THE SHEPCAT CHRONICLES

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A Maow Story — #3 in a Series

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Last night, for only the most trivial and arbitrary reasons, I didn’t want to eat my dinner from a full-size bowl. Too big for what I was eating, didn’t want to dirty it, whatever.

It so happens that the only clean, appropriately small bowl I had — which then proved to be almost too small for what I was eating — was Maow’s old water bowl, an off-white ceramic bowl with a small base and fluted sides. It’s been clean for the last two months, stored in the same cabinet with the rest of my bowls, but I’ve avoided it almost unconsciously. Until last night.

Even as I was ladling my dinner into the bowl, I felt wrong about it. The bowl is very much hers and was from the minute we first set it down for her. Of the three water bowls we initially placed throughout the house, to encourage hydration when we were most worried about her kidneys, it was the one she drank from most frequently, the one situated on the landing of our staircase. I once placed a different bowl there while it was in the dishwasher, and I think we both felt weird about it. They were swapped back as soon as the fluted bowl was clean.

The bowl is in the dishwasher now, and 16 hours or so later I still feel weird about having eaten from it.

Later in the evening, I dozed off during a movie I was watching, and I dreamed about Maow.

She was happy to see me the way dogs are happy to see you when you come back into the room after five minutes away, bounding over to me with uncharacteristic intensity. It would have been disorienting had she done it in real life.

At one point, she climbed up on my chest (which she also never did) and kissed me repeatedly, inasmuch as a cat can kiss, bobbing her head and planting little pecks on my cheek. However disorienting this too would have been, I recognized the moment it referred back to.

When my eldest niece, the first grandchild in our family, was born, we were all giddily obsessed with her and lavished affection on her constantly. We joke that for the first two years of her life, her feet never touched the floor, because someone was always holding her.

On what may have been her first birthday, if memory serves me correctly, I was holding her in one arm in the kitchen, where the whole family was gathered, and every so often I’d kiss her on the cheek or the top of her head. Then someone placed a bowl of vanilla ice cream in front of me, and with my free hand I took a couple of bites before putting a smaller amount at the tip of the spoon and raising it to her lips.

She loved it. And she thanked me with a tiny kiss on the cheek.

I gave her another bite of ice cream. I was rewarded with another, bigger kiss. Soon it became clear that she thought if she kept kissing me, I’d keep giving her ice cream. We ate the whole bowl this way, with me receiving a kiss every time she took a bite of ice cream.

This is how Maow kissed my cheek in the dream.

That was the second time I’ve dreamed about Maow since she left us. I believe it was entirely circumstantial, owing to my dinnertime dilemma. I don’t believe she was somehow addressing me from beyond to let me know it’s OK for me to use the bowl. I’m still going to feel weird about it for a while, and I may avoid the bowl more consciously until a little more time passes and I realize that for the love of God it’s just a bowl or that using it makes me feel more connected to her. I don’t know why it should be this bowl, of all things, that makes me feel this way, but there you have it.

In any event, I hope Maow keeps turning up in my dreams.

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Written by Shepcat

January 10, 2018 at 11:16 am

Posted in Continuing Series, Life

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The Insignificant Detail #10

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A WALKING ATM

One of the joys of my trip home this past Christmas was watching North by Northwest with my dad, who kept up a running commentary of the make and model year of virtually every car that appeared on-screen (with the exception of “Laura’s Mercedes”). He was positively Rain Man–like.

Then a couple of days later we were out shopping, and I happened to mention that, though I make a lot of daily purchases with my credit card, I still feel a sense of security having some cash on hand at all times. “Like Cary Grant in the movie the other night?” Dad said. “How he never ran out of cash?”

I’ve seen all or part of North by Northwest at least 70 times (conservative estimate), but until just then I’d never really considered how Roger O. Thornhill’s inexhaustible cash on hand qualifies as an Insignificant Detail, not unlike bullets in a John Woo gunfight.

Remember: Thornhill is abducted in the first four minutes of the film1 and spends the next four days either in the custody of or on the run from or toward his captors. So in 1959, decades before the advent of the automated teller machine, when would he have the time to stand in line at a bank (during regular daytime business hours, no less, while also being widely publicized as a fugitive from justice) to make a withdrawal?

