Another Icon of the 60s Passes On

Muhammad Ali in later years after being diagnose with Parkinson's disease
Muhammad Ali in later years after being diagnose with Parkinson’s disease

Death of an Icon

A few days ago Muhammad Ali died at age 74. For years, Ali had battled Parkinson’s Disease, which may have been a contributing factor in his death. What amazes me about the man, is how he defied the Selective Service with his refusal to participate in the military and how he defiantly thumbed his nose at mainstream America with his Islamic name change, yet he still was able to pursue his professional sports career and eventually become a World  Champion. Now matter how you look at his life, it is an amazing story and one of the great cultural phenomena of the twentieth century.

Memories of Cassius Clay

I have a confession to make. I have never been a big fan of professional boxing, for the sport has always been a bit too barbaric for my tastes. Still, this attitude has not stopped me from following the sport, at least to the point, where I know who is fighting who.

And it all started back in 1964, when Cassius Clay took on Sonny Liston. Liston was the champ and most observers thought he would demolish Clay. Clay was commonly known as the “Louisville Lip”, and at the time no one expected such a brazen person to be any good in the ring. Both groups were proven wrong, as Clay demolished Liston in six rounds.

The day after the fight with the support of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

“Writing is like fighting” attributed to Muhammad Ali

However, for me, the most memorable part of the fight was that I listened to the play-by-play action on the radio, for in those days that was how many live sporting events were covered. Radio sports has faded away these days to almost nothing, replaced by the ever present cable TV sports networks. Granted, there are lots of colorful and entertaining sports commentators these days, but nothing can quite replace the mental process the radio listener had to go through, as he (or she) created mental images from the words of the announcer that came poring out from your radio. In a way it is kind of like writing.

Muhammad Ali, the Survivor

Unlike other brash men of his era, Muhammad Ali survived, even after declaring himself a Conscientious Objector to the Vietnam War and joining the church of Islam. This is simply amazing and there is no way to easily explain this except by taking a look at how much admiration our society directs towards sports heroes.

An unique view of the brash young fighter
An unique view of the brash young fighter

Quotes by Muhammad Ali

If you have checked around the web since Muhammad Ali died, you will find many tributes with a frequent observation, how Ali with his quick wit and acid tongue was in reality a forerunner of the rap and hip hop movements that emerged through the final years of the 20th century. Following is a selection of ten quotes that will give you a gist of what these commentators are talking about.

“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”

“I’m so mean. I make medicine look sick.”

“If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of  you.”

“A man who has no imagination  has no wings.”

“It’s just a  job. Grass, grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

 “Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”

“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”

“I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”

And of course last but not least is Ali’s famous quote about the butterfly and the bee.

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.”

 

 

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More Christmas Hullalaboo

Christmas card from 1940, from wikipedia
Christmas card from 1940, from Wikipedia

So This Is Christmas

As John Lennon would say, “Another year over, And what have you done.” Actually, “So This Is Christmas” by John Lennon, has to rank as one of my favorite Modern Age Christmas songs. The lyrics, though quite simple, are very poignant and always deserve a good listen right about this time of year.

For this blog, reflections on the year that is about to end, will come shortly, but I would like to pause for a moment on what I like best about the Christmas season….and that  is, its pagan nature.

I am quite aware that come December, there are lots of signs and placards put up to remind us how important it is to “keep Christ In Christmas”. Nonetheless, what I like most about late December are all the festivities that seem to revolve around the time of year, when the days are at their shortest and the nights are so very long.

These are the times that are ripe for storytelling. For it seems that the long, cold nights are the perfect catalyst for spurring the human mind into creating fantastic apparitions and riveting insights into why we are here on the planet and what monumental efforts might be required for our survival. And in our present-day situation, our survival may be more in peril than ever before.

 

