Steelman Presents Aging Video

Here is the flyer from Red Bank Humanists promoting the presentation of the aging video I created . . .”with the help of my friends.” I blogged about it last May. If you haven’t seen it, come to the RBH Forum and put in your own two cents, or watch it here:

AGING VIDEO

PS – That picture is when I still had a little hair:)

RBH_Flyer

: : :

An Immigrant Recites the Gettysburg Address

What Really Made America Great
by Ron Steelman
6-26-18

I recently saw an old film from 1935, “Ruggles of Red Gap.” I remember seeing it on TV years ago. and I loved it then. But now I love it for a different reason. It has a powerful, patriotic scene that illustrates why immigrants have always been important to our country, not only for their patriotic spirit, but for how they have always been a big part of what “Made America Great” in the first place!

Ruggles_of_Red_Gap

Zasu Pitts, Charles Laughton, Charles Ruggles, Maude Eburne – in “The Ruggles of Red Gap” (scroll down for video clip)

In this film, the famous actor, Charles Laughton, recites the Gettysburg Address in a unique setting to say the least. The Gettysburg Address had great personal significance to Laughton because at the time he was considering taking up American citizenship (he became a U.S. citizen in 1950).

I like this film for several reasons:

1.  It is a comedy (that should be enough right there, actually).
2.  My wife and I are cinephiles.

3.  The film is one of my favorites because it stars Charles Laughton in the first comedic role I ever saw him in, compared to all the other roles for which he was famous, like: “The Private Lives of Henry VIII,” “Les Miserables,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “I, Claudius,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Witness for the Prosecution,” “Spartacus,” and many others. He is extremely funny and I wish he had done more comedies.
4.  The film has a stellar cast with wonderful character actors, like: Mary Boland, Charles Ruggles (same name as the title character), Zazu Pitts, Roland Young, Leila Hyams, and tons of  grizzled old cowboys (all with weathered, rawhide-like faces).
5.  And, there are some interesting stories in the trivia department to tell about the “making-of” of the film.

But first, watch this video clip, then later we’ll share some of the behind-the-scenes tidbits.

 



Pardon Me While I Vent a Little

Amid the current border crisis I am sickened by the anti-immigrant policies being ginned-up by our politicians.  Those officially seeking asylum from violent countries are being turned away. Those entering at other points are being arrested and having their children taken from them and sent to facilities in many far-away states. There appears to be no plan to reunite parents with their very young children. These policies are abhorrent and illegal. They are anti-American, anti-human-rights, and anti-humanist. We can only hope that the dimwits in Washington will return the children to their parents soon.

I just heard of an argument by a Trump supporter that these people applying for asylum should not be allowed in because they are not seeking the correct form of asylum. The Trump supporter claimed that in order to be accepted for asylum, they must be fleeing “political” persecution. That is simply not so. They explained this away by claiming that these people were simply fleeing bad economic conditions. That also is not so.

Here is the actual wording from the law about asylum seekers:  “Asylum has three basic requirements. First, an asylum applicant must establish that he or she fears persecution in their home country.  Second, the applicant must prove that he or she would be persecuted on account of one of five protected grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group. Third, an applicant must establish that the government is either involved in the persecution, or unable to control the conduct of private actors.”

I believe the operative phrases here are:  “particular social group,” and “government is either involved in the persecution, or unable to control the conduct of private actors.” The particular social group is poor people who happen to live in a country where the government isn’t protecting them from private actors, ie. gangs trying to put their children into violent gangs.

The ‘Steelman The Humanist” International Human Rights Court has spoken!


hunchback_promo1

Charles Laughton as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”


TRIVIA TIME:

>  Edward Dmytryk, the film’s editor, said that Charles Laughton became so emotional during the scene in the saloon where he recites the Gettysburg Address that it took director Leo McCarey 1-1/2 days to complete shooting it. According to Dmytryk, the preview audiences found Laughton’s close-ups in the scene embarrassing and tittered through the speech. When substitute shots of Laughton from behind were inserted, the audience found the reaction shots of the other people watching him very moving, and the second preview was extremely successful.

