Archive for December, 2010

Flashback Friday: New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2010

This post originally appeared, arranged differently, on December 31, 2009 at 10:35 a.m.



Lot’s Wife, 1989. David Wander.

As soon as they had been brought outside, he was told: “Flee for your life! Don’t look back or stop anywhere on the Plain. Get off to the hills at once, or you will be swept away.”

The Lord rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah (from the Lord out of heaven). He overthrew those cities and the whole Plain, together with the inhabitants of the cities and the produce of the soil.

But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.

Genesis 19:17-23, 26.

It’s good to learn lessons from the past, it’s wise not to pretend it never happened, but I am concerned that too much auld lang syne will fuck your world apart, you know what I mean? So take it easy on yourself with the nostalgia today. I am going to try.

All you can do, all you can ever do, is keep going forward.

Dickens December: The time before you is your own

December 25, 2010

God bless us, every one.


Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. … A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!”

(Charles Dickens. Stave Five: The End of It. A Christmas Carol.)

The time before you is your own, to make amends in and to forge a better future. Remember that you are made out of stars.

Holly Jolly Christmas Day: Vintage funny business — all-occasion Saint Nicks

December 25, 2010

Gerry Gersten for Playboy, December 1966.

Holly Jolly Christmas Day: Keep it clean

December 25, 2010


via.

Spend Christmas shaking hands with a baby from 1945, not in a hospital. I am All For It actually. Had enough of hospitals in 2010 to hold me over for a very long while. So keep it clean out there!

Holly Jolly Christmas Day: Don’t mind Hitler

December 25, 2010

Don’t mind Mr. Hilter. He’s just chatting with that nice Mr. Bimmler and Ron Vibbentrop about a proposal at the next National Bocialist rally to annex Poland.


Foam at the mouth and fall over backwards. Is he foaming at the mouth to fall over backwards or falling over backwards to foam at the mouth? … What do I mean by the word ‘mean’? What do I mean by the word ‘word’? What do I mean by ‘what do I mean’? What do I mean by ‘do’ and what do I do by ‘mean’? And what do I do by do by do and what do I mean by wasting your time like this? Good night.

(“Mr. Hilter and the Minehead by-election.” Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Series 1, Season 1, Episode 12: “The Naked Ant.” Original airdate January 4, 1970. Recorded December 21, 1969.)

Holly Jolly Christmas Day: Talk nerdy to me — “That’s no ornament” edition

December 25, 2010

Ceci n’est pas un ornament.

Holly Jolly Christmas Day: Art of the advertisement, Take three

December 25, 2010

The perfect gift for your man.

Holly Jolly Christmas Day: Art of the advertisement, Take two

December 25, 2010

Pretty sure they mean a case to give away as gifts, not to drink by yourself.

Holly Jolly Christmas Day: Art of the advertisement

December 25, 2010


via.

How some stay warm.

Daily Batman: Deeaaaaaaad

December 25, 2010

The classic.

12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: A Christmas Story

December 25, 2010

You knew it was coming.

A Christmas Story (Bob Clark, 1983).

Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940’s.

(the imdb)

I think this movie, with rare competitors like Stand By Me, might be one of the best depictions on film of the weird mix of the jaded, the melodramatic, and the credulously bittersweet that encapsulate experiences that comprise childhood.


A Christmas Story is a 1983 American Christmas comedy film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, including material from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories. The film has become a holiday classic and is known to be shown numerous times on television during the Christmas season.

(the wiki)

Man, whose leg do you have to hump to get “and raconteur” appended to your primary job description? That is sick as hell. I think I’m going to start referring to my friendohs like that. “This is my old friend Ben, chef and raconteur.” “I’d like you to meet noted drafter and raconteur, George.” “Will executive assistant and raconteur Dre be joining us?”


Three of the semi-autobiographical short stories on which the film is based were originally published in Playboy magazine between 1964 and 1966. Shepherd later read “Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder nails the Cleveland Street Kid” and told the otherwise unpublished story “Flick’s Tongue” on his WOR Radio talk show. [Director] Bob Clark states that he became interested in Shepherd’s work when he heard “Flick’s Tongue” on the radio in 1968.

(the wiki)


(crying) Daddy’s going to kill Ralphie!

Daddy is not going to kill Ralphie.

When we’d first moved to a large city and I was very small, we had a neighbor who told her children, in front of me, that if they didn’t stop screaming when they played, she was going to cut off their hands and bury them in the backyard. What made the threat chillingly genuine was how batshit insane this poor woman was. Like, unhinged, so’s as a child can see it in thirty seconds of conversation. I could not get out of that house fast enough. It was not even up for debate — I ran out the door, and the only issue on which I was torn was whether to run to my own house or to the police station.

I remember sitting in the bathtub after telling my mother, who assured me soothingly that Rich would never let Debbie cut off the children’s hands, sure that the next time I saw my friends, they’d have stumps at the end of their wrists. Kids know when grown-ups aren’t fooling around. She used to wear ankle weights to her doctor’s appointments so he’d think she was eating, and crowed about only needing a training bra. She told me I had “real potential” as a ballerina, but I couldn’t start talking to boys. That’s when everything would go south, she warned.

