Humor

“A picaresque, labour-intensive, curated tour of my disordered mind as I surf the web aimlessly all day to avoid doing six years of back taxes (with illustrations)”

David Roddis, 2019. Original web page. Ephemeral web text on random monitors of various resolutions. Make me an offer.

Fotosketcher interface translated through the Fotosketcher interface as “oil painting.”

I start my day by waking up, today not an entirely pleasant surprise, fully-clothed and irradiated by quasi-nuclear levels of overly-enthusiastic morning sun. Give us a break, Mr. Insufferable Fireball of Happy! My first act before full consciousness is to resume my position facing the computer monitors, which I manage easily by sitting up in bed and turning 90 degrees to the right.

Beside the left monitor is a large manila envelope filled with my bank statements from 2013 through 2016. I look at the envelope. And I whine a bit.

Like this: WHHHHIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNE.

This is my “warm-up.”

Then the debate: cigarette or vape? Vape or cigarette? This is a two-day-old problem, and, honestly, to call it a debate is just silliness. Seriously? I’m lighting a cigarette, the vape makes me cough.

But I need java before any meaningful decision-making or full-throttle whining can happen, so I stagger to the kitchen to discover that the bread dough I mixed at 2:30 AM has completely overflowed the two-liter measuring jug and has started to form a leathery crust. It looks like a sad, deflated baker’s hat, or the skin on a pork shoulder, or a cross between a Jeff Koons and a Claes Oldenburg that you can bake and eat, thereby pre-empting any world-record-shattering sales, and then shit out again as a one-off iteration. Put that in your catalogue raisonée!

I divide the dough in half and tuck both pieces into loaf pans, like two plump little newborns, just barely catching myself before I mist them with “Go Green!” all-purpose household cleaner instead of oil. I cover them tenderly with plastic wrap.

I pour boiling water over the grounds in my French press, French press it, fill a mug with it, and whisper to the mug of it that, somewhere, as unlikely as it seems, milk exists.

Back at my computer,

Tamino and the Queen of the Night

I Begin My Day, which on this Tuesday, March 21st of 2019 means that I resume watching Act One of a stunning production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute on YouTube, with steam-punky, mysterious animated set designs by the South African artist William Kentridge.

I look up Kentridge in Wikipedia (The Encyclopedia You Write Yerself!™) and find we’re exactly the same age! Also, he’s a serious world-class artist, the son of activist lawyers who represented victims of apartheid.

I reflect on my current condition as an aging, unknown blogger teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the son of a helmet-haired narcissist and an alcoholic itinerant shoe salesman with a secret second family, then I write a grandstanding, pretentious, but actually pretty good review of the production. You can actually read the review, if you can suffer the grandstanding.

(Click to expand)

My only reservations are that the production appears to have been staged at the Théâtre de la monnaie, which seems to mean “Theatre of the Small Change;” and that the audience has either been instructed not to clap or even move because the production is being filmed, or they have all drunk cyanide-laced Kool-Aid and are actually dead.


OK, right now it’s 2:08 PM, and I think of my friend who is helping me with the taxes even though it makes him behave like he’s smoked a pipeful of crack and makes me want to huddle in a corner and scream, “Why can’t you just help me THE WAY I AM?? Why do I have to IMPROVE the way I behave?”

Even imagining this scenario fills me with dread, because it’s substantially a new “you heard the vinyl, now see the live show” version of the time he cut me out of his life. I already owe him two-hundred eighty bucks for the copies of my book he purchased so I could approach Indigo, the bookstore, and that I gave away to feckless casual acquaintances who won’t even read it because I’m scared to approach Indigo and even more scared of the acquaintances.

I can still redeem myself and start on the taxes NOW! I can! I CAN!

Ha! Fooled me.


It’s time to have a quick gander at the New York Times. I read an in-depth piece about antisemitism in Germany, and how it’s never really gone away, just lain low for its chance to flower again. Young Jews are advised not to advertise their Jewishness, bullying of Jewish kids at school is ignored, and the furthest-right political party uses Islamophobia to drive a wedge between Muslims and Jews, so that everyone’s suspicious of the wrong people, the inherent, centuries-old antisemitism of Christian Europe is ignored and the whole problem can be attributed to radicalized immigrants, which is a handy way for antisemitic Germans to deny that they are the problem.