With that in mind, here is a running account of every time Thornhill greases a palm — on camera and off — over the course of the film’s 136-minute running time:

DAY 1

  • 0:02:32 Thornhill buys a newspaper in the lobby of his office building with change he removes from the side pocket of his suit jacket.
     
  • 0:04:16 He pays the cab driver to return his secretary, Maggie (Doreen Lang), to the office.
     

DAY 2

  • 0:26:11 Thornhill presumably pays the Glen Cove police the $2 drunk-and-disorderly fine.
     
  • 0:26:49 He and Mother (Jessie Royce Landis) arrive at the Plaza Hotel in a cab.
     
  • 0:28:06 He bribes Mother, first with $10, then with $50, to get George Kaplan’s room key at the Plaza. After berating him, she takes the $50.
     
  • 0:30:59 He tips the hotel valet for the return of George Kaplan’s dry-cleaned suit.
     
  • 0:34:17 Abandoning Mother, he escapes the Plaza in a cab, which he takes to the United Nations.
     
  • 0:38:24 He escapes the U.N. in another cab, which we see him sprinting toward in the overhead matte-painting shot. He presumably takes this cab to Grand Central Station.
     
    However, quite a bit of time must elapse in the interlude because the next scene shows the Professor (Leo G. Carroll) and his staff discussing the matter in Washington, D.C., where the fugitive Thornhill’s picture appears in the afternoon paper. This scene takes place the same day, because the newspaper article references his appearance in Glen Cove police court “earlier today.”
     
  • 0:41:43 At Grand Central Station, we first see Thornhill on a pay phone, talking to Mother. He references having called the Plaza Hotel and learned that Kaplan checked out en route to the Hotel Ambassador East in Chicago. So that’s two phone calls, apparently made with pocket change.
     
  • 0:51:59 Aboard the Twentieth Century Limited, he hastily tosses some bills on the table as he and Eve (Eva Marie Saint) exit the dining car when the train makes an unscheduled stop.
     

DAY 3

  • 1:02:31 The red cap Thornhill “assaulted” at Chicago’s Union Station appears to count out at least four bills that he was paid in exchange for his uniform.
     
  • 1:06:11 Thornhill presumably pays cash for his Greyhound bus ticket to Prairie Stop, Highway 41.
     
  • 1:24:21 He would pay and tip the valet at the Hotel Ambassador East in Chicago after he sends his pesticide-dusted suit down to be sponged and pressed.
     
  • 1:25:23 He takes a cab from the Ambassador to the auction house at 1212 North Michigan Avenue.
     

DAY 4

  • 1:40:40 Thornhill views Mount Rushmore through a coin-operated viewfinder. Pocket change.
     
  • 1:42:37 Just before the sitdown with Vandamm (James Mason), he buys a cup of coffee in the Mount Rushmore cafeteria. Pocket change.
     
  • 1:55:13 Finally, Thornhill takes a cab from the hospital in Rapid City to Vandamm’s house behind Mount Rushmore, a trip of at least 20 miles.
     

By my count, that’s 17 times in four days that Thornhill dips into the pocket at the end of the rainbow and pulls out cash. Not for nothing is his gray suit widely regarded as the greatest suit in film history.
 
 
 
 
 
1 Excluding credit sequence. All subsequent timestamps refer to the full DVD runtime.

Written by Shepcat

January 9, 2018 at 9:52 pm

A Dick Enberg Story

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Comb any dictionary from cover to cover and you won’t find enough superlatives to adequately describe the legendary sportscaster Dick Enberg, who died Thursday at age 82. Football, baseball, college basketball, tennis, Olympics coverage, studio hosting — since Marconi invented radio and the first voices were transmitted through the ether, it would be hard to name a better, sharper, more engaging all-around sportscaster. In my lifetime, only Bob Costas comes close.

