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Christmas wish list—now greedily updated and expanded!

I make one every year, though I never show anybody except the web.

Nero Wolfe: The Complete Classic Whodunit Series

La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales

Crosley iSolo

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter

new iPod earbuds

2011 wall calendar

new canvas, paint, etc.

ummm...I could think of more things.

I'd like a new cardigan. I prefer zippers to buttons, and it can't be too oppressive or too baggy. And I'd like a new computer, but not smaller; I think it's weird that the MacAirs are so small. I would like to go up to 17 inches, not down to 13. On the other hand, I would find an iPad very useful, or I would find a Nook rather useful.

I'd enjoy a new camera. Mine's pretty much outdated and outmoded at this point.

I'd like to have my car detailed and to finally have the XM radio installed. I could have had Sirius put in when we got it, but we already had XM, so I've been using a noisy external unit all this time.

Probably I'll end up getting several of the less expensive things for myself over the next year, however, gifts are still fun to think about.

Those "where were you when...?" moments

I was 15, lying on my bed listening to the radio. It was in Kansas City, so possibly Q104, though I wasn't into that particular Top 40 station as much as the other kids. I was listening to the song "Woman," which the DJ said was the next release from that long-awaited album. And he broke into the end of it to say John Lennon had been shot.

For a long time I wondered if the DJ was super creepy and played over 2 minutes of the song before interrupting in order to enhance what would surely already be an incredibly dramatic moment, or if he truly created a painful coincidence. I guess I still wonder, though I lean toward the more jaded answer.

There's a sharp divide between popular music before the Beatles came around, and when they hit it big in the U.S. over the next couple of years, and then again, as their own style evolved and became more layered and complex over the next 5 years.

I've never been a huge Lennon/McCartney/Beatles fan, but I am a huge admirer, if I can split hairs that way. There are maybe a dozen seriously key players in the evolution of 20th century music, and they are near the top of that list.

I knew a lot about the Beatles while growing up because I had older brothers, and parents who were really into music. Without that, could you be younger than me, at 45, and feel the full impact of that violent moment? It's only been in the past 15 years that I've seriously learned a lot about the context of all the old music I like, though I listened to early rock and roll, jazz, big band, and lounge music via my family, as well as some 70s rock trends, before finding new wave and college rock on my own in the 80s.

But I remember being there at the end of the Beatles era, though I was very small. That one fact alone made Lennon's death much more meaningful for me than it could have been otherwise.  

Kurt Cobain was my age, but I don't remember feeling more than shock at such a violent end. It wasn't comparable for me.

Now, personally, I get more from Brubeck, Getz, Sinatra, than I ever did from the Beatles. But I'll shed more than a tear at the loss of Dave Gahan, Robert Smith, David Byrne, and/or Morrissey. And the Beatles are certainly an important aspect of the bridge between those two groups.

The world's a different place now, though. Better in lots of ways, so much more jaded in others. Which celebrity death could shock us so much now, as Michael Jackson's did? Most everyone else with that much popular influence is either already gone, or old enough that death would not seem so wild and untimely.

The younger generation has their big names and very big names, of course. But very few of them are so big, and so culturally and generationally transcendent in the way they were in our recent past. Can that still occur in our "everyone gets 15 minutes of fame" world? I do wonder.

December Movie Addiction

Every year in December, TCM drives me completely wild with their movie schedule. This year may be my favorite yet; at least in a number of years. A whole day for Lew Ayres! And another whole day of Cary Grant! I really need the rest of the family to just go their own way for the next few weeks and leave me to it. But the best I can do is clear the DVR and set it to go. Or pay DirecTV to install a second one in my bedroom...sigh. 

Here's the lineup I've chosen for the next 3.5 weeks. And that doesn't even factor in all the cheesy Lifetime and Hallmark Channel Christmas movies I love to watch each year!