Kind of like how this post is a handy way of ignoring my problem, which is procrastination and owing the tax man forty-thousand dollars!

Yes. My problem with back taxes is exactly the same as Jews who actually join an antisemitic, German right-wing political party because they’ve been hoodwinked, distracted by their vulnerability to the antisemitism of a few unrepresentative immigrant Muslims.

On the other hand:

I forgot to download the free stuff from Creative Whatsit, the site that offers me free stuff that I don’t need every Monday. So I download two fonts:

AND

which are both display fonts for which I have no real need, and an assortment of botanical vectors. Check out these members of the Myrtle family!

Various myrtles, as if you didn’t know!

Still wandering, confused and dazed, in my metaphorical bathrobe down the wrong lane of the online expressway, past the off-ramps marked “Completed Tax Returns and Happiness, next seven exits! Bear right!”, I’m suddenly distracted by oncoming traffic, that you might also enjoy sidebar listing other New York Times articles that you should be reading instead of the one you already are, and I’m torn. Should I find out why Game of Thrones was a disappointment, which I knew anyway without viewing it because, hello??!! Fantasy! Meaningless drivel! or should I read about Robert Mnuchin, father of Steve?

Robert is an art dealer and a Democrat and tears up as he refuses to talk about his son, and he is also the man who purchased the Jeff Koons stainless steel bunny rabbit sculpture recently, on behalf of a mystery buyer, setting the record for the price of a work of art by a living artist.

The sculpture sold for $91 million.

This is the sculpture, with Jeff Koons himself, back in 2009, processed with FotoSketcher:

Kinda hot…
Jeff Koons, “Rabbit,” 1986.

Jeff Koons is kinda hot, or is it his billions? He is definitely kind of kinky looking. I would like to fuck around with Jeff Koons and I would even pay him for the privilege. I would like to be lying naked on a pile of banknotes, in the middle of his gigantic California King-sized bed in the master bedroom of his penthouse. Jeff Koons has got to have a penthouse, right? Do you have the phone number of his gallery?


That takes the fuckin’ CAKE. Can you believe the nerve of Jeff Koons taking MONEY from ME? What a scumbag! Yeah, go out and oppress another sexually profligate, delusional, gold-digging POOR PERSON, OK?? Mr Ninety-one Million Dollar Bunny that no one can even afford?!??!!


Mr Koons is also basically the same age as me! I reflect for a moment about Jeff Koons, and the devastating shiny subversive simplicity of his art.

And I reflect on me, who doesn’t owe Revenue Canada forty-thousand dollars, but try, just try, telling them that. Revenue Canada is apparently staffed by extremely mercenary, shallow people, thugs, really, who do nothing but look at my extremely complicated situation and its missing six years of back taxes.

Maybe me, Jeff Koons and Bill Kentridge should all get together at Harvey’s, the Hooker Harvey’s at the corner of Jarvis and Gerrard, across the park. Jeff could make a stainless steel replica of a burger and sell it for $100 million; Bill could knock off some quick, socially-relevant charcoal drawing animations of the hookers who hang out at Harvey’s and make it into an opera set; and I could cry.

Because like they say: Stick with what you know.


The Robert Mnuchin article leads me to an article about 80’s superstar gallerist Mary Boone, who made Julian Schnabel’s name, and who is currently serving a thirty-month prison sentence for tax fraud.

They made an example of her.

In an article bristling with dropped names of the art world, one anecdote stands out. It concerns Larry Gagosian, he of the legendary gallery. Gagosian for a brief time lived in L.A., sharing his house with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, with whom he’d become friends in New York.

This was around 1981. Also sharing the house was a singer Basquiat was dating, who had a record contract and, because Gagosian had lost his license and his buddy Mr B. couldn’t be trusted behind the wheel, who also doubled as their driver.

“Hey, Madonna,” they’d say to her. “We need to get to Sunset.”

Madonna. Abso-fuckin’-lutely true.


Currently eating fondant icing with a spoon fork.



