Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Storyteller's Farm & Museum Near Nashville Features Johnny Cash, Elvis and Music History

There are so many interesting stories in the world. Rod Stewart once sang “Every picture tells a story, don’t it.” I think the same can be said for places. Places have many stories. One such place with lots of stories for music fans is Storyteller’s Hideaway Farm and Museum, just west of Nashville off Highway 40 in Bon Aqua, TN. 
This is where Johnny Cash used to go to escape from public life.  

The Storytellers Museum features memorabilia, artifacts, and stories from classic country music history with a distinct focus on Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker, as well as producer Red Wortham. The stories and storied lives don't stop there.


The Hideaway Farm is a 107-acre property that Johnny Cash owned for 33 years and called the center of his universe. It features a 200-year-old Farmhouse, with an intimate collection of family photos, memorabilia, and footage of Johnny Cash at the property, as well as stories from his family.  The famous One-Piece-At-A-Time Cadillac, created from Johnny’s own song of the same name, is also on display.


Johnny's One-Piece-At-A-Time Cadillac. 
All color photos on this page courtesy Gary Firstenberg

The couple responsible for renovating this place, preserving history and sharing it is Brian and Sally Oxley.
 In June I spoke with Brian Oxley and learned a little about the project he and his wife have undertaken.

When I asked how he came to take such an interest in these properties of Johnny Cash he replied,  “I had a friend in Illinois… I was visiting in his office and he had a series of paintings of people who he respected the most. He had one of Johnny Cash…. And I asked, ‘Who is that?' He then began to tell me his story.”

If you’re surprised that Brian Oxley was unfamiliar with who Johnny Cash was, it’s helpful to know his background. Oxley grew up in Japan, the son of missionaries there. When his parents retired they chose Nashville as a place to settle.


Oxley became intrigued by the Johnny Cash story and the more he learned, the more fascinated he became. “I found Johnny Cash’s parents’ home. They were across the street from Johnny’s house that had burned down,” Oxley explained. “It was on the market, so I bought it, and renovated it to the original form.” 


Being from Duluth I couldn’t help but think of collector/archivist Bill Pagel’s ongoing efforts to restore Bob Dylan’s boyhood homes to their original form.


The Colonel and Elvis
Oxley continued. “On one occasion I got to know Tommy Cash, Johnny’s brother. Tommy told about the farm (The Hideaway), how it was off the beaten path. Tommy approached the farmer who owned it and I was able to buy the property. I wanted a spiritual tone to it, because Johnny Cash was spiritual.”

As Oxley became aware of properties related to this story he purchased them. The Mama Cash house was the last home Johnny and June stayed in before June died. They were there because Johnny wasn’t doing well. They were in the process of installing an elevator in his house across the street.


At a certain point in time Oxley found the VHS tape that became Seeing Red. It’s possible that Elvis might never have been discovered were it not for Red Wortham. That story is shared here


The Oxleys are well aware that timing is everything. One day Brian Oxley heard that Colonel Parker’s place was going to be torn down to become a car wash. “I stepped in and we acquired the rights to dismantle it,” he said. He now displays the wall behind the desk where Elvis and the Colonel did their deal. “I dismantled the wall where Elvis and Col. Parker shook hands.”


Johnny's favorite chair.
After acquiring what could be preserved he learned about the Hollywood film that is in the works about this period of music history. None other than Tom Hanks will be playing Colonel Parker. 

In June the Oxley’s got word that there is a movement in Holland to bring the Colonel back. “They want to build a monument. I have the house and tons of pictures. He (Colonel Parker) was an illegal alien.”


Restorations of this magnitude clearly require capital. Though primarily the Oxley’s own money has been invested, he has also been assisted a friend from Taiwan whose mother was a famous classical dancer. While other people were telling Oxley that he was out of his mind, this friend said, “Go for it.”


“The stuff I do, you can’t go to normal business people. There was no assurance it would ever make money,” Oxley continued. “I’m a storyteller. When people come in they are closer to Elvis with his head on the wall than anywhere on the wall. The original gates from the Colonel’s place were duplicated at Graceland.”


The Oxley's motivation has all along been to preserve music history. And we're all being enriched by it.


