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New Title for my documentary: HEARING VOICES plus Fiscal Sponsorship!

I’m  unveiling a new title for my in-production documentary feature film about the history and power of radio: HEARING VOICES: How Radio Changed America & America Changed Radio.  Title changes are nothing new for most film projects, especially early on. As the film is developed and refined, a new title can more accurately convey the essence of the project. I believe this new title does just that.

In even bigger news, the International Documentary Association (IDA) has become our fiscal sponsor.

That means, dear friends, that any and all money donated to my film project will be a tax deduction since the IDA is a 501(3)(c). For a documentary filmmaker like myself, this is pure gold. You give, you get! Investment in a film is always a gamble, plain and simple; but a tax-deductible donation is guaranteed value in return, PLUS you get to be a part of making this film happen. Needless to say, please check it out here!

 

NEW YEAR OR SAME YEAR?

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They say the definition of insanity is doing the same things over again and expecting different results.

 

New Year’s Day is of course a man made (but necessary and practical) invention. In reality time continues in a straight line, ostensibly with no beginning and no end. But the earth revolves around the sun again and again giving us seasons and the rhythms of life. So a calendar was created to help us know when to plant the crops and harvest them. And at the end of every harvest season there must be a great celebration (especially if the fields yielded enough food for the winter). Now it’s party time.

 

And so we come to the end of one year and the start of a new year. New Year offers a moment to pause and reflect on our previous trip around the sun. Are we right back where we started or have we also experienced something of our own revolution in the preceding twelve months?

 

It’s as good a time as any to reflect, hope, and plan. The New Year gives the illusion of turning a new page, wiping an old slate clean. And why not? Trouble is many of us, myself included, can start being reactive to life instead of being proactive. Things come at us at any given time that cost us time, money, and worry. However, we must also strive to be proactive, to anticipate likely events and scenarios and plan accordingly. We need to take ownership of our present life, embrace it (or make peace with it) just as it is, and then move forward by consciously making a list of what needs to change or be accomplished and set a DEADLINE for each of these items. Resolve to be proactive! Otherwise last year will be the same as this year, next year, and the others that follow.

 

Write down all of the things holding you back: all of the troubles, worries, and failures of 2014. Now take that piece of paper and tear it up and throw it in the TRASH. Leave it where it belongs—in 2014.

 

I’m just saying…

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AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO MISSES THE SMELL OF LIQUID PAPER?

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At one time “White Out” or “Liquid Paper” was essential to every office! You couldn’t get enough of the stuff. I miss the smell sometimes. For those too young to remember, in Olden Times we had to use typewriters instead of computers to compose thing s like college term papers. I, of course, also wrote scripts and short stories. Usually I would write out a rough draft by hand. This is where the long lost art of cursive writing came in handy. Then I would insert the sheet of typing paper and roll it into place to begin typing.

 

Typing this blog on a laptop, as I’m doing right now, is gentle and soft. The keys barely click as I press each letter. When I used my Smith Corona Electric State-of-the-Art Typewriter, each keystroke required some moxie. And a full-throated CLUNK-CLUNK-CLUNK would accompany my efforts. Kind of like the sound of shutting a car door on a 67 Mustang (BOOMP) versus a Kia Soul (TINK).

 

SmaithCorona_XD7500When you got the end of the line you had to stop and hit the return, sending the typeface ball back to the left side of the page. These miracle typewriters would often issue forth a friendly DING bell reminder that you have reached the end of the line. Typing this blog I can be completely ignorant of were the cursor is because, thankfully, the computer handles the rest.

 

Some people became expert typists and could handle voluminous amounts of pages chock full of words with nary a mistake, if any at all. Me, on the other hand, being blessed with fat fingers and sloppy hand-eye coordination, made typos all the time. Solutions to a misspelling included typing the entire page all over again, backspacing and placing layers of x’s over the word, or—miracles of miracles—you could roll the paper up a little bit and paint it out with Liquid Paper! Imagine a nail polish applicator. Well, that’s how you used this stuff! You painted out the offending word. Waited a few seconds for it to dry, even gently blowing on the page to speed up the process, and then rolled the paper back into position and retyped the word onto this soft white material now bonded to the paper. Ahh, yes. The smell of Liquid Paper! … I hated it with a passion!

