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High Anxiety: The Plane Flight to Oktoberfest

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Today Judy and I are leaving for a trip to the Oktoberfest. I love Europe, we have lived in German and travelled in much of Europe and I do look forward to the trip with Judy. In addition to our time in Munich at the Oktoberfest we plan on making side trips to Salzburg and Nuremberg.

Of course we are flying which frankly is neither of our big thrill. I have never been much about flying, though I readily admit that this is a control thing, I would rather be in the cockpit flying the aircraft than sitting back in steerage. To tell the truth I would love to learn to fly and fly classic World War II war birds like the P-51 Mustang or the Messerschmitt Me-109, or maybe the Focke-Wulf FW-190. But then, I do get to drive Judy’s 2013 Mustang a lot, and I will be driving the Autobahnen in Germany when we get there, but I digress….

The fact is that I have always a distinct fear of flying, or rather crashing. Professor Liloman calls the condition High Anxiety, a condition that he treated the world famous psychiatrist Richard H. Thorndyke for at the renowned Institute for the Very Very Nervous. (Note the gratuitous Mel Brooks film reference) This only has gotten worse with age. Not that I don’t know how to keep myself calm, beer at every stop from beginning to end of the flight with a good number of Hail Mary’s thrown in; in German of course because that is where I first learned the prayer.

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There is a song about the condition too, appropriately named High Anxiety.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHrQC67aPBU

High anxiety whenever you’re near – High anxiety – it’s you that I fear.

My heart’s afraid to fly – it’s crashed before …

But then you take my hand;  My heart starts to soar once more.

 High anxiety … it’s always the same; High anxiety … it’s you that I blame.

It’s very clear to me I’ve got to give in. High anxiety: you win.

High Anxiety 1977, Words by Mel Brooks, arranged by John Morris

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When we returned from our first tour in Germany after Christmas in December 1986 we flew on a Pan Am Boeing 747. It had a beautiful name, I can never forget reading it before we boarded it at Frankfurt, the Maid of the Seas. I mentioned it to Judy before we boarded, and talked about how I wish all airlines named their aircraft. If the name of the airplane rings a bell, just think a bit. In 1988 Libyan terrorists blew up a Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie Scotland. When I saw the wreckage I was stunned to see the name Maid of the Seas on the crumpled wreckage. I have a hard time getting that picture out of my mind. So there is a reason for my gallows humor, I need to take the edge off.

I did make my peace with flying and have done so too many times to count, to far too much of the world, many times on long distance overseas flights to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. I have gotten used to the hassles of flying, especially security, check in lines and lost or damaged luggage. I even managed to get through flying in Iraq, although getting shot at flying out of Ramadi one night in 2007 was quite unnerving.

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Ever since coming home from Iraq flying has taken on a new old sense of terror. I don’t like it. It is a necessary evil to go places. Personally I would rather take trains or ships if I had the option, but I don’t live in Europe.

Anyway, unless I get a chance to write a short article while in Germany everything that will be posted will have be scheduled before I left home.

Peace, love and beer,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under aircraft, beer, terrorism, Travel

High Anxiety: Padre Steve and Flight Delays

 

I am not as good of air traveler as I used to be. I get anxious when I travel by air now.  Sometimes when I fly it feels like I am Mel Brooks at the beginning of the movie High Anxiety http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_phD__FPsQ or Robert Hays in Airplane. The only thing missing from modern air terminals are the incessant bands of religious zealots that used to be a staple of large airport lobbies back in the 1970s.

Almost every time I travel by air I have the title song from High Anxiety going through my mind: “High Anxiety, it’s always the same. High anxiety, it’s you that I blame. It’s very clear to me I’ve got to give in, high anxiety, you win.” 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grLM1WrivPA

Despite the absence of those bands of zealots, who I almost miss going to the airport is never fun. It starts with long lines at the check in counter and through the TSA checkpoints, endure more lines at the gates and get stuffed into a packed aircraft next to someone who insists on taking up their seat plus a third of your seat. It finally ends when you pull out of the parking lot after waiting an unbearable length of time at the baggage carousel of doom for the checked bag that may or may not arrive when you do.