>  Charles Laughton referred to his reading of the “Gettysburg Address” in the film as “one of the most moving things that ever happened to me.” Laughton recited the address to the cast and crew of Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) on the last day of shooting on Catalina Island and again on the set of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). He performed the Gettysburg Address many times on radio, television, and included it in his one man show all over the country.

>  Nazi Germany banned the release of any German-dubbed version of this film because of the Gettysburg Address speech.

>  There’s another marvelously loose scene between the wonderful Leila Hyams and Roland Young as they perform the song “Pretty Baby” on the piano and drums, respectively. Parts of it look improvised, and I would swear that Hyams and Young are going to break out of character at any second. They seem to be having a ball and that’s contagious to the audience.

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 74 other followers

: : :

 

The Religious Tolerance of the Mongols

The Religious Tolerance of the Mongols
by Ron Steelman (really, a video by John Green)
June 3, 2018

main-qimg-1c2a8fb166a8db14c0677743c15a63f1-cMy son mentioned seeing some short videos at school via YouTube, “Crash Course in World History – with John Green.”  The video that he saw mentioned a few interesting things that I didn’t know about Mongols.

For example, a) they were renowned for their religious tolerance, b) they had less patriarchal domination, c) Genghis Khan promoted people based on merit rather than family position (that seems topical). All of these points caught my attention. I must have missed this stuff in history class. My typical excuse for missing certain classes: “I must have been making out with my girlfriend in the library.”

John Green’s presentation is fast-paced and intentionally quite humorous. Attempts at humor often fail for various reasons. Those reasons are something I’ve studied my entire life. I love humor, even when it fails. I’m like a chemist doing studies in his laughter lab. How about a little more of this, a little less of that, and we must not forget TIMING! Very important. Mr. Green has a good sense of humor and the quick edits in the video take care of his timing. Even though this was created for high school students, I smiled a lot and did chuckle a few times. However, I’m not sharing this because of the humor, but rather because some of the content tickled my interest.

132

So hang on to your hat and enjoy a high-speed history lesson. He mentions five good things about Mongols (of course, he also mentions five bad things about Mongols).

 

FROM A HUMANIST PERSPECTIVE

FROM A HUMANIST PERSPECTIVE
By Ron Steelman
5-20-18

Here are 10 things I thought were worth sharing this week:
(I have stolen this opening line from the blog posts of a writer/artist whose blog I follow, Austin Kleon, author of “Steal Like An Artist.”)

1.  As an actor I was trained in classic repertory theaters. I acted in over a hundred professional productions including Shakespeare, many classic plays, and numerous modern American classics. However, the comedies were my first love. You can keep the tragedies and the dramas and the histories. Which leads me to this quote from a 95-year-old comedy genius:

                       “Laughter adds time to your life.”
                                      – Norman Lear

We don’t have hard proof of this, but a few years back there was an article with some anecdotal evidence about how long famous comedians lived. Their lives consisted of writing, testing and performing jokes. If they laughed, then they knew the audience would. The article is here in Psychology Today. Also, studies show people can learn to embrace the absurdity of life at any age, see Scientific American.

2.
  Having spent a good deal of my life as an actor, I wouldn’t encourage my children to go into the theater. I’d just have to tie them up and keep them in the attic until they came to their senses (you know I’m kidding, of course). But I saw this recently and it has something to do with being human.
7d1c76c2fd914e47330784a7bfe5e3e4

3.  There’s so much I didn’t know about poet Walt Whitman and his classic poem, Leaves of Grass. For example:  “(the) responses to different aspects of the poem – its understanding of nature, its celebration of sexuality, its advocacy of a radical equality and democracy.”  This is from a book review of Poet as Prophet: The Religious Whitman and His Disciples, by David E. Anderson.  He begins with a little historical perspective: “Before the twentieth century there was a long tradition of the poet as prophet and seer, and poetry as a form of religious language.” 

walt-whitman-wikipediaFrom Wikipedia:Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Although the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent most of his professional life writing and re-writing Leaves of Grass, revising it multiple times until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades—the first, a small book of twelve poems and the last, a compilation of over 400.”

