Thought for the day

It’s a strange world we live in when washing a kid’s mouth out with soap is considered inhumane, yet kids regard it as a challenge to eat Tide Pods.

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We are Jaguars — but like us anyway

 

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On the week that I’m writing this, my hometown of Jacksonville, FL is going ape-s**t because for the first time ever, our football team, the Jaguars, are participating in an AFC championship game, possibly to take us to the Super Bowl. If you weren’t particularly aware of Jacksonville before now, here’s a primer on how obnoxious we are (at least when it comes to football).

John McCabe’s MR. LAUREL & MR. HARDY (1961) – Beautiful tribute to Stan and Ollie

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Prof. John McCabe befriended Stan and Babe after meeting them at one of their British-hall performances in the 1950’s, and one of the byproducts was this wonderful book. At the time of its first publication, biographies and histories of movie comedians were scarce, and their filmed work, while broadcast frequently on TV, was at the mercy of programmers who would butcher these comedy classics to get commercials in. Mr. Laurel & Mr. Hardy, along with Robert Youngson’s movie compilations of silent-era comics, helped to renew fervent interest in the duo’s movies and assured them of their rightful place in film history.

I hadn’t looked at this book in a long while, but recently on the podcast “Maltin on Movies,” film historian Leonard Maltin and show-biz gadfly Mark Evanier reminisced about their favorite Laurel & Hardy moments, and they highlighted this book in particular. So I re-read my dog-eared copy of the book for the umpteenth time, and it made me realize that, just as Stan and Ollie’s love for each other shown through in their movies, so McCabe’s affection for the duo shines through in his book.

It must be noted that elements of the book have dated somewhat. Years after its publication, Laurel & Hardy movies that had been regarded as long-lost have turned up over the years, so the book must regarded as of-its-time as far as completeness is concerned.

Another dated part of the book is its entries on the movies that Laurel & Hardy made for Twentieth Century-Fox in the confines of the big Studio System. While rightfully depicted as lesser than their work for Hal Roach, McCabe posits that the quality of the films got worse and worse in order to “freeze out” Laurel & Hardy, as though Fox, the studio that hired them in the first place, wanted to use its corporate clout only to put a great comedy team in their place. In fact, some of the later Fox films have their champions (see Scott MacGillivray’s terrific book on this subject); it’s more likely that Fox had not a clue what to do with comedians who wanted to do things their own way.

But these are minor debits in regard to the overall quality of the book. McCabe otherwise documents the duo’s history succinctly and lovingly. One of its most charming parts is Chapter 2, which begins with some correspondence between McCabe and Hardy’s widow Lucille. McCabe did an interview with “Babe” (as Hardy was affectionately known off-screen) in the 1950’s, and McCabe asked Lucille for permission to print it in his book. At first she declined. But after some introspection, she wrote McCabe back and said that McCabe’s printed interview had triggered personal memories of Babe, and she realized she was being selfish not to allow the interview to be printed. This correspondence is followed by the interview itself. Thus, the entirety of Chapter 2 shows how much Hardy’s work with Laurel deeply affected everyone, from fans to his widow.

This lovely book is long out of print but is well worth seeking out. It’s a perfect introduction to Laurel & Hardy for those who are unfamiliar with their work, and a great look back for those who have enjoyed L&H for years.

THE HAPPY NEW YEAR BLOGATHON – Da Big Finish

Apparently, a few of our blogathon participants are nursing New Year’s Eve hangovers, as we have only one final entry to cover in

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Moon in Gemini describes how New Year’s Eve reverses the sad fortunes of Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eddie Murphy, and Denholm Elliott in the comedy Trading Places.

Click on the appropriate days to see our blogathon entries from Day 1 and Day 2. Thanks to our participants and our loyal readers, and Happy New Year to everyone!

Create!!

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One of my favorite bloggers is a TV and comic-book writer named Mark Evanier. A regular feature of his blog (named News from ME — see what he did there?) is an ongoing series titled “Rejection: A Wilderness Guide for Writers,” in which he offers various tips to encourage writers to keep plugging away at their craft, even during periods when they’re making little or no money from their writing.

One particular “Rejection” entry has always stuck with me. It concerns two writer/acquaintances of Evanier’s, whom he refers to as “Wanda” and “Eugene.” Click here to read the entry, and then come back here (to my blog) to read further commentary below.

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Are you back? Good! I wanted you to read that because “Wanda’s” situation is similar to what mine used to be. When I was younger, I let a lot of people (who didn’t know any better) talk me out of doing anything with my writing, because I couldn’t possibly be a big success or make any money from it. Years later, I realized that what they were really saying was: Our dreams have been thwarted for our entire lives, so your dreams should be thwarted as well.

In the past 20 years, I have:

  • written movie reviews for a local newspaper, for which I received two back-to-back first-place awards for “Best Reviewing” in the Florida Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest;
  • written, directed, and starred in three local plays, which people actually paid admission to see;
  • gotten the best job of my life, creating and writing posts for a social media-based company;
  • gotten hundreds of followers from this blog.

I tell you all of this not to brag (although thank you very much), but to point out that there will always be a “Eugene” in your life who wants to build himself up by making your inner “Wanda” feel small. If you have a creative bug, indulge it to the fullest. Even if it’s just a blog, you’ll get followers who regularly want to read your work. That’s pretty flattering to me. And if you can make money from your creative bug, so much the better.

So don’t let naysayers drag you down. If you’ve got a creative urge that’ll drive you crazy if you don’t let it out, indulge it, on any level. The delightful author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said it best:

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HAPPY NEW YEAR BLOGATHON – Day 1 Recap

Our blogathon is already chock-full of bloggers who take New Year’s Eve seriously! Time to get spiffed up for

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Click on the name of each individual blog to read their entry.

IlPosto

An initially disappointing New Year’s Eve party turns out to have revelations for a young worker, as Cinematic Scribblings informs us in her blog about the Italian film Il Posto.

TheApartment

SeanMunger.com chronicles how New Year’s Eve turns cynicism into hope for Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, in the Billy Wilder comedy The Apartment.

TheThinMan

The loving and mystery-solving Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man and After the Thin Man inspire a Top 10 New Year’s Eve list from Once Upon a Screen.

Mermaids

Another Top 10 list (this one from Open Letters to Film) results from the flighty antics of Cher in Mermaids.

Rent

And finally, yours truly details how New Year’s Eve affects a group of free-thinking and -loving New York bohemians in the musical Rent.

We still have two days left to go in our blogathon, so keep us bookmarked for more great entries to come!