Faces of War II

A member of the Honour Guard stands next to a coffin with the body of Ukrainian Armed Forces member Valerii, who was killed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, during a funeral ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 8, 2022. «REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko»

Whatta Rush

It’s always fun to get a phone call during morning meeting from your oncologist, who you just met yesterday, and who says, “You know last night when we thought a few zaps of radiation of your cancerous lesion would be the way to go?

“Well, after more consultations with other oncologists, it’s now the consensus that we surgically remove the lesion to prevent further spread. This will also probably result in amputation of the second toe.”

“Okay, well that sounds like a party I just canNOT miss, thanks, for the invitation, I shall attend. See you in the OR!” I said.

And then I went back in and read a funny picture book to 16 first/second graders and we laughed and laughed.

So it sunk in around vaccination time seven hours later that my second toe, which arrived in the world at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center in Roswell, is set to depart it at St. Thomas West Hospital in Nashville sometime soon. Which is sort of a weird thing to think, but there it was.

Very happy the toe is making the trip without the rest of me, but yeesh. Being suddenly sucked into Cancer World is a heckuva rush.

[Sorry if I haven’t texted this news to everyone yet; it’s been rather hectic and, well, it’s hard to text someone when your head is buried under the pillows. I’ll get it together soon … orthopedic oncology surgeon scheduling is to get back to me ASAP. Thanks as always for all the love and support!]

My Cancer Journey Begins

Before Thanksgiving, I had what looked like a corn or callus appear on my third toe of the right foot. I put a few salicylic patches on it an it simply fell off sometime before Christmas.

Meanwhile, a new one appeared suddenly on the second toe joint of the left foot. It grew more rapidly and didn’t respond to salicylic acid. The top turned white, but that was about all.

At my regular doctor checkup in January, I showed him. Taking a cautious approach, he referred me to Neuhaus Podiatry in Hermitage. She took a look and offered a biopsy if I wanted. Given age and family history, I decided to biopsy. She numbed it, found a procedure punch from the bowels of the office. Blood ran, but it was pleasantly numb so no problem.

On the following Friday afternoon, Doctor Hall herself called and left a voice mail since I was teaching just then. She said: “Hi Mr. Pollock, this is Dr. Hall calling. I received the results of your biopsy that we did last Friday, and I wanted to talk to you about it so if you could please give the office a call I know you’re at your convenience I’ll be here until about 4 o’clock today. Thank you.”

It was too late to call after I got home, so I was left on tenterhooks all weekend.

I called Monday morning and the news was what I thought—but with an unexpected twist
I have a malignant carcinoma on my toe…type is Kaposi’s Sarcoma. I’m at Cumberland Skin for my first doc appointment for a treatment decision. Freezing or excision? Waiting.

Later:

I waited not very long. Then got in the room and waited for a decision. After 15 minutes and an ipad photo of my cancer taken, the nurse practitioner said we pretty much can’t help you and you need care from Vanderbilt Oncology, so we’re referring you to them and we’ll get you in as soon as possible.

A complete waste of time. 60 miles, three hours of my time that I had to make up this evening (voluntarily because we have a massively intense day tomorrow as students return to classes for the first time since December. Urk.)


It’s been more roller-coaster-y since then. Vanderbilt Dermatology had never heard of KS. (??!!??). I shouldn’t have been referred there in the first place.

Cumberland Skin’s scheduler was pretty awesome though; she called my primary care doctor, he called me, then he burned up the lines to get me into the nearest oncology center possible. My first appointment is Tuesday 23-Feb-21, 25 years and one day after my HIV+ diagnosis. Quite an anniversary.

Update coming Tuesday evening.

What a Tangled Tweet We Weave When First We Practice to Get Outraged

I ran across a «Twitter thread» that really ground my gears. So I wrote a response, but it’s too long for Twitter. It’s just much ado about nothing. But here is my response; since I haven’t written much in a long time here, this will give me some new content.



I am reading this bandwagon fallacy-laden thread through the lenses of being an English major, a former newspaper reporter/editor, a school public information director, a published author, and an elementary teacher with a master’s degree with 32 years of experience. Also, I get really tired of these old hasty generalizations, equivocation, and causal fallacies on social media. Also, we’re very much fellow-travelers in the political sense, so, especially if you’re humor-impaired, take the following as if it were a grain of salt on the tip of my tongue firmly in my cheek. I love everyone.