But enough of me. Read David E. Anderson’s review here.


4.
From my “I Love Quotes” Department:

‘I get tired of God getting credit for all the things the human race achieves.’
– Lorraine Hansberry, “Raisin in the Sun” (words ascribed to Beneatha)


5.  
“The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”
     – Leo Rosten, “The Myths by Which We Live”

6.   Ricky Gervais – Religion Explained in Two Minutes.

We should not be pushing religion on children. That may sound shocking at first, especially if you were brought up going to religious services every week as a child. But listen to his logic. 

 

7.  The following title made no sense to me until I read this short article. Grief and mourning is something we all deal with, both the religious and the non-religious. You may have never thought about it, but we all lose family and friends and we need to find ways to deal with it.

 

8. “When I Think Of Death”– Maya Angelou

“When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors. 
I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else. 
I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return. 
Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake.
I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is thy sting? ‘ with ‘ it is here in my heart and mind and memories.'”


9.  On Being 72

Mark_Twain_Tonight_Album_CoverToday I’m actually 72!

I grew up in Columbus, OH, and when I was 18 or so, I transcribed a track from the 1959, 33- rpm Broadway album of Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight. I had performed in ten plays while in high school, several times playing old men. I had my old geezer voice perfected. Therefore, it did not seem out of character for me to mimic Mr. Holbrook’s version of the famous Twain speech.  I made my own recording of “How to be 70” on a small reel-to-reel audio tape ( I wish I still had that recording). That was one of two audition recordings I sent to a performing arts college in San Diego, CA, hoping to get accepted. Although San Diego was way out there on the left coast, I had visited my aunt and uncle there and various relatives several times, so I was not worried about leaving Columbus at all. I loved California and surfing life. I have to admit that I never surfed myself. My cousin Mike did.  I figured I’d try it if I got back out there again (and got the nerve). My bag was packed and waiting by the front door. I received the acceptance letter and I was thrilled. Then I read a little further in the letter. They offered me a “1/2” scholarship. Trouble was, my Dad had been out of work for an extended illness and my parents couldn’t afford the other “1/2.” So long Southern California, Hollywood, and the beach. So long slick new cool surf board (not). Anyway, it was heartening to learn that somebody was willing to pay me to act. Kinda. At least “1/2” worth.

I learned so much about acting from Hal Holbrook, and so much about timing. He also taught me a lot about Mark Twain.

So even though I’m two years past 70 now, I could listen to masterful Mr. Holbrook play Mark Twain any day of any year. Enjoy.

Mark Twain Tonight – How to be 70 (couldn’t find the video, but here’s the audio)

 

10. Here are two clips. One is from a Mark Twain Tonight performance by Hal Holbrook. The other is Michael Eisner ( the Disney guy) talking to Hal Holbrook at 90.

 

: : :

I COULD GO ON FOREVER (Video)

I COULD GO ON FOREVER (Ask me what time it is) (VIDEO)
by Ron Steelman
May 9, 2018

Below is a video I made to discuss the wit and wisdom of aging. AKA: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” I interviewed six “Old” friends who are all members of Red Bank Humanists, an organization I founded in New Jersey in 2003. I edited the several hours of video we shot at our kitchen table, down to 33-minutes. There were so many fascinating comments from which to choose. However, my goal was to keep the overall length under 35-minutes. It was a real struggle to eliminate so many of the insightful answers to my 26 questions, yet this allowed me to end up with the best of the best.

“WHY?!” you may ask, did Steelman ask these folks all these questions?

