Friday, December 9, 2016

KEEPING CHRISTMAS WELL - SCROOGE

Scrooge and the ghost of his dead partner Marley

As I do every year, I drank deep from the well of sentiment, accompanied by a few draughts from the well of gin, and watched A CHRISTMAS CAROL starring Alastair Sim, again. In spite of my best efforts, I have become an unrepentant sentimentalist, but true sentiment resonates very deeply into our souls, as does this movie.

How do you keep Christmas? It's a question Scrooge is asked several times, and he responds in a way that many of us can relate to, "Christmas is in the habit of keeping men from doing business." And I believe that is exactly the purpose of Christmas, to keep you from doing your usual business.

How you keep Christmas tells so much about a person. Midwinter festivals and merrymaking are as old as mankind. The Romans had Saturnalia, with religious rites and feasting for seven days. Slaves were freed for the period, only cooks and bakers could work, and a mock king was elected.

The Vikings had their Yuletide in honor of Jolnir, father of the gods, and fertility rites to insure a good harvest. There was feasting and food was sacrificed to the ghosts who came back to haunt the living at this season.

There are many customs and celebrations at this time of year, because in agrarian societies, there is not as much work to be done in winter.

Christianity adopted, adapted and refined many of these traditions into their own celebrations. The movie A CHRISTMAS CAROL plumbs the depths of the Christian miracle. Four ghosts visit Scrooge and provide a Pilgrim's Progress for his lost soul to follow to redemption.

The first ghost, his dead partner, comes back in chains, the chains he made himself in life because he didn't allow his spirit to roam free in this world; it was chained to his self obsessed greed. Mankind was his business, but his spirit never rose to that realization. He is sending three ghosts to help free Scrooge from the same fate, while there is still time for him in this world.

Here, the movie and Dickens become unmistakably Freudian. Scrooge endured tragedy when he lost his mother and sister, and his heart became captive of his financial successes. He became a miser. But the ghost revisits his past, much like a modern day therapy session, to reveal to Scrooge that he did have finer feelings for those around him until his greed turned him away from them.

The second ghost arrives bearing revelry and feasting, showing that even those in poverty are warmed by the spirit of Christmas. He witnesses the happiness of Bob Cratchit's large and quite poor family. Cratchit is a man who Scrooge despises and whose happiness he cannot understand and resents as stealing money from his pocket. Here Scrooge must face the man he is. This is a bitter man who cannot keep Christmas because his heart has become hard.            

He prefers his porridge without the extra bread because he won't pay for it. Here is the very essence of Christianity: to receive the blessings and the bread that is Christ's love, we must forget about the costs and open our hearts.

The third ghost is one whose face we never see. He shows Scrooge the future and it is very bleak. But the event in the future that most moves Scrooge is the absence of little lame Tiny Tim by the fireside. Here, again, is another essential Christian message. Scrooge must use the wealth his talents have brought him to do good, as best as he can.

Of course, it is the riotous, mad joy of Scrooge when he wakes up Christmas morning, a new man, a man full of the spirit of generosity that is the triumphant climax of the film. He literally dances for joy and for the joy of being able to give freely, without bitterness, envy or selfish motives, to others. After that, Scrooge became "a man of whom it was always said, he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us and all of us. And so as Tiny Tim observed 'God bless us, everyone.'

So how you keep Christmas says a lot about the state of your soul. I confess to having been a Christmas hater for many years. When I met my husband, I hadn't had a Christmas tree for ten years. I felt the sentimentality was a swamp of over emotionality that I preferred to steer clear of. The incessant red and green, and happy songs and bells drove me nuts. Like Scrooge, my spirit had a lot to learn and a lot of bitterness to overcome before I could experience the joy of Christmas. Wishing you the same.










Tuesday, December 6, 2016

HOLLYWOOD, NOW AND THEN

Old time sports bar with swell radio. Spencer Tracy in the mirror.
Like just about everything in the world today, from motherhood, (the tyranny of the patriarchy) to apple pie, (but is it non GMO?) all of classic Hollywood, or Hollywood back then, should have great big yellow crime scene tape trigger warnings all over it.

When I was a teenager, we had a TV show called Million Dollar Movie in the afternoons, just when we'd just gotten home from school. If there was nothing better to do, we watched the old Hollywood classics in black and white on TV. We didn't have color TV. My father despised TV as an animated Hallmark card punctuated with arrogant talking heads. Joe was his name. Irreverence was his game. He'd honed his craft driving the nuns in Catholic school crazy. But they had their revenge by forcing my left handed father to write with his right hand.

But those stolen afternoons watching old black and white Hollywood movies defined my world and my ideals. Later, I sought them out in art house movie theaters on the Upper West side of Manhattan. Now, I own them. Yeah. Sometimes life is magic like that. Get used to it, young 'uns.