Santa Claus emcounter
Santa Claus encounter, copied w/o permission

Christmas Quotes

  1. “What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic.” – Anonymous
  2. “Always winter but never Christmas.”  by C.S. Lewis, from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  3. “Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!”  by Charles Dickens
  4. “The worst gift I was given is when I got out of rehab that Christmas; a bottle of wine. It was delicious.” by Craig Ferguson
  5. “Glen had a disability more disfiguring than a burn and more terrifying than cancer.
    Glen had been born on the day after Christmas………”My parents just combine my birthday with Christmas, that’s all,” he explained.
    But we knew this was a lie. Glen’s parents just wrapped a couple of his Christmas presents in birthday-themed wrapping paper, stuck some candles in a supermarket cake, and had a dinner of Christmas leftovers.” by Augusten Burroughs, You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas
  6. “It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.” by Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
  7. “If my Valentine you won’t be,
    I’ll hang myself on your Christmas tree.”  by  Ernest Hemingway
  8. Santa Claus: “Don’t you know who I am?”
    Joe: “Sure, you’re a nut.”
    Santa Claus: “I’m Santa Claus.”
    Joe: “Right and I’m the tooth fairy.”
    from the movie, Santa Claus
  9. “Don’t be scared if a big fat man comes in to your room and stuffs you in a bag… I told Santa I want you for Christmas!!!” Anonymous
  10. “Tales, unlike stories, never lie.” Lord Autumn

Another Glimpse from the Past

Santa Claus gets some attention, Puck Magazine 1904
Santa Claus gets some attention, Puck Magazine 1904

No More Yogi-isms

Yogi Berra, as remembered by Dave Granland

The Passing of a Verbal Yogi

Yogi Berra passed away this week. He lived to the grand old age of 90 until he succumbed a thing eventually takes us all. It’s called death. Though Yogi was a great player and manager, he also wrote books (nine by my count). Nonetheless, even though Yogi played in ten World Series (most ever), made the Baseball Hall of Fame and managed teams from both the National and American League that made it to the World Series, he will still be most remembered for his one liners. Now that’s testimony to the power of the spoken word. How many contemporary writers can claim to have had as much to say (and remembered) on the American psyche as Yogi Berra……Damn few.

Some Yogi-isms To Always Cherish

  1. If I didn’t make it baseball, I wouldn’t have made it workin’. I didn’t like to work.
  2. We made too many wrong mistakes.
  3. All pitchers are liars or crybabies.
  4. Little league baseball is a good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.
  5. You can observe a lot by watching.
  6. The future ain’t what it used to be.
  7. You can’t hit and think at the same time.
  8. It’s deja vu all over again.
  9. When you come to a fork in the road take it.
  10. I didn’t really say everything that I said.

And last but not least: “Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t go to yours.”

Short Tribute

And as far as Yogi Berra’s funeral went, I haven’t read any press accounts, but I can only imagine that it was very well attended. And though we haven’t heard too much from the man lately (last book, You Can Observe a Lot By Watching, published in 2009) , nobody has captured the true essence of baseball as Yogi did with his catchy one-liners….that is…..back in the heyday before we had designated hitters and World Series games that are in competition with Halloween. Baseball just ain’t what it used to be.

Yogi Berra understood the true essence of baseball.
Yogi Berra understood the true essence of baseball.

 

 

 

Is Hollywood Passé?

A Hollywood based business in New Mexico, photo by author
A Hollywood based business in New Mexico, photo by author

A Unique Photo Op

This abandoned business in Northern New Mexico, got me thinking about the present fortunes of tinsel town. Though the West Coast film mecca is very much economically alive and producing popular films, there is no doubt about it, the film industry is going through changes. People just don’t attend movies like they use to…..but to compensate for the lack of moviegoers, the industry has found a healthy market in foreign countries and at the American home. This and the ability to lead the field in special effects have enabled the popular industry to remain an important force within the entertainment industry. ……. And don’t forget cartoon characters almost always sell well.

Quotes On the Nature of Hollywood

1. “The classy gangster is a Hollywood invention.”  by Orson Welles

2. “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” by Marilyn Monroe

3. “Hollywood is like Picasso’s bathroom.”  by Candice Bergen

4. “Mark Twain’s old saying ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’ still reigns in Hollywood.” ― James Morcan

5. “Sometimes it’s good to be the smartest rat in the sewer.” ― Michael Houbrick

6. “Whether you’re talking about the Egyptian pharaohs or Hollywood movie stars, it all ends the same way. DEATH.” Neal A. Yeager

7.  “I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I’m not afraid to look behind them.” – Elizabeth Taylor

8. “Hollywood didn’t kill Marilyn Monroe; it’s the Marilyn Monroes who are killing Hollywood.” – Billy Wilder

9. “It’s actually great to shoot far away from Hollywood because we don’t have the distractions of the parties and premieres and all that. And, of course, you can save money – there are no good shoe stores.” – Katie Holmes

10. “But the West did not last long enough. Its folk myths and heroes became stage properties of Hollywood before the poets had begun to get to work on them.” – Christopher Dawson

11. “Independent films are where you really get to cut your teeth and have some fun and do the things that mainstream Hollywood doesn’t want to do.” – Anthony Anderson

