Sunday night, and I am wiped. So we’ll start the Bleat-week wiped, and work up to a rousing conclusion on Friday!
No reason for wipedness, except that I stayed up absurdly late on Saturday, pasted to the sofa by some great silent wind, clicking and clicking on the NEW RELEASES section of Netflix with ever-growing horror: they’ve apparently got the rights to ten tons of cheap Crown International movies, if that’s not an obvious redundancy. These are “exploitation” films, inasmuch as they have a budget of $306, and exist mostly to tease the audience with the promise of someone, y’know, doin’ it. All the girls wear short skirts and find a way to lean forward at every possible opportunity. The acting is horrible. The plots are one-ply. The music is that cheap tinny ersatz “rock,” and the title tune is usually Jon Jenerich and His Band of Studio Musicians playing a tune about Sandy, who doesn’t really Know Herself, and has never Let Herself Go, and shouldn’t be Afraid of the World, and all the other sensitive things clever vulpine louts use to convince good girls that the only path to freedom and self-awareness is sex with the person singing the song.
Also tried to watch “Battleship,” which is so stupendously moronic I could feel portions of my brain liquifying in protest and pouring down the back of my throat. You look at the clock, and it’s 3:17 AM. How did this happen? What have I accomplished?
Absolutely nothing. And that’s fine. There’s a virtue to being happy for no reason, as long as you don’t make a habit of it. Perhaps it was just satisfaction in the quotidian duties of the weekend, the steady progress through the hours of duty and chores -
* Putting up the last of the nights with the pole on the tall tree while listening to old radio;
* Shopping at Target, chatting with the product demonstrators, sampling everything, getting a few things for this year’s Downsized Christmas. There’s a tale: my wife and I have agreed to hold it to one  item, and daughter has passed out out of the toy-phase, preferring rectangular pieces of plastic that hold the promise of personal choice at a store where they sell tween garb; I like to pile the tree’s perimeter with packages, but have something slight and small in most of them - the joy’s in the unwrapping, after all;
* The assembling of the Christmas Tree on Sunday night (you always feel a sharp pang, since it seems like you just did this, but then you think: the things you wrote, the seasons you greeted and bade farewell, the meals, the journeys, the work, always the work: it’s been a full year - and then the boxes open and you see all the ornaments you forgot. The tales behind each. The little groups that speak of your child’s progress from Pooh to Hello Kitty to My Little Pony to Spongebob. You find the antlers you’ve made the dog wear every year, and put them on again. This time he’s too old to complain. We have a little Peppermint Bark; we take pictures of the mysterious tableaus inside the lighted decorations.
We do the Santa Coca-Cola puzzle.
Everyone’s happy. Just add snow, and it’ll all feel right.
Natalie and I had a grand Friday night. First, I introduced her to deep dish pizza. She was skeptical. Sauce on top? That’s like inside-out pizza. Like a person with muscles on the outside. But she loved it. A successful pizza interlude on Friday is always the best portent of things to come.
Later, as is our custom, we sat down to watch “Gravity Falls,” an immensely clever and delightful animated show on the Disney Channel. She first showed it to me when we were at Saratoga Springs, and it’s become our Friday tradition. Briefly: twin 12-year-olds go to spend the summer with their great-uncle, or Grunkle, Stan, an exuberant old scam artist who wears a fez and an eye-patch; he runs a tourist trap called the Mystery Shack. Straaange things happen in the town. The writing is clever, the show packed with little things that send its fans scurrying to the internet. A kid’s show, but I’m past half-way to a hundred and I find it laugh-out-loud funny, and very little on TV makes me laugh out loud. So we watch it and laugh and I know that she really, really enjoys the fact that I like it too. And that makes me happier than anything else.
A few times I’ve freeze-framed to show her something she didn’t get. Well. This:
OH MY GOD I said, with overflowing admiration. They didn’t. I got out the iPad, called up the Red Room scene from Twin Peaks, explained it as best as I could, and showed her the Little Man. “That gum you like is going to come back in style.”
