There’s a new emoticon going around, but it’s impossible to type recognizably so you just have to spell it out. It’s about getting a happy upgrade.
The toilet is behind us.
Magic number: 98672
Magic word: marmoraceous
• The customary way of dealing with an unwanted houseguest is to hurl them through the air onto the pavement outside the home.
• New hairstyles are almost always a mistake and the object of ridicule.
• Stolen, desirable-looking food is invariably made of soap or plastic.
• Minor members of rock bands carp incessantly about how they want to be the star of the band, yet they never start their own bands or even side projects.
• High school athletes can play for multiple teams—baseball, football, basketball, track—without any scheduling conflicts.
Apologies for the lack of scribbling since March 27.
We have been away, and before that were consumed with the work which had to be done before going away.
Now we are back, and your daily Scribblers magazine resumes.
Also please visit our companion site New Haven Theater Jerk for other Arnott writings.
There’ve been longer gaps, and catch-up days, but we’ve been pretty regular in our postings since mid-December and hope to keep up that pace now.
Thanks for reading.
Magic number: 45766
Magic word: dungarees
Now that I have a driver’s license, I have a local bookstore to frequent. It’s Whitlock’s Book Barn, just three miles down the road in Woodbridge. I’ve been there at least once a week since passing my driving test, and have purchased dozens of books. My daughters took to it immediately, each finding antiquated children’s books that they want to display in their rooms as well as tomes that suit their more grown-up tastes.
A few finds from this very day:
LP albums by Petula Clark (the intriguingly double-titled Color My World/Who Am I) and the Swingin’ Blue Jeans (containing their hit “Hippy Hippy Shake” and featuring a cover photo of jeans—black ones—hanging rather than swinging on a clothesline).
Coley B. Taylor’s hardcover essay Mark Twain’s Margins on Thackeray’s Swift, which in one fell swoop unites three of my all-time fave writers.
English Masques, Selected and With an Introduction by Herbert Arthur Evans. Contains my favorite Ben Jonson masque, News of the New World as Discovered in the Moon, which inexplicably is left out of most Jonson anthologies.
Always Belittlin’ by Percy Crosby. This is an awesome purchase for me, as I’ve only ever owned it as a photocopy. Crosby was the creator of Skippy, one of the most popular comic strips of the first half of the 20th century and an acknowledged influence on Peanuts and many other kid-based comics. He was a great artist, whether doing the Skippy strip or elaborate watercolors for magazines. He was also a fine prose writer and philosopher. Always Belittlin’, published in 1927, is a collection of essays and humor pieces starring Skippy, most of which were originally published in the old Life magazine. “Always Belittlin’” is a Skippy catchphrase similar to Rodney Dangerfield’s “I can’t get no respect,” except that it’s uttered by a young boy who’s trying to find his place in the world. There’s a Tom Sawyer quality to Skippy, but Crosby delivers much more than a middle-class street urchin retread. He adds his own style and character and beliefs to his boyish adventure tales. The comic strips (happily being reprinted daily on the GoComics websites) are wildly imaginative and detailed, and the written essays only build upon that.
Whitlock’s Book Barn is located at 20 Sperry Rd., Bethany CT. The store, which encompasses two large book buildings, is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.whitlocksbookbarn.com.
The 1989 TV movies of The Saint, starring Simon Dutton as Simon Templar, got released on DVD last year. I missed the announcement because it wasn’t mentioned on saint.org, where I’m used to gettting all the major Saint news. So I’ve only just picked these up, at a decent discount from Amazon. The disks, which have only been available as bootlegs until now, have been nicely packaged by Acorn, the same company which released all the ITV Roger Moore Saint episodes from the ‘60s, and which I also respect as an expert distributor of theater-themed DVDs (from a documentary about Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi doing Hamlet to the miniseries of Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Chronicles) and some of my famous British mysteries (Rosemary & Thyme, anyone?).
There’s a lot to like about these Saint movies. It’s really the only Saint series that gets to take its time. When the generally wonderful hour-long Roger Moore series was basing its episodes on Leslie Charteris short stories, they fit nicely, but when they tried to adapt one of the novels, like Plays With Fire, to a single episode, the results are forced and frenzied. The George Sanders series of B-movies aren’t much longer, and there aren’t very many of them. Some of them also make up ridiculous non-Charteris plots. While it’s true that the Dutton Saints aren’t based on specific Leslie Charteris stories, they’re true to the character in a way that, say, the Val Kilmer film of The Saint just eight years later profoundly was not. Dutton’s Saint enjoys the thrill of the chase. He likes showing off his cooking skills. He likes hobnobbing in multiple languages. (Good thing on that last one, because these movies were made for international distribution, with multi-cultural casts; some actors are dubbed into English while others are not. An amusing viewing experience at times.) The leisureliness of the Dutton Saints suits the character, suits the complex plots, suits the medium. If only they hadn’t gone for that lush romantic musical soundtrack which desperately dates the series—it sounds even earlier than late ‘80s, more like Macmillan & Wife or Hart to Hart. Which brings me to another point: Dutton’s Simon Templar unapologetically sleeps with a lot of women. That’s not so true of The Saint from the books, or from Roger Moore’s Saint (though there is an episode where the cops burst into his hotel room and find him with three women in bed—his unshakeable alibis). I don’t think it’s a given that Simon Templar sleeps around the same way James Bond does. But some adapters simply assume, and make it so.
There’s an important phase in between “great new show” and “jumping the shark,” and I feel like that’s where House of Cards is right now.
There’s a time, often in the third season of a hot show, where the the characters stop serving a higher purpose and the show simply starts serving the characters. You felt it happen with The Sopranos, when the focused retelling of the Borgias tale of a family empire destroying itself became scattered episodes focusing on some of the fun supporting characters.
The first season of House of Cards was a parable of political ruthlessness. The second was about the logical extension of that drive. The third? Well, it could have been Macbeth, which would have suited the narrative so far. Instead it’s a new made-up crisis each episode, with President Underwood actually (and uncredibly) being depicted as sentimental, sloppy and open-minded. This is the character’s downfall. House of Cards remains a fine show, but it’s not about politics anymore. It’s about a random politician, which isn’t nearly so interesting.