Saturday, April 11, 2009

on watching 'willy wonka and the chocolate factory'

Okay, so I saw this film maybe 15 times as a child, as it was the "Overboard" or "Under Siege"of its day -- constantly in reruns, constantly on television. I probably have not watched it in 15 years. I just watched the first 40 minutes. I submit herewith a list of things I do not understand.

1) When exactly is this film happening? There's television, but Charlie's mother is still doing laundry in a giant cauldron with lye soap that she stirs with a giant wooden pole? No wonder they are starving to death. There's TV, there are live satellite feeds, and this woman is basing her livelihood on the odds that people somehow don't have washing machines? Or, alternatively, are lonesome for Victorian England and want to re-live the magic by sending out their laundry to her, rather than to a dry-cleaner or a commercial laundry?

2) Who is paying for all this candy in the opening "candy man" candy store scene? Are all of these children running tabs? Do their parents pay at the end of the month? If the shopkeeper is throwing taffy all over the place in giant, swooping arcs, why would he care if Charlie scooped up a piece and then ran out the door? What is this guy's shrinkage cost per month?

3) What exactly is the content of tomorrow? According to Bricusse and Newley, the songwriters, the candy man:
"can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream...separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream."
So I surmise that either tomorrow or dream is in fact at least partially dairy. The sentence implies that some component of tomorrow or a dream is sorrow, which at some point is separated, presumably because it does not taste particularly good. 100% sorrow-free cream sounds like a pretty good idea, but I'm not sure why a candy man is doing this. Is it some kind of sideline business?

4) Grandpa Joe seems like a real son of a bitch. He says "one of these days I'm going to get out of this bed and help out," yet we learn from his daughter that he has not done so in more than 20 years. GJ then states that he would do so if the floor were not so cold, a not-so-thinly-veiled dig at the daughter, who cannot adequately heat the shack in which they live.

5) The family lives in a shack, with a superannuated television, one 40-watt lightbulb, and a king-sized four-poster bed, apparently with bedlinens (which are not particularly inexpensive for king-size, but I digress). Four elderly people, two men and two women, sleep, eat, and god-knows-what-all in this bed. They never leave the bed. How exactly is there a child left in their custody? DCFS should have paid a call on these people by now.

6) They are eating, fairly regularly, something described by Charlie as "cabbage water." There is apparently no money for spices or bread to accompany this meal. Yet the grandfather mentions that he smokes tobacco. Charlie offers to pay for the tobacco. The grandfather demurs, but then his (evil? stupid?) daughter protests: "It's only a pipe a day, Dad." So she is enabling the grandfather's tobacco addiction, and is not averse to her child working at an under-the-table cash-payment-only job delivering newspapers to facilitate this?

7) Wouldn't Grandpa George, Grandma Georgina, Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine be drawing SSRI disability payments? Wouldn't Charlie's mother be drawing Social Security survivor benefits after her husband died? It seems there is some mismanagement of funds taking place here that may border on the criminal.

8) Tinkers roam the streets, offering their knife-sharpening services. And this is taking place when?

9) Grandpa Joe, far from being kindly and charming, decides that despite not working...nay, not GETTING OUT OF BED for twenty years...that he would like to go see the inside of the Chocolate Factory with his grandson. His legs, however, have not atrophied, so I am assuming that at night he is getting up and exercising, or sneakily going for walks or smoking or something. It turns out that despite an initial equilibrium problem, he is actually fine enough to go on a six-hour walking tour of a facility that must, to a starving child, seem like a cruel temptation and mockery of justice. Also, he has a very nice cane, which seems a little amiss in this landscape of poverty.

10) The part about the musical lock? The woman says it's Rachmaninoff? It's not. It's Beethoven. It's the opening of Fidelio.

10) WW&tCF was made in 1971. Amnesty International was founded in 1961. I am skeptical of their silence on the Oompa-Loompa question.

I had to quit watching then, because I was getting too annoyed. Also? Bricusse and Newley? Argh. Who thought this was a good idea?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

the peculiar comfort of lowered expectations

thank you Royals -- you're .500, that is all, repeat ALL, I ask of you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

kyle farnsworth

well, that was 4.5 million dollars well-spent. PHILO Farnsworth would have known better than to pitch Thome straight up the middle on 2-and-1 in the bottom of the eighth, and he died in 1971.

Another fabulous season of Royals baseball awaits.

Monday, April 6, 2009

rule 6.05

Okay, so another baseball season is upon us, for which I am profoundly, humbly grateful, and I'm the kind of person who actually DOES keep score at home, plays rotisserie-league baseball and loves the ever-lovin' heck out of the game, and I swear, I just don't get the infield fly rule. I have had it explained to me and it always makes sense at the time, and then I try later to remember what it is and it's beyond me. Kind of like general relativity, or Fermat's last theorem -- I get this quick flash of complete comprehension, like the green flash on the sea at sunset, and then it's gone.

Anyway, the advent of baseball always makes me feel good, cozy and quiet inside, secure in the knowledge that on any given evening from April through September, I can hunker down with a radio and listen to a game, announced in a way that leaves room for daydreaming and breathing and seeing the whole game, all complete, just like Einstein field equations, now that I'm thinking of it. Maybe that's what I like about baseball -- the game of Euclid, the game of angles, the game of grassgreen and chalkwhite and stripes mown into the outfield -- it changes the way you see things, if just for a couple (or three or four or if it's an AL/NL matchup, five) hours.

It's still not gonna reconcile me to the designated hitter, though.

In other news: a woman I work with wears a perfume made with heliotrope. I mentioned it to her, saying how it was unusual, and she had no idea what I was talking about. She said she thought it smelled like roses. Which it most certainly does NOT. Whatever, if that's what she thinks it is, and she likes it, I suppose to her it does indeed smell as sweet, no matter the name. I just want to know how you get up past the age of 20 and have never smelled what a rose smells like. Which, for the record, is not like heliotrope, not at all.

Oh, well. This is where complex, elegant rules like those in baseball would be useful in the workplace. I say, "nice heliotrope perfume, that's really unusual" and my co-worker says "it's not heliotrope, it's roses, what is wrong with you?" I could defer to the umpire, who in the absence of knowing the difference between roses, heliotrope, opoponax and stephanotis, would call it an infield fly: runners advance at their own risk, and everyone just rolls with it. Crisis averted. Now, if we could just figure out who keeps leaving their old, mold-encrusted coffee mugs in the sink. Maybe we could appeal to the 3rd base line judge on who keeps committing this outrage: we could rule it's Stephen Bartman, for lack of a better scapegoat, and the world will continue to spin on in its epicycles, apogee and perigee, steadfast and solemn.
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A Microscopic Cog in a Catastrophic Plan by Laura Lorson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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