It's going to bother me all week, this picture. It looks like he's wearing an earring.

My wife came back on Saturday night, with the situation down in AZ still in flux. So it’s still not exactly the merriest or most festive time of the year around here still - and just to eliminate any remnant atoms of Christmas spirit, the temperatures spiked to 50, eliminated all the snow, and brought in autumnal fall fog. It’s nice, don’t get me wrong. But it’s cruel - this is March weather with so much winter still ahead.

The emotional and meteorological equivalent of the moment in the Titanic’s sinking when the stern snapped off and settled back in the water, and the survivors might have thought “hey, maybe this is going to turn out okay.”


Usually I write something over the weekend I can slap up here, but there wasn’t the opportunity. Friday night I stayed up late with daughter; we watched Gravity Falls then had a conversation about the future, and how in her lifetime she’ll be able to go relax in a holographically-generated environment when she wishes.

For example, I said. One of my favorite memories is the quay in Venice after we came back from the glass factory tour where I was being a jerk.

You were really being a jerk.

I know I know but I didn’t want to see glass blowing, I mean, glass blowing, or Baroque church interiors? There’s no choice

You were really being a jerk.

Anyway it was an amazing moment, the sky, the mood, the way the world suddenly got dangerous. I would love to relive that and I never will. On the other hand I don’t want to, because that would spoil the memory.


(said with extra emphasis for humor’s sake, but slightly serious.)

I do. But no one would leave the house.

So that was Friday; Saturday I had to pick my wife up from the airport at 11:00, and if I have to do that I can’t get anything going. So I did errands in the evening. Hadn’t eaten supper. Considered all the options. Thought: if they hadn’t knocked down the Taco Bell, I would get something there from the drive-in, where the shame would be less than going in alone on a Saturday night. But they had knocked it down to build a new one a month ago, and while I lament the loss of the old structure - a late 70s design made of pink brick with the most ill-advised feature ever seen in a fast-food restaurant, a full-length mirror covering the back wall - it was a chilly tumbledown dump with a neck-crick menu placed high overhead, and decades of sad grease seeped into its soul.

It was 9 when I finished the errands, and was driving home, thinking of the pizza I would cook when I got back. Passed the place where the old Taco Bell had stood.

New Taco Bell. Open. In a month they built a new one. I couldn’t go there; I had frozen items in the grocery bag, and you know what happens when the ice cream softens. It get splinters. You never trust the scround after that. It’s like getting out bacon that you opened a few days ago, and it looks grey. You think: it’s bacon. It’s so loaded with stuff it can’t possibly be bad. But the trust has been sundered. I think the reason that most domestic bacon is consumed is because bacon was previously consumed, and you’re worried it’s going to go grey.

So, how was your weekend? Eh. Splintery ice cream and almost-grey bacon. One of those weekends where your Netflix consists entirely of watching the first ten minutes of movies you don’t want to watch just to see how they don’t hold up. So, let me rephrase. How was your weekend? Splintery ice cream, almost-grey bacon, and a surprising reintroduction to the casual nudity in the opening credits of “Barbarella”. And reworked 57 pages on the upcoming Retro Xmas site, but that’s for another day.

A hectoring scold at the Guardian wrote:

Photography is not an art. It is a technology. We have no excuse to ignore this obvious fact in the age of digital cameras, when the most beguiling high-definition images and effects are available to millions. My iPad can take panoramic views that are gorgeous to look at. Does that make me an artist? No, it just makes my tablet one hell of a device.

A panoramic bad picture is a bad picture, except more of it. I understand that. If someone takes a picture of a tree it is just a picture of a tree, just as someone saying “a tree that is, a tree” is a set of sounds that indicate a tree. But if it’s a line in a play, it is wrapped in something Artistic. A photo is Art if it’s wrapped in aesthetic decisions, including composition, selection, cropping, manipulation, and so on. The fact that it’s easier to do doesn’t mean it’s not art, any more than higher literacy rates meant that novels and plays were less artistic.

This Guardian writer disagrees.

It has taken me a long time to see this, and you can laugh at me if you like. But here goes.

Photography is the serious art of our time. It also happens to be the most accessible and democratic way of making art that has ever been invented.

Boy, I’ll bet sparks fly when those two meet at the cafeteria!

Actually, they’re from the same author. The first is from 2014, the second from 2013. He is given to Pronouncements that knock everything off the table with the sweep of his arm. For example: avante-garde art had become boring. It’s not shocking anyone any more!

So yet another Turner passes without a proper row of any kind, while in Paris they can still get furious about a butt plug sculpture. Lucky devils!

For a country that isn’t shocked by art is a terrible place to be an artist. Please someone, do something dangerous. There must be a way to offend this know-all nation. This smothering atmosphere of sophisticated tolerance has to be soured somehow.

This is delightful. After a century of equating shock with inspiration, of applauding the destruction of standards in favor of conceptual pieces that push around the dead corpse of nihilistic ennui as if was a drum major leading a parade - after scorning the few people who admitted to being shocked and finding that Shock is now the mark of the philistine, the critic is dismayed that everyone has fallen into a position of supine acceptance of everything that could mask boredom and indifference. Bring on the enormous sex toy-sculptures to get this party going again!

Here’s my humble offering of Art for today. It is a photograph. Worse, it’s a photograph of a dog.

