December 30, 2006
MOVIES AND FOOD
When I embark on a calorie-reducing regimen in the hope of losing excess weight for all the best reasons, my mind seems to become preoccupied with, what else, food. I count the amount I consume. I start thinking as soon as I finish one meal, when the next one will be served. I start dreaming of sugary concoctions, and unreasonably elevating them to the status of nectar of the gods. In other words rational reasoning is kaput. So then why not now recall two of the best movies I have watched at least twice, that feature in their plot the preparation and celebration of food.
The first is the better of the two, and it’s called BABETTE’S FEAST. A Danish film that uses sub-titles, but that does not, at least to me, subtract from the film. I doubt there are many Danish speakers, as it seems to me it would be about as hard to learn as Russian. I won’t try to critique any of the film except to say that an integral part of the plot is the preparation and the serving of a feast of French food, and wine, calories be damn.
The second film that features food in the plot is BIG NIGHT. A film where the preparation and serving of a banquet of Italian food is central to the film. The film is only half as good as Babbette, but the food sequence is mouth watering to say the least.
I know, as a veteran of diets that as time goes by, and my mind becomes less obsessed with the thought of starvation, I will almost get used to it. In my case less is more, in perhaps adding a few years on my life span if I can deep six a couple dozen doughnuts, oh I’m sorry pounds. I guess I haven’t yet succeeded.
December 29, 2006
by Jim Kittelberger
The rays of the sun slant through unwashed windows, illuminating the
dryness of age in this forgotten place that stands by the side of steel tracks
where weeds now grow; where once great iron locomotives came, paused, then disappeared; where now only the sound of dried leaves skittering along the ground interrupt its sleep.
Benches along the wood paneled walls remain highly polished from
the multitudes of trousers and dresses that once buffed their
Bars of the ticket agent’s window, a patina of age upon them,
still guard a long gone presence that once routinely and officiously
charted the journeys, the count of which befogs the counter.
This forgotten structure, with walls that were once yellow,
green or red, chipped away by weather and neglect has turned
gray now as if to accommodate the modern world by becoming
as one with landscapes of the past.
Yet, to forget so easily this creation of its time as a discarded
relic, would bury all that we were that lives still in the lazy sun lit
dust of memory and where we too will assuredly abide one day.
December 28, 2006
DO I HEAR ANY SOFT PITY SOUNDS OR I’M GLAD IT’S HIM AND NOT ME?
Well here I go again, time for another diet. Actually it’s been a long time since I went on one, and succeeded in losing any significant amount of weight. But be that as it may be I now have to do it and succeed again. Tests at my friendly local doctor tell me I should lose weight because it is affecting those pesky little things like blood pressure, rising sugar, and that nasty hard to regulate cholesterol. The doc also says some exercise is in order. Oh the nastiness of it, the having to just say no to the offer of pie, cookies, cake, and chocolate candy. The suggestion that I exercise more is a good idea, except I find most forms of planned exercise boring. The only exercise I am able to do with any regularity is walking, which is on the list of good options, but it is now winter and I live in a Midwestern state where the months of January thru April are not too friendly, in fact walking through snow or slush and maybe some ice is not only not walking friendly, but maybe a little stupid. That means I will have to revert to a stationary bike which rates about a fifty on the boredom meter, but since I won’t pedal like I’m in training for the French biggie race, I can perhaps read while I pedal; not great but not bad. But I will succeed this time because I won’t go willingly into pill-land without a fight. By the way my BMI is 28.5, which means I have to lose 27 pounds to return to an o.k. status. So I will not say good-bye to all those goodies I love, but only au revoir, which means I think, later gator.
December 27, 2006
When was the last time you and a friend had one of those laughing moments that just seemed to get funnier and funnier as you were laughing? My wife and I had one of those moments thinking about an embarrassing moment we had together in a darkened movie theater. It really is not funny except to the two of us. If I tell you the story it won’t make you laugh and would just be embarrassing to my wife and I. Perhaps it becomes funnier with each telling or remembering among friends of a funny event that bonds you together and knowing your secret story is safe and can be laughed at? I certainly don’t know the psychology of a laugh nor do I know the physicality of a laugh. What I do know it’s a human release of good will and the re-sharing of a moment in time. Everybody laughs, the high and the low of us. It’s free and might even be good for our health.