Once, when my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up (before the backyard hands-chopping thing) I told her, “I want to be just like Debbie.”

Whenever I think of her, Debbie is thin and fabulous in our community swimming pool, resplendently 80’s-riffic and prepubescently cocaine-and-gin anorexic in her hot pink and black bikini, sporting mirorred Ray-Ban knockoff sunglasses and a super-long Virginia Slim. Debbie would pitch nickels across the kidney-shaped pool and let them settle at the bottom, and then I would kick-launch off of her sunscreen-slicked thighs from the shallow end to claw frantically for the coins ahead of her daughter: I wanted so desperately to impress her. I hated to see my reflection in her super-cool shades, so imperfect with my lanky, boy-pixie-cut uselessness. She would ruffle my hair and call me Miz Liz. I thought she was sensational but terrifying — so pretty, so “different,” and so. danged. crazy.

She’s dead now. Brain tumor. When we were caught up by a neighbor we ran into at a grocery (we’d left that neighborhood many years before), the neighbor said, “Sad. It was enormous when she died; I guess she’d had it for years and it had just been pressing on her brain.” My father said, “I wonder if that’s what made her —” then turned and looked at me and said, “Um, you probably don’t remember her, but she was a little … erratic.”

No fucking shit, I thought.

Miss Shields is depicted as the Wicked Witch of the West, standing beside Ralphie’s mother, Mrs. Parker, in a jester outfit. Later, the kid with the goggles in line to see Santa tells Ralphie, “I like The Wizard of Oz. I like the Tin Man.” The Wizard of Oz was released in August of 1939, which has become part of the chronology fans try to pin on A Christmas Story to make a definite timeline for when the events are supposed to take place. (Waste of time: the writer and the director deliberately kept it vague.) Kind of funny though since both movies received middling critical acclaim at their release and went on to quietly become classic frequently-aired favorites.

Tedde Combs returned as Miss Shields in the sort of sequel, My Summer Story, making her the only original cast member to reprise his or her A Christmas Story role.

It’s a major award!

Both [author Jean] Shepherd and [director Bob] Clark have cameo appearances in the film; Shepherd plays the man who directed Ralphie and Randy to the back of the Santa line and Clark plays Swede, the neighbor the Old Man was talking to outside during the Leg Lamp scene.

(the wiki)



You used up all the glue on purpose.

The infamous leg lamp, the Old Man’s “major award,” was based on an actual lamp, in the shape of a logo for Nehi soda.



The character of Red Ryder, whose name bears the BB Gun Ralphie is desperately trying to acquire, is a real comic book (and radio) character that existed in the 1930’s-40’s, akin to popular western heroes like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the Lone Ranger.

(the imdb)

But of course here he is fighting Black Bart.





The Red Ryder BB gun was available beginning in 1938 and for many years afterward (and indeed, still is), but never in the exact configuration mentioned in the film. The Daisy “Buck Jones” model did have a compass and a sundial in the stock, but these features were not included in the Red Ryder model. The compass and sundial were placed on Ralphie’s BB gun but on the opposite side of the stock due to Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) being left-handed.

(the wiki)


The film was written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark. Shepherd provides the movie’s narration from the perspective of an adult Ralphie, a narrative style later used in the dramedy The Wonder Years.

(the wiki)

Which is exactly why I always ascribed to Fred Savage and Peter Billingsley an adult intelligence and wisdom that is developmentally unlikely for their ages as child stars. But I couldn’t help myself. The kid from Sandlot too. They just sounded so smart.

You simply cannot swing your arms without hitting someone who has run in to this guy at the grocery or the library or a blindfolded furry party. By all accounts he is a rad dude, but I need to say, Enough with the accounts. We get it: he is a man, who is affable and does not have yellow eyes, and he prefers haricorts verts to cut green beans. No, please, continue to regale me with your riveting story of how you briefly encountered a person who exists. He likes puppies? No way. How about oxygen, does he breathe it? He does?

Aw, I’m fronting. I’d totally tell you if I met him. Unless it was at a blindfolded furry party. What happens at Paws Off* events stays there. Except the staph infection. That, unfortunately, comes home with you. Sorry.




In 2008, two fans from Canada released a fan film documentary that visits every location used in the movie. Their film, Road Trip for Ralphie, was shot over two years and includes footage of the film makers saving Miss Shields’s black board from the garbage bin on the day the old Victoria School was gutted for renovation [to be converted in to a women’s shelter], discovering the antique fire truck that saved Flick, locating all the original costumes from the movie and tracking down the real-life location of the movie’s Chop Suey Palace in Toronto.

(the wiki)


He looks like a pink nightmare.

