Melancholy Christmas… what to do when it’s almost over

Dear Readers,

Oh, it’s been a good Christmas season here on the Jacke blog, although I’ve been struck by how much sadness, longing, and ache there is out there. Let’s call it the human, grown-up side of Christmas. The kids have their joy and excitement; the adults watch them bouncing around with their new presents and smile through sad eyes. That’s my Christmas, and it sounds like it’s a recognizable Christmas for a lot of you as well.

I didn’t want to spoil our reading of James Joyce’s “The Dead” for Christmas Eve. But now that THAT’S over, let’s go ahead and combine it with another masterpiece for Christmas night. John Huston’s film version of “The Dead,” available on youtube in its entirety.

And of course, there’s always a couple of episodes of The Jacke Wilson Show. We had the one about The Gift (Young Jacke’s attempts to buy a present for his mother) and the Christmas story for my boys (about their great grandfather’s Wisconsin boyhood).

The Jacke Wilson Show Episode 5 – The Gift

Or directly download the mp3 file: The Jacke Wilson Show Episode 5 – The Gift

The Jacke Wilson Show Episode 6 – A Boy Named Johnnie

Or directly download the mp3 file: The Jacke Wilson Show 1.6 – A Boy Named Johnnie

So tonight, when the chaos is over, and the house is cleaned up and the fire is still going and the chair is comfortable with maybe a glass of red wine still half full, enjoy this beautiful and quietly devastating film, or suffer along with me in the podcast episodes (there is some triumph in there too, and some smiles!).

And may you and yours have a very merry (and only slightly melancholy) holiday this year.

With love,

Jacke

Best Case Name Ever (A Jacke Wilson Objectino)

Another day, another Objectino.* This one straight from the courthouse…

A JACKE WILSON OBJECTINO

Overheard at a legal proceeding:

LAWYER 1: What’s the best case name you ever cited in a brief? For me, I figure it’s gotta be Lone Star Ladies v. Schlotzsky’s Deli. Or here’s one for you: Fattman v. Bear. New Jersey case.

LAWYER 2: Fattman v. Bear? [chuckling] That’s pretty vivid.

LAWYER 1: No kidding. [shudders] Kind of makes me feel ill, just picturing it.


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Getting Closer! The Film Version of Joyce’s The Dead (John Huston’s Masterpiece)

We’re closing in! For those of you following along, we’re only a few days away from the culmination of our Dubliners project. If you haven’t been reading the stories each day, don’t worry. This isn’t assigned reading; I don’t give out homework.

Except for one thing. This year, you must reserve some time for The Dead on Christmas Eve. THAT is required.

Well, just kidding, of course. No, it’s not required – just highly, highly encouraged. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’m telling you, reading Joyce’s famous novella on Christmas Eve is as good as it gets. Up there with presents under the tree and It’s a Wonderful Life and my family’s great new tradition of buying a tree at the Home Depot parking lot* and then having lunch at Five Guys. (My kids are driving the Christmas train these days.)

But hey! There’s one tradition I get to keep for myself. It’s private and reflective and deeply enriching. And that’s reading The Dead on Christmas Eve.

We’ll get there! But for now, take a look at this video to whet your appetite. The Dead is not only a perfect story, it inspired a perfect movie, directed by John Huston (his last film). Only a genius director at the end of his career could have exercised the restraint necessary to make this film.

And here’s some commentary on the trailer.

Oh sure, it’s not Die Hard. But its quiet, devastating beauty are just as potent. So brew up a little Irish coffee, toss some more wood on the fire, and cozy up to this film.

That’s you this year: sitting under a big quilt with your special someone and/or those ghosts that chase us all and watching a beautiful film.

And then: keep reading the Dubliners, and we’ll all get to the story itself on Christmas Eve. Onward and upward!

* Part of the tradition: “Do you want some paper under this tree to protect the roof of your car?” says the man at the Home Depot. “Does anyone ever say no to that question?” I ask.

