15 March, 2009

A Lil' of this...a Lil of that...

Does anyone else find it interesting that two of the 'contenders' on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "American Idol" are both named Lil?
Okay, I know the young woman dancing is Lil' (as in 'little")-- and the other woman, singing on "Idol" has the first name Lil. Yet you don't see either use of that name or description very often. And then to have it be the monikers of two African-American women on current reality television, is for me, a point of interest.

So, what's in a name? Y'all know my predilection for alliteration especially when it shows up as someones name.

Shalon Schoop is a baseball player on the team for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. According to the little text blurb under his name when he comes up for bat, it stated that he is being considered for the San Francisco Giants. Sweeeeeet. If I have to become a Giants fan, at least, I might have a name to distract and amuse me AND help to ameliorate the fact that I learned that the Giants released Dave Roberts from the roster. Sour.

While speaking and writing of words and writing, I read today's entry from one of my daily online resources, FeedBlitz. The lead piece was an example of an Oulipo exercise in constrained writing. I was intrigued. I had never heard of such a thing. Fortunately, there was another web link with an expanded definition and example:

Here's Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud" as rendered by Jean Lescure's "N+7″ procedure, replacing each noun with the seventh following it in a dictionary:

The Imbeciles

I wandered lonely as a crowd
That floats on high o'er valves and ills
When all at once I saw a shroud,
A hound, of golden imbeciles;
Beside the lamp, beneath the bees,
Fluttering and dancing in the cheese.
Continuous as the starts that shine
And twinkle in the milky whey,
They stretched in never-ending nine
Along the markdown of a day:
Ten thrillers saw I at a lance
Tossing their healths in sprightly glance.
The wealths beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling wealths in key:
A poker could not be but gay,
In such a jocund constancy:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What weave to me the shred had brought:
For oft, when on my count I lie
In vacant or in pensive nude,
They flash upon that inward fly
That is the block of turpitude;
And then my heat with plenty fills
And dances with the imbeciles.

Immortal, no? It's an example of an "oulipo" ("ouvroir de littérature potentielle" or, roughly, "workshop of potential literature"), one of a series of constrained writing techniques invented by French-speaking authors in the 1960s.

And speaking of the 1960's:

Don and I got into a conversation this week about the song, Lighting Strikes as sung by Lou Christie. Of course, I remembered the song but not as he had. According to Don his high-school teacher who interpreted this song and arrived at the conclusion that this song was about having sex in the car--twice! Huh?
What car? Sex?
My recollection of the song was that the guy (the singer, Lou, I imagined) did indeed have the hots for his girlfriend but he really wanted to be with her and even sang about going to the chapel towards the end of the song.

Was I really that sheltered as a kid?

Here is a link so you can refresh your memory and decide for yourself:


(My high school teacher (who was really cool) had us explicate the lyrics from all of Jim Morrison's music... so I can't be that sheltered.)

And on that note: We rented from Netflix the recently released Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (in particularly, season three, the last episodes). Tommy and Dickie--well, I guess it would be more respectful to now refer to them as Tom and Dick these days--do a current commentary on their show that includes a very moving and insightful video clip to bring everyone into the mood of the times.

Equal to my appreciation of seeing faces and celebrities that seemed so famous or important to me as a kid in the 60's was my disconcerting emotional response to a recollection of such a troublesome time. This episode in particular, had a tongue-in-cheek homage to the then recent Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which turned out to be such a dark chapter in history. Included in this episode was a musical number by Harry Belafonte that the censors cut at the last minute. I was either too young to understand the violence and the political rhetoric of the time; or I was too young and I repressed most of it. However, today, I watched footage--some of which I have certainly seen on T.V. over the years--and felt nauseous and anxious.

I was a big fan of their weekly comedy show on C.B.S. The rather adult type of humor to which I had become accustomed really appreciated their radical approach to comedy. (Although, being a teenager, I also got very impatient with some of the mediocre sketches that were always included). And some of the humor probably eluded me back then and now, as an adult, I get to laugh in places that I may have ignored before or that the censors took out before airing. Watching this television classic felt in some ways like watching old home movies. Getting to see familiar faces and places and reminiscing was sweet. And then there is the other side of home movies where one views people and places that stir up discontent or sadness. Given all of these emotions, I am not sure I will order up the other episodes for viewing. Or maybe, I just erred in choosing the controversial last season to begin my nostalgic celluloid journey and should have begun with their opening season when all was right with the world.

However, watching musical numbers from the original West-Coast cast of "Hair" from the Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood, was quite a mind-blowing experience. At first, the actors in their hippie garb looked very goofy to me and quite anachronistic. Then I got swept up listening to the music that has become so much a part of our culture...this was the real thing-- being sung live --by the men who wrote the show. I saw this show at the Aquarius . . . on a high-school date! And I was freaked out when the cast began to come out into the audience and interacting with us. I had never been to a play where that happened. And then most of the cast got naked. (Of course, for television they kept most of their clothes on.) But I was on a date for crying out loud.

Watching the three songs the cast performed, I kept an eye open for actors I knew had been in the show and gone on to great things. And yes, there was Jennifer Warnes and Ben Vereen.

Later in the second episode on the DVD, there was a comedy sketch that included Bob Newhart and Steve Martin. One vignette had four guys driving in a car. One guy being a Secret Service guy says "It's a matter of national security, we have to turn right up ahead." He whispers into another guy's ear and that guy says, "Yes, we have to tell the President". The third guy turns to the driver who was black and says, "Mr. President, turn right up ahead." The black man nods and pretends to turn the steering wheel. OK, that cutting edge humor was totally cool and totally prescient.

The second episode was distinguished in other ways. It was the original airing of Chuck Braverman's innovative film, American Time Capsule. A powerful three minute film that aired before the Humphrey-Nixon election that launched his film career. And then there was Jim Morrison and The Doors.

I was drawn to the mystique of the music of The Doors but back then, I had no attraction to Jim Morrison. In fact, I think he kinda scared me. Watching him sing and perform on the DVD, I had an appreciation for his sensuality and sexuality that appealed to so many. Jim Morrison could look almost boyish but his voice, his style, was definitely dangerous and raw. And as synchrodippity would have it--one of the numbers they sang on the show was "Wild Child" and that was one of the two songs my aforementioned English teach had us explicate. Even Morrison would appreciate that irony.

And to cap it all off, as the credits rolled on the screen, I noticed a name of one of the writers that I ended up dating in the early eighties. EEEK. I knew he was a comedy writer but oh if he had only told me he'd written for Tommy and Dickie...

Okay, guess we will rent the rest of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Show series after all. There is rich mine of nostalgia, history and talent to yet mine.

For now, I must go pack as tomorrow afternoon, I will be leaving for Pacific Grove, California to the Asilomar Conference Grounds. I will be attending my first ICSL Leadership Conference as the newly pastorized minister formerly from UCSL. Gulp. (And my regrets if a reader doesn't understand the acronyms for the names or our mutual organizations--which is why our leadership prefers we spell out the names in entirety. And if I had realized it, it would have taken less time to spell out the names rather than this editorial comment).

Today's blog is just a lil' longer than usual to last you until I return one week from tonight.

City Slackers

No, I did not misspell the title of this post. Yes, I was playing off of the comedy film title, "City Slickers" about a bunch of...