I had a son so late in life, we called him a grandchild. He's so much younger than I am that he thinks I make things up when I talk about telephone booths, TV with only three channels and no seat belts. But I've tried to educate him about what America used to be like by showing him those old movies that taught me so much. Whenever he can spare an hour or so away from work or Zombie killing sprees, he comes by and watches one with me.

What a shock I had at his response when we sat down to watch WOMAN OF THE YEAR starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, their first movie together and where they began their thirty year love affair.

Here's the opening scene: It's a bar where reporters are drinking and listening to the radio. You know, an old fashioned sports bar; for the mega screen TV substitute a really swell radio turned up loud. So the guys downing booze hear this hot shot female reporter answering impossible questions on the radio. She's Tess Harding, who takes meetings with FDR and speaks Chinese, and seven other languages.

She can answer all the impossible, obscure questions. Then they ask her a sports question and she flubs it. Sam, (Spencer Tracy) the sports writer sipping scotch, knew the answer. But not only does Tess flub the question, she then pompously declares that playing baseball should be abolished while we are at war with the Nazis. Okay, so far my son is bored. Katherine Hepburn is just another feminist know it all girl, the only kind they produce in his generation.

Sports writer Sam is appalled and angrily argues back to the radio for the benefit of his bar buddies, "We're concerned with a threat to what we like to call our American way of life. Baseball and what it represents is part of that American way of life. What's the sense of abolishing the thing you're trying to protect." Then Sam dashes off to write a stinging column in reply.

However, my son grabbed the remote and played that short scene again, telling me he couldn't believe what he'd just heard. What? What? What did I miss? We were less than five minutes into the movie.

"I can't believe he said that." he said, replaying the scene several more times. I was completely mystified about what he found so unbelievable.

"Didn't you hear what he said?" my son asked me incredulously. "You could tell he really loved this country and he wasn't ashamed or embarrassed. You could never say anything like that in a movie today."

Really? I guess I don't get out enough.

But I will tell you one thing. I kept telling him Trump would win. He very gently and sweetly told me that that was never going to happen, so I shouldn't get my hopes up. He was trying to take care of his old mom. Now that crazy old optimist mom turned out not to be so crazy, I just think, get used to it young 'un, sometimes the world hands you a miracle, and all you've got to do is take the ball and run with it. It's your turn to make a grand new world. I think it's gonna be one where it's okay to talk about protecting the American way of life.





MOTHERHOOD, SNOWFLAKES AND FREUD



Just read a great think piece at breitbart.com  ( Political Correctness and The Destruction of Social Order  ) by AWR Hawkins about one of the most egregious patriarchal, white supremacists, evah. This is a guy who would find more dark and devious implications in Pepe, the phallic little green frog, than Hillary ever dreamed of. Or perhaps she does dream of little green frogs. I am referring to and jesting about good old Siggie Freud. I think Freud is terrific and a genius who looked quite a bit deeper at his fellow man than their skin color, although sex interested him strangely. So, patriarchy, but I'm the aristocrat here and will benefit from his best ideas.

The article is about the book "Political Correctness and the Destruction of Social Order" by Howard Schwartz. As I understand it, and I have only read Hawkins article, (the book itself costs a Benny, too rich for my budget.) Schwartz's theory is that the Snowflake generation's problem is that they have a "pristine self" a "self touched by nothing but love." The world and other people exist only to fulfill their desire to be loved and elevated.


Schwartz: "Freud tells us that, in the beginning of psychological life, we do not experience ourselves as separate from mother, but as fused with her. In this state, life is perfect. Mother is the world to us and loves us entirely. We thus experience ourselves as the center of a loving world, a condition Freud refers to as primary narcissism, and whose appeal is obvious. The advent of any degree of separation has the result that we desire to return it. Mother, then, is the unique object of our desire. We want to marry her, as Oedipus did."

Having to leave this paradise results in rage. It seems that Schwartz is saying that Snowflakes rage at others and the social order because they are forced to leave their childhood paradise. My question for Schwartz is when were these Snowflakes ever fused with their mothers and the center of a loving world? "The advent of any degree of separation has the result that we desire to return to it." What child for the last fifty years has not been separated for 8 or 9 hours every single weekday from the unique object of their desire from six weeks old on, so mother can go and have an important career?


Maybe Snowflakes never had the perfect state of life with motherly love. Maybe mother was always too busy running off somewhere, and ignored their needs and desires. Maybe that's why the Snowflakes are in a rage at social order.

And looked at that way, danged if I don't think they're right that the social order has to change. Every child needs to be the center of a mother's love and to have a chance to develop primary narcissism. If your mother doesn't love you, it's going to be very hard to believe that anyone else does. Certainly no caregiver at a daycare center will love you. You're just a job to them. 