I grew up watching and listening to Enberg. With his trademark “Oh my!” his was one of the indelible voices of my Saturday and Sunday afternoons for as long as I can remember. Others, like Vin Scully, Keith Jackson, Joe Garagiola, Tony Kubek and Pat Summerall, were more readily identified with a single sport, a single season. But Enberg’s voice was one you could count on at any time of year.1

Enberg exuded warmth and cheer and, more so than many professionals — whose style may sound clipped, practiced, cultivated, transactional — always seemed genuinely excited to be calling a game and spending the afternoon with you. In his pregame stand-ups, his eyes crinkled in a way that made his entire face smile, and you just knew he had to be one of the nicest guys in the business. You couldn’t imagine him any other way. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but you sensed that if you met Enberg, he’d be exactly that guy — charming, friendly, the neighbor you always wished lived next door.

So now it’s sometime in the early aughts — say, 2003, 2004 — and I’m living in Los Angeles. My dad, who manages a grocery store, wins a weekend trip through a vendor, and he and Mom are flown out to San Diego with a bunch of other store managers and their spouses to see the Chiefs play the Chargers at Jack Murphy Stadium.2 I drive down to spend the weekend with them, sleep in a chair in their hotel room, and figure on watching Sunday’s game in a bar in the Gaslamp Quarter and awaiting their return. But when the vendor’s point man finds out I’ve come down to see them, he finagles me a ticket to join them at the game.

This is how I happen to be sitting with my parents in end zone seats at the Murph, near an overhang bearing TV monitors showing the CBS broadcast. Calling the game that day: Enberg and analyst Dan Dierdorf, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman of the St. Louis Cardinals of my youth, another guy who always seems affable and upbeat on camera. You can’t imagine anyone not having chemistry with Enberg, but Dierdorf seems like a good match for him in any event.

So the game is going along, and our eyes are fixed on the field, but occasionally we glance at the monitor nearest us to watch a replay. I’m sure there’s some audio coming from the monitors, but with 40,000-plus fans watching a division rivalry, it’s too loud to really make out anything either man is saying. Then, during a TV timeout, I notice there are no commercials playing — it’s not the broadcast we’re seeing on the monitors; it’s the CBS network feed from the truck. So there on the monitor is a two-shot of Enberg and Dierdorf in the booth.

And they. Look. Pissed.

Now, this is just a snapshot: a couple of professional broadcasters with their backs turned to each other during a commercial break, each engrossed by his own game notes. And while I of all people appreciate that even a couple of guys as genial and good-natured as Enberg and Dierdorf can’t keep smiles plastered on all the time, there is just something jarring about this tableau.

There is a sternness to both men’s expressions that makes them, in this context, look like mortal enemies, like a couple on the verge of divorce, like a pairing the network had to put together for reasons beyond anyone’s control who were suffering through it for the paycheck.

Then the picture switched to the players on the field, the referee whistled for play to resume, and Enberg and Dierdorf undoubtedly resumed their friendly banter about the action unfolding before us.

I continued to enjoy Dick Enberg’s presence behind the mic for the next decade or so, most recently as he called play-by-play for the San Diego Padres just before his retirement, and he never ceased to be the same friendly, comforting, authoritative voice I’ve known since I was a kid.

But I’ve never been able to shake that Chiefs-Chargers memory, that rare glimpse into a moment that was most likely nothing of consequence or concern but might also have been a rare letting down of the guard that none of us were ever meant to witness, that creeping suspicion that the friendliest, most cordial of sportscasters had a dark side hidden from a world that admired him almost universally.

It’ll be the Enberg that I watched the other 99.9 percent of the time that I remember fondly, though. His is an absence in our shared passion for sport that can never be filled, only regarded wistfully when we talk among ourselves about the best who ever called a game.
 
 
 
 
 
1 That said, if I could choose only one sport for Enberg: calling college basketball alongside Coach Al McGuire. Hands down. No contest. One of the all-time great play-by-play/analyst pairings in any sport.
 
2 By this time, Jack Murphy Stadium — so named in 1980 after the late sportswriter who had championed its construction back in the ’60s — had been renamed Qualcomm Stadium after the telecommunications company that bought the naming rights in 1997, but I have always flatly refused to refer to it by its corporate name because we writers have to stick together.
 
