoir Les Enfants
My Ten Favorite French Films
1. Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) Malle
2. La Haine (1995) Kassovitz
3. Le Silence de la mer (1949) Melville
4. La vie de Boheme (1992) Kaurismäki
5. Vivre Sa Vie (1962) Godard
6. Shoot the Piano Player (1960) Truffaut
7. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) Bunuel
8.  La Grande Illusion (1937) Renoir)
9. Port of Shadows (1938) Carne
10. Cold Water (1994) Assayas

My Ten Favorite Films That Feature Robert De Niro
1. Goodfellas (1990)  Scorsese
2. Taxi Driver (1976) Scorsese
3. Raging Bull (1980) Scorsese
4. The Godfather: Part II (1974) Coppola
5. The King of Comedy (1982) Scorsese
6. Mean Streets (1973) Scorsese
7. The Deer Hunter (1978) Cimino
8. Jackie Brown (1997) Tarantino
9. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Russell
10. Heat (1995) Mann

My Ten Favorite Films By Female Directors
1. The Virgin Suicides (1999) S. Coppola
2. The Ascent (1977) Sheptiko
3. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) Ramsay
4.  Wanda (1970) Loden
5.  Cleo fFrom 5 to 7 (1962) Varda
6.  Wings (1966) Shepitko
7.  Mustang (2015) Erguven
8.  Europa Europa (1990) Holland
9.  Wendy and Lucy (2008) Reichardt
10. Peppermint Soda (1977) Kurys

Heaven's Gate
My Ten Favorite Westerns
1. Heaven’s Gate (1980) Cimino
2. The Searchers (1956) Ford
3. Stagecoach (1939) Ford
4. The Wild Bunch (1969) Peckinpah
5. Red River (1948) Hawks
6. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) Altman
7. My Darling Clementine (1946) Ford
8. Little Big Man (1970) Penn
9. The Big Trail (1930) Walsh
10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) Hill

My Ten Favorite Bergman Films
1. Winter Light (1963) 
2. The Seventh Seal (1957)
3. Fanny And Alexander (1982)
4. Persona (1966)
5. Through A Glass Darkly (1961) 
6. Shame (1968) 
7. Silence (1963) 
8. Wild Strawberries (1957)
9. The Virgin Spring (1960) 
10. Cries & Whispers (1972)

The Ten Films I've Watched the Most*
1. It’s a Wonderful Life 1946) Capra
2. Christmas in Connecticut (1945) Godfrey
3. Manhattan (1979) Allen
4. Annie Hall (1977) Allen
5. The Great Escape (1963) J. Sturges
6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Capra
7. Duck Soup (1933) McCarey
8. Mean Girls (2004) Waters
9. Casablanca (1942) Curtiz
10. Goodfellas (1990)  Scorsese
*This is merely a guess, I have no empirical data here.

My Ten Favorite Films Made in the 1920s
1. Sunrise (1927) Murnau
2. The Big Parade (1925) Vidor
3. La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) Dreyer
4. The Gold Rush (1925) Chaplin
5. Battleship Potemkin (1925) Eisenstein
6. A Woman of Paris (1923) Chaplin
7. The Crowd (1928) Vidor
8. Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) Pabst
9. The Last Laugh (1924) Murnau
10. The Lodger (1927) Hitchcock

A  Clockwork Orange
My Ten Favorite Films Based on Novels I've Enjoyed
1. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Kubrick
2. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Ford
3. The Big Sleep (1946) Hawks
4. No Country For Old Men (2007) Coens
5. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Milestone
6. The Exorcist, (1973) Friedkin
7. Jaws (1975) Speilberg
8. The Maltese Falcon, (1941) Huston
9. Fight Club (1998) Finchner
10. The Long Goodbye (1973) Altman

Ten Excellent Films With Brilliant Performances By a Female Lead
1. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Wilder -- Gloria Swanson
2. The Lady Eve (1941) Sturges -- Barbara Stanwyck
3. Shame (1968) Bergman -- Liv Ullman
4. Blue Jasmine (2013) Allen -- Cate Blanchett
5. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Cassavetes -- Gena Rowlands
6. Nights of Cabiria (1957) Fellini -- Giulietta Masina
7. Cabaret (1972) Fosse -- Liza Minelli
8. Red Desert (1964) Antonioni -- Monica Vitti
9. Stromboli (1950) Rossellini -- Ingrid Bergman
10. Winter’s Bone (2010) Granik -- Jennifer Lawrence

Ten Great Films with Cast Members From Casablanca
1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) Huston -- Humphrey Bogart
2. Viaggio in Italia (1954) Rossellini, -- Ingrid Bergman
3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Capra -- Claude Rains
4. The Maltese Falcon (1941) Huston - Sydney Greenstreet
5. M (1931) Lang -- Peter Lorre
6. Christmas in Connecticut (1945) Godfrey -- S.K.Sakall
7. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Ford --  John Qualen
8. The Talk of the Town (1942) Stevens -- Leonid Kinksey
9. La Grande Illusion (1937) Renoir -- Marcel Dalio
10. 8 1/2 (1963) Fellini -- Madeleine Lebeau

22 May 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day 68, Entry 17, The Way of the Squirrel

A squirrel atop our bird feeders. Photo by yours truly.

I've become something of an artist, I keep drawing a blank.

