Uma’s example

into Uma’s example of not speaking in anger and waiting to be ready to speak on stuff.

feel like Twitter Internet etc. has made everyone feel like they need to have a Take on everything instantly.  I enjoy a good Take a much as anybody.  But feel like I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say “I need to reflect on this before I comment.”

Remembering that Uma’s father is a scholar of Buddhism.

The Man From Onion Valley. source.


Was the last joke Abe Lincoln heard funny?

I can’t be the first amateur historian / comedy writer to get interested in this question.

It’s presumed that John Wilkes Booth, who knew the play, waited for what he knew would be a big laugh line, which was:

Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap.

Let’s back up a bit.

Lincoln, as errbody knows, was watching Our American Cousin at the time of his death.

The plot of Our American Cousin is a coarse but honest American goes to the UK to claim an inheritance and gets involved in the various shenanigans of his snooty distant relatives who are trying to keep up appearances and marry off daughters and so on.  Seems like a pretty good premise.   A Frasier-esque farce satirizing pretension and manners.

good source for these images is BoothieBarn, though not sure how to feel about the name

Our American Cousin was written by Tom Taylor.

He had a career as a lawyer and bureaucrat and magazine editor.

Our American Cousin doesn’t seem to have been his biggest hit, that might’ve been:

which isn’t a comedy. They made that one into a movie a few times, most recently in 1937.

Our American Cousin premiered in New York in 1858 and was a hit.

Stealing the show was Edward Askew Sothern as Lord Dundreary:

Askew Sothern almost hadn’t taken the part:

At first, he was reluctant to accept the role; it was so small and unimportant that he felt it beneath him and feared it might damage his reputation.[7][8] He mentioned his qualms to his friend, Joseph Jefferson, who had been cast in the leading role of Asa Trenchard in the play. Jefferson supposedly responded with the famous line: “There are no small parts, only small actors.”[9]

Huh.

After a couple of unhappy weeks in the small role, Sothern began portraying the role as a lisping, skipping, eccentric, weak-minded fop prone to nonsensical references to sayings of his “bwother” Sam. His ad-libs were a sensation, earning good notices for his physical comedy and spawning much imitation and merry mockery on both sides of the Atlantic. His exaggerated, droopy side-whiskers became known as “Dundrearys”. Sothern gradually expanded the role, adding gags and business until it became the central figure of the play. The most famous scene involved Dundreary reading a letter from his even sillier brother.

Sounds funny enough.  Kind of like this:

I can’t determine if Sothern was in the Ford’s Theater production, or if they got a different Dundreary.  Appears on this night Dundreary may have been played by one E. A. Emerson.

But top bill the Ford’s Theater night went to Laura Keene.

Born Mary Francis Moss, she married a former British Army officer who committed some crime or another and got transported to Australia on a prison ship.  To support herself and her kids she became Laura Keene, a popular actress.

She appeared with Edwin Booth many times, they even toured Australia together.

At this point, she lined up investors, along with an architect who specialized in theaters, and a new theater was constructed to her specifications. Named the Laura Keene’s Theatre, it opened on 18 November 1856. In 1858, Our American Cousin debuted in Laura Keene’s Theater.

A badass, as they say.  A strong female multi-hyphenate.

Some years later they revived the play for a kind of benefit night, and that’s how Lincoln ended up there.

John Wilkes Booth waited for a big laugh line:

Halfway through Act III, Scene 2, the character of Asa Trenchard, played that night by Harry Hawk, utters this line, considered one of the play’s funniest, to Mrs. Mountchessington:

Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap.

Harry Hawk in costume:

I found that image through the website for The Persistence of Dreams, this four minute recreation movie of that night at the theater (warning: violence):

Sockdologizing was a made up word, invented in this play.  It seems that around this time people found the word “doxology” to be funny.  It may have been a play on that.

The phrase sounds weird to our ears.  But I bet if you heard it, delivered with solid timing by a charming actor like Harry Hawk, playing into the role of the lovably blunt Asa Trenchard, it was probably amusing.

Anyway, I conclude that yes, the last joke Abe Lincoln heard was pretty funny, even if it may not be exactly hilarious to us these many years later.