My goal was to see if what my friends had to say might be useful to others struggling with/or worried about aging. I hoped it might appeal to all “humans,” including the old, middle-aged, or even younger people just starting their journey through life. I think the wit and wisdom shared here gives honest answers to some difficult, universal  questions. We made a montage of their quick answers, making sure we had lots of wit to go along with the wisdom. Most importantly, we think their answers are entertaining!

Get a cup of coffee. Sit back and relax. We hope you enjoy our kitchen-table video:

 

 

Happy to report a good review from the American Humanist Association
in Washington, DC.

Thanks Ron! This is really cool, fun, and nicely edited!

I’m copying a few folks since I see this as having value for multiple purposes. Not only might it be used on social media and possibly our ezine, framed so folks know what it’s about, but I also see it as something we should save in our Humanist Heritage program where we save histories of active humanists in order to capture our history, our evolution of humanism, and make material available for future research and discovery.  
-Roy

 


Roy Speckhardt
Executive Director
American Humanist Association

:  :  :

Easter & April Fools

He_Is_Risen         Steelman_w_Fool_Hat
Easter is on April 1st this year.  So I’m wearing my custom made hat (1982).

Easter & April Fools
by Ron Steelman
March 30, 2018

If you’re struggling over the idea of going (or not going) to church this Easter, just let it go. It’s OK. I might point out that this year Easter falls on April Fools day, which is always April 1st. You can draw your own conclusion from this revealing coincidence. But more importantly, I’d like to share some facts about the changes in our culture. More and more people are leaving their religions and turning into “NONES.” I’ll explain.

Here are some amazing facts from a Scientific American magazine article (April 2018):

“In recent years much has been written about the rise of the “nones”—people who check the box for “none” on surveys of religious affiliation. A 2013 Harris Poll of 2,250 American adults, for example, found that 23 percent of all Americans have forsaken religion altogether. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 34 to 36 percent of millennials (those born after 1980) are nones and corroborated the 23 percent figure, adding that this was a dramatic increase from 2007, when only 16 percent of Americans said they were affiliated with no religion. In raw numbers, this translates to an increase from 36.6 million to 55.8 million nones. Though lagging far behind the 71 percent of Americans who identified as Christian in the Pew poll, they are still a significant voting block, far larger than Jews (4.7 million), Muslims (2.2 million) and Buddhists (1.7 million) combined (8.6 million) and comparable to politically powerful Christian sects such as Evangelical (25.4 percent) and Catholic (20.8 percent).”

Here is the link to the full article from Scientific American.


You are not alone if you are considering leaving your religion. For me, it was easier to believe in Christmas than Easter. . .I think because we got presents. I still believe in giving presents to the people I love, although I just never could buy that virgin birth thing. Easter was even more off the believability charts.

Reason and rational thought have led me away from religion in search of a positive philosophy of life. I found that in secular humanism.

The moral compass I’ve found in secular humanism far outshines what I gleaned from my Christian upbringing. There were too many contradictions, too much double-talk, and those blatant hypocrisies. I joke that April Fools Day is my high holy day. I say that because I love humor and jokes. I don’t really enjoy playing April Fool tricks on people. However, I am enamored of Shakespeare’s fools. For years I was an actor performing in many of Shakespeare’s plays. I especially loved the comedies and the role of fools in Shakespeare’s plays.  The fools made the king laugh, and yet often imparted a certain amount of wisdom. For example:

God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.
    -Feste, Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene 5

Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.
    -Feste, Twelfth Night,  Act I, Scene 5

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be
a fool.
     -Touchstone, As You Like It, Act V, Scene 1


When I was in high school I was in the band. But I booked actual paying gigs playing my drums for rock and roll and society dances. For a couple of years I borrowed the tympani from my high school and played Easter services at a church. I only did it because I needed the money. I carted the tympani to the church, and played a big showy piece called “Christ our Passover.” There was a big organ, a 40-member choir, a brass quintet, and me, banging away in the big finale. As I looked out over the people in the sanctuary, I saw everybody in their finest, the ladies with their fancy hats, and even the littlest of boys were wearing ties. I felt like such a hypocrite. These people were buying it, yet I was just there for the money. I felt that maybe they should find a tympanist who was a believer.