As of this year, it’s called San Diego County Credit Union Stadium, which is more of a mouthful than Qualcomm ever was. Screw ’em both. It’ll always be the Murph to me.

Written by Shepcat

December 22, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Life, Sports, Television

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My Favorite Things — #3 in a Series

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PLEASANTVILLE

Writer-director Gary Ross’ Pleasantville is a practically perfect movie. God, I love every frame of it. I had almost forgotten how much.

Before these latest viewings, it had been several years since I last watched it. Which is astonishing even to me, given the title of this continuing series. (I had begun and abandoned another version of this piece some years ago.) But now, some 19 years and change since the film’s release, it is arguably more relevant than ever. We find ourselves at a juncture in history during which a nostalgia not unlike that which the film both celebrates and satirizes is being wielded against us for more insidious aims.

In the abstract, in its most charitably innocuous interpretation, the phrase “Make America Great Again” might conjure up in our collective imagination that same midcentury, postwar America that gave us such gentle domestic comedies as Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet — the amalgamation of which forms the basis of Pleasantville’s TV series–within–the movie conceit — as the cultural yardsticks against which American families measured their happiness and prosperity.

But there was a dark side to that happiness and prosperity, because midcentury, postwar America was also Cold War America. And Jim Crow America. And it was “postwar” for only about five years before we became embroiled in the Korean conflict, with Vietnam faintly visible on the horizon. Our innocence, illusory though it was, was soon to be trampled amid the turmoil and unrest of the 1960s.

To geeky, good-natured ’90s teenager David (Tobey Maguire), though, the Parkers of TV’s Pleasantville — father George, mother Betty, siblings Bud and Mary Sue — represent a more personal form of escapism, the perfect nuclear family as counterpoint to the broken home he shares with his divorced mother (Jane Kaczmarek), vulnerable and looking for love, and his cooler-than-thou sister, Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), rapacious and primed for sex.

The film is sometimes criticized for being too on-the-nose, but the milieu lends itself so readily to metaphor that Ross would just as likely be criticized for any low-hanging fruit he left unpicked. (In this regard, Ross’ script is every bit as watertight as, if not somewhat inspired by, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s original Back to the Future screenplay.) Yes, the opening is a little slow and the contrivance that sets the plot in motion is a little clunky, but these criticisms are abated by the perfect casting of Don Knotts as the mysterious TV repairman whose timely intervention results in David and Jennifer’s being transported through time, space and cathode-ray tubes into the bodies of Bud and Mary Sue Parker.

The time-travel trope of doing one small thing that totally alters the course of history is turned on its ear here when sex-positive Jennifer introduces original sin to this monochromatic Eden and that life-changing, mind-altering knowledge literally inflames the town and pinballs through its once-innocent population like dopamine run amok, opening their eyes to rapturous art, racy literature, jazz and rock and roll, their own unrealized potential, and the thrilling, dangerous, unknown world just beyond the horizon. Had circumstance dropped David alone into this perfect world, one imagines that he would employ his encyclopedic knowledge of the TV show as would an omniscient god, enforcing predestination to ensure that all the actors hit their marks and the daily life of Pleasantville proceeded according to its intelligent design, as originally televised and repeated ad infinitum in syndication. But Jennifer fell with him, and in the guise of Mary Sue brought free will to the citizens of Pleasantville.

As Big Bob, the mayor of Pleasantville, the late J.T. Walsh exudes glad-handing menace from the moment he first appears in the doorway of the barber shop, in the first of many low-angle shots in which Ross frames him. While his introduction comes after Pleasantville has experienced its first post-Jennifer aftershocks, there is an uneasy reverence toward Bob among the ordinarily cheerful townsfolk that implies he has always been a looming presence, a disingenuous strongman, a benevolent despot who gives but also takes away, who might turn on them at any moment.

Of course, through the lens of 2017 it’s all too easy to view Big Bob as a Trumpian reactionary who throws his weight around, stirring up outrage among “all true citizens,” then claiming to restore order by enacting restrictive ordinances aimed at those whose otherness has suddenly upset the normal life of the town, “to separate out the things that are pleasant from the things that are unpleasant.” Never mind that they’re the same people he’s lived and worked alongside all his life, friends and neighbors who likely elected him in the first place; he is enraged by their departure from the norm and their perceived rebellion against his magnanimity and authority.