STORYTELLERS HIDEAWAY FARM AND MUSEUM

9676 OLD HIGHWAY 46, BON AQUA, TN, 37025

(931) 996-4336

INFO@STORYTELLERSMUSEUM.COM

https://www.storytellershideawayfarm.com/


Music Based Tourism Links

The Case For Celebrating Bob Dylan’s Home Town

Music Based Tourism and Placemaking in Dylan’s Northland


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Finding Algebra After a Series of False Starts and Dead Ends

One of the items on my "to do" list is yellow weed digger. Our crab apple tree died last year. I chopped it down this spring. As it turns out, as many as 50 or more shoots are springing up where crab apples rotted and left their seeds in the yard. The yellow weed digger is an implement for uprooting and discarding these shoots. 

Because of the draught this past six weeks the ground had become hard, almost like concrete. Now that we've had a few days of rain I can make time to uproot those shoots in order to have a more normal-looking yard. 

Ideas are a little like all these new shoots. They seem to pop up on their own. Though they must come from somewhere it's hard to explain where or why. Being an avid reader with wide interests may be a contributing factor. My subconscious is constantly being fertilized. 

Here is a list of ideas that have been germinating this summer, producing a myriad quantity of false starts and incomplete or undeveloped blog posts. 

Why Punctuality Matters

Where Did Algebra Come From?

Capers 

The EV Dilemma 

Jurassic Park

The PC Police and 1984 (Thoughts about freedom)

A Strategy for Standing Out from the Crowd

The Future of Education

The Board Game Market

* * * 

The word Algebra comes from an Arabic word, Al-Jabr, which means the reunion of broken parts.

Dylan has written more than once about the brokenness in our world, most directly in the song Everything Is Broken, which appeared on Oh Mercy. What kind of algebra would it take to reunite our multitude of broken parts, broken lives, broken dreams? I do not believe politicians can solve this problem. To achieve a more satisfying solution we need to look for something more transcendent involving faith, hope and love. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Afghanistan, Afghanistan... When Will We Learn?

Photo by Andre Klimke on Unsplash
"Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it." 

This morning I read an insightful article by William Dalrymple about the West's failure to learn from history when it comes to Afghanistan. That history, for most of us, is a forgotten one. For this reason Mr. Dalrymple seeks to enlighten us by filling in the details of our past relations with this foreign land and its peoples.

The article opens with these words: "Before the events of this month, the First Anglo-Afghan War was arguably the greatest military humiliation ever suffered by the West in the East." In other words, our current debacle is not the first we have experienced in that remote region. 

I should note that this story appeared in The Unherd, a British journal with very pointed insights and in-depth analysis of events. The article is titled Afghanistan always defeats the West.

Britain's first engagement with Afghanistan took place in 1839-42. The retreat from Kabul on January 6, 1842 was its worst defeat in history. An army of 18,500 was entirely wiped out by poorly equipped tribespeople. Purportedly only one man survived.

Despite the outcome of this first misadventure, Britain went for it again 30 years later.

After 9/11 Tony Blair signed up Britain to stand with America and go to war in Afghanistan yet again. Dalrymple writes, "What followed was a textbook case of Aldous Huxley’s adage that the only thing you learn from history is that no one learns from history."

* * * 

As for me, two other stories came to mind when I read this. Preceding World War Two, Italy invaded Ethiopia with modern weaponry and aircraft. By the end of 1941 they were sent packing with their tails between their legs.

And, of course, who can forget the Soviet Union's incursion into Afghanistan in 1979, a 10-year fiasco that contributed to demise of the Soviet Union. Well, it seems like we did forget. If you get a chance, I highly recommend a films titled The Beast. It's the story of a Soviet tank crew that makes a wrong turn and must fight to survive against the relentless villagers who they've just pummeled. 

* * * 

The purpose of this blog post is simply to provide a link to what I consider to be relevant observations regarding the Afghanistan situation. You can read the full story here. https://tinyurl.com/p47n79b7

* * * 

Related Links

The Decisive Battle of Dien Bien Phu: How the Viet Minh Stunned the World

What's Going On?

Friday, August 27, 2021

What Does A Community Organizer Do?

If you are like many, if not most, people the title "Community Organizer" has a somewhat fuzzy definition in our minds. For this reason I reached out to Ginka Tarnowski to help give us clarity on this topic.