 

I may seem like I’m waxing poetically about these Dark Ages of college terms papers, but really, they were so inconvenient compared to the luxury we have now! For Goodness Sakes, we even have “Auto-correct”! Misspellings dissipate immediately so that we never even have to bother to learn how to actually spell things like “receive” and “inundate”—we just slap away at the keys and let the computer figure it out. (And, hey, what could possibly go wrong there?)

 

mkpRiIy1nrHBz00-CNunROQThe Smith Corona eventually went at a yard sale for five bucks. But I still have my first typewriter: a 1919 Underwood. 1919 is the year, not the model number, by the way. I still have it. Now that baby required finger muscles! The carriage return was manual and it creaked loudly as it slid back. It’s a beautiful paperweight now.

 

Gone are the days of Liquid Paper and the mimeograph machine (who remembers volunteering to run copies for the teacher cuz that stuff smelled so intoxicatingly good?) but sometimes I get a little nostalgic for the days of yesteryear. Pre-auto-correct. Back when I really had to lurn from my misteaks.

 

I’m just saying…

BASTING IN THE SAUCE OF SELF-PITY: DON’T DO IT!

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Sometimes I start with the blog and create the title later, other times a great title suggests itself and what follows becomes a stream-of-consciousness exercise to justify it. Guess which on this is.

 

Sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail. If you fall off the horse, you’ve got to get right back on. If at first you don’t succeed… yadda, yadda, yadda. Why do these types of sayings persist? They must speak to a universal truth about the human condition. What is that truth? That we get down on ourselves and that’s not a good thing in which to invest! These pithy ideas put forth the everlasting need to buck ourselves up in the face of failure, disappointment, or just plain getting nailed for something stupid at work.

 

We need to remind ourselves to put things in perspective (easier said than done, or else we’d need no reminding), never view failure as an end result, but rather a learning experience (some more bloody and bitter than others), and never, ever, ever baste ourselves in the sauce of self pity! (Got to get the blog title in there somewhere, you know.)

 

You know what I mean by that? Ever know someone (even you, yourself, heaven forbid) who loves to relive all the ill fortunes that they have faced? They positively wallow in the filth of regret, perceived failure, and pity. In short, they claim as their divine right the exclusive purview of Life’s Number One Martyr. They pour out their heart and soul and for what? Nobody really appreciates their efforts. Rewards due them are not forthcoming. Everyone else has it better, you know. These people work less and get more of life’s riches. They get the Girl (or Guy). The car. The cruise to Bora Bora. The undeserved love and respect of peers.

 

Oh for heaven’s sake, get over it! Stop it! Really? You are trapping yourself in an endless loop (otherwise I couldn’t describe it as a loop) and you end where you start, which coincidentally resembles every other stop along the journey. Self-Pityville.

 

a_bastingMadeEasyI suppose most of us will, at one time or another, end up in Self-Pityville. You have to fight through any stops at this destination. Make your visits as short as possible. Do not take up residence there and have your mail forwarded to this location! If friends keep hinting that you are only making matters worse with your attitude, or that you should really try to look on the bright side, or are missing out on enjoying what you already do have—I have more unsolicited advice: Listen to them! They are your friends, after all! If they tell you to snap out of it, you really need to consider doing this! If you’d rather blow them off because they truly don’t understand how horrible you have it (and the perverse pleasure you get from explaining it time and time again), then get out the baster and settle in for a while. Might as well get comfortable as you splash about in your sauces, cooking away your hopes and dreams. Just don’t expect any company. Because most of us understand that in life, sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail. We, in fact, do try, try again. And I personally get right back on that horse, grit my teeth, and dare that sonofabitch to try to throw me off again.