I don’t really feel the need to catch you up on what all the cast members are up to these days, because it seems like the news outlets run a “Where are they are now” story on the A Christmas Story cast, like, every single December. But you can easily look it up, some of the stuff is pretty fun.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and may all your holiday wishes be granted! Try not to shoot your eye out.






*Rejected blindfolded furry club names:
•Chasing Tail
•Pussy Ga-whore
•Bible study
•Bad to the Boner
•Call of the Wild (I know, not even funny, right? now you see why it was rejected)
•Fur Balls
•Charlie Sheen’s house on Wednesday nights

Got any more?

Dickens December: The Christmas Truce of 1914

December 24, 2010


They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him.

(A Christmas Carol. The Second Stave: The Ghost of Christmas Present.)

Though Dickens is writing of seamen in this passage, thinking of soldiers stationed far from home over the holidays put me in mind of the Christmas Truce of 1914, when Great War soldiers on both sides of the front called for a ceasefire and crossed no-man’s-land to celebrate Christmas. I realized I wasn’t quite sure of the details, particularly what was true and what was not about that story, so I did some digging. I found this terrific article by Simon Rees on First World War that I’d like to share.


The meeting of enemies as friends in no-man’s land was experienced by hundreds, if not thousands, of men on the Western Front during Christmas 1914. … The event is seen as a shining episode of sanity from among the bloody chapters of World War One — a spontaneous effort by the lower ranks to create a peace that could have blossomed were it not for the interference of generals and politicians.

The reality of the Christmas Truce, however, is a slightly less romantic and a more down to earth story. It was an organic affair that in some spots hardly registered a mention and in others left a profound impact upon those who took part. … The true story is still striking precisely because of its rag-tagged nature: it is more ‘human’ and therefore all the more potent.

A lot of soldiers on both sides had received Christmas packages from home and, in some cases, special rations. So some good cheer was already dawning.

With their morale boosted by messages of thanks and their bellies fuller than normal, and with still so much Christmas booty to hand, the season of goodwill entered the trenches. A British Daily Telegraph correspondent wrote that on one part of the line the Germans had managed to slip a chocolate cake into British trenches.



It was accompanied with a message asking for a ceasefire later that evening so they could celebrate the festive season and their Captain’s birthday. They proposed a concert at 7.30pm when candles, the British were told, would be placed on the parapets of their trenches.



The British accepted the invitation and offered some tobacco as a return present. That evening, at the stated time, German heads suddenly popped up and started to sing. … The Germans then asked the British to join in.


On many stretches of the Front the crack of rifles and the dull thud of shells ploughing into the ground continued, but at a far lighter level than normal. In other sectors there was an unnerving silence that was broken by the singing and shouting drifting over, in the main, from the German trenches.



Along many parts of the line the Truce was spurred on with the arrival in the German trenches of miniature Christmas trees — Tannenbaum. The sight [of] these small pines, decorated with candles and strung along the German parapets, captured the Tommies’ imagination, as well as the men of the Indian corps who were reminded of the sacred Hindu festival of light.



It was the perfect excuse for the opponents to start shouting to one another, to start singing and, in some areas, to pluck up the courage to meet one another in no-man’s land.


Christmas day began quietly but once the sun was up the fraternisation began. Again songs were sung and rations thrown to one another. It was not long before troops and officers started to take matters into their own hands and ventured forth. No-man’s land became something of a playground.


Men exchanged gifts and buttons. In one or two places soldiers who had been barbers in civilian times gave free haircuts. One German, a juggler and a showman, gave an impromptu, and, given the circumstances, somewhat surreal performance of his routine in the centre of no-man’s land.


Captain Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards, in his famous account [a letter to his mother which was later widely published in newspapers], remembered the approach of four unarmed Germans at 08.30. He went out to meet them with one of his ensigns. ‘Their spokesmen,’ Hulse wrote, ‘started off by saying that he thought it only right to come over and wish us a happy Christmas, and trusted us implicitly to keep the truce. He came from Suffolk where he had left his best girl and a 3 ½ h.p. motor-bike!’


‘Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged addresses given and received, photos of families shown, etc. One of our fellows offered a German a cigarette; the German said, “Virginian?” Our fellow said, “Aye, straight-cut”, the German said “No thanks, I only smoke Turkish!”… It gave us all a good laugh.’


Today, pragmatists read the Truce as nothing more than a ‘blip’ – a temporary lull induced by the season of goodwill, but willingly exploited by both sides to better their defences and eye out one another’s positions.

Romantics assert that the Truce was an effort by normal men to bring about an end to the slaughter.

I am in the latter camp. Pax et bonum.


In the public’s mind the facts have become irrevocably mythologized, and perhaps this is the most important legacy of the Christmas Truce today. In our age of uncertainty, it’s comforting to believe, regardless of the real reasoning and motives, that soldiers and officers told to hate, loathe and kill, could still lower their guns and extend the hand of goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer.

(Simon Rees. “The Christmas Truce.” August 22, 2009. FirstWorldWar.com)

Daily Batman: A-caroling we shall go

December 24, 2010

It’s Christmas Eve, kids. Get out there and earn some figgy pudding today! Make a joyful noise.