Career. Woman.

Asked an Osaka resident what was going on in Japanese comedy these days, and he directed me to Buruzon Chiemi.

 


All I Gotta Do Is Act Naturally

When I first got to California a real curiosity was Bakersfield and the Bakersfield Sound.

from wiki’s article on the Kern River Oilfield. Photo by Antantrus

What the hell was going on up there in Bakersfield?  There were four Basque restaurants in town.

Buck Owens was the king of the Bakersfield sound, he had the Crystal Palace.  He died before I got to see him.  From Wiki:

The Los Angeles Times interviewed longtime Owens spokesman (and Buckaroos keyboard player) Jim Shaw, who said Owens “had come to the club early and had a chicken fried steak dinner and bragged that it’s his favorite meal.”

bragged?

Afterward, Owens told band members that he wasn’t feeling well and was going to skip that night’s performance. Shaw said a group of fans introduced themselves while Owens was preparing to drive home; when they told him that they had traveled from Oregon to hear him perform, Owens changed his mind and took the stage anyway.

Shaw recalled Owens telling the audience, “If somebody’s come all that way, I’m gonna do the show and give it my best shot. I might groan and squeak, but I’ll see what I can do.” Shaw added, “So, he had his favorite meal, played a show and died in his sleep. We thought, that’s not too bad.”

The alpha song of the Bakersfield sound has to be Act Naturally.  The Beatles had Ringo sing it:

I’ve probably listened to the Buck Owens version between 50 and 100 times.  It continues to reveal itself.  How about the the paradox of acting naturally.

Only very very good actors are capable of truly acting naturally.

Otani Oniji II as Yakko Edobei in the Play “Koinyabo Somewake Tazuna”
Saraku, Toshusai (worked 1794-1795)
Polychrome woodblock print with mica ground
h. 15 in. w. 9-7/8 in.
 from the Met.

Did Otani Onjii act naturally?

Whole acting schools are devoted to teaching people how to act naturally.

Why do people have so much trouble acting naturally?

If you’re in Bakersfield get an ice cream sundae at Dewar’s.

 


History of theater

Trying to help Filip and Fredrik out on their commedia del’arte question, I pull down my Oxford Illustrated History of the Theater.

There I learn the reason there are no female kabuki actresses:

The earliest kabuki performers were women, but later all roles, including female, were played by men.  This was because the government banned women from the stage in 1629, their policy being that nobody should follow more than one profession: this prevented women from being both prostitutes and actresses.

source: ukiyo-e.org


McConaughey Story

Study of McConaughey is always rewarding.  The best part of the above video is the first few seconds :12-:36

 

It’s unfortunate that used copies of I Amaze Myself!, McConaughey’s mother’s autobiography, are unreasonably priced.  I’m interested in more stories like this.

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-11-36-51-am


Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

Remember this guy?  For some reason or another I bought this pamphlet of a speech he gave at King’s College, London, November 1993:

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Stockdale was a 38 year old naval aviator when he got sent to Stanford for two years of study.  He was pretty bored until a professor handed him a copy of The Enchiridion, a collection of the teachings of Epictetus.

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What does Epictetus teach?

same-audience

He taught how to play the game of life with perspective:game-of-life

an A-4

an A-4

Five years later, this is what happened to Stockdale:

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Stockdale was wrong about how long he’d be there.  He was there for 7 1/2 years, much of it in solitary confinement:

hoa-lo

How did he spend his time?  Well, for one thing he constructed a sliderule in his mind from equations tapped to him in code through a concrete wall::

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A bigger collection of Stockdale’s speeches and essays:

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where he distills what he learned through his prison experience down to “one all-purpose idea, plus a few corollaries”:

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What he has to say about public virtue is distressing as I watch the future president:

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A badass:

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Recommend Courage Under Fire, which costs five bucks or $3.85 on Kindle.  Thoughts Of A Philosophical Fighter Pilot is for the serious Stockdale student.

I think you can appreciate the greatness of Stockdale and also find this funny:

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/joyride-with-perot/n10313

Coverage of another philosophical fighter pilot, John Boyd, here.