“U.S. schools are not doing a good job in that regard. And it’s been going on for a long time. I shouldn’t be hearing so many basic grammatical errors from politicians, teachers, newscasters, authors, and pundits or see so many in published materials.”

A “good job” according to whom? May I ask when exactly was the last time you were in an elementary school and sat through an entire school day with first graders? I ask because my mother makes this same argument frequently, yet has not been in an actual elementary school building since 1976. Her grandchildren were taught at home so she, therefore, has no experience either visiting a school or evaluating a public school education since 1976. This makes it difficult to accept this line of argument from either of you. I do indeed see many errors in oral and written discourse and when it occurs, it is irritating. However, I tend to hold the individual responsible for the errors rather than their elementary school teacher in 1989. Any errors I have made in these replies are my own and have multiple sources, including exhaustion from teaching during this epidemic, the speed of my written response, distraction, etc. They are not the fault of Clovis NM Public Schools, Lockwood Elementary School, and/or Mary Beth Wright, my fourth-grade teacher. I was afforded the instruction and supporting materials, which have sustained me for decades. My use or disuse or those is my responsibility, not theirs.

‘Stinginess toward investing in education.”

“Towards” is the preferred form. And, strictly speaking, you don’t “invest in education.” You invest in the systems created by adults to educate students. Systems and humans are very imperfect. Teachers like me know that more investment is needed, but how much? Where should it go? Who was stingy?

“Half of the country is nuts. How did this fucking happen???”

“Nuts” is slang and not used in persuasive discourse. Do you perhaps mean “insane” or the less hyperbolic “uneducated” or “misinformed”? “Fucking” is not used in polite, civil discourse. Its use on social media is a separate debate. But we are not discussing social media discourse here. We are discussing grammar and spelling in other forums. Finally, ending an interrogative sentence with three question marks is improper punctuation. One question mark will do.

“[Some sort of logo with “100” on it] rarely do people talk about the education system being off the rails for decades. My niece is a teacher. They no longer teach grammar or spelling because of spellcheckers, and I can only imagine what is happening in math.”

A sentence properly begins with a capital letter. Avoid dying metaphors such as “off the rails” which is, as Orwell pointed out, a “worn-out metaphor[s] which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves.” How can an educational system be like a derailing train? We still teach Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” in U.S. public schools. It’s unfortunate that your niece is a teacher, yet makes no effort to supplant the required curriculum with grammar and spelling lessons of her own. I do this every school day.

The fact that you can “only imagine what is happening in math,” is indicative that you haven’t been in a public school in decades. We are currently teaching pre-Algebraic concepts to kindergarteners; I taught fourth graders two weeks ago how to solve “x + 100 = 120”, an equation I was not taught to solve until ninth grade in the 1980s.

Our students are indeed taught grammar and spelling (one first/second grade class I had last week had a spelling test on Tuesday). Our students use notebooks and pencils and have no access to spellcheckers.

Your anecdote suggests your local school is deficient in curriculum and appears to be unable to ban the use of spellcheckers, but please don’t over-generalize all of this into an attack on the entire American education system.

“As if spelling and grammar checkers are correct 100% of the time…”

“As if” is trendy slang a few years out of date and diminishes the point you are trying to make. Your sentence should end with a period, not with an improperly spaced ellipsis. If you are using spelling and grammar checkers, perhaps your improper use of an ellipsis does indeed prove your point that you should not rely on them. I suggest either adding a punctuation checker or referring to Strunk and White or the AP Stylebook if you need a reference for proper use.

“Yeah, we know”

Persuasive discourse shuns slang words like “Yeah.” A sentence is properly ended with a period. And what are we supposed to know? If you are referring to the comment above implying students improperly rely on spell checkers, I know no such thing. During my experience in 32 years of education in five U.S. states, my colleagues and I have taught students to refrain from relying on spell checkers for grammar or Google for research. How did you come by your knowledge that you agree with teachers that spell checkers are unreliable?

“The grammar, for one thing, is amazing. Even professors say things like, “There’s two reasons.” I’ve heard Noam Chomsky make errors in basic grammar. In math, Chinese teens make us all look like morons.”