Now that the laughter has died down from my opening one-liner I'd like to...Say, that reminds me of a true story that I myself still have trouble believing. This was perhaps twenty years ago, we had a school district in-service which all employees were obliged to attend. Such an event took place once a year on the Monday in October when the rest of the country is either celebrating Columbus Day or Indigenous People's Day. Per custom, we all assembled in the high school auditorium, a lovely venue that often hosts concerts. Anyway we were always subjected to a few speakers, one of whom was a big mucky muck in the district office, sometimes the superintendent her or hisself. There was also usually an outside speaker, usually some jamoke "from the outside" who was expert in a particular -- often arcane -- aspect of education. These people had a tendency to induce sleep even among the most caffeinated of listeners. But in the year I'm thinking of (ya know when I started writing this post I had a very definite plan but this story popped into my head and so I'm deviating from script -- so to speak -- and sharing it) the "outsider" was a fairly young and attractive woman. This got the immediate attention of the heterosexual males in the audience, yours truly included. So we're going to give the woman a good minute or two before we lapse into the boredom for which such days were notorious. This may not be verbatim what her talk opened with, but I swear to all that is holy, it's damn close.

"Because I sleep in the nude, when I wake up in the morning I can look down and see that I am a woman and thus am entitled to change my mind. I was originally going to talk about...." That was as much as I remember because at that point I, like my fellow low-minded, disgusting male companions, was fully occupied with the image of this lovely creature in bed, in the nude, looking at her nether regions. Yes the woman got our attention (there were murmurs and giggles and gasps in the audience) but she failed to get most of us to pay a lick of attention of what she was yammering about because we were still focused on the imagery she had so vividly created.

When I wrote about gasps in the audience I was reminded of another story which will represent a further digression from what I intended to write. Again the setting is a meeting of teachers, this one on an infinitely smaller scale as it was at the school I taught. It was comprised of teachers and staff of said school. The principal thought it was a good idea (and this will give further evidence to my fervent belief that school administrators have about as much of originality of thought and imagination as a fiddler crab) for each one of us to talk about how it has been going in our department meetings. Sadly, many of my colleagues went at this assignment with great elan and spared no details in relating the fascinating stories behind such gatherings. If you've never worked at a public school you must trust me that it is the height of sarcasm for me to say that such stories are fascinating. Or interesting. Or worth hearing about. Why, I wondered, am I being subjected to the minutiae that is discussed among my good friends in the math department? In any event we spent what was probably a good (bad?) half an hour that seemed closer to three millennia hearing the epic tales of various department meetings, not from the perspective of the department head mind you, but of all participants. We three in the history department were last to report. My two colleagues preceded me and both made mention of the fact that history teachers were no longer meeting with English teachers in humanities meetings, but we were now separate (but supposedly equal) thus there were but three of us in our meetings, we being the only teachers who exclusively taught history. Then it was my turn. I preface telling you what I said by noting that my fellow history teachers were Doug and Michael who were like me happily married middle aged men. To the assemblage I said the following, and this is verbatim: "Just the three of us meeting together is really difficult for me because of all the sexual tension between Doug and Michel." Rather succinct, I thought. Well, there were gasps, a chuckle or two and one person said, "I can't believe he said that." Other people expressed shock or disbelief too. Most in attendance knew me well enough to see that I was just being my usual wise-ass self. Anyway, I thought it was kind of funny.

A squirrel going through gymnastics to eat.
I'm now further reminded of a staff meeting (this represents deviation number three but fear not for it is a short reminisce) we had voted and decided upon something when someone raised an after-the-fact objection. This led to an endless series of debates and comments that broke no new ground and were not going to change the fact of the vote (sadly this type of scene was not uncommon at school staff meetings). I eventually joined the many raised hands and as the needless debate raged I patiently waited my turn. When I finally got to speak I pointed out the window and said, "look everybody, there's a dead horse, let's beat it." My point was made and I flatter myself that it helped bring a close to the gratuitous disputation.

Maybe now I can get to the points I had originally intended to address in this blog post. If I can only remember what they are. Oh yes. The coronavirus. One of the strangest aspects of it is walking about avoiding people. As the missus and I go for our daily stroll we make decisions on which streets to traverse based on whether there are any people already occupying it. Inevitably we do encounter fellow citizens. The question always is, who's going to cross the street or step aside or climb a tree. It's still a strange feeling to do something that is instinctively feels rude. But, of course, it's not. People do try to exchange a friendly greeting, often, one supposes, just to assuage the guilt of steering clear of one another.

I'd planned to write a lot more, but as noted I got distracted by own memories (they're all I have, he sighed wistfully, once again feeling sorry for himself). I do want to explain the title of this post which I put up before starting to write it. I was going to drone on about the squirrels and birds who the wife and I have become acquainted with of late. The better half has put up a bird feeder and we get a lot of traffic and most of our visitors are regulars. We're providing the hot local eatery for feathered locals. However squirrels also like to partake of the feeder. We're happy for them to stop by for a bite but when they start to feast we open the window and shoo them. They go into quite a bit of gymnastics to access the holes in the feeders and hopefully I'll find a photo to include in this post that will help illustrate that.

Anyway, sorry for the digressions. Maybe next time you'll get a post that starts at the beginning, has a solid middle, builds to a crescendo, then provides a satisfactory denouement. Or not, who knows?

18 May 2020

On the Assumption that Confession is Good For the Soul, I Reveal the "Errors" in my Resume

I think it’s time to come clean about my resume. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever use it again so this comes rather late, but I’ll feel better making a clean breast of it. It would be an understatement of titanic proportions to say that I was prone to exaggeration, embellishments and excesses in creating the various iterations of my resume that were sent out or handed over throughout my professional career. From the time of my first resume (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth) to the most recent version I sent out before getting the job I’m currently laid off from, I have been prone to padding. This much padding could stop a tank.

Let’s start with education. I was never a Rhodes Scholar and indeed it can be said I barely ever qualified as a scholar. I've never even been on the Greek Island of Rhodes. Also I did not attend the Sorbonne nor MIT nor any of the seven Ivy League schools I claimed to have matriculated at. (Yeah seven, you think I’d claim to have gone to Yale? Come on.) Also, I not only did not earn nine PhDs, I didn’t even earn six. Or three. Or one. Also, I did not earn an advanced degree in neurophysics nor in fact do I know what the hell neurophysics is. Neither did I study taxidermy, criminology or criminal taxidermy.

