“Children afraid of the night/ Who have never been happy or good.”

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play …

Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

— excerpts, W. H. Auden’s September 1, 1939

 

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“All that a speech can say/ About Democracy”

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

— excerpt, W.H. Auden’s September 1, 1939

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Just So Stories,” by Rudyard Kipling, 1902

Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories” was one of my favorite childhood books — a gem I found in my elementary school library.  (I seem to remember the nuns just sort of setting us loose there during reading class with the instructions to find something we liked.  It was the kind of unstructured activity that I don’t often remember from Catholic School.)

It’s basically a short collection of fables that Kipling concocted for his daughter about how certain animals got their key traits (“How the Elephant Got His Trunk,” “How the Leopard Got His Spots,” etc.).  This was one of two favorite books that were consistently a magnet for me in the tiny, tidy library beside the principal’s office.  The other was the collection of Arabian folktales, “One Thousand and One Nights.”

Growing up, I never realized that Kipling was the same author who wrote “Gunga Din” — both the 1890 poem and the eponymous 1939 war film with Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.  (That movie was beloved by my father and brother, and later by me.)  I just never made the connection.

 

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Throwback Thursday: WOR-TV Channel 9’s “Million Dollar Movie” intro!

This will probably be a pretty obscure Throwback Thursday post, but the segment below should be recognized by people who grew up in the New York metropolitan area in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  It’s none other than the intro for WOR-TV Channel 9’s “Million Dollar Movie.”  (That music you hear is a particularly brassy rendition of Max Steiner’s “Tara’s Theme” from 1939’s “Gone With the Wind.”)

If you were in the New York area at that time, it ought to bring back memories of the old days of broadcast television.  (It’s actually surprising how much nostalgia people online report at seeing this 44-second clip.  And it’s amazing what you can find on the Internet.)  A few commenters note sardonically that the clip makes Manhattan look like a nighttime paradise — while The Big Apple in the 1970’s was not always an easy place to be.  (The city if far cleaner and safer today.)

Some of the comments I read were befuddling.  There is one blogger who wrote that he remembers this intro from as far back as the 1950’s.  (Had they really used it for more than two decades?)  And a populous minority of commenters remember being unsettled by the clip.  (They describe it as ominous, and the music as creepy, which mystifies the rest of us who remember “Million Dollar Movie.”)

This intro had an indelible effect on me.  While it recalls monster movies like “King Kong” (1939) and “Godzilla” (1954) for a lot of others, it will always remind me of my father watching war films and cowboy movies on his days off — along with the occasional Charles Bronson flick.   “The Great Escape” (1963), “A Bridge Too Far” (1977) and “Shane” (1953) all spring to mind.

When I was in the first or second grade, I habitually enhanced my Dad’s enjoyment of the “Million Dollar Movie” by peppering him endlessly with questions about whatever was playing — even if I had only wandered into the room for a few minutes.  “Why did they call it ‘a bridge too far?'” “Why did they fight World War II?” “The British and French were good guys in the war, right?” “Why did the cowboy drop his gun on purpose?”  “Why did the guy fake his death?”  (Bear in mind, folks, this was broadcast television — long before the days of Netflix and DVD’s.)

If any kid did that to me when I was watching my favorite movies, I’d go nuts — even if I had a pause button.  My father was a saint.