12. “Hollywood isn’t your cesspool, America. It’s your mirror.” – Bill Maher

13. “In Hollywood, the real stars are all in animation. Alvin and the Chipmunks don’t throw star fits, don’t demand custom-designed Winnebagos, and are a breeze at costume fittings. Cruella DeVille, Gorgo, Rainbow Brite, Gus-Gus, Uncle Scrooge, and the Care Bears are all superstars and they don’t have drug problems, marital difficulties, or paternity suits to blacken their images.” ― John Waters

14. “Hollywood is loneliness beside the swimming pool.” – Liv Ullman

 

Did Hollywood peak in 1939?

No way around it, Hollywood had a great year in 1939. Some even say it was the best. While large parts of Europe were falling to a fascist regime, our American moviemakers put out a short list of great films. Among the 1939 greats are such classics, as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Wuthering Heights. Looking at the titles, one might think the country was oblivious to world events, but Hollywood has always been a bit of an escapist and surreal enterprise. If America was in a cloud during the last year of third decade of the twentieth century, they would soon find themselves rudely awakened by events in the Pacific, nearly two years later.

Moviemaking In New Mexico

Actually, film directors are more often coming to the Land of Enchantment to film parts or all of their movies. The Spanish state has always had great desert scenery and recent economic incentives from New Mexico seem to be working well in attracting film companies. Just a few years ago, Lone Survivor, was shot almost entirely here because the landscape resembled Afghanistan so well. Other film crews that have spent all or part of their time here include The Lone Ranger, True Grit (2010 version), The Avengers, Crazy Heart and the 3:10 To Yuma.

“I’m not homeless, I’m just on a cheap vacation.”

The quote in the title comes from a sign held out by a young couple, while pan-handling in Salt Lake City. I guess it all goes to say that how you define your own experience might determine how others view your activity. Nonetheless, being without a home or being a tramp is nothing new. Here’s a small selection of words illustrating what writers have experienced along these lines in the past.

Hitching Toward_Los_Angeles,_CA_8b31801u_original
A depression era photo of two travelers walking towards Los Angeles, photo by Dorothea Lange

Tramps

Tramps, hobos, bums, vagabonds, drifters, homeless people….no matter what you call them, there has always been a certain amount of admiration and mystique mixed in with contempt for these people of the streets and highways. Among writers, the road or the highway has been the proving ground for many a talented author. Being on the road probably won’t make you write any better, but it give you that special “outsider” status, which will allow you to look into the heart and soul of modern society with a fresh perspective. Following are a few quotes that explore this reality.

1. “Actors really should be tramps”. by Martin Milner

2. “I modeled my looks on the town tramp.” by Dolly Parton

3. “I tramp a perpetual journey.” Walt Whitman Song of Myself

4. “A man can sleep around, no questions asked, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes she’s a tramp.” by Joan Rivers

5. “He cut short my request for something to eat, snapping out, “I don’t believe you want to work.” Now this was irrelevant. I hadn’t said anything about work. The topic of conversation I had introduced was “food.” In fact, I didn’t want to work. I wanted to take the westbound overland that night.” by Jack LondonThe Road
6. “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” by Eleanor Roosevelt

7. “Tramps like us, Baby we were born to run” by Bruce Springstein

8. “Tramping is too easy with all this money . My days were more exciting when I was penniless and had to forage around for my next meal… I’ve decided that I’m going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty of it is just too good to pass up.” by Christopher McCandless,

9. “Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except heaven & hell & I have only a vague curiosity about one of those.” by Mark Twain

10. “Perhaps the greatest charm of tramp-life is the absence of monotony……. The hobo never knows what is going to happen the next moment;” hence, he lives only in the present moment.”
by  Jack London, The Road

11. “Tramps and hobos are commonly lumped together, but in their own sight they are sharply differentiated. A hobo or bo is simply a migratory laborer; he may take some longish holidays, but soon or late he returns to work. A tramp never works if it can be avoided; he simply travels. Lower than either is the bum, who neither works nor travels, save when impelled to motion by the police.” by H.L. Mencken

12. “A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow always hopeful of romance and adventure.” by Charlie Chaplin

13. “Girls who put out are tramps. Girls who don’t are ladies. This is, however, a rather archaic usage of the word. Should one of you boys happen upon a girl who doesn’t put out, do not jump to the conclusion that you have found a lady. What you have probably found is a lesbian.” by Fran Lebowitz