I do not speak 21 languages and in fact don’t know a word of Swahili, Iroquois or Tagalog. However I do indeed boast fluency in Pig Latin.

I am not board certified to perform seances nor have I successfully communicated with the dead, indeed I have great difficulty communicating with the living.

I’ve never worked at a morgue and am now wondering why I thought claiming to have done so would have been seen as benefitting me as a teacher.

Among awards and honors won or earned you can eliminate the Nobel Peace Prize (I don't think anyone was buying that one anyway), the Pulitzer Prizes, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Heisman Trophy, the FIFA Player of the Year, the Academy Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Achievement in Music, all the Boy Scout Certificates, Time Magazine's Man of the Year and Home & Garden's Green Thumb Award -- which is to say all of them.

I am not a black or any other color belt in karate.

My special interests do not include developing a cure for amoebic dysentery, although I’d be happy to see such a cure successfully developed.

Not only did I not work for NASA but I never went on an Apollo mission. However I did watch news highlights of some, if that’s any consolation.

I feel compelled to confess that I did not invent DVDs, CDs or LSD. I also did not found either the United Nations or The Justice League and I’ve been given to understand that the latter is fictional.

I am not the co-creator of the Star Wars films although I did see the first one during its initial release.

Among my special skills you can cross out the following: critical thinking (or any other kind, for that matter), decision-making, problem-solving (although I am adapt at creating them), teamwork (as if!), tap dancing, balloon-making, telekinesis, x-ray vision, archery or proficiency in Excel. I do stand by my claim that I have memorized all the letters of the alphabet but must admit to being shaky about their exact order.

My employment history does not include stints as a member of the Clinton administration, president of General Motors, Director of Interpol, Dean of Students at Vassar, Victoria Secrets model (what ever possessed me to include that I cannot tell you) lead singer of either the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mott the Hoople or sommelier at the Hyatt Regency in Paris.

Finally I cannot boast actually having volunteer experience with Habitat For Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, The United Way, The American Red Cross, the Peace Corps or Big Nate’s Original Burger Barn in Waukegan, Illinois. I did once volunteer to wash the dishes when my wife was ill.

Other than that the resume was fine. The stuff about high school and the job cutting bait down by the wharf you can take to the bank. Sorry about the rest.

16 May 2020

The Joys and Cliches of Films From the '30s and '40s

Carole Lombard and William Powell in My Man Godfrey
I’ve been watching even more films than usual lately. (You can guess why, I’m not going to mention the current global crisis in this post). Many of them from the 1930s and ‘40s, two decades that produced a lot more good cinema than the most recent two. There is something comforting about watching old films, particularly those that feature beloved stars like Edward G. Robinson, William Powell, Barbara Stanwyck, Fred Astaire, Carole Lombard, Bette Davis and I could go on and on. It’s also nice to see many of the ubiquitous supporting players of bygone days who made multiple appearances a year. If you’re a fan of Hollywood’s Golden Age you’ll recognize the faces if not the names of many of them. I  make reference to the likes of Allen Jenkins, Ruth Donelley, Franklin Pangborn, Eric Blore, Una O’Connor, Beulah Bondi, Charles Lane, C. Aubrey Smith, John Qualen, Jane Darwell, William Demarest and again I could go on and on.

Films from the first half of the 20th century were strong on character and rarely bothered with dazzling special effects. The scripts were strong and the direction solid if generally unspectacular. They were — once the production code started being enforced — sanitized without a hint of profanity, only thinly-veiled reference to sex, not a bit of nudity and ridiculously sterilized violence (somehow people back then did not bleed when shot). Many, many topics were strictly verboten such as homosexuality, abortion and prostitution.

On the other hand many of the comedies were actually funny, indeed the thirties and early forties were the golden age of the screwball comedy and prior to that you had the Marx Brothers, still unparalleled in the world of cinematic comedy.

Our Daily Bread (1934)
A lot of films took on the monied class, government corruption and big business. Indeed many of the great films of the era had not-so-subtle leftist messages, even some made by that staunch Republican Frank Capra. Namely Meet John Doe (1941) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Other progressive-minded films included His Girl Friday (1940) (which, in addition to being a great comedy that poked at politicians and the death penalty, also took on newspaper reporters), Holiday (1938), Our Daily Bread, (1934) The Male Animal (1942), Talk of the Town (1942), Heroes for Sale (1933) and Modern Times (1936).

So I have very much enjoying many of these films some of which I’ve watched multiple times over the years. However with this saturation of films there have been some aspects of movies in general and older ones in particular that have become annoying. Meaning specifically elements of films that you never or rarely see in, let’s call it, real life. Here are but a few examples.

”Hello, police department?” It’s how every phone call to the police in every movie always starts. Because, of course, the police answer the phone by merely saying, “hello.” It goes for any other kind of establishment that is telephoned. “Hello, Bill’s Grocery?” Yes, Bill’s would never answer the phone with,“hello this is Bill’s Grocery, how can I help you?” Also, no one ever has to look up a phone number, all movie character’s have memorized the phone book.

Movie phone calls often share another characteristic. The caller keeps repeating what the other person says. “You say he’s not there? He left an hour ago? He didn’t say where he’s going?”

Don’t you always repeat everything the other person says to you during a call? If not, try it some time.

In movies, suitcases are as light as a feather, unless there’s a gag about how heavy the suitcase is. Also, people will pack up for a long trip or take all their worldly possessions and somehow cram them into one normal sized suitcase. Unless there’s a gag about an excess of luggage.

People often do not finish meals, their coffee or their drinks in movies. They are favor abandoning their food, usually after a bite or two. Also a breakfast often consists of one egg. One. And maybe some toast. Yet characters in movies are far more likely to claim not to be hungry than people in real life.

