Thursday, November 20, 2008

Postal piracy

There is a strong perception (entirely defensible, as far as I know) that Americans are essentially wimps with regard to happy endings and the cinema. Those who I know who are in the know—the people whose opinions I trust for supporting extremist posturing at cocktail parties—tell me that Chinese cinema (and fiction) relies heavily on the fact that everyone dies at the end of the story or at least walks away entirely ruined, if walking. I recently saw the British film “Happy Go Lucky”, and though that film ends delightfully, I recalled a comment my high school English teacher made summarizing Shakespeare’s work, “the only difference between the comedies and the tragedies is that at the end of a tragedy, everyone dies.” Nice point, though I cannot say where that leaves the typical disposition of film goers and filmmakers.

I know that I watch certain movies for certain reasons, and I am often affected by unexpected stories. "No Country for Old Men"comes to mind. I am curious though about the extension of the expectation of happiness beyond film. Pirates, in particular have recently risen as mysteries. I was curious about the recent hijacking of a tanker by pirates who, as reports, headed for a known pirate haven of Eyl, Somalia. Wow! A known pirate haven. Pirates murder, rape, and steal. When was the last time a fast food restaurant selected a rapist as one of a band of merry characters selling burgers, other than today at McDonalds? Hmm, never. As much as I would like to see Barney teaming up with a murderer on an early morning broadcast to kids, or perhaps falling victim on said broadcast, shockingly the cast is relatively safe. This is a real puzzler given the fact that on a certain holiday, parents all over the place dress up kids as pirates. So cute! Not so much. I am not sure if this augments or diminishes the American disposition toward the saccharine. No we do not like rapists, murderers, or thieves, but at the drop of the hat, we will disguise our treasured toddlers in swarthy garb and call it cute. Bizarre.

In a quasi-unrelated connection, I recently came across a sheet of the commemorative Charles and Ray Eames postage stamps sitting on a counter. My first inclination was to take the money and run, but I opted to act closer to my age and ask if anyone belonged to these stamps. It turns out that the purchaser very kindly gave them to me based on my interest. I was thrilled because I have for a long time had an unchecked lust for the low-slung LCM and LCW molded plywood chairs. So sexy. In a somewhat distant past, I was part of an endeavour in which several of such chairs were permanently borrowed from a Midwestern institution of learning. My stake in the booty is still essentially buried, but I have recently confirmed directions on a map: my cut, consisting of one chair, is safely stashed in a barn deep in the woods. I am fairly pleased that, in an instinctive defense of the American disposition, the woods of which I speak are analogous to those unfolded by Dickey in his heavy, not-so-happy masterpiece.

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