Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Monday, December 25, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
I was at swinging Holiday parties, but now I own the DVD, and have made up for lost time. However, after all these years, I feel I have been repressing a lot of things that have always bothered me about the show, namely that it is a cesspool of exclusionism, homophobia, male-chauvanism and Eurocentric Colonialism ( okay, I don't actually know what that last one means, but I bet it applies).
I don't know, maybe it's that I'm emboldened by the recent Democratic take over of the House and Senate and the demise in credibility of the Republican Military-Industrial Complex. Maybe it's that, deep down, I'll always be a whiny, Boston Irish Catholic-type Liberal Democrat (a la Whity Bulger). In eithe case, I'm compelled to speak out now, out of conscience. For example:
Exclusionism/Diversity- just because Rudolf's nose was, how'd you say, exceptional, he was categorically excluded from all reindeer games, not only by his innocent peers, but also with the complicity of all the adult reindeer, who enabled the pattern of discrimination to continue. Santa himself, was responsible for perpetuating this pattern by encouraging his underlings (Donner) to hide Rudolf's 'non-conformity' in order to maintain status quo, and keep the 'Santa' corporate machine chugging along, squeaky clean image intact. Only at the last second, when the threat of an impending storm threatened to cancel the Greedy Bastard's Christmas Eve campaign, did he have a token change of heart, and invite Rudolf to guide his sleigh. How patronizing can you get. Suddenly, everybody in Fucking Christmas-Towne realise they had been 'hard' on the misfits. Really.... Here's what I would have said if I was Rudolf: 'stuff it up your big red bag, you big fat hippo-cryte. If you think you and your kind are going to drive me out of town like a Leper, then when it's convenient for you, all of a sudden make nice, and expect me to just go along for the ride, you must have visions of fucking sugarplums dancing in your fool head. You can buy a fuckin' Ever-Ready to light your way, because you can count me out'!
Homophobia- okay Hermie the Dentist: let's honest with ourselves. He's gay. Gayer'n aLiza Minneli and Cher concert. Look, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say, except in the cold corporate world of Christmas-Towne. The inconvenient truth that Hemie wants to be a 'Dentist' (Hellloooo..metaphor...anyone?) is completely lost on his Elf straw boss, who is obviously a henchman for Santa and a fierce guardian of the dominant paradigm, a la Donald Rumsfeld. This insensitive bastard insists that Hermie's dreams of singing show tunes on Broadway...errr, no, I mean being a dentist, are bad and unnatural, and he should stick to 'making toys' like all the other Elf boys. Again, only at the bitter end, when his affiliation with Rudolf makes it convenient for him to be accepted, is he appreciated for what he truly is.
Chauvanism- I paraphrase from Scene#36, when Yukon Cornelious crashes over a cliff along with the Abominable Snowman, apparently to his certain demise: 'well, they were all very sad at the loss of their friend, but they knew that the best thing to do was to get the women back to Christmas-Towne'. Hellloooo. How paternalistic can you be? Considering this animated film was made in the mid-sixties, at the height of civil rights rennaisance, lines like these are an obvious slap in the face to the Feminist movement of the day. Come on! Earlier in the film, when going to look for Rudolf, Donner told his wife, in no uncertain terms, that going to 'rescue misfits' was 'man's work'. Come on. Who was it that, out of all the residents of Christmas-Towne, saw something in Rudolf that was unique and good? Clarise, that's who. A woman. And what happened to her? She was instantly shut down by her abusive ogre of a father, who forbade her to see any more of Rudolf. Indeed. As if any Reindeer Doe doesn't have the right of free association in this day and age. This is just another example of how the dominant power structure of the North Pole keeps down women and minorities.
Oh there's so many more examples of the aggregious nature apparent in this insensitively anachronistic animation by Rankin/Bass. Don't even get me started on Yukon Cornelious, who's main goal in life was to exploit the indigenous population of the Upper Arctic (Christmas-Towne) and it's rich natural resources of Silver and Gold (Siiiiiiiiilver!). Or don't get me on the subject of the talking snowman narrator, played by Burl Ives. Despite the fact that Mr. Ives was then a famous Folk Singer, thus a known Communist, he sang about the virtues of Silver and Gold as decorations, not as material treasures to be exploited, while at the same time he lauded the efforts of Santa and acted as spokes-snowman for the Uber-Capitalistic delivery of toys on Christmas Eve. What a big fat snowy phoney!