Franklin Pangborn
Also, people will spring out of bed, get dressed and head out the door. Film characters never have to heed mother nature’s call.

Arrangements for meetings and dates are made absent key details. “Let's meet tonight,” says one person. “Fine,” says the other. But when? Where? Would it kill them to say, “how about 7:00? I’ll come by your place.”

Some plot contrivances are utterly ridiculous and predicated on people being total idiots. I just the other day watched the famous Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie, Top Hat (1935). The whole plot centers around Ginger believing that Fred is his married friend. A problem that could have been avoided if Fred had bothered to introduce himself to this woman with whom he’d fallen in love. Now seriously, who doesn’t exchange names with a person they’ve just met and have a massive crush on? No one. But these two characters spend several reels of the film together without the idiot having said his name. Ludicrous. (But the dance numbers are sublime, so there’s that.)

A lot of movie plots center around misunderstandings and cases of mistaken identity that strain credulity. Audiences go along with it for the sake of the laughs or songs or dances that accompany a plot so thin or strained a baby could crack it.

Top Hat is just one of many dozens of films in which a woman is literally seconds away from marrying someone other than the man she is really in love with. Movie characters are cavalier about who they’ll marry and will swap potential spouses like they would dance parties. Being saved from marrying some dud has featured in any number of Hollywood classics such as: It Happened One Night (1934), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), The Awful Truth (1937), Christmas in Connecticut 1945), Carefree (1938),  and the list goes on. In three of the films I've just mentioned a woman was saved from marrying Ralph Bellamy (poor guy never caught a break) and in three of these movies Cary Grant wins the dame at the last second.

Love at first sight is a staple of old movies which do not have time for courtships. Astaire, for example, need only lay eyes on Ginger, exchange a few words and declare to a friend that he is going to marry her. At the end of the film he invariably did.

Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy
Another staple of films is when a character has big news — often bad, sometimes a confession of real identity — to give their co-star BUT said co-star also has big news. Person one insists, “you go first,” this revelation always either makes character A have to rethink sharing his news or it has been contradicted.

Characters also have amazing luck with cabs. Of course it would kill the pacing of a film to have someone standing around waiting for one.

When our hero steals clothes in order to escape pursuers (often this involves conking some poor sap on the head and stripping him) the clothes fit as if they were tailored for him. And speaking of conks on the head, they are frequently used to knock someone out. Sometimes a punch in the jaw will suffice. If our hero is knocked out he comes to with a momentary aching head -- never a concussion or lump -- and carries on undaunted. People who die in movies do so painlessly. Out of breath to be sure, struggling a little, but able to utter last words.

If a villain is arrested in a movie he generally offers a full confession on the spot. He often seems sanguine about the whole thing and has gone from trying to fool and flee ihs pursuers to giving every last detail of his nefarious deeds. (This has also been a staple of TV crime dramas.)

If there is a gun battle every gun has infinity bullets and bad guys have terrible aim, although they may wing our hero, who will fight on nonetheless -- again, sans blood.

You've likely noted (the author flatters himself that someone has read this far) that many of these cliches have continued in films made throughout the 20th and even into the 21st century. To me the later a film was made the more egregious these repeated cliches become. They are more forgivable in older films where many were being trotted out for the first time. While they do occasionally annoy or distract from an old film, they never ruin it. One accepts certain things as necessities. After all who wants to see the hero shot because the bad guy is an expert marksmen? Who wants to guess at what the party at the other end of a phone call is saying? And who wants to see a character being portrayed by a beautiful actress marry Ralph Bellamy when Cary Grant is available?

11 May 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day 57, Entry 16, Serious Thoughts on The Pandemic, Followed by a Sidesplittingly Funny Vignette and a Bit About Names

Our chambermaid, Cosette
On a serious note:
I find myself thinking back to a few months ago when we were all out and about and mingling. It feels as though that was a completely different time; it’s like remembering the 1970s. The start of the quarantine is one of those demarcation points, such as pre and post 9/11 has become. It really infects (no pun intended) your thinking. Sometimes while watching a movie it’ll occur to me for a second that none of the characters are social distancing. Or someone will sneeze or cough without covering up and I’ll have a moment of shock.

Meanwhile a return to “normal” is seeming increasingly distant and there’s even a sense that it will never be “normal” again. Indeed “experts” are talking about how there will be a “new normal” as some things won’t go back to the way they were and others won’t for a long time. I’m guessing that restaurants, sports events, gyms, yoga classes, nightclubs will be very different experiences, at least in the short term. The prospects are frightening. But there’s reason to hope that it won’t be so bad. Maybe Trumpy will be soundly defeated in November and perhaps Democrats will re-take the senate. If these two things come to pass it will be a tremendous relief to the country and the national psyche and it may portend an era of more positivity and group responsibility and civility. One must hope so, anyway. As we get closer to “normal” there will certainly be a much greater appreciation for daily life from a lot of us — me, for sure. Meanwhile we’re still stuck in the doldrums. Some states are gradually re-opening -- prematurely -- suggesting that the virus will rebound and cause more devastation and those states will have to shut up tight again. In the US we are our own worst enemies, thanks in large part to the example set by our simpleton-in-chief. Why the hell did this pandemic have to happen on his watch? Woe is us.

On a humorous note:
Here in my household we have had to make cutbacks in our budget due to the pandemic and resulting financial strictures.

It was an easy call to let go of the pool boy as we have no pool (plus I always found that he was a bit too chummy with the missus). Likewise the stable boy was sent packing owing to the complete absence of a stable on our grounds — not to mention a certain lack of stability.

