Snow, rain, leaden skies, nausea, a minor cold and taxes due: the nadir of April. It will only get better. Sunday I just bundled up and watched bad movies. They are a comfort.
Well, that’s not all I did. I went to the Mall to have them look at my iPhone, which has bad wifi problems. They said it’s a software problem. They have to say that because the next time I come in with the unit and say “it’s still as janky as ever, dear Genius,” they swap it out. On the way ouf of the mall I walked through Penneys, which is one of the stores overhauled to reflect the chain's new approach.
People didn’t want this. They wanted junky old brown stores with stuff heaped in piles. Or heaps piled with stuff, maybe that was it.
As I read somewhere, the departed CEO's mistake was changing the pricing structure before he changed the stores. I think that's exactly right. The store at Southdale was changed, so I got what they were trying to do, and I liked it.
Me and six other people. There were hardly any shoppers.
I went to Best Buy to return a modem, then looked at cameras. I'm not in the market, but I like little point-and-shoot cameras. Cellphone cameras are good but for an upcoming vacation - months away, but already in the planning stages; I bought a city map on Amazon the other day, which will be moved from a box to another box, shipped across country, carried over the ocean, and opened in the city it describes but has never visited - I want to take really good pictures. So I was looking at this small Nikonthat has an enormous lens, and has Ashton Kuchner in the ads to make you think Steve Jobs would have endorsed it.
It's probably really good, but the lens is too big to carry around. So you think: this will be the camera I don't carry around. The Special Occasions Camera. I had a chat with the salesguy, who said it was good but lacked high-end motion stabilization on the HD video mode. I thanked him for his time and said "I won't go buy it on Amazon."
You feel the need to say that sometimes.
Then I went back outside in the rain and drove home, listening to Lloyd Bridges on an old radio show about a deep-sea diver. Thought about Lloyd Bridges and the way he became entwined in the popular imagination with deep-sea diving. Wondered if he liked it at all. When I got home I looked him up, and was reminded that he was originally considered for the role of Captain Kirk. I can see that. He was also in favor of World Government.
Then I put aside all thoughts of Lloyd Bridges and sat in front of my computer on a drizzly dank grey Sunday, weary from the cold, and wrote the preceding. Called up Netflix and started poking through the far corners of the library, looking for something to watch while I finished up the two big projects of the week.
One has to do with the banner up top. It's a fairly substantial site that will be offered for free, of course.
The other is something that could have been a website, but turned into a 150-page, or 150-item, book. It will be given away with the request that you pay $1.25 on the honor system. Something of an experiment. You might say "hey, uh, no - if I encourage that, then you'll sell updates in the future."
Well, now and then, yes. But I will never stop doing things like this: five updates to an old site devoted to Missing Persons ads in 1920s magazines. You can start here if you haven't seen it before.
So it’s rather hard to come up with anything today, aside from sighs and sneezes. Oh, I suppose we could talk about a 1969 movie I half-watched as a form of research on the joys (warning: no joys involved) of movies from my least-favorite era. No Black-and-White world, inasmuch the B&W movie I saw I don't remember, thanks to the overall bleariness of the head this weekend. First, some inadvertent documentary from the opening credits: the old neon city, the place we traded for something darker and lesser, the place that still glows in the American imagination.
It’s Denver, and I’ll be damned if I know where that is. Believe me, I looked. Gart was a sporting goods store; there’s a Ginn Mill bar on Latimer, but nothing in Google street view looks like any of this.
When I boosted the brightness on another shot, details emerged -
. . . and it made me wonder if that was visible in the theaters, or whether it was waiting all these years to come out and be known. Denver Post, eh? Not like any Denver Post building i can find.
Sure enough. Vacant lot on the spot now. I imagine no one was sad to see it go; there’s something about the phrase “Cut-Price Liquors” that depresses a block.
Not as much as the movie, though. “The Happy Ending” is one of those movies that reveals the rot and ennui behind the cheerful American facade. People are unhappy because they believed that everything would have a happy ending, and it didn’t. But, you say, it hasn’t ended. They’re living a comfortable life in a nice house in Denver. They have food and shelter. He has a job he likes. She has a daughter she loves. But oh, no, she’s in hell. I mean GAWD:
That’s supposed to say it all: the breakfast table, the TV with Jack LaLane exhorting everyone to breath in some fresh air and get up and move. Of course, our stunned housewife cannot because she is prison.