However I have this miserable experience down to a science.  I make sure that everything in my pockets can fit in my baseball hat, I wear shoes that come on and off easily and may backpack is set up so that my computer can be taken in and out quickly. I don’t carry any liquids whatsoever even those that are allowed by TSA. I find the trouble of bagging tiny containers in quart size plastic bags to be too much effort to make it worth while.  My backpack which has accompanied me since Iraq fits well in the overhead compartments of most aircraft and I only carry it so I don’t have to check anything at the gate.

Today has been another adventure in air travel. At Houston Hobby Airport the TSA operates the new scanning devices which enable the agents to look at your naked body. This is not new technology. I saw it used the first time in the movie Airplane. Somehow the thought of my naked body being exposed to anyone other than Judy is not comforting. I wonder what TSA does with these images.

Today I flew out of Houston on the American Airlines subsidiary American Eagle. To make it to the airport I had to catch a cab from the hotel and build in enough time for Houston morning rush hour traffic, so I was on the road by 0720. I had, the operative word had a flight that was to depart at 1020 and be in Dallas by about 1130. My connecting flight was scheduled to depart at 1335. That would have been great. Two hours to make connections right? But no, the scheduled aircraft had a mechanical problem and the replacement did not arrive in Houston until 1145. By the time I took off it was 1225 by the time I landed it was too late. I missed my flight by about 5 minutes. It was pushing away from the gate when I got off of the Sky Link train. I was able to get a picture of it as it left.

Now I get to wait until 1830 local time to take off to arrive in Norfolk about 2220. That is 10:20 PM to the no-military types. Thankfully I was able to get some Tex-Mex food and a couple of beers as I wait out the nearly 5 hour interval between flights. At least I don’t have Robert Hays’s “drinking problem.”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl4plPGRG8o

By the time I get home, Lord willing, or as my Iraqi friends say “Inshallah” it will be nearly midnight, about 18 hours after I left the hotel. I could have driven Judy’s Mustang straight through in just a few hours more.

Oh, High Anxiety, you win… looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue…

Oh well… c’est le vie.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under aircraft, film, Just for fun, Loose thoughts and musings, purely humorous

Laughing to the Music: The Musical Genius of Mel Brooks

The Zany Mel Brooks as the Governor in Blazing Saddles

When most people think of legendary comedian Mel Brooks they are likely to think of the hilarious shtick of such movies as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Spaceballs, the Movie, DVD or Video. Brooks is a comic genius but mixed in with the comedic side of Brooks he has a musical side that captures some of the most popular genres of yesteryear and overlays them with incredibly witty lyrics and catchy music.  Whether the music is Broadway musical, crooning, or even something out of the old west brooks brings a comedic edginess that can offend and delight at the same time. Today I will share a bit about the songs and soundtracks from the various Brooks films interspersed with the songs from the films.

Teri Garr, Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein

Now I know that some people will say and rightly so that I am just a bit warped in my worldview.  I’m okay with that, in fact I would hate not to be as I think that life would be boring.  Maybe that is why I like Brooks so much.  He demonstrates that rare form of being able to entertain and even provide social commentary on issues like racism and discrimination in Blazing Saddles.  Part of how he did this so successfully was in the music that he often wrote for his movies.  It is one of those unusual things that most people, even Brooks aficionados have no idea that Brooks was the genius behind the music in his movies.

As for me I love Brooks’ music as well as his comedy.  I can practically sing from memory the major songs of each of his movies and frequently will find that I am inadvertently singing them going down a hallway at work or in the car. Some Priests sing hymns or praise and worship songs, I sing Mel Brooks songs. C’est la vie.

Springtime for Hitler 1968

The first film that Brooks music featured prominently was the original The Producers starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and Dick Shawn which was reprised on Broadway and later on the big screen with Nathan Lane, Matthew Modine and Will Ferrell. The original Producers involved a Broadway producer who has seen better days (Mostel) and his new tax accountant (Wilder) trying to find the “world’s worst play” to produce as a flop which they would then keep the money raised for the play.  They find their play written by former German Soldier Franz Liebkind the author of Springtime for Hitler “a gay romp with Adolph and Eva at Berchesgarten.”  They hire the world’s worst director “Roger DeBris” to direct the play and raise a huge amount of money to produce it by selling well far more than 100% of the profits.  Expecting the play to offend everyone they begin an early celebration before finding out that people love the play. The play becomes a critically acclaimed hit leading them to try to blow up the theater.  The music of Brooks is prominently featured in all three. The irony of producers producing a guaranteed flop which becomes a hot on the big screen and then a real hit on Broadway is not to be lost.  The theme song from the play Springtime for Hitler both in 1968 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGp0hCxSg98 and the later version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCUfkMkVbwo also found its way into Blazing Saddles.

