Walt Disney’s “Song of the South”

While researching my Undergraduate Thesis on Walt Disney, Goodness!, I visited the Walt Disney Archives in Burbank in 1986 to view Song of the South, their only film unavailable for public viewing. Not only did they deny me access to the film, but they refused to answer any questions about it. “Have you shelved the film because of racist stereotypes like Uncle Remus?”

“We cannot comment on that.”

My thesis was not in fact on the racism (nor sexism) inherent in the Disney creed but rather in their tendency to simplify (or rather stupefy) details of story. The best example of this was their decision to keep Jiminy Cricket alive throughout the Disney version of Pinnochio as a road buddy when in fact Pinnochio kills the insect in the opening pages of the original story by Carlos Collodi. The irony is that Song of the South is not a skeleton in Disney’s closet – Uncle Tom’s and all – but an example of just another film which uses gimmicks and song – Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-A-Dee-A – to cover up bland story-telling and stereotypes that have undercut many Hollywood films.

To say nothing of the country as a whole.

Screenplay: “Nogo, The Anti-Trump”

The film opens with an extreme close-up of a black man, Nogo, driving at night on a deserted road. The camera pulls back to reveal Nogo being followed by a full-size pickup truck, its high beams bearing down. Nogo is forced off the road. The driver and passengers, each bearing arms, lean out of the truck as Nogo leaps out, tire iron in hand.“Tolerance! You got that?” He smashes out a headlight and then the other as the driver raises a shotgun. Nogo stares back, defiant. “You better have more than that.”

Black out, gun shots. Opening credits roll. 

Yes, just think Django Unchained meets Punch Drunk Love meets Easy Rider.

Ice Friday: Dino Buzzati’s “Tartar Steppes”

Little by little his hopes grew fainter. It is difficult to believe in a thing when one is alone and there is no one to speak to. It was at this point that Drogo realized how far apart men are whatever their affection for each other, that if you suffer, the pain is yours and yours alone. No one else can take upon himself the least part of it; that you suffer it does not mean that others feel pain even though their love is great: hence the loneliness of life.

Making Grilled Cheese for Claus Meyer

I am not a cook. I only make one thing: grilled cheese sandwiches. I mentioned my grilled-cheese sandwich abilities in passing during a party, and truth be told, I wasn’t really aware of who I was talking to, nor even really what I was talking about, but I did not tell the person before me, Claus Meyer, that I was good at making grilled cheese sandwiches.

Surprisingly, he seemed interested. “I would like to try that.”

Shortly thereafter I had learned who he was, that he was a famed chef and restauranteur, co-founder of Noma in Denmark, voted best restaurant in the world four separate years.

“You say it is a good sandwich. I would like to try them too.”

And so we invited Claus and his wife for dinner, and, yes, I made my grilled cheese sandwiches, or “cheese toasts” as he called them. And he liked them. “The bread is right. It is crisp. The cheese is perfectly melted.” He had three pieces. “Yes, they are very good.”

My secret you ask? Well, I’ve just started working on my book, Melted Just Right which should be ready in the fall of 2017.

Bachelor Anti-logue: Corinne vs. Taylor

The Bachelor puts itself out there for all the right reasons, especially in constructing anti-logue and character undevelopment. It’s all in the stops and starts, the self-cutting off, the saying of nothing, the wild hand gestures when there are no words.

Corinne: Sorry, no hard feelings. It’s just…(dramatic sweeping hand gestures)…the situation that we’re in. (Pause) Do you have a problem with any of…(angular hand gestures)…of that? Taylor: Are you…? I don’t know what you’re talking– Are you talking about…? (pointing over Corinne’s shoulder) When you came in on my time?
Corinne: Yeah. Yeah.

Taylor: I’m– I’m happy with my time.

Corinne: Good, good. (Pause) And then you re-came in, got your time back.

Taylor: I wanted more, because I was really happy with him.

Corinne: No, Good, okay. As long as there’s…(large circular hand gesture)…no situation about the situation, we’re okay. Taylor: I think– I’m okay.

Corinne: Are you okay? You seem a little hesitant about you being okay.

