Recently, my mother told me about a New year’s Eve tradition in which my German relatives partake. At some point during the evening, they watch a sketch called Dinner For One (also known as The 90th Birthday) and laugh their collective asses off. It seems that they are not the only ones enjoying this brilliantly done bit of British physical comedy. This sketch is known as a New Year’s Eve tradition in many countries other than Germany including, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands and South Africa to name but a few. Ironically, it never really took off in Britain. Sadly, it has yet to take off in North America, but I hope to remedy that, in some small way, by showing it here. Dinner For One was originally written for the theatre in the 1920’s and first filmed for television in 1963 as a one shot/take 18 minute sketch. That it was done in one take without an edit just serves to make it that much more brilliant. So, without further ado, may I present, Freddie Frinton and May Warden in the original black and white version of Dinner For One in English with introduction by Heinz Piper in German (the sketch begins at the 2 minute 23 second mark).
The sketch was so popular that there have been many versions performed along with several parodies, most notably (and recently) one in which the heads of Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy are superimposed upon those of the original actors’ and the dialogue deals with the Euro zone Debt Crisis. In 1999 German television station, NDR colorized it, presumable to bring it more up to date.
I hope you enjoyed this bit of proof that, yes Germans do have a sense of humour after all.
Here’s wishing you and yours a prosperous New Year with a picture from last year’s New Year’s blog.
This week brought us two seemingly different, yet surprisingly similar, court cases involving women. The first case is from south of the border in Iowa where a dental hygienist named Melissa Nelson was fired for being so attractive that her boss couldn’t trust himself around her. She did the only thing she could do. She sued on grounds of gender discrimination and the all male Iowa supreme court sided with her boss. Apparently it’s entirely understandable that her hornier than thou boss fired a long time employee and married mother of 2, who, from all accounts, he was in no danger of sleeping with, rather than act like a professional and keep his pants zipped. Sadly, the boss’s wife also plays a major role in this drama. When she found out that the dentist and his hygienist had sent text messages to each other, she demanded that Melissa be fired. I have news for you, lady. If he can’t be trusted around one woman, he can’t be trusted around any of them. And just exactly what does he mean that he couldn’t trust himself around his employee, who, by the way, had worked for him for 10 years? Does he mean that he can’t help but flirt with her? Or perhaps he means he can’t help but verbally harass her. Or maybe he means that, even if she says no, he won’t be able to stop himself from having sex with her. So this woman, who had done nothing wrong, gets fired because nobody bothered to consider that she actually had a say in who she decided to sleep with… or, in this case, not sleep with.
Then there was a case from this side of the 49th parallel where a Muslim woman wanted to testify while wearing a niqab.
N.S., a woman who wants to testify in court, while wearing her niqab.
The Supreme Court of Canada released their decidedly ambiguous ruling last week, basically saying whether or not a niqab would be allowed in court would be decided on a case by case basis. As a feminist, the niqab fills me with all sorts of anger. The niqab, is a garment used to cover the face of women (because the burqa didn’t cover enough) so that Muslim men are less likely to be distracted by a pesky erection in their daily lives. As much as I am entirely against the wearing of a niqab, in this case I find myself with mixed feelings. N.S. is charging her uncle and her cousin with sexual assault. She wants to wear her niqab in court. The lawyers for her attackers want her to have to remove it saying that they should be able to face their attacker in court. This seems to me to be purely a power move designed to stop N.S. from testifying. If she removes her niqab in a court room full of male strangers, she will be ostracized and humiliated by her community and branded a whore, which, to me, is basically akin to raping her all over again. Because the Supreme Court’s ruling passes the buck, N.S. might still have to remove her niqab.
There have been many countries who have banned the burqa and the niqab, including France, Belgium and even Syria. If the Canadian government had the balls to follow suit, instead of kowtow to a religion… a religion, whose text, I might add, does not say that a woman must cover her face, unless she is the wife of the Prophet, then this wouldn’t even be an issue. Even a Canadian Muslim group is calling for a ban.