December 26, 2006
Have you fulfilled all those dreams you may have had when you were lying down upon the warm summer grass and looking up into a sky full of meandering white clouds? When reality still did not have a vote? When only feelings and dreams mattered? When anything was possible and there were no limitations? When fear of the future would not have been understood, and we were the hero of all our dreams?
For some of us, the dreams were over by the time we were in grammar school, when the haves and have-nots became visible and understood. For some the dreams were over when we understood our own limitations and we settled into our own comfort zone. But for some, the fortunate ones whose minds would not allow any limitations to be set, whose imaginations would not be smothered by doubts, who paid heed to their childhood dreams and as they grew into adulthood expanded them into possibilities, and finally into reality, I salute you because you are the surrogate for all of us who wished we could of, would of, might of, but didn’t.
December 22, 2006
I have no special reason to post this except it struck me as very reminiscent of a Bergmann film in its simplicity, and I wanted to share. I think the wanting to share is a very human trait. Human beings are not, by nature, solitary beings, and prefer to seek companions to share their thoughts and ideas with. I have been with my wife and friend now for fifty-one years, and have been together, except for my military time, for all of those years. It is common to want to share moments or events that pleasure us, it doubles the pleasure as an old TV commercial once shouted out at us. Memories and sharing can be lifelong pleasures to be cherished again or forever. The picture above was taken in Wisconsin.
December 21, 2006
December 20, 2006
Christmas week is upon us and I am enjoying it quite a lot. Our children and grandchildren all live away, so we have bought and sent their gifts, so that is all done. The cards have all been sent, of course there will be a card that will arrive that we left off of our list. The wife has been busy making cookies for days now. I don't know who's going to eat them all, well I really do. Our wedding anniversary is on the twenty-third of the month so it fills up our holiday calendar. I want to visit the church where we were married fifty-one years ago and sing a carol or two. I hardly know the words of any carol completely, but I'll hum a little when I get to the parts I don't know, it'll work out. We've been invited to a Christmas eve supper and am looking forward to that, and then on the big day we will visit a lodge in the woods for Christmas dinner. My wife has purchased me a couple presents that I can't guess what they might be, so that will be fun.
The picture above is by the late painter Charles Wysocki. It reminds me of Christmastime of my youth. No, I'm not that old, but we always seemed to have lots of snow, and thats what is familiar. Maybe Al Gore is correct with his talk of global warming.
December 15, 2006
One more Diet Snapple Real Fact for the road: Real Fact #81-Alaska has more caribou than people.
I was one of those kids who did not apply himself well in school. Like Nancy above I loved all school holidays up to and including the big one, the summer vacation. The feeling was something like that first real day of spring weather when the snow is still around, but melting quickly as the sun radiates that new season warmth, and you can get out the, if you were lucky, new Christmas bicycle. It seemed like freedom personified.
Freedom personified could also be applied to that first week of retirement, when it seems like you are young again and playing hooky, but you're not. Ahh both good memories.
December 14, 2006
A CHRISTMAS PRAYER
My wife is busy baking, the tree is decorated, the cards have been sent.
All is normal, if that word can be used during this time of the year.
The Christmas season, as we in the twenty-first century celebrate it, is in full swing.
The mall is doing cracker- jack business, and decorations are everywhere.
If I hear Frosty the Snowman one more time I am sure I will snap off his carrot nose. Presents have been purchased, but yet to be wrapped; extra batteries and a couple more extension cords were thrown in the shopping cart at Wal-Mart; for the fifty-third time we have been to the market to pick up one more item that we cannot do without for the Christmas eve buffet. We got a card today from someone we had forgotten, so we quickly prepared another card for them, and Oh darn, no more stamps, off to the post office to pick up stamps.
We have had snow on the ground for almost a month now. Everything is hustle and bustle as it usually is, but familiar, and in the familiarity comes the knowledge that all will fall in place and be well. Except this year, it will be different.