 

Sure, I stop off in Self-Pityville every once in while. I just don’t take out an ad and ask for company. In fact, I usually stop, look around, kick some dirt and rocks, and then exclaim, “Well, this really SUCKS!” Then I leave it behind.

 

I’m just saying…

THE SHADOW KNOWS!

ShadowOne of the highlights of my year was being invited to direct a radio recreation at the 40th Anniversary Convention of SPERDVAC (the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety, And Comedy. It was held November 14-16 at the Holiday Inn Media Center in Burbank.

 

This year I chose a show that is very special to me. When I remember discovering the world of Old Time Radio, I automatically think of this series and this particular episode. The 1939 broadcast of “The Shadow” titled “Death Stalks the Shadow.” It’s the tale of a once-good kid named Dan Malley who gets into a life of crime thanks to the supposedly upstanding good citizen Peter Murdock. Malley goes to the electric chair (great over-the-top scene) after telling everything to the invisible crime fighter The Shadow. The Shadow promises to investigate Malley’s claims and, of course, finds Murdock a formidable foe.

 

My mother always told me about going on Sunday drives with her father and listening to “The Shadow” battling evil-doers from the glow of the car radio. I ordered a record album from a catalogue and the very first episode I listened to was “Death Stalks the Shadow.” I was hooked! I also recall taking my portable record player to the backyard one summer night, powered by a couple of extension cords, and playing the record for my father. I distinctly remember staring at the stars while The Shadow fell into Murdock’s clever trap: a room sealed by an electrified door. Then, when the Shadow proved too clever by not automatically trying to open the door, the foul villain poured poison gas into the chamber! How could the Shadow escape? Well, he does, of course. The Shadow even spares Murdock so that the police can arrest him. He wanted Murdock to face the same fate as “young Dan Malley.”

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Leading a wonderful cast was the incredible character actor Richard Herd as the Shadow. I also had old time radio veterans Gloria McMillan, Tommy Cook, John Wilder, and Stuffy Singer in the show. Chris and Randy McMillan came down from Seattle to perform the famous organ music live. Jerry Williams led the sound effects team. I also invited Bobb Lynes and Barbara Watkins to return to the SPERDVAC stage as part of my cast. When I first discovered these conventions, Bobb and Barbara were key figures in its productions on stage and off. I subsequently appeared on their live radio show on KPFK-FM in Los Angeles. It was fun to all get together again! Later that day I got to perform as an actor opposite Chuck McCann! So much fun!

 

Sperdvac CoverThe remainder of the three-day event was for me to hang out and watch panels and other recreations. Here are some of the guests: Van Alexander (music arranger “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”), Frank Bresee “Golden Days of Radio” from 1967-1995, Ivy Bethune “Superman”, Leonard Maltin “The Great American Broadcast”, Los Angeles radio personality “Shotgun Tom” Kelley, Chuck McCann, Bob Mills (Bob Hope writer), Ray Charles (The Ray Charles Singers –Perry Como, also Three’s Company theme male singer), Gloria McMillan “Our Miss Brooks,” Lee Meriwether, Joan Del Mar “Jack Benny,” Tommy Cook, Ivan Cury “Let’s Pretend”, Terry Moore, Herb Ellis “Dragnet”, Peggy Webber “Dragnet,” Stuffy Singer (he voiced a Lost Boy in the Disney film “Peter Pan”), Beverly Washburn, Richard Herd, Gladys Holland “The Great Gildersleeve,” Marvin Kaplan “Meet Millie,” Jimmy Weldon, and John Wilder “The Great Gildersleeve,” and “The Abbott & Costello Kids Show” as the youngest emcee in radio, plus he also voiced a Lost Boy is “Peter Pan” (as adult John produced 26-hour NBC miniseries “Centennial”). The legendary Stan Freberg was also there along with his wife Hunter.

 

For an Old Time Radio junkie like me, this was just about a perfect weekend!