Ginka Tarnowski
I became aware of Ms. Tarnowski through an editorial she had written two weeks ago to the Duluth News Tribune (DNT) pertaining to a hot topic that was coming to a head in the subsequent city council meeting two Monday's ago, August 16. The hot topic of that meeting was with regard to the Mayor's push to have a Twin Cities agency replace most of the promotional functions that Visit Duluth, a local team, had been managing for more than 80 years.

Having worked closely with Visit Duluth these past several tears as part of the Duluth Dylan Fest committee, I couldn't comprehend the necessity for the move in the first place. Nor did I agree with the process. 


The DNT published a lengthy statement by the mayor defending the decision, and also printed a well-crafted response by a young woman whom I was unfamiliar with. Her opinion piece was titled Local View: Mayor Larson taps out-of-town consultants for lots of fixes.


Ginka Tarnowski's bio at the end of the piece read "Ginka Tarnowski of West Duluth is a community organizer who assists with her fiance’s consulting work." This led me to reach out to learn more about the role she plays in our community. 



EN: You self-describe as a community organizers. What does a community organizer do?


Ginka Tarnowski: I think it's a common experience for many who try to fix a wrong to be pushed aside and told their voice doesn't matter. Sometimes people will have respect to tell it to your face: "You're just one person, do you really believe you can make a difference?" Sometimes, from what I've experienced in Duluth, it's by polite inaction: 'Sorry for the last minute email, my wife has an upset stomach/our turtle ran away/our dog lost their ball, can we reschedule?' And sometimes, the worst feeling can come from no action at all.


That's where a community organizer comes in, and why I describe myself as one. An organizer is someone who has their ear to the street -- a community member who listens to their neighbors. And its not just listening to your neighbor's words, but hearing what's in their heart. But that isn't enough to be a community organizer.


A community organizer has to go a step further. They don't listen endlessly, sympathize greatly, and sit empathetically; that's not enough and that's never been enough. A community organizer leads.


So why do I call myself a community organizer? Because I've spent enough time hearing from my neighbors about how we deserve better. It's time we do better, as a state, as a city, and as neighbors.


I like to think that my first experience as an organizer was when I helped save an assembly during my senior year at Denfield. We were auctioning off seniors to hang out with freshmen as a way to raise money for cancer research. The ‘cool’ seniors would hang out with their freshman, giving them food and piggyback rides throughout the day. They’d only managed to raise $7 before I realized I could do a better job by whipping up some excitement, so I grabbed the mic, leaped up to the freshman balcony, and by the end of the day we managed to raise over $1,000 for cancer research. I didn’t care about people knowing me; I cared about raising as much money as we could in a way where people would be happier when they walked out of the assembly and that they felt a greater sense of community.


When I was a student at Scholastica, the administration proposed cutting a sexual assault prevention program. That was not something that I felt was good policy, so I organized my friends to go across campus and present to the administration stories from sexual assault survivors. Within a week we were able to get the administration to reverse their position.


These days, I spend my time listening to my neighbors and identifying solutions. I’ve been meeting with elected officials and policy makers to find how I can continue to make a difference, because all throughout Duluth I hear issues which would not be happening if only our city government put Duluthians first.


* * * 

Thank you, Ginka, for the work you are doing 

to make a difference in this community.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A Visit with Tony Belmont of the National Comedy Hall of Fame

This past week Gary Firstenberg sent me photos from his visit to the National Comedy Hall of Fame Museum in Holiday, Florida just outside Tampa. The stories that have been captured there are quite remarkable. Museums provide a great service to the public, preserving history and providing inspiration to future generations. They cover all manner of human experience from archeology and anthropology to crime, politics and nature. The longer you live the more you run into fascinating niche museums, such as the Spy Museum around the corner from Ford Theater in Washington D.C. 

The National Comedy Hall of Fame Museum addresses another fascinating niche of human experience: Comedy. The president of this enterprise, Tony Belmont, seems to be a walking archive of memories, stories and history and because of his occupation as a rock and roll promoter, his life very early on intersected with the world of comedy and its many legendary performers. 

EN: What prompted you to create a Comedy Hall of Fame? 

Tony Belmont: Here's a little background. In the early days of Rock n' Roll when many acts were on the bill to perform a comedian provided an excellent segway.  (See Attached), It worked well to have a comedian out there long enough to make the transition to the next act. This worked because all the comedian needed was a microphone so you could get him on and off quickly. Also, he could work in front of the curtain which allowed the bands to change over easily behind the curtain.  Most drummers wanted their own cymbals and foot pedal, guitar players wanted their own amp, etc. This created too much dead time during the changeover. 

