OK, Sam, We Get It…

Suburbia is just a big ol’ nightmare to you.

A lot of people picked that up immediately on seeing American Beauty. I try not to generalize, and I liked the story (hack though it be) because it was well acted and presented.

But now you got your wife Kate together again with Leo doing the same schtick: “Oh, no! We’re stuck in suburbia raising children and that was the last thing we wanted to do!”

Get over it, already. And maybe recognize for a moment that those of us who are privileged to share in the Western world’s wealth, so much so that we can bitch about how we want something different out of life, maybe shouldn’t be bitching about it?

The Cat

Troop has a bit up about the late Earth Kitt who I would tend to agree was the least sexy of the “Catwoman” actresses, as long as she wasn’t singing. (All bets are off for women who can sing, at least for me.)

Julie Newmar blows me away every time, though. In this “then and now” photo, the “now” is within the last year. She would be about 75.

Newmar, of course, got her start playing “Stupefyin’ Jones” in the bizarre musical adapation of “Li’l Abner”. Stupefyin’ Jones was so beautiful she turned men to stone. Newmar is entirely plausible in that role.

How Would You Like To…?

VIOLET: Good afternoon, Mr. Bailey.
GEORGE: Hello, Violet. Hey, you look good. That’s some dress you got on there.
VIOLET: Oh, this old thing? Why, I only wear it when I don’t care how I look.
ERNIE: How would you like …
GEORGE (as he enters cab): Yes …
ERNIE: Want to come along, Bert? We’ll show you the town!
Bert looks at his watch, then takes another look at Violet’s retreating figure.
BERT: No, thanks. Think I’ll go home and see what the wife’s doing.
ERNIE: Family man.

It’s Still A Wonderful Life

I spoke of the “controversial” It’s A Wonderful Life essay a few days ago, but this was written on memory. I watched it again and became convinced that the essay is rather perverse, moreso than I initially thought.

In particular, the scene where George and Mary are on the phone with Sam Wainwright must be one of the greatest in history. They’re trying to listen to him, but they’re trying harder not to kiss. And failing. But Mary knows full well that her wishes are diametrically opposed to his. (It also reminds me of another great Capra scene: In Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, where Jimmy Stewart is trying to talk to the beautiful socialite, and the camera stays on his hands fumbling with hsi hat.)

Mary isn’t selfish, however. Even when she instinctively wants to keep going to the airport, she’s also there with the honeymoon money to save the bank. And it’s important to note that this scene ends with a great victory–not at all the relentlessly dreary life suggested by Jameson.

Besides misunderstanding this love scene (which is tantamount to misunderstanding the whole film), it’s a gross conceit to cast Pottersville as a “resort town”. Resort towns are potentially successful at times manufacturing towns are not, but I doubt many people would be tramping to upstate New York for the dime-a-dance, pool and bowling, and seedy nightclubs.

This is a stretch. It also reflects a sort of Potter-ization in the modern world, almost as if Jameson is justifying his selfishness by saying the world would be better with it.

As for George, I like to think that he’s learned some valuable lessons by the end of the movie. He is too selfless, not as regard to his dealings, but with regard to the fact that he needs to value his own work enough to make a living for himself and be able to send his own kids to college.

Also, no more letting Billy do the deposits.

And while we’re on the subject, I really don’t see a communist bent in Capra’s work. I see a strong distaste for greed, for sure, but his movies were all about a victory of the good-hearted people over the selfish. I realize that’s the narrative Communists use, but it was always people who saved the day, or a heroic person, and the government and its agents were often the enemy.

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?”

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs.

“I don’t know what day of the month it is,” said Scrooge. “I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby. Hallo! Whoop! Hallo here!”

He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell! Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!

“What’s to-day?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.

“Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.

“To-day?” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day.”

Merry Christmas!

This year has been a little crazy for the Andersons
You may recall we had some trouble last year
The robot council had us banished to an asteroid
That hasn’t undermined our holiday cheer!

And we know it’s almost Christmas
By the marks we make on the wall
That’s our favorite time of year!

Merry Christmas
From Chiron Beta Prime
Where we’re working in a mine
For our robot overlords

Did I say overlords?
I meant protectors!
Merry Christmas
From Chiron Beta Prime

–Jonathan Coulton

Photographs and Memories

I have a very good memory but also a neglected one.

My sister scanned in a bunch of old photos and I can remember the events depicted vividly, complete with the strange emotions of a toddler or even infant. (Really! One of the most profound sense of sadness I’ve ever had in my life was on losing a balloon as a toddler.)

But I don’t spend much time in the past. The present is rather demanding, and what’s left of my attention I direct toward the future. There are certain (I hope irrelevant) similarities that I’ve forgotten, such as my own children resembling my sister and I as children. I’ve never thought of my mom looking much like my sister, but there is a strong favoring from certain angles.

There’s a swing-set, for example, in one of the photos which I remembered as being quite formidable (it was, for my uncoordinated 3-year-old self). There’s a photo of our tough ol’ alley cat, who survived out in the coyote-ridden hills, only to be killed by a German Shepherd breaking into our yard when we moved into a “safer” area. There are dingy couches, high hair and thin ties. There are uncomfortable suits–or at least uncomfortable kids in suits–cigarettes and booze.

I tend to be focused on my children’s growth rather than my own decay, which insists on itself in its own way. I think that’s probably a good thing.

The Picture


There are pictures on the piano
Pictures of the family
Mostly my kids but there’s an old
Picture of you and me

You were five and I was six
In 1952
That was 40 years ago
How can it be true?

A brother needs a sister
To watch what he can do
To protect and to torture
To boss around, it’s true

But a brother will defend her
For a sister’s love is pure
Because she thinks he’s
Wonderful when he is not so sure