Thursday, 1 June 2017

About Marilyn Monroe, because she lived.

Marilyn Monroe was born 91 years ago today. She died 36 years later, and for the most part, it is that which people focus on. After all, we love scandals and mysteries, and this was both. Was it suicide? Was it murder? Who did it? Much later, when the scumbag Richard Saltzar wrote a bunch of mostly-unsubstantiated 'revelations', came further questions - Were the Kennedys involved? Was she really sleeping with the President? Even the song at the head of this post, superb though it is, glorifies her death more than her life, though Elton John certainly seemed to give a lot more feeling to Goodbye Norma Jean than he ever gave to Goodbye Englands Rose.

What we forget in all the fetishization of her death, unfortunately, is the fact that she lived.

In a short career, mostly confined to stereotypical 'brainless beauty' roles, Marilyn brought to the screen a combination of vulnerability and sensuality that has been repeatedly imitated but never successfully emulated.

'Miss Cheesecake, 1951'.
Apparently, that was a thing.

She's someone we mostly know from pictures rather than movies, with the posters and publicity shots hanging on walls all over the world, whether it's the Seven-year-itch billowing white dress, or the Golden Globes Gold Gown, or the Kennedy Birthday 'stitched-on' dress, or even one of those with nothing on but 'Chanel Number 5'. Beautiful as they are, and well worthy of their ornamental use, they are still images, frozen in time, as her story would be when she died.

But the thing is, she lived.

In 'All About Eve', a role that we would call 'blink-and-you-miss-it, in a movie that features Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and Thelma Ritter, where it was still impossible to not remember the stunning blonde poppet on George Sanders arm, she lived.

In Niagara, playing a classic femme fatale, a supporting role which got her noticed, crooning the words to the song Kiss and dressed for the most part in bright pink or red, and looking like a woman men would not just die for, but kill for, and in-movie, did, she lived.

In Seven Year Itch, credited just as the girl, with the billowing skirt and mixing potato chips with champagne, she lived.

In Dont Bother to Knock, and in River of No Return, in The Misfits and The Prince and the Showgirl, she lived.

But the movies that one should watch, if for nothing else than to understand why she captured a nations imagination, are Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like it Hot.

She plays a fairly stereotypical showgirl in both movies, but the delight is in the way she brings those roles to life. The breathless whisper, the walk, the wide-eyed wonder, the laugheverything that seems terribly fake when others try, seems natural on her. Her comic timing is superb, her personality effervescent without ever being slutty, and when Joe Brown (as Osgood) says at the end of the latter to Jack Lemmon (Jerry), Nobodys Perfect, you want to shoot back, Except Marilyn.

But narratives are crafted in a different way. Tragedy and scandal sell, not nuance, so we choose to remember her either as a brainless sex-toy or a tragic figure, both of which fail to capture the essence of Norma Jean.

It was no mere brainless bimbo who could break out of a childhood with a psychotic mother, childhood sex abuse and poverty. The library of over 400 books she left behind, most with her handwritten notes inscribed on the pages (for those who doubt that she actually read), indicate a far more intellectual personality than the one she earned fame by portraying. And whats forgotten often, is that when she flat-out refused to do yet another dumb blonde role in Pink Tights, she did more to break Hollywoods pernicious Studio system than anyone else had till then.

As for tragedy, there are enough days in a year to remember the abuse, the affairs, the miscarriages, the slander she suffered even after her death, the exploitation and the mental issues. She was no epitome of innocence, and in the intersection of the greed of those who surrounded her and her own ambition, a lot happened that could have been avoided. 

Today, lets remember that she lived. In glorious technicolour and subtle black-and-white, she lived. And while she did, she was magnificent.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Ser Pounce explains current British Politics

[Ser Pounce-a-lot is a cat who earned his Knighthood defending his dim-witted sister, Cat-a-tonia from a bunch of ruffianly dogs. A feline of rare wit and sharp insight, he often condescends to share his wisdom with his human slave, Percy the Slacker (the man behind this blog). In an ongoing series, Ser Pounce's wisdom shall be presented in the form of conversations between him and his scribe, the aforementioned Percy. Below, is one such...]



“Really, Ser Pounce, if you spent less time glued to the TV and more outside catching mice, you might look less like a giant ball of fluff and more like an actual cat.”

