In lieu, I give you this very touching song – from The Big Broadcast of 1938. For people of a certain age – my age, for example – we grew up knowing this song only as a melody played when Bob Hope came out onto a stage. But this is truly a lovely break-up song, so I offer it as my adieu to 2017. Bittersweet.
It was three years ago, yesterday.
BHL, as annoying as he can be, sums it up well with this tweet:
Parce que l’islamisme radical est un nouveau fascisme, parce que la liberté de s’exprimer ne va pas sans liberté de blasphémer, parce que la laïcité n’est jamais une nouvelle religion mais la condition de toute religion et de toute pensée, je suis
And here is a link to my column about those frightening days – I still think it is one of my better ones.
I mentioned Iran in my previous post – I wish I were surprised at the mealy-mouthed reactions of Western Europe and Canada and leftists in general to what is happening, but I’m not. After all the romanticizing and fetishizing of the niqab and the burqa and every other unfortunate aspect of Islamism, after trying to justify or downplay the blatant anti-Semitism of the regime in Tehran, after the weakness and lack of pride or support in what should be our own fundamental values, the only surprising thing would be if the protesters in Iran were given clearly-stated support from the left and from certain heads of state. As much as one finds President Trump unpleasant, his reaction to the protests has been commendable. (I am old enough to remember when that awful regime took over; it would be delightful to see it destroyed.)
I think Margaret Thatcher said it best:
This weekend would have been my brother‘s 69th birthday. He should have been here: he should be here now to enjoy the circus of American politics and media; to feel the same frustration I feel at the lack of support from the West (with the exception of the United States) and the left for the Iranian protesters; to discuss the righteousness and the excess of the #MeToo movement; and so much more. Glad to have had him in my life for as long as I did – will never stop missing him or being angry that he is gone.
“Cratchit, you magnificent bastard! I sent you a turkey!”
Some of you may have seen George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge in 1984’s ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Some of you may have enjoyed it. But none but the very foolish would consider it superior to the 1951 ‘A Christmas Carol’ starring Alastair Sim. Yet, I have heard of people who think the Scott version is not only superior to the Sim version, but the best Ebenezer Scrooge of all. I have seen articles asserting this calumny.
Who could think such a thing?
Most in the Scott camp are Millennials, which explains a lot. They grew up in a cultural Black Hole, they can’t spell, they don’t know where to put an apostrophe, their self-esteem is way too high and they all need to get off my lawn.
But one of the afore-linked articles appears to have been written by a fellow Gen-Xer. Horrifying.
Now, I love George C. Scott. He was a fine actor. I have seen ‘Patton’ more times than a woman should admit. It’s my ‘go-to’ movie when I’m blue. But the Alastair Sim version is the only Christmas Carol worth your time.
What sets it apart? Four things: horror; humour; music; casting.
The Victorians were good at ghost stories, and this version of Dickens’ classic reflects the tradition well, starting with Peter Bull’s sonorous narration and moving along to Jacob Marley’s lamentations and rattling chains, to the toiling, tormented ghosts outside Scrooge’s window, all the way to the grim Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come.
Some of this is present in other versions, but nowhere else is it as effective. Black and white film helps, but it’s more than that – the mood here is dark, and darkly funny. There is much humour in this version, too many witty moments to list. The best, for my money, is when the undertaker, waiting patiently outside the dying Jacob Marley’s room, explains his presence by stating that “ours is a highly competitive profession.” Coming in a close second is Scrooge’s post-redemption conversation with his mortified housekeeper, Mrs. Dilber, and the moment when the Irish lady in the shelter says to Alice (in gratitude for her kindness), “Cut me throat, rip me liver from down the line, this is the happiest Christmas I ever had.” (It occurs to me that I should start thanking people like that. )
The use of music in the 1951 version is unparalleled in the panoply of cinematic Christmas Carols. (Why, it’s even better than the music in the ‘Scrooge’ musical, which went something like this: “I hate everyone, la la la!”) From Christmas carols, to the recurring use of Barbara Allen – if that song does not make you weep, you have no soul – to the celebratory clanging of ‘Oranges and Lemons’ when we first see the regal Spirit of Christmas Present, to the fiddlers at Fezziwig’s party, to the traditional ‘My Love’s an Arbutus’ which accompanies Scrooge’s visions of his lost love, it all works perfectly.
The cast is extraordinary. No room to list them all, but it is a measure of how well-selected each actor was that a most poignant moment takes place with no words: when Scrooge visits his nephew Fred on Christmas Day, Fred’s maid answers the door. The small nod of encouragement she gives a hesitant Scrooge is perfection. Of course, Sim’s performance as a weary man who feels “too old to change,” brings everything together.
Yes, I know, the 1951 version isn’t true to the novella. Scrooge’s mother didn’t die giving birth to him and Fezziwig’s Christmas parties weren’t all that and blah blah blah. Phooey! You can insist till the figgy pudding is ready that whatever version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ you prefer – the one with the Muppets, or Reginald Owen, or Fonzie, or Patton – is the best. But you’ll be wrong.
I will still, however, wish you a Merry Christmas, in keeping with the situation.
Almost exactly a year ago I wrote this about Barack Obama’s kick in the heart to Israel just as he left office. I was dubious about Trump then and while I am not thrilled with him now, he certainly made the right decision when it came to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The reaction to the decision was entirely predictable though I could not have foreseen how many people I “know” (on social media) know so little about the history of the Middle East. It’s exhausting, actually, reading some of the nonsense posted, including the innumerable “humour” (term used very loosely here) along the lines of “Palestinians recognize Texas as Part of Mexico” (an, er, “anti-Zionist” relative of mine posted that) or “World to Recognize Moscow as Capital of the United States” (a lefty friend of mine posted that) and so on. Get it? Get it? Hilarious! As though those scenarios were remotely comparable.
As an antidote to such foolishness, I give you links to three terrific columns to read and enjoy (the first two from total NeverTrumpers): John Podhoretz’s take is right here; Bret Stephens’ take is here; and Conrad Black writes about it all here.
For the record, I do think some otherwise sensible people are allowing their contempt for Trump (which he most definitely cultivates) to prevent them from seeing how righteous and overdue this decision was.
…in the Montreal magazine Accenti, about my time in Italy last year during the earthquakes.
Earlier this week, my late uncle was given an Honorary Call to the Bar by the Law Society of Upper Canada. It was a beautiful ceremony and, in particular, I would like to thank Patrick Shea for being the driving force behind the event.
You tell ’em, Baroness Deech. In this clip she talks about what regrets, if any, we should have about the Balfour Declaration (the 100th anniversary of which is today).
Bukowski wrote this lovely poem about (his) cats:
I know. I know.
they are limited, have different
but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so
they complain but never
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can’t
their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
when I am feeling
all I have to do is
watch my cats
I study these
they are my