6 Monday

5:00 PM

Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way (2010) Executive produced by Clint Eastwood, this documentary chronicles the life and music of America's jazz ambassador Dave Brubeck on the occasion of his 90th birthday. C-84 mins, TV-PG, CC

7 Tuesday

9:45 AM

From Here To Eternity (1953) Enlisted men in Hawaii fight for love and honor on the eve of World War II. Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra. Dir: Fred Zinnemann. BW-118 mins, TV-PG, CC

5:00 AM

Pushover (1954) A police detective falls for the bank robber's girlfriend he is supposed to be tailing. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Kim Novak, Philip Carey. Dir: Richard Quine. BW-88 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

8 Wednesday

12:45 PM

Cash McCall (1960) A corporate spoiler makes a play for a failing company and the owner's daughter. Cast: James Garner, Natalie Wood, Nina Foch. Dir: Joseph Pevney. C-102 mins, TV-PG, Letterbox Format

11:15 PM

Singin' In The Rain (1952) A silent-screen swashbuckler finds love while trying to adjust to the coming of sound. Cast: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor. Dir: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen. C-103 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

9 Thursday

11:00 AM

Love Is A Headache (1938) A freak accident gives a fading actress a huge publicity push. Cast: Franchot Tone, Gladys George, Mickey Rooney. Dir: Richard Thorpe. BW-73 mins, TV-G, CC

9:30 PM

Babes in Arms (1939) A group of second-generation entertainers puts on a show to launch their careers. Cast: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Charles Winninger. Dir: Busby Berkeley. BW-96 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

11:15 PM

Strike Up the Band (1940) A high-school band sets out to win a national radio contest. Cast: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Paul Whiteman. Dir: Busby Berkeley. BW-120 mins, TV-G, CC

1:30 AM

Babes on Broadway (1941) Show-biz hopefuls stage a benefit for an orphanage. Cast: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Virginia Weidler. Dir: Busby Berkeley. BW-118 mins, TV-PG, CC

3:45 AM

Girl Crazy (1943) A womanizing playboy finds true love when he's sent to a desert college. Cast: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Guy Kibbee. Dir: Norman Taurog. BW-99 mins, TV-G

10 Friday

10:00 AM

Talk Of The Town, The (1942) An escaped political prisoner and a stuffy law professor vie for the hand of a spirited schoolteacher. Cast: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman. Dir: George Stevens. BW-117 mins, TV-G, CC

11 Saturday

6:00 AM

Bells Are Ringing (1960) An answering service operator gets mixed up in her clients' lives. Cast: Judy Holliday, Dean Martin, Jean Stapleton. Dir: Vincente Minnelli. C-126 mins, TV-G, CC, Letterbox Format

8:00 PM

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) Young love and childish fears highlight a year in the life of a turn-of-the-century family. Cast: Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor. Dir: Vincente Minnelli. C-113 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

12 Sunday

 8:45 AM

There Goes My Heart (1938) An heiress takes a job as a department store clerk. Cast: Fredric March, Virginia Bruce, Patsy Kelly. Dir: Norman Z. McLeod. BW-83 mins, TV-G

10:15 AM

Shop Around The Corner, The (1940) Feuding co-workers don't realize they're secret romantic pen pals. Cast: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan. Dir: Ernst Lubitsch. BW-99 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

12:00 PM

Bishop's Wife, The (1947) An angel helps set an ambitious bishop on the right track. Cast: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven. Dir: Henry Koster. BW-109 mins, TV-G, CC

2:00 PM

Room For One More (1952) A family with three children takes in troubled orphans. Cast: Cary Grant, Betsy Drake, Lurene Tuttle. Dir: Norman Taurog. BW-95 mins

4:15 AM

Too Bad She's Bad (1954) A taxi driver falls in love with the young thief who helped steal his cab. Cast: Vittorio De Sica, Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni. Dir: Alessandro Blasetti. BW-95 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

13 Monday

12:00 PM

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) When he inherits a fortune, a small-town poet has to deal with the corruption of city life. Cast: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Lionel Stander. Dir: Frank Capra. BW-116 mins, TV-G, CC

17 Friday

2:15 PM

Tea For Two (1950) An heiress has to say no to every question for 24 hours if she wants to star on Broadway. Cast: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson. Dir: David Butler. C-98 mins, TV-PG, CC

9:30 PM

In The Good Old Summertime (1949) In this musical remake of The Shop Around the Corner, feuding co-workers in a small music shop do not realize they are secret romantic pen pals. Cast: Judy Garland, Van Johnson, S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall. Dir: Robert Z. Leonard. C-103 mins, TV-PG, CC, DVS

18 Saturday

8:00 PM

Meet John Doe (1941) A reporter's fraudulent story turns a tramp into a national hero and makes him a pawn of big business. Cast: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold. Dir: Frank Capra. BW-122 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

10:15 PM

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) When he inherits a fortune, a small-town poet has to deal with the corruption of city life. Cast: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Lionel Stander. Dir: Frank Capra. BW-116 mins, TV-G, CC

