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The Observer, Dec. 10 

Our pal Gerry is directing a stage production of “A Christmas Carol” that premieres this Friday night (call the Conway Dinner Theater at 501-339-7401 for info and tickets!) and The Observer, always the handy sort, has been pressed into service as a prop maker. Last week, we built Scrooge's tombstone, as seen in the last act.

Because our stonecutting skills are a little rusty, The Observer made our version out of pink construction foam, carefully chipped and weathered. The Observer used a borrowed Dremel tool to carve the name into the cold, faux granite, then painted it: first dark gray, then a spotty, blended wash of light gray, then a final, random stippling of green for moss. All finished, the tombstone looks horrific: just the kind of thing to bring the spark of humility and regret back into the icy heart of a miser. 

The Observer is a fan of all things Scrooge, so it's been a real joy to work on props for the play. Over the years, the blessedly copyright-free nature of “A Christmas Carol” has brought us female Scrooge and black Scrooge and kid Scrooge and even mouse Scrooge, and The Observer has watched them all — even the one starring Susan Lucci — with glee.

That said, it has been years since we sat down and actually read Charles Dickens' dark tale of Christmas and ghosts. So, once The Observer got Scrooge's name chipped into his headstone, we retired to the library of The Observatory in our smoking jacket and fez, to peruse the beloved manuscript again.

If you haven't read “A Christmas Carol” you should take it up. No celluloid depiction of The Ghost of Christmas Future is ever going to be as scary as the way Charlie D. describes him: dark, brooding, speaking volumes in his silence about sorrows yet to come.  

Once the curtain falls on the play, we're totally getting Scrooge's tombstone back from Gerry, and it's becoming a permanent part of Xmas decor at Chez Observer; a nod to the darkness in the world that all the tinsel and frou-frou ornaments are making such a clamor to try and drown out. There are too many sugarplums and twinkling lights in Christmas today — too much talk of who's getting what and how much it costs. What this holiday needs, The Observer thinks, is a good dose of death. Nice to see that Dickens thought of that years ago.

 

Political gurus James Carville and Mary Matalin were in Little Rock this week thanks to another installment of the Clinton School of Public Service's Kumpuris lecture series. The two talked about their political careers — Carville and Matalin were political enemies in 1992, working for opposing presidential campaigns — and how they've managed to have a successful marriage despite their differences.

Matalin said it was easy for the two to leave their political punditry at the door.

“We just don't want to fight when we're at home,” she said.

Of course, Carville, the “Ragin' Cajun” put it a bit differently.

“If you're a plumber, you don't want to come home at the end of the day and fix your own toilet,” Carville said with a laugh. 

The couple talked about how they met, fell in love, got married and eventually moved away from the increasingly bitter political climate of Washington, D.C. They now live in New Orleans with their two daughters.

Throughout, the conversation was lively, peppered with barbs here and there. Of course, there were several classic Carville-isms. Speaking of the first time he met Bill Clinton, Carville said he didn't intend on working for a presidential campaign, but he and the former president had a lot in common and “Bill Clinton could talk a dog out of a pork-chop,” Carville said.

When the discussion turned, toward the end of the evening, to media and politics, Carville was asked about the proliferation of news on the television and Internet and how it's changed the political game.

“You got to understand there's a big difference between information and knowledge,” Carville said. “Today there are 24-hour news networks and gajillion websites on the Internet but nobody knows any more than they did 10 years ago.”

“And one problem is that people nowadays use the news like a drunk uses a lamppost,” he said before a perfectly timed pause.

“It's for support, not illumination, you understand? There's the problem.”

 

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