How can grammar be amazing? Oral discourse is often incorrect and filled with slang. If you have heard professors write sentences with improper subject-verb agreement, are you referring to professors in English or education departments? If so, then they should be more correct. If you are referring to professors of higher mathematics or physics, perhaps their first consideration is the content of their discipline, not proper subject-verb agreement. Perhaps these professors were instructors at Trump University, but without more information, your readers are not precisely informed. I would also be curious to read or hear Professor Chomsky’s use of “there’s two reasons.” Can you point me to those instances?

As for math, there are many levels and many sub-disciplines. What authoritative sources are you using to suggest “Chinese teens make us all look like morons”? I’m almost 57. What “Chinese teen” would make me “look like a moron” in elementary mathematics, which I teach? I will be the first to attest that a 16-year-old “Chinese teen” would make me look uneducated in calculus, a course I’ve never taken. As for “moron”, see Orwell’s comment above on worn-out metaphors. Also, “moron” formerly referred to a person of “mild mental retardation” and is now considered offensive.

“My husband’s cousin is an elementary school teacher in Park City. Every year, without fail, her Christmas card grammar is horrendous. She encloses an entire letter that makes me cringe.”

This is known as the “appeal to authority” logical fallacy. “Person (or people) P makes claim X. Therefore, X is true.” What is “Christmas card grammar”? That would be a discipline with which I am unfamiliar. In which school does your husband’s cousin teach? Perhaps that school should be alerted to her shocking offenses against the English language. Is she a first-grade teacher or a high school English teacher? It makes a difference. Perhaps you should circle her errors in red and return the card to her and suggest she avail herself of the education system’s multiple access points for remedial grammar and spelling.

“It took learning a foreign language for me to really learn grammar.”

You imply that you learned a foreign language that uses English grammar. Perhaps Professor Chomsky could enlighten me, but I am unaware of another language that uses English grammar and syntax. I am curious: Why did you not learn English grammar until you learned a foreign language? If you went to an American school for grades K-12 and did not learn English grammar, why? We do not know which language you learned, but how did learning Spanish or Japanese or Swahili, etc., teach you English grammar? This is intriguing.

“It’s unbelievable. The entire education system is a joke now. The last book I read, I found in excess of 400 errors. There were many more, but I stopped marking the ones that were the same error repeated numerous times.”

Would you mind specifically defining “joke” as it applies to “the entire education system”? Are you including charter schools, private schools, home schools, libraries, museums, educational programming on television, government departments, the state education boards, the local boards, the superintendents, custodians, maintenance, clerks? How are millions of people who dedicated their lives to educating young Americans “jokes”? I would ask you to remember that systems are made of imperfect people.

“The last book I read, I found in excess of 400 errrors.” The sentence is improperly formed and wordy. “I found over 400 errors in the last book I read” is the proper formation. I am curious: Do you often make notes of errors in books you read and enumerate them? As an elementary teacher, i would tell you that if you are not enjoying a text for any reason, you are justified in abandoning that text long before you did to find a more enjoyable one. I’m curious: “in excess of 400” means how many errors? 410? 1,526? I share Orwell’s irritation with the imprecise use of the English language. If you mean 425, write “425”, not “in excess of 420”. Also, you have two spaces between “were” and “the same”. One space between words and after periods is the currently proper usage.

“Years ago I wrote to complain about the numerous errors in the Web pages of Webster’s Dictionary. Their one-sentence response, claiming to be from the dictionary’s editorial department, had four errors. It’s like reporting chicken theft to the fox.”

“Years ago” needs a comma after it. Would you care to share the errors committed by Webster’s dictionary with us? It would add to the credibility of your discourse. Do you have any contrary information that the response was not from the editorial department? Would you care to share that response and point out the four errors? And again I refer you to Orwell’s worn-out metaphors quote above. The metaphor is actually “the fox guarding the henhouse,” so you have mangled it a bit, which at first confused me, the reader. Your discourse should be clear, concise, and free of worn-out, hackneyed language.

“LOL
Why does that not surprise me at all?”


