December 28, 2011

Dumb, Ditzy Blonde?

I've told the old story about how the local TV stations around Chicago would play marathon old movies after the New Year's midnight countdown was over (this was in the days before cable and VHS tapes, so the only time you could actually see them was in movie theater "retrospectives" or on TV). The biggest things around here, in those days, were the old Marx Brothers and Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers flicks. All from the 30's and none in what we'd now consider great shape.

But it was kind of a tradition around these parts and a lot of us made a habit of trying to stay up and catch them all. They'd sometimes play them until dawn.

I do wonder sometimes if the availability of everything has somehow diminished the properties of anything. Because they were rare to see they were appreciated for the rarity as much as anything else. Now, of course, you can call them up just about any time, any where; and somehow that availability has diminished their impact. Another bit of something or other lost to the modern age I guess. But, in fact, the ability to view those old Marx Brothers movies any time has exposed the bumps and warts we ignored when we couldn't see them any time. So it's harder to extol their virtues to people who may be a little more sophisticated than we were. Oh well.

I still think it is a good idea to look at old movies, especially around New Year's. It's always something of a cultural marker, and I have this weird disease in which I worry - yes worry - about performers and performances of bygone eras being lost to people. We get very caught up in the cartoonish movies of the modern era, and - in my O - we have a tendency to forget what "class" and "style" are; seeing as how the current day audience seems to like special effect more than specialness.

So it's always around New Year's that I think of this. We're revived Nick and Nora around these parts and you liked that. Now trust me on this one. OK?

Her name was Judy Holliday. She died very young (breast cancer in the 60's) and we never got to see her full capacity or talent. Today if she is remembered at all it is as the ditzy blonde in black and white movies from the 50's. Well today's 50's are the 30's of the 60's, so it's time to put her in the same category as all the other revivals we've had around here.

Judy Holliday, as I say, had the reputation as the quintessential dumb blonde. And that's okay... if you say so. But she also had a fully tested IQ of 172.

My favorite quote? "I'm trying to eliminate every vestige of my own personality, style, approach and get into somebody else's skin. Sometimes I feel I've accomplished it. But when I don't, I'm nobody at all, having left myself at home."

I think we missed out when she died in her 40's. Here's one of her best scenes from "Born Yesterday" with Broderick Crawford. And if you don't remember Broderick, there's another guy you should check into. The last thing he ever did before he died was host Saturday Night Live when he was already an older guy. There were few more under-rated actors in Hollywood than him. And this is a gem.

December 27, 2011

They Keep Trying

The Blue Meanies tried again to infiltrate my Christmas this year. Sometimes I think there are things I must have done to pull all this vicious wickedness in on myself on what had always been my most favorite time of year. I know I've been crappy to people now and again, and I've tried very hard to forgive people who have done things to me or against me and just move on. That must be the reason that, once every few Christmases, the great karmatic God in the sky feels a need to make a point with me. Whether I've failed as a father or a husband or just as a friend - I don't know. But there seems to be something out there I have to pay for. I'm not going to get into specifics, but it couldn't get much closer to the heart of things I feel are close and precious, when it happens.

MrsRW and I were thinking maybe the whole thing is getting to be too much for people. There's always a lot of stress, a lot of silliness, a lot of feelings on the surface or something. People say cruel things, impose draconian conditions, and sudden;y seem to be different people than they were just a month ago. We usually enter into the spirit of the holiday and are happy to put up lights, the tree, secretly run around looking for gifts, hiding the stuff we're going to put in each other's stockings when the other isn't looking. I can't remember a moment when we wished anyone ill for the holiday. I doubt we ever really did, unless it was like Pol Pot or someone like that.

And this whole thing wasn't helped by massive overtime and a wretched head cold that just doesn't want to go away.

For the first time ever we sat there wondering if maybe we should forgo all the usual family gatherings next year and find a soup kitchen to work at, or a place where less fortunate kids get donated presents handed out to them, or bring fruit baskets to firemen or well... something. Something that isn't part of the great, stressful, mindless orgy of overdone abundance and people playing bumper cars with emotions and jockeying for some kind of munificent attention. Duels for control. Plots for position.

The whole "Christian metaphor" is forgiveness and the granting of another chance. It's what we would want others to grant us, and we are charged with forgiving as we'd like to be forgiven. That's kind of like, you know, the chief prayer and all? Truly there aren't many "Christians" who seem to understand the basic message of their own faith, myself included time after time. The holiday of Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of the guy who gave people that example. And, at least, you're supposed to TRY.

MrsRW's natural father left her mother before she was born. Then she spent a good portion of her early years living with her grandmother because her mother and stepfather had temporary work in another state and they wanted her to go to school here. I've read some of her letters to her Mom from those days, when she was just a little girl telling her distant mother all the news. So I get very upset - and very protective - of her when somebody treats her shabby. Especially when the source of the shabby ought to know better, and be using another approach, considering. I start making lists and rules of my own. In response to someone treating my wife poorly, I become thoroughly un-Christian... as it were.