Oh there's more examples, like that whole 'Island of Misfit Toys' angle. What a crock. But alas, don't get me going. I say something needs to be done. I was talking to some aquaintences at the University Peace and Justice Center, and we're contacting not only NOW, but the Rev. Jessie Jackson. I don't know what he can add to the dialog, but he's alway availible to jump right in these situations. I think a boycott is in the works. Just don't ask me to give up my 40th anniversary DVD edition of Rudolf just yet. I will be forbidding my kids from watching it , though, you can rest assured. I suggest you do the same.
Happy Christmas,...oh Jees, I'm Sorry. I meant 'Happy Holidays'.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
10. Ray LaMontagne - "Til The Sun Turns Black"
9. Jenny Lewis And The Watson Twins - "Rabbit Fur Coat"
8. Golden Smog - "Another Fine Day"
7. Sparklehorse - "Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain"
6. Belle And Sebastian - "The Life Pursuit"
5. Bob Dylan - "Modern Times"
4. Paul Westerberg - "Open Season Soundtrack"
3. Calexico - "Garden Ruin"
2. Drams - "Jubilee Dive"
1. Neko Case - "Fox Confessor Brings The Flood"
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
In Keeping with the season I started a little ditty- you can add your own lyrics.
I'm going to rub the paint onto my ass -
Rub my Bum Bum-
I'm going to smear the paint onto the canvas..
Rub my Bum Bum-Rub my Bum Bum-Rub my Bum Bum-
I'm going to soak my balls in hot turpentine
Rub my Bum Bum-
It's going to hurt like hell but I don't care, I don't care, I don't care
Rub my Bum Bum, ..........................
Ad by: Jim Miller.http://millerart.com
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
Woke up, sat up in bed. Deedie brought me a latte. It was later than it should be. Why?
School's delayed an hour, because of the snow.
Because of the what?
I put on my glasses and looked out the window. And THERE IT WAS. The whole world, overnight, had been covered with snow. It was still faintly falling as I sat there in bed looking at the morning. One boy off from school, the other enjoying an extra hour of goof-around time before the bus.
Each tree branch covered with soft white. Frost upon the windowpane. From outside, the soft scrape of the plow going down the street.
the dog was standing by the window looking out at the changed world.
It took about 20 minutes to find the boots and the snow-suits and the gloves and the hats for the various members of the family, including me, before everyone was suited up and ready. All those things stashed wherever they'd wound up last April when they were last used and we figured, we'd never see them again.
I found the scraper for the car, and got into my big big winter coat, so fluffy and huge, I feel like the fat lady from the circus. a big big scarf I got in rome, swirled around my face. My puffy blue gloves from L.L. Bean.
After boy number one was safely on his school bus, I put boy number two in the car, and we drove over to his friend's house. When we got there, there were three other ten years olds out in the street (this is really a dirt road) And when they saw us coming, they started to run toward our car. And they all slipped and fell on their asses, one two three. got back up again and started to run and slipped again. I stopped the car, and sean jumped out the door and he and his friends were slipping and sliding and throwing snow at each other. My friend Victoria, sean's friends' mom, came out and we stood there in the road talking for a while, watching the boys. they got down in the snow and started making snow angels: no kidding, actual snow angels. As the snow came down and gathered in our hair. Nobody else on Victoria's road. In the distance the frozen surface of the lake, now covered with snow, the green mountains all around us now covered with white. Snow on the phone wires, snow on the mailboxes, snow on the weather vane on top of the barn.
and victoria and I stood there and gave each other a big big hug, like we were the luckiest people in the world. she's a nurse, and at 9 AM she was just getting off the all-night shift. we looked at the boys and said something like, well. We live for this, don't we.
left sean there and drove to the Hyundai dealer, took a long time, because of course everything is in slow motion now. Everybody all goofy because the world is upside down. stopped in the general store for a coffee and the cashier said, ach the snow, I hate it, I hate it. I said, yeah, but it's pretty isn't it? she said, ach does it matter if it's pretty?