To avoid the dead time and to keep the energy going I found using the comedian would keep the audience amused while the change-over took place out of view. I used this system effectively for many years. This allowed for concerts to move fluently through the evening and made for a great show! This also moved Rock n' Roll concerts to the next level, production rock. 


Tony Belmont. Photo Gary Firstenberg
It was with this background and exposure that in 1969 I was contacted by the Smithsonian Institute the most prestigious museum in the U.S. They were concerned because many of the great comedians especially the vaudevillians in the 19 century, were coming to the twilight of their lives and there was very little documentation about these people. They felt someone needed to document their stories before it was too late. Once they passed on, the wonderful stories about their lives and acts would be lost except for hearsay.  That part of history for accuracy would be lost forever. So ~~ they contacted me! I thought they were making a mistake and told them I was a rock n' roller but they convinced me I was the one for the mission. ( Let me amend that statement! They doubled the money and I was suddenly very interested in preserving history. I spent the next 4 years traveling the country in-between my Rock n' Roll shows interviewing at their homes over 400 of the greatest comedians of the century!

EN: Impressive!


Tony Belmont: Fast Forward to 1989. By that time I had become friends with many of the great comedians, and I was at the LA Friars Club in a conversation with a few of the members: Jan Murray, Morey Amsterdam, Milton Berle, Steve Allen, and a few others when the topic came up about my past comedy interviews. Morey said, except for those interviews you did no one will remember any of us at this table. There needs to be a place that people can go and read about us in the future. A-----a building---like maybe a museum! That's it!  A national museum about comedy.


I said that's great as I burped on my ginger ale. Are you guys going to do it? At that moment they all looked at me together and like a fifty's singing group in Acapella harmony said, "No-n0-NO, you are!" (The official start date was July 25, 1991.)


So the answer to your question is: I didn't create the National Comedy Hall of Fame Museum, I was sucked in and drafted.


EN: There are so many great eras of comedy. What are some of the different kinds of comedy?


Tony Belmont: There are six major areas of comedy: although in the museum we break that down even further. Musical Comedian (e.g. Victor Borge), Dialect Comedian (e.g. Yakov Smirnoff), Impressionist (e.g. Rich Little), Dialogue (eg. Comedian Norm Crosby/Professor Irwin Corey/.Etc. etc.)


EN: How has comedy changed under the influence of changes in media?


Tony Belmont: Vaudeville, Radio, Television, Stand-up, Theater, Film.  

Example: I interviewed Art Carney at his home years ago. I told him I thought he was a great comedian. He politely corrected me and said, "I'm sorry young man but I'm not a comedian. I'm a comedic Actor. I don't stand in front of a mic and tell jokes. I need a script and then I will make it funny."


Different kinds of comedy are related to the act that the individual puts together. 

Examples:

(a) Prop Comedy:  Carrot Top a relatively new comedian in the past 15 years uses a box full of props next to him and pulls them out one by one. Gallager does a similar act but ends by smashing a watermelon all over the audience.

(b) Professor Backwards murdered words; this was later done by Norm Crosby and others.

(c) Ventriloquists: Jeff Dunham who is very popular now,. But I managed the man who started it all the "Great Senor Wences," the father of ventriloquists. 
(d)  Magician Comedians: Elliott Smith. His magic is first class but it's used as a prop for his comedy. Or Penn & Teller


Comedy has evolved along with media. In radio, there were many sound effects to help create the humor: Jack Benny-Fibber McGee & Molly etc. With television, it was now more visual and required film-type acting skills. Sadly today we are too politically correct and that is difficult in comedy, as comedians like to talk about anything and everything. But now they are handicapped. Don Rickles told me a few years back he could not do the humor he started with years ago, he would get into a lot of trouble if he did. He wasn't talking about Blue Comedy, he was talking about the restrictions that prevent comedians from making fun of people or even themselves?

EN: Over the course of your career you’ve personally gotten to know many of the comedians we’ve become familiar with through television and film. Who were some of these and what were they like when not in the spotlight?


