Comcast Cares

Each day that I’ve walked past this week, except for today, there has been a cloister of pelicans resting from their migration on the opposite shore of the lagoon. On the island in the next pond over from them there were also a number of egrets spread across the shore.

Yesterday, as I observed the birds, a dog came lumbering by. Its leash was pulled taut with a woman leaning against its weight at the other end. The woman wore a sea green tshirt with the words “Comcast Cares” printed on front.

Today, as I note the birds’ absence, a sea plane circles around to land in the bay behind me. It slows as its skids first skim the surface. Then it lifts off again, circles around and repeats its attempt twice more before it comes to a stop on its fourth attempt.

2012 Felino Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 Felino Cabernet Sauvignon
This is the last bottle left from a haul of four wines that Tricia picked up at Wine Mine before our Thanksgiving trip. If it’s not the best wine from that haul, it is the most surprising. I haven’t been favoring cabernet recently, but this is tasty. It has strong fruit and tannin tastes that balance out perfectly.

Peaks

And, for this lunchtime at San Rafael Bay, we have choppy waters. The sky is clear here.

At the horizon, five Bay Bridge towers peak out from a fog bank (behind the closer Richmond Bridge): the two towers of the west span, two peaks of the old east span’s support structure, and the new east span’s tower.

I see a thin dark plume to the south: the Mount Diablo fire.

The Stilts’ Gait

The water is nearly still on San Rafael Bay at lunchtime.

The lagoon behind me is nearly full for the first time in two months, the salty cracked soil mostly covered. The black necked stilts are wading along the shore with their heads tipped down, studying the water in front of them, the area that can be covered within one or two steps of their springy gait. The bird in front is being chased by the one behind him. They run at double speed, the chased bird calling out little peeps every few steps.

A stray dog has circled around from the opposite shore. He slows when he spots me watching him. When I sneeze suddenly, he turns and flees.

John Muir

“Arriving by the Panama steamer, I stopped one day in San Francisco and then inquired for the nearest way out of town. ‘But where do you want to go?’ asked the man to whom I had applied for this important information. ‘To any place that is wild,’ I said. This reply startled him. He seamed to fear I might be crazy and therefore the sooner I was out of town the better, so he directed me to the Oakland ferry.”

-John Muir, Yosemite

Monkey Business

Zeppo and Co-star
The captain asks the first mate how he knows that there are four stowaways. “Why they’re singing Sweet Adeline,” the first mate answers.

Viewers who take this to mean that all four Marx Brothers are singing, even Harpo, are missing the joke. The humor of that line is that the first mate doesn’t specifically say that he heard four voices singing, he only infers it from the fact that the song they’re singing is Sweet Adeline.

And when we enter the ship’s cargo area in the next scene and hear the voices for ourselves, we hear them singing in the style of barbershop quartet. But listen, there are only three voices. The voice singing in the lower range is obviously Chico. The tenor voice matches Groucho’s straight singing voice. That leaves one more voice, a comic falsetto, which would fall to Zeppo rather than Harpo.

Monkey Business is the shortest Marx Brothers film, but it seems to gives Zeppo more screen time than the other four that he appeared in. Very little setup or backstory is given, so the roles of each of The Brothers (and other archetypical characters from the Cocoanuts formula) is less defined than in the other films. Each of The Brothers is less constricted by an assigned role. He sinks or shines based exclusively on his performance. Zeppo is not Groucho’s paige, he is simply on the loose. He does okay.

Zeppo has an interesting scene that I want to point out: He pauses, while being chased by the crew, to decide which direction to run in and is distracted by his first glimpse of The Love Interest (played by Ruth Hall). He turns to follow her. When crew members come into view, he jogs up alongside her, takes her arm and says something bold and charming. She rebuffs him.

The crew passes out of sight quickly. So Zeppo can forget about the pursuit for a moment and can focus on her. He catches up to her again and drops a handkerchief conspicuously. He picks it up.

“Pardon me. Is this yours?” he asks her. He is turning the old dropped handkerchief trope on it’s side.

She responds, “No,” coldly.

He stands, dejected, and watches her walking away without breaking her stride. Then a few steps on, she purposely drops her own handkerchief. Zeppo’s face brightens, he scampers over to retrieve it. But before he can reach it, she picks it up. “Is this yours?” she asks him. “Why, yes,” he answers. They lock arms and walk away together.

The handkerchief gag follows a very Marxist (to coin a term) logic. Zeppo’s costar goes with the Marx logic in a way that few outsiders do without getting confused or going mad. She accepts the logic of the scene and even gets the better of Zeppo. Her passions turn in a moment for no apparent reason, very Marx. This may be her only comic bit in the movie, but it’s a good one. Also, notice how Zeppo pockets her handkerchief before they pass out of camera range?

Make Way

On my rush hour drive home today, a CHP officer stepped out in front of a semi (excuse me, a “big rig”, as they call them here). He gestured for the big rig to stop using a two fisted hammering motion — the closest thing to a wave that he could make while holding two fists together. The car in the next lane slowed in turn and he stepped in front of it. He hammered toward me, in the third lane, and I slowed to a stop. Cars to my left followed suit and the officer crossed the other southbound lanes. A second man, holding his hands out in front of him in the same manner, followed.

The men were carrying something. I looked carefully and realized they were each carrying a fistful of ducklings. They stopped in the carpool lane and looked back toward the right shoulder. I followed their gaze and saw that the mama duck was there toeing the white painted line anxiously. The two men waited and she took a few timid steps into the first lane and then lifted off — taking a skittish flight to the barrier at the freeway median.

The two men climbed over the barrier to repeat their performance across the northbound lanes. Traffic on my side waited for a moment, though there was nothing stopping us from moving. I took the initiative, stepping on the gas. Cars behind me and in the other lanes followed suit. Two hundred yards ahead, I was back in 15 mph traffic.