Thursday, October 27, 2011

10/27 - Good Grief

Alas, the thread I predicted last week never came to be. Perhaps people have yet to recover fully from the last one. Today will be on the quick side.

L1:  This does not remind me so much of the Borgias as of Agatha Christie. Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple both on occasion attempt to prevent a crime, usually without much success, although, in Wasp's Nest, Poirot does manage to prevent a suicide that would have appeared to be murder. He also manages to prevent a murder in Yellow Iris. It is rare, though, for the warning to come so directly. The closest example to that of L1 is when Poirot overhears a bit of the conversation between Raymond and Carol Boynton in which Raymond insists their stepmother has to be killed.

Warning off the perpetrator might at least be have a better chance of working than warning off a murderer, as Poirot tries to do in Triangle at Rhodes. After all, as Miss Marple explains in A Christmas Tragedy, warning the victim rarely meets with much belief, and warning off the killer only results in the plan being delayed and attempted elsewhere. At least in LW1's situation, the plot must unfold in one particular place. The difficulty with whistleblowing (besides the ramifications which make this veer into the land of a Technical Question), though, is that the timing is so critical. I prefer an attempt at sabotage. As Miss Marple explained when she related how she knew, as soon as she saw Mr and Mrs Saunders, that he intended to kill her, the key was to force him to attempt the murder in a way of her own choosing. Unfortunately, he struck before she could devise and implement her plan, although she did have better luck in A Caribbean Mystery.

L2:  So, the Prudecutor would have everything undone at the end of the parents' time, which would also, in a way, punish the children for the sins of their parents? Then too, the Prudecutor's plan is redolent of a lack of charity, which, neatly enough if one takes that perspectives, manages to circumvent and offend the memory of the parents in question. Not that there is anything wrong with that per se, but can LW2 and H2 do better? One might also indulge in the typical cross-examination as to why this letter is not being written by the participant affected. But this is already well familiar.

The answer is for C2 to set aside some portion of their charitable giving (LW2 is of the oily sort who probably prides herself on her charity, however coldly in spirit it is offered, but cold charity works well in this case). After all, charity begins at home, does it not? Set aside a little fund for the benefit of H2's nieces and nephews, who will very likely need it, given their parents profligacy. Then, in the time to come so happily anticipated by the Prudecutor, who really seems highly likely to have some sort of parental issues of her own, C2 can dole out charity to their nieces and nephews while making their disdain for H2's siblings most clear.

The parallel is partially to John Gabriel Borkman, in which Gunhild attempts to drive a wedge between her son Erhart and her sister Ella (who alone emerged financially unscathed when JGB's great swindle was discovered) by reminding Erhart of how the very roof over their head was a matter of charity from the aunt who had raised him after the scandal, trying to make him subconsciously substitute charity for love. But my main thought is of Mr and Mrs Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Not only does Darcy consent to marry into the same family as the old acquaintance who had attempted to ruin his sister, he even assists Wickham considerably in his profession and financially. Elizabeth also receives Lydia on occasion at Pemberley. The Bingleys are imposed upon to an even greater extent. If that paragon, Mr Darcy, can forgive a rather greater crime, H2 may be able to rise to the occasion. Of course, one might also ask if LW2 will permit him to do so...

L3:  I am getting a vision of Helen Montressor in One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, telling Alastair Blunt that she does not want to accept invitations to the house while his American relations (who snub her) are staying with him. Of course, she is maintaining a secret identity, so that we might let that pass. But one could perhaps cross-examine all the parties involved as to why LW3 is so torn between the two of them. What was the struggle that resulted in Leah's victory over Sarah? After all, Leah is LW3's best friend, while Sarah is just close. My guess is that LW3 is really quite enjoying the situation, and only wants to make more of it than she can do decently at present. That she wants to force these two together during a time when she will be convalescing from surgery is most telling.