Tony Belmont. Photo Gary Firstenberg.
Tony Belmont: I met everyone that was at the top and still alive in 1970 and on. So I had many favorites. With me as opposed to being on the Johnny Carson Show or Larry King where they need to be entertaining they could relax and be themselves. George Carlin was laid back and a nice guy. Not the crazy guy you saw on stage. Red Skelton was exactly what you expected. He was just like the comedian he portrayed on TV. Henny Youngman Told one-liners every couple of minutes. George Burns was a wealth of knowledge. I said to George. "You've been around a long time George! You must know everything there is to know about show business." He smiled --took a puff on his cigar and said, "Yes -I do. The problem is at my age I can't remember any of it anymore." 


I asked Milton Berle a question and expected a different answer. I told him that I had interviewed his good friend Henny Youngman a year back and Henny told me that you (Milt) stole all of his jokes. I thought he would object to that, but instead, to my amazement he said, "Yes--I did!  But I told them better."


* * * 

National Comedy Hall of Fame

Address: 2435 US-19 Holiday, FL 34691

Email: comedyhall@aol.com


Related Links

National Comedy Hall of Fame Inductees

Another Side of Jonathan Winters

My Original August 4 Standup Routine: Eggplant Humor & More

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Intro to the National Comedy Hall of Fame

 


  

National Comedy Hall of Fame

Address: 2435 US-19 Holiday, FL 34691

Email: comedyhall@aol.com


https://nationalcomedyhalloffame.com/


Photos courtesy Gary Firstenberg


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

What College Classes Will Improve Your Odds of Career Success

Assuming that we're talking about people who are interested in careers and being successful in them, what additional classes should students take to augment their preparation for life after academia? That what this NY Post article was about this weekend: Whatever your major, include these must-have college courses for career success.

The article begins with a few kudos for what college can do for you. Then it suggests there are some additional courses that will help you succeed in business or whatever comes next. 

What follows are the six classes recommended by Joe Flanagan, a senior employment advisor at VelvetJobs, along with my comments on each. If you read this, please take a minute to leave a comment as regards what class or classes you think should be added to a college education.

1. Computer Science: Introduction to Programming
When the internet came along in the 90s, I bought a book titled Learn To Write HTML In Two Weeks. In two weeks I knew how to create a basic web page using the Hyper-Text Markup Language (code) that creates web pages. 

98% of us will never need to do any programming. To understand the concept of programming to you really need to to pay tuition to learn basics that you will never really use? There are YouTube videos and books that can give you this foundational insight. It's not rocket science.

2. Marketing/Branding
If they teach a course on personal marketing and branding, it may be useful. It's important to know how to market yourself. To market yourself it helps to know yourself. For this, I recommend Richard Nelson Bolles' What Color Is Your Parachute? For the overall marketing of your self I recommend Personal Marketing Strategies. Unfortunately, the latter is out of print, but there are usually a few used copies available on Amazon.com. (If my own book on marketing ever gets published I will be recommending that as well.)

3. Graphic Design
They also suggest Photoshop as well. Now frankly, in my career, every single person who I've known with Photoshop skills learned it by using tutorials online. This is not something you pay college tuition prices for. My personal career required a grasp of design principles. I was in advertising and promotions. But like so many other things, if you are motivated, borrow every book you can from the library and read them, then buy the best one or two for your personal library.  

4. Intro to Statistics
This makes sense if you are going to be in management. Learning how to use stats and analyze data has a place. If you are an entrepreneur, understanding how to gather and read data will be essential.

5. English
Those who can communicate effectively will go further than those who cannot. Sadly, our K-12 schools are failing to teach even the basics of English these days. Colleges have a remedial English class for incoming freshman so they learn how to write a paper. Good heavens. This after 12 years of English classes? Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmatic are the basic foundation stones of an education. If you have not mastered these at this point (before heading off to college) I recommend a tutor. 

6. Personal Finance
This is such an important skill. College students are inundated with credit card offers. My father's response when I started getting them in 1970: "You're not getting a credit card." Debt is a major burden for those who bear it. 

There's much to learn with regard to handling finances. Is there really a class for this? I know that there's plenty of ways to make bad financial decisions. The best way to learn financial matters is a mentor. Find someone whom you trust. 

* * * 

You can read the full article here.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 22, 2021

A Lesson from Oedipus: Learning To See

The Sphinx of Greek mythology.
"You can only paint truthfully what you can truthfully see," is one of the maxims of the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art. Unless we're totally blind, seeing is something we all do every day, and something we fail to do well because we take it for grated. Hence, a critical lesson is learning how to truly and truthfully see. Though particularly pertinent for painters, this lesson applies to all our life experiences.