Perhaps the social media milieu makes not only slang but also acronyms acceptable, but many of your readers will not know what “LOL” means. It also has varied meanings: “Laugh out loud” or “lots of laughs” or “laughing out loud” or “lots of love”. Here is how “LOL” is noted on the Urban Dictionary. This is not an “appeal to authority” on my part, since the Urban Dictionary is not an authority and does not claim to be one. I am pointing out how “LOL” is often seen by those engaging in social media discourse:

“Depending on the chatter, its definition may vary. The list of its meanings includes, but is not limited to:
“1) ‘I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to this conversation.’
“2) ‘I’m too lazy to read what you just wrote so I’m typing something useless in hopes that you’ll think I’m still paying attention.’
“3) ‘Your statement lacks even the vaguest trace of humor but I’ll pretend I’m amused.’
“4) ‘This is a pointless acronym I’m sticking in my sentence just because it’s become so engraved into my mind that when chatting, I MUST use the meaningless sentence-filler “lol”.'”
As for “Why does that not surprise me at all?” What exactly doesn’t surprise you and why not? Again, imprecise written language causes the reader to devalue your writing.

Urban Dictionary

And let’s not even discuss the final reply:

“Sounds like Webster’s needed better websters.”

I have to go to bed so I can get up in the morning and give first graders (virtually) their new weekly spelling list to learn. I don’t have time to deal with that one or waste any more time on this.


Sigh, double sigh, triple sigh.

#EmptyThePews

I posted this elsewhere and on Twitter first, but it also belongs here on the Anon-a-Blog.

Why my pew has been empty since 1982: A long thread for anyone who may be interested, et al. Perhaps someone may relate or need to hear. Inspired by @C_Stroop and #EmptyThePews on Twitter.

It starts in 1975. I’m 12. A budding little gay boy. At the C. of the Naz., we get a spiffy little sermon, which runs like this: “Speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession!!!” Amens, claps, whistles, “Kill the Devil!”

Fast forward a week later. Someone in charge of our family’s spiritual development decides to follow info bestowed by the Holy Spirit
Fairy, an entity which seems to act rather … impetuously. Or at least that was my experience with Him.

The Spirit has moved someone that we must immediately abandon the C. of the Naz., where, remember, I’ve just been told on the authority of the church into which I was born and raised that speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession.

[An aside: 12-year-old me had memorized the 1960 Church Manual so I could know how to perform weddings and funerals because … get this … I thought I would become a C. of the Naz. preacher.]

Given a choice about which church to attend would have been lovely. Alas, it was not to be. I was the young, stupid child who couldn’t possibly be trusted to know what was good for him, spiritually speaking. At best, a “baby Christian.” (These buzzwords sound familiar?)

Actually, after just one hour of being exposed to the new church’s … shall we say, bizarreness and cultish overtones … I’m confident I would have scurried back underneath the skirts of the mother church (of the Naz.) if I had a driver’s license and a car. But I didn’t.

So I wasn’t given a choice. Remember the previous sermon, supposedly delivered by a stern God to CotN Leaders possessed of “Utter Sanctification” and who are therefore qualified to speak on subjects Most Weighty: “Speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession!”

Again, I was 12 years old. Puberty was dawning. Teenage outrage, hatred of hypocrisy, self-righteousness, inflated sense of injustice, and general all-around questioning and boundary-pushing are imminent. I needed constancy. But the Spirit had spoken and must be obeyed.

The next Sunday, we don’t drive over to be with the sanctified who hate devilish tongue-speaking. Instead, we head straight for the new church, an Assembly of God knockoff/alleged “non-denominational.” “We’re going here from now on,” says Parental Dearest.

What happened the first Sunday at the new church to which we had been led by the Holy Spirit? Well, I’ll set the scene one more time: The previous week, the church of my birth told me speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession.

This week? FRICKIN’ HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD! JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH! POPE PAUL VI AND ALL THE SAINTS! AND DEAR GOD WHY ARE ALL THESE WOMEN IN EXPENSIVE ULTRASUEDE DRESSES RUNNING UP AND DOWN THE AISLES SCREAMING THEIR FOOL HEADS OFF???!!!!!

Then: The kicker. If I am to understand the main belief point through hours of gibberish, a complete lack of any catechism, no orderly service of any kind, no regular communion, and a multitude of other things, a central belief is this:

“If you do NOT speak in tongues, God is withholding His greatest blessing from you and therefore there is something wrong with you if you don’t immediately babble in tongues in ‘the presence of the Lord.'”