12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: Ghostbusters II

December 24, 2010

Ghostbusters II (Ivan Reitman, 1989).



The discovery of a massive river of ectoplasm and a resurgence of spectral activity allows the staff of Ghostbusters to revive the business.

(the imdb)




The sequel had the biggest three-day opening weekend gross in history —

What a record, what an achievement! Nothing can break their stride!


— a record that was broken one week later by Batman ($40,505,884).

Wikipedia is tearing my loyalties apart.





Are there actually still people who believe the world is ending in 2012? Have not all the times the world hasn’t ended convinced you yet? We all think we live in the endtimes. It’s so vain. We can’t picture the future without us. Let me give you a timeless hint about the future: there is a point where you’re not in it. I’m sorry but it is a plain fact. There are also no zombies, no vampires, and no endless life. (I’ll give you pirates: there are pirates.) It sucks, but them’s the breaks. You end and the world doesn’t. Internalize it, embrace it, and live with it. Make your time matter and stop hollering about extinct cultures whose soothsaying abilities self-evidently did not include calculation of their own demise.


Hey, it beats the ectoplasm sample from the first film. Wait, no it doesn’t, at all.


Though Wilhelm von Homburg physically played Vigo, his voice work was all dubbed by living fucking legend Max von Sydow. Sorry for the king-sized cuss but it’s in his contract that he be introduced that way.


Swedes are so super-weird. For several years in the mid-1970’s, Ingmar Bergman paid a man to act like a cat and live in his home. Very awkward when he watched you shower. Bergman, I mean. I kept expecting to accidentally break down and flash back to coldly sitting beside my father’s deathbed, thinking with quiet despair of my secret lover instead of focusing on my dad’s mortal illness. It’s like, “You are totally ruining my shower, Mr. Bergman.”

That thing about Bergman was just story-tellin’. I never met the guy. But it sounded possible, didn’t it? That’s the power of Swedish weirdness.

Look, it’s Santa outside the museum! So holiday-y! This is actually the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House on Battery Park. There is no Manhattan Museum of Art. The museum at which Dana works is sort of a conflation of several actual museums in the city. The Customs House used for the exterior shots is currently home to the American Indian Museum and a United States Bankrupty Court.


They used the last name of the twin boys cast as Oscar, Deutschendorf, as the computer’s dredged-up surname of Prince Vigo. Cute. P.S.? My monitor still looks almost exactly like that. Who would like to be Santa and send me a slick flat screen?



Scotty and I used to say this to each other in lieu of “of course” as often as we could remember.





The twins who play Oscar are John Denver’s nephews. I don’t know if I could put down a blood relative of John Denver. He was just such a good person. I’d picture him in Heaven, making a sad face and shaking his head, like he’s sorry that I apparently am so mean that I just can’t be reached. I don’t want to make John Denver bummed out in Heaven. Do you?


For me, this is the cleverest line in the movie.



Annie Potts is doing just great. Not that you asked. Jerk.

No, seriously, she’s like a professor in residence at her old college and does all kinds of acting and cool stuff. She really is doing great. Pretty neato stuff.


Bill and Brian Doyle-Murray in a fun onscreen moment together. Even though they pop up in each other’s movies from time to time, they don’t often share scenes.


Funny story about how Peter MacNicol got the part of Janosz Poha: I have no idea. He’d been in Sophie’s Choice, which is the bummer movie to beat all bummer movies. You think Beaches is bad? Throw in the Holocaust. Now you’re in the big leagues, right? and that’s not even striking distance of how gigantic a bummer Sophie’s Choice is. That’s only the alley behind the theater putting on an off-Broadway production based on the Nobel Peace Prize winning book of how much a bummer that movie is. He does a super-fun job in this, though, right?


Cannibal Girls is a Canadian Comedy horror film directed by Ivan Reitman and stars Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, and Ronald Ulrich.

Thanks, wikipedia! Have you donated yet? Pony up, man, it’s changed the way we think as people. Nothing is unknowable now.

Cannibal Girls was a low-budget Canadian flick released in 1973 to not so wide fame. It actually was shown at Austin’s big-ol’-look-how-cool-we-are-and-PS-we-are-vegans South by Southwest festival this year in March. Could this spell an Ivan Reitman renaissance for the near future? Fingers crossed, loosely sketching maple leaves in the air.


My name is Bookman. I’m a library policeman.

Psst, it’s Ben Stein. Pass it on.



Cheesiest, most glorious part. Lord, how corny and marvelous.


So what is the deal, you are asking, with the new Ghostbusters movie rumors? Deal is, everyone’s up for it (why wouldn’t they be?) and the cast could include the old team’s new super-cool comedy friends like the Wilson brothers, new SNL cast members, and maybe finally some effing Steve Martin up in this piece!

(Good advice for everyone at all times. I love this line.)