 

I’m just saying…

2015 OFF TO A ROUGH START

The loss of my mother on January 22, 2015 set the tone for the beginning of this year. However much I feel like stopping in my tracks, I cannot. It’s not just because I have things to do and goals to achieve. I have my life to lead. Accepting that it will never be the same will take time and I don’t control how that part of my journey goes.

 

That being said, I am very excited about the balance of this year! First and foremost, my documentary film project (“Radio Changed America” is now known as “HEARING VOICES: How Radio Changed America & America Changed Radio”) has acquired the International Documentary Association (IDA) as its fiscal sponsor! That means, dear friends, that any and all money donated to the film project will be a tax deduction since the IDA is a 501(3)(c). For a documentary filmmaker this is pure gold! You give, you get. Investment in a film is a gamble, plain and simple, but a tax-deductible donation is guaranteed value in return, PLUS you get to be a part of making this film happen. Needless to say, I will have more information available soon.

 

Additionally, a screenplay that I co-wrote is still alive in the industry circles. These things are always long shots but that fact that it continues to be read and considered is a significant thing.

 

And if that isn’t enough, I continue as the introduction voice of the web series “Creative Continuity” and I have a couple of other irons in the fire that may yield wonderful creative opportunities.

 

So 2015 may indeed be off to a very rough start, there is no reason to believe it will end in that manner! Stay tuned…

HERE NOW, THE NEWS FROM HEAR NOW!

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I have always loved audio entertainment, specifically old time radio shows. When I was a kid “The CBS Radio Mystery Theater” was on the air nightly, seven-days-a-week, and was part of my routine. I loved the show so much that I even wrote its producer-director Himan Brown a fan letter asking how I could make a career doing what he did. Mr. Brown wrote back. He appreciated that I loved the show and the art form, but told me that radio drama was not likely to provide me a career. Unperturbed, I wrote and directed radio dramas for high school state competitions, co-created a 50-episode comedy series called “Anytown USA” while in the Army, more radio dramas for “The University Radio Theater” while in college, eventually directing old-time radio recreations at conventions featuring some of the very same people who originally appeared in radio’s golden age and on “The CBS Radio Mystery Theater.” I even directed Norman Lloyd in 2011 reprising the very same role he had played live on the air in 1945! But, alas, Himan Brown was correct. Radio drama would not sustain a career for me.

 

For me. Not for some others, however!

 

1371306357In June of this year I had the privilege to travel to Hear Now! – an audio theater/entertainment festival. I was there representing Audio Cinema Entertainment (ACE), an Orange County based company run by audio producer Tim Knofler. Here in Kansas City, MO, the hotel was filled with audio artists with years of experience and credits. They have been making audio drama for decades and show no signs of stopping.

 

The event was a revelation to me since I had drifted away from the art form over the years that I had devoted to my own acting and filmmaking career. I stopped by the local movie theater where excerpts from contemporary artist from around the world played through its massive speakers. Acting, writing, music, sound, editing, and all sorts of artistry was there for my eye to behold. Among my favorites were “Sid Guy, Private Eye: The Case of the Mysterious Woman” – Siren Audio Studios and “The Card” – The Theater in Your Mind. I had the opportunity to meet producers Linda Coulombe Royal (Siren Audio Studios) and Jon Holland (The Theater in Your Mind) to discuss the state of the art form and possibilities for its resurgence with the listen-on-demand culture currently being created by the Internet. The challenges are real but the potential for success is also very real. We agree that “Discoverability” is key for audio entertainment’s future. People must know how to discover these great shows.

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Linda also brought along actress-narrator (and comedienne) Jessica Osbourne to perform a section from the audiobook “Symptoms of Death” by Paula Paul. She brilliantly played all of the characters in a very entertaining piece. smirk-shotIt reminded me how gifted a performer must be to work vocally. Even as I watched her face and body language change before the microphone as she shifted between characters, I noted that everything she was doing was poured into her voice. The facial expressions and posture adjustments were not for the audience’s sake, but rather for the life of the vocalization. We had the privilege of watching a voice artist at her craft and, at the same time, close our eyes and really absorb the impact of her efforts. ‘Nuff said. Jessica is good.