So because these men won’t take responsibility for their own erect penises, two more women must pay the price.
Well, it’s that time of year again, when Christians begin to whine that atheists are trying to steal Christmas from them. Even Jerry Falwell has been quoted as saying, “There’s been a concerted effort to steal Christmas.” Of course, they are right to be worried, just as a cheating husband or wife is worried that their spouse is having an affair. The thought being, if I did it, then they must be doing it too. After all Christians stole the holiday we now know as Christmas from several different places. Let’s begin with the myth within the myth, Santa Claus.
The legend of Santa Claus is somewhat like that party game where you whisper a sentence to one person and they whisper it to the next person and so on down the line until the last person tells it back to you and it now only has a remote resemblance to the original sentence. The origin begins with an actual person, a Greek bishop named Nicholas who had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. Or was it Basil of Caesarea, another Greek who was a theologian and monk who was born into wealth and gave all his possessions to underprivileged children? Actually, Santa Claus is a combination of both Basil and Nicholas with a sprinkle of fairy dust to make him, not just generous, but magical.
But Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our lord and savior, I hear the Christians argue. The legend of Jesus was also appropriated from several places.
But Jesus was the only one of them to be flesh and bone and actually walk on earth, those others were figures from mythology, say the Christians. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Jesus did exist. Do you actually think he’d be thrilled about the way you choose to celebrate his birthday? This was a man who, by all accounts, hated commercialism. His teachings and sermons were all very anti-money. Then there was that little temper tantrum he had in the temple with the money changers As for the other gods being figures from mythology, let’s look at the meaning of the word myth for a moment, shall we? The dictionary defines myth as “a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.” Great Christly Jesus, that sure sounds like the bio of the Christian son of god to me.
Today marks the first day of Saturnalia. Lo Saturnalia!
Winter festivals have been around far longer than Christianity. For instance Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival that consisted of a public banquet followed by private gift giving (Christmas dinner and presents) and merriment among other festivities. Then there was Yule, the festival we associate with the Christmas tree. While it’s true that the festival of Yule gave us the decorated and lighted tree, the idea of bringing the tree inside is much older than that. According to the encyclopedia Britannica, “The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.” Oh, let’s not forget Yalda, the winter festival honouring the birth of Mithra, the Persian version of Jesus which celebrates the victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil. (naughty and nice anyone?) The one major thing that these festivals (and many others) have in common is that they all occur at or near the time of the winter solstice.
We humans sure do love to spin a good yarn, the sad part is that we’re so good with the tall tale-telling that we actually believe our own bullshit. If I’m going to buy into a myth every winter, I prefer it to be the story of Sandy Paws, the little kitten who melted the heart of even the cruelest of men by just being as cute as he could be. At least that story is original and isn’t nearly as hard to swallow as all of the others floating around this time of year.
Ever since the advent of the Gregorian calendar, there occurs a numeric phenomenon where the day, month and year are the same number within the first 12 years of each century. With all of the fuss over 12-12-12 and last year, 11-11-11 and so on, I can’t help but wonder if people lost their damned minds at the turn of the last century or the century before that? Or were people just too busy trying to survive that this numerical anomaly went by unnoticed. Do we really have so much free time on our hands that we have assigned meaning to the meaningless? The truly pathetic thing is that the meaning is different depending on who you ask.
Contrary to popular belief, numbers are not mystical or magical. Numbers were invented by man to count, label and measure. They are a tool we use to try to find order amid chaos. Calendars have been changed numerous times since the beginning of recorded time, so what we think is 12-12-12, actually isn’t 12-12-12 if you refer to the Islamic calendar, the Hebrew calendar or the Hindu calendar or even one of the first calendars used: the Early Roman calendar.
So why all the fuss about a man-made system to measure time? The one thing we know for sure about mankind is that we make mistakes… constantly, so why put so much faith into something that is so subjective?
A little fear can be healthy. A little faith is dangerous.
