Category Archives: Frivolity

Song of the Day #2075

Song of the Day: My Time to Fly [YouTube link], composed by NJ-native Harriet Goldberg and featuring saxophonist Billy Novick, is probably one of the most heard pieces of music in the world. Have you ever been put on hold? And this jazzy musical ditty gets looped OVER AND OVER again? Having been on hold for over an hour today, I thought I’d feature this song. When I first heard it some time ago, I thought to myself: “That’s got a nice feel to it.” But like any piece of music that one might listen to, eventually, if played incessantly for a very long time, one’s nerves start to fray, and that’s why it’s the Song of the Day! This bouncy tune was recorded in 2011 and has been adopted by legions of companies as the Music to Hold By. Now you know why Goldberg has been dubbed the Queen of Hold Music.

And if you’d like to see my “Motion Photography” while on hold with the NY Times today, see Facebook!

SNL Goes Roman

After my post on the “Roman Empire Obsession?“, I laughed out loud at this “Saturday Night Live” skit this past weekend, featuring host Jason Momoa.

Dental Power

Having had my share of dental procedures over this past summer, I can empathize …

Pearls Before Swine, courtesy of Stephan Pastis

Happy Halloween 2023!

Check out this post on Facebook and the “reel” videos here and here.

Roman Empire Obsession?

Back in September, I’d seen all sorts of memes about men’s alleged obsession with the Roman Empire. The New York Times reported on September 15th: “The Roman Empire began in 27 B.C. and fell in A.D. 476. And in A.D. 2023, it went viral on TikTok.”

Well, I’m not on TikTok, but found the whole thing ridiculous. Then I remembered that as an 8-year old kid, I so loved the movie “The Robe“, and particularly Jay Robinson‘s insane portrait of the Emperor Caligula. Till this day, I can recite his dialogue in the final scene of that 1953 Cinemascope classic by heart! In 1968, I even dressed up as Caligula for Halloween (pic below). Passing fad!

(That photo is taken in front of the “stoop” of my Yaya’s house at the time. Currently, my Aunt Mary is still living there at the age of 101!)

But, uh, over the years, I have collected books and movies and figurines, and, uh … well …

A lively discussion can be found on Facebook here. In it, I made the following remarks ….

On the meme:

Clearly I’m poking a bit of fun at this. Fortunately, none of us is defined by any single interest. I also have a lifelong fascination with horror films, sci fi, Hitchcock, film noir, The Honeymooners, and The Godfather… but I haven’t seen any memes on all that!

And on “The Robe”:

I loved both “The Robe” and “Demetrius and the Gladiators“. The first time I saw “The Robe”, it was broadcast on Easter weekend on the ABC network (March 26, 1967), with only one commercial interruption.

But here’s a cinematic footnote. When “The Robe” was filmed, it was shot in both standard ratio and Cinemascope formats. The version that I grew up with was the standard ratio. There are distinct differences not only in camera angles but also in dialogue, because most of the scenes were filmed TWICE. It’s long been said that the “flat” or standard ratio version is the better acted one. I have a VHS copy of it, which was taped off the AMC network (when George Clooney’s dad, Nick, was hosting). I subsequently transferred it to DVD.

When “The Robe” was officially released on DVD and restored for Blu-Ray, it was the Cinemascope version. I was amazed by the richness of the color, but SHOCKED at the differences in the dialogue. As I said above, I can recite that last scene in the film, practically word-for-word, down to the intonation of the actors. DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT in the Cinemascope version. Alas, though they have a frame-within-a-frame comparison on the Blu-Ray version, they have never released the standard ratio version of the film, which is sad.

They knew the film was going to be a money-maker, because they finished filming its sequel the very month that “The Robe” was released (September 1953). They were both huge box office hits.

Here’s a link comparing the two versions of “The Robe”.

I was asked in the Facebook discussion why I didn’t identify with the Richard Burton character in “The Robe”; I replied:

Oh, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I didn’t identify with Caligula.

I definitely identified with the heroism of Burton’s character. It was a very inspiring story, and just as inspiring in its sequel, which picked up from the last frames of “The Robe.” In fact, I knew by heart all of Burton’s lines in his “trial” in the finale of “The Robe”.

While “The Robe” is of course faith-centered, there is something universally appealing about a Roman tribune who rose through the ranks due to his family’s connections, and was known as a “womanizer” and “drunkard”. He didn’t know what it was to be a “man of honor”, as his father implored him to be before he is shipped off to Jerusalem, by Caligula’s decree. “Perhaps there will be amusement in being a man of honor,” he tells his father.

Before too long, he is the tribune in charge of the crucifxion of Jesus and hammers the nails into the man to whose principles he later commits himself. His transformation into a man of honor who lives by those principles—and is willing to die for them—remains inspirational on the face of it.

It’s not without some irony that Ayn Rand alluded to the inspirational elements of “The Robe”. She wrote in a letter to Ross Baker: “A book expert in New York told me that the biggest fiction sellers of all times (and the surest recipe for a bestseller) have always been religious novels with a good story (‘Ben-Hur’, ‘Quo Vadis?’, ‘The Robe’)–and that ‘The Fountainhead’ is a religious novel [insofar as] it gives to . . . readers . . . a sense of faith, courage and moral uplift.”