2:45 AM

Along Came Jones (1945) A mild-mannered cowboy is mistaken for a notorious outlaw. Cast: Gary Cooper, Loretta Young, William Demarest. Dir: Stuart Heisler. BW-90 mins, TV-G, CC

19 Sunday

6:30 AM

Top Hat (1935) A woman thinks the man who loves her is her best friend's husband. Cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton. Dir: Mark Sandrich. BW-100 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

8:15 AM

Merrily We Live (1938) A society matron's habit of hiring ex-cons and hobos as servants leads to romance for her daughter. Cast: Constance Bennett, Brian Aherne, Billie Burke. Dir: Norman Z. McLeod. BW-95 mins, TV-G

20 Monday

6:45 AM

A Hole in the Head (1959) A single father's bohemian lifestyle could cost him custody of his son. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Eleanor Parker. Dir: Frank Capra. C-120 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

10:00 PM

Shop Around The Corner, The (1940) Feuding co-workers don't realize they're secret romantic pen pals. Cast: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan. Dir: Ernst Lubitsch. BW-99 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

21 Tuesday

4:00 PM

Period Of Adjustment (1962) A newlywed couple's honeymoon is disrupted by their friends' marital problems. Cast: Tony Franciosa, Jane Fonda, Jim Hutton. Dir: George Roy Hill. BW-112 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

22 Wednesday

10:15 PM

Rio Bravo (1959) A sheriff enlists a drunk, a kid and an old man to help him fight off a ruthless cattle baron. Cast: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson. Dir: Howard Hawks. C-141 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

24 Friday

2:00 PM

Man Who Came to Dinner, The (1942) An acerbic critic wreaks havoc when a hip injury forces him to move in with a midwestern family. Cast: Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Monty Woolley. Dir: William Keighley. BW-113 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

8:00 PM

Bishop's Wife, The (1947) An angel helps set an ambitious bishop on the right track. Cast: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven. Dir: Henry Koster. BW-109 mins, TV-G, CC

4:00 AM

Bell, Book and Candle (1959) A beautiful witch puts a love spell on an unknowing publisher. Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon. Dir: Richard Quine. C-102 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

26 Sunday

1:15 AM

Red Balloon,The (1956) A boy discovers his new balloon has a mind of its own. Cast: Pascal Lamorisse, Georges Sellier, Vladimir Popov. Dir: Albert Lamorisse. C-34 mins, TV-G

2:00 AM

Bicycle Thief, The (1948) A working man's livelihood is threatened when someone steals his bicycle. Cast: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell. Dir: Vittorio De Sica. BW-89 mins, TV-G

28 Tuesday

7:15 AM

Young Dr. Kildare (1938) A medical school graduate must choose between a small-town practice and a big-city internship. Cast: Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Nat Pendleton. Dir: Harold S. Bucquet. BW-82 mins, TV-G, CC

8:45 AM

Calling Dr. Kildare (1939)A young doctor treats a gangster and falls for the man's kid sister. Cast: Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Lana Turner. Dir: Harold S. Bucquet. BW-87 mins, TV-G

10:15 AM

Secret Of Dr. Kildare, The (1939) A young doctor tries to help a woman suffering from psychosomatic blindness. Cast: Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Laraine Day. Dir: Harold S. Bucquet. BW-85 mins, TV-G

11:45 AM

Dr. Kildare's Strange Case (1940) A young doctor uses pioneering methods to treat a mental patient. Cast: Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Laraine Day. Dir: Harold S. Bucquet. BW-77 mins, TV-G, CC

1:15 PM

Dr. Kildare Goes Home (1940) A young doctor gives up big-city success to help his father set up a small-town clinic. Cast: Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Laraine Day. Dir: Harold S. Bucquet. BW-79 mins, TV-G, CC

2:45 PM

Dr. Kildare's Crisis (1940) A young doctor's marriage could be called off when the bride's brother is diagnosed with epilepsy. Cast: Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Young. Dir: Harold S. Bucquet. BW-75 mins, TV-G, CC

4:00 PM

Holiday (1938) An unhappy heiress falls in love with her stodgy sister's freethinking fiance. Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Edward Everett Horton. Dir: George Cukor. BW-96 mins, TV-G, CC

5:45 PM

Johnny Belinda (1948) A small-town doctor helps a deaf-mute farm girl learn to communicate. Cast: Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Agnes Moorehead. Dir: Jean Negulesco. BW-102 mins, TV-G, CC