For sixty-five years at Christmas time, I had parents, but this year there willbe none to enjoy the Christmas feast with me and mine. My wish, my prayer is that all who have gone before will assemble around a heavenly table laden with bounty earned from their time here on earth. Their cares and burdens will have been lifted from them and replaced with joy in the reunion with those who preceded them. Those gathered before me, I view with the certain knowledge that we are all here temporarily on loan from God
December 12, 2006
Diane Osen: How is it that you became a writer?
Don DeLillo: It's a bit of a mystery, because I didn't write at all as a child, and I did not do much reading, either. I liked to play. The minute I got out of school I started playing street games, card games, alley games, rooftop games, fire escape games, punch ball, stickball, handball, stoop ball, and a hundred other games. I read comic books and I listened to the radio. No one read to anyone else at home. That's why we had the radio; the radio read to us all.
If you are of a certain age, then that is certainly true. It was omnipresent, every member of the family listened to something it offered. I learned a lot from radio. I learned what funny was by tuning in Jack Benny, Fred Allen and The Edgar Bergen program. I learned that crime doesn't pay by listening to Gangbusters, Mr. District Attorney and others. I began a love affair with baseball and the Cleveland Indians that has become a lifelong addiction. The Indians had a couple good teams in the late forties and early fifties. It took me to professional boxing when Joe Louis was the champion. I remember listening to Don Dunfey broadcast the fights from ringside. He was good, I felt like I was there. I even received a little spirituality at a young age listening to The Greatest Story Ever Told. What was so good about the radio in those days? It was the necessity to use your imagination. If you listened long enough,and hard enough, you would be drawn in and it made an impression that would remain with you forever. I remember those shows and those sounds like it was just yesterday. It was a strong medium that had a short shelf life, because television was standing in the wings ready to take over our complete attention. Television was something else as the phrasemakers once said. But I think it never has reached it full potential. Out of the hundreds of offerings, I find it hard to find something I want to watch, That,s a shame. The PC and the internet has taken away much of the TV audience, and will continue to do so I believe. But radio and the contribution of our imaginations remains with me. Imagine a ventriliquist talking through a wooden dummy, and not even a good ventriliquist, he moved his lips, having one of the most popular shows on radio. The radio audience knew all of that, but through imagination accepted Charlie McCarthy as a real person and loved doing it.
December 8, 2006
You will notice that the following piece uses the font titled: Stencil. Stencils are used extensively for labeling items when we are in the military, and at the peak of our physicality. Since the piece concerns the inevitability of losing some of our ‘manhood’ as we age, it might be Freudian.
BY JIM KITTELBERGER
I’m not exactly convinced that men are the stronger of the sexes. It is true that we are more muscular and can carry much heavier loads than most women can, but I’m not sure we can withstand pain better than a woman could. I’m also finding that I want to go to bed earlier as I get older, but I get up earlier, which only seems logical. I have not fallen into the bathroom visits each night yet. But I suppose that will come to pass. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that sorry little joke. Oh Oh here is another joke I could crack, but I won’t again. It’s not because I’m too goody goody to share potty or anatomy jokes, I like them, but I’m not very good at telling them.
I also find that my hair is thinning. I mentioned this to my barber in passing the other day, and he thought it pretty amusing. I guess I shouldn’t worry about becoming bald, and I really don’t, I see nothing repulsive about baldness. What it is that bothers me a little about this is that I have never, truthfully, never been vain about my appearance, and I don’t think I am now. I think it bothers me because it adds to my preoccupation with getting older. Now even that statement, ‘getting older’, is suspect. Why didn’t I just say getting old?
Another unsettling development that it seems develops in the males in my genetic path is that we lose some hearing as we age. I have reached that dubious plateau and have lost some of my hearing. To the point that I visited a hearing specialist and they of course wanted to fit me with hearing aids, which I did try out, took for a spin around the block, as they say, but returned to the showroom after a very short spin. I decided, rightfully or wrongly, that the cure was worse than the problem. Wearing hearing aids played havoc with my psyche. It plugged off all my natural hearing ability, and the sounds I did hear came through the electrically amplified earplugs. It did a psychological tap dance on my brain. I did not like it, so I decided that hearing aids were not for me, at least just yet.