“That’s creepy,” she said.
“I always think he means Beeman’s,” I said. Because I do.
“You should tweet that,” she said. “Alex Hirsch is on Twitter.” That’s the creator of the show.
So I do. I tweet that I caught a reference to Twin Peaks in “Gravity Falls” and was greatly pleased. We finish the show, she goes back up to her room to work on this and that, and I go back to do that and this. About 20 minutes later she comes in . . . GLOWING, and pumps a fist, and says nothing because Mom, who works for a living and had a raw week of constant labor, has hit the hay. She points at my computer. She points and grins and points and grins and almost dissolves with effervescent joy.
THIS. IS. SO. COOL. Handshake: most awesome Friday ever.
Really: as I tweeted later, this is like me asking my Dad to send Gene Roddenberry a telegram about Star Trek, and 20 minutes later a Western Onion guy motors up and delivers a reply.
So, on a button, anything else? Yes: there’s a Monty Python record-album sketch where John Cleese rambles on about this and that, appending cliches or non sequitars to ordinary words. Whereas you might say “So, anything else?” Cleese’s character reads “so” as “sew,” and hence “so, on a button.” I say this to myself at least once every other day. But which sketch was it from, exactly? This led me to plow through my Monty Python playlist, which revealed a shattering fact: I had deleted most of the Rutland album.
It’s not Python, exactly. I bought it my first year of college. Eric Idle! And some other guy. Eric always seemed like the fellow who wanted to keep it going, unhappy the rest of the lads wanted to quit. As if Python was the only way his particular skill set would get attention, and he knew it. He’s the one you know, but not the one you love. He’s the one you laugh at, but not the one you think was responsible for the general brilliance. An essential piece, a necessary character, but if you were toting up the roster you’d put him below Cleese and Chapman, for sure, and probably below Palin, who was better-looking, and below Jones, who seemed to inhabit his characters with British solidity. Always grinning and desperately ingratiating, except when he wasn’t. Python wouldn’t be Python without him, but what, exactly, did he bring to the table behind the scenes?
As it turned out, he did a series right after Python ended. It’s an unashamed, blatant bid for keeping the Python ethos going - the filmed segments on the raw cloudy treeless streets, the authority figures interrupting bits, the satire of television’s tropes, from the blather of the announcers to the cliches of the chat-show segments.
I had no idea the album I loved in college was a compilation of bits and songs from that show. Rutland Weekend Television. Could one find it lurking in the depths of the internet? One could. Having seen but two, I’m here to tell you it’s the great lost Python sequel. It could have benefited from a larger cast, and yes, the shadow of Python is cast over many of its bits. But. Idle’s writing is as sharp as ever, and instead of the tiresome animations of Terry Gilliam (yes, tiresome. They had their time. The time has passed) there are music videos of Neil Innes’ songs.
It's a sin that the phrase "Neil Innes' songs" doesn't mean what it should to everyone.
Some are parodies, but like Tom Lehrer’s work, his song sare as good as thing they’re skewering. It’s no small feat for a composer to write something like “Say Sorry Again,” which I haven’t gotten out of my mind, ever. I can still sing it from start to finish. The album version is much better. The TV version has Innes performing it as the Marx Brothers, which detracts from the simple pleasures of the tune. It doesn't need mugging.
The first bit - Idle’s writing, I believe - shows his ear for broadcasting banalities - the simple excision of words makes it amusing, and the recurring “jump off against” line builds nicely to a good naughty joke. Then there's a bit about a department store Philosophy salesman, and an IQ test.
This was the show, I know now, that contained the best Dylanesque folk-singer parody ever. Again, Innes. Decades later, it still makes me laugh.
Did I find “So on a button”? No. But I found the gibberish routine, which reminded me of something else I used to say as a means of stating something intended to be one of those things you say to confirm your perspicacity: Machine wrapped with butter?