So too the chambermaid, Cosette, was laid off. Her presence was likewise redundant as we boast no chamber. Nor for that matter do we posses a scullery so the scullery maid  has been dismissed. My valet, Gunther, has been retained as have the wife’s ladies-in-waiting and some of the ladies who are not waiting but merely loitering.

We have shut down our calliope until further notice and are no longer providing tours of the family crypts. The crypt keeper has been reduced to part time status. However our topiary is still being maintained as are the team of gardeners who oversee them. Our in-house museum and gift shop are shuttered for the duration, which will have the benefit of reducing the number of times I’m caught walking around wearing nothing more than a towel and a smile. Speaking of just wearing a towel, I may have to retain the chambermaid.

Both my personal secretary and girl Friday are sequestered with their families but remain on salary. Not so my chiropodist, Clive, who has been remanded into custody by the local constables for excess punning. It seems Clive has been going around talking about “toeing the line” his work being “no mean feat” how he has to have a lot of “soul” do his job, and how I am a “heel” who constantly tells him to “shoo.” His arrests demonstrates that the constable has put his foot down.

My wife’s personal astrologist, Abner, has resigned in embarrassment after failing to make a single correct observation or prediction during his entire tenure with us. Also departing is our personal maharishi, Nigel Ashley-Pitt. He's moving on to new adventures as an investment banker.

Lastly our Smithy, Angus Appleberry, has retired and we are seeking a replacement post haste. If interested please apply through the usual channels.

A bit about names:
About 30 years ago a trend started in the Western World in which a newborn child would not necessarily simply assume the last name of the paterfamilias. Instead, some children were given both parent’s last name, usually the mother’s first, with a hyphen separating the two. For example: Hortense McGee and Egbert Davis's child would be Sally McGee-Davis.

I’ll not comment on the reasons behind this trend but will say that occasionally it led to rather long and sometimes confusing last names. But to each his own and to each her own. I do wonder how often parents decided not to go with the double hyphened names and just went with dad’s or mom’s because the last names would not work in combination.

For example if Leslie Pool and Marvin Hall had a child, Betsy, it would hardly do for the little tyke to be called Betsy Pool-Hall. Imagine if you will Loretta Jefferson and Tyrone Davis and their son, Bobby being Bobby Jefferson-Davis. Francine Pitts and Curtis Berg would have a son named Darren Pitts-Burg. Leila Brown and Irving White’s daughter would be Melissa Brown-White. Tina Black and Osgood Mann’s daughter Chelsea would be stuck being Chelsea Black-Mann. Gina Fox and Perry Hunt’s little Ned would be saddled with Ned Fox-Hunt. The list goes on.

09 May 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day 55, Entry 15, Newsreels, The Beatles, a Movie, Workplace Relationships, an Accuser, This Post Has it All

Time marches on, or so it was always intoned on the long ago newsreel series, The March of Time. Newsreels were just dying out as I began going to the movies. I have vague recollection of seeing one at a Saturday matinee that introduced a popular new English rock and roll group called The Beatles. As a nine-year-old I was neither an enthusiast of neither rock nor roll nor particularly keen on music in general, although I did like Johnny Rivers and my favorite song was 76 Trombones from the Music Man. It would have been shortly thereafter that The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan show and were thus formally introduced to the United States. I watched that February evening in 1964 and my life changed forever. Overnight I became a huge music fan, though for awhile I was exclusively a fan of The Beatles and thought it disloyal to listen to anyone else. That soon changed and I became an enthusiast of both rock and roll — but only in combination, of course -- rocks were never my thing and I barely got a B in Geology.

Anyway I started off with a bit about newsreels. One can still see them on YouTube and they appear occasionally on Turner Classics Movie channel and even as DVD special features on movies from the Thirties and Forties. Today we have instant news at our fingertips and it is a simple enough matter to see accompanying video, some raw and unfiltered. (Come to think of it, if footage is raw, then doesn’t it stand to reason that it is perforce unfiltered? Likewise isn’t something unfiltered also raw? I’m afraid I’m going to have to rule that writing raw and unfiltered represents an oxymoron.) Today a lot of the news we get is biased, I suppose that’s always been the case but now there is in many cases no pretense at being objective and editorializing has seamlessly been blended into news reporting. I grew up watching network news (even as a tyke I was a news junkie) and reading what we later called the straight or establishment press. Most newspapers and magazines and certainly television news, made a sincere effort at achieving objectivity. However if, for example, there were demonstrations against the U.S. government, reportage usually emphasized the government’s response while treating protestors as outliers. This was in evidence as recently as George W. Bush’s first inauguration at which there were thousands protesting the handling of the election results. The New York Times buried the story of the protests in the back of the paper and said virtually nothing about their message.

Again I’ve strayed away from newsreels. In the days before television they were surely a godsend, giving, as they did, visuals and sound to the stories that people were reading about in their newspapers. How much more dramatic are stories of floods, fascist rallies, invading armies and even political speeches when one can see and hear them? Many newsreels were comprised of snippets of news from around the country or globe including charming human interest stories. Many others were in-depth reports of serious issues effecting the country or the world.

Some theaters exclusively showed newsreels, though the vast majority were shown before the main feature at regular movie houses. This was at a time when in addition to two movies you could see a cartoon, newsreels and perhaps a travelogue (ninety per cent of all travelogues about cities included the following line: Bucharest is a combination of the old and the new.) You got a lot of bang for your buck in those days. As a child I often went to Saturday matinees at the UC Theater in Berkeley where I could see a couple of movies and batch of cartoons for 50 cents. I might instead go to the Oaks Theater where the same fare cost only 35 cents. I recall once catching a triple feature of Jerry Lewis films (as a young lad I was a huge fan of his and even joined his fan club, I also belonged to a Steve McQueen fan club because while I thought Lewis to be the funniest man in the world, I reckoned McQueen to be the coolest).