One of the strange things that older people do is when bending over, getting out of chairs, getting in chairs, and several other situations, is making accompanying sounds, like drawn-out aah’s, and/or ooh's or umph's. It certainly is not an involuntary sound, it could be held in, I am sure, but it seems to make the extra exertion more bearable if the sound accompanies the act.
I think I am in pretty decent health for my age. See, this is old man talk, in my younger days, I would have said I am, in big letters, in good health, without that pretty decent disclaimer. But when the years add up, you are never exactly sure. I only have to take two pills each day, a blood pressure pill, one of those pills you take because the consequences are too dire to mess with, and a little aspirin to help thin my blood in case I have a heart attack. I might then make it to the hospital in time. Who is this old jerk talking about pills? But it is the subject older people will get around to discussing amongst themselves. Recently I even bought a bigger pill storage unit that divides into days of the week, so I could add a fish oil capsule that I am assured will make me remember things longer among other medical benefits.
One of the indications that you and your mate have crossed some invisible line in the road of life are discussion topics we consider important. Topics we might have thought important when the house was full of kids were in case of fire we would do this or that. But now in a childless home the topic that is the hardest to pin down is the question of when and/or where we should relocate to when that time comes. Now that phrase when the time comes is a handy phrase that covers a lot of territory without having to spell it out each time. Also included in the phrase is the exclusion of one of the parties of the marriage, and here it gets tough.
In hopes of not making anyone’s day gloomier than it has it be, I will end this depressing litany of growing older signposts, but be assured that each of our days are filled with laughs, mostly at ourselves, and joy at being together as long as we have.
December 7, 2006
Approximately twenty years after the war to end all wars ended, WWII began. Killed in the war that ended in 1945 were approximately 62 million people. WWI claimed 15 million lives. Korea one and a half million. After these wars we had Vietnam, the Gulf wars, and now we have Iraq. Most of the deaths were very young men, some mere teen-agers. How can we end all these wars? Or must the world go through this kind of grotesque butchery every twenty years of so? Some politicians have tried to find an alternative to war, as Woodrow Wilson tried when he pushed the League of Nations, later to become the United Nations. He figured that the politicians could talk themselves to death, but at least we wouldn't be shooting at each other. It didn't work, as the United Nations doesn't, but it was an effort. Is this the only attempt at an answer from all of humankind?
December 6, 2006
By Jim Kittelberger
The bright sunlight illuminated my room making it nearly impossible to keep my eyes closed any longer. It was Saturday morning, which meant no school for two days, two glorious days. It’s not that I hate school; it’s just that everybody always seems to be one step ahead of me. Well, maybe I’m not such a great scholar, and maybe I’m a little shy, backward if you want to be downright nasty about it, but it seems like it takes me a beat or two longer to get the drift of what’s happening around me. Of course, I don’t talk about this with any of my friends on the street; we don’t really talk that seriously about anything, well, except maybe baseball, football, bicycles, or the latest and greatest cupcakes we might buy, if we happen to have any money that day, to go along with a Grapette or an RC cola. Maybe if I had an older brother, or maybe even a sister, no a brother, he could answer a lot of questions I can’t, or won’t, ask my parents. But I don’t so I’ll just have to make do being an only child, it’s not really that bad, especially at Christmas time, but that’s another story.
The sun was filling the room with it’s yellow-white rays and was really making it impossible to keep my eyes closed any longer, so with momentary sadness, I left the dream that seemed so real about a B-24 bomber on which I was the tail gunner. It faded away and I took the plunge. I opened one eye, and then a minute later both eyes to the brightness that almost gave me a headache. I reached over to my radio on the stand beside my bed and clicked it on. After a moment, waiting for the tubes to warm up, the familiar voice of Smiling Ed brought me fully awake as he prepared to plunk his magic twanger and conjure up the presence of froggie, the best part of the Buster Brown show with smiling Ed McConnell. It was a regular Saturday morning fixture that I would probably soon outgrown, but not just yet. Besides who knows what I listen to anyway. I could tell the other kids I listen to the Quiz Kids, but I don’t think they would care one way or the other.