Springtime for Hitler 2005

As an interesting side note Brooks has a cameo during the song in both versions where as a member of the cast he sings “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty come and join the Nazi Party.” The Producers also featured more Brooks’ songs including Love Power sung by Dick Shawn playing Lorenzo St. Dubois or LSD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkYBJId7WZs Prisoners of Love featured in both the 1968 and the 2005 versions and When You Got it Flaunt it, I Want to Be a Producer and Keep it Gay all from the 2005 version are classic show tunes.

Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder as Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles

The Producer’s netted Brooks an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  Brooks’ next two hit films Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein both featured interesting musical arrangements, The most memorable coming from Blazing Saddles which starred Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn.  The songs Blazing Saddles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tyhpt6_pwc the Ballad of Rock Ridge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiTKIbR69ss

Madeline Kahn as Lilly Von Schtupp singing “I’m Tired”

I’m Tired http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQU0_PHUB2E and the French Mistake featuring Dom DeLuise http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMK6lzmSk2o are all Brooks’ work.

The French Mistake Musical Scene from Blazing Saddles

He even managed to take an old tune into Young Frankenstein where Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle as Dr Frankenstein and the monster perform Puttin’ on the Ritz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH2nQHPs4aA.

Dr Frankenstein and the Monster (Wilder and Peter Boyle) singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz”

Brook’s next film’s High Anxiety, a takeoff on Hitchcock movies starring Brooks, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman feature Brooks’ songs High Anxiety http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki_UcRmELvs and If You Love Me Tell Me Loud. History of the World Part I which starred Brooks, Kahn, Korman and a host of comic greats would incorporate music is ways undreamed of by those who viewed these films.

The Inquisition from History of the World Part One

In fact the musical segment The Spanish Inquisition featured the song The Inquisition http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oppHeMlaLVM where Brooks plays the Spanish Inquisitor Torquemada in a spoof of the 1930s musical featuring dancing monks in wink tips, nuns who perform a synchronized swimming number as well as banter between Brooks and the various Jews and heretics that he is trying to convert. The irony of course being that Brooks is Jewish.  The closing song Jews in Space http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_jLnrUXJNM is the trailer for a sequel which was never produced. In Spaceballs Brooks collaborated with others to produce the title song Spaceballs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezyoKr0v-HQ which was performed by The Spinners.

Men in Tights

Brooks would continue making movies which though not as popular brilliant as his earlier works would feature some funny songs written by Brooks.  Robin Hood: Men in Tights featured Men in Tights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc1am3KyYgA , Marian and the Sherwood Forrest Rap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APTXBm5Zp-Y The 1983 film To Be or Not to Be in which Brooks starred with his wife Anne Bancroft was about the Nazi invasion of Poland featured the Brooks songs A Little Peace and Ladies. A music video for this film entitled The Hitler Rap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu2NqfISm9k was released as part of the promotion for the film.

Hitler as a polish Jew playing Hitler in a Parody in pre-War Warsaw in To Be or Not to Be

I don’t know that we will ever see a comedic genius who is able to also incorporate music, especially classic Broadway style show tunes in about every movie that they make.  Brooks in my mind is one of those once in a blue moon kind of entertainers whose creativity is not bound by words or gags but crafted through a diverse experience of live performance, film, writing and producing taking comedy to places where his edginess and occasional social commentary was heard and appreciated by middle America.  That is the genius of Mel Brooks.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under film, music, purely humorous

Things I don’t get-Why do songs from my past get stuck in my head? Also Judge Sotomayor, Savior of Baseball

