Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow

It seems like whenever I try to be clever and mildly flirtatious on Twitter my words are misconstrued. First off, a text message is stripped of any tone, and along with the 140 character limit, you also do not hear any vocal inflections to indicate that you are joking. Also, since you are speaking from the mask of anonymity that is the Internet, rather than getting the benefit of the doubt, it is assumed that you are some dirty old disgusting pervert hunched over his flickering screen in his dirty shorts and sweaty wife beater typing with one hand while the other is reapplying Vaseline, careless of the fly that has embedded itself in the amber-like substance, the veritable fly in the ointment…

Which is a fair assessment, but then the light bantering tone that was intended is changed to a malicious leer hissed through rotten teeth.

The second factor that often torpedoes my bon mots is that the intended target is much younger and not familiar with the particular pop-cultural reference I am making. For instance, a picture of Jim Varney by The Stonehenge was captioned with The Importance of Being Ernest. Jim Varney was the voice of Slinky Dog in the first two Toy Story movies, but he is best known for the character he created called Ernest. Ernest Goes to Jail is the best one, but there was also Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Goes to Africa, Ernest: Scared Stupid, and so on, and so forth. The Importance of Being Earnest was of course a play by Oscar Wilde. Another time I made an ill considered reference to the song, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” by Simon & Garfunkel. Needless to say, they didn’t get it.

My latest faux pas was posting a picture of Mia Li looking like she was about to whistle. For a caption I chose the famous line from the 1944 Howard Hawks film, To Have and Have Not: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” I can picture her cringing upon seeing her image and reading the caption. At the time I thought she would really appreciate it. But in retrospect, in hindsight, as it were, much to my eternal chagrin, I regret the gesture.

Mia Li was an English Major, so I had some reason to hope that she would know this quote, and its literary significance, but that would be asking a lot, I now know.

Director Howard Hawks made a bet with Ernest Hemingway that he could make a good film out of his worst novel: To Have and Have Not. He won the bet, though he dropped the class references that had justified the title, along with most of the plot, focusing on an early episode involving the protagonist, a man, and a woman. The line I quoted would be the most memorable scene of the movie, but it was not written by Nobel Prize winning Novelist, Ernest Hemingway, nor by the other Nobel Prize winning Novelist, William Faulkner, who worked on the script, but by the director Howard Hawks, who used it for a line in a screen test he shot with Lauren Bacall. Bacall’s delivery of the line got her the part, and it worked so well that the director had it inserted into the script.

I can’t think of any other films that can boast of two Nobel Prize winning writers, but to have them be Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner is nothing short of phenomenal. They are polar opposites as writers: The terse prose of Hemingway juxtaposed with the flowing prose of William Faulkner, who sometimes extended a single sentence over multiple pages. They are fire and ice, is the long and short of it. But in spite of having two such distinguished men of letters on the project, most of the dialogue was improvised by the actors.

To Have and Have Not is the first of four films starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. it was also Bacall’s screen debut. Bogart’s most remembered film was Casablanca (1942) with many memorable quotes of its own, but that film’s co-star was Ingrid Bergman. Bogie and Bacall were celebrated in song and story. They were also a married couple in real life. At Bogart’s funeral, she dropped a whistle into his coffin.

(c) 2014 by Hugh Richard Jorgan

I’ve Got Some Real Estate Here in my Bag, Betty Black

So anyway, it is the 4th of July. I went downtown to a cool coffee shop and had iced coffee with 2 shots of espresso, then I had a big glass of beer. It was from Belgium, and how ironic that Belgium defeated Team USA from the World Cup. When I finished the damn beer I went to the bus stop, but the last bus home was leaving. 10 minutes early, but anyway, I was stranded downtown. I tried calling everyone but had only a few options. Everyone was already drunk, or didn’t have a vehicle either.

I walked to McDonald’s and got a Filet O’ Fish Meal w/ a Pomegranate Blueberry smoothie. The fries were divine and the fish burger was pretty good, too. The power outlets are covered and there are a lot of flies buzzing around my smoothie. Other that that it is an excellent spot to hang out and wait for my one true friend to pick me up and take me home. Out of all the people I know, only 1 person was willing to give me a ride home. It is hot as hell here, or else I would walk home. Or I would go to the hotel and hop in a taxi. But my friend is coming and I am all set in this downtown McDonalds. Happy 4th of July.