10:00 PM

Doctor Bull (1933) A country doctor ignites gossip when he falls for a small-town widow. Cast: Will Rogers, Vera Allen, Marian Nixon. Dir: John Ford. BW-77 mins,

30 Thursday

4:30 PM

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) A group of greedy clowns tears up the countryside in search of buried treasure. Cast: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar. Dir: Stanley Kramer. C-159 mins, TV-G, CC, Letterbox Format

31 Friday

8:00 AM

My Favorite Wife (1940) A shipwrecked woman is rescued just in time for her husband's re-marriage. Cast: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott. Dir: Garson Kanin. BW-88 mins, TV-G, CC

9:30 AM

Philadelphia Story, The (1940) Tabloid reporters crash a society marriage. Cast: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart. Dir: George Cukor. BW-112 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

11:30 AM

Penny Serenade (1941) A woman on the verge of divorce recalls her heartbreaking attempts to adopt a child. Cast: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Beulah Bondi. Dir: George Stevens. BW-119 mins, TV-G, CC

1:45 PM

Arsenic And Old Lace (1944) A young man about to be married discovers the two aunts who raised him have been poisoning lonely old men. Cast: Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre. Dir: Frank Capra. BW-118 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

3:45 PM

Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, The (1947) A teenage girl's crush on a playboy spells trouble, particularly when he falls for her older sister. Cast: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple. Dir: Irving Reis. BW-95 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS

5:30 PM

North By Northwest (1959) An advertising man is mistaken for a spy, triggering a deadly cross-country chase. Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason. Dir: Alfred Hitchcock. C-136 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format, DVS


I'm bringing sexy back/Keeping Christmas

Yeah, I mean, I'm starting to get what might be considered well? It's still partly theoretical, but forecast indicates continuing improvement. 

So let's have some fun with one of today's cheesetastic article from The Daily Mail. Unlike other people who decry this as the worst of British publishing rags, I'm often tickled by it. And I don't figure they outright make stuff up so much as enhance or extrude it for maximum sensationalism. That one guy who was trendy for awhile coined the sentiment "truthiness." That mostly applies. 

I also think they don't take what they publish as seriously as do their readers. They know they're printing material for extreme reaction, and are probably often giddy about the responses they get. It's a numbers game.

And this here? This is comedy gold. I've excised portions of it because it's way too freaking long, so this is the (still long) clip show version, with my own (sans-serif) comments and links added.

Saturday, Dec 04 2010
 Merry Christmas? Along with millions of other middle class mothers, I can't afford one

Last updated at 3:34 AM on 4th December 2010

Less than five years ago, Christmas for me meant leisurely afternoons in Harrods buying a pretty embroidered cushion, some bath oil and a toy or two here, some smoked salmon and a box of chocolates there.

Shopping in a global superstore among the well-heeled is a relaxed pleasure — or should I say, it was. 

For today it is merely a gold-tinted memory, as remote and exotic as going to Timbuktu.

This year, the arrival of the festive period has sent shivers down my spine. And not because of the cold.

Like many thousands of families across Britain, I have experienced a dramatic downturn in my fortunes in the past year or two.

To put it simply: I may be middle class, but I’m poverty-stricken.

Five years ago, I earned £1,200 a week from my work as a TV and film producer and would have thought nothing of spending £45 on a pot of gold-lidded lusciously scented body cream as a Christmas present for a distant cousin.

These days, I am lucky if I earn £500 a week as a writer.

We know that, in the United States, middle-class encompasses a huge economic range from Walmart to Macy's and a little beyond. And it's not all about economics, of course. Here, it's largely a state of mind. But while "well-heeled" may also be relative, it's not really what we think of when we think of middle-class, is it?

I won't compare her income ranges to ours; that's also extremely relative, even more so here than there. My own family's household income would be considered fairly high in many parts of our country, yet in New Jersey, it's fairly ordinary. But we can look at prices contextually. That £45 pot of body cream? 70 dollars. For someone she barely knows. So you see the kind of thing she means here.

Personally, if it were just me and my partner, we’d tighten our belts and be done with it. 

But I have a six-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old step-daughter — not to mention six godchildren and about a dozen other children, ranging from teenagers to toddlers — who I need to buy presents for. (I think she means for whom she must buy gifts. Also, twelve.)