On Monday Friday of last week I went into work after two days of leave to hang out in the hospital with Judy and then after her release help her out a bit and ensure that she suffered no relapse.  I stopped by the little coffee shop called the Dancing Goat for my 24 ounce cup of Southern Pecan (this shop does not have French Vanilla) coffee with 4 French Vanilla Creamers and 4 packets of Splenda.  While I was there Pat, the lady who runs this shop and ensures that I get my free cups of coffee as I fill up my frequent flier card, had her boom box radio on.  She usually has a station that plays R&B or R&B-Pop crossover classics playing in the background  This particular morning as I was talking to Pat and fixing my coffee the radio station was playing a song from back in my high school days came on the radio.  As I fiddled with my creamers and Splenda I heard Play that Funky Music White Boy by the Ohio players.  I found myself flashing back to my days at Edison High School in Stockton California.  The song got into my head.  The whole day and night since I had the duty I found myself walking down the hallways singing and sometimes dancing to “And they were dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’ and just when it hit me, somebody turned around and started saying: Play that funky music white boy, play that funky music white, play that funky music white boy. Lay down and boogie and play that funky music ‘til you die, ‘til you die.  As I did this I would occasionally draw the attention of staff members or visitors.  I would kind of smile and say: “Sorry I hate it when that happens to me.”  Unfortunately it happens far too regularly and I don’t understand why.  Maybe one of my Psychciatry or Neurology colleagues can provide an answer.  Judy would just tell me that I’m nuts, however this is not a clinical diagnosis, unlike my PTSD.

I couldn’t help it.  I was consumed by this Ohio Player’s hit; every time I turned around I was singin’ “play that funky music white boy,,,”  It was wild.  Now I have had this happen with other hits from high school which once I hear them I can’t get them out of my head.  A month or so ago it was the Commodore’s She’s a Brick House, a week ago it was the Top Gun Anthem. A couple weeks before that it was Wild Thing from Major League. I can’t help it, these songs get in my brain and I can’t let go. It sometimes reaches the level absurdity when I find myself singing Mel Brooks movie songs like Blazing Saddles, The Inquisition, Springtime for Hitler and High Anxiety.  I don’t care what song it is, if I heard it back in high school or my first couple of years of college the song will stick and I won’t be able to rid myself of it.  If you haven’t has someone walk in an elevator or come around a corner unexpectedly when you are “movin’ and a groovin,” you really can’t understand.  The problem is it doesn’t have to be this song.  It can be any song.  It is scary and I just don’t get it.

When I was in high school my class was the first to go through high school under the “forced busing” program.  The white guys and gals from the North Side were bussed down to Edison High School on the South Side.  Over the years Edison’s demographics had become overwhelmingly Black, Hispanic and Asian.  When the whites, Hispanics and Asians from the North side showed up it was culture shock, but not in a bad way.  Our class was about 25% each of White, Black, Asian and Hispanic (Mexican.)  We became the “Soul Vikes” and enduring friendships between kids of different races were formed which remain to this day.  I think that our class was a prototype of the new America.  Our 30th reunion was great and I am honored to be a part of the 1978 Soul Vikes.  This experince helped me to come to love and appreciate R&B  and soul.  I may not have rythem or dance, but I love to be Movin’ and a groovin’.”

The fact that I am a proud member of the Soul Vikes of 1978 is not the issue.  The thing that I don’t understand is just how a song that I haven’t heard in years takes over my life, even if only for a day.  To me this is a mystery one of the things that I term: Things that I don’t get.  If you see  me doing this humor me.

Judge Sotomeyor: Savior of Baseball: Back in 1995 Baseball was faced with its most serious crisis.  A player’s walk out that lasted well over 200 days.  The MLB management was content to let things ride and it was getting close to the point of no return.  Americans were rapidly becoming fed up with both the players and the owners, especially the owners.  It was then Judge Sotomayor who stepped in and ended the crisis.  She has been credited by many writers and players with saving the game.  She has come under criticism by many and some like George Will, a baseball historian who I greatly admire take issue with this.  However at the time the players and owners were on a self destructive path that could have destroyed the game.  Baseball, it’s management at leadership among the owners and players union officials is far from perfect, but had they continued on the course that they were on in 1994-1995 it would have killed the game.  Judge Sotomayor’s ruling, which favored the players unions did save the game from itself.  As far as the rest of her record I have only superficially looked at it. She seems to be more liberal than some conservatives would like and more conservative than some liberals would like.  Time will tell what kind of justice she will be should she be approved.  Like any Justice she will be judged on her record.  I do pray if she is confirmed that she will be true to the Constitution, law and people.  Apart from that, as a member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish, I will always be thankful for her actions in 1995.

Peace,

Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary, things I don't get