When I get home, I am going to hose down all the dry grass on my property and have my dogs come in and hang out. They don’t like all the fireworks. Last year some assholes sent a barrage of fireworks into my neighbors yard, nearly causing a conflagration of staggering proportions.

Finally had a friend pick me up and give me a ride home. Hallelujah. I got home and then I bought a watermelon from my neighbors for $7. I associate watermelons with The Fourth of July. It is my summer time madeleine, for any Proust fans out there. They are good neighbors but tonight they will probably hang out on there porch drinking and smoking and playing loud Hip Hop and Rap till all hours. I like some Rap and Hip Hop but in the situation where your neighbors are blasting it like that, I hate it. I play Beethoven string quartets to drown it out. After the Beethoven CD finishes then Billie Holiday comes on.

Billie Holiday reminds me of my friend on Twitter and Tumblr, Betty Black. She said she liked Billie Holiday a lot, which is impressive since Billie Holiday died in 1959, way before Betty was even born. Betty is a window dancer, a cam girl. She is a Black BBW, with enormous breasts. She is cup size Double K. Is there a triple K? Wouldn’t that be ironic? She is very smart, but paying off enormous student loans. She wants to relocate to Los Angeles, but that would require a car. You can forget about LA unless you have a car. I live in LA without a car, but I am an idiot. I wouldn’t recommend it. Betty has a really nice voice. She sounds like Ella Fitzgerald. I have never heard her sing, and it would be like a one in a million chance that she could sing like Ella, but she sounds that nice when she speaks.

Betty is so nice, and she is also lusty. She enjoys sex with women and men and isn’t shy about talking about it. Sometimes she is sad and lonely though, and she gets her feelings hurt. She just announced that she is taking down all her profiles and going off line. I can only imagine what must have happened. It seems like sex isn’t a problem, but intimacy is hard to come by. Maybe she will have sex with a hot young guy but then they will go to an orgy and he will ignore her and try to have sex with everyone but her. I think she had a vanilla date with someone from OK Cupid and I thought it went all right. But who knows? Maybe that’s what went wrong?

The Billie Holiday song that makes me think of Betty Black the most is

Getting Some Fun Out of Life

When we want to love, we love
When we want to kiss, we kiss
With a little petting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

When we want to work, we work
When we want to play, we play
In a happy setting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

Maybe we do the right things
Maybe we do the wrong
Spending each day
Just wending our way along

When we want to sing, we sing
When we want to dance, we dance
You can do your betting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

Maybe we do the right things
Maybe we do the wrong
Spending each day
Just wending our way along

But when we want to sing, we sing
When we want to dance, we dance
You can do your betting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

Songwriters
LESLIE, EDGAR / BURKE, JOE

The line that really gets me is “Spending each day just wending our way along.” Specifically the word, “wending.” I don’t really know the definition of the word but can picture Betty and I just wending our way along.

Before this Billie Holiday phase, i went through a Simon & Garfunkel phase. Though Betty was familiar with Billie Holiday’s music, from about 1939 through 1959, she was totally unfamiliar with the more recent, albeit much Whiter, sound of Simon & Garfunkel. She said something about having to burn sage, which is a Voo Doo purification ceremony, and I made a reference to the Simon & Garfunkel song “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme.” Someone used to think it went “Parsley, Sage, Grows Merry in Time,” which is a mondegreen, or misheard lyric. This reference fell perfectly flat. Quest Love and Captain Kirk Douglas of The Roots, house band for Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, have a bit where they are Black Simon & Garfunkel, but they are music nerds. So, Betty Black had no idea what I was talking about, just thinking I was citing a grocery list of other spices.

Still, I would imagine us listening to Simon & Garfunkel songs together like the couple in

"The Dangling Conversation."

It’s a still life water color,
Of a now late afternoon,
As the sun shines through the curtained lace
And shadows wash the room.
And we sit and drink our coffee
Couched in our indifference,
Like shells upon the shore
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
The borders of our lives.

And you read your Emily Dickinson,
And I my Robert Frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what we’ve lost.
Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,
Couplets out of rhyme,
In syncopated time
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives.

Yes, we speak of things that matter,
With words that must be said,
“Can analysis be worthwhile?”
“Is the theater really dead?”
And how the room is softly faded
And I only kiss your shadow,
I cannot feel your hand,
You’re a stranger now unto me
Lost in the dangling conversation.
And the superficial sighs,
In the borders of our lives.

