Monday, February 27, 2012

In 3's

A: "In 3's"
Q: What is an excellent Beastie Boys song from my favourite Beastie Boys album, Check Your Head?
     What is a useful and effective way for me to list, group, or plan various things?
My 3 favourite things from a semi-recent weekend (Friday 2/10/12 through Sunday 2/12/12):

1. Friday morning: kids and dogs

I began my day as usual, by driving up Sharon Amity Road on my way to work, but soon saw something out of the ordinary. On the sidewalk to my right, I began to see adorable little boys and girls in colorful outfits -- Old Navy-style jackets, hats, and shirts in bright Crayola colours-- first one, then two more, then a lot a very small parade. Perhaps two or three parents walked with probably five or six kids and at least two dogs.

One (very large) dog wore a harness, and a little girl walked along beside him, her head barely taller than the dog's back, with her hand on the dog, as dictated by the buddy system. So very sweet and charming! Oh, and did I mention the dog was carrying her little backpack? It could only have been cuter if one kid had been actually riding the dog with a saddle! The exuberance of the kids, the camaraderie, the sweetness of their two roughly single-file lines, the colourful little outfits -- what could be more wonderful?

Answer: what I saw next, on approaching the intersection with Randolph Road:  two more parades of parents, children, and dogs! (I almost expected to see a camera crew, but found out later that this apparently is an event that the local elementary school promotes on occasional Friday mornings.)  One group of adults and little kids was gathering at the far left corner, waiting for the light to change, and another group clustered at the far right corner, waiting for their light to change. The kids seemed energized and excited about going to school, which made it all the cuter. At one point the light changed for the group on the left, and as parents and children stepped, strode and skipped across the crosswalk, one young LL Bean-esque mom cradled an impossibly adorable cocker spaniel puppy who wore a bright red harness and surveyed the world, looking very hapless, furry, and  loved.

 It was as though someone said "what is wonderfulness made of?" and someone said "Here, let me show you!"  The words I've written actually barely do it justice. My day had already scored an A+ and I hadn't even been up for more than an hour or so. Hooray!

2. Friday evening: the appeal of pizza, the inevitability of succession

Pizza Peel, at Cotswold Mall, has great pizza and a fun atmosphere, and for some reason, on that Friday, was *packed* with people, particularly families and kids. Three or four separate childrens' birthday parties seemed to be happening that evening, and the very air was festive and merry. I enjoyed dinner with my parents and my boyfriend Eric - munched on some delicious slices of a spinach-and-goat-cheese pizza - yum!

Toward the end of our meal a family was just beginning to get seated directly behind us. The waitress cautioned me to be careful in case I wanted to push my chair back, as they had placed a teeny-tiny little baby, in its carrier, directly behind my seat. Well, I did not push my chair back but I began to get a crick in my neck from constantly turning around in my chair to  smile big goofy grins at the sweet little one, doing what has become my usual elastic-faced exaggerated-surprise try-to-get-a-reaction routine, to which the child usually reacts with no reaction at all, just a confused face as if to say "What are you smokin', lady?"  To which I make an even bigger, rounder-eyed, higher-arched-eyebrow, more-open-mouthed smile, to which they continue to not respond but instead to simply stare in the most charming way, to which I react EVEN MORE, ad nauseum.

At one time in my life, I used to be slightly embarrassed by how my grandmother (Mema) would walk up to someone with a baby, bend down, and get right up in the baby's face. She'd talk to it, and pinch the cheek, and fuss and coo over it, not caring whether or not she was impeding or delaying the complete stranger, and barely acknowledging the oft-befuddled parents. It always seemed to lag on a little longer than it ought to, and I usually wished she'd hurry up,and  not make such a spectacle of herself.

Well, I realized on Friday at the Pizza Peel that I have become Mema where babies are concerned...and I'm not a bit sorry about it!  So I'll be getting all up in babies' faces and acting silly, to every one's slight embarrassment, until I'm in my 80s or 90s or even beyond that. Yayyyy!!!!

