This will be a short week for Bleats, since I have a massive piece due next week, and I have to prepare the site for next week’s book launch. Damn Reynolds mentions it’s coming, and steals my Amazon credits! And promises a review! I hate reviews. Now I can’t read his site for two weeks. Well, I'd better get ahead of this and use the momentum. Ready? Ready for a month-long shill-a-thon culminating in a permanent link at the bottom of the page? Sure. Ahem. (cough) Ladies and gentlemen? Buy the book.
It’s called “Mommy Knows Worst,” and the short description is thus: The Gallery of Regrettable Parenting. It’s a compendium of archaic child-rearing advice, going back to the 1920s, when parents were urged to give their kids sunburns and linseed enemas. It’s perhaps the only book I will ever write that devotes a substantial chapter to the greatest problem of the 1940s: CONSTIPATION. You have no idea how slow the bowels of American children moved in the forties. Dads will enjoy how stupid and useless they were made to look in the 50s; Moms will enjoy the detailed how-to-give-birth-at-home section from the WW1 era, and everyone will love the 1960s pamphlet on dealing with home stresses via industrial tranquilizers. It’s the usual retro-fest with many ads, laden with unfair commentary, and attractively priced; perfect for everyone who’s ever had a kid or a mother. I think that covers it all.
Many thanks to the Prof for the push. Now let’s get this thing into the top ten – if only for a minute. It’ll make me happy. It’ll make you happy, knowing that the continued success of these books keeps lileks.com ad-free. AND, if you like the Joe Ohio series, well, good sales figures on this one will make the book version more likely.
Twelve bucks! Cheap. And hours of laughs.
I thank you. Now buy! Or I’ll podcast twice as hard on Friday!
Anyway. That’s it for today, except of course for the Quirk and the Tuesday Joe Ohio rewrite. Old version here; new version here. (New episodes in late November, probably.) The Screedblog isn’t gone – I’m just playing with the bottom navigation, and rearranging stuff. Pointless busywork, but it adequately masquerades as a sense of purpose. See you tomorrow. AND BUY THE BOOK!
Finally joined Netflix, that online service that ships you cracked, unwatchable Cds for a small fee. Well, some arrived intact. I watched two movies I’ve never gotten around to seeing, but have probably insisted for years I’d seen already. One was “All About Eve.” News flash: theater people are shallow and bitchy. While it had its amusing moments, it struck me as much overrated – unless you’re in the Theatah, in which case I suppose it’s a documentary. Or rather a reaffirmation of what you believe, i.e., yours is a noble and fascinating craft filled with people who, even at their worst, can deal cutting remarks whose lacerating nature masks their own self-loathing. Even that famous line of Bette Davis – “fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” is somewhat a let-down, since what follows is sodden drunkenness relieved only by Marilyn Monroe. George Sanders is as wonderfully evil and empty as ever, and I would have liked to have seen a movie about him, and the paper for which he wrote. (Newsflash: journalists are shallow and bitchy too, but since that’s my profession they’re obviously much more fascinating.) In any case I kept thinking the movie would be better if I was in high school, in theater, and watching this with friends, all of whom were also in theater, and regarded the work as the thespian equivalent of Capra’s “Why We Fight.”
Also watched “The Hustler,” wherein Paul Newman takes on Jackie Gleason. Great movie. They should make a sequel. It suffers from a middle section that’s unfortunately necessary, since you can’t have a movie that consists entirely of pool. You have to go outside and get some sun and scrambled eggs before you go back into the poolhall. Gleason is tremendous; if you’re my age you grew up with Gleason as the TV variety show fellow with the away-we-go schtick. You learned about the Honeymooners later, at which point your appreciation expanded greatly. Gleason had that same skill Roscoe Arbuckle possessed in such amazing quantities: lightness and grace. But Gleason had gravity, too. Modern fat comics haven’t had that skill; Belushi was just amped and revved, which is different from having, uh, inner buoyancy. (Hey. It’s 2 PM, and I’m in the cafeteria looking at the same old damn parking lot, listening to Mahler’s 5th 2nd movement. Happy happy times, eh? Allow me the occasional “inner buoyancy,” which may be accurate but just looks pretentious.) John Candy was heavy, period. Chris Farley was an overinflated kickball still bouncing off the walls an hour after it was thrown. Gleason was different. He had – what’s the word? Buoyant innards.
Okay, enough of that. You won’t find that sort of spirit in this Mahler I’m listening to; the man would have scored a children’s parade as a funeral march. Or at least dropped a funeral march into the middle. The Fifth is one my favorites, though; the first two movements, which might as well be interchangeable, are Mahlerian in every sense but their length. When you want to get ambitiously depressed, the fifth actually works better than the 6th. Of course, I do not want to get depressed; it no longer has the romantic connotations it does when you’re a teen. (Followed by that all-important crucial emotion of the 20s, Anger. Just as Teenage Depression means you’re sensitive, 20something ANGER means you’re smart. Anger pays little, though, which is why so many choose its hipper cousins, Cynicism and Irony, the Olson Twins of the lazy mind.) Actually, the times in your life when you don’t feel a particular need for Mahler are the times you should give him a fresh listen. It's a coming-attractions reel for the 20th century. Among so many other things.
(YesI I know they made a sequel!)