Of all the film’s various relationships, my favorite is the one between Maguire’s Bud and Joan Allen’s Betty, at once maternal and conspiratorial. Because while Jennifer’s intercession unmoors all of Pleasantville from its axis, it is Betty, of all the characters in the film, whom David was sent to set free. It takes the complete undoing of his ideal world to show David that he also has the power to change it for the better, and his empathy for Betty’s circumstance ultimately leads him to facilitate the unraveling of the nuclear family he idolizes, which in turn gives him a deeper, more compassionate understanding of his own mother back home in the untelevised present.

In all the family sitcoms of the 1950s, the father goes to work, the kids go to school, and the mother stays at home to keep the whole operation running smoothly and looking picture perfect. So the father has co-workers, and the kids have classmates — mirrors they can hold themselves up to — but Ross cannily observes that the mother, left alone for hours at a time, is the one most likely to have an interior life, to while away the days contemplating her needs and desires and what her life might have been but for the one defining choice she made. So while George Parker (William H. Macy) is steadfast and true, if a bit daft and guileless, cut from the same gray flannel as Jim Anderson, Ward Cleaver and Ozzie Nelson, one can easily imagine Betty Parker (or Margaret Anderson or June Cleaver or Harriet Nelson) as a melancholy Douglas Sirk heroine, presenting a cheerful façade, resigned to her rote, routine roles as wife and mother even as she imagines a different, vibrant, more complex and intoxicating life.

We feel this undercurrent the first time Betty locks eyes with Bill Johnson (Jeff Daniels), Bud’s artistically inclined boss at the soda shop. There is a history in their shared gaze. We understand instantly that Bill is Betty’s road not taken. And her inevitability.

Nostalgia, whether wistful or moralistic, might have us believe that these couplings and uncouplings, these little disobediences and larger acts of rebellion, this submission to and eventual embrace of chaos represent a tipping point at which our shared values began to erode and the fallout became irreversible.

But Ross reminds us that the world was never really that black-and-white, or even gray, to begin with. It has always been vivid and chaotic. The volume and variety of our values didn’t end at the few we shared in common and presented to the world. And a challenge to the status quo by one was an invitation to any of us to challenge the status quo, to turn the world upside down and remake it in our own image, painting with all the colors in our palette.

Pleasantville does fill me with nostalgia, but for Pleasantville itself. It is so many things at once — a time-travel story, a fish-out-of-water story, a coming-of-age story, a “woman’s picture,” a social satire, a race allegory, a broad comedy — that it should by rights be a tonal train wreck. But Ross somehow balances all these elements and blends them seamlessly into a thoughtful, funny, warm-hearted picture that, like Pleasantville itself, is almost too good to be true.
 
 
 
Honorable Mentions:

  • The unintended supernatural effect of Joan Allen pleasuring herself in the bathtub for the first time.
  • Macy’s various readings of the line “Where’s my dinner?” each one funnier than the one before it.
  • The remarkable Walsh, who left us entirely too soon, uttering the line “Well, we’re safe for now. Thank goodness we’re in a bowling alley,” then having his Patton moment in front of the overhead projection of the scorecards.
  • The destruction of Bill Johnson’s soda shop, in its own way as startling and upsetting to watch as the destruction of Sal’s Pizzeria in Do the Right Thing.
  • The courtroom scene and its echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird, with the “coloreds” sitting in the balcony.
  • The look on Witherspoon’s face when she hears that, under the town’s new Code of Conduct, “no bed frame or mattress may be sold measuring more than 38 inches wide.”
  • The incredible Don Knotts: While he once, in the pages of Esquire, referred to Deputy Barney Fife as his greatest achievement, his performance here as the ubiquitous TV repairman is the perfect culmination of his career, never more so than when he’s losing his shit over the havoc David and Jennifer have wrought on a world that he, Knotts, helped build.

Written by Shepcat

December 13, 2017 at 4:19 pm

A Maow Story — #2 in a Series

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I wanted my and Maow’s last day together to be as peaceful for her as possible, and for the most part it was.

