2018 – ANOTHER SEPTEMBER SONG – Garry Armstrong

I’ ve asked old acquaintance, Walter Houston, once again, to lead us with his melancholy vocal of “September Song” to set the mood.

September is a bittersweet month for many of us. For the young, it’s the end of summer,  goodbye to the idyllic warm days of endless fun and those first romantic days and nights recorded on songs whose lyrics you now struggle to remember.

It’s adieu to summer camp. I have positive memories of Silver Bay and Camp Wilbur Herrlich,  Kodak memories of Lutheran Summer Camps in the woods of upstate New York.  Roasting hot dogs, marshmallows and chugging “bug juice” around twilight campfires.

Barbecue in the yard

In the far recesses of my brain,  we’re again singing  “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” “Beautiful Savior” (Mom’s favorite hymn) and “Abide With Me.” Some of the mid-teen voices are cracking as we try to go to higher notes.  Boys and girls sneak quick looks at each other, cementing romances that will be “forever.”

September fields

Pastor Herb Gibney, who was a central figure in my life from age 13 to age 48  (He was the lead minister at our wedding in 1990), would regale us with “colorful” stories we were not supposed to tell our parents.  All the hushed laughter in our tents overnight as we watched fireflies light the sky and we swapped stories that had little truth. We always wanted to be the last one to fall asleep.

September also is the pivotal month in sports.  Our baseball teams are in their final drive for a pennant, postseason berths and, if lucky,  a trip to the World Series.  There’s a lot of nail-biting, prayers to the big baseball guy in the sky and sleepless nights as our team struggles.

September by the Blackstone

It’s the beginning of football on all levels — from the NFL down to Junior High School and local PeeWee Leagues.  Here in New England,  we wonder if the ageless Tom Brady can pull off his magic and lead the Patriots to one more Superbowl.  Tom is a 40 something quarterback this year and the Patriots don’t look very super after their first two games.  Yes, I know it’s just September and early for professional football.

September is a big month for weather.

Hurricane season, in particular. Florence is still wreaking havoc with Atlantic coastal cities and there’s no end in sight right now.   We’re happy to be above Flo’s path of destruction.  We just had heavy rain which doesn’t sit well with our furry children.

The 9th month is the beginning for political hopefuls who hope to win in the midterm elections.  We’re hoping all those upset with the status quo, embrace a candidate’s campaign and participate in a BIGLY effort come election day — as in, get out and VOTE.

We’re also about to be inundated with the new season of TV shows. From what we’ve seen in previews,  don’t hold your breath unless you’re watching Candace Bergen as “Murphy Brown” returns to television.

I also noticed the Hallmark Channel is beginning its run of Christmas themed romantic dramas.  I’ll pass.

Walter Houston is wrapping up his encore of “September Song”.

Thank you, Kind Sir.   Same time, next year…

BOTTLE OF WINE, FRUIT OF THE VINE – Marilyn Armstrong

Tom Paxton – “Bottle of Wine”


I’ve been a Tom Paxton fan forever. He may be one of the greatest writers and singers of folks songs. Ever. He is 80 now, still performing, still living on Long Island in New York.

May you live forever, Tom Paxton! You bring my youth back to me!

WHILE I WORE MY PANOPLY, THE CANOPY COLLAPSED – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP for Sunday – Panoply


So there I was, sitting in the pouring rain in my panoply which was becoming rapidly rusty. Searching, was I, for somewhere to hide from the infinite wetness pouring from on high.

Suddenly, there appeared before me (oh snap!) a canopy to cover my panoply! It was a freaking miracle. Until the canopy collapsed atop my panoply.  It was, as someone recently pointed out, WET, as in containing a lot of water.

And now, someone is going to have to polish my panoply or never again will it shine in the glinting sunlight of the medieval lists.

Lists? What lists? Do I have to sign something?

ROSY ROCKS AT MANCHAUG – By Marilyn Armstrong

Rosy Rocks by the Dam at Manchaug


Garry and I have no sense of direction. Manchaug used to be a town, but it didn’t have enough income to keep itself going, so it parceled itself out to Douglas and Sutton. Maybe Uxbridge too, but I’m not sure about that.

Thing is, the river that runs through Manchaug which is one of the many tributaries of the Blackstone and is part of the valley’s watershed, but most of it is a big pond … and the pond is located in Douglas.

We tried to find it today, but even though we followed the sign and we could hear the water, we couldn’t find it. It was in the woods somewhere, hiding. It isn’t the place we usually go when we shoot pictures of the dam anyway.

After driving around for a while, Garry said he was pretty sure he’d seen a sign on 146 that said “Manchaug.”

I said, “sure, why not? We aren’t accomplishing much driving around in circles in Douglas.”

So we got back on 146 and sure enough, there was a sign for the Sutton version of Manchaug, but once you got off 146, there were no signs at all. I said I thought it had mentioned Whitins Road, so why didn’t we just stay on Whitins Road and maybe the dam would appear?

We found it and the little Manchaug Post Office, a personal favorite of mine because how many post offices have hand-painted signs, right?

We took pictures of the dam, pictures of the pond, pictures of each other and the classic shot of each of us taking pictures of the other.

Slightly mauve rocks at the base of the dam in Manchaug

I got into an obsessive mode with the water falling on and flowing over the rocks at the base of the dam, so I figured one of them was going to have to be pink. Because there was a lot of water rolling over the dam … the most water I’ve ever seen in that small river. The rain has come this year.