Yes, I did a video of me eating the fondant icing. The recipe is: A bunch of icing sugar in a bowl, a little milk, then mix it up. I think you should probably cook it, for the full fondantje, as they say, but I didn’t because that would have delayed the onset of the eating.

Eating the fondant icing was the point, not nit-picky accuracy or food safety. Take a chill pill, Little Miss Pauline Kael with a finger in the pie of Julia Child!

I made the video with Filmora, a video editing app which is way more fun that Adobe Premiere Elements but just as powerful. It costs $59 USD, which I don’t have, so I used the free version that slaps a big watermark on it. But I don’t mind. Ever since CIBC forgave my credit card debt in exchange for me tattooing their logo around my anus, I’m pretty amenable to being a brand ambassador. Anything that gives a great, big, sloppy “Dirty Sanchez” to Adobe is fine with me!

I used a number of effects, and the learning curve wasn’t too bad. The bit that looks like bad VHS tape or a TV on the blink is an intentional effect, so make sure you don’t get annoyed and toss your monitor across the room! Heavens! That I should be the cause of, etc etc.!


Things that annoy me about Trump today: He threatened Fox News because they had Pete Buttigieg as a guest. He said that Fox would have some ‘splainin to do, which is kind of what the Nazis said in Munich, just after the Beer Hall putsch, when they shut down the last free press.

Imagine the POTUS being so threatened by someone who doesn’t even have the Democratic nomination yet that he posts this embarrassingly sulky Tweet:

Yes, he called Buttigieg “Alfred E. Newman”! [sic]

They asked Liz Warren to go on Fox, too, and I’m quite disappointed that she got all snippy and declined. She thinks that would legitimize them, but in fact, like Pete’s publicist said, you have to meet the people where they are. She missed an opportunity to win over hearts and minds of people who I suspect would really have been open to her message of economic social justice. But I guess she was too busy scrubbing the Ovaltine mustaches off her local constituents’ faces with a moist napkin. Take the friggin’ pickle out, will ya, Liz!?

Trump is pardoning war criminals. He has already pardoned a soldier who killed an Iraqi detainee, which the ACLU has called “endorsing murder.”

Like most things he does, he’s keeping just barely within the law and/or his rights as Prez, so you have to squirm a bit to complain about this. He probably thinks that Iraqi’s don’t count as people, much like he condoned roughing up “criminals” by the police, because, well, because they’re criminals and in his mind they have no rights.

Melania has added an extra padlock to her bedroom door.


It’s 5.25 PM and I started this piece at around 1 PM.


Reading about Jeff Koons, and figuring out whether he might get all dom and alpha-male and have raunchy, round-the-world artist-sex with me if I bribed him, leads me to his website. There I find an extensive list of his works, including a version of a drawing by Fragonard. All he does is stick a big, convex blue mirror in the middle of a print of the Fragonard, so here’s the original Fragonard.

It is NSFW:

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, “La Gimblette (Girl with her Dog),” late 1760’s.

“Gimblette” referred to a donut-shaped biscuit, but it salaciously refers to quite something else in this piece, which umistakeably, pornographically portrays a little girl pleasuring herself with her spaniel’s tail. Art historian Patricia Simons explains:


Patricia Simons, “PUPPY LOVE: FRAGONARD’S DOGS AND DONUTS,” Source: Notes in the History of Art 34, no. 3 (Spring 2015): 17-24.

Lazy entitled white heterosexual German males from the former East Germany are mad at the brown immigrant people who have taken all the jobs. Except the brown immigrant people have done nothing of the kind. Lazy entitled white heterosexual German males from the former east Germany also have been deserted by their females, who under Communist rule at least bettered themselves, gained independence, then got the hell out when the Wall came down. So now the guys are wondering who is going to find us wives?

Seriously? Wahrlich???

(I’m back to the New York Times. This article click-baits me into thinking it’s blaming Angela Merkel for the malaise of East German males.) Lazy entitled white heterosexual German males from the former east Germany are a noisier, more infantile version of males everywhere these days. Germany, like the U.S., like Canada, needs immigrants right now. Who will pay the taxes to support social democracy otherwise? Who will take the jobs everyone else is to high and mighty to take?

