Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: To sing a better song

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is

It’s an oldie but goodie, the movie “Educating Rita”. But my, how I love it what with Sir Michael. ‘Course I am speaking Michael Caine. This is up there with my other two favorite Michael Cainers, “Alfie” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. In this one, he’s paired with the wonderful Julie Waters. They give us two delightful characters.

In the opening scene, Sir Michael is walking a professorial walk onto a college campus, somewhere deep in the heart of England. We can compare this walk with her walk as a woman uncomfortable with her surroundings. She’s wanting more from her life than the usual drudgery of a working class husband and a baby. She’s a hairdresser full-time and a student part time at the university where Caine professorizes. It’s called Open University, the program she is in.

Anyway, back to the opening scene, he goes into his office with its comfortable chair, surrounding with shelves and shelves of books. He reaches for one of the books. It’s “The Lost Weekend”. If you remember, that is the name of the movie where Ray Milland gives up the booze and has one heck of a case of the dts. Behind the book, wallah. A bottle. So now we know that our good professor drinks. Turns out our professor not only drinks. He drinks a lot.

But this is not so much his story. It’s the story of a woman who is trying to dig her way out of a life she no longer likes, a life of low expectations. Have a kid, have a few laughs, get old, die. She wants more. She wants a lot more. Have you ever wanted something so badly that it hurt and the hurt cut deep. That you would give up just about everything to get it. That is Rita’s want. Rita’s bound and determine to get it by getting herself an education. And come hell or high water Sir Michael’s professor’s going to give her the shovel to do it with.

Her soul’s dying where she is at and she sees this professor as her way out. But he’s not about to go along willingly. He’s become a cynical sort of poet. A poet who hasn’t had a decent poem in years. His wife gave him a divorce to give him new material for his poetry. It didn’t work. So here he sits in his professorial office, getting drunk. In walks this mid-twenties woman who wants the world of learning and she expects him to give it to her.

When he tells her to go back where she came from, she says, “We’re all surviving with the spirit in tact.” But you know that she’d like to add, “But that’s about it. That’s all there is where I come from. And I’m not settling. At least, not for that.”

What she ultimately learns from this adventure, what he ultimately teaches her is that all that education cannot disguise the pain of what it means to be a human being. It can only teach her that it takes labor pains to be born into a new human being.

“Educating Rita” belongs to that rare breed of movie about the adventure of learning. It’s in the class with “Good Will Hunting”, “Dead Poets Society” and “84 Charing Cross Road”. It’s about that wonderful relationship that can occur between teacher and student. And, like Dr. Frank Bryant, the poet-professor, it is often the teacher that learns more than the student.

Do you have a favorite teacher? What made them a favorite?

Why I do lyrics

Some people quilt. Some crochet. Some play cards. Some play music. Some build things. Some solve puzzles. Some take up gardening. My stepfather rebuilt grandfather clocks. Or if you’re my former neighbor, you wash your car and spiff it up. Me, I write lyrics.

I’m talking hobbies, of course. We don’t do it for the cash although occasionally someone is able to turn their hobby into a profit-making venture. No, we do it for the pleasure of it. We know it will never pay for itself but we do it just the same.

Now where I came by this desire to write lyrics I will never know. There is no songwriter in my family that I know of. Yet I’ve been writing lyrics and poetry all my life. At least as far back as to the time I was nine when I wrote my first poem, “Chewing Green Corn”. Even now I look back on that three-stanzaed sucker and wonder what made me do it.

It was a long time gone before I could create anything that I would call a decent lyric. One that was worth showing anybody and calling it mine. Mostly it was about love or the longing for love, the rhyming of moon and June. Liking Rod McKuen in those days did not make me better at the craft of creating a good lyric. In fact, I found myself picking up many of his bad habits.

Then, sometime in the seventies, I began to write lyrics about things other than love. My God, hearing “Feelings” for the five millionth time would cure anybody of that habit. Somewhere along the way I learned I could write humorous lyrics as well as the other stuff.

Once I get that opening line it’s just a matter of gardening. I start planting roses and pretty soon I have tulips. Then I’m in there doing some weeding and out goes the inessentials. Along the way occasionally I get lucky and come up with a line I really like. Like the one from “Shoes Done Me In”, “Separate closets and shoes get lost.”

Now you know why I am partial to certain musicians like Mark Knopfler, Ellis Paul, Gene Clark, Bob Dylan, Dan Fogleberg, Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Cole Porter and Bernie Taupin. There’s nothing like a good lyric to get my attention. When I hear one, I am surprised and in awe of the talent that created it. I always feel like I’ve learned something new. It may be a phrase or a way of saying something that I had never heard before or a feeling that was imparted through those words.

As I say, it’s just a hobby. No reward but the sheer magic and pleasure of birthing something that never existed before. Guess I’ll keep doing it. Who knows. I might win the lottery and hire Ellis Paul to write some music for one of my little ditties. You never know.

Do you have some kind of hobby?

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all

A Reader is a thing of Beauty. They give writers hope. There’s Someone out there who loves words, loves language, as much as a writer does. There’s Someone out there who is up for an Adventure into lands undiscovered. There’s Someone out there who values their time and believes a little of it should be allocated for the Imagination.

A Reader is a thing of Wonder. They give writers courage. There’s Someone out there who will follow a writer into dangerous waters. There’s Someone out there who will tackle difficult language and even more difficult subjects. There’s Someone out there who will go into a Concentration Camp or a Dungeon on a faraway planet and listen to a prisoner’s story. That Someone may be the only one to ever hear that story.