Belated trigger warning for Snowflakes, although I hope they realize I've got their back here. They need some serious mother love from some darn body.

Monday, December 5, 2016

THE SECRET BIOGRAPHY OF MRS. SANTA CLAUS

Here is my new short book. It's a Christmas story. I've wanted to write about Mrs. Santa Claus for years, but I couldn't figure out who was good enough for Santa. Then a series of unlikely events crystalized into this story. I hope you enjoy it.



Available on Amazon Kindle
The Secret Biography of Mrs. Santa Claus

Sunday, December 4, 2016

BREXIT AND PROFESSOR GOOCH

Classic Bell Curve


There are teachers who teach us so much more than just the subject of their specialty. Professor Gooch was such a professor. She taught Econ 101 at Barnard College way back when Christ was a corporeal and I was a freshman. A large woman in every way, tall, broad, with a mind that encompassed centuries of economics, history, philosophy and even fashion.

I remember the first day of class when she announced that though she would assign reading in our economics textbook and she hoped we'd read it, but she would teach the principles of economics with class discussions.

Each class covered a certain economic topic like market forces, price, cost, and all the other basic concepts we had to master. But each discussion began informally when she would ask a student to talk about what she'd done yesterday. One discussion I particularly remember was a girl who'd bought mascara the day before. Now Professor Gooch eschewed mascara and all that went with it, but nevertheless it was a topic that interested her greatly. How did the young student decide which mascara to purchase? Magazine ad. Advertising costs and returns on that investment. Advertising industry. Where did she buy the mascara? At a discount drug store. Discounts and how and why businesses can achieve them. Where was the mascara manufactured? It was enthralling to think about all these things.

Well, her classes fairly flew by. We young students were preparing to run the world merely by purchasing mascara. The excitement in Gooch's classes was palpable. No one ever missed her class.

And now we come to Brexit. Clearly the EU bureaucrats never sat in Professor Gooch's classroom or the reason for Brexit would be obvious to them. Economies of scale. This is the principle which shows that you can often achieve great benefits by growing a company larger, benefits mainly like lower cost and more efficiency. However, the economies of scale typical simple graph is a bell curve, which indicates that up to a certain level, yes, bigger is better, but beyond that point, bigger is worse. Past the top of the bell curve, cost goes up and efficiency goes down. It's called the Law of Diminishing Returns.

What the EU and the Globalists haven't noticed is that they've gone way over the top of the bell curve into deep, deep debt. Evidently Globalism is too big to succeed. But the people in the British economy have noticed that they are deriving no more benefits from Globalism's gigantic corporations and want to scale back. This is a very prudent, rational, intelligent decision. One which any of us Gooch students would have reached from our mascara discussion in less time than it took to blow dry our hair. And don't you doubt it. Thank you Professor Gooch!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

CUT FUNDING FOR PBS OR MAKE IT AMERICAN


Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson

For many years in my youth, like a good little culturati, I sent checks to PBS during their funding drives and felt good and virtuous.

Then, after I married a professional actor, my husband Tom O'Rourke, we took a harder look at PBS and both became FURIOUS LIVID AND INCENSED. We never sent them another dollar, and I will tell you why.

Every time we tuned into PBS, we saw our hard-earned acting tax dollars being lavished on buying BBC productions. What a resounding slap in the face to every American actor, writer, director and what an insult to America's cultural history.

There we would sit, short on cash, like all actors, working in a business where good jobs are impossible to find. No one becomes an actor so they can watch themselves on TV hawking sausage and cosmetics. You become an actor to do good work in productions of interesting and memorable comedy and drama. Your calling is to bring to light some truth about the human condition.

What part of the PBS budget was spent on great American actors doing the great roles? How about FRIGGIN ZERO dollars.

Think about it. Would Jack Nicolson have said no if he'd been offered the chance to do a production of KING LEAR for PBS? I'll bet he'd have loved to have done that and done it for free. And what an incredible treasure that would have been.

Tom and I attended an immensely popular and well reviewed production of OTHELLO on Broadway starring James Earl Jones and Diane Weist. Why wasn't some deal made to bring that to PBS? Two incredible American actors in a brilliant production of a Shakespearean classic was pure gold. Would the Broadway producers have turned down all the free publicity and the acclaim they would have enjoyed from being filmed for American PBS? Gee, that's a tough one.

We were privileged to see Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson in an hilarious and unforgettable production of Anouilh's WALTZ OF THE TOREADORS. Where was PBS to capture two of America's most talented actors working at the top of their game?

Where are the productions of great American dramatists like Eugene O'Neill, Thornton Wilder, Kaufman and Hart, Ring Lardner, Garson Kanin, Booth Tarkington? I could go on and on, except my blood is already boiling. And frankly the loss of the opportunity to preserve so much talent and dazzling brilliance sickens me.