During that weekend in Kansas City I listened to clips featuring audio artists from Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the UK. Bob McGraw’s short comedy piece “Tales of the NSA” was another standout for me. Actress, narrator Robin Miles performed a reading of Maya Angelou’s poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” was commanding and moving. It reminded me at times of the power radio legend Norman Corwin could wield with words.

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Also appearing at Hear Now was actress and narrator Barbara Rosenblat (Miss Rosa on “Orange is the New Black”). She was was a revelation: her comedy, drama, accents, and singing – even scatting, was one of the event’s highlights. Another highlight was the Kansas-based comedy troupe “Right Between the Ears.” Their stuff was top-notch. Good writing, performing, and pacing. Effect and music were spot-on and no one ever flubbed a line. It was recorded for broadcast over Kansas Public Radio, which they do every week. I was simply in audio geek heaven.

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I firmly believe that the future of professional audio dramatic and comedic entertainment is bright. With the right platform to assemble these outstanding creative artists, with the right place to discover all of this, it will spread into our daily lives again and become part of our culture in the way that it never vanished in Britain and others places.

 

I’m just saying…

I MET ABBOTT AND COSTELLO WHEN THEY MET FRANKENSTEIN

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Not too long ago I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite films the way I’ve never seen it before. “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” screened at the Aero Theater in Glendale, CA. Special guests at the screening were Lou Costello’s daughters Paddy and Chris. Before the screening they greeted fans entering and then told some stories on stage before the film began. I have been a devoted fan of A&C since I was about 7 years old, so I had heard many of the stories before, except for the time Lou Costello got so mad at Errol Flynn that he punched him in the face! What a gem that one was! And, for the record, Flynn had it coming.

 

What was so special about this screening was the fact that I had never before seen this movie on the big screen with an audience. It was great to laugh out loud with a crowd who, like me, knew when the laughs were coming and still reacted naturally. My favorite line in the movie got the biggest laugh! Lon (The Wolfman) Chaney to Lou Costello: “Soon the moon will rise and I’ll turn into a wolf.” Lou: “You and twenty million other guys.”

 

IMG_0503Growing up in Metuchen, NJ, just outside of New York City, my Mom and I would sit and watch the old classic monster movies playing on television every Saturday afternoon. So I loved Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, and King Kong. Well, one afternoon I thought I was watching another Frankenstein movie when suddenly Bela Lugosi appeared as Dracula! Lon Chaney was Lawrence Talbot, the man once bitten by a werewolf and now cursed. Glenn Strange was the Frankenstein Monster just like in “House of Frankenstein” and “House of Dracula.” This was truly another classic Universal horror film… but then again… the heroes of this epic were clearly in way over their head! It was the first time I saw Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in a movie. I fell in love with chubby Lou right away. Who wouldn’t? His performance was masterful, hitting all the right notes, and made me laugh out loud! I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Bud Abbott, his doubting pal, also charmed me. He tried to be the voice of reason, but eventually the truth about Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman proved Lou was right all along. Even the tag line ending the movie was perfect, with Vincent Price voicing the Invisible Man.

 

It turned out that WPIX Channel 11 in New York ran most of the A&C films each and every Sunday morning at 11:30am. They did this for years in the late 1960s and on into the 1970s. So that’s where you could always find me. I rarely missed a Sunday well into my teens, long after I had seen every one of the Universal comedies that they played. I thoroughly loved their verbal patter, physical comedy, and special bond they clearly had with each other.

 

While in the US Army my friend Phil and I learned their classic routine “Who’s on First?” We won second prize in a talent show at Fort Ord back in 1984, losing out to break-dancers. Phil was Bud and I was Lou. Later, we served together in Okinawa and added more A&C routines to our repertoire, playing the roles again at the local community theater.