It might well serve LW3 right if Leah and Sarah actually ended up becoming quite chummy. Think of My So-Called Life. In the Self Respect episode commentary, Winnie Holzman and Claire Danes remark upon the moment when Angela finds Sharon and Rayanne conferring in the bathroom, Ms Holtzman remarking on the shock of discovering that two people who are in separate boxes in one's life are coming together outside of them and have an independent relationship of their own, a reasonable observation (although I can never forgive them for giggling about making out later and drowning out Mr Katimsky's best line that finally convinces Rickie to sign up for Drama Club). In the Christmas episode commentary, when Sharon grows desperate and invites Rayanne to join her at the Teen Help Line on Christmas Eve, Wilson Cruz (for whom that extraordinary episode was largely Art Imitating Life) suggested to Ms Holtzman that the Sharon-Rayanne friendship might have been a forerunner for that between Elphaba and Galinda (though he doesn't specify that Ms Holtzman was one of the driving forces in the Broadwayfication of Wicked).

L4:  This is actually my favourite letter of the week. Do not blame on any account the innocent cats. In the main, though, I'd like to cross-examine LW4 about why she's writing any letter at all here. Does she really expect anyone to believe that what she asks is her real question? What difference could any possible answer to the question of how F4 could have failed to notice the wet spot make? And now, what is her difficulty? Her friend no longer stays over, which is a plus for LW4 rather than a minus. As the logical assumption is that she really wants to dun her XF4 for the $155, why doesn't she just come out and ask the real question instead of flitting about as she does?

I am reminded of the charming independent film Grief, the cast of which includes Craig Chester, Illeana Douglas, Jackie Beat and Alexis Arquette. The setting is the offices of a low-budget Divorce Court knock-off called The Love Judge, with producer Jo (JB), writers Jeremy, Paula, Bill (AA) and Mark (CC), and aspiring secretary Leslie (ID). Mark, bereaved for nearly three years after the death of Kenny, has a crush on Bill, despite Bill's having a girlfriend, Kelly. But Bill is also having a fling with Jeremy. With not many places to go and various people they don't want to hurt, Jeremy and Bill amuse themselves by trysting on the couch in Jo's office. Eventually, Jo finds a stain on the cushion, and thinks that Mark might be behind it, as their relationship has cooled since Kenny's death. Leslie, deputed to get it cleaned, eventually reveals, when Paula asks how to get out such a stain, that she has no idea, and just flipped the cushion over to the other side.  But the stain comes in handy, finding its way into the centre of the plot of the Circus Lesbians episode.

Moral:  "It was SEMEN, Your Honour!"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10/20 - Make Way for Feministes

We finally get a batch of letters that constitute a slight improvement over the usual lot recently. I predict that the first letter may well start a most interesting thread at Feministe, where there was recently a good discussion of the letter from Virgin-Seeks-Same's-Misleading-Fiancee. Some posters appeared to be the type of judge who would think decapitation a fitting punishment for a non-renewed dog license, but degree is not always the easiest think to settle. Some time before that thread, they had a long thread about adoption, in which it seemed that there might have been a plurality opinion that adoption is "worse" than abortion. (I can see easily enough how there might be a higher likelihood of regret among those who choose adoption than among those who choose abortion, but not all regrets are equal, and it is not easy to weight the positive outcomes.) That would seem to bode not-so-well for LW1's sister, but LW1 is S*-shaming, which should make for quite an interesting thread.

L3: He still has patients? This reminds me of Miss Marple in They Do It With Mirrors, in which she recounts how Edgar Lawson reminds her of a young dentist in practice with his father. When the old man's hands began to shake and patients preferred the son, he was so upset by how this hurt his father's feelings that he began to act drunk. Unfortunately, instead of their going back to the father, they went to the rival dentist. Not a very close analogy, but this is really a technical question.

