Sunday, April 26, 2015

When Radio Was King

"Look up in the sky! It's a bird! A plane! It's Superman!"

It was the early 1940s; World War II was almost over, and radio dominated the living rooms of America.

In the mornings we ate Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick, as they discussed the upcoming day; and at noon, dropped in for Luncheon at Sardi's, where actors came by to boast about Broadway hits.

In the afternoons housewives took a break to commiserate with Stella Dallas, or cheer the triumphs or mourn the doings of One Man's Family.

In the evenings Walter Winchell rasped "Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! Let's go to press!

Chills ran up and down our spines as the creak of a door dared us to enter The Inner Sanctum; Rochester grumbled as he chauffeured his boss on The Jack Benny Show; Baby Snooks drove her father crazy; The Shadow rooted out the "evil that lurks in the hearts of men."

The Lone Ranger pursued desperadoes in the Old West, and Lowell Thomas painted word pictures of the jungles of Borneo and the Great Wall of China.

We were listening to the radio.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Naked Truth

I think I've reached the saturation point with graphic depictions of simulated love-making in the movies, and it has nothing to do with prudery.

I learned a long time ago that babies aren't found under cabbage leaves, and the stork doesn't bring them. People make babies. They always have, always will, and sometimes they practice, just for the fun of it.

Once upon a time, when no mention, much less the visual portrayal of heterosexual acts, was permitted, movie-goers had to use their imaginations if they were that way so disposed.

No longer.

Gratuitous sex scenes are just part of the cinematic landscape, and actors who don't participate are an endangered species.

But one of the unexpected consequences of the increasingly ubiquitous custom is the progressive desensitization of the significance of the act in the eyes of the audience.

And another by-product is the opportunity it affords for a good chuckle.

I particularly get a kick out of the frenetic stylization of an interlude: Boy meets girl; they embrace, pull back, their eyes glaze over as they stare soulfully into each other's eyes, and then, in a mad rush to the finish line, they frantically tear off their clothes; nature takes its course, and they have sex standing up, at an anatomically-impossible angle, before the scene shifts to the next problem-solving episode.

After all difficulties are resolved, the wildly ecstatic bride-to-be, and the beaming groom, stare soulfully into each  other's eyes, as the pastor proclaims them, man and wife; they kiss, and run down the aisle, out of the church, and into the car, ready and eager to live happily, ever after, as the music swells, the scene fades, and the credits start to roll.

Ain't love grand?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On Rediscovering the Joys of Cursive Writing

I've just started writing again in cursive script.

Succeeding generations of schoolchildren had to learn to write in it in penmanship class, back in grammar school.

Recently, a number of articles have predicted "the death of cursive"; how a lot of schools aren't teaching it anymore, and how anachronistic it is in the Digital Age.

What a shame!

The use of cursive writing, as opposed to hand-printing, is like the difference between Slow Food and Fast Food; you look forward to, and savor the first, and wolf down the second, just to get it over with.

The well-learned art of cursive handwriting is like making love; part of the pleasure lies in the length of time it takes. The irony is that cursive script was developed as a more efficient, and less time-consuming activity than printing separate letters on a page.

I went back to cursive when I realized I could barely decipher my own printing. Over the years, it had become more and more rushed, and more sloppy.

One day, I began to write in a neat, legible cursive script. It was almost as if the ghost of my third grade teacher was peering over my shoulder, telling me to pay attention, and slow down.

Who knows? I might be starting a trend.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Doing Nothing

Have you ever been able to give yourself permission to say, "I'm going to spend the entire day just doing nothing?

"I'm not going to make my bed, shave, check my email, or pay bills.

"I'm going back to sleep. Later, I might eat chocolate truffles, watch old sitcoms, or stare at the wall. Or not."

Whenever I decide to do nothing, I feel like some authority figure is disapprovingly clucking their tongue, as if to say, "I really thought better of you. How can you just sit there, doing nothing?"

Giving yourself permission to do nothing is almost impossible. It means going against standards you've lived by all your life.

The old proverb says, "It's sweet to do nothing."

Why is that so hard to believe?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Icarus Effect

When U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, was indicted April 1 on multiple federal charges of fraud, I was saddened by the banality of the event.

One of the most powerful men in the Senate, Menendez had just joined a constellation of famous men from every walk of life who have been plagued by the Icarus Effect.

In Greek mythology, an artisan named Daedalus fashioned a set of wings, which he asked his son Icarus to try out. The wings, made of feathers, were glued together with wax.

Daedalus cautioned Icarus not to fly too high, for fear the sun would melt the wax, and cause the boy to fall to his death.

With the arrogance of youth, Icarus disregarded his father's advice and flew too high; the wax melted, he fell in the sea, and drowned.
By so doing, he became the prototype for the tragic hero: A man blinded by his hubris, doomed to suffer the consequences.

Menendez's implication of wrongdoing, to all charges of which he pleaded not guilty, is ironic; his career was launched more than two decades ago, when he testified at the trial of his mentor, former New Jersey State Senator William "Billy" Musto, who was found guilty of charges of racketeering, fraud and extortion. Musto served three years in federal prison.

In the wake of the trial, Menendez's star rose ever higher, culminating in his appointment to the unexpired U.S. Senate seat of Gov. Jon Corzine, and his subsequent election to a full six-year term.

The Icarus Effect has dogged and brought down innumerable men who have sought to achieve greatness, from presidents to mob bosses, from CEOs to scam artists.