Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Artist: Charlotte Salmon, Painter

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. In honor of Hanukkah 2017, this week’s Spotlight is the artist, Charlotte Salmon:

It is the Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. And I have chosen the Jewish artist, Charlotte Salmon, as a Spotlight. She is a reminder that in the darkness, light can shine. And boy, did her light shine.

Despite the tragedies in her life and her family, Charlotte Salmon is an inspiration. Many in her family committed suicide. Her grandfather sexually abused her. She lived during one of the worst periods in human history, the Holocaust.

For quite some time, she had walked the tightrope between suicide and life. At the suggestion of a friend, she began painting and chose life. From 1941 to 1943, she let her creativity shine. She spoke out against the terror in the only way she knew how. She painted 769 works. Then she was sent to Auschwitz where she and her unborn child were gassed to death.

Overcoming the great suffering, and in the midst of the death in her life, she brought great beauty into the world.


haiku for the day: the jukebox

The haiku below was inspired by Ellis Paul. He so expresses my sentiment. 

Darn those are some great songs. Gosh there’s so many songs I would add. Sinatra singing “It was a very good year”. The Righteous Brothers and Dion and Thea Gilmore and Beethoven doing The Emperor Concerto and Ode to Joy. Maybe some Vivaldi Four Season. Definitely Miles. And definitely this one from Ellis Paul. There would be a lot of choices. I know it would be a grave I could be proud of.

the jukebox running
’round my head, all the songs
those beautiful songs.

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?

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.

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

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.”

Hamlet: Gravedigger, gravedigger

Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Cymbeline, Act 4 Scene 2.

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

Act 5 Scene 1. It’s rather late in the play. The groundlings are getting restless. They want to see someone like themselves. All they’ve been getting is royalty, royalty, royalty. Where’s the ordinary guy? Why can’t you put somebody like me in the play? He doesn’t have to be a hero, but at least, give him some lines.

Oh, sure, Will. You gave us some common folk in the guards at the beginning. But this play is turning into an epic. We’ve been standing here for over three hours and there hasn’t been anybody like us after that first couple of scenes. Pretty soon we are going to have to pee. Before we do, we want to see a commoner up there on stage.

Will is always one to accommodate. He gave the groundlings the porter in the scene in Macbeth shortly after Duncan’s murder. Funny scene that one. Important because it relieved the tension. It was a groundling who sold Cleopatra the asp. A couple of Irish cops opened “Julius Caesar”. And need we forget how important Bottom was in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. He’s the one Puck disguised as a donkey. Very funny those scenes.

So you can imagine how restless the groundlings are getting. They like to see themselves on stage. Maybe not in every scene. At least in a few. That’s all they ask. The Bard being the Bard accommodates. Will-ingly.

He throws in the Gravedigger scene. The play could have gone on without this scene. It would have made the play shorter, and that would have been a good thing. However, with death coming down on everybody’s head, some comic relief was just what the doctor order. So we are introduced to the guys who actually do some real work:

The Gravedigger and his friend, Other, are conversing. The Gravedigger was played by Billy Crystal in Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” and Stanley Holloway was in Olivier’s version. Great comic actor, Stanley Holloway. He played Eliza Doolittle’s father in “My Fair Lady” and sang, “Get me to the church on time”. Stole the show. Robert Armin or Will Kempe, both great Elizabethan clowns, probably played the Gravedigger in Will’s production of the play. Gives you some idea how important Shakespeare thought this scene was.

To open Act 5 with a scene in the graveyard seems an act of genius. Death is everywhere. There is foreboding all over the place. So what does Shakespeare do? He uses that foreboding for some relief. It’s kind of like the jokes between the doctors and the nurses in the Emergency Room. It allows those folks a way to relax so they can do their job.

The Gravedigger, Goodman Delver, is a realist, a reminder of how we all end up.

“Are they going to give her a Christian burial when she seeks her own salvation?” he asks as he digs. Reminding the audience that everybody thought Ophelia was a sucide.

“I tell thee she is,” Other answers. “Therefore make her grave straight. The crowner hath sat on her and finds it Christian burial.” How about that? Make her grave straight. As if Goodman could make it crooked. He probably could if he tried. He is that good of a gravedigger. But why would he?

I find the picture of the coroner sitting on Ophelia’s body funny. But that was the way folks talked back then.

“If she wasn’t a noble woman, there’d be none of that Christian burial-ing.” Even in those days, bribery worked. Somebody greased the palm of the coroner to get the results they wanted. That is what our Gravedigger friend is saying.

“Is that how the law sees it?”

“Ay, marry is it. Crowner’s quest law.”

“If you’re a commoner, that is.”

“There’s one law for the likes of they,” Gravedigger Goodman comments. “And one for the likes of we Christians.” Then he speaks to his shovel. “Come, my spade. There is no ancient gentleman but gardeners, ditchers, and gravemakers. They hold up Adam’s profession.”

“Was Adam a gentleman?” Other asked.

“Don’t you understand the Scriptures? The Scripture says Adam digged. I’ll put another question to you.”

“Go ahead.”

“Who is he that builds stronger than a mason, the shipwright or a carpenter?

“The gallows-maker, of course, Other answers, sure of himself. “That frame outlives a thousand tenants.”

“The gallows only does well to those who do ill.”

“Who then?”

“The gravedigger, that’s who,” Goodman says proudly. “The houses he makes last till doomsday. Now go fetch me a stoup of liquor.”

Now you might frown on the gravedigging business. You say that you would not want your kids going into the trade. Here’s something to think about. Gravediggers always have business. As long as folks die, there is no recession in the gravedigging enterprise. And it pays top dollar. ‘Cause there’s a lot of folks who won’t do it.