So I continue to digress from newsreels and perhaps that’s because I don’t really have a whole lot to say about them. I do urge my readers — the McGerkin twins of Kalamazoo, Michigan — to take a look at some on YouTube. To start just type vintage newsreels in the site’s search engine, though perhaps the vintage bit is superfluous.

Anyway as I started out saying: Time marches on and in a global pandemic it is a real contradiction. I’m finding that days absolutely fly by, perhaps because I jam pack each day, leaving myself very little “free time.” I write in the morning, do my exercises, watch a movie or two, read, write again, perhaps watch something on the telly with the missus and read some more. Oh yes, I take walks. If I find myself sitting around idly I feel like precious time is slipping away. As I write this it seems odd that I consider watching movies an important use of my time. I suppose that’s in part a function of how essential films are to my world view but also a reflection of a certain obsessive compulsiveness. Also I’ve got one helluva lot to watch. First of all there are films from my extensive DVD collection (numbering close to 250 different movies) then there are the two DVDs a week that arrive from my good friends at Netflix. Then there are all the movies on my viewing list on the Criterion Channel and finally there are the movies on TCM that I DVR. Add to that the movies I need to see that I don’t own and are not available on Netflix or Criterion and are not about to be shown on TCM that I have to find in other places such as on Amazon Video on Demand or HBO Go or Hulu or You Tube and I’ve got a lot going on.

Good Night and Good Luck
Speaking of films….Yesterday I watched, for perhaps the fourth of fifth time, George Clooney’s wonderful, Good Night and Good Luck from 2005. I’ll assume you know something about it and dispense with the summary (if need be you can click on the link I provided for the movie — sheesh, do I need to hold your hand through everything?). What I noted during yesterday’s viewing was how much -- though the legendary Edward R. Murrow was the face of the team -- it was about workplace relationships and camaraderie. There is a special bond that can develop between co-workers, especially when they are engaged in work they love and find meaningful and even important as would certainly be the case with people working on a news show, like the merry band of brothers from Good Night. We see not just the teamwork that is essential to accomplishing their goals but the in-jokes, the shared downtime, how they relax together, how they know each other so well and how important their relationships are.

Generally speaking, most people like being part of teams. One of the great joys of playing competitive sports is being part of a group, having a group identity along with an individual one. The group affords security and companionship and shared responsibility. Even individualistic people with strong egos can take comfort from coordinating with others, we are social beings, after all. This is why the military has remained popular throughout human history. You are not just representing your country, you are part of a group and that's group safety and success sometimes takes precedence over national aims.

In GNAGL there is a scene in a bar after a particularly important broadcast (one that took red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy to task). The news team is proud of its efforts but there could be a reckoning for taking on such a powerful — if divisive — figure. How the country will react, not to mention the senator — are one of many questions they ponder. But for now they have each other. Work is over and they can drink and talk and laugh and whatever comes they’re in it together.

I’ve been part of such times. We’ve gotten the newspaper out, the legislation has been passed, the teaching week is over and we sit together ignoring good posture, our shoulders at last relaxed and not hunched, our conversations breezy, no immediate cares, no need to rush our words and worry about what to do next. We can reflect on our labors and talk of well-earned leisure time. We did it together and it is finished. There’s more work ahead but that’s for another day, one that is both distant and looming in the contradictory way that work goes.

Good Night and Good Luck is a good history lesson, it's a good look at newspeople in action but is also a vehicle for watching dedicated co-workers functioning as a team in the very best sense of the word.

I close with this headline I saw today via the Washington Post about Tara Reade the woman who has accused democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden of sexual assault: “Biden accuser says she is ‘not here to influence a national election’” Really? That is not your intent? Even giving the timing and that you called for him to drop out? Look lady, I don’t know whether Biden assaulted you or not (nor do I fully understand why you waited until he was his party’s nominee for president before making your accusations public) but this business about not wanting to influence the presidential election is totally disingenuous. I could — if I had a gun — walk downtown and fire off a few rounds and then say, I didn’t mean to kill, injure or terrify anyone. I suppose I could be sincere too. A lot of good that would do my victims.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my decoupage. I truly am a Renaissance man.

07 May 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day 53, Entry 14, The Author Opines on Covid-19 Protests and Messages in a Recently Purchased Book

Humorist Robert Benchley
This is the millionth day of the never-ending pandemic that has been here forever and always and will remain throughout eternity, world without end.

I’m fine. And you?

On this blog — and off it, for that matter — I often come off as an irritable old curmudgeon with nothing but complaints about my travelers on this planet. Verily I say unto you that there is just cause for my misanthropic musings. I present as evidence the many people across the country who have been protesting the social distancing guidelines and closures of stores and parks et al that have been put in place by state governments at the urging of the scientific community to help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. These idiots are not only protesting against regulations that are very much for their own good, but they are increasing the risk of the virus spreading and thus closures being in place for longer. Simply put, they are fucking idiots. They are as stupid as the anti vaxxers who are also imperiling public health (they are often one and the same moron) by their unfounded beliefs in the supposed dangers of vaccinations.

Of course it is safe to assume that many of the protestors — or whiny babies, if you prefer — are Trump supporters. While it is true that democratic nominee Joe Biden is ahead in polls, his lead is not insurmountable and we all still remember the horror of 2016. The fact that anyone supports the current Nitwit-in-Chief is utterly mind-boggling. How much incompetence must he display? How many lies has he got to tell? How many insults has he got to hurl? How much more does he have to debase the office of the president? How much callousness and disregard for human life does he have to evidence? We are literally talking about tens of millions of adults — most of whom have not been diagnosed with serious mental illness — who admire and support the poorest excuse for a human being that has ever gotten with 100 yards of the White House, let alone occupied it. I rest my case.

