Saturday, January 1, 2022

Days of Loafing, Re-Discovering Dorothy, History Buff

Years ago, I worked for an organization that always closed down during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and as such I became habituated to taking those days off and have made it something of a tradition. Nothing is going to get accomplished in that time anyway. It’s an informal national “down week” as it should be, because these are frozen, dead, throw-away days in which humans are not meant to be functional. Hence no post last week. I’ve been off since December 23rd, doing nothing but loafing around and making a full-time job of trying to keep warm in the 15-degree weather in our under-insulated apartment, shivering in a turtleneck (thanks, Mom!), a hoodie, a knit hat, and double socks.

During all of this shivering, I was delighted to receive from Mr. Typist the newest version of the Dorothy Parker compendium. I had her compendium before for many years, and after a while it just fell apart from use and eventually disappeared. I don’t know what happened to it, but I always missed it. I was thrilled to re-read my old favorite stories that I had all but forgotten about, and regularly came lurching into the computer room clutching the book and gasping with laughter as I recounted to Mr. Typist the plot of my favorite stories. My top two are: “Here We Are”, in which a women has an emotional breakdown on a train because she becomes convinced that her new husband hates her taste in hats, and “The Standard of Living”, in which two young women enter a shop to inquire about the price of a necklace and discover that it costs $10,000.00 dollars. Simple plots, hilarious results. Bear with me for a moment because this is related: It seems like a long time ago now, but some years back Gillian Flynn’s book “Gone Girl” was, rightfully, all the rage and I read it practically in one sitting. One oft-quoted and much-discussed passage in the book was about the “Cool Girl”, a mythical figure of easy-going femininity, a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer...and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth...while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding.” The passage goes into a lot more detail, and was fodder for many an irritated think piece among the bloggerati. It turns out that Dorothy Parker beat Gillian Flynn to the punch years ago with “Dusk Before Fireworks”, in which the main character spends the entire story attempting to convince a man that she’s a Cool Girl and nothing like those other jealous, controlling harridans he surrounds himself with. So the Cool Girl has been around since at least the 20’s, it seems, and I suspect even before that.

Besides leisure reading, the other vacation-y thing I did was spend an entire weekday afternoon watching a movie with Mr. Typist. For some reason, I have developed a recent and quite uncharacteristic interest in the American Revolutionary War. Don’t ask me why. I’ve never been much interested in history, which I know doesn’t speak well of me, but it always seemed so fist-gnawingly dull in school, and I didn’t care a whit about which Persian battle pushed back which neighboring army or who conquered who in the endless Battles of Whatever. But I did want to get more of a grip on some things I’ve been fuzzy about, so I started watching a series of videos by Cody Cain called “The Founding Fathers”, which has been fascinating. Mr. Typist was excited by my new-found interest and suggested that I would enjoy “The Patriot”, a three-hour long opus from 2000 about the life of Colonial militia leader Benjamin Martin. This astounding movie has now moved into my official top five favorite films of all time. I sobbed through a great deal of it. It is hands-down one of the best movies ever made. It is absolutely breathtaking, with Shakespearean themes of pride, rage, love, family, morality, war, and death. At one point, the main character says, “I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear.” That is the emotional crux of the film—his sins do indeed return to visit him, and his sons and daughters, too, in unspeakable ways. I have a lot more to say about this movie, but this post is getting a bit on the long side and a more formal review will need to wait for another time. But if you find yourself with three hours to kick around, I strongly suggest firing up “The Patriot” and arming yourself with a box of tissues.


-Kristen McHenry

1 comment: said...

The Patriot is a topnotch film, no two ways about it. But, just like Braveheart, also by Mel Gibson, it's heartwrenching to watch. Once is all my frail eyeballs can handle!