While reading an article about revisiting notions of men and women – we never tire of those – I noted the items highlighted in yellow:

Where have they gone indeed. Well, not the pub, since you can’t sit there and smoke anymore – not to say that smoking is proof of Real Manhood, but if you look at old photos of the bars and pubs, you’ll find the sort of characters that would probably fit the bill – guys in hats with a lunchpail, a Lucky and a Rheingold. What was in that lunch, anyway? A BLT? Tsk: bacon’s bad, smoking’s worse, and if you have to have a beer at the end of the day, you have a problem. If you could find a way to replace each of those things with an organic radish somehow, that would be just ducky

The lunchpail jobs have been supplemented by office jobs now, where most guys know enough to run any remark past their own inner “real men” filter, and if that brute laughs, keep it to yourself or close the door. You might find the new real men in unexpected places, such as the home, where they work and take care of the kids, but there’s not a lot of them, and no one will ever call them “real men,” anyway. Trust me on that. For every stay-at-home mom who grants you peer status there are two who’ll size you up straight away as a dad who lost his job and thinks he’s the equal of a stay-at-home mom, but doesn’t make the evening meal or clean the house. (I’m serious: it’s as if I met a woman who said she was a lawyer, and I smiled in a way that said oh, but of course you are.)

Anyway, these aren’t real men in the Real Men sense. Even if the stay-at-home dad is some buff guy with close-cropped hair (hints of grey around the temples, because they had kids late) who runs the marathon and does yoga and cleans the house with sustainable products and is a totally supportive partner, that’s not a Real Man in the sense the newspaper story implies. You know exactly what they meant: a Real Man has a hairy chest and broods now and then, doesn’t give a damn about his prostate and has an opinion about horses and the fights. He’s good with the kids – even though he dotes on the daughter and tells the boy to toughen up -   but he keeps a lot to himself.  If he is a Real Man in the old sense, he feels alone in a way he can’t quite put into words - he's doing what's expected of him, but it's not enough, and he's also supposed to be something else that doesn't come naturally, and has no isntruction guides - he's supposed to get it and do it. He’d like to talk about it with his dad, but that’s not what Real Men do, is it. So he never says anything, and one day finds himself graveside feeling more alone than ever. What did he know that I didn't? How come those guys fit in? What happened to their world?

It’s hilarious, really – the culture touts makeup for men and the concept of “boy beauty” as applied to Pete Frickin’ Wentz, and then wonders where the "real men” have gone. It’s like putting an atonal opera on the stereo, turning it up to 10 and wondering where all the music lovers went. It’s not that they vanished; it’s just that they don’t want to hang around with you anymore.

Good day; warm and sunny and perfect. Natalie was feeling poorly this morning, so she didn't go to the horseback riding event. (That sounds much more uppercrust than it is, believe me.) A nap, some juice, and she was back to full speed by one PM - actually skipping around the house, which is a sign of complete recovery. I'm getting this out of the way before the National Night Out, aka mandatory neighbor-acquaintance event. We're driving to a really nice neighborhood and pretending to be the new people down the street. Who will know? The cheese should be good.

Anyway. I’ve expanded the “noir” feature to include any movie in glorious black and white, made before 1968. Why? Because I ran out of noirs, for one, and because black and white films always seem like they’re from another world, the time before the recognizably modern era. Color wasn’t brought into existence when Dorothy stepped out of her house into Oz; it began the moment history went from the black-and-white footage of Kennedy’s limo to the Zapruder film.

This week:

“I Want to Live.” I think I’ve seen it twice before – once a very long time ago, when it really disturbed me, and perhaps 10, 12 years ago on videotape. Now it’s out on DVD, widescreen, and it’s a good print. Still disturbing. It’s the story of Barbara Graham, a “party girl” who went to the gas chamber for her role in a murder. The most powerful parts of the film deal with imprisonment and the interminable lead-up to the execution, and since audiences probably had no idea what went on in the gas chamber, the detailed, methodical, bureaucratic preparations must have been chilling. They still are. You have sympathy for Barbara, because she’s played with brassy devil-may-care by Susan Hayward, and the film deftly mutes her culpability in the murder. In fact the movie doesn’t show the murder at all. We know nothing about the old lady her associates killed, and since it’s likely she was guilty this seems frankly dishonest. Everything Barbara Graham went through at the end was nothing compared to the last minutes of the victim. There was no one arguing for the victim, no one expressing sympathy and sorrow, no friend at the end to share stories and cigarettes, no priest, no guard to put a rug on the floor for the final walk because the floor was cold. I’m generally not in favor of the death penalty for a variety of reasons – except child killers; smoke ‘em – but I didn’t have my opinions changed one way or the other. And there’s something wrong with making this woman a sympathetic figure. Something very wrong. But things were changing, and the center was unraveling long before ’68.

It was an interesting looking picture, though: Robert Wise was a good director. Hard to believe he did the first Star Trek movie, too. (He also directed the staid, straightforward "Executive Suite," discussed last week) It's also odd to see the warden played by Raymond Bailey, because he was Mr. Drysdale, and you just don't expect to see him leading women to the gas chamber.

From the trailer: it's Moms Gone Wild!

Well, that’s what she said. The opening scenes are set in sordid clubs where men with dark glasses play saxophones. In the jazz club, things are so hip they’re tilty:

Outside, Elvis Costello blows a joint:

While inside, hipsters are temporarily self-blinded by the power of jazz:

Here’s a clip which gives you the tone of the movie – and yes, that’s nice fuzzy-but-cynical Murray from the Mary Tyler Moore show, demonstrating another side of his personality: wow. Harsh.


Bottom line: the DVD player seemed to suspect that something was wrong with the story, and told me so:

Two of her confederates went to the gas chamber the same day, but they weren't pretty enough to be the subject of a biography.



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