I know what she means. I know I will be sick to death of it by mid-january, and there are surely many ugly days ahead-- when it freezes, or rains, or slushes, when dirt from the road gets on the snow, when the limbs of the trees snap in two, when we lose power. Ach is right.
I like a warm beach as well as anybody. Honest I do. Some day I won't live here any more, and when that day comes I will spend many months of the year somewhere warm, like arizona, or somewhere.
But look: here comes the solstice. Up here it is getting dark now at 4 PM. There are poinsettias everywhere. Just yesterday bought a wreath from a neighbor with actual holly berries on it, berries she picked from her own holly, a wreath made from the trees in her own woods. I'd hung it on the door last night, and now there is cold white powder on each green needle.
And so I say this: yes it matters that it's pretty. Here we are in these dark days, and I am glad for the snow, and I am glad for this life. And very, very soon now, the days will begin to get longer again, and the light will return.
Merry Chirstmas everybody.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
It had been a long time since I had seen Edward Albee, my old teacher, and as I waited for him at the bottom of the escalator at the Portland Jetport, I hoped we would recognize each other.
I shouldn’t have worried about that, though. As he descended the escalator, his eyes fell upon me, and his face crinkled into a smile.
“Ah,” he said, embracing me. “There you are.” It was as if it had been fifteen minutes, instead of fifteen years.
I bundled him into the car and drove him north toward Waterville, where he was scheduled to speak to the students the next afternoon, on “Improvisation and the Creative Mind.”
He’d been my teacher, back in 1986, when he produced a play of mine called “Big Baby.” This was when I lived in Baltimore and I was a student at Johns Hopkins. He was a terribly tough teacher, but I loved him. He seemed to know just how to turn a phrase on stage that opened up a character’s heart.
My play wasn’t very good. It was about a baby who, somehow, grows to be really, really big. By big, I mean, the size of a Buick. On stage, the baby—concealed inside a huge bassinet—growls and screams and throws bowling pins at his parents.
After the first performance, Albee sat down with me and asked the question for which I had no answer. “But why,” he asked, as if the question pained him. “Why is the baby so large?”
In the years since then, I’ve asked questions like this of my own students, and they’ve given me the same look that I gave Albee back then, the look that says, Why are you demanding so much of me? Why is the thing I’ve written not good enough?
Albee gave his lecture to a packed house at Colby the next day, and got a standing ovation. As he signed books at the podium, a young man came up to me. “Excuse me,” he said. “Jenny? I don’t suppose you remember me?”
Of course I remembered him. It was Nick Malick, class of 2004, one of my better students. He’d been a writer of short stories when I knew him, a man of promise and imagination.
“What have you been doing, Nickles?” I asked.
He smiled. “I’m a teacher now,” he said, proudly. “In New Hampshire. I came here with my students.”
For a teacher, there are few pleasures like the knowledge that someone you have taught is himself becoming a teacher. There really is a sense that a torch is getting passed, from hand to hand, down the generations.
As one of my children observed, later that day, “So for your student, Edward Albee was kind of like, his grand-teacher.”
I felt self conscious, though, in my old student’s presence, and for a moment I wasn’t sure what to say. I glanced for a moment over at the podium, where Edward was surrounded by his fans.
When I looked back at Nickles, he was gone.
I took Edward back to the airport the next morning, dropped him off at the check in for United.
Just before he headed into the terminal, Edward took me by the shoulders and smiled that elusive smile of his.
“We have done well,” he said. “You and I.” Then he kissed me on the cheek, turned his back, and was gone.
I thought about that moment all the way home, so grateful for everything the man had taught me over the years. I thought about my Baltimore days, about trying to become a writer, about that question I’d asked, and been asked, again and again since then: Why are you demanding so much of me?
And I thought about my old student Nickles, a teacher himself now, working with his students.
I hoped that someday, Nickles will take one of his students by the shoulder, and say what I should have said to him the day before.
“We have done well. You and I.”