The most cheering and interesting thing I’ve heard was Bill Murray talking about it while he was supposed to be promoting something else, when he suggested they get a girl Ghostbuster in it. He dropped Tina Fey as a name, but I think Poehler is better suited for the uniform. I can see Tina in a different, more straight man or even blocking antagonistic role. They need the loose madcap shenanigans of Amy Poehler to fit with the dynamic of the team itself. Am I crazy? Please don’t answer.



There will be plenty of slime. Not just plain old slime, but good slime and bad slime. Although no one will explain the distinction, it seems that the citizens of New York will be implicated. According to Mr. Reitman, ”Our theory in the film is that when people are mean and nasty, it creates a negative psychic energy.” Mr. Ramis adds, ”Slime is our metaphor for the human condition.”

(JEannie Park. “Slime? Don’t Worry! The Ghostbusters Are Back.” December 25, 1988. The New York Times.)

Oh, dude. Way deep.


Holy cannoli, like can you even handle it? The Cutest. What ever happened to Rick Moranis? Did Americans tar and feather him and run him back to Canada on a rail after Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves or what?


Yes, you can get this as a tattoo. Please do it, actually. Nickel in the mail if you do. Pictures or it didn’t happen.


Dan Aykroyd is a firm true believer in the paranormal. Harold Ramis thinks it’s highly unlikely. Ivan Reitman’s own kid is the one who, at the beginning, tells Ray and Winston at the birthday party, “My dad says you guys are full of crap.”


As for the possibility of a Ghostbusters III, Mr. Ramis says, ”I doubt it very much. It’s so hard to get everybody together. And we’re so much older. There’s a lot more hair dye being used this time. When it’s face-lift time, we’ll have to quit.”

(Ibid.)

Let’s see if time tells on that one, Doctor Spengler.

Christmas memories

December 23, 2010

Once, a boyfriend and I were drinking spiked egg nog and sitting on the couch in his seedy apartment, surrounded by the trappings of our small, personal Christmas Eve gift exchange. I was planning to go home later in the evening and spend Christmas Day proper with my parents, and, since neither of us believed in Santa anymore, although I was wearing a smashing Mrs. Claus number from Frederick’s of Hollywood that he’d just given me, we saw nothing wrong with doing the gifts on Christmas Eve rather than pushing in on my family celebration for the morning.

His arm around me while we watched a burning log on a channel he’d found on the television, this boyfriend asked me, “What’s your favorite Christmas memory?”

My favorite Christmas memory. I was four years old and we lived in our second doublewide and, being a runt and not even considering myself worthy of a bed but dimly aware that it was too near a waste of money to buy child-sized things, as we would just outgrow them and render the gesture useless, I still slept in a crib. It was the year Strawberry Shortcake was first really huge, and I used to beg my parents to rent a VCR so we could watch Strawberry Shortcake tapes.

We went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It was the first time I’d ever been to Midnight Mass and been awake for it. All the lights were off in the church and we each carried a candle with a little cardboard-paper holder to protect our hands from the wax. I cradled mine in front of me and tried to guard the flame from my breathing — you know how kids breathe hotter and harder than adults, like they take in bigger gulps of the world, like we give up more on wanting a part of it all the older we grow, until at the end we can only reluctantly take in these thin little sips that don’t even stir the air. I shifted from foot to foot and spun my head around to get the best view of Our Lady Star of the Sea, looming and receding, so deliciously unfamiliar and creepy, in the flickering shadows thrown up by the candlelight, as the cantor sang the lineage of Christ.

At the final lines, “And thus, all things being right in the universe (or something like that) … Jesus Christ is born,” and the lights all came up at once and a tympani rolled and trumpets began as the choir started singing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” and it blew my mind.

On the ride home, the defrost on the Honda we had didn’t work anymore, and my dad had his window down and kept leaning out and wiping the windshield. In the backseat, the dew on the windows refracted the orange sodium vapor lights and I could see myself reflected in the window, suffused with the glow of dancing lights as we passed under them.

It was a pretty decent trailer court (one of those ones that says it is a Mobile Home Park) and a lot of people had gone all out on decorations. Because I was only four, I hadn’t been out and about seeing the lights at night in the weeks prior, so it was new to me. Everything looked unearthly, serene and intended and transformed, and the air that came through my father’s rolled-down window was humid because our town was surrounded by bogs but frosty, too, like sucking in freezer air, or the blowback of your breath against a tray of ice cubes. It was bracing and beautiful in that way that only very cold things can be.

When we got home, I went to my room to put on my pyjamas and there was a bed in my room. It had an actual headboard, which my parents’ bed and certainly the hide-a-bed in the couch did not, and turned-back striped pink and green sheets and a Strawberry Shortcake quilt. There was a red heart-shaped decorative pillow on top of my regular pillow, edged with cotton eyelet lace. Propped against the heart pillow sat a Strawberry Shortcake doll, and I could tell she was one of the new ones that had strawberry-scented breath. The doll was the part that startled me the most, because it grounded the experience: this was something I’d seen on the television and not even dared ask for. This room could not be mine.