 

Years later I met a lively woman while standing in a long line at LAX one morning. We started chatting. My wife and I were were going to the Friends of Old-Time Radio convention in Newark, NJ. I love old radio shows, I told the red-haired woman, and naturally mentioned that Abbott and Costello were among my very favorite performers. She burst into a smile. “Lou Costello is my father.” Instantly I recognized her as Chris Costello! I had purchased her biography of her dad, “Lou’s on First,” way back in 1981!

 

Over the ensuing years we have become great friends. Chris and her sister Paddy are such wonderful and funny people to spend time with! My wife and I adore them! Naturally, I sometimes have a hard time believing that they are among my personal friends. It seems so unreal.

 

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All of this leads me back to the Aero Theater and watching Bud and Lou, flickering larger than life, playing out one of their best comedies for an appreciative crowd of movie-goers in 2014. In the darkness of the old movie theater it could have been 1948, the year of the movie’s release. It was still a great classic Universal monster movie and Bud and Lou were still making me laugh out loud. I kept thinking about first watching this same movie on a tiny black and white TV in a Metuchen. Sitting here in a classic movie palace in 2014, for a moment, I am 7 years old again and meeting Bud Abbott and Lou Costello for the very first time. The magic is just as pure.

 

I’m just saying…

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GRANDER THAN LIFE: “CITIZEN KANE” AT THE ORPHEUM THEATER

IMG_0489Have you ever seen “Citizen Kane”? Ever see it on the silver screen? Ever see it on the silver screen in an opulent 1926-built theater called “The Orpheum”?

 

I first saw “Citizen Kane” while taking a film appreciation class and it was projected in a theater. Awesome! I mean, I went in with high expectations. It’s only called the greatest American-made movie ever… still! Of course we could argue for days and weeks as to the validity of the claim. (I side with… “Yes,” by the way.) But the point is that it is a film worthy of appreciation. The background story of its creation and the parallels with its auteur director’s own life are just bonus material. This film is beautiful, stark, joyful, pitiful, and grand!

 

Prominent on my L.A. Bucket List was to see a film in The Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles. It’s not like there is a movie playing all the time. In fact, the window of opportunity each year is rather small: June. The Los Angeles Conservancy each year sponsors “Last Remaining Seats,” wherein moviegoers can take in selected films at historic downtown theaters that are otherwise used for select events.

 

I eagerly seized the moment and purchased two tickets for the Saturday screening! I preened before my wife, basking in the glory. Citizen Kane ProgramThen she told me that she couldn’t go with me. She was teaching a class that day and I was suddenly left to contemplate a lonely visit to the Orpheum. Luckily, I had a friend who was available, my wife was okay with the substitution, and I was once again preening.

 

Best of all, my friend had never before seen “Citizen Kane.” Heard of it, of course; knew it was a famous movie, but never saw it. “Rosebud,” I said to her. Her eyes lit up. “Ooh, that’s from that movie?” Yes. “What’s it mean?” That’s what the movie will explain, I told her.

 

So we arrive, stand outside in line, and then enter this incredible theatre. It opened in 1926 as part of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit, and it was designed in the French Renaissance style of the sixteenth century French King Francis I. If you’ve seen the 2011 Academy Award winning silent film “The Artist,” then you’ve also seen the Orpheum. Jack Benny played here, so did Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and, yes, even Gypsy Rose Lee. It has a working Mighty Wurlitzer installed in 1928 and organist Tony Wilson entertained the incoming audience beautifully.

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We walked in and I gasped. Not an over-the-top hammy-actor gasp, but a tiny one. “Oh my…” was all my throat could generate. My friend nailed it when she said, deadpan, without a gasp, “This is architecture porn.” Yes. It was larger than reality, a bit shocking even, and to trying to wrap my head around it all took a couple of moments. All the while I had a great smile on my face. “Oh, yeah, this is memorable!”

