"LORD, how did we get ourselves into this kind of rat race celebration. What would Jesus do? Certainly, not own a charge card. It has dawned on me that Christmas is coming and I cannot ignore it!"
This was the late governor of Texas, Ann Richards, awash in the need to have gifts for two sons, two daughters, numbers of grandchildren, employees, friends and enemies.
• I just had an e-mail from a reader who said what good sports New Yorkers are, how friendly and in great spirits. I don't exactly know where this person has been visiting but I sure do want to go there!
• MAYBE YOU won't consider this news the disaster I do. The Library of Congress just revealed that 70 percent of silent films, made between 1912-29, have been lost forever. And of the 30 percent that remain, many are incomplete or of lower quality formats.
The silent film era offered remarkable artworks; sensual, terrifying, funny. They swept audiences into a land devoid of sound, but rich with imagery.
When sound debuted in 1929, it had a shaky start, but soon took over. Stars such as Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin resisted as long as they could, but eventually sound was in, and as MGM trumpeted for 1930s "Anna Christie"-- "Garbo Talks!"
More than ever we owe a debt to Turner Classic Movies and the people at Criterion DVD, who devote such care to restoring, preserving and offering older movies, including silent movies, in all their mystery and beauty.
• I received so many "corrections" as to when Thanksgiving was conceived and made into a national holiday that I am thinking I won't write about that particular holiday from now on. The certainty of suggestions "who" and "when" ran from George Washington to Franklin Roosevelt.
I did dip into Gore Vidal's book titled "Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson" and his jaundiced look at how these United States almost came not to be and not to last and, at first (and nowadays) was almost ungovernable.
He notes: "Washington's steady presence and regal confidence more than compensate for his poor performance in the field against British generals, themselves every bit as striking in their mediocrity as he." (The Father of our country, vain and a mediocre soldier?! What will biographer David McCullough have to say about that when his book is published?)
Vidal writes: "Adams alone saw virtues in monarchy--not England's, but one of our own, with titles for the men of power...If Adams was the loftiest of the scholars at the Continental Congress of 1775, Thomas Jefferson was the most intricate character, gifted as writer, architect, farmer...and, in a corrupt moment, he allowed his cook to give birth to that unique dessert later known as Baked Alaska."
And then there was that dark presence, Alexander Hamilton. A "soon-to-be financial genius, ever eager for profits and commerce for the new nation.
...also sternly pro-aristocratical"...While these four favored the creation of a Republic, if not an American monarchy, each saw the original blueprint from a different angle."
And so Gore Vidal concludes that when we see Nancy Pelosi striding through the Capitol building speaking of how we are a great democracy, the founders actually thought, and Vidal died thinking, that we are actually a Republic.
Whatever we are, we are still fighting about voting, how to, when to, how to control voting and we are still a nation of "haves" and "have nots" (inevitably the founders thought) And we are still, in effect, fighting about slavery. And the "haves" are afraid of the "have nots" just as they have been since the beginning of human races.
Read this not new Vidal book; it's slender and tells history in a hurry. It was published by the Yale University Press.
• And on to show business, our real business here. I am in receipt of a lovely note from my friend Christine Baranski. This award-winning actress, while off from her hit series "The Good Wife," has been in London filming "Into the Woods." She thinks/hopes this Stephen Sondheim musical will be "pretty fabulous."
Christine is enjoying the wild success of a fifth season on "The Good Wife" where she is allowed to play a mid-life human female who is not only an excellent, combative lawyer, but is also allowed to have an interesting sex life.
Her real-life daughter, Isabel, will make Christine a glamourous grandmother any moment now.
• "I've always had a lot of anxiety, and I've dropped that completely and really started living in the moment and not thinking anything too much--really practicing what I preach when I say not to worry what other people think and be who you are to the fullest. I'm proud of knowing that's what I encourage other girls to do."
That's Miley Cyrus in Entertainment Weekly's "Entertainers of the Year" issue. Now, Miley might be the nicest 21-year-old in the world -- she is certainly savvy when it comes to her career. But, what exactly does she think she is encouraging "other girls" to do? Being "yourself" is one thing. Being an entertainer and making a spectacle of yourself is something else entirely. I suppose there's nothing wrong with making yourself a spectacle, but "other girls" can't do that in real life; particularly not in this cyber-age of instant everything and relentless bullying and the expectations of real-life young men who see a spectacle and want to take advantage of it.
Declaring yourself a role model -- especially to vulnerable teen-age girls--is one of those things that can bite-you-in-the-ass, bigtime.
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