Archive for December, 2015

31
Dec
15

happy new year 2016

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I’ve never much celebrated New Year’s Eve.

As I recall, Holly and I only spent one enjoyable new year’s eve, with a group of theater people—but with all things theater, it was flash-in-the-pan, and we never saw that crowd again. Thereafter, new year’s eve has always been a night best spent quietly at home, away from the drunks, with modest expectations for “fun.”

The most typical new year’s eve I recall was when Holly tried out a new Chinese recipe that included lychee fruit—from a tropical/subtropical fruit tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China. The fresh fruit has a “delicate, whitish pulp” with a floral smell and a fragrant, sweet flavor. Since this perfume-like flavor is lost in the process of canning, the fruit is usually eaten fresh. But this was pre-Internet, Holly didn’t know it, and the only lychee fruits Holly could find were canned. The dish was so horrible, even the dog wouldn’t eat it, let alone our dinner guest. So you see why we always set our expectations low for the night.

Inevitably, the most fun to be had on new year’s eve was in the movies. Those theater people—they can always be counted on to look like they’re having a good time, no matter what’s going on.

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THE GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY (US 1929) WARNER BROS Picture from the Ronald Grant Archive.

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e52b9cacb0644ea3c533b4d4b0c39b03.new years 6 Another Thin Man William Powell Myrna Loy.

vintage_new_year-otrcat.com.

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30
Dec
15

horse sense

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by Erik Roth
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“Americans have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: How much money will it bring in?”
  ~  Alexis de Tocqueville
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“Scared money can’t win and a worried man can’t love.”
  ~  Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
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“We have almost forgotten how strange a thing it is that so huge and powerful and intelligent an animal as a horse should allow another, and far more feeble animal, to ride upon its back.”
~ Peter Gray
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“It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall.”
~ Mexican Proverb
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“The horse is God’s gift to mankind. The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.”
~ Arabian Proverb
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“The horse through all its trials has preserved the sweetness of paradise in its blood.”
~ Johannes Jensen
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“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.”
~ W.C. Fields
29
Dec
15

after you’ve gone

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Sammy Davis, Jr., regarded by many as the “Greatest Entertainer in the World,” said that the one person he would never follow on stage was Bobby Darin. He was that good.

An immensely talented and versatile person, Bobby Darin is best known as a singer who performed in a range of music genres, including jazz, pop, rock’n’roll, folk, swing and country. But he was also a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor of film and television.

He was the only actor ever to have been signed to five major Hollywood film studios and his nightclub act was a major draw on the Las Vegas strip. He has stars on the Las Vegas “Walk of Stars” and the “Hollywood Walk of Fame.” He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The drive behind his amazing success was his poor health. He was not expected to live beyond his teens; he always felt he was living on borrowed time, but he kept it a secret from his fans. They would have been surprised to learn that during the last few years of his life, he was often administered oxygen during and after his performances on stage and screen.

Darin suffered from poor health his entire life. He was frail as an infant and, beginning at age eight, was stricken with recurring bouts of rheumatic fever that left him with a seriously weakened heart. In January 1971, he underwent his first heart surgery in an attempt to correct some of the heart damage he had lived with since childhood. Two artificial heart valves were implanted in his heart. He spent most of that year recovering from the surgery.

In 1973, after failing to take antibiotics to protect his heart before a dental visit, Darin developed sepsis, an overwhelming systemic blood infection. This further weakened his body and affected one of his heart valves. On December 11, he checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for another round of open-heart surgery to repair the two artificial heart valves he had received in January 1971. On the evening of December 19, a five-man surgical team worked for over six hours to repair his damaged heart. Shortly after the surgery ended in the early morning hours of December 20, 1973, Darin died in the recovery room without regaining consciousness. He was 37 years old.

There were no funeral arrangements; Darin’s last wish in his will was that his body be donated to science for medical research. His body was transferred to the UCLA Medical Center shortly after his death.

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28
Dec
15

beyond the sea

bobby darin young.

Born Walden Robert Cassotto in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Bobby Darin was reared by Polly, his maternal grandmother, who he thought was his mother.

Darin’s birth mother, Vanina Juliette “Nina” Cassotto (born in November 1917), became pregnant with him in the summer of 1935 when she was 17. Presumably because of the scandalous nature of out-of-wedlock pregnancies in that era, Nina and her mother hatched a plan to pass off the baby as Nina’s younger brother.

