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Post-Holiday Hiccups

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Well, that's over. Until Christmas. Still recovering from my daughter-in-law Lise's remarkable meal, so I must confine this to random thoughts which seem to come out today as hiccups in prose.

Saw the DVD of Born into Brothels this weekend. For those of you who haven't seen this Academy Award winning documentary film fearing it would be too depressing to see the children of Calcutta "line prostitutes" living their marginal lives - buckle up, sit down, and see it! It is one of the truly wonderful films of this decade. And by that I mean filled with wonders. Zana Briski, the photographer, and Ross Kauffman, her colleague, had the inspired notion of giving these forgotten children cameras to record their lives and in the process changed their lives, and maybe yours. There are moments of transcendental joy in this movie, the likes of which you can only know in your own childhood. See the children as they play on the beach for the first time in their lives. Look at their faces as they take pride in their own photography - mastering a skill that tempts them to believe that they can master life, after knowing nothing but the worst poverty, with no relief in view. Now I've never been a big fan of Mother Theresa, a woman who devoted herself to the sick and the dying among the Indian poor without offering more than a God she often doubted and some charity soup, while having nothing to offer the living, but I am a huge admirer of Ms. Briski who used her talents, her funds, and her compassion, to help save a small group of doomed children by offering them the hope of a better future, and setting them on that course with all the strength and courage she has. See it! It will change your life. And if you don't weep with joy at the end you need Mother Theresa because you are half-dead already.

Saw Dancing with the Stars. This is my secret vice. I watch it alone while everyone else is busy doing something important. My wife, a woman of great taste and uncompromising notions about reading in one's spare time does not join me. This show is, I suspect, is porn for the aging. Love it as I do, I admit to having some problems with it. First problem, does anyone know which ones among the contestants are the pro dancers and which ones are the stars? Not me. Alright, I know Marie Osmond although I missed her in her heyday, and I once worked with Jane Seymour on a film I had written, but the others have no "star identity" for me. And why is this called dancing? Dancing is Fred Astaire, dancing is Gene Kelley, it's Ray Bolger, and Ginger Rogers and Rita Hayworth. It's Donald O'Connor. It's even Dan Dailey. Dancing is grace and wit and a subtle sex appeal that makes you feel that the best of life and romance can be found on the ballroom floor, and what is going onstage or screen is happening to you. This is ice-skating without the skates and the rink. The contestants dress like stars of some second-rate traveling ice-show, Olympic rejects in gaudy, faux sexy costumes, the women showing their naked backs and thighs, the guys with those cliche unbuttoned shirts, all performing calisthenics and gymnastics in time to gaudy over orchestrated music, giving each other a terrific workout while smiling brilliantly, then waiting eagerly to be judged by other people nobody ever heard of, and given ratings that appear to be in the seven to ten category. I would prefer a pass/fail judgment for them because the subtleties of their dancing is lost on me. But I do enjoy it. And so will anyone who has no measurable intellectual shame level as I do.

Why is it that the more I see of Jerry Seinfeld in his new role as promoter of an animated cartoon he has written and starred in, the less I like him? Tell me Jerry, why? I was an early and huge fan of his show. He was the sane, witty, urban dry guy, the truth speaker in a group of wacky friends. I know he went on to do a stand-up act but he more or less disappeared into a rich and happy life. He recently emerged as this bloviating, self-promoting sleazy, stand-down guy, attacking some poor woman who happened to write a cookbook for children that contained recipes duplicated in his wife's book. Not nice, Jerry, using your fame and the platform it affords you to take cheap shots at someone who can't defend herself, not nice. Even George would think twice before acting as you do these days. Worst of all, you look super-rich in the worst possible way, just a bit bloated, so sure that everything you have to say is worth saying because you are rich enough to afford saying it. I can't comment on his Bee Movie because I won't see it. Maybe it's charming, maybe not. I must admit that I don't particularly fancy cartoons, even the marvelously animated ones, and the ones the Japanese call anime. Oh, I did as a kid. My folks took me to see Snow White at the Music Hall, and I loved the early Disney stuff, up to and including Fantasia but in these later years of mine nothing compares to a film with live actors in a fine, human story, and there are very few of those around.

I used to delight in Gwen Ifill and Washington Week in Review but something has changed for me recently. I still think she is a great beauty with an innate elegance and a smile that's hard to resist - but I am getting tired of the format in which "experts" come forward and report on some issue of the week, speaking without passion or involvement, as I sit there before the tube, amazed that otherwise sane, lucid people can speak without making personal judgments. It's High School book report time, not very engaging for me these days. Not that I prefer Fox News with a Brit Hume who has nothing but judgments to make or the kind of Washington insider smugness of a Cokie Roberts - but I do appreciate people who are prepared to put themselves on the line as they discuss some pressing issue of the week.

I wish I was religious because I really do want a heaven and hell. It would make me feel more comfortable about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney - knowing there is no asbestos suit that would let them spend the afterlife in comfort. How they shamelessly continue to abuse their power and promote their country club values and add to the coffers of the super-rich as children in this country and through the world go hungry - sorry folks, I kind of lost it. It doesn't help me that I can't figure out who among the Democratic candidates can help set right these past years of immeasurable wrong.

Saw a bit of an old Doris Day comedy movie over the weekend as I flipped through the channels. "What a gal!" as they used to say. Those fifties movies delighted in depicting something that is lost in this twenty-first century world - "hanky-panky" - a kind of comedy or sexual errors which advanced the plot with sly laughter in stylish clothes - as opposed to full frontal nudity and heavy breathing that stops a story dead in its tracks. And the lady had such warmth and charm. If it was manufactured, well they stopped making it here, and you can't get it made cheap in China. No wonder she remains an icon all these years. Now as they used to say at Warner Brothers, "that's all folks!"