As I lay motionless, relishing the warmth of my bed and the smell of the newly laid coal fire wafting into my room through the nearby register, I think back to what I can remember of my dream. It seemed so very real to be flying in a blue sky and watching the tracer shells streaking toward their target, unafraid and courageous. I turned on my side and smiled as I looked at the set of wings on the table beside the radio. They were the gift from my uncle Frank, who came to visit us nearly a year after the war ended, to assure his sister, my mom, that indeed he was all right and in one piece. I loved my uncle Frank and was in awe of him. He was bigger than life to me. He was only twenty-five years old, but when I first saw him in his uniform and then listened to his letters as my mom read them to us at the supper table, he became the stuff of dreams, at least ten-year-old boy dreams.
After each reading of his letters, I couldn’t wait to be excused and set free to regale my friends with what I had just heard. Just hearing words or phrases such as Germany, England, bomb runs or such would set my mind into such excitement that it became inevitable we would have to dramatize the events with some of the guys holding their arms out horizontally and becoming airplanes trying to shoot down the bomber where I would be manning the machine guns and expelling at least a million rat-a tat-tats. It would end with all of us lying on the ground too tired to stand. At other times he would describe the fire balls created by the bombs they dropped, or the shells exploding close to the plane from the defenders below. During the war I was much too young to know much of what was really going on, and the closest my town ever came to it was in manufacturing materials for the war effort. But I read comic books that chronicled the war and the heroes, and I knew my uncle Frank was out there being brave. He probably should have been featured in the comic books, and if the war lasted long enough I knew he would be.
Since uncle Frank wasn’t married, we, and his parents, were his most immediate family and the recipients of souvenirs from wherever he happened to be at the time. My dad received a pipe from Wales and my mom became greatly excited when the postman brought a box filled with Irish lace and wool from Scotland. He never forgot me, in fact from England he sent me what he called a Toby mug. It was a caricature of Winston Churchill and I loved it, in fact, I still have it although I am afraid to use it too much now for fear I will drop it.
Uncle Frank flew on his bomber missions into early 1945. On what turned out to be his final mission to drop bombs far into Germany, he was unlucky enough, or the enemy was lucky enough to embed a machine gun shell into his shoulder, which ended his flying into harms way and sent him home. We received many letters that affirmed he was well, with no scars from the wound except some stiffness when it got cold, which he was sure he would have to live with forever. But my mom would not be assured until she saw him.
After the adults got through hugging and kissing and asking a thousand questions and things quieted down, in fact my dad fell asleep in his chair, uncle Frank came into my room and sat on the bed beside me. He put his arm around me and told me a little of what he had to do, and why it was the right thing to do. Then he asked me if there was anything I wanted to know? The cat had my tongue and I stammered and stuttered, until he told me to think of him as my big brother and ask him anything, anything at all. At last I had the big brother I always wanted and the questions just flew out of me, until we both were exhausted, laid back on the bed, and fell into a contented sleep.
I have grown old now, and just returned from burying my uncle Frank. He had a military funeral with a bugler playing taps. His family and I cried unashamedly for the man who will always be twenty-five years old to me, and the hero of my childhood.
December 5, 2006
December 4, 2006
I ran across this picture of the many radio and movie stars that were members of the cast of this show called WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS. Of course, I wondered, what was the show about. I, of course went to Google and here is what I found:
Commissioned by FDR to commemorate 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, this hour-long program was aired over the combined national networks (CBS, NBC Red, NBC Blue, and Mutual) eight days after Pearl Harbor. The Crosley Rating Service estimated 63 million people listened, half the US population at the time, and this was the largest audience in recorded history for a dramatic performance.
Of this program, Corwin said:
"...one of the programs that was very productive in my career - good for me, and also recognized as good for CBS, and good for radio - was on the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the ratification of the American Bill of Rights. That happened in 1941.
"It was a program that had been suggested to the four networks by President Roosevelt. He said, 'Why don't you people get together, simultaneously broadcast a commemoration of that day?' The networks had never combined before. I was lucky enough to be invited to write, produce and direct it.
"It was accidental, an accident of the calendar. But what drama surrounded that, because the date of the anniversary was December 15, 1941. That followed, by only eight days, the attack on Pearl Harbor."
Corwin's 45-minute production came from Hollywood. President Roosevelt then spoke from the White House, and the program ended in New York, where Leopold Stokowsky conducted the Philharmonic in our National Anthem.