Garry wanted to know where I’d seen pink rocks and I tried to explain the whole square pink picture thing to him, but he lost me somewhere around square and pink. I think I got a nice mauve motif going on this one.

The rocks at the base of the dam in Manchaug in slightly blushing pink. Most importantly, we actually found the place! Yes, we found it!

And that was our day. How was yours?

BLOSSOM TIME, BUT NOT IN NEW ENGLAND – Marilyn Armstrong

Friday Foto Fun: Blossom


It’s coming into Autumn now, so most of the blossoms are gone and the bright leaves will (I hope) come soon.  So far, all I see are a few yellow leaves. Nothing in the red or orange category. But the fall is still young.

There is time yet.

A TALE OF THREE BONDS – Rich Paschall

Casino Royale, By Rich Paschall


When Eon Productions, maker of all those James Bond movies, finally made a film based on the very first Ian Fleming novel, fans of the super spy may have wondered what took them so long.  The novel, published in 1953, introduced us to the Cold War spy with a “License to Kill”, but why no movie?  In the book as in the films (plural, follow along), Bond’s mission is to bankrupt the evil Le Chiffre of the Russian secret service by beating him at cards at the Casino Royale.

Le Chiffre is desperate for the money but confident he will win.  His own life will be at risk if he loses.

Original hard copy with dust jacket

The book was a hit in the UK, but sales in the US were slow and this set into motion events that would keep a serious adaptation of the novel away the big screen for over 50 years.   In an effort to popularize his hero in America, Fleming sold the television rights for the novel to CBS to adapt into a live drama for the series Climax!

The program aired October 21, 1954, and probably would have been lost forever, if not for the eventual popularity of the novels and movies.

Casino Royale 1954
Casino Royale 1954

The television production starred Barry Nelson as James Bond, an American agent.  Sometimes he is referred to as “Jimmy” which ought to make long-time Bond fans cringe.  The American agent in the novel is now a British agent named Clarence Leiter (rather than Felix).

For the live drama, parts are condensed or eliminated and the focus is on the card game.  Since the game is baccarat, not poker as in the latest movie, a little time is spent explaining it for the American audience.

Le Chiffre is played by Peter Lorre, a veteran of the big screen, with just the right amount of evil.  A film star of the 1940’s and 50’s, Linda Christian, gets the honor of being the first “Bond girl.”  You are left to wonder, at least at the outset, whose side she is really on.  I guess for an early black and white television drama, it is not too bad, if you can get past Jimmy Bond as an American spy.

In 1955 Fleming sold the movie rights to film director and producer Gregory Ratoff for a mere 6 thousand dollars.  Perhaps it was big money then.  Unfortunately, Ratoff died in 1960, never having developed the story for the movies.  Next up was the producer, attorney, and talent agent Charles K. Feldman who represented Ratoff’s widow and ultimately obtained the rights.

By now, the Bond series was off to a good start, so how could Feldman possibly compete?  Failing to negotiate an agreement with Eon, he decided to do something that may have been typical of the mid to late 1960’s.  He produced a “madcap” comedy, a spoof of the spy series.

There just is not enough space here to explain what the producers and various directors did to this film.  Although they assembled what was meant to be an “all-star” cast, you can not say they got a lot of great performances from this crew.  Various writers created sections that were to be filmed by different directors and all would be edited together.  This allowed them to work with many stars doing different scenes at different locations and studios at the same time.

A movie monstrosity ensued.

John Huston, who also appears in the movie as M, directed one segment and left.  Five other directors worked on the project, one uncredited.  David Niven is “Sir James Bond” who must be convinced by Huston, Charles Boyer, William Holden, and Kurt Kazner to come out of retirement to deal with Le Chiffre.  Bond takes on the role of head of the spy agency upon M’s departure and they recruit Peter Seller’s (Evelyn Tremble), a baccarat expert, to impersonate Bond and play Le Chiffre at the Casino.  Le Chiffre is played by Orson Welles.

Explanations are pointless. See it — or not.  The temperamental Sellers left the project for a rest before his part was finished.  He was asked not to return.  Welles hated the unprofessional Sellers and they barely spoke to each other.  A gaggle of stars perform cameos.  When all was said and done, it was a confused mess.

Val Guest, one of the directors, along with the film editor, got permission to film additional scenes with Niven and Ursula Andress (Vesper Lynd) — a hopeless attempt to add some continuity to the script and deal with the missing David Sellers’ performance.

Watch for un-credited stars, especially at the end. There is no sensible explanation for the final scenes.

The critically-panned film did well at the box office, as many of the crazy comedies of the 1960’s did.  At least it provided a great musical score by Burt Bacharach, including the hit song The Look of Love.

The film rights next passed to Colombia Pictures, the studio that had put out this disaster.  They held onto them until 1989 when Colombia was acquired by Sony.  A legal battle followed, and the rights were used as a bargaining chip with MGM/UA for … wait for it … MGM’s portion of the rights to Spiderman.

Spiderman was traded for the original James Bond in 1999.

Casino Royale was not next as there was one more Pierce Brosnan movie to be made.  When Brosnan declined a fifth film, the opportunity to “reboot” the spy series was at hand.

Back to the beginning.  Our hero became “007,” and the silver screen welcomed Daniel Craig as “Bond, James Bond.”