Posts from 1st December 2004
THE DADDINO FAMILY TREASURY OF CHRISTMASES PAST
My first Christmas. Perhaps someone thought it would be cute to let the six-month-old me wade in a sea of wrapped presents. At that age, I’m not sure what it would’ve accomplished apart from overwhelming me, though that may have been the point. Yes, my son. This is what Christmas means: stimulus as far as one could crawl. And my god, it gets even more dazzling. From the photographic evidence, Christmases in the Daddino household up this point have been small-scale, with presents safely umbrella’ed under a not-too-big not-too-little fake metal tree. But now there are three children, and as we grow older and the family gets richer, our expectations rise and all of our eyes grow saucer-sized. Dad has already made amazing career gains the accountancy world, making us firmly middle-class-rising-to-upper-middle-class, split-level ranch and two cars in the heart of darkest suburbia. So in the Christmas photos I’ll be posting in the next couple of days, you’ll see this room get busier and busier, absolutely bursting with STUFF.
The other two kids tolerating my wriggling are my brothers. Tommy is the oldest, born 1966, and Bobby (here partially obscured by the green chair) is the middle one, born 1968. I myself was born on June 20th and adopted only a month or two later, thus I’m the newest presence in the house.
It’s difficult to suss out from the resized pic above, but those white, red and yellow blotches to the side of me constitute a doll I figure I must’ve carried around for a couple of years because I think I ruined it in a misguided attempt to give it a bath, then hid it in a toybox when it didn’t dry as fast as I had hoped. It had large buttons with which a toddler could practice motor skills. That excepted, I remember none of the toys at all. We apparently all got drums, probably in the spirit of kid equality. At that age, I had problems sitting up — what was I going to do with a drum?
In ensemble films, the credits often come up in alphabetical order. This can create a few problems with nominal star billing, but promotes the idea that all the actors are equal and were just part of a big gang in filming. Nevertheless the big stars covet the first named position and the last. Does this explain the relatively wilful (if serendipitous) casting in I Heart Huckabees? Somehow Dustin Hoffman (probably the biggest name in the picture since Mark Wahlberg’s star fell) manages to get the top spot. Wahlberg gets the last. You cannot review a film on the alphabetical distribution of its stars’ surnames, but it might explain why Tippi Hedren’s part was not expanded.
The film itself is either
a) plenty fun, or
b) intensely annoying.
Being a film where two separate philosophical extremes battle themselves out, this polarisation of its audience is probably apt. Certainly there are plenty of sequences of dialogue which make absolutely no sense, and the philosophical positions (ranging from a softly determinist holism to nihilism*) are not particularly mind blowing. But just an engagement in such ideas marks Huckabees out as a bit of fun. In Down and Dirty Pictures Peter Biskind suggested that David O.Russell’s Three Kings was the most important film of the nineties. This is a remarkably contentious suggestion, and one which will not be repeated for Huckabees. It does not stop it being a whole mess of fun. (Or remarkably annoying, if you fall into that camp).
*The best philosophical idea to come out of Egypt.
Oh Crikey: The Ayingerbrau Challenge – worthy cultural event AND they’ve got behind the save the Fat Man petition, which is steaming ahead with 136 signatures to date. We are still waiting for a reply from Herr Mayor of Aying, largely because I haven’t sent the letter yet.
AND THE WORLD SAID…
“1921: On March 21, vivacious American-born Lady Astor faced an intruder at her Devonshire home threatening to kill her. After coaxing him into a calmer frame of mind, Lady Astor got him out of the house. She then gathered up her skirts and chased him through the surrounding lanes.”
GOSSIP 1920-1970: Fifty Years of High Society – the Scandals, Triumphs and Tragedies, by Andrew Barrow (Pan Books, 1978), is exactly what it somewhat unwieldily says on the tin. I found it for a pound in the secondhand book stall outside the NFT, and it’s my book of the year so far: a detailed and totally addictive history of the utterly trivial, every lost nine-day-wonder reduced to a single compelling paragraph. Round the edges of the nonsense, you catch momentary flashes of the history you already know, as it unfolds, unattended.
1922: “On December 9, the new Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, arrived in England for an Allied Premiers conference on the German reparations. He was met at Victoria station by cheering London fascists and escorted to Claridge’s Hotel. He later dined at Buckingham Palace where he was described as being in ‘fine fettle’.”
The basic topics of gossip don’t change – horrid murder, scandals sexual or financial, the mighty made absurd – but their local flavour certainly does: many of the stories from the 20s read like G. K. Chesterton (admirals brandishing cutlasses; daring jewel robberies during high society banquets; venerable Dukes rubbing thighs with perky American film stars); there’s a sense of real-life jumpcut surrealism that maybe says as much about the aftermath of the Great War, in its ruthless pursuit of frivolity and the meaningless, as anything attempted by the actual um real Surrealists (who anyway raided the newspapers for much of their material).
“1923: On New Year’s Day, it was revealed that the young Marchioness of Queensbury was driving herself to Rome in a two-seater sports car. During the journey, the car lost its horn and left mudguard and the Marchioness, a former Gaiety girl, ran out of money and had to live on buns.”
(I know the other list is not quite finished yet, but two weeks ago, this list was compiled in the usual manner in the pub and will probably fail to be counted down accurately as per usual leaving you tantalised. The order of films was supposed to indicate quality, but obviously counting down Advent Calendar style means that todays in number one, and that may not in retrospect be a bad thing).
Put forward by one of the Americans.
