That Flaming Urge

Well, I have been holding my breath. Problem is, if you do that for about a week, you are bound to get a little huffy. As I mentioned recently, I was scheduled to teach a couple of courses in web journalism and audio dramatics at the local university. As it turns out, the enrollment figures just did not add up. In fact, the bureaucratic arithmetic is verging on the Kafkaesque: a course won’t run if it does not attract a certain number of students; but that official and binding number (which cannot be derived from headcounts and are properly computed only weeks after registration ends), remains uncertain to the instructor stepping into the classroom. After an unpleasant exchange with the coordinator of the program, I felt compelled to abandon the courses. It is rather a letdown after weeks of preparation and the initial meetings with those few who seemed interested in what I had to share and from whom I might have learned plenty in return.

Having slept through the opening of the previous term, I was determined to get things right this time. Yet the ride proved to be a bumpy one from the start when the students of my third course, which seems to have generated sufficient interest, were sent to another campus after the designated classroom had been burgled. I ended up staring at an announcement on a closed door, those I expected to greet already on their way to an alternate location more than a mile (and a hill) off, a place that I, not being auto-mobile, only managed to reach, on foot and by bus, some thirty minutes later. Pardon me, but I sure felt the urge to vent.

What with planning, teaching, and not exhaling, I may seem to have put the breaks on broadcastellan; but, the lack of posts notwithstanding, I have been quite busy with the upkeep of this journal. I got it into my head to edit all of it entries, removing dead links and creating working ones, correcting obvious errors (did I really write “epitomy”?) and improving the phrasing and paragraphing of my less-than-Internet-ready prose.

To some, this overhauling of what may seem out of date, undertaken in the face of rather more urgent assignments, may very well constitute obsessive/compulsive behavior. “Obsessions,” of course, are social diseases, which is to say that many of the idiosyncrasies for which others call us idiotic and crazy are simply socially inconvenient—an impediment to the effective and predictable workings of a community, however artificial or theoretical a construct that may be. Last night, I watched a peculiar and somewhat inept melodrama about such behavior, a low-budget piece of pseudo-realism salaciously titled The Flaming Urge (1953).

The one feeling that Urge is portrayed by Harold Lloyd, Jr., the homosexual offspring of the beloved silent screen comedian aforementioned. Junior is the one first to go down that slide pictured above; and he sure went down faster than the rest of his family, unable, like so many sons of famous fathers, to live up to the name he was called upon to use wisely and pass on unsullied.

Junior plays a troubled young man fascinated by fire. Dashing off whenever a siren promises a conflagration, he cannot hold a job and is forced to move from one town to another. His latest employer is surprisingly understanding; but the comfort derived from the knowledge that the older man shares his feelings does not seem to make it easier for the young man to fit in. Eventually, only marriage can quell this urge and put out the fire that got our poor firechaser so hot and bothered all those years. What the blazes!

It does not require much of a stretch to read the Urge as a metaphor for Lloyd Junior’s struggle to come to terms with his own socially undesirable desires. Coming to terms, according to Hollywood’s Tea and Sympathy logic, often translates into termination. With all those fire-extinguishers tossed their way, it is not surprising why so many longing and faltering men turn to Walter Pater, who insisted that to “burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.”

Meanwhile, dealing with my own uncertainties and certain failures, I continue to feel passionate about this journal, and tend to it even when attention is demanded elsewhere. No, I don’t require an analyst’s couch to have it all figured out or out of me. I could do with a few chairs, though, virtual or otherwise, reserved for those who gather what I am trying to say.

2 Replies to “That Flaming Urge”

  1. I\’m very sorry to learn of your professional difficulties. A trying situation, I am sure. Your absence from broadcastellan being noted and lamented by me, it\’s reassuring to find you back at your post in such fine form. … I must confess that both The Flaming Urge and the sad story of Harold Lloyd Jr. were entirely unfamiliar to me. The former, in title, though, did make me think of the (presumably) fictitious Flames of Passion, attended by Brief Encounter\’s Alec and Laura.On an essentially unrelated note, I wanted to tell you that I received, a few days ago, my copy of the newly-released-on-DVD A Cottage on Dartmoor, \”recommended\” me by Amazon and selected on the basis of its being on your favorites list (a much more meaningful recommendation). I found the film exceedingly beautiful and poignant. The cinematography is breathtaking! I\’m most grateful to you for bringing this splendid work to my attention.May I request a virtual leather wingback … and, perhaps, a cup of tea?

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  2. Sure, come on over; there\’s a cup waiting for you. Not that I deserved your kind words. I was rather wallowing in it. I\’d rather be wallowing in Dartmoor and am glad you got to step inside that Cottage. You know, I am equally grateful to you for leading me back to Scarlet Street(which received the same rating on IMDb, I just noticed).Flames of Passion. I\’ve got to watch Brief Encounter again, soon.

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