3. Saturday: "Smiley, spy."

When I was little, I remember my parents taking us to see movies quite often. They took my brother and I to plenty of Disney movies, sure, and I'll NEVER forget seeing Star Wars (episode four, A New Hope - but in the theaters that magical night in 1977, when I was five years old, we just called it "Star Wars"). However, my parents also took my brother and I along with them when they went to see "grown-up" movies like Reds, Gandhi, and Chariots of Fire.  Furthermore, my dad showed us (at home, on the Video Disc player) such classics as Three Days of the Condor, The Sting, The Electric Horseman, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, and Once Upon A Time in the West.

The upshot of all this is that I have some very fond memories of watching movies with excellent acting and/or atmosphere and which I enjoyed despite being usually pretty clueless and confused. It was often hard to pay attention or completely follow the action, and I missed a lot of stuff, particularly in the movies like The Big Sleep or Three Days of the Condor, where the plot was purposefully mysterious. In the case of The Big Sleep, it took several viewings for me to get a handle on who killed whom, and why, and in what order. But I loved watching it every time -- I've had the General's cricicism of lilies ("their flesh is too much like the flesh of men...the rotten sweetness of corruption") and Bogart's lines about "grieving over [his manners] on long winter evenings" memorized for over 30 years now.  The atmosphere more than made up for the stuff that went over my head.

And now we come to Saturday night, the 11th.  I have never read anything by John Le Carre, although my boyfriend Eric had recently read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on his Kindle, mainly because of the movie that recently came out, starring Gary Oldman. Eric took me to see Tinker Tailor (I shan't keep using the whole name) at the Manor, and I STRONGLY recommend both that movie and that theater!  Tinker Tailor is a spy thriller, although the thrill is not in guns and exploding cars but rather in puzzling out the mysteries, seeing through the veils, and guessing at the meaning of all the things that are not said but only vaguely hinted at.

The atmosphere of Tinker Tailor actually reminded me of Three Days of the Condor,  a spy movie that has a similar feel to Tinker Tailor -- hardly any shooting, but lots of thinking, suggesting, hinting, slow unraveling of a complex mystery, and really fine, nuanced performances.  And, as I was when watching Condor for the first time, I was confused and in fact almost totally ignorant of what was actually going on until well into the first half of Tinker Tailor.

So I decided that I was going to watch Tinker Tailor as I'd watched so many movies as a 7- or 8- or 9- year old -- with no attempt at deciphering the plot, just enjoyment of the characters, the scenery, the 60s/70s-era cars, the incidental music, and that wholly satisfying atmosphere of mystery and unexplained but vaguely threatening malice. Gary Oldman alone was fascinating in his brilliantly understated performance as George Smiley.  So, so subtle -- a very respectable and worthy follow-up to Alec Guinness's portrayal of  Smiley in the miniseries that Eric and I are now watching.

 I love that I am once again, roughly 30 years later, watching those fascinating stories with someone I love, who appreciates the awesomeness of film noir and intrigue. With any luck, I'll keep cozying up to characters like George Smiley, on the couch with Eric VanNewkirk, for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A little bit lighter now...

So - about my blog in general: as I may or may not have said already, I intend for it to be random - I'm a big fan of randomness.  And, although important things are important when they are important, I plan to balance the profound with the trivial. To that end, I present....

Thoughts on The Very Best Cartoons of "my"* Age
I was born in 1972 (thank the gods!!), and although there were many cartoon choices, the best ones shown at the time, and the only ones that are still as wonderful today, were and are the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies-type cartoons: the kind that featured such outstanding characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, Sam and Ralph, and Elmer Fudd.
(*I know the aforementioned cartoons were all made way before I was born, but since I watched them as a kid they feel like part of my personal kid-in-the-70s past and therefore legitimately "mine".)

Many of my favourites are probably your favourites - although I've never been able to remember the actual titles of the cartoons, thus leading me to utter sentences like "The Kill the Wabbit one is okay, but the Daffy-Duck-Robin-Hood one is way funnier". Recently, however, I scoured the internet for one particular obscure cartoon which I barely remembered but which has always been one of my favourites, and my investigation led me to create and assimilate the following lists and summaries.