So these disgruntled man-boys are, of course, all voting for extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant parties, because that worked so well in 1938.

I decide I want to comment on the article:

“Build a wall and save democracy from toxic masculinity, from the invasion of lazy, entitled white heterosexual males!”

but I discover that the comments for the article are closed.

The Angela Merkel angle? She’s a self-made woman, an East German who bettered herself, in spades, and got out. And as Chancellor she was a daily affront to the East German males, a slap in the face. If she can do it, why can’t you?

Why, indeed?

Who will find me a wife?


It’s now 7:29 PM, I’ve spent six hours on this post and I’m feeling really guilty, which is usually the sign that I’m going to buckle down and do what I’ve been putting off doing all day, i.e., my six years of delinquent taxes.

When I go to the kitchen to make coffee I discover the little loaves of bread sunk in the pans, because during the ten hours of being abandoned they have risen, lost hope and collapsed.

I’m horrified, like the protagonist in a Barbara Gowdy short story who’s left her kids to suffocate in a locked car as she runs off to fuck some stranger in a motel room. And after a long, summer day of grappling on a chenille bedspread, bathed in the hot, slippery juices of my self-centered lust, I’ve returned to the appalling tragedy and resulting insanity that are the fruits of my life’s single, unforgivable lapse.

I think I’m going to make those cinnamon rolls from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice,” which means I’ll need to whip up a big batch of fondant icing. Except this time I’ll cook it like you’re supposed to, and since Loblaw’s is still open and it’s a beautiful spring evening I can walk there, and maybe even buy a vanilla bean.

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The innocence of pink, the decadence of aubergine


To the women of America…

No, wait: to the women everywhere:

Redoubtable?

Banish the black! burn the blue ! and bury the beige! From now on ….

Think Pink!
Think Pink when you shop for summer clothes!

Think Pink!
Think Pink when you want that "quelque chose"!

The redoubtable Kay Thompson, who ought to be inducted into the Homo Hall of Fame as an honorary gay man, was Judy Garland’s vocal coach, which tells you a lot, and, when not flailing her arms about while talking and calling it “cabaret singing”, also wrote a series of children’s books called “Eloïse”, about a little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

Yep, the Plaza Hotel. From these humble beginnings, Eloïse sallies forth to have Pirate Adventures, among others, though we must forever regret that Thompson shuffled off this mortal coil before updating us with “Eloïse Gets Shtupped While Unconscious At Studio 54”.

The opening musical number of Funny Face, “Think Pink”, features Ms Thompson, plus her swirly-skirted minions—who for reasons never explained speak in unison, like borg—and a virtual steam room’s worth of  butch-dancin’, Bronx-talkin’ “we’re not gay, no way!!” male dancers dressed in overalls.

Please, I beg you, before watching, turn out the lights, put down your Bayeux tapestry restoration work and resolve to give this gem your full attention.

For this is not just another musical number, oh no.

This is one of the supreme camp moments in cinema. It is the Sistine Chapel ceiling, it is the Cellini “Perseus Holding the Severed Head of Medusa” of camp.  

Often imitated, usually by me around 3 AM when I think everyone’s left, but never equaled——except by the crack-addled ad whores of the late Eaton’s department store who, in their desperation for another ball of hard, not to mention their jobs, churned out an eye-popping parody, “Aubergine” (see below), a paean to the deep purple Pantone© spot color used in the soon-to-be-dead-as-a-beaver-tail Eaton’s branding.

And look at what they came up with: A spectacular invitation to absolutely nothing that covers just about every frame of the original, including the then-hi-tech process photography mixing action and freeze-frame, and even going one better with nods to Salvador Dalí and a fully-fledged Ziegfeld Follies finale, featuring a dancing chorus of Freds and Gingers and a curvaceous stairway to the stars.

What must this have cost, in hours of filming, in budget, in planning and script writing, set-building and costume sewing, in editing and orchestrating with original music, lyrics and choreography! (One point three million, as a matter of fact.) The color aubergine is indeed seductive here, both nostalgic and spiritual, earthy and celestial; it bathes its ravishing models and their swirling ball gowns in a decadent, sickly glow.