So we figured it's a stressful time for some people. Some people can't handle all their own internal conflicts and project them onto others, no matter how hurtful, draconian, and pointless it all is. And the holidays just seem to exacerbate the problem.

But in our hearts I know we are still pro-Christmas people. So maybe next year we go do stuff for others and let the instability devour itself without us around. Maybe aim at somebody else for once. Because I'm going to forget I belong to a pacifist church in a minute here.

Because though I will sometimes sit around and say how much I hate, hate, HATE Christmas and what it does to people, I can never really give up on it.

December 16, 2011

Getting It Off My Chest

Does Tim Tebow win football games because his team has better Christians? What about the Christians on the other team? Do we really think a God would care about a football game? Have we heard enough of the whining from the flock about how the "media" is crucifying him because of his faith? He's made a big play about having been a virgin and so proud of it and I'd just like to know why nobody ever thinks about the flip side of that? Or is the thought of Tim Tebow wanking himself off in the shower sort of turn people off? Inquiring minds want to know.

Yesterday I heard an interview with an elderly couple. They were being asked about the end of the Iraq War. She said that she's sure it's only happening so that "Obama" can use it during the coming election, and he said "I come from a time when men were men," and then he explained how he hates to see our soldiers come running home with their tails between their legs. That they should stay until they finish the job. This was a husband and wife team. Obviously made for one another. There'd be no point in telling her this date was established by President Bush for the draw down. There would also be no point in explaining to him that we don't play set-piece battles anymore, that warfare is asymmetrical now, and that somehow we managed to do pretty much what we intended to do in Iraq... except of course find the weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist but hey... who is counting? We need to just line them up and shoot them. Then we come home, have a parade, and some hot dogs. And go to church. And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free.

Someone I used to know on Facebook put up a post about the Occupy movement and ended their comment with the jab "why don't they just go out and get a job?" And it made me think for a second, you know, like, where? What jobs? Because I have been meaning to ask; you know, those tax reductions that President Bush (the "Bush tax cuts") made that exacerbated the oncoming debt crisis were defended on the grounds that this is the kind of thing that creates jobs. You reduce the tax rates on rich people and you get jobs. Only the thing that happened was that we reduced the tax rates on rich people and we lost jobs. The job market, and the economy, shrunk. And we still don't want to use the money that rich people make today because if we did that would be "job killing." And people buy this. It seems counter-intuitive to me to say we should never "up" the taxes on wealthy people or we'll end up stifling job growth when the last time we gave those people more money they didn't. What?

In fact the #1 criticism from the Tea Party against the Occupy Movement is that all they are protesting for is to get entitlements. But the critiques never finish the thought. It should be "all they are protesting for is to get MY entitlements." We need to be honest.

A few of my friends around the blogosphere have been giving a running critique of the GOp debates as they go forward. And some of the comments are pretty funny. Even lifelong Conservatives are having to scratch their heads about this GOP crew. I've decided to finally give my view a complete airing. As follows... Quite generally the GOP has fielded a list of potential candidates for the presidency who would fulfill all the desires of the GOP rank and file. The nominees have so far proven to be everything Conservatives admire. Pandering liars with the combined IQ of a hint of a shadow. Perfect for Ma and Pa up there in the second paragraph... pathological idiots. Just what the country needs. President Obama is unquestionably one of the most pointless office holders we've had in Washington for some time. He is a "cultural marker" - and as is said "the first one through the wall always gets bloodied." But his meandering, self-serving positions are still a thousand times better than the hateful, mean-spirited, know-best coming out of their mouths.

I think there are a lot of morans in this country. Cough...

December 09, 2011

A Look Behind The Scenes At The Editor's Office

Okay so this one was pretty funny. Since we started putting out Thrice it's been getting more and more attention from writers and that's the plan so it is a good thing. But you never sit in the editor's chair too long before you have a story to tell relative to the interaction between writers and editors, and as we approach our fourth issue (next March) I finally have one.

I got an email titled "Nevermind"** from a writer who didn't sign his or her name. It came in time stamped at 4:09 and reads, in its entirety;

"Can't even spare a contributor copy? Withdraw my submission from
consideration. I don't need any more glorious lines in my resume,
especially from fly-by-nights."

This was followed by another email time stamped at 4:12, also titled "Nevermind" which said only:

"Don't need any lines in my resume. Withdraw the recent submission."

There was no name attached to it, and no mention of what the title of the piece was. Well I am nothing if not careful with the intentions of artists, so I went through the entire collection of submissions sent to Thrice since we opened the submission process for issue #4 (happily, and somewhat astonishingly, there have been 14 submissions sent to us just in the last two days), looking for a match to the email address of the above emails.

Except there isn't one.