She can barely make breakfast, because it's just all so boring and predictable. I was so engrossed at this point I had to stop and zoom in, because my mom had that coffeepot. Many Moms had that coffeepot. You see that slight blue detail in the middle on the right side? It's a Corningware.
Soon we learn she's popping Miltowns as well as drinking, just to keep the world at bay, and since she has no interests or identity of her own - because her husband leaves the house every day by saying "now, don't go getting any intellectual aspirations or even so much as a hobby. There's my little rabbit -" all she can do is go the club and play cards, or have her hair done by a sympathetic gay man who, by all rights, should find her tremendously dull. At one point her husband calls the salon with details about their anniversary party. He concludes the phone call by saying he loves her. He says it frequently and he appears to mean it, too. In fact he's worried about her.
She hangs up. "My husband loves me," she says flatly.
"We all have our own crosses to bear" snipes her stylist.
Is she depressed? It appears so. Is it the type of sadness, all-pervasive, smothering and relentless, that comes from mental illness? No’ she’s just not satisfied. So she runs off to the Bahamas, and by some mad coincidence her seatmate is an old college friend, who's now a quasi-hooker, sleeping with married men. Played by Shirley Jones, of course. She's heading down to have a liason with Lloyd Bridges, whose wife doesn't understand him. Our runaway wife almost sleeps with Bobby Darin. Eventually she Finds Herself and leaves her husband, and finally the movie delivers on its title. Mostly by ending.
I’m sure everyone patted themselves on the back for making a Serious Film, fraught with social significance. Jean Simmons was nominated for a Best Actress role, possibly because she looked so frumpy before she cast off the demands of society. It also has Dick Shawn, of all people. You may know him from “Springtime for Hitler” or other roles where he was that odd guy who appeared to have teleported in from a subsequent decade. His imdb bio notes that he died on stage, of a heart attack, and this:
He invented the “high five”. I’ll have more on that at the work blog in a few days.
Anyway, it has all the hallmarks of the Polyester Era - the worst sort of self-satisfied seriousness, the adolescent attitude towards “phoniness” and other forms of social niceties. The latter is interesting, now that I think about it: the main character rips into her husband while she’s blotto on Smirnoff, and speaks her mind about his phoniness - his tan! The plaques on the wall at his office! - and she yearns for people to be real, to be really real. But everyone in the movie is at their worst when they’re real. In every instance where someone is Honest, it’s either meant to tear someone else down, or pity their own state.
This was the logical result of the 60s sex-farces, where men try to cheat on their wives, or try to get divorced, or get divorced then hook again, all with a broad cynical brush of "comedy" smeared over everything. Once we were all accustomed to the modern theme of the Unhappy American Marriage, or at least the Marriage That Looks Good But is Really Rotten Behind Doors, it was necessary to take it out of comedy, where all's well that ended well, and make it deep and relevant. All's well that ends with the heroine walking away to a single apartment where she can make that tea she never had before she learned about it at the poetry workshop where she read the poem about that dream where she was smothered by a quilt her mother made and the young man who ran the class nodded and said he dug it. He dug it! Something she did, he dug. Anyway Michel Legrand is playing on the soundtrack as she walks away and it's poignant and meaningful.
One of the imdb comments: "Loved the Bobby Darin character. He really showed how phony everything was."
But not our heroine, who leaves her husband, and enrolls in night school at the unversity, and is finally free of her clueless spouse who didn't understand how she ached for Meaning. She repudiates the lessons she inherited from her parents, who believed in Happy Endings.
Sure, she has a high school daughter, who she leaves, and trusts to the clueless husband, and who learned nothing but Unhappy Endings from her own sot of a Mom, but hey, she'll be okay.
If she really mattered she would have been in the last scene.
Today: Matchbooks, of course. The Strib blog after noon; it's Titanic related. The Tumblr will inaugurate a week of old cold remedy ads.