Still, regarding Caligula, I was fascinated by Robinson’s unhinged rantings. At 7 years old, it was probably the most theatrical, over-the-top performance I’d ever seen. Caligula was never anyone I looked up to! Just a very colorful character who amused me, to say the least.

There have been other fine actors who have portrayed Caligula—most notably John Hurt in “I, Claudius“, who brought humor and terror to the role. Malcolm McDowell was equally unsettling in the 1979 X-rated rendering, “Caligula” (though I was barely of age to see it). But Robinson was the first to define the role on screen.

Interestingly, there was a 1937 Josef von Sternberg-directed adaptation of “I, Claudius,” which was never finished. It was the subject of a documentary called “The Epic That Never Was”, and starred Charles Laughton as Claudius and Emlyn Williams as Caligula. It had quite a cast (including Flora Robson and Merle Oberon). Some nice footage of the film can be found in that documentary, which is on YouTube for free [YouTube link]. It’s narrated by Dirk Bogarde.

Check out more information on the stillborn 1937 film.

Harrison Ford Species!

Harrison Ford may have no Oscars to his credit, but he has quite a menagerie of namesakes! A species of ant (Pheidole harrisonfordi) and a species of spider (Calponia harrisonfordi) are named for him.

Moviegoers will remember, however, that as Indiana Jones, Ford famously declared: “I Hate Snakes“. Now, he’s got a species of snake named for him too: “Tachymenoides harrisonfordi“! Read on!

T-Rex vs. Tea Rex

Growing up in our home, we were all dinosaur fans. Among my all-time favorites was Tyrannosaurus Rex. And I absolutely loved the entire Jurassic Park film franchise, which gave us the T-Rex image on the left. However, today’s “Between the Lines” (in the New York Daily News) gave me a much-needed laugh (on the right).*


* Now I know what those little arms were for!


Yesterday, my friend Kevin Carson shared an article from The Guardian about an unearthed fresco, dating back two-thousand-years, from the “excavations in the Regio IX area of Pompeii’s archaeological park, which is close to Naples, the birthplace of pizza. The painting was on a wall in what is believed to have been the hallway of a home that had a bakery in its annexe.” The Guardian author, Angela Giuffrida, wrote:

A striking still life fresco resembling a pizza has been found among the ruins of ancient Pompeii, although the dish seems to lack two essential ingredients – tomato and mozzarella – and includes an item that looks suspiciously like a pineapple.

… on which I commented, with New York contempt: “This is OBVIOUSLY an attempt to legitimize pineapple on pizza. smh lol.”

Today I was alerted to a New York Times piece on these same archeological findings, written by Elisabetta Povoledo: “A Proto-Pizza Emerges From a Fresco on a Pompeii Wall”. Povoledo writes:

It may have been no pepperoni with extra cheese, but it still caught the eye of archaeologists working on the ruins of Pompeii, and not because they were hungry. The researchers were excavating the site earlier this year when they ran across a fresco depicting a silver platter laden with wine, fruit — and a flat, round piece of dough with toppings that looked remarkably like a pizza. Proto-pizza might be more like it, given that the city of Pompeii was buried by a volcano in 79 A.D., nearly 2,000 years before anything modern civilization might recognize as a pie came into existence. In a statement published on Tuesday, the archaeologists were insistent that the dish portrayed in the fresco did not mean that the History of Pizza is about to be rewritten. “Most of the characteristic ingredients are missing, namely tomatoes and mozzarella,” they said. Still, they allowed, the flat, round dough topped with pomegranate, spices and what may have been a precursor of pesto might be “a distant ancestor to the modern dish.”

I was tempted to say: “No pomegranates!” But hey, this is nearly 2,000 years ago, so whaddayawant!

The article points out, of course, that the origin of pizza is itself controversial:

It may be virtually synonymous with Italian cuisine, but some like to point out that dough topped with herbs and cheese originated across the Ionian Sea, in ancient Greece, and that Naples was originally a Greek colony. “The Greek history of pizza that the Italians want hidden” accused one headline in The Greek City Times.

Well, I have no problem with this! I’m half-Greek and half-Sicilian, so it’s all good. And while that fresco doesn’t depict anything like what I see at L&B Spumoni Gardens, three cheers for archaeo-pizza! In the end, pizza belongs not to the Greeks or the Italians, but to everybody. Even if you want pineapple on it. Just hold the pomegranates. Sheesh …

Credit: Archaeological Park of Pompeii

Spider-Man … Only in New York

Check out this sweet “Time Out” story about kids writing to Spider-Man, long after his “address” was published in 1989! It was also featured on WABC-TV Eyewitness News here.

Breaking Bad Franchise Tribute on the Super Bowl

In January, I ran a month-long tribute to the music of the Breaking Bad Franchise. For those who didn’t catch it, there was a funny Breaking Bad-themed Popcorners Super Bowl commercial! Check it out!