L4: Some credit to the Prudecutor for recognizing that Disneyland is the root of all evil, although at least the original is vastly superiour to the Florida knockoff. If it will make LW4 feel any better, I doubt her or his immortal soul hangs in the balance of this potential lie, but I am inclined to give LW4 a few props. Advertently or otherwise, LW4 has called to mind Ring Lardner's story The Caddy, to which I believe I have referred on a previous occasion. Our narrator feels put upon when bank executive Mr Thomas calls upon him to lie in order to earn his quarter tip, as if carrying the bag with five heavy wood clubs that haven't been used in twenty years weren't enough. He doesn't mind telling Mrs Doane that winter rules are in effect so that she can take a preferred lie as she smiles at him and calls him her pal, but later feels troubled when he kicks her ball out of a rut to help her win a dress in a bet rather than have to pay $50 for it. When he wonders to his fellow caddy why Mr Thomas and other bad golfers cheat, his friend takes the view that it's more that good golfers can't; if they take two putts on a hole and make a par 4, they can hardly claim a score of 3, whereas a hacker can turn an 8 into a 7 with much greater ease. Towards the end of the story, the club champion, who was beginning a nice little career at the bank, absconds with $8,000 and a blonde secretary. Our narrator hears Mr Thomas and the other luminaries of the club regretting how Charles Crane has sold his soul. But the narrator thinks he got a good deal out of it, comparing $8,000 and a swell blonde to Mrs Doane not having to pay $50 for Miss Rennie's dress, or Mr Thomas claiming a lower score in order to finish joint first net on the back nine of a club tournament instead of second, and therefore winning nine golf balls instead of six. But his friend counters that, if he were to point this out to them, they would retort that, when he lied about Mr Thomas taking four shots to reach the green instead of five, he was selling his soul for a $.25 tip, or, when he kicked Mrs Doane's ball out of the rut, for a smile.

Unfortunately, as for LW4 wondering whether to die on this particular hill or not, (s)he loses a great deal of credit. Ar Dr Schlessinger frequently pointed out, upon which hill one happened to be willing to die was a personal and independent decision, and there is no point in LW4 expecting the Prudecutor to tell her the answer.

L2: Here I shall not bring up much of an analogy, but I shall point out the one thing that stood out for me in this letter. The two leaders went to LW2 and asked LW2 to remove his/her daughter from the troop because the daughter made an unkind remark to one of their daughters. The Prudecutor completely misses the boat on this one. Clearly the line for LW1 to have taken would have been to ascertain the strictness with which said Zero Tolerance Policy for Unkind Remarks had been enforced on previous occasions. Actually, now that I think of it, it's a bit like the recent case in Texas in which a male high school cheerleader was kicked off the squad, supposedly over a same-sex kiss which appeared on a security tape (why the tape was viewed being open to interpretation) when pregnant cheerleaders somehow have not violated the school code of conduct for the squad (and we say nothing about opposite-sex kissers). It appears that the school is now claiming that the dismissal had nothing to do with the kiss and that the parents accept this (how much if anything this might have cost again being open to interpretation).

L1: Now, the Prudecutor was actually doing rather well. She had a little fumble early on, stating with her usual prude-coloured glasses firmly in place that S1 made her decision on the basis of the life she would want to give her child. Possible. Clearly not disproveable on what we have. But certainly it is an Unwarranted Assumption, which comes perilously close to steering the reader into sympathy with LW1. But she righted the ship amazingly well and then proceeded on quite a good course. LW1's opinion is irrelevant, appropriate language, the evils of LW1 as a caretaker, and No Birth Mother Unchanged (true enough if not absolute). So far, so good. Perhaps a bit could have been added to the reference to entitlement, as LW1's definition of the same was certainly rather curious. And then, at the critical moment, the Prudecutor could not help herself:

But her choice does leave me thinking that when the time comes and she is ready, she will be a wonderful mother.

How on earth can the Prudecutor feel at all confident in such an asseriton? At least she does not say that she knows this. It would have been reasonable to say that one might feel more confident than usual, if S1 maintains her stance against such strong opposition from LW1 and F1, supported only by BF1, that the decision is more probably the correct choice for her. Far better to have ended this letter with reflections on LW1's future character as an aunt.

In Miss Austen's day, open adoptions seemed if anything rather more common than they are now, although the children in question more often went to family connections and the legal ramifications were considerably more loose. One of Miss Austen's own brothers provided a case in point. The whole of Mansfield Park begins with and concerns a sort of open adoption, when Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, urged by Mrs Norris, agree to undertake the raising of their niece, Fanny Price.  And a closer example to the modern day is provided in Emma. While we not only have the secondar example of Jane Fairfax being raised by her father's friend Colonel Campbell, there is the case of Frank Weston being so avowedly adopted by the Churchills as to take their name. The practice raises dual opinions in the bosoms of John and Isabella Knightley when, some twenty-odd years later, Frank sends his father's new wife a handsome letter on the occasion of the marriage. Isabella cannot imagine a child being taken from parent and home, and, while she is puzzled that Mr Weston could have borne to part with the little boy, she mainly cannot think well of anyone who could propose such a scheme. John counters that noone ever thought well of the Churchills, but his main opinion is that Mr Weston could not have felt what Isabella would have done in giving up one of her children.