A Reader is a thing to Love. Without that dear Someone, a storyteller, a writer, mignt never ever be appreciated for her Imagination, for his Creativity. A Reader is that Someone who bears witness to the importance of books.

Without that Reader, there would be no Jane Austen. No Charles Dickens. No Walt Whitman. No Tolstoy. No Dostoevsky. No Thomas Hardy. No Dorothy Parker. No Jules Verne. No Peter Pan or Dorothy or Harry Potter. No Frodo or Lucky Jim. And no Homer or Saphho. No Sylvia Plath or Emily Dickinson.

Without that Reader, the world would be less of a place one wanted to live in. Without that Reader, where would Disney have gotten all those stories for the films he made. Without that Reader, there would be no Narnia. There would be no words to inspire composers or artists for there would be no books. And that surely would be hell.

Hamlet: Anybody seen my rubber duckie?

These words are razors to my wounded heart. – Titus Andronicus Act I, Scene I.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 3 Scene 4. Bedroom Scene. The Hamster thinks he’s alone with Gertie the Queen,  better known as Mom. But they are not alone. What would a scene in Hamlet be without someone spying on someone else. So Polonius is behind the curtains.

Hamster: Why did you marry–?

Gertie: I love him.

Hamster: Dad not good enough for you?

G: I get lonely.

H: Afraid of the dark? Afraid of sleeping alone? I can sleep on the couch and keep the big bad monsters away.

G: It’s not that.

H: Oh, I get it. Claudius has a sword. Dad only had a dagger.

G: No.

H; Or are you just a slut? Sleeping with every Tom, Dick and Claudius?

G: No.

H: My God, Mother, you didn’t sleep with Polonius, did you?

G: No.

G: I just needed somebody who would scrub my back and let me play with his rubber duckie.

H: Aww, now the truth comes out. Dad wasn’t duckie enough for you.

Polonius coughs from behind the curtain. Scares the jumping-jack-flash out of the Hamster. Before the Hamster could stop himself, his dagger was…well, let’s just say it was. Polonius fell. He was dead as a doorknob and any other kind of knob too.

The good news is we are getting somewhere with the plot. We now have Corpse Number One. But don’t worry, folks, there is more to come.

What can we say about Polonius? Here was a man who hid behind curtains. To spy on all. He spied on Laertes. He spied on Ophelia. He spied on the Queen. And Hamlet. Makes one think that he was a regular man from U.N.C.L.E. with all that eavesdropping. By spying, he knew stuff. Like Who Put The Bop In The Bop Shoo Bop.

Hamlet knew the man, who hid behind curtains, was the man behind the curtains. Now the man ain’t hiding no more.

Gertie starts bawling her eyes out.

H: Now don’t tell me you played with Polonius’ rubber duckie.

G: Are you crazy? I would never.

H: Phew. That’s a relief. You had me worried for a minute there.

G: How can you think such a thing?

H: Well, look whose rubber duckie you are playing with.

G: Hmmph.

H: Poor stupid Polonius. That’s what you get for eavesdropping. A blade in the gut, and you’re dead.

G: Oh shame where is thy blush. On the carpet, of course. How am I ever going to get that blood out?

H: Geez, you didn’t feel that way when Dad died.

G: Your dad had the good sense to die in the garden, not all over my beautiful carpet.

Just when you least expect it, Ghostie shows his pretty face.

Hamlet to the Ghost: Back in Act 1. Scene 5. You said you had to urgently return to the flames of purgatory. What happened?

Ghost: Are you sure I said that?

Hamlet: You did and I quote…

Ghost: That doesn’t sound like me.

Hamlet: Well, it was you. And now you’re back.

Ghost: Just to remind you that your dragging your feet on this revenge business. And, please, don’t get scary with your mother. I don’t want her dying from a heart attack.

Hamlet: I’ve been doing my best. And I’ll lay off Mom.

Ghost: Well, okay. I really don’t want to have to make another appearance. That will mean overtime and you know how play producers feel about overtime. They don’t like it. So get with it.

Poof! Ghostie is gone.

Gertie: Just who were you talking too?

H: Oh, you wouldn’t know. Now do me a favor.

G: I’ll try.

H: Don’t play rubber duckie with Claudius no more.

G:But I like his rubber duckie.

H: You want me to clean up my act?

G: Of course.

H: No more rubber duckie with Claudius.

G: (finally): No more rubber duckie with Claudius. (Gertie has her fingers crossed. After all, The Hamster will be in England soon. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, now will it?)

G: (looks over to the corpse): So what are we going to do with that thing?

H: I hear there’s a fellow down the way that is looking for fresh corpse.

G: That sounds downright ghoulish, don’t you think?

H: I think that’s what “Frankenstein” means in Bavarian. Ghoulish.

G: You don’t say.

H: I do say. Seems he wants to bring a corpse back to life.

G: Will Herr Doktor Frankenstein take the corpse c.o.d. or are we going to have to pay for shipping?

H: Either way, I’ll get him wrapped up and give FedEx a call.

The Hamster reaches down and drags the corpse off stage. Gertie goes to see if she can find Claudius’ rubber duckie.

It’s raining in America

It’s raining in America,
or at least it’s raining on my town,
water splashing the windshield,
wipers setting a beat for the music on the radio,
headlights from the oncoming cars
falling like Christmas lights onto the city streets,
travelling their passages to love and glory,
passengers ridding waves of time and space.
It’s night time in the city,
And angels walk the clouds above, waiting for the daylight.

Soon.