Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Now for something special for Leap Day

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 “Defending Your Life” (1991):

Have No Fear, Albert Brooks Is Here

Albert Brooks is dead. When Albert Brooks is dead, he whines about it. “Cheer up,” Meryl Streep encourages. “It could be worse.”

Of course, it could be worse. Albert could be you-know-where.

The two of them, Albert and Meryl, are at a way station between the Living and the Great Beyond, and they are being evaluated. Meryl Streep’s evaluation is Awesome Plus. Of course, it is. It’s Meryl Streep and she already had two Oscars to prove it. And a bunch of nominations as well. Seems she could do nothing wrong in her life on earth.

Albert Brooks? Not so much. He only had one Oscar nomination. That was for “Broadcast News”. As usual, he plays a schmuck. In “Defending Your Life”, he can’t do anything right. He lives in fear of his shadow. And it is a mild and meek shadow at that. For instance, on the best day of his life, he rewards himself with a new car. Not just any car. A BMW convertible. You guessed it. A car crash, and he doesn’t just hit another car. He has to hit a bus. He dies.

Well, he wakes up in this place and he’s wearing a white dress. It’s not that he’s the only guy wearing a dress. Pretty much everybody, who stops in on the way up or down, is wearing a dress. Rip Torn and Buck Henry aren’t wearing dresses. They work in the way station. In other words, they are way station employees.

Unlike most way stations, Albert and Meryl are not weighed for their weight. Here they are lighter than air. On top of that, they can eat all the lasagna they want and not gain weight. No, they are weighed on fear. Was there ever an event in their lives where they were fearless? Meryl is fearless as all get out. Albert wears fear like it’s a suit of armor.

And it’s that suit of armor that is going to keep him going back again and again. Or is it?

I am such a pleb

Guess I have always been a pleb. That’s surely because I come from a long line of plebs. Not a king or a prince or an emperor or a queen in my ancestry. Or a lord or a lady either. Take my ancestry all the way back to Adam and Eve and you’ll get folks who had to scrounge and dig up dirt that was not meant to be dug up. If we farmed, it was scrub land and all you got on that piece of dirt is rock and weeds.

No one in my family ever discovered oil or gold. If we went to a place like California, we were always a day late and a dollar short. Mostly my folks were nickeled and dimed till we ran out of nickels and dimes, and still they went after the nickel and dimes we got on credit. That’s my history. If I was anything in a former life, it was probably a serf.

The one thing I do take pride in is that my people were working folk. They worked and scrounged to have what little they had. I was the first in my family to go to college. Few before me even finished high school.

All of them were a good hearted breed who would give the shirts off their backs if you needed. You’d better’n not try to take it, but, if you asked, they’d give it to you. Most of them worked the land. But some became barbers and mill workers. Just a bunch of simple folk as in the song from Camelot: “What do the simple folk do?” That was my people.

We came from the backwaters of Scotland and Ireland and England and Wales, France and Germany and Scandinavian and Italy, Egypt and Uganda, Iran and India and Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines. All of us plebs. But you know what? It’s been us plebs who have been the backbone of this country. From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to World War II to Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve been there. You’ll find quite a few of us in Arlington Cemetery.

Being plebs, we love our country and we don’t like to be pushed around. Whether it’s by the government or by Osama bin Laden or some boss who wants us to work for dirt wages. We push back. When push comes to shove, we’ll kick butt. Now I know that the Bible says, “Turn the other cheek.” We try to do that best we know how. But there is a limit to cheek-turning.

All we want is a good job and a good life for our families, that our kids grow up safe and sound and have a chance for something better. It’s in the Declaration of Independence. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what we hold dear. And we don’t trust anybody in power. ‘Cause we’ve seen power shoved down the throats of too many folks.

In Roman times, Rome had two classes of people. The patricians who ran things and owned land and all. Their families went way back to Romulus and Remus. They were that one percent. The other class was the plebeian. They were everybody else.

