Breakfast at Tiffany’s streamed over Turner Classic Movies this evening. It includes a bizarre character, Mr. Yunioshi, an irritable and clumsy Japanese photographer played by Mickey Rooney, who delivers a crass cross-cultural performance that has been excoriated as being stereotypically offensive. I completely see the point in the criticism, but it makes me wonder why the equally crass cross-cultural stereotypical performance that Peter Sellers (an Englishman) gives as Inspector Clouseau (a Frenchman) in the Pink Panther films does not get criticized for being bigoted and offensive.
It’s that time of year when Hallmark Christmas movies (and their imitators on Lifetime, Netflix, et. al.) are streaming 24/7. In these Christmas-cookie-cutter cinematic confections, you are apt to encounter many of the items on the following list. (N.B. you can use the list for a drinking game—at your peril.)
- A first kiss between the leads is interrupted just as their lips are about to make contact
- A homemade ornament is made/shown/discussed (a homemade wreath can substitute if necessary)
- A gingerbread house is constructed, or, at least, prominently featured in several shots
- There is a Christmas ball or dance, and the female lead is the only one there in a bright red gown (about which the male lead says, “You look amazing/beautiful/stunning/…)
- Firewood is chopped
- Someone says, “I can’t move here! My life is in (New York/Seattle/St. Louis/Minneapolis/some big city)”
- Eggnog is ostentatiously served
- Two characters (usually, but not necessarily, the leads) bond while ice skating
- A major expository scene between major characters takes place as they pick out a Christmas tree
- A Christmas tree is decorated
- There’s a snowball fight
- One of the leads is a single parent or is raising a cute niece/nephew who has been orphaned
- One or more of the main characters is mourning the recent loss of a parent/parent figure
- One of the leads delivers a variation on the line, “Mom always loved Christmas!”
- There’s a town tree-lighting ceremony
- A conflict between crass commercialism and small town values drives part of the story (in a drinking game, two drinks if the villain is a real estate developer)
- Someone says, “You can’t have too much Christmas”
- There’s one final misunderstanding/plot crisis that is handily resolved within the final three minutes
Part of the current right-wing sneering about the student loan relief program that the President is setting up has to do with hard-working tax-payers being forced to finance “worthless” things like philosophy degrees. As one who worked toward two such “worthless degrees”, I am a living example of how short-sighted that view is.
My undergraduate degree was in motion-picture and television studies, which might indeed sound to the faux-utilitarians on the right as nothing more than the pop-culture version of an art history degree (a degree often ridiculed as among the most worthless).
My graduate work was in English literature, another degree often excoriated as an effete indulgence by those who think a college degree should prepare you for a real job, dammit.
Except that my college work in two worthless fields did just that. As part of my literary studies I took a course in computerized textual analysis. That led me to a good paying job programming software for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Deep Space Network. Where, by the way, my literary studies also came in handy for helping me craft solidly written and persuasive memos and reports—I became my team’s go-to guy for responding to problematic directives from the higher-ups.
And my film degree? That helped me in my next job, developing instructional videos and software for university composition courses at UCLA.
All my worthless academic work, film and literary studies, came in handy for my next job, when I went to work at the Voyager Company, developing interactive media and helping to create the first widely distributed ebooks, the Voyager Expanded Books.
In short, my worthless film degree and graduate literary studies resulted in well-paying jobs and allowed me to contribute to new economic enterprises: instructional technology and interactive media. I hear there’s lots of money to be made in both those fields.
I managed to pay off my student loans myself, but even if the government had paid them all off for me it would have gotten much more than its money’s worth from its investment in my “worthless” degrees.
So stop the sneering: you never know where even the most useless or obscure college studies might lead.
Sometimes I’ll take time to compose a sentence,
Perhaps pinning words to a swift fleeing thought,
Or maybe because an id-freighted post
Twitted or TikTokked its way to my screen,
And, though but a sentence, it compels me to spend
Long minutes drafting, revising and crafting,
Balancing rhythms and linking up rhymes,
Until, were it laid out in separate lines,
It could be a poem, although it is not:
Just a small contribution to the long conversation
Between myself and the world, or myself and myself,
Uttered half-heard, or, more likely, ignored,
Bearing its dignity into oblivion.
Interesting: the 3rd non-pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series (which was the 4th episode aired because the show’s 2nd pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” was the 3rd episode broadcast) was “The Naked Time,” about a mysterious disease infecting the Enterprise crew. The 3rd episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was “The Naked Now,” about a mysterious disease infecting the Enterprise crew. The 3rd episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is “Ghosts of Illyria,” about a mysterious disease infecting the Enterprise crew.
I think the Star Trek writers’ room has been preserved in the transporter’s pattern buffer and is being rematerialized for each new Star Trek series set on the Enterprise.
I chased my love away
And made sure she would go
Because I feared the pain of when
She’d go all on her own.
Sumer is icumen in
Rather like Elijah,
That is to say,
Leave the door open,
And set a place,
But don’t get
Your hopes up.
Love may, as though by lightning hit,
Flare bright and shine out briefly,
Or cast its glow, cool and slow,
As by the north lights lit.
But fast or slow,
It still will go
And let the dark back in.
We climb from the solstice
Into clean cold light,
Shedding tarnished tinsel ashes,
Wearing hueless haze,
Awaiting the staining colors
Of the next march of days.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, featuring the omnipresent background soundtrack of holiday carols that, from sheer repetition, leads me willy-nilly to generate parodic mockeries.
Here are three:
🎵“Good King Wenceslas got high
On coke and pot and acid,
Then he awoke on Christmas morn
He tried to smoke the Christmas tree,
But he couldn’t light it.
Tried to kick the habit but
He just couldn’t fi-ight it!!”🎶
🎵“I polished off a 6-pack of beer,
The chips, dips, and a cheese tray.
And now I’m sprawled face down on the couch,
So I can’t see the walls sway.
My bladder’s full but I can’t get up,
The bathroom seems miles away.
Good will to all who have self-restraint,
But that sure ain’t me today!”🎶
🎵“O! come to our meeting
When we’ll exchange our stories
Of binges and benders
That we can’t quite recall.
Sadly, our families
Remember every detail
Of their humiliation
At our self-degradation
And vows of reparation
That we broke one and all!”🎶