I’ve never seen it.
Its tagline was: “A Tribute to the Original, Traditional, One-Hundred-Percent, Red-Blooded, Two-Fisted, All-American Christmas…” which is a wee bit frightening in a Jingle All The Way kind of capitalistic overwhelming way. But I think the comments box will have to suffice here. The lead character is called Ralphie. Er…
The revisionist logic of the ‘New Cold War’ is worked through in the ideological forging-house of Amazon.com customer reviews:
‘As you might expect, a 70 year old communist propoganda film is not gripping entertainment.
The first “song” [In Dziga Vertov's 'Three songs of Lenin'] is the saga of how the revolution liberated a woman from the oppression and ignorance of Islam. A powerful topic that not many people would dare to tackle today. She goes from being imprisoned in her veil to a free woman, attending school, driving a tractor and learning to shoot a gun.
But as we know, communism was no utopia either.’
Bernard Cohen (Flowers Central)
Last Thursday I was talking to a fellow FTer about those Roy Lichtensteins where our Roy took the energy and the drippage of abstract impressionism and reproduced it with cartoony flatness.
Bernard Cohen seems to be returning the compliment by using a crunched-up pop palette (cartoony lines and dots, stylised aeroplane shapes) to make abstract explosions of rhythm and colour and energy.
I was having a great deal of fun looking at them (they’re the kind of art you feel with your eyes, if you know what I mean) until it occurred to me that a twisted, busted grid with broken aeroplanes might be some kind of blank comment on the World Trade Centre attacks. I don’t think that was the intention – apparently these are motifs and visual ideas Cohen’s been using for many years – but it got me thinking about how I can’t imagine a painting telling me anything about “9/11″ which I don’t already know, or feeling something I haven’t already felt. I wonder why not, and I wonder why I feel so uncomfortable with the idea of someone trying.
Elfster: whether any of the people who I’ve involved in it would agree I don’t know, but I feel I must use this month’s Blog 7 to pimp for Elfster, an automated Secret Santa service. The site suggests it’s a classic old-school internet idea – some bright spark thinks of it, gets his mate to build it and they put it up free on the web, hurrah! The lack of some handy features makes me think this heartwarming tale is actually true, though no doubt one of the big portals will snap Elfster up before next Christmas comes around. The site doesn’t seem to pass on your details so it doesn’t turn you into a spam magnet, but Elfster itself will send you increasingly twee emails until the gift-giving ends.
Hurrah for more pub quiz victory! (Glasgow edition) I rather like my handwriting. It’s all swirls and flourishes, and it has quiz benefits if, hem hem, your quizmaster can’t decipher what you’ve put. Q: What was the name of the French line of defence in World War One, which the Germans walked through without much trouble? We wracked our brains and couldn’t quite think of it, but somebody swore it was maginsomething, so I swirled ‘Magincourt’, knowing it was probably wrong, but it was worth a try, right? I’m sure you know the correct answer is Maginot, because you’re brainier than us, but thanks to my lovely script we were either given the benefit of the doubt or the benefit of the quizmaster’s myopia and were therefore marked correct and given two points.
We won the quiz by one point. Bottle of vodka collected. Much clapping. Then instant karma struck as we drew lots for the booze and it was taken home by a friend-of-a-friend cheesemonger, not part of our regular team, who hadn’t given us any answers we didn’t already know. Bah.
Food Vs Fun
This is what I went to for our work Christmas do. It reinforced my suspicions that food and fun do not mix. This is the first time I’ve been to one of these ‘dinner plus entertainment’ things, you see them advertised on the tube all the time (ABBA dinner! Murder Mystery!). At the risk of sounding like a dreadful old foodie snob you cannot really imagine this kind of tat being stood for in other European countries. These dinners exist because there’s a class of office bod who thinks just going out for a nice meal is ‘boring’, but that it’s well worth paying high prices (’10 a head over the St John Christmas Feast!) for getting your waitresses dressed as wenches and having a compere dressed as Henry VIII mugging through a script and dreaming of his Equity card.
(My work had no such excuse, we knew it was going to be rub and got what we deserved.)
Good aspects of the evening (there were a couple):
- the strongman act between the starter and soup. Nutter in his mid-60s pulling nails out of boards with his teeth. Frightening and slightly sad but also heartening that he’s getting the work (also genuinely quite impressive!)
- all the performers were very game despite the very small crowd – only 30 or so people there.
- sitting next to us were a 13-or-so year old boy in a suit and two much older men who had taken him out to dinner. They were from Azerbaijan, staying at the Ritz, and the men had enormous rolls of banknotes and left a very sizeable tip. Much speculation as to what their ‘story’ was.
Dreadful aspects of the evening:
- unlimited flat beer and weak wine.
- horribly dry chicken
- no salmagundi
- version of Whisky In The Jar performed on a lute
- dreadful pacing of the entertainment. Full-participation medieval madness for the first two courses, with several entertainers, constant noise and shouting, no time to talk to other people (it would be quite a good night out for an office that hates one another), then peace and quiet for a long stretch of chicken-munching, meaning you fall out of medieval mode entirely, then without warning the whole singalong business starts up again, just at the point you’re very very glad to see the back of it.
- constant smell of highly unmedieval disinfectant on the stairs, perhaps because Milords and Ladies have occasionally had a bit too much of the unlimited flat beer.
Thankfully everyone I was with thought it was awful so we had a good raised-eyebrow time and snuck off quickly for a pint afterwards. But let this write-up serve as a warning to the curious.