The other night as I watched The Third Man I was surprised to still see things I had not noticed before, even though I'd watched it at least five times or more. 

In Greek mythology, Oedipus was the king of Thebes and the central character in the Greek tragedy by Sophocles, Oedipus Rex. When he was born there was a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. 

According to the legend, retold by Sophocles, his parents were King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. In order to thwart the prophecy, King Lauis instructed a shepherd to take the infant and leave him on a hillside to die. The shepherd didn't have the heart to leave the infant to die, so he handed him off to another shepherd so that Oedipus ended up being raised by another king and queen (Polybus and Merope) who raised him as their own.

When Oedipus grew up, while serving in the court of Polybus and Merope, he goes to consult the Oracle at Delphi regarding his life. He learns about the prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother. (In Andre Gide's retelling, in Two Legends, it is a soothsayer visiting the kingdom who privately tells Oedipus his future.)

Oedipus decides to banish himself from the Kingdom where he was raised to set out for a new life. At this point, King Polybus steps in and reveals to the young man that Polybus is not really his father, and shares the story of how he came to live as if he were the king's son. "There is nothing to worry about. I'm not your father."

What is it like to believe one thing all your life only to discover later that things were not as they appeared? I know many of such stories, including my own.

Oedipus decides to depart anyways. On the road near Thebes he gets into an altercation with an older man. Their quarrel escalates to such a degree that Oedipus kills the man. Continuing on his way he reaches Thebes only to discover it is under a curse from the Sphinx and that the king of the city is dead. 

From 5th century B.C., Nola, Italy
The Sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a woman, haunches of a lion and the wings of a falcon that stood guard at the gate of the city. The Sphinx would ask riddles to travelers who it would strangle and destroy if they failed to correctly answer. The question the Sphinx asked Oedipus is one of the most famous riddles in history, of which we are all familiar now but was a mystery then: 
Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?"

Oedipus correctly answers the Sphinx and as his reward he is given the throne, thereby becoming King of Thebes and marrying the king's widow. Naturally both are oblivious to one another's identities.

When Laius had been killed the Sphinx released a plague upon the land. When the plague continued unabated, he set out to find the root cause of this curse. His idealism set in motion the quest but there were warnings that it may be best to abandon this fool's errand.

In the end, he learns that he killed his father and Jocasta discovers she married her son. Blinded by these revelations, Jocasta hangs herself, and a Oedipus punctures his eyes with pins from Jocasta's dress. 

* * *
I realize this is a very different story from the opening paragraph about painting, but the concept is similar. We take so much for granted. 

"Know Thyself" are the words carved above the entrance to Apollo's temple at Delphi. The theme has been echoed throughout history in philosophy and literature.  

I think here of "To thine own self be true" in Hamlet. How can we be true to ourselves--our values and core being--if we do not know who we are. And of course The Lion King is a great illustration of this latter principle. If you are called to be a king, why are you wasting your life thrashing about in a fantasy land? When Simba's eyes were opened, he realized it was time to grow up, and to stop beating himself up for something he didn't do. (He believed his killed his father, and it warped him, an interesting twist on Oedipus, yes? 

* * * 
In The Third Man, it is the writer Holly Martens (Joseph Cotten) who has his eyes opened when he discovers his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) isn't the man he thought he was. (See: A Film Noir Favorite, The Third Man)  
 
To quote the Apostle Paul, "We see through a glass dimly."

Life is full of mysteries. I think that's part of what makes it so interesting. What have you learned on your journey? What riddles are your striving to resolve today?

* * * 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Flashback Friday: Rilke's Dedication

I originally shared this here on August 19, 2010.


Dedication 
A poem by Rainer Maria Rilke 

I have great faith in all things not yet spoken. 
I want my deepest pious feelings freed. 
What no one yet has dared to risk and warrant 
will be for me a challenge I must meet. 

If this presumptuous seems, God, may I be forgiven. 
For what I want to say to you is this: 
my efforts shall be like a driving force, 
quite without anger, without timidness 
as little children show their love for you. 

With these outflowing, river-like, with deltas 
that spread like arms to reach the open sea, 
with the recurrent tides that never cease 
will I acknowledge you, will I proclaim you 
as no one ever has before. 
 