May I suggest that faith is born of fear. Without crippling fear of the unknown, we would not jump so quickly to put faith in an answer, even a subjective or nonsensical answer (yes I am comparing this numerical hokum to faith in religion/god). Or perhaps we are just so bored that we need something to look forward to… even if that something is the end of the world. If only we used our fear to fuel our curiosity instead of to control the masses or to excuse stupidity, we might be further along the evolutionary ladder than to think that just because the Gregorian calendar says it’s December 12, 2012 that it is a special day, full of more possibilities than any other day.
Ironically, I had planned to write about the British Royal family the day before yesterday, after watching Madonna’s film W.E., then it was announced that William and Kate are expecting their first child which only solidified the plan.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Now, before you start thinking that I am going to bash Will and Kate just one day after they announced their good news, let me put your mind at ease. This is not a blog about how William and Kate are spawning another mouth for the taxpayers of Britain (and the Commonwealth) to feed. They have done their Royal duty by creating an heir (a classier way of saying humped like bunnies until he knocked her up) This is a blog about whether or not the British Royal family is still relevant to society. I think not.
Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation day.
It could be argued that the British Royals uphold a certain social and moral standard, that they represent a grand tradition and that their mere existence brings countless tourist dollars into Britain. The truth is that the Queen serves as head of the Church of England and must appear at numerous ceremonial functions as the face of England and the Commonwealth. The Church of England was created so that Henry VIII could divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, so it’s not exactly a paragon of virtue from the get go. Now, I think Queen Elizabeth II has fulfilled her duty with the utmost grace and has been a shining example of what a monarch should be. She was groomed for the position since birth and has sacrificed her whole life for honour and duty to her country. Elizabeth II has reigned longer than any other monarch with the exception of Queen Victoria (though she is only 5 years away from beating that record). Sadly, her time on the throne is nearing an end and it will soon be time to pass the crown to a new monarch.
Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her diamond jubilee
The next in line for that honour is Charles, Prince of Wales. Unlike his mother, Charles has not been what you could call a pillar of society. He has acted like a spoiled brat, consistently flouting the rules of his station and yet still expecting to keep his place in line to the throne. Unlike his Great Uncle, King Edward VIII he has not shown one ounce of regard for the import, nor the rules of his title and does not seem to understand that he has done nothing to deserve to ascend to the role of King. Instead he acts like it his God-given right to one day be King. I am sure he was groomed for the throne since birth, like his mother before him. I am sure he is aware of the rules of conduct to which he must adhere, yet, at every turn he has acted in a purely selfish manner, preferring to serve his penis rather than his title (which the taxpayers pay for him to hold). We, the public have had to endure all of the lurid details of his affair with a married woman while he was still married to the mother of his children. We have suffered through tape recordings of sexual conversations where he said he wanted to be a feminine hygiene product. All of this from a man who is paid to be better than the rest of the rabble.
Chlamydia, Duchess of Corn-hole and the Man Who Would be Tampon
Support for the Royals is waning world-wide. Yesterday, Yahoo Canada had a poll that asked ‘Do you care about William and Kate’s personal life?’ Over 50,000 people responded and 81% of them voted No. Just last month, a 76 year old man in Auckland, New Zealand (a commonwealth country) was arrested just before he had the chance to throw a bucket of horse manure on Charles and Camilla during a royal visit. But, perhaps nowhere on the planet is distaste for the royals higher than in Quebec where more than 80% of the population is opposed to the monarchy. The last time Charles and Camilla visited La Belle Province, they were met by more than 1000 angry protesters who hurled eggs at their car and shouted nasty slurs at them as they drove past. Even Will and Kate were on the receiving end of a protest when they visited Montreal last year. Every time Canada (a commonwealth country) has to pay for another royal visit there are people from all across the country speaking out against the monarchy.
Charles and Camilla in Montreal as protesters hurl eggs at their car.