Taylor: No, I think I’m really okay.

Corrine: Okay. Good. I really want you to be okay. Great. 

Friendly Fire: University Band

In his second year at university, Gerbi was in a rock band, Friendly Fire. Like most bands, they had more energy than talent but were booked almost every weekend in the university bars. Gerbi played bass, sang backing vocals and wrote most of the lyrics.Two crowd favorites were Green Desire (I don’t know what it is I want/ I just know it’s not what I got) and Death Squad Jump (How high can you jump?/ Do you want to die?/ Is this the night to die?/ Do the death squad jump!)  Friendly Fire brought a tremendous change to his social life. he was awkward as hell, but he still managed to become a campus slut. His worst moment might have been when he was caught in a hotel room hallway with his track pants down and this girl he had just met pressed up against the wall. He just walked away, never talked to her again.

Ice Friday: Pirandello’s “One, No One”

The idea that the others saw me as one who was not I as I knew myself, one whom they could know only through watching me from outside with eyes that weren’t mine, giving me the appearance fated to remain always an outsider’s to me, though for them it was inside me, mine, a life which, though for them it was mine, I couldn’t penetrate: this idea allowed me no peace. How could I bear the outsider in me? This outsider that I was for myself? How could I live without seeing him? Without knowing him? How could I remain forever doomed to carrying him with me, inside me, visible to others and beyond my vision?

Canada’s Soul: Reflections on the Trip

I wrote copiously, much of it drivel, during and after my cross-country hitchhiking trip in 1983. The only bits worth anything were my notes on what happened – car types, driver descriptions – as scant as they might be, and my expenses:

June 21: Joe Louis & Pepsi ($1.05), 2 milks & water ($0.70), Quarter pounder w/cheese & root beer ($3.50), Auberge des Jeunesse ($5.50), Bottle/red wine ($6.50), Smokes ($1.90) July 16: Donut & OJ ($1.60), Smokes ($2.00), Big cookie ($1.00), Apple ($0.18) , The Return of the Jedi ($5.50), Alphagetti ($1.00)

I met a hippie who everyone called The General. “So I came home last night and there was smoke everywhere, even out in the fucking hallway. So I went into the bedroom and kicked the bed and yelled, ‘Wake up, bitch!’ I asked her where the smoke came from and she said, ‘Out of my camera! Out of the fucking camera!’ Turned out she was cooking bacon and fell asleep. When she left for work the next morning, I yelled after her, “Goodbye, bacon burner!'”
I found three commonalities throughout Canada: 1) War memorials 2) Globe & Mail Newspapers 3) An abundance of pornography. (Bus driver: “You writin’ a dirty letter?”)

And finally this…Contemplation of how extremely solid the earth is. Just try hitting it.

Canada’s Soul: Vancouver to Toronto

August 6, Ride One: Vancouver to Winnipeg (Brown van) Shared cost of gas with Obie (van’s owner), two English guys and Steph. Left at 10 am, Wednesday, arrived in Winnipeg at 3 am, Friday, August 8. August 8, Ride Two: Outskirts of Winnipeg to highway turnoff (Pickup truck) Driver asked me to open the glove box where there was a hardcore porn magazines. He said, “You know, I like to look at the guys as much as the girls.” I tried to be witty. “That’s very open-minded of you.” He asked me if I wanted to come back to his cabin for a blow job. When I declined, he asked if I’d like to come back to his cabin for a sandwich. I declined that too. “I know a lot of guys who aren’t gay but like to be sucked off.” I nodded that I understood.

Ride Three: Highway turnoff to St. Anne (1955 pickup truck) Driver got me high and gave me sunflower seeds.

Ride Four: St. Anne to Falcon Island Park (Small blue car) Two girls, both nervous about picking me up. I told them about the hardcore porn, the offer for a blow job and a sandwich and then getting high, all of which made them more nervous.

Ride Five: Falcon Island Park to Toronto (Dodge car) Wax and Di, coming from a military base at Portage La Prairie. Overnight drive of almost 1,500 miles, right to my house. I should have invited them in but didn’t because I just wanted to go to sleep. I felt bad about it then. Still do.