Saturday, January 05, 2008

"There's Always a Band, Kid."

In honor of the Iowa caucus, after thirty years of watching The Music Man, I'm finally seeing it as God and Meredeth Willson intended. Much like when I beheld 1776 in widescreen for the first time, I gathered all sorts of details that were chopped away by pan-and-scan; River City, for example, actually extends more than one inch on either side of Ron Howard's head. Entire houses and storefronts! I can see more than two and a half Buffalo Bills at once!

For all the arm-flinging I've done about the legs of Berlin and Rogers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Lowe, I must declare The Music Man as my favorite, for it accomplishes that rare feat of sophistication without pretension. It is a movie about redemption and hope, but not in an obvious, Nazis vs. small children wearing curtains sort of way. The script is upbeat but with just enough shadow to protect the enamel of one's sensibilities. Dialogue is deceptively simple, with subtle piano lesson humor, elevated references, and brilliant staging; it's a story set at the turn of the last century with applications at the turn of this one. (Performances of One Grecian Urn are currently available at a Catholic Mass near you.)

The period detail is tremendous; the film is set in the early 1900's and, well, it looks like the early 1900's. Too many historical movies bear the stamp of the age in which they were made-- Vanessa Redgrave, although she portrays a queen of the Arthurian era in Camelot, looks like she just alighted from the set of Laugh-In.

Not only does The Music Man keep and keep, it gives and gives. When I was six, there were pretty songs and swishy skirts; now that I am thirty, there are pretty songs, swishy skirts, and the realization that naming a Fourth of July picnic "The Last Days of Pompeii" is a masterpiece of ironic pomposity. And it's a movie before its time; the "If there's anybody in this hall who doesn't think this man Harold Hill shouldn't be tarred and feathered, let him by-God stand up" scene is the official precursor of the Regan-era Slow Clap.

The Music Man, shockingly, was Robert Preston's first musical role. Warner Brothers wanted to cast Sinatra. Sinatra. Because when you think small-town corn-pone Iowa Americana, you think Frank. Willson threatened to pull the film without Preston, and I say God bless him for preserving his performance for all of Western Civilization. Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins, Yul Brenner as the King of Siam, and Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill: There are no others.

You can cut and paste just about any Presidential contender's strategy onto the quick-thinking, specific-but-empty flattery of Harold Hill's--if it's not the presence of a pool table in our community, it's global warming and childhood obesity. Trouble, and sending my brass band to the White House is the only solution for it.

But none of them will look as good as Preston in a punched-up top hat.

advocating dirty books at:

Thursday, January 03, 2008

He WILL Kick You Into Delegation Submission

I am hereby sticking to my promise to avoid political writing by highlighting only the most vital news out of Iowa tonight: the sight of Chuck Norris and his neon white teeth--there is such a thing as neon white teeth, and Chuck Norris has them-- LOOMING LOOMING LOOMING over Mike Huckabee's left shoulder during the caucus victory speech. Chuck Norris had decreed that Huckabee shall win Iowa! And he... is watching... you.

Chuck Norris has already been to Mars; that's why there are no signs of life there at:

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


For my first post of 2008, I wish to discuss a very serious issue.

This was clipped from a December womens' magazine, and I am greatly troubled that our society has reached the point at which we must provide pictorial step-by-step explanations of how to achieve mall hair. Is this not included with the power to ovulate? The only difference between the women of the '80's and the rest of humanity is that, for a single unfortunate decade, we chose to exercise the ability.

I don't remember anyone teaching me how to Bang; I simply amassed a curling iron and a pick and a metric ton of hairspray and took my place at the right hand of D.J. Tanner. I take special exception to the flippant nature of the text in the third step-- "spray liberally until crunchy"-- that wasn't a sound effect, people; that was a necessity. When you possess, as I do, hair with the texture of overmicrowaved string beans, hairspray is an indispensable tool in maintaining bangs at a naturalistic ninety degree angle.

And this chick is way too carefree about the entire affair. Bang-curling is very serious business, to be attempted in the early morning hours with a smoking iron and rapidly cooling breakfast. My mother could gauge precisely the type of hair day my sister and I were having merely by the amount of foot-stomps she heard from our bathroom above the kitchen. Flinging hair care products into the sink was a common weapon against the cowlick in the center of my bangs; it works about as well with a comb in 2008 as it did with the pick twenty years ago.

We see here an immense amount of hair, both in width as well as height. The occasion is my eighth grade graduation, which was pretty much my most formal evening out until that point. It is still a formula to which I subscribe: The more important the event, the further out from the head the hair must expand. That is why, on my wedding day, we saw the back extending many inches away from my skull. Compare that to, say, this photo:

The horse does not care about follicle volume. The horse barely cares whether or not I wish it to move.

So by this principle, if ever I appear on television, I will likely require my own soundstage. And you-- this is the key to gauging my estimation of you. If you and I meet, and there is no evidence of mousse, there's a pretty good chance that I either just purposefully ran you down with my car, or am on my way to purchase a used one from you. But if, on the other hand, you see this:

Dearest Reader, you might well be God Himself.

no more perm appointments at:

Monday, December 31, 2007


Let us review the highlights of 2007:

1) I was Princess Center of Attention MYYYYYYYYYYY SPECIAL DAY BRIDE

2) As you well know, pretty much nothing else matters.

Thank you for your friendship and readership. I hope your remaining two hours of 2007 are the best two hours of the year. We are putting the decals on our Life board game, because nobody parties like two newlyweds on their first New Year's Eve.

confetti at:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I'll say it again: I love my bride!

I've been told wives remember everything their husbands do and say, good or bad. I married Mary Beth because she's the rare one who doesn't bring up past faults during an argument, and simply thanks me for the things I've done for her. This Christmas Tink showed me once again why I have no reason to think we won't make it long term: she gave me a surround sound system for the man-cave! Normally, there's no way we can afford such a luxury, but she took on an extra e-Stack to earn the money.
That's her real gift to me, and I'll always remember it. I'll never forget how she was willing to sacrifice time and energy to earn money for my present, time and energy she could have spent on her next MSNBC article or the manuscript for her next book. I'll always remember how she remembered me missing the Daytona 500 to help her move, and has returned the gift, with interest. A long time from now, when the system is long since upgraded and the price she paid is pocket change for us, I'll still consider it the most priceless gift she ever gave me.
I love you, my bride!!

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