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.

Opinions and Tom & Jerry

I recently wrote this blog about the 1975 TV version of Tom & Jerry — which I abhor, especially compared to the fully animated classics that preceded it. In the blog, I mentioned a T&J fan who has taken the exact opposite stance. He has devoted a comprehensive website to the ’75 T&J series, and he makes it clear that he prefers the later TV version of the duo over the earlier theatrical cartoons.

I really seem to have set this guy off. He left me a long message at the end of my blog about how he would defend this series to the end, and he did the same thing on Facebook (where I had left a link to my T&J blog). Apparently, I have deeply offended this man, and I just want to say:

It’s only my opinion.

We all, happily, have the right to like or dislike whatever we want without having to face a firing squad because of our choices. There are people who absolutely adore cole slaw, while to me, it looks, smells, and tastes like cardboard covered with a garish amount of mayonnaise. Some might agree with me, but does that make it a fact? Of course not. It’s an opinion. And if you want to ruin a good hamburger by placing it next to a side of drippy cole slaw, that’s your prerogative.

A while back, I wrote this blog about opinions. One of the things that our currently divided country forgets is that it’s okay to disagree. I did not create a campaign to wipe out the TV version of Tom & Jerry for good. I didn’t deface the guy’s website. I merely said that I disagree with it. End of story.

When the movie Monty Python’s Life of Brian was first released and caused an uproar among the ultra-religious, film critic Gene Siskel gave a rave review to the movie on his TV series (the one with Roger Ebert) and said, “I feel bad having to defend it…Do [religious leaders] think people who have deep, personal religious faith will have that faith shaken by a 90-minute movie? How shallow. How patronizing. How insulting to people of faith.”

I think that applies to all such disagreements. Opinions are opinions. Don’t feel as though you have to give the Internet the scorched-earth treatment to defend your favorite book, movie, whatever. If you don’t agree, let it be.

My coronavirus update (No, I never had it and still don’t)

Coronavirus prevention? Adrienne Barbeau has it covered.

I thought I’d give my take on others’ and my own reaction to the coronavirus, since everyone else on the Internet seems to have shared his or her two cents.

For what it’s worth, I’d like to extend my sincere sympathy to the thousands who have lost family members and/or friends to coronavirus. As I’ve already mentioned countless times on this blog, my wife died in March — as it happened, about a week before the coronavirus started making big news in America. As my son blithely put it, “I thought we were going through a personal kind of grief, and then much of the country did the same thing.”

At the time, I hadn’t considered my wife’s death particularly merciful. But after COVID-19 reared its ugly head, it made me rethink my wife’s circumstances. Needless to say, it was terrible that she died. But at least we got to be sociable with her. Friends and family were always visiting and traipsing in and out of the hospital with ease. I spent several nights sleeping in her hospital room. And when she was dying, we all got to say our proper goodbyes, in person. Our misery would surely have been compounded by not being able to see her before she died, or having to communicate with her via walkie-talkie or printed signs at her window. For that, I remain grateful.

Strangely, COVID-19 did not change my lifestyle that much. After being unemployed for nearly a year, I got a job at a convenience store five months ago. Under Florida mandate, both employees and customers are required to wear face masks inside the store. Because of that (and I hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying this), I haven’t felt as though I’ve been in any danger since I began working there. And even if I did…well, my wife died, and I gotta earn a living.

Outside of work, I maintain the same level of anti-sociability that I always have. My son and I have gone out to a couple of one-night-only movie showings (maintaining proper social distance from other movie patrons, mind you), but other than that, I really only go out for groceries. Since the few places I’d actually want to go are still closed, I don’t feel much loss. On my off-work days, I putter around the house or sit in the backyard, drinking wine and smoking cigars and pretending to be well-off.

This business about the facial masks always amuses me. Many customers often forget to put on a mask before they enter the store, so they’ll suddenly realize their mistake and lift the top of their shirt or blouse to cover their nose. That’s a sight I thought I’d never see. The masks are also a frequent topic of conversation between me and the customers. Last night, one of them commented how we all look like a bunch of bank robbers, which made me wonder: Are they going to have an exclusive line of face masks for COVID-19-era bank robbers some day?

And it’s astounding how many people still regard a mask as an attack on their personal freedom. My half-sister in Kentucky is adamant about the subject and insists that she and her husband will never wear masks. But then, they live in Kentucky, where it’s probably not difficult to stay six feet away from your nearest neighbor.

