Palm Beach Story Alert

What were you doing on Sept. 26, 1987? I was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, seeing for the first time The Palm Beach Story. (By an odd coincidence, the movie’s supporting actress, Mary Astor, had died the night before.) It was my introduction to the genius of film writer/director Preston Sturges, and I have taken it upon myself to be the movie’s cheerleader ever since.

This gift from God will next be broadcast on Turner Classic Movies on Thurs., Feb. 25 at 8:00 Eastern time. Below is a link to my YouTube review of the movie. Treat yourself to this once-in-a-lifetime movie gem. I beg of you.

ANNOUNCING: The Seventh Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon!

From my good online friend Lea at the blog named “Silent-ology.” If you’re a Buster Keaton buff, make this blogathon one of the highlights of your social season!

Silent-ology

IT HAS RETURNED!! (In spite of everything, I might add. *wink*) Yes, my friends, at long last this is the official announcement of the 7th Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon!

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When:Monday, March 22 and Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

Where:Right here on Silent-ology!

How:To join in, please leave me a comment on this post and let me know which Buster film or Buster-related topic you want to cover! (Or feel free tosend me a message). Please help spread the word about the event by adding one of my vintage poster-inspired banners to your blog (aren’t those illustrations fun?). During the blogathon itself, when you publish your post leave me a comment with the post’s link (or again, you can send me a message). Please mention my blog and the name of the event too (such as “This post is part of Seventh Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon hosted…

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Christmas Carol Curmudgeon

By this point in the year, I’m already pretty sick of Christmas songs as it is. (One our of local radio stations actually starts their all-Christmas format in October.) But I now work at a convenience store where they play 18 different cover versions of the same 12 Christmas songs ad nauseum. If you were trying to think of the best way to torture me, you couldn’t do much better than making me stand in the same spot for eight hours and listen to Christmas music incessantly.

By hearing the same songs over and over, though, I find that some of them have very mixed messages, which I think are worth addressing here.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – I already wrote a detailed blog about this song years ago (which you can read here). I actually adore this song — but only when it is sung by Judy Garland, who seemed to be the only singer who understood the song’s inherently downbeat message. (In the movie Meet Me in St. Louis, she’s trying to lift the spirits of her downhearted younger sister, but you can tell that Garland isn’t very convinced of the song’s encouraging words herself.) Unfortunately, once Frank Sinatra got hold of the song, he used his clout to screw around with a couple of the lyrics in order to make the song more upbeat, thus killing its original point. After that, nobody sang it right. Ella Fitzgerald sings the original lyrics which a wrongheaded jazzy spin, and every other cover version is so saccharine as to be nauseating. Just leave the song alone and let Judy sing it.

“Winter Wonderland” – Ever since I was a kid, I’ve questioned the ambiguity of this song’s lyrics. The premise is that the singer and his or her Significant Other build a snowman in the woods and pretend that the snowman is a parson who can marry them later. Then the song continues, “Later on, we’ll conspire/As we dream by the fire/To face unafraid the plans that we made…” Conspire? Face unafraid? Such hostile words have an inherently male tone, which make me think that the man in the story is getting lured into a shotgun wedding. “Now, c’mon, baby, you know we was just talkin’ to a snowman, right?”

“Snowfall” – I’d never heard this song in my life until just a couple of weeks ago, and it sounded ghastly to me. I did some Internet surfing and discovered that the song is actually a Tony Bennett standard, and Bennett sings the song pretty well. Unfortunately, the cover version I heard is sung by Johnny Mathis, who overdid it the way he overdoes everything; the opening instrumental sounds like the soundtrack to a seance. (You should hear Mathis blast out the already overwrought hit “We Need a Little Christmas.”) If you’re not Tony Bennett, don’t sing this song.

“All I Want for Christmas” – My late wife and my daughter loved this song. Personally, I’m not a fan of Mariah Carey’s vocal gymnastics; every time she sings a song, she feels as though she has to try and hit every note in the vocal register. Compound with the umpteen cover versions of this song, and you end up thinking, “All I want for Christmas is for you to shut up.”

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – I demand two minutes for a rebuttal.

“Last Christmas” – Whenever I hear “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart,” I envision some naive woman on a blind date with Hannibal Lecter.

“Santa Baby” – I know I’m in the minority on this, but I don’t think Eartha Kitt is nearly as sexy as she thinks she is. Ditto Madonna’s cover version.

“White Christmas” – Generally, I like this song. But our store plays a cover version by some unknown woman who thinks she’s Frank Sinatra, singing, “…to hear sleigh bells in the snow, uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh.” Then she adds her own lyric to the song: “I’m dreaming of a white snowman,” etc., etc. It takes some brass balls to think you can improve upon Irving Berlin.

And no list of dreaded Christmas songs is complete without:

“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Years ago, the humor website Cracked.com did a superb deconstruction of this song (actually of the TV special, but it still fits), pointing out how condescending everyone (including Santa Claus) was to Rudolph just because he had a unique nose. I can’t state my case any better than Cracked.com did, so read their blog about it here.

Oh, and…Merry Christmas, everybody!

Time for a rant

It’s time for a rant, so get ready. I’m not presumptuous enough to think that I’m the only person in America who has suffered gravely this year. But I’m widowed and have nobody to vent to, so here you are.

In May of last year, I lost the best job I ever had — best in terms of money, respect, and allowing me to write and create — just so that the company could tell its shareholders that they were beheading the employees who had the most tenure and salaries.

Months of job-hunting led to, at best, a few “pre-interviews” that went nowhere. Then my wife started the year by going into the hospital one more time for the many maladies she suffered.

We thought it would be just another of her inconvenient hospital stays. She remained in the hospital for two months and then died, just two days prior to our 31st wedding anniversary. She left behind a small business that my daughter has had to maintain, and little else.

Job-wise, the best I could do since then was my current job, as a cashier at a local convenience store. A monkey could do my job. Yesterday, my daughter tested positive for COVID-19. I just had a test done myself today, and it was “indeterminate.”

That means I should be safe rather than sorry and, at the very least, not leave the house for two days before I get another test. I am sick and tired of this effin’ year.

I have always despised politicians who use their office to hoard more power and money, rather than helping their constituents. You can imagine how I feel in this, the year of Trump & McConnell.

Yes, I know I sound like a self-pitying Job. But for the past year-and-a-half, I’ve done everything I can to keep things going, only to be kicked further down the hill like the proverbial can. I DESERVE AN EFFIN’ BREAK.

R.I.P., Alex Trebek

So sorry to hear about the death of Alex Trebek after his long-running battle with pancreatic cancer. My late wife and I always made a point of sitting together to watch “Jeopardy!” every evening. He was about as comforting a TV host as you could ask for.

“Jeopardy!” was only one of his many game-show triumphs, having hosted several other shows in the 1970’s and ’80s. One of those was “High Rollers,” a “rolling the dice”-based game which he co-hosted with actress Ruta Lee. Just as my wife watched “Jeopardy!” with me, my otherwise crusty stepmother enjoyed watching “High Rollers” with me in the 1970’s. She said she thought Ms. Lee was very kind and helpful to the contestants.

A few years ago, I discovered that Ruta Lee was a member of Facebook. I wrote her a short IM/fan letter in which how much my stepmom and I enjoyed her on “High Rollers.” She replied to me that she and that show were once a “Jeopardy!” clue, and all of the contestants were too young to remember the show, so they didn’t even try to guess the clue. I wonder what Ms. Lee is thinking tonight.