Just as I used to do as a little girl, my daughter has written a wish list to Santa and is confidently expecting him to wiggle down the chimney with a sack bulging with goodies ranging from a violin to Silly Bandz, the ubiquitous rubber bracelets all the rage among young girls.

She has been aglow with anticipation and her face lights up every time she hears the word ‘present’.

Incapable of treading on her dreams, I decided I might be able to afford stockings if I filled them with lots of little, cheap things that would give the illusion of bulk and plenty. 

So, far from perusing the aisles of Harrods, I found myself checking out the bargains at Poundland.

I discovered excellent deals like giant Toblerones for under £1 — but still, it was not the place to fill an entire stocking. Yet even the most reasonable of places, like Asda, no longer seem that cheap.

I have made it a golden rule not to spend more than £5 on a stocking present, and am horrified by how many items like window stickers, sets of crayons, colouring books, little plastic puppies and so on cost well over that. Even Silly Bandz just squeak in at £4.99, depending on where you buy them.

Yes, she's fallen so far, she's gone from the equivalent of Sak's Fifth Avenue to the Dollar General Store or Five Below. That's her version of "middle class poverty." Hee. The truth is, she just never bothered to notice how much anything cost before, or what it might actually be worth. Reality is a cruel, mad bitch in that scenario.

By the way, Asda is sort of Walmart; the shinier version.

I tried the internet, but quickly filled a virtual basket that came to over £320 so, feeling queasy, I abandoned the website.

Oh, boo hoo.

And when I went back to the shops, all I could think was: ‘I can’t afford this. Why am I here?’

And it’s not just presents I can’t afford. There are the time-honoured rituals, like the annual visit to the local pantomime or to a London show, that are now out of the question. Tickets for the musical Wicked were £90 when I last looked.

Then there are the decorations that suddenly seem oh-so-expensive. 

My mother always had a glossy, fat-berried holly wreath on our front door, but today something similar can cost well over £40, even if you try to track one down cheaply in a local market.

What my mother did save on was tree decorations — we had a few red and green baubles and some lengths of lank tinsel that were wrapped in tissue and carefully put away each year. 

I still own a few surviving baubles and some tiny birds made out of pipe-cleaner that will make it on to our tree this year.

She has to reuse Christmas decorations!! Really crappy ones, because there is no middle ground between disposable excess and pipe cleaners. I feel like crying about that 70 dollar wreath, myself, but I'll hold it in.

Long gone are the days when you just bought a supermarket turkey and shoved it in the oven.

Now, we are made to feel like lousy cooks if we haven’t soaked it in a spicy brine full of expensive Maldon sea salt, cinnamon sticks and maple syrup for days beforehand.

My mother was lucky because my grandmother provided us with tin upon tin of home-made mince pies and a Christmas cake. I would love to bake, but I don’t have time.

Picture 3

Even wrapping paper has become a source of irritation.

My mother spent hours wrapping presents, turning even a mundane gift into an enticing, beribboned box worthy of one of the Three Kings.

Picture 1

Following in her footsteps, I used to buy ribbons from VV Rouleaux — now their price of £50 for velvet and silk ribbons seems truly shocking. Obscene, even. So I was thrilled to spot a six-pack of gold twine at Tesco for £2, and I’m hoping that will do the trick.

Picture 2

Now you're starting to think this is a joke, right? She's gone from 80 dollar ribbon to 2 dollar twine. Is it inconceivable she has enough time to brine a turkey but not bake a g-d pan of cookies? Of course not. She's kind of one of these "can't see the forest for the trees" types, I'm thinking.

The whole thing has become one big headache.

This June, I finally paid off the last of my credit card bills. I have not used one since. I know, in reality, as Christmas Day creeps up on me, I am bound to dust off one, persuading myself that my family’s and friends’ presents are paramount.

I wish I were brave enough to do things differently. But the truth is I’m just too squeamish about disappointing my children in the short term — even though in the long term I would probably be doing them an enormous favour.

So with Advent upon us, I can only look to the next few weeks with a creeping sense of dread.

Cry ‘Bah Humbug’ if you must. Call me spoilt if you wish.

But the fact is, I wish I could cancel Christmas.

Be brave, Charlotte. Be brave. Take some Paracetamol (acetaminophen) and charge forth.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1335550/Merry-Christmas-Along-millions-middle-class-families-I-afford-says-CHARLOTTE-METCALF.html#ixzz179yzU8cU