Monkey Business

Monkey Business

(Everyone knows about the alt-f2 imdb shortcut in the minicli, right?)

I’ve just seen one of the less famous Marx Brothers movies Monkey Business, and the last one I had never seen before. And it’s a great one. I was in the mood for a good laugh, having had a horrible cold on top of a bronchitis on top of all kinds of worries, and this was the perfect specific.

What most impressed me in this movie, though, was the role of Thelma Todd. Poor woman — born 1905, died 1935, played in more than ten dozen movies. In Monkey Business, she played a woman as goofy as Groucho Marx himself, which is impressive. I’ve for a long time wondered whether it would be possible for a pretty young woman to play her part in a screwball comedy, but it is. It’s just rare.

I wonder why… Somehow my treacherous mind connects this with the standard stuff Dutch children read. Annie M.G. Schmidt and so on. Curiously enough, the adult male protagonists are always goofs, the females intelligent. I’m not talking about the antagonists: evil can be male or female, but somehow, female evil is portrayed as worse. Anyway, toddlers are raised on a diet of “clumsy king, wise queen, intelligent, clever-clever princess” books; slightly older kids get the “lousy/down-to-earth-practical/artistic mother” and the “clumsy/abusive/absent” father in their books, and it only goes downhill from there. It seems quite hard for a boy, nowadays, to find a book with a positive male role model. No doubt that’s why girls read more. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Anyway, to my mind, there’s nothing more glorious than the early dance scene with Groucho and Lucille in Monkey Business — both parties goofy to their tonsils. Of course, talking about funny, the poor frog in Harpo’s hat… Nowadays, you’d get a note at the credits: “No Actual Frog Harmed in the Making of This Movie”.

That’s another thing: sensibilities have changed. That sensibilities do change is no news, of course. We no longer enjoy hanging a goose by the neck and then encouraging the young folks of the village to pull their (the goose’s) feet as hard as they can, and biting the heads off live chickens (origin of the word “geek”) at fairs is Not Done. But that the current generation doesn’t laugh as hard at Tom and Jerry as I remember I did twenty-five years ago is a surprise. I bought a dvd box with the collected Tom and Jerry cartoons — and the general reaction is “poor Tom! nasty Jerry!”  And even more shockingly, I agree, mostly. It appears I’m no longer my eleven-year old self. And worse, my daughters aren’t as callous as my
eleven-year-old self either. I mean – there’s a mouseketeers cartoon where the guillotine actually falls

And while I’m writing anyway — it’s been too long, but life has been busy! Gradients ten times as fast, and filters gallery from 8500 ms to 500 ms to show up — Tim Bray, inventor of XML and bona-fide geek, isn’t taking his son to church because some power-playing middle-east dictators are urging their populace to lay off the Danish Blue because of some silly cartoons, and because of certified idiots Pat Robertson, Baruch Goldstein and other lunatic fringists. This is silly: it’s as if one would abstain from using free software because Eric Raymond is a gun-nut.

The thing is: lunatic fringes are not something the responsible center can do anything about. Much less politic powerplay. In that, there’s no difference between Free Software, Science and Religion. From Eric Raymond to the guy who explained how the Chinese colonized America in 600BC at a congress for Sino-Tibetanists to Ireneos, ex-(or not…) Patriarch of Jerusalem , all of them have stepped beyond the pale, and there’s nothing I (Krita maintainer), I (certified linguist), I ( Orthodox Christian) can do about it. And they are not who count, in the grand scheme of things.

What counts in a Church (temple, mosque, synagogue or witches’ sabbat, project) is the community. That means, the local group of people who come together to become more than just tokens: individuals who commune together. Personally, I prefer the Christian way of communication (and email and irc, of course) — but that is not germane to the issue. And equally personally, I’m quite happy that our Patriarch is far away and kept short and out of any real power. Power corrupts, after all. I’d hate to have the Patriach of Moscow ultimately in charge, or the Patriarch of Rome. But that’s not the issue either: what counts is what happens locally. Here, today, tomorrow, together, with the local people. That’s the message Yannaras and Zizioulas have been trying to get through. Get to know the people involved — in your local church (chapel, temple, mosque, synagogue, project etc.) personally; don’t do group-think (the X are evil); even if the going gets hard, keep on thinking about individual people, not groups, categories, broad, sweeping, proud, daring generalizing statements, but people. My friend A, B, who I’ve seen around before, C — why haven’t I seen her for some time?, D — why’s he looking sad today? — E, he’s an obnoxious bastard, but well, he’s E, isn’t he?

Everbody can be anything, and more than one thing at a time. Women
can be funny goofs, too. As can men. And wise, and human. All of us,
really.