“Hmph! I’m catching up on world news. Not watching soap operas like you.”

“I do not…ugh, forget it. So what’s the news, then?”

“Well, Theresa May has called for a snap election over in the UK.”

“Eh? Do the British have some sort of election fetish? There was the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014, the general election in 2015, the #Brexit vote last year, and now this?”

“For once, your satire is not misplaced. It’s pretty ridiculous, even for humans.”

“How did it come to this, though? UK had seemed a stable and reasonable country through the madness of the US’s rightward movement. Even Cameron, though a caddish toff - ”

“Or a toffish cad.”

“Either way works, seemed to at least have a grip on matters.”

“Well, he was ably assisted by Larry the No.10 Cat, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet, which helped.”

Larry, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet, 2011 - present
(c) Daily Mail

“But Larry’s still around. He was among the few to retain their Cabinet positions when Cameron resigned.”

“Indeed, but under Theresa May, his power has been significantly curtailed – besides, Larry has had his own problems – the world of politi-cats is as cutthroat, if not more, than of human politics.”

“That I can well believe.”

“As for how it came to this, for that we would need to go back in time a bit. Stretch our cat-consciousness into the past. Dig into the memories of kittens present and past…”

“Ser Pounce…”

“Go beyond the Cameron administration, beyond even the boring Gordon Brown and the evil Anthony Blair…”

“Ser Pounce…”

“Beyond affable John Major and Margaret Thatcher, both ably assisted by that noblest of bureau-cats, Sir Humphrey…”

Sir Humphrey, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet, 1988 - 1998
(c) Petbucket
“Ser Pounce….”

“Beyond even Wilson and Heath, MacMillan and Churchill…”

“Ser Pounce…”

“You were saying something?”

“I have places to go and things to do, you know, so if you can hurry it up a bit…”

“What places and what things?”

“The kitchen, to get you food.”

“Oh, yes, will cut it short then. You have to go back to at least the Blair years. The years of sleazy, oily, Teflon-faced, cat-hating Anthony Charles Lynton Blair…”

“Calm down, Ser Pounce, you’re hissing.”

“And well may I hiss! That warmongering, fast-talking, George W Bush-loving…”

“Stop swiping your paw at imaginary Tony Blair and get a move on, will you?”

“As I was saying -”


“What was that?”

“Nothing, nevermind.”

“As I was saying, despite his all-round horrible-ness, Blair presided over a period of economic growth and political stability. He encouraged immigration, gave considerably autonomy to the Scots, and laid out a vision of a multi-cultural Britain. In winning three consecutive elections, he was helped by two factors – his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who presided over this economic boom, and a very incompetent Tory leadership.”

“Yes, the Tories of the time were singularly uncharismatic.”

“Even cats – and we are, as you know, staunch Tories – could not get behind the likes of William Hague. In 2007, Blair stepped down and Brown became Prime Minister. Unfortunately for him, barely a year into his term, the economic crisis of 2008 happened, and that hit London and the UK economy pretty hard.”

Gordon Brown

“I say, doesn’t Gordon look a bit like our friend Anoniam?”

“Don’t change the topic.”

“Ok, fine.”

“And stop yawning.”

“I’m sorry, do go on…and keep in mind your chicken is getting cold.”

“Gordon Brown did have the ability to put anyone to sleep so I don’t blame you, weak human that you are. So with the economy tanking and given that he had not led an election campaign himself, Brown came under pressure to call for elections.”

“Cameron played his cards well that time.”

“Yes, he was young, good-looking (for a human) and took advantage of an undercurrent of resentment among the traditional Conservative voter against Blair-era open borders and minority appeasement, though in a very understated, classy way…”

David Cameron

“Like you elitist cats are wont to do.”

“Heh. Right.”

“You seem very smug about your villainy.”

“I’m a cat.”

“It’s hard to forget.”

“Cameron managed to win a large number of seats, but not an absolute majority. This was unusual for the UK, unlike here, and meant that the Tories had to cobble a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and make Nick Clegg, a joke of a politician, his deputy.”

Nick Clegg

“I take it that’s Larry’s take on him?”

“Let us just say that Larry made a habit of pooping in Clegg’s shoes whenever he visited the Prime Minster.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“The first Cameron term was generally successful….”

“I can name a lot of people who disagree.”

“Are any of them cats?”

“No, humans, mostly.”