 

She later recalled the Orpheum as “dripping in elegance oozing from every orifice.” (She clearly has a way with words.) Her perfect observation of the Orpheum was that it was “grander than life.” I love that.

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And as for the movie? What of “Citizen Kane” and “rosebud”? She enjoyed the scratchy print (the Blu-Ray has me spoiled, of course) and said it made the whole film feel like a classic. She spent the 119 minutes recounting the life of Charles Foster Kane leaning over at steady intervals, whispering, “Is that rosebud?” “Is she rosebud?” It was all I could do to contain myself at the end when it appears that no one will be able to answer the famous question. “Keep watching,” I said.

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When the moment came, she fell silent. My friend is rarely subdued. She effervesces, you see. I suppose she can’t help it. But as the credits flickered all she could say was “That’s so sad.”

 

On the way back, we chatted about the film and what made it so original in 1941 and why it caused such intense controversy. I got to ramble on about Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst. I mentioned that Welles had come to regret the portrayal of Susan Alexander because it unjustly mocked Hearst’s real-life love Marion Davies. The film’s negatives were nearly purchased by the other studios bosses so that it could be destroyed before the film’s public premiere. All of the movie trivia I have come to know and love connected with “Citizen Kane.” I did however, stop short of telling her where the name “rosebud” allegedly came from. And why, if true, it would have truly angered and mortified Hearst and Davies.

 

You don’t know that story? That’s all right, it’s probably not true anyway.

 

I’m just saying…

IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD “WORD”

MADAs Charlton Heston, playing Taylor, in the original “Planet of the Apes,” so memorably put it, “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!” Have you ever wanted to scream it, too? I know I have. When life is humming along fine, we take it all for granted. But when forces seem to conspire against us, well, sometimes it pushes us to the wall.

 

This essay is an aimless little ditty on the word “mad.” I love this word. Like George Carlin, I love words, but I really love this one. What does mad mean? First off, it means to be angry. Then again, it also means to be insane. As a Cold Warrior, that is a soldier who served during the tensions of the Cold War, I think of the acronym M.A.D. It is a wonderful little philosophy designed to keep us from starting World War III: “Mutual Assured Destruction.” So if the Soviets were to launch an ICBM barrage, we would retaliate, and so on and so forth… resulting in a world of cinders. I like the acronym because it easily fits both definitions of the word “mad.” First off, everyone would have to be very angry to launch their nuclear arsenal and, secondly, of course, it would also be insane.

 

And then there is the organization Mothers Against Drink Drivers. Okay, that’s M.A.D.D. with an extra “D,” but it also fits. When this group started it was not seen as such a big deal to drive intoxicated. However, the alarming and tragic statistics screamed otherwise. There was plenty of anger behind the impetus of M.A.D.D. And, as for the other definition, “insane,” the culture that celebrated this sort of behavior as some adolescent rite of passage turned out to be kinda kooky… Society evolves and adapts as needed. Over the years the stigma of a DUI is now something to be avoided. No longer a phase or silly transgression, it is seen as a reckless and selfish act, a reflection of poor decision making and lack of self-control. Try explaining a DUI to a prospective employer nowadays. My point is that M.A.D.D. (at the very crossroads of anger—from loss of loved ones, and insanity—as in lack of self control) changed our society for the better.

 

I also like the way “mad” rhymes with other strong emotions such as sad and glad. Don’t forget about bad, too. In fact, sometimes I feel bad that I get so mad at something that should make me glad and not sad. Okay, Dr. Seuss it ain’t, but I hope you get my point!

 

Words can be so interesting in the way they look on paper and the way they sound aloud. English is a tough language. We know mad, sad, and bad all rhyme. They look alike and they sound the alike. But not bush, push, and rush… What’s up with that? Why does mush rhyme with rush, but not bush or push?

 

Also, in a brief non sequitur, how is it possible for a bird to alight on a light?

 

And this where I came in. “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!”

 

I love words.

 

I’m just saying…