Finally. It's The Week! It's a bit clumsy when the 26th is on Friday; it feels like an empty lost day between the one-two Christmas punch and the ordinary weekend, like waking up from a nap an hour before you will go back to bed. Expect nothing but odds and ends and filler on Friday, and believe me, I've plenty. Gout Sauce and Gotham Mysteries, to name but two of the items in our everything-must-go entry.

MERRY MERRY HOLLY MERRLY HOLLILY here comes the song that makes you cry

That was the musical mood in the Target seasonal aisle, where people who had not been paying attention to the calendar, or waited for the last minute out of habit or preference, were picking through the selections of wrapping paper and ornaments. The latter had been reduced down to the ugliest collection of papers I’ve seen in a long while, and it made me wonder whether any management types looked at the rejects in the shank of the Season and made curt notes to dismiss the buyers who’d chosen these ill-starred rolls. No doubt they note what was returned, but is there a panel that judges the designs on aesthetic grounds and issues a verdict of NIX on this color combo, that narrowly-defined array of dog iconography? I wish they’d ask me. This . . . this dog paper. Wife would love it, but they are the wrong dogs. There should be more dog option. This, this bright late-60s typography with the words MERRY JOY LOVE or something - am I wearing a bikini to show catch-phrases drawn on my abdomen? No? Then I am not Judy Carne and neither is anyone else.

What I wanted was something that does not exist: white paper. I was dreaming of a white paper Christmas, really - no pictures or patterns, just a heap of white boxes with red ribbons. Apparently I had some nocturnal brain-eruption that put this idea in my head; the bolt of electricity flooded through the neurons while I slept, and the brain reached for something to channel the juice and came up with a 1995 Restoration Hardware catalog.

Friday Target is not my usual time, and hence the mix was different. Well, not that different: here’s the random stranger who recognizes me!

“Liked your column today,” he said as he pushed his cart past. I smiled and said thank you.

“Usually I don’t,” he said. “But this one I liked.”

As I later tweeted, this is how you troll a writer. What do I take away? I wrote something so good it convinced a doubter, or here’s a guy who thinks I suck but liked this one, because he has the sort of standards I’d like to think I have? Did this mean people who liked my column in general hated this one because it had something that appealed to the people who didn’t like it?

I regard every column as a referendum, an election, a bid to make the reader want to read the next one. I have an absolutely mortal fear of appearing to coast, phone it in, assume “well, I’m a columnist, so I can let our my belt and tell ‘em what I think.” No: that’s a recipe for being a predictable old crank.

On the other hand, if you hew to certain ideas, POC status is conferred or inferred. For example

I noticed something interesting over the weekend: a series of tweets from a journalist I know - glancingly - who has previously confined himself to tech observations. They had two themes, either in statements or retweets:

He wanted to go to Cuba now, and

Hurrah! Mall of America protestors defying the ban.

Of course, in Cuba you wouldn’t have the dispute the MOA had with the protestors, because you can’t protest, and the issue of “private property” is not only off the table, table itself is the property of the state.

Many instructive tweets about how the MOA’s claim to be “private property” was invalidated by this precedent or that urgent necessity, but one could not suspect that the protestors's cause influenced the learned evaluations on the malleable nature of “private.” If, for example, the protestors were brownshirts demanding the deportation of all non-citizens, you question whether the defense of the right to assemble would be so vociferously full-throated. If, for example, some anti-Castro demonstrators sought to hold an instructive rally in the house of the journalist who really wanted to go to Cuba ‘cause whoa coolness, old cars 'n stuff, perhaps the cops might have been called.

Because a house is not the same as a mall; you can’t go to the journalist’s house and take it over. It’s not the same because . . . because the new standard is now the Depth of Conviction and the Magnitude of the Outrage, as defined by the occupiers of a building where people went to buy books and soap. Pointing out how it establishes a rather troublesome new standard is just waved away: irrelevant.

 

At Hunt & Gather (more tomorrow, as part of pad 'er out week):

Seven lights per set. Nowadays you buy them in boxes of 300. Is this the same Good-Lite company that's been around fro 80 years, and is unquestionably regarded as "s the leader in providing illuminated eye cabinets, as well as evidence-based eye charts"? This website devoted to old Christmas tree lights puts the age of the box as 1927, and since they seem to know a lot about the other light companies but come up mum on Good-Lite, I can't say, and I really can't say it matters.

I mean, really. It doesn't. I have to draw the line somewhere.

 

 

   

Sentimental treacle, ladled out like thin nog? You're soaking in it:

LEE GARMES was not a popular guarantee of sparkling diversion, I suspect - and when you see a strange name atop the title, you suspect it's a personal project from someone on the Hollywood margins. This would seem to reinforce the suspicion:

Again, I don't think MILDRED CRAM was a household name, and the treble screenplay / story / associate producer credits make this seem like something other than A-line Hollywood material.

Which it is. The movie begins on Christmas Eve, where we meet three old wealthy industrialist friends. From the left: miserable man lost to shame and darkness; twinkly irrepresible Irishman; tall Englishman who is, in this scene, defending colonialism.

They decide to throw wallets out the window to see if honest people exist. Honest people would pick them up and return them to their room. Happily for the plot, two young people without emotional or sexual attachments pick them up and go to the old men's office, where everyone has an impromptu Christmas.

The universality of the season and its American iteration is underscores thus:

Once the couple has met and found each other desireable in a chaste sort of way, the old wealthy men get on a plane so the second act can begin. Russian Stereotype Lady has the worries:

And of course:

Not to worry, audience:

They are transparent, but watch over the young couple and attempt to offer guidance. They can't, because they're dead.

It's apparent that the old fellows aren't going to come back to Earth in fleshly rainments, so they'll have to wander around . . . until, that is, Their Work is Done. Whereupon the movies them their go-towards-the-light moment

And yet it's a bit of a tear-jerker at the end. Sneaks up on you and gives you that Christmas Feeling, even though you almost expect Jesus to show up to take them by the hand and float up to the light.

That would have been beyond their budget, and the wires would have shown.

 
 
 
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