Better Not Pout

‘Tis the season to suffer from symptoms caused by cognitive dissonance brought on by Mariah Carey’s holiday oeuvre and the film Love Actually. How to love, but also hate so much at the same time?

I’m sure I have written about Love Actually before, but as it was on the Belgian TV the other night it sort of, well. Do you also watch it every Christmas, fully aware that it is very likely the most ridiculous film ever made? If only because of the author who proposes marriage to a person he cannot communicate with in any meaningful way? Or the guy Colin who travels to the US just to hook up with hot girls? The palpable sexism present almost in every scene? Yet you watch it? Every year? Even just to feast your eyes on Hugh Grant shimmying to JUMP by Pointer Sisters?

Yes. We do these things.

(NB. The actor who plays the adorable kid Sam in Love Actually, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, has a role as a chess grand master in the Queen’s Gambit in which he’s fully grown up and also adorable.)

For me this is the first pre-Christmas season since I entered working life that I have not been snowed under end-of-year stress. It is therefore tragicomical that there’s almost no way to properly enjoy this weird bliss, because we know why.

I got a Christmas tree, which considerably elevated spirits in the household. I’m also, um, testing wines for festive meals (I usually pair the wine with my dietary staple, crisps, which might or might not be an appropriate indicator for how the wine eventually pairs with smoked salmon mousse. But I’ve yet to find an alternative, so I’ll have to make do.)

Other than that, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time pondering whether “Baby it’s cold outside” qualifies as a date-rapey song or not. There’s a version by Lady Gaga with Joseph Gordon-Lewitt in which they have reversed the roles and it gives the song an entirely new, interesting twist.

I have given myself permission to plunge into my holiday reading in a week’s time. I’m willing to forgo most Christmas traditions, but will not negotiate on the books. I just finished Emma Kline’s short story collection Daddy, which was a laborious affair I had left hanging since I initially started this summer. A few of the stories have been published earlier as is customary, and I listened to one in a New Yorker literary podcast.

Kline is the author of The Girls, which is a reimagined version of the Californian Cielo Drive murders and the Charles Manson cult. I absolutely loved The Girls. It read like a very hazy trip to some sort of twisted, perverted fantasy that had been polished for the 21st century readership. It’s a brilliant book, although I am not always sure about the necessity to glorify the Manson-cult decades after.

Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood is another example of a recent pop culture reference to the events on that fateful night. Again, a brilliant film, and a further proof that we are such suckers for glamorous, gory true crime. (Also, Brad Pitt’s abs.) And when I say we, I mean mainly me.

Unrelated, I have been trying to extract the usual New Year’s stuff from the publications I read regularly, and interestingly there has been almost none. As in no advise on how to make 2021 The Year by visualising all sorts of things that then will appear because visualisation. The vibe I have been getting has been more along the line of “nevermind living your best life, let’s just try to not die“.

On a positive note, I have been uncharacteristically diligent with my Fraîcheur ice globes. Probably because I’ve given a couple of online talks lately (the wine-tasting, also). But it feels good to actually be using something I bought on a momentary whim thinking they would turn me into Tracee Ellis Ross.

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