It took me many years to finally get the courage to stop going to church. They have this habit of telling you that you will burn in hell if you don’t believe in God. Guess what? Since then I found out there is no hell. So if you’re on the fence, don’t wait. You’ll be much happier. Turn yourself into a “None!”

Some people may put a lot of pressure on you to keep going to church (or mosques or synagogues or whatever). Just ask them if they want you to be a hypocrite. If they say “yes,” you know that’s not a good idea. I don’t mean to be flip about this. Leaving a religion can be similar to PTSD. However, the main area of difficulty seems to be for those who have trouble letting go of their belief in hell. I’m serious. I’ve read the studies. Rejection by family members is another big problem. There are many books about this issue. Check out some of the writings of Dan Barker from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  It was doubly hard for him, because he was an evangelical minister for 19 years.  Ouch!  
Smile_No_Hell_Black

: : :

Sunday Sermon – That Phallic Symbol

Steelman The Humanist Sunday Sermon
(aka “What is that phallic symbol between the trees?”)

Wilshire_n_StataMonica_Jan_1988_750h

It was such a relief to leave NYC in January 1988 to vacation in Los Angeles with my girlfriend, Elaine. The Apple was deep in snow, making it murder to find a parking spot on E. 13 St. every two days. However, we left the cockroaches and the snowy streets behind and couldn’t wait to arrive in La-la land. We had a fabulous time visiting all your basic tourist attractions and I took lots of photos (using real film). Of course, Santa Monica and Venice Beach were very special for us because of the proximity to the ocean. We love the water and even had become sailors on Long Island Sound. The photo above was taken in Santa Monica at the end of Wilshire Blvd. where it intersects with Ocean Avenue.

The statue there didn’t register with us then because we didn’t know what it represented and didn’t care. I saw this scene as we as we crossed the street and immediately said to “E” (that’s my girlfriend, Elaine),  “Stop the cars while I take this shot.” We could only do that in LA where the pedestrians have the right of way. If I had tried that in NYC, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

We got married in October that year, but neither one of us wanted to get hitched in a church. Because we loved the water so much, we came up with the idea of having the ceremony on a boat. Although we were non-believers, we hadn’t been together long enough to work out the specifics about that. As time went by we thought more about religion and identified a number of religious concepts that had driven us away from Christianity. One extraordinary Christian doctrine is original sin.

Today I was going through a box of old photos and when I unearthed those ’88 vacation photos I wondered anew what that monument was there at the end of Wilshire Blvd.  I discovered it was a statue of Saint Monica, the patron saint for the city of Santa Monica. Big surprise, huh? You know who she was, right? The mother of Saint Augustine, that crazy dude who promoted “Original Sin.” If you believe in original sin, you must then believe that you have to be saved. You’re bad, but God will forgive you. (I mean, really? Why did she make such bad human beings? Bla, bla, bla, bla.)

We can be evil or we can be good. It’s our choice. We Humanists believe we can be good without god.

At the bottom I’ve included more about St. Augustine. . .if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of other photos we love from that trip:

Santa Monica Pier with the Cirque du Soleil tent

SantaMonicaPier_n_Tent_750w

Santa Monica Beach

SantaMonicaBch_Jan_1988_750w

With the advent of digital publications, I wonder if this many
newspaper vending machines are still there.

By_SantaMonica_Deli_Jan_1988_750w

Welcome to California!

VeniceBch_Jan_1988_750h

If you’re interested in my earlier blog about St. Augustine,
check it out here. Click on the postcard.

old-postcard-1578910-2

: : :