I tend to suffer a bit from seasonal depression, which, I realize in my case stems not just from an absence of light AND the onset of the Christmas season—which usually combines to make the first weekend of December about my worst time—but also from the “annual review.” You know, it’s that assessment you tend to make knowing that another year has come to an end. Some years, it’s been pretty rough. Around this time of year we’ve had deaths, job losses, illness or other general unpleasantness, which, amplified by darkness and a mildly Scrooge-ish temperament makes for a rather hard time.
This year, I’m doing fairly well, partly because my new position as a manager keeps me sufficiently busy that I don’t have brooding time. Of course, the job has its drawbacks like any job, but I have to feel good about having gotten the promotion. We celebrated twenty years of wonderful marriage. My last remaining unmarried sibling, my brother Mike, got married to his long-time companion, Karen. My parents seem to be doing better than last year at this time, and some of the family stresses due to their unhealth seem to have eased. My sister and other brothers all have intact marriages, very good to decent jobs, good health, and no history of drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, or imprisonment. I myself had and extensive battery of health tests and got a clean bill. So there’s very little to be gloomy about, at least in my personal life. On the other hand, the situation in the nation and the world generally sucks, so I guess there is at least balance.
Since last time, we’ve seen two particularly good movies, one critically acclaimed, and one panned.
The one that everyone loved, including ourselves, was The Incredibles. Surprising, since superhero movies don’t tend to win critical good opinion, even successful ones like Spider-Man. But, truly, I thought The Incredibles was a truly flawless movie. It does one of my favorite things, which is first to say “what if,” and then ruthlessly apply logic and common sense to work out the ramifications. The plot is original: do-gooder super-heroes get sued out of business. Instead of persecuting them, the government puts them into a sort of witness relocation program on the condition they refrain from using super-powers. Mr. Incredible has settled uncomfortably into life as an insurance adjuster, married “Elasti-Girl” and is in the process of raising two also uncomfortable super-powered children. He’s been sneaking out to do bits of unauthorized heroics, so when he gets an offer from a super-secret government agency he’s easily tempted--.
Besides the wealth of ideas, the movie is visually beautiful in so many ways, some of the best of them being subtleties such as motion: Elasti-Girl stretching from rooftop to rooftop looks exactly right. Frozone moves like a speed-skater on his ice, instead of the “surfer” move that is the X-Men “Iceman” cliché. You look at it and say “Of course!” The tropical island where much of the action takes place is beautifully rendered and super-cool in the best James Bond fashion. I really could find only minimal quibbles and consider it a must-see if you care for super-heroics in the least.
The art-house film one would have expected the critics to love but they didn’t is Finding Neverland. It is a fictionalized account of the circumstances surrounding J.M. Barrie’s writing of his masterpiece Peter Pan. The timeline diverges quite a bit from actual facts, but the writers have made a very affecting story on a skeletal reality. Critics tended to say a thing such as that it was “too adult for children, and too childish for adults.” Instead, I would rather say that it was too sentimental for cynics. Since we are sentimentalists, we liked it, and there was not a dry eye among us at the end. If you can restrain yourself from chanting “I do believe in fairies” when Tinkerbell’s light begins to fade, perhaps it is not for you. Otherwise, see it if you can.
We had thought we were looking at a rather grim Thanksgiving. My brother David and his wife were visiting her side of the family, my father had succeeded in estranging my brother Harold’s wife by lashing out at her during my mother’s health crisis, and my sister Teresa has tended to be absent from family gatherings, either tending to her husband’s aged parents or on call for her cardiology practice. So it looked like it would be just Georgie and me trying to carry the burden of holiday cheer to the old homestead—heavy lifting for four, formerly the work of sixteen at times. So we were delighted to find that my father had actually apologized to Connie, such that she, Harold, and their three daughters arrived at the house like Scrooge at the Cratchits, bringing along food enough to turn our adequate meal into a feast. Teresa, having done dinner for her in-laws, appeared as well bringing her son and daughter. What could have been a pretty sad affair ended up suffused with a quiet joy. It was far better than I had hoped.
And so on:
We’ve moved fairly smoothly into the holiday season, although the week after Thanksgiving we both had the feeling our flu vaccines were earning their keep and stayed home from Sue Blom’s salon on the 3rd. We made our annual Christmas shopping trip to the Madison Farmer’s Market, and had lunch with Tracey Benton and Bill Bodden. Yay! Dottie Dumpling’s Dowry lives again, although in a somewhat unnervingly upscaled incarnation. The burgers are good as ever. Our fellow Burrahobbits Don and Rich threw their holiday party and a good time was had. Our friend Yehudit hosted Ashram on the eve of Hanukah, and we had an informative time talking about visions of the afterlife—if any. On the 11th, Bardic Dinner was held at Emory Churness’ home, theme British Cooking, and reading from P.G. Wodehouse—both food and readings were excellent.
On the 18th, there was MilwAPA Collation at our house, which was pleasantly festive time. Insertions for the distribution included orgiami cranes and candy canes. That evening there was a filksing back at Emory's where we had a good time also and sang some pagan Yuletide carols along with the usual filksongs.
On the 19th, we drove up to Wisconsin Dells for a post-wedding brunch hosted by my brother Mike and his new bride, Karen. They got married in the San Francisco area in the middle of October. We couldn't go because we had already comitted all our spendable cash to our anniversary party, and our parents aren't able to travel that far, so they decided to come here and host a reception for local friends and family. It was held at the Cheese Factory, which, despite the name, is a rather nice vegetarian restaurant, and the food was very good. Georgie surprised them with a cake, and a nice time was had. Karen Kubitscek is a psychologist, and she and Mike have been an item for a decade, so we were very ready to welcome her as a new sister.