My top 15 favourite cartoons that many people are probably sick of but which still make my day:

1. One Froggie Evening, in which a frog sings songs like "Everybody Do the Michigan Ra-a-ag!", dancing with a top hat and a can -- which will NEVER get old! To no one's surprise, I only know the bits of these songs that the frog actually sings.
2. Hare-Way to the Stars: Bugs, Marvin the Martian, and an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.
3. Ali Baba Bugs, with Bugs and Daffy taking a wrong turn and ending up in Ali Baba's cave. I try to work the following lines into every conversation I can: "I'm rich! I'm rich! I'm a happy miser!"
4. Bully For Bugs, with Bugs as a bullfighter.
5. Robin Hood Daffy: "Yoicks, and away!!!" The best part to quote is "Let's see now...somethin' I missed here...Ho, ha ha, guard, turn, parry, dodge, spin....."
6. The trilogy of Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs and/or Daffy: Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck!Rabbit,Duck! (These count as one entry as far as I'm concerned, since each episode features a slightly different wording of the classic "Wabbit Season! Duck Season!" exchange between Bugs and Daffy).
7. Duck Dodgers In the 24th & 1/2 Century.  'Nuff said.
8.The Abominable Snow Rabbit ("...and I will hug him & squeeze him & I will call him George..")
9. Operation: Rabbit ("Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Wile E. Coyote, Genius.")
10. A Sheep in the Deep ("Mornin' Sam". "Mornin' Ralph".)
11. Zoom and Bored, the Coyote/Road Runner cartoon with the catapult that appears to have a personal vendetta against the Road Runner.**
12. For Scent-imental Reasons, featuring Pepe Le Peu & the cat who has accidentally had a white stripe painted down her back. ("Le mew. Le purr.")
13. Long-Haired Hare, in which Bugs anoys the opera singer and later makes him hold a note for so long that the opera house cracks and crumbles in on him.
14. Duck Amuck, in which the animator is mean to Daffy, drawing the wrong scenery, or taking away his voice, or erasing his body and re-drawing a monstrous body with a flag showing a screw and a ball.
15. The Rabbit of Seville, which I actually prefer over What's Opera, Doc?, aka Kill da Wabbit.
**(Truthfully, any and all Coyote vs. Roadrunner cartoons rock just about equally.)

And now for the very best 15 cartoons that you may have missed or at least not seen very often -- if you have not seen them, you should check them out ASAP!

1. Bugs Bonnet: in which lots of different types of hats float out of a truck, landing in the river, on the grass, and on Bugs & Elmer Fudd.
2. Symphony in Slang, the one I was having such a hard time locating, wherein the lady puts on an actual dog and a man is literally beside himself with anger.
3. Hare-Less Wolf, in which the wife-wolf screeches at the husband-wolf to go out and shoot a rabbit for their supper. He keeps forgetting what he's hunting for, and quoting him is so much fun! "Uh, let's see...a wildabeest? No...uh...a raccoon? No, no...uh...water buffalo? No, no...uh...oh yeah, a rabbit!"
4. Bedevilled Rabbit, with Bugs & Taz. I watch it just to hear them say: "John!" "Marsha!" at the end.
5. Transylvania 6-5000, in which Bugs meets a vampire. ("Abraca-pocus! Hocus-cadabra!")
6. A Witch's Tangled Hare: the best Bugs v. Witch Hazel cartoon.
7. Hair-Raising Hare, the Bugs Bunny episode with the mad scientist and the big furry monster & the Peter Lorre-type character.
8. Feed the Kitty, featuring Marc Antony (a huge dog) and Cleo (a cute little cat), in which the enormous dog keeps running around trying to save the little kitten from harm.
9. Pecos Pest: a Tom & Jerry cartoon featuring Jerry's eccentric Uncle Pecos.
10. Tree for Two, with the big dog/little dog combination of Spike and Chester, plus a PANTHER (later copied almost directly with virtually no changes as a cockney version of itself, called Dr. Jerkyl's Hyde).
11. Hyde & Go Tweet, in which Tweety grows monstrous and scares Sylvester.
12. Gorilla My Dreams: Bugs, a drunken stork, & a monkey family.
13. Pop 'Im Pop, featuring Sylvester and his son - who is ashamed and puts a paper bag over his head.
14. Devil May Hare, in which the Tazmanian Devil says my favourite Taz line: "What for you bury me in the cold cold ground?"
15. Bewitched Bunny,  the second best Witch Hazel vs. Bugs cartoon, featuring Hansel & Gretel.

Lastly, I must mention a fantastic source of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies info (aside from Wikipedia, YouTube, and miscellaneous search engines):