I folded a bath towel so she’d have something soft to lie on, then lifted her onto my lap, and for the better part of six hours we sat in our chair together, listening to podcasts at low volume while I stroked her fur, scratched her ears and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

Later that evening, when it was time to leave for the veterinary clinic, I placed her in her open carrier and held it up near my face so I could talk soothingly to her as we made our way down to the car. She hated car trips, but this time she wasn’t enclosed in her carrier — she was now too weak to have made any attempt at escape — so I hoped that it would be a nice, calm, easygoing ride.

We got into the car, and I was a moment too long getting her carrier situated in the passenger seat before turning the key in the ignition … which was my aging vehicle’s cue to trigger its alarm, the insistent, repetitive stab-stab-stabbing of the car horn, shattering any semblance of serenity we had enjoyed up to that point.

I’ve never actually timed it, but it takes somewhere between 30 seconds and a freaking eternity for the car to register that it’s being driven by its rightful owner, who opened and started it with its original factory-issued key, rather than hijacked by a common criminal who breached it with a coat hanger or a brick and hot-wired it under the dash.

Once the horn finally quit blaring, the rest of the drive entailed more fur-stroking and soothing conversation, as I attempted to reclaim our serenity en route to complete the saddest of all possible errands.

Flash forward to this afternoon, three weeks later. The clinic called to notify me that Maow’s cremains were available to be picked up, so I made that drive one last time.

After signing and dating the cremation registry, I was handed a small box containing Maow’s remains, an envelope containing a cremation certificate, and a clay keepsake with an impression of Maow’s paw. I thanked the receptionist one last time, and Maow and I left together, headed home.

Once outside, balancing these items in one hand as I got back into the car, I was a moment too long getting them — getting her — situated in the passenger seat.

I set off the damn car alarm again.

This has been a Maow story.
 

Written by Shepcat

December 5, 2017 at 11:03 pm

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

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How Would Lubitsch Do It?: A Parable

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During Hollywood’s golden age, between 1930 and 1968, filmmakers were governed by the Motion Picture Production Code, often referred to as the Hays code, which set out strict moral guidelines dictating what was acceptable and unacceptable content for American audiences, with a particular emphasis on sex.

The best filmmakers, not the least of whom was my idol Billy Wilder, were masters at subverting the code. By working within the restrictions imposed upon them, working around what they were not able to show or tell, they became better, more entertaining storytellers, in part because they made their audiences put 2 and 2 together, gave them credit for their own intelligence, and made them complicit in the telling of the story. Throughout his career, Mr. Wilder credited his own mentor, director Ernst Lubitsch, as the master of this technique, and challenged himself with a sign hung in his office that asked, simply, “How would Lubitsch do it?”

To illustrate “the Lubitsch touch,” Mr. Wilder pointed to the opening sequence in Lubitsch’s The Smiling Lieutenant (1931): There’s a king, a queen and a lieutenant, and you must dramatize, without being explicit, a situation in which the queen has an affair with the lieutenant, and the king finds out.

Open on the bedroom of the king and queen. They are dressing in the morning, and it’s a scene of affectionate domestic bliss.

Now the king leaves the bedroom. As he exits, we see the lieutenant standing guard outside the door in full dress uniform with his belt and sword. He clicks his heels in salute and watches as the king slowly descends the long staircase and eventually disappears into the palace.

We cut back to the lieutenant, who, assured that the king is now gone, enters the royal bedroom.

We cut back to the king as he descends the staircase, and halfway down he realizes he isn’t wearing his own belt and sword. He turns and ascends the staircase, returning to the bedroom. “Now we have a situation,” Mr. Wilder says.

The king enters. The door closes. We are never inside the room. The door opens. The king exits with the belt and sword. Happily he descends the staircase again, but as he tries to put on the belt, it doesn’t fit. It’s too small. It’s not his belt.

The king returns again to the royal bedroom, where he finds the lieutenant under the bed.

And scene.

Faced with a codified list of restrictions, Lubitsch has told us everything we need to know without explicitly showing us the lieutenant screwing the queen.
 