So that needed to be said and it is all true and causes one to weep for humanity. I don’t dare wonder what is going to happen to this country, pandemic or no. It is not hard to find reasons for hope, for optimism, for a conviction that surely things will get better. But how did this most — supposedly — advanced of nations reach a point at which so many of its citizens so stupidly disregard the best advice from experts and continually put themselves and others at risk? I thought it was bad enough that so many Americans don’t “believe in” climate change (as if it were a philosophy and not an empirically verified fact) now we add to that people who believe the constitution guarantees them the right to spread contagious diseases. Madness.


I have recently ordered  some books online (as one must do when bookstores are shuttered) as I have a talent for forever finding new novels, biographies, histories, poetry collections, essay collections, collected correspondences etc. etc. etc. that I “simply have to have.”

One I received was a used copy of The Benchley Roundup, a collection of essays by the late great humorist, Robert Benchley (he was also an actor with 92 screen credits and a member of  the Algonquin Round Table). The copy I received was not quite in pristine condition but suitable for reading and a bargain at the modest price I paid. However the book was slightly marred by writing on the back inside cover leaf. It seems the book had originally been purchased as a going away gift by co-workers for some chap named Ben. Evidently Ben was not enamored of the book and palmed it off on a used book store or he said the long goodbye and his effects were sold off by his family. In any event I got a fair idea of how old Ben was regarded by the people he worked with, whoever they were, whenever it was and wherever it was (perhaps the Waltham, Massachusetts area from whence the book was sent to me). Before I proceed I should qualify my remarks by saying that I have worked at numerous jobs over several decades and have both signed and received dozens of cards to or from co-workers for everything from birthdays, anniversaries, departures, retirements, weddings, maternity leaves to joining the French Foreign Legion. It is a simple matter to get a sense of how you are regarded by what is or is not said in such cards (or in this case, a book leaf). The more anonymous you were or are at work or the less esteem you were held in, the more generic the missives. If people just write messages such as : “Happy Birthday Elmo,” “Congratulations,” “Best of luck” or “Enjoy” or worse yet merely sign their name, you know you were something of a dud if not a pariah (not that there's any shame attached to being a pariah). You were perhaps a genial enough person but not someone whose departure will send co-workers into paroxysms of grief.  If, on the other hand, there are personalized messages recalling a happy incident, a reminisce or a mutual fondness for say a movie, sports team or celebrity, or heartfelt praise for stellar work or lamentations about your departure, you were someone special to colleagues. Of course, many cards are mixed. Colleagues you were closer to are more likely to write more and be more effusive than Sheila in accounting who you barely ever talked to. Also some people have far less imagination when it comes to signing cards or are "just too busy" to put two seconds thought into it.

(I exclude from this discussion any mention of sympathy cards. One keeps it simple in these cases, besides which, there’s not a helluva lot to say beyond thoughts, prayers and condolences.)

As for the aforementioned Ben, I’m afraid to report that he was evidently no great shakes at work. Indeed I can’t recall seeing such a bland collection of messages. A few people just signed the book. If someone can’t even bother with a “good luck” or “congratulations” you really don’t rate. There were a few “best wishes” and one person -- that’s one as in the lowest amount above zero -- offered an “it has been a pleasure working with you.” Not exactly a resounding endorsement of our friend Ben as a co-worker. One person, whose single name signature was indecipherable, wrote “stay in touch” and I suspect she didn’t mean it. Several people also wrote, “good luck.” Charming. But full marks go to Margot, who I’m guessing is the Pollyanna of the group, because she wrote: “You rock!” Ya know, I kind of doubt Ben “rocked” at all. If he had, more people would have said so, although perhaps not in those exact words. The queerest message, however, was from Tom, who wrote, “Be Good.” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Was it a short hand version of “don’t do anything I wouldn’t do?” Was it mean to be a jibe because Ben was such a goody two-shoes? Was it a veiled reference to the time Ben was seen making out with Clarice at the office Christmas party? Was it some sort of code between two old friends? Weird.

But let’s get back to the people who merely sign their name. That’s pathetic. I’ve had occasion to sign cards for people who I barely knew and in a couple of cases, people I didn’t like, yet I have always managed more than a signature. Every time.

I also have experience — from my days as a middle school teacher — signing yearbooks and having mine signed. There were a few of my colleagues who for virtually every student would merely offer their autograph. If a student was in your charge for so much as a month, not to mention an entire school year, it should be easy enough to personalize a message. I know it was a simple matter for me. Students themselves were very good about personalizing messages although a few just signed and I shudder to imagine their futures. My last year a student, much to my chagrin — for the first, last and only time — a student actually wrote something negative in my yearbook. Well, she was outnumbered by positive messages by a tally of one helluva lot to one.

Getting back to poor Ben, I can’t help but wonder if he got rid of the book because he was so depressed about what people wrote — or more to the point — all the things that they didn’t write. One can imagine the poor bloke looking at all the bland messages and realizing that he'd been something of a stiff.

It’s also an odd choice to give someone a book as a parting gift. Over the years I've received a lot of gift cards to bookstores which I always treasured and appreciated, but to pick a book for someone is at worst presumptuous and at best risky. That is unless you’ve heard the person express a desire for that particular book or anything by that author or you have seen their Amazon wishlist. So maybe someone heard Bennie extolling the writings of Robert Benchley, maybe someone even heard him mention that book by name. Then again, if they correctly knew him to be a Benchley fan, perhaps he already had the book, which is why he unloaded the one they gifted him.

The book shows no signs of having been read so I’ll hold onto it and in fact I read the first two essays in it before nodding off last night. I will peck away at it for the months to come usually an essay at a time while also reading narratives either fiction or non — as is my want with such books. Once I’ve completed the Benchley Roundup it will either assume a place on my bookshelves (if deemed worthy) or stowed away in an anticipation of a time when I’ll have more bookshelves or it may — if I’m not pleased with Benchley’s work (hard to imagine) be brought along with some other books to be traded in at a local used book shop for store credit. If the latter happens then eventually someone else will  purchase the book and they too can speculate about Ben and why his co-workers were not particularly enamored of him — excepting Margot, who thought he rocked.