Darin always believed Nina to be his older sister and Polly his mother. But in 1968, when he was 32 and only five years from his untimely death, Darin finally learned the truth from Nina that she, not Polly, was his mother. She chose this timing to tell him the truth because he was running for political office and she did not want a surprise revelation by some investigative reporter to derail his ambitions. Yet she refused to reveal the identity of his biological father, and kept that secret up to her death in 1983.

The news devastated him. “My whole life has been a lie,” he said at the time. This was an emotional earthquake, an explosion of his core beliefs.

He spent a year living in a trailer in the Big Sur forest, thinking and writing, but never recovering from a lifelong deception he could never understand. His fabled self-confidence and ego turned to doubt and introspection. His self-esteem, personality, values, and musical direction underwent major changes.

Darin wasn’t sure if he could ever trust again.

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27
Dec
15

splish splash

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I was ten years old when Bobby Darin came to prominence with his first hit song, “Splish Splash.” I remember liking it at the time. It was the spring of 1958.

He co-wrote the song with radio DJ Murray Kaufman (“Murray the K”) after a phone call from Kaufman’s mother, Jean, a frustrated songwriter. Her latest song idea was “Splish, Splash, Take a Bath.”

Kaufman bet Darin that he couldn’t write a song that began with the words, “Splish Splash, I was takin’ a bath.” Both Kaufman and Darin felt the title was lackluster, but Darin rose to the challenge. “I could write a song with that title,” he said.

Within one hour, Darin had written “Splish Splash” and the single sold more than a million copies.

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28° Cloudy and Snow

26
Dec
15

exceptional

stupid.
by Henry Dailey

America is exceptional… exceptionally stupid.

Nearly half the country is in favor of bombing a fictional city from a cartoon, presumably because it sounds Muslim. On the plus side, bombing cartoons is probably cheaper, kills no real people, and gives Hollywood endless CGI violence movies and sequels (which is about all they make these days, anyway).

This from the same world in which J.K. Rowling states that “Trump is worse than Voldemort” and people camp out for 12 days to see a Star Wars sequel. And you wonder why I refuse to see most movies and turned off the TV long ago. Anytime I pass by something related to “entertainment,” I feel the stupid literally oozing out.

Also of note: Students at a Pennsylvania college demand that the name of a building dedicated to a former school president be changed because the name, Lynch, is said to be “racist.” I have yet to see anyone threaten a boycott of Merrill Lynch or attack the current US Attorney General on the same basis.

Ten years ago in Minnesota there was a local initiative to change the name of Coon Rapids because it, too, was thought to be racist. I never heard that claim until 2005. It is interesting to see how the Urban Dictionary defines Coon Rapids.

Rhode Island has also been a target of such campaigns because the state’s official full name is “Rhode Island and Plantations.”

I want off this planet. The ride is making me sick.
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353-stupid-boy.

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25
Dec
15

away from home

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One of the saddest things about this time of year is that time and circumstances have moved on and my son Henry can no longer return to the place he remembers as “home.”

I have gone to great lengths to make Estrella Vista my home (and have largely succeeded), but Henry has been living in Florida as a steadfast nomad, and has not developed any permanent connections to any place he’s lived. He presently lives in a one-bedroom apartment with no furniture but a mattress, and is prepared to move at the drop of a hat, unencumbered by possessions.

If you think I live the life of an ascetic, believe me, it doesn’t hold a candle to the lifestyle of my son. Despite average wages, he has paid off his private-college student loans and has money in the bank. He has developed personal discipline to a degree that is beyond my ability, and I am proud of him for that. However, it is at times like today that he deals with the obverse side of the coin and is alone, separated from his roots, connected to me by only a telephone line.

I have tried repeatedly to get him to visit this place, but he always declines. He says that it is too far away, and that he can ill-afford the time away from work. But I suspect that he resists seeing the old familiar objects of his youth in a new setting that will confirm that the “home” of his memory is truly a thing of the past.

We spoke on the phone yesterday, and the best gift he could have given me was the statement that one of his goals for the coming year is that he is going to try to achieve a greater understanding of why I have relocated here.

Who knows? Maybe that will even include a visit.

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