I stood in the doorway gaping. I remember I had to pee and was freaked out that this beautiful bed was in the middle of my room, where my crib should be. My first reaction was anxiety. I felt like I shouldn’t be there, or that someone was going to take it away. My father came in and threw me on the bed, so I bounced, and my mother took pictures of me holding the pillow and the doll.

After I’d changed and gotten ready for bed, and climbed in it for the first time, my mother came and sat by me and told me how my father got the pieces for the frame and my grandfather and uncle had put the bed together while we were at Mass. My aunt had bought the doll, my mother made the heart pillow, and my grandmother sewed the quilt. Money was very tight for my family at that time, and everyone had come together to make sure I got a big girl bed for the first Christmas I’d remember. While she described their plans, this feeling in my stomach shook looser and looser, and it got away from me and filled the room and I started crying.

My mother clucked over me and said I was tired, and stayed next to me with the light off until I made my breathing regular enough to convince her I was asleep and she left. I lay in the dark looking at the textured ceiling, trying to avoid the spots where in the dark it made shapes that scared me, and felt tears run backward down my cheeks and drip slowly in to my ears. It was like Christmas and the choir at Mass and the cold vastness of the empty town on the drive home, with the lights on and no one on the street, and yet the tiny little family with all their love filling up the inside of my room and our home — was all so big and simultaneous that I could only cry, not from being sad, but from being humbled.

I thought about all that when my boyfriend asked me my favorite Christmas memory, and got shy. “You go first,” I said.

He described how one Christmas, after they’d opened all their toys and were having breakfast and watching cartoons, his mother surprised them with another box full of toys for him and his sister.

I asked, “Do you think — was that maybe the first Christmas after your parents divorced?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “That all runs together. It was just awesome when she brought in that box and I knew it was full of more toys. I got everything that year — G.I. Joes, the Castle Greyskull, like, seriously. Everything.”

I looked at him and he had these particularly garish colored lights strung up on his fake Christmas tree, the kind where the red is really pink, and he’d set them to blink, and at that moment he was lit by them in a way that made me not recognize him as he stared at the television. He seemed like a total alien, like someone with whom I’d never spent hours: a stranger the planes of whose face I had never memorized in the dark. And I never told him my memory.

It wasn’t his fault, and I railed against myself for it later and tried to pretend it hadn’t happened, but, in that exchange, this sharp divide fell down between us, for me, and I could never seem to want to get it back up. Maybe if I’d told him then about this disparity in our childhood memories, things would have been different, because it really wasn’t a big deal and might even, in the telling, have picked up some softer and selfless side, some deeper soul in him that I cheated out of revealing itself. I’ll never know, because I never told him about it.

Now, when I remember the Strawberry Shortcake bed, I remember, too, those decades later, sitting in self-imposed silence in my cheaply-ribboned red velvet and mirabou beside a stranger with a pink forehead and shadow-socketed eyes before a picture of a burning log, when I maybe missed the mark — or maybe ducked a knife — and I think again of the bigness of my family’s love and the smallness of the details of our lives, and am grateful more than ever before. And I still let tears roll into my ears sometimes, because of course they will all die, they have already begun, just as I will and have nearly, and all that I can do is cling to these passionate recollected moments, captured so clearly in my memory, and hold them close enough to keep my heart in its right shape, so then when I join them they’ll be able to recognize me.

Daily Batman: Christmas With the Joker

December 23, 2010


Come on, Batman, it’s Christmas Eve. Let’s kick back and get into the spirit.

The Joker’s escaped from Arkham Asylum, Robin.

And you really think he’s going to make a move on Christmas Eve? Even scum spend the holidays with their families.

He has no family.



Okay — I’ll make a deal with you. If we go out on patrol and Gotham is quiet, with no sign of the Joker, then we come back here and have Christmas dinner and watch It’s A Wonderful Life.

You know? I’ve never seen that. I could never get past the title.


(Batman: The Animated Series. Season 1, Episode 38. “Christmas With the Joker.” Original airdate November 13, 1992.)

Mark Hamill says he will no longer be reprising the voice role of Joker in Batman material (for now). Sad face. It was such a beautiful intersection of my dorky needs.

Dickens December: Where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing

December 23, 2010


Port-au-Prince, Haitian children in costumes for a Christmas pageant.

Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich.


Hathaway House orphanage. Highland Park, Los Angeles, CA. Dec. 23, 1948.

In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery’s every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts.

(Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol. The Second Stave: The Ghost of Christmas Present.)

I hope that wherever we are, no matter our faith or circumstance, we do not in our little brief authority leave an embodiment of love for our fellow man out in the cold. Don’t bar the door. Let him come in and know you better.

Wednesday Wednesday: What is on our minds

December 22, 2010

12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: Twelve Monkeys

December 22, 2010

The Freedom For Animals association on Second Avenue is the secret headquarters of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. They’re the ones who are going to do it. I can’t do anymore, I have to go now. Have a Merry Christmas!

