Oh, it’s cold. It got cold fast. It got mean. Pitiless wind, windchill of six above. High of 7 next week. SEVEN. The dog goes out with a stick and sits in the grass to chew it and realizes quite quickly that Inside is Better. So we all believe now. Inside is Better. It’s cozy; the tree is lit; the wind whips impotently at the windows, and you don’t hear the morbid creak of the dead limb in the tree.
Christmas makes all this tolerable, but it’s a bit grim to think that January still seems far away. We still have that ahead of us. But I’d feel odd if I lived somewhere warm, and it was Christmas. It wouldn’t seem right.
Pretty sure I could get used to it, though. This year if feels like I’m done with winter before it truly begins.
I watched a hagiographic documentary on Aardman Studios, about which nary a dissenting word or critical sentiment was raised. Everyone was just gushing. Everyone was just knocked out and bowled over and amazed at what they did. Actors, critics, other animators - the only voice that dared say something spiky was Terry Gilliam, who hated them for being so good. It’s the sort of the thing you watch with growing interest, wondering if anyone will say something critical.
Because if someone does you should write them a letter and tell them they should be ashamed.
Of course everyone gushed; Aardman is remarkable. Like Disney, it gives parents and kids something to share, but it’s on another level with a different sensibility. Being British and all that. I recommend the doc, if only to see a lot of people with the most boring job possible - manipulating tiny segments of modeling clay - having the most fun anyone could seem to have.
It also made me realize that Wallace and Gromit are on the other side of The Wall, the barrier between childhood and tween-teen life. Daughter still loves the characters - who doesn’t? - but they’re back there in those gauzy years. Playing in the basement family room, waiting for the DVD to whir and load, hearing the familiar music of the menu screen. For a few years you have the Disney fanfare - the blue screen with the white castle, some Randy-Newmanesque music. You have the familiar music of the menu screen, which would drive you mad some days if you heard it loop over and over again.
For example. The Disney Treasures DVDs that came in metal tins. I bought them all. The Mickey Mouse one was a constant, as was the Silly Symphonies - go-to disks for familiar entertainment. There was a time when I’d go downstairs and expect to find that the disk’s menu had been playing for an hour or two, looping over and over. The image on the screen:
They formed the background soundtrack to the house for a few years.
When the disc loaded
The intro to the menu
If you left it on the menu
Switching from menu to menu produced this, which I heard all the time
I have a dozen or so of the Treasures tins, and according to eBay they fetch a nice price, being limited editions. They sit under a shelf of dusty Simpsons figurines that have stood undisturbed for a decade, at least.
“You should sell them,” Daughter said. “Put the money in my college fund.”
All of it?
Well . . . no.
Well . . . no.
High and thick as The Wall is, there are windows, and if you rub on the sooty glass with your sleeve you can see right through to the other side.
More Estes, if you don't mind. I believe this is Times Square, but I can't say for certain.
"Beginning around 1967, he began to paint storefronts and buildings with glass windows and, more importantly, the reflected images shown on these windows," says the notes on one online auction. "The paintings were based on color photographs he would take, which trapped the evanescent nature of the reflections, which would change with the lighting and the time of day."
Emphasis added. That's really the genius of the work: freezing the transitory.
An appreciation in The New Criterion here. Favorite line:
“That pot isn’t entirely successful, is it?” a fellow museumgoer noted ruefully. One has to agree.
No, one doesn't. If that's the pot in real life, how can it not be successful, at least in terms of the work?
We're blowing through a Western this sequence - one of those Vaseline-smeared prints that tells the same old tired story of bandits and posses and desperados and a good guy in a white hat. Nothing wrong with that if you're 12 and it's 1938.
So: you'll remember that "Red," of the titular "Red Ryder" fame, was disguised as a bad guy, and the posse shot at him. We saw him slump in the saddle - is he dead? Well, the film cut away before we saw "Red" jump off his horse, which ran away, with the posse in pursuit. Next:
Trails do not have the ability to avenge. Well, let's get right into the thick of the action, shall we? I know you'll have no trouble picking up the story from this:
It's like cutting from a car chase to a guy backing out of the garage.
Well, our Hero, who wears the white hat, is pursuing the bad guy in the black hat, and then there's some footage of cattle, and then the bad guys - led by Greasy LeFrench - show up at the farm house, and tell the guy who's playing both sides that his time is running out. LeFrench says he'll get the Redhead, for two grand.
Previously he was willing to kill him for free, so this is a windfall. While he goes off looking for "Red," "Red" sneaks around the house to intervene when another guy is threatening the two-sider. I know. It's complicated. It doesn't matter. What counts are moments like this:
Next week - the thrilling return of Chapter Two for the ninth time!
Five more pages of Buns from Your Betters, below. See you around.