That was an interesting night. I had the headphones on; I was watching “The Wire,” and heard a strange thumping sound. For a moment I thought we’d put the dog in the dishwasher. Then (G)Nat appeared in the dim light of the family room, clutching Foxy, her new stuffed animal and companion plush during this time of stomach ills. “I threw up in the bed,” she said sadly. The thumping had been my wife stripping the bed and gathering up the horror; she had everything in the washing machine before I knew what had happened. So we had some early morning consoling and ministrations, and everyone finally went back to sleep at 1:30. I finished “The Wire,” because it was not the sort of thing you could leave until the next day.

(G)Nat stayed home from school, and my wife stayed home from work. It had the feel of a Sunday, somehow. I worked at home, cut a video – it’s up at today – then went to the office. Stopped off on the way home for sickbed items – Sprite, crackers, yogurt. Things Which Can Be Held Down. You can’t just buy a few crackers; you have to commit to an entire box. I don’t know anyone who’s eaten an entire box of Saltines before they get stale, but they continue to sell them in a bale that would feed a platoon.

I know what you’re saying: take a few packets from the salad bar. Yes. But that would be wrong. Somehow. I guess.

More detritus from the ongoing fiche scanning project: a Truther movie from 1947.

It seems they were electing a pope in Minneapolis in ’47, too.

Another item I found recently in the antique store – it was only a dollar, and I couldn’t refuse. It’s an oddly worded slogan, and seems to suggest that it’s actually a pretty good second-class drugstore.

I watched most of “Beowulf” over the weekend, and it was a technically marvelous disappointment.   The portion where Beowulf fights Grendel in the buff is amusing – Lo, the strategically placed weenie-blockers they had in Danish halls in those day. You expect Austin Powers’ head to pop up as a peener-occluder.  It’s also disconcerting to see a CGI Angelina Jolie slide out of the water in her starkers, but you get over it. Unfortunately, I got over it about halfway through the movie; like “Polar Express,” there’s a deadness at the heart of it. On the skin of it, too – after a while, it’s like watching Play-Doh Theater. If these guys did “Merchant of Venus,” and Shylock shouted “If you cut me, do I not bleed?” the audience might say “it’s even money, friend; you look like you’re made of clay half the time. Hairy clay with well-animated follicles, but clay.” The story contruded mightily with the original plot, too. “The Christ-god has made men martyrs, full of fear and shame,” says Beowulf.

"Hark – what is that? I hear yonder hoofbeats of revisionist authors over the ridge, my liege. What shall we do?"

"Casheth the check, Hmerlthsgird, and return unto Mal-A-Bue, where maidens and mead doth await, dothily."

It was like that throughout the movie, and I can well imagine the first story conference: Gentlemen, we have one of the oldest legends of our civilization here, a tale full of robust heroism, a frank raw tale of a brave man against the dark forces of a demon-cursed land. Obviously we can’t have any of that. It brings to mind this story about the lack of heroes in movies nowadays, and as regular readers probably know, I’ve been banging that gong for years. If they’d made the original Star Wars in the current day Luke would have found out that the Rebellion was a false-flag operation set up by the Empire, and he would have renounced the Force, moved back home and sold pots. I fear the next Indiana Jones movie, in a way; it’s possible he will spend the fourth movie apologizing for the first three, and do his best to battle the forces of English imperialism as he seeks to return the Elgin Marbles.

By some odd coincidence that’s the theme of this week’s comic book cover – three Liberty Scouts hitting Nazis in the face with fists, and doing so with relish. In the olden times grown men didn’t read comics; they read pulps and Astonishing Tales and Lurid Yarns and Fevered Jollies and other mags that presumed a certain amount of literacy. The comics were strictly kid-stuff, wish-fulfillment. I was lucky enough to come in at the end of the bad-guy era; it was okay to have evil Commies as the villains, even if they were from Unnamed Countries with chunky consonant pile-ups at the end of their name.

What happened? Intellectual isolationism; a parochial fascination with American deficiencies; the elevation of trans-national ideas that seemed grounded in sensible non-ideological concerns (save the planet! Stop world poverty!) but were quickly bent to an agenda that viewed capitalism and American power as the problem, and defined “freedom” down to a specific set of personal actions and attributes that not only neglected to include Property, but managed to make Property part of the problem. He said, enjoying his rank overgeneralizations. Chalk it up to the late boomers, and the generation that never really felt proud of America, and almost regarded the concept as something greasy and false.

Yes, yes, the usual parade of strawmen. But imagine a story conference for the Beowulf movie: you know, I see modern parallels here – not surprising, given the timelessness of the epic. But the Mead Hall is civilization itself, an outpost constructed against the elements, and Grendel is the raging force that hates the song they sing-

“They hate us for our singing!” Knowing chuckles around the table.

No seriously, he does hate them for their singing. That’s the point.
He hates what they’ve built, what they’ve done, how they live their lives.

“Maybe he has reason. That’s the interesting angle. What drives Grendel?”

Yes, you’re right. You’re absolutely right. No one’s ever taken the side of the demon in the entire history of literature, especially the last 40 years. By all means, let us craft an elaborate backstory for the guy who breaks down the door and chews the heads of the townsfolk, that we may better understand how we came to this point. 

The difference between these films and, say, Pixar? (G)Nat is so excited to see Wall-E based on two short trailers that she built a robot in Girl Scouts tonight and named it Wall-E and speaks for it in the Wall-E voice. Or did, until she pancaked with the bug. The large things loom, but the small things lay you low.

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