Moral:  "Mr Weston is rather an easy, cheerful-tempered man, than a man of strong feelings:  he takes things as he finds them, and makes enjoyment of them somehow or other, depending, I suspect, much more upon what is called society for his comforts, that is, upon the power of eating and drinking, and playing whist with his neighbours five times a week, than upon family affection, or anything that home affords."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

10/13 - Voyaging Through

As much as I might enjoy cross-examinging the woman from Monday who began healthier habits that led to weight loss shortly before her boyfriend commented that her body type wasn't his preference, that would take far too long.  I find I am still unsatisfactorily able to get back into full swing.  Apologies in advance.

L1:  Now here's a couple who clearly have at least one point of compatibility - they both have some foresight, but rather a limited quantity.  As they are so well matched in this regard, it seems almost a shame to advise them that Divorce is by far the easiest solution to their problem, although parting is certainly vastly more convenient than either of the parties changing his or her views.  And a divorce ought to mean a brief from LW1 for Mizz Lizz Probert, who did very well in Singleton v Singleton.  If LW1 does not have a proper contempt for H now, she most certainly will by the time Mizz Lizz is finished with her.

I might cross-examine LW1 on why she thinks that her statement of the respective viewpoints of herself (or, in all fairness, himself, as L1 never explicitly specifies) and H1 are something about which they necessarily need to agree to disagree.  How is being a pacifist and despising guns inconsistent with the belief that everyone has the right to keep and bear arms?  Such viewpoints will lead to difficulties in the application of reconciling them in a living situation, but it is perfectly possible to hold both beliefs.  The interesting thing here is that LW1 equates personal attitudes to what (s)he presents as H1's stance coming from his belief in a general or universal right.  Either this is a great incompatibility or LW1 doesn't really fight fair.

As for a solution, I have two - go the route of Solomon and let H1 have all the guns he likes so long as no bullet ever crosses the threshold, or follow the example of And Then There Were None (a much more politically correct version of the title than Ten Little Whatevers), in which Mr Justice Wargrave collects all the potential lethal weapons in the possession of anyone still alive on the island and places them in a silver chest, which is then placed in the plate cupboard.  He then gives the key of the chest to Lombard and the key of the cupboard to Blore (or the other way around).  Either way, this will have the hallmark of all the best compromises in satisfying nobody.

L2:  I suppose it seems reasonable to assume that someone who would carry large sums in cash would be the sort who would be comfortable with resorting to physical violence to settle a dispute.  I might again point out the desirability of a Divorce.  Lest anyone think I am merely touting for briefs on behalf of Mizz Lizz Probert, I point out as an unshakeable defence that LW2 and W2 are both dreamers, and it is well known that dreamers are unsuited to the real world of Actual Bodily Harm.  I could go farther and hold that anyone who gets The Wedding of Her Dreams invariably finds that life goes downhill from there.  But any marriage beginning with such a wedding is bound to have a hex on it.  And C2 need not stay divorced.  I pass without comment over the Prudecutor's strange display of what she takes for humour.

As for the cash, who cares?  It's a kind gesture not to cash IG2's check and send in that direction a donation more or less equal to the amount of CB2's gift to IG2, although that might be a tacit admission of guilt or responsibility, and could possibly end up costing LW2 and W2 more than either might care to undertake.  Being in a more than usually tasteful mood today, I shall refrain from inquiring with any solicitude into the question of whether CB2 is provided with adequate Defence Counsel.

L3:  Now we see the point of the entire column.  A gift of LW3's hair as a wig is something that gives the Prudecutor a mild case of the squicks; therefore, LW3 must channel the thought into some conventional effort that has considerably less meaning.  Typical.  Of course, why LW3 thinks that making such a gift as a surprise is so clever I've no idea.  It's too simple.  LW3 mentions to F3 that she (this letter does seem to have more in favour of the assumption that others, although it is not absolutely explicit) is planning to cut her hair.  F3 probably makes some remark about this, and LW3 asks if F3 would like her hair made into a wig.  The element of surprise could come in the form of LW3 already having looked into the practice.