And if this should be arrogance, 
so let me arrogant be to justify my prayer 
that stands so serious and so alone 
before your forehead, circled by the clouds.

For more poems by Rainer Maria Rilke and others visit PoemHunter.com

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Throwback Thursday: A Film Noir Favorite, The Third Man

This week I again watched one of my fave film noir movies, The Third Man. Film noir was a style of Hollywood film, popular in the 40's and 50's that sought to expose and exploit the dark side of life. Themes were ambiguous, often not pretty, and occasionally considered scandalous. 
 
They were primarily black and white and gritty. Many have been resurrected less successfully than intended (eg. Cape Fear), though some have emulated the genre with superb flare (eg. L.A. Confidential). 

The Third Man 
The film -- starring Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard -- is based on the novel by Graham Greene. The zither soundtrack is playful and somber simultaneously. If you've seen the film before the opening strumming will give you a lift as you know you're entering a story that has previously moved you. I have never tired of this interaction of these well defined characters with competing motives. 

 Unrelenting fascination is what I experience every time I watch this movie. It never seems old. It remains alive in my mind, haunting me, with its unearthly music, its dark, oblique photography and crisp, well-crafted storyline. 

Orson Welles excels, delivering some great lines and also one the best entrances in movie history to go along with a superb exit as well. It couldn't be better. I can't even express how I feel in words. If you've seen it it's worth re-visiting, and worth seeing if you haven't. 

The music track is Anton Karras on the zither. It greets you at the open and carries you through. When I hear the opening notes it awakens anticipation and memories simultaneously. 

Here's an informative review of the film from imdb.com 
Of all the movies during the studio era (pre-1960ish), there are three movies with cinematography that always stick out in my mind: Gregg Toland's work in Citizen Kane, Russel Mety's work in Touch of Evil, and Robert Krasker's work in The Third Man (all starring Orson Welles). 

I just recently saw a restored 35mm version of The Third Man. The vivid black and white visuals of a bombed out Vienna are breath-taking. Shadows are everywhere, a metaphor for the period detailed in this story. The unique way Krasker tilts the camera in some shots adds to the disorientation of the plot. And who can forget the first close-up of Welles with the light from an apartment room above splashing onto his face; one of the great entrances in movie history, made still more effective by the foreshadowing in the previous scene. Lime gives his old friend a smile that only Welles could give.

Here's my 2011 review of the film:  
Graham Greene The Third Man Continues to Satisfy
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Ten days ago I saw Graham Greene's 
The Third Man on someone's list of the fifty greatest films of all time and I felt compelled to rent it again. I've read the book at least twice, Greene being among my favorite novelists. I can't say how many times I've seen the film but invariably each time it's an enriching experience.

The story takes place in Vienna after World War II. The narrator is a hack writer of Westerns, Holly Martens (Joseph Cotton) from America who has come to Vienna to find his old college chum Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Upon arrival in the divided city (there is an American, French, Brit and Russian sector, as partitioned by the Allies) he learns that Lime has been killed in an accident outside the apartment house where Martens had been expecting to meet him. The witnesses, however, share conflicting details and Martens begins to suspect foul play.

It's not just the exotic settings that make a Graham Greene story such a thrill to read, but also the incredible way he allows the reader to see the story, even when the narrator doesn't get it. In this case Holly Martens, saturated with sentimentalism, believes only the best about his old friend, resisting all evidence to the contrary.

The third star in this film is the beautiful and somewhat unheralded Alida Valli as Anna Schmidt. Martens loves his friend because he doesn't know the truth about Harry; Anna is smitten by Harry in spite of the truth about him. Tumultuous tragic love smashes itself against the rocks with resigned futility.

I must also take a moment here to extol the cinematography. Shot in black and white mostly on location in Vienna, every frame is a work of beauty. So much of the film is at night, allowing wonderful contrasts and surrealistically stark scenes. This all works perfectly to set up the first appearance of Welles hiding in a dark doorway, his face suddenly illuminated when a light across the street flames to life.

At certain points in all our life stories light strikes from a new angle, revealing things we didn't previously understand. The clues were there all along, but until there is light nothing can be fully seen for what it is... whether we wish to see it or not.

* * * 
In case you can't tell, I really enjoyed this film. Each time I watch I catch subtle touches I'd missed previously. It's a film that has everything. Find it if you haven't seen it.