Or maybe we were like the couple in the Simon & Garfunkel waltz, “America” on an extended road trip across our country, appropriate for this 4th of July:

America

"Let us be lovers we’ll marry our fortunes together"
“I’ve got some real estate here in my bag”
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

"Kathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
“Michigan seems like a dream to me now”
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I’ve gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said “Be careful his bowtie is really a camera”

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat"
“We smoked the last one an hour ago”
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

"Kathy, I’m lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

%%%%%%%%%%%%

I was never really able to make a connection with Betty Black. She was like my imaginary friend, and I was if anything on her list of potential stalkers, with a restraining order on speed dial. I think I will just keep on seeing her, even if she goes off line, as my imaginary friend. I guess I just wanted her to know that I liked her and even if she didn’t return the feeling or understand it, I will continue to like her. It is unconditional like.

One final song I would like to offer her, and this is a song that was written by Steven Robson and Jeffrey Steele, and sung by Miley Cyrus, but I am offering the cover version by Cher. Yes, Cher, who is not my favorite singer by any means, especially since she made a statement that she doesn’t “get” jazz, and that is obvious. She is no Jazz Singer, that’s for sure. Still, I like this song and Cher’s voice somehow renders it more poignant than the original.

I Hope You Find It

These clouds aren’t going nowhere baby,
Rain keeps coming down
I just thought I’d try to call you baby,
‘for you got too far out of town
And I hope that you get this message
That I’m leaving for you
Cause I hate that you left without hearing
The words that I needed you to

And hope you find it,
What you’re looking for
And I hope it’s everything you dreamed your life could be,
And so much more
And I hope you’re happy
Wherever you are
I wanted you to know that
And nothing’s gonna change that
And I hope you find it

Am I supposed to hang around and wait forever,
Last words that I said
But that was nothing but a broken heart talking, baby
You know that wasn’t what I meant
Call me up, let me know that you got this message
That I’m leaving for you
Cause I hate that you left without hearing
The words that I needed you to

And I hope you find it,
What you’re looking for
And I hope it’s everything you dreamed your life could be,
And so much more
And I hope you’re happy
Wherever you are
I wanted you to know that
And nothing’s gonna change that
And I hope you find it

Whatever it is out there,
That you miss it here

And I hope you find it,
What you’re looking for
And I hope it’s everything you dreamed your life could be,
And so much more
And I hope you’re happy
Wherever you are
I wanted you to know that
And nothing’s gonna change that

No no no
And, I hope you find it
I hope you find it!

Mishima’s 3 Seminal Works

Yukio Mishima (Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫 Mishima Yukio) is the pen name of one of the most important writers of Japanese Literature. His name translates as 3 Islands. Mi = 3, and shima = island. Mishima is also notable for a most unusual life, and a most unusual death (January 14, 1925 – November 25, 1970). Mishima wrote 34 novels, about 50 plays, about 25 books of short stories, and at least 35 books of essays, one libretto, as well as one film. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature three times. He lost the third time to his mentor Kawabata, and it is very likely that Mishima’s extreme right wing politics were a major factor in his loss. Mishima was devoted to body building and martial arts, and he led his own militia. Unable to deal with Japan’s defeat and surrender he grew increasingly more extreme politically until he called for a coup d’état. When that failed he committed seppuku—ritual suicide. You disembowel yourself, cutting your guts out with a knife, then your associate chops off your head with a sharp samurai sword. It is supposed to be sharp enough to slice your neck with a single stroke, but things did not go well and it was a botched and messy debacle. Another aspect of the ritual that belied it being a spontaneous whim was the fact that he had composed a “death poem” in advance and had submitted it to the proper authorities, according to Buddhist protocol. All of his affairs were in order, and money was set aside for the legal defense of his militia who had participated in the coup attempt and subsequent suicide. The coup may have been merely a pretext for the suicide, since there was little chance of its success. Mishima and his associates appeared to have been meticulously planning what came to be known as “The Mishima Incident” for over a year.

The autopsy revealed the semen of Mishima’s second, the guy who lopped off his head, in Yukio’s rectum. Wonder how it got there?