L4:  I might have sided entirely with LW4 on this one, but the list of complaints is rather odd.  The complaint about there being no smoke alarms might have carried some weight if tied explicitly to the dangers of conflagrations on premises owned by near-hoarders.  But in combination with the unlocked doors (as if there were any need to keep intruders out of such a home), LW4 comes off as being extremely soapy, if not an outright priss.  The real damage has been done.  LW4 ought to have enforced on the occasion of the engagement (or at least the marriage) that P4s treat the new family with appropriate respect.  Consider the case of Susan Warrington in The Voyage Out.  Although a minor character who, along with her eventual fiance, Arthur Venning, is used as a sort of foil for the love story of more central characters, Susan, whose existence is established as that of a drudge in service to her aunt, finds an unexpected improvement in her lot on the occasion of her engagement.  The old tyrant shows such a respect for the married state that Susan's view of her prospects for the near future are considerably brightened.  A slight variation on this theme occurs in Death on the Nile, in which Cornelia Robson is liberated from her lot of being dogsbody to Miss van Schuyler.

Moral:  "Directly she became engaged, Mrs Paley behaved with instinctive respect, positively protested when Susan as usual knelt down to lace her shoes, and appeared really grateful for an hour of Susan's company where she had been sued to exact two or three as her right."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

10/6 - Why Consult the Prudecutor?

This week's crop is so poor that I cannot justify providing any of the letters with a parallel or a moral.

L1:  Why consult the Prudecutor?  Mr Savage would have provided LW1 with all the necessary justification and validation for continuing in his current line of conduct.  I'm not quite sure why the Prudecutor assumes that W1 "easily" climaxes (assumes facts not in evidence) or why she thinks that anyone content with sex once a month would consider her own climax a boon to her partner.  But those are minor points.

How certain is LW1 exactly that his wife would end the marriage over infidelity?  There seem to be a number of possible reactions, of which outrage, while valid, is but one.  She might resent the expenditure, and tell him to get a mistress instead.  She might be quite willing to outsource the majority of his sexual expression.  While it's not really kosher to present one's recent behaviour as a future possibility, it may be an option for initiating a discussion, little as I like it.

I am perhaps most interested in the Household Help sideline.  If memory serves, one could well recall that, for years, Women in Authority have told Husbands who wonder why they aren't Getting Any that a freshly done and folded load of laundry is the Finest Aphrodisiac in the World.  But the Prudecutor now gives this the lie, claiming that LW1's intent in relieving his wife of some of her burden being that it might lead her to be In The Mood more often negates the value of his activities.  Somehow, I don't think the Radical Sisterhood of Wives Who Already Know They Aren't Going to Give It Up is going to thank the Prudecutor for showing up their scam.

L2:  Why consult the Prudecutor?  This one's obvious - LW2 is more successful than the Prudecutor.  Any other columnist would likely talk down to him.  It might be entertaining to debate the relative nature of Success, but not with someone who so desperately needs to stack the deck.

L3:  At least one can see the case for LW3 consulting the Prudecutor (and LW4 as well, once we get there).  If I were going to provide a parallel, it might have to do with Fred Couples, who never liked answering the telephone, because somebody might be on the other end.  LW3 might not want to speculate too deeply about exactly what is going on in his son's home during the weekly telephone calls.  Or, then again, if he's of the creepy variety, perhaps he might.  I'm not sure why the Prudecutor thinks S3 should apologize beyond the obligatory Whoopsie for sending something to the wrong person.  But it might be enjoyable to cross-examine LW3 on why, if he has such a brilliant relationship with S3, he chose to adorn a message with the worst possible spin and have an instant snit.

L4:  And since when, LW4, does someone, even someone celebrating a birthday, merely decide with whom among her intended co-celebrants she intends to adopt the status of guest and inform the lucky recipient of her stay?  Here the Prudecutor has actually given an excellent imitation of a stopped clock and gotten one right.  The Tudors in particular were fond of a Royal Progress, and why not?  They were most economical - potentially ruinous to the lucky hosts, but that was always a secondary concern.  As for LW4's actual question, the obvious thing would be to have the boyfriend attend in drag.  Anything else is just too boring to contemplate.