But what are they selling in this commercial? Vague promises that ladies will find whatever their hearts might desire, but where, and what if a designer-label gown or a gymnastics leotard aren’t on the shopping list? The whole concept is so abstract, the joke so esoteric except to Hollywood historians and gay males, and in its execution straying into overstaying its welcome at nearly five minutes, that I wonder if any of the millions of perplexed TV watchers of the millennium figured out what they were watching and why.

And I wonder if most of the perplexed viewers who weren’t Hollywood historians or gay males simply switched the channel when the singing started. You’re either into movie musicals or you’re not; there’s rarely a neutral opinion.

I have the oversized white soup plates to prove I was there at the deathbed of an iconic brand, a Canadian institution that began as a tiny storefront on Yonge Street just two years after Canadian Confederation, an astonishing success story whose strategies were copied by aspiring shopkeepers all over North America.

On the underside of each plate is a single, bold lower-case “e,” in rich deep purple, the stillborn wordmark of the short-lived Eaton’s rebrand. This now reads like a desperate message found in a time capsule, a caution-overboard, go-out-with-a-bang cry for help from the immensely loyal but ill-fated crew of a swiftly sinking ship.


The stillborn word mark of a short-lived rebrand.

The T. Eaton Company, Limited, 1869—2000


I am Washing the Kitchen Floor…

… and I’m sad about Glenda.

Alice, Glenda x 2, Kate.

I AM SCANTILY CLAD AND ON MY HANDS and knees in the middle of the night, but on this particular occasion, curiously, there’s no one else here saying, “Hey, pig, fancy a toot of this?” or, less encouraging, “You were a lot thinner in your pictures!”

I’m known for my high standards, which I outsource to everyone else so I can be disappointed more easily; but I’ve decided it’s time to start on-boarding Muggins McMe with this grown-up whatsis agenda I keep hearing about.

I am going to, as they say, own this.

That’s why, at around 2 AM, I’m on all fours, wearing nothing but a baby blue bath towel and accessorized with a simple, large yet tasteful bucket of scalding hot water and Pine-Sol, would you excuse me for a sec?—

Hi mom! Are you listening? They have Pine-Sol in flavors now! And I’m so glad you died because that means I didn’t have to! —

As I was saying: A bucket of scalding hot water and Pine-Sol, plus, from The Busy Bee— my local convenience store—the cheapest available sponge, which has about as much relation to a once-living creature from a coral reef as does a politician compare to the dimply, cooing ingenuousness of their two-year-old former self, before they learned to hide the peas by stuffing them up their nostrils then deny they ever got served peas.

And I’m rubbing and scrubbing my kitchen floor, an unlovely checkerboard of once-white tiles flecked with black, in a dogged, circular motion. I suppose the tiles were meant to suggest Carrara marble to people who’ve never seen it, but as they were left unsealed this has allowed them to soak up every splotch of ketchup, every dollop of pesto or splash of coffee, every dribble from my bursting bladder relieved in the sink, damn the fine china, I’ve got anti-bacterial Palmolive. My kitchen floor is a grimy, garbage-y sixteen-year palimpsest of condiment spills, pretentious dinner parties and avoidable crises.

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.


Percy Bysshe Shelley

I’m thinking as I scrub of my favorite Kate Bush song, “Mrs. Bartolozzi,” treating as it does of a forlorn housekeeper wiping up mud from boots and dutifully, wearily, scrubbing the floor “until it sparkled…” Although my adoration of Ms. Bush only grows year by year, it is usually despite, not because of, her poetry, which I usually find too reminiscent of a cliché teenaged girl’s lyrical diary (“It was just so beautiful, it was just so beautiful, it was just—so —beautiful!” are the words which nearly cause me to run screaming from the room and ruin the second half of “Aerial” for me) but this song is different.

This song is full of pregnant pauses, this song has a perfect and serene depiction of the washing machine, washing machine and its soothing mechanical splishy-sploshing as it gets “the dirty shirty clean;” the aching emotions—loneliness, sorrow, above all, yearning—of its ritornello transport you to every moment you’ve ever spent doing work you detest, every moment when you wished your life away.