So probably I'm looking at someone who sent a submission with another email address, and then sent their withdrawal from a second email address. Very confusing. However not only am I careful with the sensibilities of artists, I am also prone to be thorough and polite. And so I dutifully responded with:

"Okay, but which one was yours? I don't seem to have one from this email
addy. Thanks."

Short and sweet, no offense taken or even perceived. I am now awaiting reply.

The whole thing is a little screwy because anyone can download a free copy of the magazine to their Kindle, or as a pdf to their computer. The reference the writer, whoever he or she may be, is making is to a line in our submission policy that says "all we can give you right now is a glorious line in your resume" which, I think most anyone would agree, is - if not funny in and of itself - said kind of funny in a self-deprecating kind of way. No?

Anyhow this sets up an interesting scenario. Let's say the writer doesn't respond. Say he or she was drunk when they sent that email and - upon more sober reflection - they don't own up to sending it. And then let's say in my list of accepted stories I happen to like the one he or she sent and dutifully inform them of the fact that they'll be in issue #4. How much would you want to bet that that offended individual wouldn't happily accept our acceptance without any mention of the withdrawal?

I'll tell you what you'd want to bet - nothing. Because their offended nature will heal with the words "we would like to use your story in the next issue..."

And - barring that - if the person tells me which is his or her story, I'll be more than happy to delete it. One less decision to make.

Either way, this is an easy fix.

Maybe I was born to do this?

** technically the words never and mind joined into one word are only correct in slang applications, as in "pay him no nevermind." It's patois only. Legitimate, certainly, but not entirely right in this case. Nevermind is a band, and can also be a condition, but to just say "nevermind" you should really write it as "never mind." But never mind.

December 05, 2011

So What Else Is New?

Well first of all I got myself interviewed by a website called Fictionaut for Thrice Fiction. Those of you who are readers are going to notice a distinct change in the temperature at Thrice next March. I feel as if I've tapped a new resource for voices you have to read to believe. I'm thrilled at the stuff I'm seeing already coming in for it, and guarantee you will be jolted a bit next time out. I can't wait to show you the Irish writer who will be joining our ranks in issue 4. If you liked the addition of Ann Bogle to our mix, wait until you get a load of James Claffey. I don't know why the Brits always seemed to power down on the Irish, seeing as how their contribution to the English language is both legendary and indispensable. Maybe jealousy? Anyway - you're going to truly dig the guy. Or else.

The cartoon over there isn't new, it's old. In fact it's something I made in an old blog post wherein I explain how sick and tired I was of reading people say, in their comments, "that was so funny I spit Coca Cola through my nose all over the keyboard." For a while there that seemed to be the thing to say in blog comments, and I got sick of it early on. So I took a public-domain drawing and changed the dialog bubble to reflect my disdain. Pleh. I found it again going through my old Photobucket album and decided to run it again. Whatever.

Yesterday after Meeting I stopped by a table that had been set up by these women from Guatamala who were selling Fair Trade handcrafts and bought my newest granddaughter a little doll. I don't know what possessed me to do it, but I know the Fair Trade thing will meet with her Mommy's approval, the darn thing is as cute as anything, and it is 100% cotton so it smells and feels like something a very little girl would want to sleep with. Of course it is almost as big as she is so there's going to be a little time lag and all but I'm a grandpa and I'm also besotted with the kid. So lay off. But you know how it goes, Quakers are all about handcrafted stuff and giving third world entrepreneurs a chance. I know the common belief is that the liberal bent of our "denomination" would just give everything away, but that's totally not true. We believe in teaching people to fish, and if somebody wants to get their hands in there and do work we're usually the first ones to help. If you are interested go to Mayaworks and check it out for yourself. There's some truly beautiful stuff there.

I'm not having any trouble getting into the Christmas thing this year. A few years back it was as if entire vast sections of my extended family had decided to make it their mission to ruin Christmas for me, but I outlasted them all. I'm even sending out Christmas cards - cheesy ones from Hallmark - to local friends. You want one? Just email me your address and you'll see just how cheesy I can get. We can't be avant-garde cutting edge all the time. Sometimes I'm all sappy. Like with new granddaughters and stuff.

I'm even in the process of writing some long form fiction that is more "usual" than you might expect from me. I don't know if I'm getting old or just wtf. But it certainly seems unstoppable at this point.

Not only that, but I submitted some things to the literary journal world over the past month. The legit kind, the kind affiliated with universities or government grants and stuff. I don't think anything will be accepted because I still can't shake out all the alternate dimensions long enough to make it look like straight fiction and poetry, but who knows. I'll let you know. But it feels good to stretch that muscle again after so long a drought. About time I got back in the mix, and so we'll see what happens.

You know what else feels good? I dumped around 40 people from my Facebook friends list and haven't lost one minute of sleep. They were either posting too much hateful political shit or I've decided they are assholes. Or both. And I feel good about it. So there.

All 4 nao.