So that’s where I stack up on the hierarchy of things. So like I say, “I am a pleb and damn proud of it, y’all.” I am in some pretty good company. Satchmo, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bruce Springsteen, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Caine, Johnny Cash, Cesar Chavez. Just to name a few. Pretty good company I’d say.

I imagine a lot of you probably come from plebs too. So join me and rejoice. Celebrate your pleb-ness.

A Word from the Sponsor: A Very Big WOW

I began Sunday evening by finishing up an 8000-word weekend. It was a part of the rough draft for a novel I’ve been working on since nanowrimo began. When I finish up a writing experience like that, I am two things: written out and high as a kite. There’s no greater high for me than a great creative session.

This one had been pretty darned wonderful. I got to know one of my characters better, an unlikeable lady if there ever was one. And I had written an awesome setting scene.

Just to let you know. I write every day. It keeps my creative juices flowing. Also it helps me solve issues that I am not sure I can solve when I start out. Like how am I going to get this character to do that thing when she will give me hell for sticking her in that situation. Once I start, one sentence leads to another and another. Pretty soon I am past the problem I thought was a problem. I have the confidence to grunt my way through.

Anyway I was checking out some of the blogs in my readers’ section. I came across a young woman’s post about living with her student debt. She wasn’t complaining. Her post was a response to another woman who wrote her boss a nasty letter. So I re-posted her post on Tuesday.

I was kind of bummed by the two posts. I started asking myself those questions you shouldn’t ask yourself when you’re tired. Questions like what has happened to my country. For that I don’t have an answer.

Then I chanced upon Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song, “Age of Miracles”, and it was like a kapow coming from Batman’s fist. It reminded me that no matter how bad things get, there is always the possibility of a miracle. I just never know what will happen to me when I turn a corner. I could very well meet someone who might change my life. Or I might run into a friend I haven’t seen in twenty years. Wouldn’t that be a WOW. I might trip over a hundred-dollar bill. Or the Huffington Post might email me and tell me how wonderful my blog is and they want to hire me full time. Now that would be a big WOW if ever there was a big WOW.

Of all the singer songwriters out there sending songs my way, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s tunes give me goose pimples more than just about anybody else I can think of. She’s the bees knees and the cat’s pajamas in my book. She’s been doing her magic for something like thirty years now and she just gets better and better. Of any artist out there, it is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s songs chronicling the life I have lived. Each song is always a surprise. “That’s me,” I cry out. “That’s me.” And there’s nobody I would rather sing it. She has the perfect voice for these chronicles.

I didn’t listen to her “Age of Miracles” once. I played it and I replayed it. I couldn’t get enough of the insights in this one, and the hope. Life can be a real bummer. It can be a real bitch. And here’s Mary Chapin reminding me life is downright awesome. While I am here bitching and moaning, there are those out there like Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis. What a miracle that is.

As I thought about miracles, I thought I would pass along something I have believed since I began this blog. Each post here is a miracle. It’s miraculous that I created the darn thing. It’s miraculous that you read it. It’s a miracle that you and I met here in cyber space and shook hands. Now that is a very big double awesome WOW.

And don’t forget that no matter your situation, no matter what you are going through, there is a miracle on the way. You can take it from Uncle Bardie. And Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Hamlet and Skulls

That skull had a tongue in it and could sing once. How the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were Cain’s jawbone, that did the first murder! It might be the pate of a politician, which this ass now o’erreaches, one that would circumvent God, might it not? Hamlet Act 5 Scene 1.

Act 5 Scene 1 (continued). Things were looking bad for Hamlet. After all, he returned to Elsinore with no army behind him. The only weapon he had was the truth. Maybe this was the naked he wrote about in his letter.

So the first thing Hamlet saw when he returned to Camelot, Goodman Delver digging a grave. “Who died? Who died?” Hamlet asked.

Gravedigger Goodman doesn’t answer.

Hamlet asked once again, “Who died? Who died?’ But afraid he’d get an answer.

“Not sure, my lord,” Horatio answered.

“Could it be a politician who lost his head over a tongue waggin? Or that fellow Cain, who started the murder business?”

“It could be,” Horatio answered.