14. “We fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the mighty land. We were on the roof of America and all we could do was yell, I guess—across the night, eastward over the Plains, where somewhere an old man with white hair was probably walking toward us with the Word, and would arrive any minute and make us silent.” by Jack Kerouac, On the Road

15. “Only the large cities attempted anything in the way of identification. The Bertillion system was in the experimental stage and fingerprinting unknown in police work. We jumped from one state to another, kept away from the cities, lived almost entirely on the road except in the dead of winter, and spent our money in the jungles…” by Jack Black from You Can’t Win

Old Route 66 in Albuquerque, NM...photo by author
Old Route 66 in Albuquerque, NM…photo by author

More Words from Bloggers

Yellow Bug parked in front of the NM Museum of Art, photo by author
Yellow Bug parked in front of the NM Museum of Art, photo by author

Best Piece of Writing Advice Ever

Best Piece of Writing Advice Yet  (from the venerable Mark Twain)   “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Nothing could be more simple, right?

Today’s look around the internet includes more on Amazon-Hatchette, words from a black screenwriter and a bunch of Tom Swifties.

Does Anybody remember Boyz in the Hood?

Don’t go through the system. Do it yourself. Do something you believe in.”
Oscar-nominated writer/director John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood

The title definitely caught my eye when the film first came out in 1991, but I never got around to watching the movie (on DVD) till a few years ago. I must say I enjoyed the show immensely. It’s a great coming of age story about a tight-knit group of black teenagers trying to cope with the urban, drug-infested neighborhood that they find themselves thrust into.

The amazing thing about this film is that Singleton wrote the screenplay and landed the director’s spot just a year or two after he graduated from UCLA film school. I can’t imagine anything like this happening today, even though they are more opportunities out there and internet sites like the Black List have made Hollywood more accessible. Do it yourself is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

This Hatchette-Amazon Thing Drags On

“Consider the French Revolution. A bunch of blue bloods really thought they were born to rule, and the peasants couldn’t live without them to govern. They were wrong.” Joe Konrath

Mr. Konrath continues his defense of ebook publishing and self-publishing with this timely rage against Author’s United. His assertion that the ebooks are radically changing the publishing world has been around for several years. Now that the Amazon-Hatchette feud dominates the literary conversation, Joe has gained more notoriety as the great defender of Amazon and the new reality of cheap ebooks. No different than the rise of paperbacks right after WWII or the emergence of DVD discs and the consequent demise of VHS tapes, ebooks are here to stay. Check out his blog…….even if don’t agree his opinions you may the argument compelling.

Who Was Tom Swift?

Last week while discussing the overuse of adverbs, Anne Allen dug up the popular 60s phenomena of Tom Swifties, which derived from the Tom Swift character of YA fame that has been around since 1910.

Here are some of my favorites.

“Careful with that chainsaw,” Tom said offhandedly.

“I might as well be dead,” Tom croaked.

“I wish I drove a Scandinavian car” Tom sobbed (Saabed)

“I wonder if this radium is radioactive?” asked Marie curiously

“We could have made a fortune canning pineapples” Tom groaned dolefully

“That’s the last time I’ll stick my arm in a lion’s mouth,” the lion-tamer said off-handedly.

“I’ll have a martini,” said Tom, drily (dryly)

“I unclogged the drain with a vacuum cleaner,” said Tom succinctly

“Hurry up and get to the back of the ship!” Tom said sternly

“I have no flowers,” Tom said lackadaisically

Don’t lend me more yarn— / I can’t mend worth a darn,” / Said Tom, as he knitted his brow.

Kind of silly, but in a way they still retain some of their charm.

Final Quote of the Day

“Don’t write a book someday, write a book today. That’s what I did.” Chuck Wendig

 

Scotland’s Liberation????

Opening ceremony for Highland Games in Alberta, Canada
Is this the future? Opening ceremony for Highland Games in Alberta, Canada

The Big Event

This coming Friday Scotland gets to vote on whether it wants to be free from the UK. Right now those favoring independence for the rugged patch of land seem to be slightly ahead……But a lot can change in the days leading up to the vote, even among those picturesque hills that cover the northern tip of Great Britain. No matter how you look at it, this vote is big and the results could create political-cultural ripple effects that would travel around the globe.

If Scotland Votes Yes

As a U.S. citizen, I can’t vote in Scotland, but still that does not stop me from voicing my opinion that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation. Nonetheless, there is no way to predict exactly how a yes vote will play out. This scenario could play out badly for all parties involved, especially Wales, which may want to follow in Scotland’s footsteps, if they succeed.

