Posts Tagged ‘March 28th’

Et Cetera

Posted in General on March 28th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Mildreadful Pierce

I gave up watching the histrionic melodrama after 15 minutes of unadulterated annoyance.  Somehow the character Mildred Pierce managed to be offensive and dull, a remarkable tandem in itself.  It might be a compliment to Kate Winslet’s talent or a question of director Todd Haynes’ sanity.  In either case, however, it was not an incentive to watch.  On the contrary, the Pierce character could make baking a pie quite irritating.  I am surprised that her henpecked husband did not push the pie in her face.  I would have; Mohandas Gandhi would have.  Then we meet Pierce’s daughters.  Where was Margaret Sanger when we needed her!  The younger child is completely talentless but still insists on doing Jolson impressions.  The older brat apparently is adopted and is really the child Wallis Simpson had with Benito Mussolini. 

Yes, I am describing a comedy.  Unfortunately,  Todd Haynes did not realize it.  By distending this melodrama, he has made “Mildred Pierce” into an elephantine farce.  In this production, Kate Winslet is hopelessly miscast.  This Mildred Pierce really should be played by Harvey Fierstein or “Dame Edna Everage.”  If you are going camp, you don’t do it in half-measures.  Where was John Waters when we needed him!

Craigslist A.D. 193

There were some advantages to being a Roman emperor. For instance, until the fifth century, the pay was excellent. You would rarely be turned down at an orgy. Furthermore, the job would never be outsourced to India, if only because the Romans had but a vague notion about India’s location.

Longevity, however, was another matter. From an actuarial perspective, an emperor would have regarded murder as a natural cause of death. In a period of five centuries, Rome had more than 80 emperors. The total is imprecise because the imperial reigns often were.

The Emperor Pertinax might have expected a longer reign. He certainly was an improvement over his predecessor, the debauched and incompetent Commodus. (You remember him from “Gladiator.”) Indeed, on his own merits, Pertinax had the makings of an excellent ruler. He was conscientious, honest and capable. You could add frugality to his virtues, but that actually was a flaw in Rome. The people wanted their bread and circuses, and the Praetorian Guard expected “donations”.

The Praetorians could overlook any vice in an emperor but stinginess. Pertinax had every virtue but generosity, so he did not survive his bodyguards. Today is that dubious anniversary.

The impulsive Praetorians seized the throne but had no one to occupy it. Then the extravagantly rich Didius Julianus,  the Donald Trump of his day, simply decided to buy the position of emperor. He showed up at the Praetorians’ camp and proceeded to bid for their loyalty. Another patrician competed in the auction for the Empire, but Julianus outbid him. His purchased Praetorians then cowed the Senate into acclaiming him the emperor.

The Praetorians’ loyalty lasted two months. When an ambitious general marched on Rome, the imperial guard switched sides again. Julianus did not live to regret it. He now is remembered as a joke. (The same might be said of Donald Trump.)