 
Early Saturday morning, like thieves in the dead of night, the Senate GOP pushed through their version of a tax code that will cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, explode the national debt by $1 trillion, and benefit the wealthiest citizens in this country while ultimately raising taxes on the middle class it purports to bolster.

Since the Reagan administration, we’ve been fed the lie that, if we decrease regulation, cut the corporate tax rate, and approve a tax code that further benefits the wealthiest Americans, in effect making them all wealthier, they will then reinvest that wealth in job creation and production that will bolster the U.S. economy and trickle that wealth down to the American people at large.

And yet, since the 1980s, all that policy has achieved is to widen the inequality gap among Americans, with CEO pay growing exponentially as American wages have remained stagnant, fewer American families controlling and enjoying the majority of wealth, and corporations increasing their bottom lines by hiding profits offshore and outsourcing jobs overseas, where they can pay foreign employees considerably less than they would pay American workers to do the same work.

The obvious benefit of paying American workers is that we would turn around and put that money back into the American economy, creating more growth, but the gun to the American electorate’s head is the notion that, unless we give the corporations and the wealthy what they want — more wealth up front — they can’t (read: won’t) give us the jobs and income we need to contribute to the American economy.

In point of fact, American corporations are more beholden to the shareholders they already have than to any notion that they might create new shareholders, who are by now so far behind the richest shareholders in this country that they could never catch up. So corporations will continue to outsource jobs to bolster the bottom line for those shareholders, in much the same way as the GOP will continue to court their political donations by creating for them the conditions most favorable to their continued growth and increasingly obscene wealth, which — as the last four decades of American life has shown us — is never going to trickle down to the American public at large.

In the middle of the last century, the average tax rate for the wealthiest 1 percent of American households hovered between 40 and 44 percent while corporations were taxed at a rate between 52 and 54 percent, which not only benefited all Americans and allowed us to rebuild the country after the Great Depression but also allowed us to help rebuild Europe after the Second World War under the Marshall Plan.

And while those rates were a restriction of sorts on the wealthiest Americans and American corporations, it didn’t prevent them from investing in American workers and spearheading a quarter century of growth and innovation during which American homeownership rose significantly as the rise of suburbs corresponded to the growth of American cities; we funded public education and the arts; college enrollment and graduation rates rose steadily as tuition remained affordable; we developed safer, more efficient automobiles; we built an interstate highway system that stitched the entire country together; we advocated for cleaner, safer food, air and water; we made life-saving advances in medicine and medical technologies; we developed faster, more efficient computers that increased production and reinvented the American workplace; and we put satellites into orbit and man on the moon.

Despite those restrictions on the wealthiest among us, somehow we accomplished all this without explicitly screwing American citizens.

And scene.

Written by Shepcat

December 3, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Life, Movies, Politics, The Nation

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A Maow Story — #1 in a Series

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It should surprise no one that I have an occasionally volatile temper and a frequently expressed penchant for profanity. The luxury of working from home for as long as I did is that I could express the upper registers of my outrage and artistry without shattering the presumed civility of an office environment and being summoned to H.R. for a lecture or my dismissal.

The downside of this arrangement was the proximity of my lone, entirely innocent office mate: Maow. When jackasses at work stressed me out, it caused me to stress out Maow, which was the very last thing I wanted.

So after unleashing a torrent of obscenities, I would often find myself kneeling down to Maow, stroking her fur to calm us both, and apologizing to her as soothingly as possible: “I’m not mad at you. I could never be mad at my Maow.”

Flash forward to the terrible last month of her life. She had spent an entire week, more or less, in seclusion behind the gold brocade chair, but as time went on and she rebounded a bit, she returned there only periodically, instead spending most of her time in the dining area or on the couch with me.

I wasn’t working then but would from time to time drop an F-bomb or spew a flurry of invective — a computer crash here, a Trump sound bite there.

On at least three of these occasions, my outbursts prompted Maow to emerge from behind the gold chair, as though she knew I needed to stroke her fur and come down from my anger.

Pets. What did we ever do to deserve them?

This has been a Maow story.

Written by Shepcat

November 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

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