“Could it be a lawyer Lady Worm has taken a liking to?” Hamlet asked. Mostly he was asking himself. “Perhaps I will speak to the fellow. Sir, whose grave is this?”

“Mine, sir,” the Gravedigger Goodman Delver said.

“I guess it must be yours since you are the one lying in it.”

“Well, it’s not yours since you’re lying outside it.”

“What man,” Hamlet asked, “are you digging the grave for?”

“For no man, sir.

“Then for what woman?”

“Not a woman either,” Gravedigger gives a smart answer. No respect in his voice. He’s a gravedigger and he’ll see them lying down like he’s seen so many before.

“Whose grave is it then?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked. One that was a woman, sir, but, rest her soul, she’s dead.”

“I tell you, Horatio, these peasants have lost all respect for their betters.”

“All the days of my life. At least, since the old King Hamlet defeated that Fortinbras.”

Hamlet likes this back and forth between the gravedigger and himself. It has allowed him to set aside his worries and have some fun, something he hasn’t had since before he went away to college and became the serious student his parents wanted him to be. “How long does it take a man to rot as he lies down the cold dead ground?”

“Eight or nine year. Nine year for a leather maker. He’s in the tanning trade and he gets a bit of a tanned skin himself. Now here’s a skull of a man who’s been dead some twenty years and more.”

Hamlet catches the skull. “Whose skull is it?”

“A crazy madman who poured milk on my head once as a joke. This same skull be the king’s jester. The fellow once named Yorick.”

Hamlet handles the skull tenderly. His voice suddenly becomes sad. “I knew this fellow. He was a man of infinite jest. A man of infinite jest.” He whispered words to the skull Horatio or the gravedigger cannot hear.

When Hamlet spoke to Yorick, he could have been Prince Hal addressing Falstaff. For Hamlet thought back to the days when Yorick was his tutor and nanny. The days he rode on Yorick’s back. The days when Yorick played toys with the young lad. “A man of infinite jest. And imagination.”

Then to Horatio he said, “How low we can fall.”

“Yes, my lord. ‘Tis true how low we can fall.”

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: “High Noon” in Space

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 “Outland”.

A remake is a remake is a remake, except when it is not. Peter Hyams’ “Outland” (1981) is a remake of Fred Zinnemann’s “High Noon” (1952), except it’s not. “High Noon” is set in 19th century Western United States. “Outland” is placed in a futuristic outer space. There are an awful lot of differences but even more similarities.

On Io, the third moon of the planet Jupiter, Con-Amalgamate has a mining colony. Con-Am 27 mines titanium. Sean Connery is the security for the colony. He is a Federal District Marshall. He is just arriving. Gary Cooper is the town marshall. He’s just leaving town.

Both marshalls have wives. Gary Cooper’s Will Kane just married his. She is a Quaker and she hates violence. So he is giving up the law enforcement business. When Kane decides to face down his adversaries, she goes to catch a train. She doesn’t leave town but she almost does. Sean Connery’s William T. O’Niel has a wife too. But she isn’t up to being stationed on another mining colony. These differences and similarities are only cosmetic.

Marshall Kane and Marshall O’Niel both are the only thing that stand between civilization and the barbarians. Men are dying on Io and it looks like suicide but the Marshall isn’t so sure. The badass Marshall Kane put in prison to be hung has just been pardoned and he is on the noon train. Why is it always the noon train? One thing is for sure. If it wasn’t the noon train, it wouldn’t be called “High Noon”, now would it?

Marshall O’Niel starts digging and it’s not pleasant what he finds. Not pleasant at all. Like Kane, he has a choice to make. A “to be or not to be” kind of situation. He can leave well enough alone and he’ll be just fine and dandy. If he goes after the bad guys, there will be hell to pay.

Some western, huh? “This ain’t no western,” you say. “Wanna bet,” I say. Most of these space movies are westerns in disguise. Think not. “Star Wars” was a space opera that was really a western. The good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black. Darth Vader was simply an updated version of Black Bart.

Do you have a favorite remake?