This song is not really about the never-ending drudgery of daily life, that unending cycle of banal routines that I endlessly chafe at. It is about the ripple, the dazzle, the shimmer; the unveiled reality that suddenly manifests and evokes our gasp of recognition.

Mrs. Bartolozzi has a laundry epiphany.

“I watched them go 'round and 'round
My blouse wrapping itself in your trousers
Oh the waves are going out
My skirt floating up around my waist
As I wade out into the surf...”


— Kate Bush, "Mrs. Bartolozzi", from Aerial (2005)

And a shirt on the washing line, waving in the breeze, becomes the arms of—who is it? Lover, husband, son? “And it looks—so alive…”

Kate Bush understands that a strangled cry at a phantom on the washing line, or a guttural growl of Wow, are necessary colors in the singer’s spectrum. And it’s just—so—beautiful.


ALICE MUNRO, ONE OF THE TWO OR THREE greatest writers of short fiction now living, is Canadian. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, and I imagine she must have an awards room, the way Imelda Marcos had a separate building for her shoes, so many has she received.  So you could say, without much fear of contradiction, that Alice Munro is no slouch in the writing department.

The other day I asked someone if he liked her stories, and he said, “Who’s Alice Munro?”

Who’s Alice Munro…

If this were Japan, Alice Munro would be like Mount Fuji, or the person who invented life-sized sex dolls, or the one remaining Buddhist monk who can explain how to dye silk using vegetables according to a one-thousand-year-old method.

She would be made a “Living Treasure” and would be revered “by young and old alike”. Every Canadian would be proud of Alice Munro; we would have read all of her stories, voluntarily, and stage adaptations would be common. We’d attend the premieres of these plays, and afterwards go to a coffee shop and argue about how faithful it was to the original.

We’d wear Alice Munro T-shirts while gardening, and we would understand how Munro has recorded a uniquely Canadian angle on life that is as subtle as Chekhov, also as funny (because in this fantasy we also don’t say, “who’s Chekhov?”).

On the day the Nobel Prize was announced, a national celebration would have occurred. Children would have been given the day out of school; window washers and bankers and kids on skateboards and those down on their luck, and everyone’s wife and boss, if they had these, would have had a holiday, too.  

Alice Munro would have been the centerpiece of a grand parade, with her own float, a parade heading from Christie Pits, all along Bloor Street then down Yonge and ending up in Nathan Phillips Square; little girls dressed in white would have accompanied her, throwing flowers at the spectators as she passed by.

She would sit on her special throne on the float, wearing bright-colored slacks, Spectator pumps and a plain white blouse with a big bow in the front. Her silver hair would be beautifully layered. She would look genuinely pretty, with a touch of coral lipstick her only make-up.

She would look like the first generation of women who called themselves “liberated,” which they were only in comparison to their mothers, the first generation to dare to wear pants to work, where they worked mainly if they wanted to, or even to make a point, but not always because they had to.

She would smile rather shyly and wave at the crowd with sincere affection and you would sense she might want to cry from overwhelming emotion, but would not indulge herself; you would understand that she is a writer and would be observing the occasion a little more than she would be participating.

You would sense that she was deeply honored and aware of her responsibility to her fans, but also thinking, “I’ll be glad when this is over and I can go home and take off these damn shoes.”

That evening, outside New City Hall and after the fireworks display, she reads her latest story, broadcast nation-wide. The audience listens in enthralled silence; children are told, “You’ll remember this when you grow up!”  At the end of the story, grandfathers wipe the tears from their eyes; women weep openly.

Then, a great roar of appreciation and hats in the air:  Our greatest living writer!

When she appeared in public in her kimono we would rush up to her giggling and prostrate ourselves, and she would laugh and say, “Who do you think you are? Arise!” And when she passed on, which could be tomorrow, because she’s really old now, we would go into mourning nationally and cry uncontrollably, like the traumatized Parisians watching Notre-Dame’s spire collapse in flames, and we’d be given time off work to deal with our collective grief.

But this is Toronto, where we say, “The Arts generate a lot of money! That’s why they’re important!”  in a really chirpy voice, while everyone rolls their eyes then checks the latest stock prices.