Otherwise, I have the same opinion as thousands of other Americans: What’s the big deal with wearing a freakin’ mask in public? It’s a tad uncomfortable and inconvenient, to be sure, but not as bad has having to gasp for your last ounces of breath while isolated from the friends and relatives you will soon be leaving. And believe me, there are plenty of people (myself included) whose facial appearance is probably improved by the presence of a mask. Wear it, already!

Arthritic Tom & Jerry

(C) 1975, Turner Entertainment

For Tom & Jerry fans in the 1970’s, Sept. 6, 1975 was the day the music died.

That date marked ABC’s premiere broadcast of an animation abomination titled The Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show. If you do remember this painful entry in the Saturday-morning TV kiddie fest, you probably don’t want to.

The story goes that in the ’70s, Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera — whose Hanna-Barbera company was by then the go-to source for Saturday morning cartoons — purchased the rights to produce TV cartoons starring Tom & Jerry, the cat-and-mouse duo that had earned them countless Academy Awards in the 1940’s and ’50s. Hanna and Barbera screened several of their classic T&J cartoons for executives at M-G-M (the movie studio that owned the rights to the characters). The execs laughed heartily at the cartoons, then did an about-face and said that T&J’s “violence” would never pass muster with Network Standards and Practices (who were then being hounded by parents’ groups who leaned heavily on sponsors to pressure networks into broadcasting more “uplifting” fare on Saturday mornings).

Given little choice in the matter, Hanna-Barbera proceeded to homogenize Tom & Jerry to the point of unrecognizability. The once-dueling duo was turned into a pair of friends (a la Laurel & Hardy, minus the comedy) who engaged in pointless “adventures.” And Jerry now sported a bow tie that enabled H-B’s animators to “split up” his movements (so that his head and his body could move separately), saving money for the cost-cutting H-B unit.

Initially, the T&J cartoons were paired (in an hour-long format) with the cartoons of an equally witless character named the Great Grape Ape. This was a benign but moronic purple gorilla with a fast-talking sidekick, improbably named Beegle-Beagle (I guess as a salute to the character Nicely-Nicely from the Broadway hit Guys & Dolls. I’m sure that reference got a big laugh from Saturday-morning cereal-crunchers).

After a year, apparently ABC decided to air the characters in slightly more palatable formats. Each set of characters got their own show, which quietly died until Cartoon Network was formed in 1992 and Ted Turner used the Grape Ape segments to fill up his schedule.

In any case, everything that Hanna-Barbera ever learned about gags and comic timing seemed to have been forgotten in these TV-made forgeries. One lyric in the TV show’s theme (about the only enjoyable asset of the series) goes, “You’ll begin with a grin when you first tune us in.” But there’s nothing in the TV Tom & Jerry that ever takes you beyond the grinning stage. H-B went from great comedy routines to which you had to pay attention to get all the jokes, to getting everything telegraphed to the dumbest yahoo in the audience. It’s as though people who never really “got” Tom & Jerry’s comedy were trying to write it.

Amazingly, there appear to be viewers who actually prefer this dumbed-down TV series to the beautifully animated cartoons that inspired it. There is even an entire website devoted to this show. (Click here to view it. The site also provides one example of the Sat.-morning show’s six-minute T&J segments; watch it, and see how long you can tolerate it before moving along to somewhere else on the Internet.)

The TV T&J cartoons are bad enough on their own. What really gets my goat is that they were made by the same guys who worked on these cartoons (in full-animation mode) for 17 years. Somewhere in their heart of hearts, Hanna and Barbera must have felt at least a pang of guilt for taking the fun out of their own creations just for a quick buck.

The “Love Goes On” Blogathon – Final Recap

Our enthusiastic bloggers made it to the home stretch of our blogathon devoted to movies about eternal love. Click on the appropriate days to read the entries for Day 1 and Day 2. For our final round of entries, click on the name of the blog to read their work.

As always, Movierob captures three movies of different eras and tones: Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, Steven Spielberg’s A Guy Named Joe remake Always, and Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven.

Diary of a Movie Maniac follows up his review of Foxfire with a second Hume Cronyn-Jessica Tandy outing, To Dance with the White Dog.

Musings of an Introvert offers a Robert Downey Jr. double feature of Chances Are and Only You.

And finally, who’s to say you can’t fall in love with a ghost if he’s as suave as Rex Harrison? Pure Entertainment Preservation Society states her case in her review of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

My heartfelt thanks to all readers and participants of this blogathon. I appreciated the respect you paid to the blogathon’s theme, and it took at least a little of the sting of my wife’s death away.

Kathleen Feindt-Bailey, 1960-2020.