“Which says all I need to know about their opinions. Anyway, the economy limped back to a measure of normalcy, and Scotland voted to stay within the UK, both of which were seen as triumphs for Cameron.”

“Which led into the 2015 elections.”

“This is where it gets murky, and proves what the poet Burns said.”

Robert Burns

“About mice and men?”

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

“I lack your familiarity with Scots, Ser Pounce.”

“Indeed, your education has been much marred by your lack of intelligence. In modern English, it goes:

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

To make it more plain, Cameron, not being a cat, and refusing to listen to Larry’s advice on the matter, decided to make up for the moderate voters he knew he had lost by courting the far right in a subtle way. Most importantly, he made a campaign promise that the Tories would hold a #Brexit referendum, if they came back to power.”

“Which struck me as daft, considering he opposed #Brexit so vehemently later.”

“He did – he simply never thought he would have to come through on that promise, because he expected he would have to form a coalition government with the Lib Dems again, and Clegg and his party would never let it come to a vote.”

“Whoa. But then the Tories did win a majority on their own…”

“That’s right.”

“And then he had to hold the referendum, or be considered a liar.”

“That’s right.”

The face of Michael Gove, also known as 'The Face you cannot resist punching if you try."
“And then Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage went about the UK telling outright lies about the EU, the economy, and fear-mongering about Syrian refugees.”

Two horrible people in one photo
“That’s right.”

“And then #Brexit won, and he had to resign, since he couldn’t fairly lead UK through a measure he had opposed so strongly.”

“That’s right.”

“And that gave them Theresa May.”

Theresa May
Theresa May, with mild assistance from Photoshop

“Yes, Theresa May, renowned cat-hater and doppelganger of the Wicked Witch of the East.”

“That’s’ harsh.”

“We cats have no patience for Tories who don’t like us. Even harsher on them than on Labour who, of course, are not expected to know better.”

“Still, she’s in charge. Why the sudden snap poll?”

“That’s her being the Wicked Witch of…I mean, being a politician. You see, when Labour lost the 2015 election, they replaced their leadership wholesale, and brought in Jeremy Corbyn, an old-style labour-rabblerouser.”

Jeremy Corbyn
“In your opinion, that is.”

“Hey, the cap fits...but in any case, he's not the most likeable politician, even by British standards. Worse, he’s seen as being as near commie as one can get without actually being commie, so moderates have tended to drift away from Labour since 2015. It did not help his popularity with non-Tories who opposed #Brexit that he was quite silent during the campaign. So now, Tories are leading opinion polls by a 20-point margin.”

“Ah. And Theresa May saw an opportunity to bury Labour deep.”

“Yes, and also consolidate her hold on power till 2022. In normal circumstances she’d have to go up for re-election in 2020, when UK would have been suffering from the bad effects of #Brexit.”

“While she can hope that by 2022 the economic cycle might turn in their favour again?”

“That’s right.”

“That’s…terribly cynical.”

“Yes, even Larry and Palmerston are not pleased.”

“Yes, it’s a methodology problem. The pollsters do not survey household cats.”

“They only survey households? How silly of them.”


“Though cats don’t actually vote.”

“Shows how little you know. We influence the outcome through the mild telepathic control we exercise over our humans.”

“I didn’t know you exercise…”


“So which way are the cats going to push the vote?”

“We don’t know. It’s messy. Very messy. Some cats are tempted to vote Labour just to make a point. Others are contemplating voting Lib Dem though it feels like a wasted vote. Scottish cats will, of course, vote for Sturgeon.”

“They will vote for the fish they want to eat?”

“Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party.”

Nicola Sturgeon (not an actual sturgeon)

“I stand duly chastened.”

“Well, don’t stand, go get me that chicken.”

“Yes yes, now if you’ll just switch to IPL…”

“Go away, I need some time to think.”

“Yes, but…IPL…”

“The future of politi-cats in UK is in the balance and you think of IPL?”

“I’m sorry, Ser Pounce.”

“We are on the brink of serial political disasters that could leave the world on the brink of collapse. Now go get that food-bowl.”

“I’m going, I’m going, but aren’t you laying it on a bit thick?”

“I’m not. Three words – Trump, Modi and Erdogan. Now go lay a thick layer of chicken on that bowl.”

“Ruddy fat spherical cat…”

“I heard that!”