GLENDA JACKSON IS ANOTHER cast member in the ongoing sixty-four-part epic, vast, eclectic cultural survey and revamped Mickey Mouse Club that is my life; another name that evokes blank stares from Young People whenever I try to explain who she is and what she did, what she is still doing, why they should care even though they won’t, and how she underpins my favorite movie: Ken Russell’s masterpiece,“Women in Love.”

(Of course, there are far too many concepts here to absorb, at least for a Young Person’s mind unused to absorbing more than one fact at a time, and especially facts that do not have immediate application for getting someone to cook dinner for you and/or that involve anything that happened more than six months ago. This pile-on might approach trauma-inducing levels if you’ve mentioned that you “own this movie on DVD.”

(The panic in their faces is heartbreaking, which you will notice if you’re lucky enough to catch them during the daily ten-second window during which they look up from their device and blink.)

Women in Love may well be the only movie that’s actually greater than the book on which it’s based, or, alright, then, if you must, as great as.

Glenda Jackson’s presence is elemental in that movie; her voice like the chalumeau register of a clarinet, measured, honeyed, even as she torments Oliver Reed (as Gerald Crich, a wealthy mine owner who’s besotted with her); torments him to his eventual suicide under a brilliant, comfortless winter sun. She is the quintessential femme fatale but translated into Anglo-Saxon terms, rejecting her hapless male, despising his servitude yet refusing to leave until his destruction is complete.

I remember most vividly from that movie a picnic scene on the Crich estate, where, suddenly menaced by a herd of bulls she chases them off with a transcendent, improvised dance that is a celebration of female mystery and power. As she half swoons in a kind of spent, solipsistic afterglow, Gerald rushes up to save her. But he’s too late and already irrelevant; she’s drunk with her victory.

“How are they your cattle,” she says, with palpable contempt; “Did you swallow them?”

She gives his face a swift, unexpected smack with the back of her hand, and the gesture is all the more demeaning for its lack of forethought. It’s the way you’d brush away an annoying insect, without any energetic investment or sense of struggle.

That film, from 1970, Russell’s greatest, presents Jackson in her youth; last week, I called up the New York Times online to read about her celebrated turn as King Lear (she’s returned to acting in her eighties, after twenty years in the British House of Commons as Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate) and I experienced the shock of seeing her for the first time as an elderly woman.

Glenda Jackson looks like a sock puppet that’s been left out in the rain, then dried on a radiator. Her unconventional but undeniable beauty, equal parts dewy English rose and bovine sensuality, has contracted, no doubt in part to her smoking habit, into a loose, sagging face that’s an accretion of wrinkles.

With most people you can trace how they’ve traveled from there to here, still unearth the familiar features, but Glenda Jackson is unrecognizable in a way that defies all my attempts to connect my youthful memory of her and how age has since worked her over.

Her face is a desert scored by cracks and fissures, something Edward Burtynsky might photograph as a warning to us all; her face is an apple that you’ve stuck in the fridge and forgotten, retrieving it a year later to find it brown and withered, and from that face she peers at us with an expression that is part amazement, part defiance.

I’d give anything to see her turn on Broadway as Lear, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of her voice of righteous anger, in full throttle arguably the least maternal and comforting sound ever to issue from a woman’s body. I’m afraid of what she has told me about how the most beautiful can turn monstrous and alien under the pressure of time.

I am sad about Glenda Jackson, and you will not need your psychology degree to understand that that is another, less blatantly self-interested way of saying I’m sad for myself, about getting old.

You looked a lot thinner in your pictures.

That’s why I continue scrubbing the floor, in a dogged, circular motion, with my sponge dipped in near-scalding water and lavender-scented Pine-Sol. I will persist at this chore that I previously despised, and I will get this done.

When my snarkier friends criticize my housekeeping standards, I’ve usually responded with this:

“When I’m on my deathbed, I won’t be thinking,I’m glad I washed the dishes.

“I’ll be thinking, I’m glad I wrote a book, took beautiful pictures, helped a few people when I could, said kind words when I could have said unkind ones.

David who? I’m hedging my bets, here. I’ll have to get famous before anyone can fail to recognize me, and in the meantime I’m determined the kitchen floor will be clean and sparkling, ready for that unspecified day fast approaching when I’m not around to defend myself.

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