Those looking for clues to the reasons for this bizarre turn of events would find plenty of them in his books. A variety of characters commit suicide, or people are killed or things are destroyed after reaching perfection and beginning to decay. In The Temple of the Golden Pavilion an acolyte cannot bear the decline of the temple and so he burns it to the ground. In The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea a group of schoolboys who had admired a sailor conspire to kill him when he decides to retire from his nautical life. Mishima’s first novel, Tōzoku (盗賊, “Thieves”), was a story about two young members of the aristocracy drawn towards suicide. Along with this fascination with death and destruction, there was also the riddle of his sexuality: Was Mishima’s admiration of intense masculinity and devotion to militarism and bodybuilding a manifestation of homosexuality? For the answers to these and other questions I like to point to three seminal works (pun fully intended):

Confessions of a Mask (仮面の告白 Kamen no Kokuhaku) is Yukio Mishima’s second novel. Published in 1949, it launched his prolific career though he was only 24. Mishima had an uncanny knack for writing from various points-of-view, but here in his second novel you get the feeling that he is being himself. As a writer he dons various masks, the various characters in his novels. As a closeted homosexual he dons a mask of respectability. The protagonist of this book contains many parallels with Mishima. He was brought up by an overprotective grandmother and played mostly indoors, with girls and their dolls. At twelve he went to live with his father who bullied him like a drill sergeant. His father considered poetry and literature to be effeminate and would tear up his manuscripts. He forbid him to follow a career as a writer. Mishima and the “mask” responded by building up their bodies and learning martial arts, but it almost seemed that they became hyper masculine and had a fetish for masculinity: butch rather than feminine homosexuality. The fact that he had written about these feelings and this world with such intensity at such a young and tender age made many speculate that Mishima was in fact a homosexual, but he denied the rumors. After his death his widow continued to deny the rumors, and even sued an alleged former lover, a writer named Jiro Fukushima, who had published their salacious correspondence.

Forbidden Colors (禁色 Kinjiki?) is a 1951 novel (禁色 Part 2 秘楽 (Higyō) “Secret Pleasure” was published in 1953) by Yukio Mishima translated into English in 1968. The name kinjiki is a euphemism for homosexuality. The kanji 禁 means “forbidden” and 色 in this case means “erotic love”, although it can also mean “color”. The word “kinjiki” also means colors which were forbidden to be worn by people of various ranks in the Japanese court. This two volume novel describes a marriage of a gay man to a young woman. Like Mishima’s earlier novel Confessions of a Mask, it is generally considered somewhat autobiographical, at least in hind sight (again, pun fully intended). In this book the protagonist uses his beauty to achieve revenge against women and others. He sleeps his way to the top. In this book the mask not only confesses, but has many sins to confess. The reader gets the feeling that wish fulfillment lies at the heart of this author’s oeuvre—the wish for vengeance. It is a day dream fantasy of how he could use a beautiful body to achieve his wildest dreams: money, power, and most of all revenge. Oh, yeah, can’t forget SEX. Forbidden Colors is also notable for containing a bitter character assassination of his mentor, Kawabata. Won’t get into it here, as I have lots to say about Kawabata that deserves its own essay. Kawabata’s writing is also driven by the wish fulfillment engine, though it is a different wish being fulfilled namely, older men for young beautiful women, but really, Yukio: Pot. Kettle. Black.

Sun and Steel: Art, Action and Ritual Death is a book by Yukio Mishima that I consider the key to unlocking his enigma. It is an autobiographical essay, a memoir of the author’s relationship to his body. The book recounts the author’s experiences with, and reflections upon, his bodybuilding and martial arts training. The essay also discusses his feelings about language, specifically Japanese, and how his different approach to language shaped his career. This tangent on the Japanese language is kind of off topic here, but it concerns the fact that Japanese uses Chinese characters, called Kanji, that are essentially hieroglyphics, or word pictures. I won’t get into it here, as it deserves its own separate essay.

Basically this book says that he is different from other writers because he worships the sun rather than the moon that other decadent writers worship. He trains with steel swords that gleam in the sun. He follows this line of reasoning with sterling prose until the penultimate part where he suddenly informs you of your destination. Crazy Town. All the hard work and discipline he has put into his body has achieved perfection. It is all downhill from this point on, so rather than descend from the pinnacle of perfection, he advocate an early death. Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse. Somehow has taken you down a road that is a Möbius strip. What started off so logical has suddenly become absurd. It is like the staircase at the top of the tower trod by monks in the woodcut by M.C. Escher.

Though I don’t subscribe in any way shape or form to Mishima’s world view, the bottom line (and again, the pun is fully intended) is I have to say that in these two novels and one essay he really lays out a fascinating train of thought, even if it is on a collision course.

I wish to acknowledge that I used Wikipedia for the biographical facts to support my thesis and in some cases might have cut and pasted passages of dry biographical facts with little or no modification.

(c) 2014 by H. R. Jorgan