02 May 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day 48, Entry 13, While I Discuss the Vagaries of Quarantining I Also Do A Bit on Movie Titles With Animals in Them

My great source of comfort during the pandemic, the Klondike  bar.
I'm back with another edition of coronavirus quarantine. The longer the pandemic keeps us sequestered, the more accustomed one comes to this life, while perhaps paradoxically, the more one tires of it. The only comfort to be taken by the general situation is that we're all in this together and there's nothing misery loves more than company. Hello fellow quarantinees.

The missus and I have discussed the fact that the pandemic came at perhaps the best point in our lives for this sort of thing. For one, the children are grown, so we don't have a couple of rugrats under foot. I loved being a father to two small children but that love was aided by the ability to drop them off at daycare or school five days a week. Also this would have been awful to go through when I was a young man (and dinosaurs roamed the earth) and was, shall we say, on the prowl. My heart goes out to young people who should be enjoying dating, parties and nightclubs. Anyone who had a live-in partner when this mess started is doing okay but so many others are denied the opportunity to develop crushes, have the excitement of first dates, fall in love and then get their heart ripped out and stomped on.

Recently a set of weights that I ordered seemingly a millennia ago arrived and I've been able to up my indoor workouts. Along with walks, this is helping to somewhat mitigate my increased desire for sweets (my god I love Klondike bars) and chips, a few things that I generally eschewed pre pandemic but now allow myself to indulge in. Maybe I'll wise up before this whole thing is over and start maintaining a strict diet. Anyway I got me a little gym action going on. (Hey, future generations, how are you enjoying reading this? Are you a descendant of mine or are you doing research on the pandemic of 2020 or have I become posthumously famous and simply "everyone" is reading me these days?)

Now it's time for me to completely switch gears and present one of those amusing little lists that everyone loves (I'm assuming people love them, I never get any damn feedback). This one is as clever as all the rest (I can hear eyes rolling well into the future after that sentence). Here goes:

By their titles, many films promise us an animal or two but fail to deliver. This can be quite frustrating for animal lovers and can be construed as false advertising. Mind you there are those movies that do come through, such as Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) which has many, many birds in it, and the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle, Snakes on a Plane (2006) in which there is both a plane and snakes and the biopic of Dian Fossey, Gorillas in the Mist (1988) in which gorillas frolic both in and out of mist. But I will here show you that in most Hollywood productions that promise an animal, often in a specific circumstances, no creature so much as makes an appearance. Here are but a few examples.

Dog Day Afternoon. Plenty of Pacino, no dog.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975). A terrific film from Sidney Lumet featuring Al Pacino in one of his greatest performances. Also in the cast was John Cazale who only appeared in movies that were subsequently nominated for Best Picture Oscars. Not in the cast is a single dog. Not a one. Not a Retriever, a Spaniel, a Chihuahua not a Great Dane not even a mutt and yet it's supposed to be their day or afternoon or whatever the hell the title means.

Raging Bull (1980). Another Oscar nominated film, this one from Martin Scorsese, with a Best Actor performance by Robert De Niro. I've watched it many times and have yet to see a bull in it, raging or otherwise, not even as an extra. How did they get away with this? Preposterous.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin starred in this Sydney Pollack directed film and Gig Young snared a best supporting actor Oscar. All well in good but not only were no horses shot in this film, none showed up, not even in the background. Horse lovers must have howled. Rip off.

The Falcon and the Snowman (1985) co-starred Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn. However, not only did it not star a falcon there was nary a snowman in the movie nor snow, for that matter.. That's two lies in one title. I''m sure audiences anticipated the fascinating pairing of a predatory bird and a self-aware snowman. Refund, please.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). What's not to like about a film that stars Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman? I'll tell you, the total absence of a cat. There is none on a hot or even cold tin roof, nor any other kind of roof. Based on a Tennessee Williams. One hopes that in the theater production a cat featured prominently.

Where Eagles Dare (1968). A World War II thriller starring the cinematic odd couple of Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. Maybe the film should have been titled Where Eagles Dare Not Show Up, because none did in this movie, despite the title. Stupefying.

Seberg, Sellars, no mouse.
The Mouse That Roared (1959). The hilarious Peter Sellars and the lovely Jean Seberg starred but no mouse did, roaring or otherwise. Mind-boggling.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991). It's hard to believe that they gave the Best Picture Oscar to a film that so blatantly lies in its title. While you do get Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, you don't get any lambs, neither silent nor noisy ones. Shameful.

Save the Tiger (1973). Jack Lemmon won a Best Actor Oscar for a film in which not a single tiger is saved nor even appears. Here I was looking forward to Jack Lemmon rescuing a tiger. Scandalous.

Three Days of the Condor (1975). This stylish thriller of Seventies paranoia co-starred Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, two performers then in their prime. While it takes place over the course of three days -- as billed -- it does not include a condor or even a lousy parakeet. It should have been titled Three Days of Robert Redford.

The Day of the Jackal (1973). Another thriller, this one about an attempt by a paramilitary group to assassinate Charles de Gaulle. All well and good but at no point do we meet a jackal on what is supposedly its day. Ludicrous.

The Squid and the Whale (2005). This early work from director Noah Baumbach is perhaps the worst offender on the list. It promises two different animals and delivers neither. In fact they comprise the totality of the title. The animals are not supposed to roar or be silent or take up a day or an afternoon or three days, They are not supposed to rage or be saved or be on a roof or be paired with a snow creature or get shot. They're the whole deal yet are never shown. Utterly outrageous.