Sunday, December 28, 2014

Retro Movie Review, Pre-Finished Book Review, and an Epic Cold

The day before I was scheduled to go on vacation, I woke up with a burning sore throat and a severe cough and ended up calling in sick. Somehow, missing that one day of work/life threw my entire week off track, and I’ve muddled through the holidays in a disoriented haze of Ricola, Nyquil, and sleeping until noon. Today I’m finally starting to feel better, but I feel like I “lost” the last five days. It’s been the most awesome rest I’ve had in ages. Being that sick gave me permission to do absolutely nothing but give in, sleep like a hibernating bear, take long lavender salt baths, and get caught up on my reading. In a way, it was the best vacation I could have hoped for. I had no idea how tired I was. It’s been a hell of a year, and as usual, I’ve gone non-stop for all twelve months of it. My body and my brain need a long break. There is a psycho-spiritual feel to this illness; almost as though I was being forced to give up, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. And give up I have, completely and totally. It’s really quite lovely to be in such a state of utter surrender. I haven’t felt so at peace in a long time.

While in my sickly haze, I also decided I don’t have the energy to hate Christmas anymore. I just gave in and enjoyed the twinkly lights, the awful corny Christmas music, the giving and receiving of gifts, and the terrible seasonal movies, one of which was “Christmas with the Kranks” from the dim reaches of 2004. The movie was critically panned, and rightfully so as it’s pretty awful. The Kranks, empty-nester suburbanites in a close-knit, conformist neighborhood, decide after many years of “doing” Christmas perfectly and to the hilt, that they’re going to ditch the whole affair this time around and take a cruise instead. This decision shocks and offends their neighbors, who immediately begin a campaign to get them in the proper Christmas spirit and basically harass them into participating in their entrenched seasonal rituals. The battle escalates, hilarity ensues, etc., and in the end, the Kranks learn The Importance of Community. But before the movie devolves into over-the-top slapstick and sentimentality, there is a dark, satirical feel to it which was very interesting. The Krank’s neighbors, led by a vaguely menacing ringleader/busybody named Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Ackroyd), simply will not abide non-conformity, and employ tactics such as shunning, accusations of selfishness, attack caroling, and outright physical sabotage to get them to comply. Their cult-like insistence on the Krank’s participation, and their subsequent saving of the Krank’s in the end as a “reward” for their capitulation sends an eerie, twisted message. All in all, it was an odd viewing experience. Apparently, the film is based on the book “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham, which I plan to read. Hopefully it’s better than the movie.

 I shouldn’t need to feel even slightly defensive about the fact that I love comedian Jim Gaffigan, but I almost started this paragraph with a disclaimer: I like smart comedy too! I listen to Marc Maron! I watched Mo Rocca’s stand-up special! Blah, blah, who cares. I’ve come to accept that my default setting is low-brow. And Jim Gaffigan is one of those steady, work-a-day comics I really like. He does his job, he does it well, and in the end he goes home to his wife and five children in a two-bedroom, five-story walk up in the Bowery. I like artists who see their work as a job and don’t get overly dramatic about the importance of their role in society. Jim has written a new book called “Food: A Love Story”, which was perfect reading for me over these last few days. Reading it is like talking to an affable friend about their love of food. In way, it’s such a simple concept that it borders on genius. It’s just him writing about everyday, ordinary foods and his feelings about them. Hot dogs, crackers, cheese (glorious cheese!), steak, bacon, barbeque, and something from Canada called “poutine” which sounds delicious—all get his joyful, enthusiastic take. He’s very relatable and funny, and more than willing to spill his shame-eating secrets so we don’t have to. I’m only about halfway through the book at this point, and I find myself not wanting it to end because I want to keep talking to Jim in my head about his food feelings. I have food feelings, too! Lots of them. Hmmm….perhaps I should start a new series on this blog. Would anyone care for my hilarious take on spray cheese?

--Kristen McHenry

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