If I'd had more time I woud have moed to the left so the trees balanced him in the lower third, but he ran away after another dog.

Today in Yulification: gag coffee. Because nothing will please the coffee-lover on your gift list like coffee whose primary attribute is "word play" or "a fractional manipulation of a seasonable cliche.

  The "ugly sweater" craze is expanded to include stimulating beverages. I presume it tastes awful, since that would be an analogue to a visually displeasing garment.

The word "stash" was drug lingo in the 70s, indicating the contents of one's cache, not the location. Hipster glasses are added here for no reason, except to set it apart from other flavored coffees whose image is intended to be genuine, not pointlessly ironic, unaware what it's even supposed to be mocking.

  "Strong and dark. Just what you deserve." An intentionally mixed message. The only palatable grind in the series, you suspect, since it's absent cloying sweetness.




Seasonal movies we must have. And so:

It’s pretty simple. This woman . . .

. . . is an espionage agent for rival stores, checking on their prices. She is a single mom - Dad died in the war, the acceptable method for becoming a single mother. And she has a beau:

While checking prices, she buys a train from this fellow:

The nice guy - Carl - alas, he’s damned. He’s a good guy, too. He’s proposed. She’s considering it. You feel sorry because the entire movie is against him.

After another meet-cute at the store the couple goes shopping, and get separated. Ol’ Sleepy Eyes loses our heroine, who’s decorating the tree with Carl, the romantic loser. How friend zoned is this guy?

Mitchum shows up with gifts, and Carl the rival knows from the start he is a dead man:

The object of his love explains Mitchum’s presence with stammering lies, and he processes the prevarications as a civilized man must do:

You don't say. Do go on.

There’s a conversation between Mitchum and the Rival - if such a word applies in this situation - wherein the men make small talk about the weather.

It’s interesting: the Rival says they just don’t get the heavy snows like they used to. The weather’s changed. Why? Because of the atomic testing. There's something we completely forgot, isn’t it? For a while the news was full of the meteorological effects of nuclear testing.

Then they talk about California, where it hasn’t rained in years. Could be the same thing. Nuclear testing.

Then the son pitches a fit when Carl the hapless Rival says he’s going to have a great Christmas gift, and the kid replies with sullen indifference that he’s getting a camera, he knows it, he doesn’t care about your stupid camera. Carl! Mom snaps. You apologize. Carl, already unmanned completely, a happy domestic evening ruined beyond repair, says Yes, son, perhaps you’d better go to your room. I’M NOT YOUR SON. Mom remonstrates Carl for disciplining her son, and Carl looks at her, at Mitchum, and figures: I have just been eliminated from sexual favors. He takes his hat and coat and leaves.

If this scene isn’t grim enough for Christmas, Mitchum tells Single Mom that she’s trying to make her son look like her dead husband, right down to his hairstyle. So it’s now all creepy in addition to being sad. And then he spends time with the son, providing a Strong Cool Role Model. And then he sends a great gift.

EVERYONE KNOWS that he’s the right father for the boy and the right man for the woman. Carl is such a decent fellow, true.

But we wish something would happen to Carl.

Something where he could be brave and noble and have a good death scene.

On Christmas Day Linda goes looking for Mitchum to pay him back for the expensive gift he gave her son, but he’s checked out of his hotel - and he’s spending the morning alone at the zoo having coffee in the seal pen and feeding squirrels, because he’s that kind of wonderful madcap fellow. She wants to give him money for the train he gave the kid, and tells him it caused a little trouble with Carl, and she’s marrying him on New Year’s because “everything will be safe and secure.” Mitchum doesn’t buy it, because safe and secure isn’t enough.

“Life will crawl in there and kick your teeth out,” he notes. Merry Christmas!

So there are 25 minutes left of the movie. I should note that Mitchum was fired from his job and is leaving town in a few weeks, because he has no career and no savings. But he's an awesome guy so SCREW CARL.

New scene: the parents come over, and it’s time for more uncomfortable Mitchum-related conversation, because the matter of the train comes up, and the parents are shocked that she met him in Central Park ALONE in the morning, and sexually-frustrated mom starts defending Mitchum - and that’s about time for the cops to buzz the doorbell and tell her that Mitchum is down at the station. Reefer bust? you think. Here’s the judge:

Then it gets comical. Supposedly. You wonder if the whole thing is supposed to be light-hearted, but just seems twisted and repressed and misguided and torturous to modern sensibilities. i am tempted at this point to FF to the final scene, which I expect will be the couple kissing and then the camera pans to the tree or the star on top of the tree or a cross, perhaps.

But there’s 20 minutes left! And Linda and Carl are still engaged! This can't stand, so the script invives Mitchum i to Christmas dinner after his specious case is dismissed. He is simple and decent in his thanks, of course, and gives a speech which begins thus. And . . . action.

And then it gets even more uncomfortable.

Let’s just say this is not Carl’s Best Christmas Ever.

Don't want to spoil what happens next. But if you have any doubts, it's a sign you need to watch more 40s movies. It's a rather uncomfortable thing, though. The movie sets you up to hope Carl loses.

Carl was a good guy - caring, attentive, stable. Pity for him he wasn't Mitchum.

No work blog this week; burning off vacation days. But Tumblr will be up this week, along with the usual updates. See you around!

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