A Marriage at Odds (A Jacke Wilson Objectino)

Time for another Objectino!* This one comes straight from the underbelly of a marriage…

A JACKE WILSON OBJECTINO

WIFE: [looking out the window] Oh great. It’s raining out. What are the odds that today is Saturday?
HUSBAND: One in seven.
WIFE: [exasperated] You know what I mean. It was sunny all week when I was stuck in that stupid office. What are the chances that the one day of rain we get this whole week happens to be on the weekend?
HUSBAND: Two in seven.

WIFE: I hate you sometimes.


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The Shirt Pocket Avatar (A Jacke Wilson Objectino)

Back to the workplace for another Objectino!*

A JACKE WILSON OBJECTINO

Overheard in an office meeting:

MAN: I realized the other day that my shirt pockets are so thin you can see my photo ID through them. For years there’s been this little me riding around in my shirt, right on my chest, where everyone could see it. I had this idea that maybe I should use that little guy, like there’d be this little man who would say all the things I wanted to say but couldn’t. The real me would be saying, “Okay, I’ll get that to you right away, no problem.” And the little me on my chest would say, [makes tiny voice ] “Up yours, jackass.” I don’t know…am I working too hard?

WOMAN: I think you answered that question about five sentences ago.


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Christmas with James Joyce: The Sisters

Happy Dubliners Day! What’s that, you ask? It refers to a holiday tradition I have, which is to read one of James Joyce’s Dubliners story each day in the fifteen days leading up to Christmas Eve. Just like an advent calendar! And today, December 10, is the day to begin. I recommend taking off work, getting roaring drunk on Guinness or some good Irish whiskey, and jumping into the icy river of your choice while screaming sentences from Finnegans Wake at the top of your lungs.

Just kidding! All you need is about fifteen minutes and a clear, open mind. Follow this calendar (it’s not hard!) and you will be a better person at the end of it. Your Christmas Eve just might be the best you’ve ever had. Trust me.

How did this tradition begin? Well, it first came about when I read The Dead, one of the greatest short stories (some would call it a novella) ever written. The Dubliners stories lead up to The Dead the way the songs on Sgt. Pepper lead up to “A Day in the Life.” And with apologies to Dickens, The Dead is probably the greatest Christmas story for adults in all literature. (Maybe I’m forgetting one. But I don’t think so.)

Anyway, I first read The Dead at age nineteen or so. and was completely blown away. I wanted to read it over and over, I wanted to feel everything I felt the first time, but I didn’t want the impact to lessen. And so I thought, “I should re-read this story once a year for the rest of my life.” It wasn’t hard to go from that to “…and it should be on Christmas Eve!” And from there to “I’ll read one Dubliners story a day until I get to The Dead on Christmas Eve!” And that’s how it all began. A secular holiday tradition, but no less spiritual for that.

So here we go! This year I’m inviting you to come along with me for the ride. We’ll start with the first story in the book, “The Sisters.” All texts are provided courtesy of the incredible Project Gutenberg. There’s a great rendition of the story in the video above, too. All highly recommended. Enjoy!

THE SISTERS

THERE was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: “I am not long for this world,” and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:

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Great Moments in Parenting (A Jacke Wilson Objectino)

Today’s Objectino* includes a video!

A JACKE WILSON OBJECTINO

Two young parents are admiring their sleeping six-month-old boy.

FATHER: He’s getting so big—pretty soon he’ll be learning how to read, and we’ll be watching all those great educational shows, like Sesame Street and Electric Company

MOTHER: Oh yeah! Electric Company. Those two silhouettes talking to each other.

[MOTHER holds up hands like two puppets facing each other]

MOTHER [opening one hand]: Sh…

[Long pause. MOTHER stares at the other hand.]

MOTHER: Sh…

[Long pause. MOTHER does not open the other hand.]

MOTHER [dropping her hands to her sides]: The only thing I could think of was shit!!!


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