12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995). All-time favorite film, all-time favorite director.

In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.

(the imdb)


So as I said, this is my favorite movie of all time, in any genre — all other comers are just vying for second — and I screencapped the everloving Gilliamic crap out of it last week.


Filled with glee that this qualified as a holiday picture, I innocently thought, “Surely everyone who ever planned to see this film has seen it by now, so it’s okay for me to put up all my pictures.”

But if the internet has taught me anything in the past year on this here thought experiment, it is above all else that it is possible for people to get mad at you for anything, so, at a certain point, this post will have a jump/cut. You will be able to click and be taken to a standalone page with only this entry, so that those sensitive surfers who I think must actually go searching pop culture blogs specifically for spoilers will not be able to yell at me for said spoilers. I’ll also be able to prove why this is a holiday movie.


That point is now. Click below to go to the full-page entry, with trivia, analysis, lines, and tons more pictures.

“I am mentally divergent, in that I am escaping certain unnamed realities that plague my life here. When I stop going [to Ogo], I will be well. Are you also divergent, friend?” Click here if you qualify for bunny slippers at the monkeyhouse. (Be honest.)

edit: I took the jump out. Screw the small minority of spoiler-haters. Sorry, guys. Rail away if you must.

Still with me? Great!



Telephone call? Telephone call? That’s — that’s communication with the outside world. Doctor’s discretion. Uh-uh. Look, if all of these nuts could just … make phone calls, they could spread insanity! Oozing through telephone cables, oozing into the ears of all those poor, sane people — infecting them! Wackos everywhere: plague of madness.



Hence the agony of foreknowledge combined with the impotence to do anything about it. …

Surely there is very real and very convincing data that the planet cannot survive the excesses of the human race: proliferation of atomic devices, uncontrolled breeding habits, the rape of the environment. In this context, wouldn’t you agree that “Chicken Little” represents the sane vision and that homo sapiens‘ motto, “Let’s go shopping!” is the cry of the true lunatic?

(That last was Dr. “Actual Bad Guy” Peters. He says it to Kathryn after her lecture when he’s getting his book signed.)


The lion James sees at the beginning is echoed by the camel perched on the top of the hotel in 1996. The image also shows up in a frame of a statue of a lion atop a stone as they search for Goines, and by the giraffes running across the overpass in Philadelphia many frames down.

No detail is too small to be necessary to the mise en scene of this film. Kathryn watches this Woody Woodpecker cartoon as she waits for James to get back in 1996 to the Oasis hotel. In the asylum in 1990, the movie on the television in the background as Goines rants is the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business.



I get it! This is your old plan, right?

Plan? What are you talking about?

Remember? We were in the dayroom, watching television, and you were all upset about the–the — desecration of the planet, and you said to me, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a germ, or a virus, that could wipe out mankind and leave the plants and animals just as they are?” You do remember that, don’t you?

Bulishit! You’re fucking with my head!

And that’s when I told you my father was this famous virologist and you said, “Hey, he could make a germ and we could steal it!”

Listen, you dumb fuck! The thing mutates — We live underground! The world belongs to the — the fucking dogs and cats. We’re like moles or worms. All we want to do is study the original!

Chris Meloni of Law & Order: SVU in a lovely little dickish part, a totally Terry Gilliam character: an individual given all the facts who refuses to acknowledge the possibility that the truth suggested by those facts could possibly be. Gilliam thrives on the absurd, and I think throws these Doubting Thomases in to the works to demonstrate how ugly a reception his credulous character constructions would receive in the world we all agree to be “real.”



Women will want to get to know you.

For me this is the creepiest Scientist line in the film. Even in the future, when the plague has driven everyone underground, a guy who considers himself “hep” will try to use the allure of poontang to bring a poor guy down. So unfair and underselling for the Cole character, like that is a carrot that can be held out before him in the face of what he’s endured.

Until I was screencapping, I never really noticed how much screen time the so-called “Apocalypse Nut” and true villain, David Morse playing Dr. Peters, Jeffrey’s father Dr. Goines’ lab tech, is given.



When I was institutionalized, my brain was studied exhaustively in the guise of “mental health.” I was interrogated, I was x-rayed, I was examined thoroughly.

Then they took everything about me and put it into a computer where they created this model of my mind. Yes! Using that model they managed to generate every thought I could possibly have in the next, say, ten years, which they then filtered through a probability matrix of some kind to — to determine everything I was going to do in that period.

So you see, she knew I was going to lead the Army of the Twelve Monkeys into the pages of history, before it ever even occurred to me. She knows everything I’m ever going to do before I know it myself. How’s that?


Who cares what psychiatrists write on walls?

I say this when a Thing matters and we are trying to diminish it.




Hey! Is that the police? I’m in here, I’m an innocent victim! I was attacked. By a coked-out whore and some fucked-up dentist!