What A No Vote Means

A “No” vote means the status quo remains in place. Still, there will be changes in Scottish-English relations, for there is a very good chance that London will give the Scottish a little more autonomy within the UK union. A “No” vote also means it will be a long time before Scotland is faced with another opportunity to establish itself as an independent nation. And it also will make things more difficult in Wales, for those who wish to secede. By the way the majority of political leaders from the western nations have gone on record as being opposed to Scottish independence, including our own president, Barrack Obama, who made a very briefly statement that he thought it would be best if the UK remain united.

Quotes About Scotland

1. “My point is there’s a hidden Scotland in anyone who speaks the Northern Ireland speech. It’s a terrific complicating factor, not just in Northern Ireland, but in Ireland generally.”  Seamus Heaney

2. “Forgive your enemy, but remember the bastard’s name.” Scottish proverb

3. “In Scotland we have mixed feelings about global warming because we will get to sit on the mountains and watch the English drown.” Frankie Boyle

4. Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.” Sir Winston Churchill

5. Oats. A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” Samuel Johnson

6. The Scottish sun, shocked by having its usual cloudy underpinnings stripped away, shone feverishly, embarrassed by its nakedness.” Stuart Haddon

7. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world, the history is fascinating, the men are handsome and the whisky is delicious. But don’t eat the macaroni pies.” JK Rowling

8. Learning to pipe isn’t easy. At first it always sounds worse than a chicken yard full of squawking adolescent roosters.” Amy Jarecki, from Beauty and the Barbarian

9. Scotland is the Canada of England!” Rainn Wilson

10. Edinburgh is a great big black bastard of a city where there are ghosts of all kinds.” Sara Sheridan, Ma Polinski’s Pockets 11. The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!” Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

12. “If you make a film about a pig farmer in Wales and you are a huge hit as the pig farmer’s wife, the next thing is you’ll be asked to do a film about a sheep farmer in Scotland.”  Kristin Scott Thomas

Quotes About the Independence Vote

1. “I have no time for those who say there is no way Scotland could go it alone. I know first-hand the contribution Scotland and Scots make to Britain’s success – so for me there’s no question about whether Scotland could be an independent nation.”  David Cameron

2. “I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that would cheer at the prospect… are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.” Tony Abbott Prime Minister of Australia

3. “Scottish independence throws up the possibility of a more progressive England. We won’t be British any more, we’ll be English.” Billy Bragg

4. “The simple truth is that Scotland is subject to the same 21st century pressures as the rest of the world. The more I listen to the Yes campaign, the more I worry about its minimisation and even denial of risks.” JK Rowling

5. “I would hate to have you lose Scotland,……..I hope that it doesn’t happen but I don’t have a vote in Scotland……..I would think it would be a loss for both sides.” Hillary Clinton to Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight

6. (Scottish Independence) “is too good an opportunity to miss”  Sean Connery

7. “Thank you very, very much and Scotland – stay with us.” David Bowie

8. “Staying in the United Kingdom presents greater certainty and stability.” Barrack Obama

9.  “I’m deeply suspicious of patriotism.  People following the band, you know?  I don’t want to be part of it.  It’s paved with fools.” J.K. Rowling

10. “All division worries me.  The secession of a nation without a history of forced unity has to be handled with tweezers and analysed case by case.” Pope Francis

A More Conservative England

Despite Billy Bragg’s rosy optimism, an independent Scotland could result in a more conservative England. This may be come as a major surprise to anyone residing in the USA or Canada, but the elected Scottish representatives serving in London are a very left-leaning bunch. Take away these politicians and not only will GB be more conservative, but the Labor party, which has a lot of support in Scotland will be significantly weakened. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with a system where there’s been 17 years of a Tory Government and the people of Scotland have voted Socialist for 17 years. That hardly seems democratic.” Sean Connery

A Glimmer of Hope

Most observers seem to agree that a “yes” vote for independence would spur other cultural minorities to seek independence from their respective Motherland. Even before the vote takes place, independence movements have been spurred on in places like the Catalans in Spain and the Flemish in Belgium. Even though it is possible that these movements might succeed in the near future, there is one place, where a new independent nation might be particularly beneficial.

And that my friends is the Middle East, where a internationally recognized Kurdish nation is long overdue and greatly needed. If Scottish independence translates into a Kurdish nation, down the road, then I’m all for it.