It seems to me that if Charles is not passed over, that quite a few commonwealth countries will fall by the wayside. After all, we are no longer part of the British Empire, we are our own sovereign countries, some of whom are becoming more financially stable than England. It is my opinion that England would do well to disband their monarchy after the current Queen steps down. The government owns those castles. Why not turn them into luxury hotels? That way the staff could stay on (at a higher wage than the royals are paying them… plus tips) and the tourist dollars would likely be higher than they are now with no one being allowed so much as a tour of Buckingham Palace. Other countries have royals who are royal in title only and can be seen bicycling around town along with the rest of population, why not England? What exactly are you holding onto? It’s different in Monaco where the Grimaldi family hold court. The Grimaldis aren’t freeloading off of the taxpayers… in Monaco there is no income tax. Income tax as we know it started, by the way, in England in 1798 by William Pitt the Younger.
The Royal Family of Monaco
It makes no sense (cents?) to keep funding an entire family to hold positions that are but figureheads in this economy when so many of your own people (taxpayers) are hurting and with so many of your allies shouting down this antiquated tradition. Even if Charles is bypassed and William becomes King do you really think that the commonwealth countries will want to continue paying for the visits and the pomp and circumstance for a 30 year old kid and his wife? I don’t think that the British people will be so keen to keep the royals on if they are the only ones funding them either. I think the world is outgrowing this quaint high school-like tradition where one group is deemed better than the rest of us just because they were born rich, who then piss it all away. We have celebrities for that.
I’d like to leave you with the following video from The Kids in the Hall because, as I was writing this post, this sketch came screaming to mind… and I know I could use a good laugh after all of this kvetching.
When author Thomas Dixon decided he wanted to cash in on the immense success of director, D.W Griffith’s filming of his novel the Clansmen which became the movie Birth of a Nation by writing and filming a follow-up called Fall of a Nation in 1916, he gave us perhaps the most prolific of film genres, the sequel. Even then, the sequel was far less successful than the original and was panned by critics and audiences alike. In fact, no prints of Fall of a Nation have survived and it is considered to be a lost film.
To me, the motive for filming a sequel has always been an obvious one… greed. After all we are talking about show BUSINESS and all too often the business part has far too big a say in what gets produced. There have been some very good movie franchises, like Star Wars (the first three), Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and The Godfather. With the exception of the Star Wars trilogy (which were written by George Lucas expressly for film), the others were all based on a series of bestselling novels and each of the films were painstakingly made over a long period of time by filmmakers who genuinely loved the original texts.
Then there have been the sequels that have been but a disappointing follow-up to a successful movie, which, sadly is the case with the vast majority of sequels. But love them or hate them, sequels are here to stay as long as movie makers still need investors to create their films. So, in the spirit of if you can’t beat them, join them, I am going to suggest a couple of movies that could use a sequel, if for no other reason than I would like to know what happens next.
Written and directed by George Lucas, American Graffiti is a classic film from my childhood. Set in 1962, in Modesto California, it takes place over the course of one night in the lives of a group of teenagers who have just graduated high school and are about to embark on the next phase in their lives. It remains one of my all time favourite movies. George Lucas did make a sequel to American Graffiti six years later in 1979 called More American Graffiti, which I have yet to see and therefore cannot comment on. The sequel I would like to see is one where all of the original characters now have children who are the same age as they were in the first film (perhaps even played by some of the original stars’ actual kids… Bryce Dallas Howard for example) on their last night of freedom. It would be a nice way to come full circle on the story and perhaps give Ron Howard a vehicle in which he could direct his daughter.
Ron and Bryce Dallas Howard
The next movie I would like to suggest a sequel to is the Breakfast Club. John Hughes 1980’s teen classic about a group of highschoolers from different cliques who spend a Saturday in detention together and find out that they are all so much more than the sterotypes they represent.
The stars of the Breakfast Club (minus Emilio Estevez) then and now
I don’t know about you, but I would definitely go see a sequel to this movie (as long as it starred the original cast). Perhaps a highschool reunion brings them together for the first time since graduation and one by one they all end up in the library. It’s just too bad that John Hughes is no longer around to direct a sequel.
Those are my suggestions. I’m sure they’re not great, but they are a damned sight better than some of the sequels Hollywood has forced down our collective throat.
Poster for Stayin’ Alive, the crappy sequel to Saturday Night Fever