I love how deranged Kathryn is in this scene, screaming at James to get Wallace’s wallet before they skedaddle. “We need cash!” But moments before, so tender when she touches his scalp with her curiously ugly hands. Madeline Stowe is the bomb.


Oh, hey, what’s a holiday movie? This is! Besides taking place during the Christmas season, we got some straight-up Santa action goin’ right here. Hope you can handle how very “holiday” this movie is.


James! James! It’s okay. We’re insane! We’re crazy! It’s a carpet cleaning company —

A carpet cleaning company?

No scientists — no people from the future! It’s just a carpet cleaning company. They have voice mail; you leave a message telling them when you want your carpet cleaned.

You … you left them a message?


Yeah, I couldn’t resist. I said, “The Freedom For Animals Association on 2nd Avenue is the —”

“— ‘is the secret headquarters of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. They’re the ones who are going to do it. I can’t do anymore, I have to go now. Have a Merry Christmas.'”


I’m not crazy.


I think I’ve seen this movie before. When I was a kid. It was on TV.

The Vertigo moment. This movie’s plot was inspired by Chris Marker’s La jetée, which also, in its turn, refers to the film Vertigo. While in the past, the protagonist of La jetée visits a Museum of Natural History with the blonde object of his affections, who points to the trunk of a cross-sectioned tree, the same way Kim Novak does in Muir Woods in Hitchock’s Vertigo, as shown in this scene from Twelve Monkeys. “Here I was born, and here I died. But it was only a moment for you — you took no notice.” Kathryn wears a blonde wig in this scene.

The lion I referred to further back, part of the recurring theme of wilderness which has been kept in captivity, let loose. Like the camel, like the giraffes, like the lethal virus, like James Cole released from his future underground incarceration to try and make time turn back and stand still.



It’s not just my dream. I was actually here! I remember now. … About a week or two before — before everybody started dying. I think you were here, too. But you — you looked just like you look now.

The exterior shots for the crucial airport scenes were done at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, while the interiors are from the Reading Terminal at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.



Today, you gotta take in to account your Army-of-the-Twelve-Monkeys factor.

Wh–what? What did you say?

The Twelve Monkeys, honey. … Bunch’a weirdoes let all the animals out of the zoo last night.

This cabbie’s name is Annie Golden. You can also catch her in the soon-to-be-justly-famous I Love You, Phillip Morris.


That’s what they were up to! Freeing the animals!

On the walls — they meant the animals when they said, “We did it.”

Only assholes write on walls.




Excuse me, sir. I’m going to need to have a look at the contents of your bag.

Me?



Biological samples. I have the paperwork right here.

I’m going to have to ask you to open this, sir.

Open it? … Of course.

The curious, diffuse wash that bathes these final scenes was acheived with Fresnel lensed lights. Fresnels, a favorite tool of Gilliam’s, are a beveled lighthouse-and-old-car-headlamp-style lens.

The entire instrument consists of a metal housing, a reflector, a lamp assembly, and a Fresnel lens. Fresnel instruments usually have a convenient way of changing the focal distance between the lamp and the lens. The Fresnel lens produces a very soft-edged beam, so it is often used as a wash light. A holder in front of the lens can hold a colored plastic film (gel) to tint the light or wire screens or frosted plastic to diffuse it. … The Fresnel lens is useful in the making of motion pictures not only because of its ability to focus the beam brighter than a typical lens, but also because the light is a relatively consistent intensity across the entire width of the beam of light.

(the wiki)


I remember reading a review when this film came out which criticized the inconsistency between Cole’s memory of this moment from dream to dream and what happened in actuality. The reviewer said it took away from the original inspirational idea in La jetée, where Marker’s narrator saw himself die as a child but, they felt, moved more definitely toward that moment as events unfolded in the short film. The supplanting of an unseen “Watch it” man in a yellow jacket with first Goines and then Dr. Peters was, the reviewer claimed, too foggy.


Well, excuse me, Mr. Super-brilliant reviewer, but the fogginess is kind of the entire point. The weirdly symmetrical plot of Twelve Monkeys is a cyclical rumination on the subjectivity of memory and identity. Put that in your cool-guy pipe and smoke it. Asshat.

I went to this film probably a few months after its release, when it hit the $2 second-run theater we had in town at that time, and I ended up going back almost every night that week, taking different friends. I remember very clearly that one of my friends said when it was over, “That’s so weird that in the future the insurance lady that sits by the bad guy on the plane is a scientist.”

“Um — I’m pretty sure she’s from the future in that scene.” Like, maybe it’s too late for Philly, but she’s going to stop Peters from going to San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, et al. She says she is in insurance. Right? I mean, we’ve seen her in 2035, looking exactly the same, a highly placed physicist. I sincerely doubt that in 1996 she was an insurance agent who planned to survive the plague and not age.

Is this even up for debate? I’m serious, does someone have an alternate interpretation of that scene?

Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: The rest of your lie

December 22, 2010


by Arvid Wretman.