Most actors will work very cheap for the chance to be in something good and be able to really stretch their acting muscles. It was infuriating for us to see the American PBS shun everything American in favor of the BBC.

Now, post Trump election, I see the deeply dyed contempt the elites have for ordinary Americans. I believe the people running PBS shared this ingrained and insensate hatred of everything American; it  goes a long way to explain their policy of no American drama, ever.

I also believe the management at PBS was ignorant and lazy. It was so much easier to buy the BBC shows, than to put themselves on the line and do something original. 

Most of the elite are completely ignorant about American culture because they have been educated by other Liberals, who also despise America.
SO PLEASE DEFUND PBS OR GET SOME NEW MANAGMENT. Please!

You can now return to your regularly scheduled programming. Thank you for reading my rant.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

THANK YOU, VICE PRESIDENT ELECT MIKE PENCE AND MRS. PENCE


John Wilkes Booth and the Devil

As someone who is a theater lover and whose husband made his living as an actor, I want to thank the Vice President and his wife for their interest in one of the greatest and most important art forms humanity has ever created. That they took the time and energy to attend a theatrical performance means so much to me and to all of us who truly love the theater.

Last night, you walked into the belly of the beast because you had a curiosity to see what playing there. I applaud your courage and good will. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

Please accept my deepest and humblest apologies for the insolence, and disrespectful rudeness of the 'actors' to you and your lovely wife. Like everything else in this country, theater is and has been compromised for several decades by the corporatists until it is just another of the shoddy products the global elitists have shoved down our throats. HAMILTON is not real theater; it is the self congratulatory twaddle that passes for theater these days, New York Times approved, 100% pure hogwash.

To the absurd moral exhibitionist cast, I say, no, you will never be safe from the scorn of the working class people in this country who get up every morning and go to work to keep the lights on in this country and put food on the table for all. Nor will you escape the disgust of those who have been prevented from working by your ignorant, destructive regulations and divisive rhetoric.

Actors have an unfortunate history of getting swollen egos. The Player's Club in Gramercy Park, New York City, was formed by Edwin Booth to counteract the intense hatred that the public felt toward all actors and artists after his brother, actor John Wilkes Booth, assassinated the country's most beloved president, Abraham Lincoln. Creating the club was his attempt to restore the reputation of actors and rebuild the good will of the public to rescue the arts from the infamy that his brother had brought onto them.

I am so disgusted by the fools in the performance last night who call themselves actors, but who were so overcome by their own grandeur that they demeaned themselves and all actors in a shameful display of lack of professionalism and common courtesy.

They say history repeats itself. Once as tragedy, and once as farce. They were going to hang John Wilkes Booth; today, we must be content with haranguing these fat headed, ridiculous fools.

And by the way, a lot of the people who fought in the revolution were not immigrants. My own family had lived in the colony of New Jersey for almost a hundred years, when they shouldered their muskets and fought for freedom from the globalist power of their day, the mighty British Empire.

So rave on you talentless toads, you are about to be swept onto the ash pile of history by new actors who possess the fire of real talent, not the simpering smirk of a cheaply bought shill. You are part of the Mainstream Media and you are already irrelevant.

One more point about that "no White Actors" casting. From my vast experience in Hollywood I can tell you that this is called 'stunt casting'. If your show needs something a little extra to goose it up, because it just isn't coming together, you do some stunt casting. You stunt cast to draw attention away from the lack of excitement in the show. Like if there is a part for a wrestler, you get a real name wrestler. It's not important that he can't act; he is a wrestler and everybody knows  it and he draws his fans. Stunt casting provides novelty when the ideas are a little stale.

Hollywood and Broadway do it all the time. Having a show where everyone knows the real characters were white, and then you cast them everything but, is a way to try to make the show more interesting. It's almost always a desperation move.

I remember a show on the lower Eastside called "Matt and Ben's Big Adventure" many years ago, about how the script for "Good Will Hunting" fell out of the sky on Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Well, the two guys were played by the two women who wrote the show, and that made it even funnier. The women really didn't try too hard to imitate Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but they were surprisingly effective and hilarious.

Or one time I went to any NYU production of Moliere's "Misanthrope" done entirely in the nude. The audience figured out in about five minutes that nudity was just another costume and forgot all about it. Only one problem. One of the actors scraped his knee and it started bleeding. Watching someone bleed causes anxiety in the audience, unless you're an ancient Roman at the Coliseum. It was impossible not to worry about how soon he could get offstage and put some antibiotic on his knee. Now, if he'd been wearing pants.... Rediscovering the wheel. Clothes have a function.

But that's all stunting. Kind of punking your own show to make it SOMETHING, when something is missing and you don't know what to do. Always a bad sign.