The program's magnificent cast included:
Corporal James Stewart, U.S. Army Air Corps, as "the Citizen." (Jimmy Stewart is today a retired General in the U.S. Air Force - he was then at the beginning of his flying career, and at the height of his fame as an actor.)
Edward Arnold (distinguished actor in many movies; you know his burly figure, his face and his voice even if the name is not immediately familiar)
Lionel Barrymore (brother of John and Ethel; "Mr. Potter" in It's A Wonderful Life and many other stage and screen roles)
Walter Brennan (remember him from early TV's The Real McCoys?)
Bob Burns (popular Arkansas radio comic of the time, who invented a silly musical instrument he called a "bazooka" - a name borrowed, later in the war, for the anti-tank weapon)
Dane Clark (solid performer starting a long career, many movies)
Walter Huston (father of John, star of Treasure Of The Sierra Madre among many others)
Marjorie Main ("Ma Kettle" in the movie series, and many other roles)
Edward G. Robinson (Rumanian-born, longtime favorite in Universal's gangster movies, and many other roles)
Rudy Vallee (the original "crooner" came from Maine)
Orson Welles (if you don't know, we don't have space to tell you!)
Address by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from The White House,
Original Orchestral Score by Bernard Herrmann, and...
Performance of The Star Spangled Banner by The New York Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Leopold Stokowski.
The story of this program is fascinating:
In the fall of 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a world in great turmoil. The Nazis had overrun most of Europe, and it looked like they might soon conquer Russia. In the Pacific, the Japanese had invaded China and were brandishing a powerful, modern war-machine. FDR suggested that the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights would be an excellent occasion for a powerful presentation of America's fundamental message to the world.
Norman Corwin's achievements in the art of radio drama made him the obvious choice to create a special radio broadcast, and the President's suggestion came to him, through the U.S. Office of Facts and Figures. Corwin wrote a script, assembled a "million-dollar cast" of major stars, and commissioned Bernard Herrmann to create an original score for symphony orchestra.
Then, just 8 days before the broadcast, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the United States was at war.
Norman Corwin has told us the following:
"I still had some of the script to finish when I boarded the train in New York to go out to Hollywood for the broadcast. I worked in my compartment, and finished by the time we got to - near St. Louis, I think.
"Coming out into the aisle, I went to find the Conductor and get a radio. Orson Welles was producing one of my plays in Chicago that evening, and I wanted to hear how it went. In those days, you could rent a radio on trains; it was a small portable unit. You unwound a wire antenna in the back and stuck one end of the wire up on the train's window with a little suction cup.
"I found the Conductor but he told me there were no radios available. 'Haven't you heard?' he said. 'The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.' Friends of mine, Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Marshall, happened to be on the same train, and I went along to their compartment where we listened to the news reports for several hours, until it became obvious that no new information was available for the moment.
"Going back to my compartment, I got out my portable typewriter again and began to revise the script. I added several things in the text, and polished some other areas, but did not change the basic thrust of the program. When I got off the train in Los Angeles, it was done."
After the broadcast, Corwin waited for the control-room telephone (his primary barometer of audience reaction) to ring. It was silent. After a long time, there was one call - a woman friend, inviting him to a party. He went to bed that night convinced that the massive undertaking, with its million-dollar cast, had been a failure.
The next morning, like Howard Koch after the War Of The Worlds broadcast, Corwin woke up to headlines. The program was acclaimed from coast to coast. It developed that people were unsure of where to call, since different parts of the program had originated from Hollywood, Washington, and New York.
We Hold These Truths would be fascinating for its historical aspects alone, but beyond that, it remains a brilliant exposition of the principles on which the United States was founded, gripping and intensely relevant after more than half a century. It has been named to the National Recording Registry as one of the the programs which is most "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", by the Librarian of Congress.
December 2, 2006
He was still Nathan - he was still evident in the bone structure, the angle of the chin, the width of the forehead. Yet he had become remote. Between one heartbeat and the nonarrival of the next, he had weighed anchor and rowed far away. He had sped past his children, past his life with me, toward a horizon of which I had no knowledge.