In other words, NOT speaking in tongues was evidence of God withholding his greatest gift from you & you were opening yourself up to … you guessed it, demonic possession. As soon as I hit 16, my pew began to be empty. By 18, only bribery could get me in it. So…bye!

It would take a long thread to describe coming out (yeah, the Spirit got involved there, too), getting away & being an adult in charge of myself & the joys of life since I got myself to #EmptyThePews. Thanks for the inspiration, @C_Stroop and thanks to everyone who read!

Bryan, Who I Totally Made Up

He’s an amazing guy. We’re married now. It was tough to get there.


Act 1

In January, my husband and I were sitting at a red light on our way to get groceries. A completely drunken asshole in a dump truck came along at high speed and smashed into us, hitting the driver’s side. Adam was driving. He was killed instantly, crushed. I was pinned in and unconscious, barely alive. A fire station was across the street and they came over immediately, used their equipment to get me out and carted me off to an ER in the suburb, from where I was flown into the city’s level 1 trauma center.

The dump truck driver was mildly hurt; he was given first aid on the scene then carted off to jail.

I remember getting hit and struggling to breathe and fading in and out as the fire crew worked to get me out of the mangled Jeep. I remember pain as I was taken into the first ER, then noise and cold as I was put into the helicopter. There was more noise and cold when we landed on the roof of the trauma center, then bits and pieces of light and conversation and pain that always made me pass out.

A neurosurgeon was called in for my back and rib cage injuries. There were worries about my heart, so a cardiologist was there. Given my medical profile of years of problems, I was a challenge. They decided to bring in a thoracic surgeon first, to alleviate internal bleeding and bloodflow problems and to evaluate the heart. I needed resuscitation three times on the table. They kept me in an induced coma for the second surgery, the neuro procedures which shored up my rib cage and spine. There was hope I could walk again, but no guarantees. A third surgery happened for head and facial injuries.

Two weeks later, I woke up in the ICU. It was dark, there were tubes, the usual medical devices doing various noisy things and some panic. A doctor was nearby taking notes. Finally he noticed that my head was moving and he saw that I was awake.

Some evaluations followed. They told me they were going to remove the ventilator to see how I was breathing. If that was successful, then they could remove the entubation apparatus.

I’ve used chapstick since I was a small kid, always outside playing in the New Mexico sunshine. My lips now felt like they were on fire. Staff gathered around, but all I wanted was some lip balm relief. Instructions followed and I did what they wanted as much as I could. Breathe in, breathe out. Follow my penlight with your eyes.

The entubation was removed and my throat was as sore as my lips. I asked for chapstick and ice in a raspy, husky voice that didn’t sound like my own. And then I asked for Adam.

Friends were brought in along with the balm and ice. I got settled a bit more and a bit more awake. How is Adam?

Finally, a doctor broke the news. I already knew from my friend’s faces. He was gone, I was flattened, and I was also screwed. With him gone, so was our money, main income, the car and his health insurance that covered me. I could not afford our mortgage or food and listening to the doctor tell me what had happened to me and then what they had had to do to save me was pretty terrifying, but what was worse was knowing that I was just royally screwed. I would lose the house, be kicked out of the hospital, have nowhere to go and no way to get there and no ability to earn any money, which could not come fast enough to save the situation.

“Why didn’t you let me die?” was my next question. There was a mumbled answer. My friends stood and cried and both said not to worry, they would take care of me and get me back on my feet. At that particular moment, the neurosurgeons weren’t even sure if I could stand or walk, let alone “get back on my feet” and get a job.

If I could have reached the cart with the pills, I would have ended it right then and there. Suicide watch had already started, so they were all pretty careful with me.

Three more followup surgeries followed. Four weeks in ICU, two weeks in post-surgical recovery regular rooms. Then kicked out. Adam’s insurance and our car insurance agreed to cover all this up to a cutoff point of $1 million. Sounds generous, but it was because they were already in negotiations with the dump truck company’s insurer. It would ultimately not cost our insurer’s a dime; in fact, they made money.

I was left to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer and managed to find one that had sued the dump truck company several times. A wealth of information was in their files, including that the drunk driver had multiple accidents, two with injuries, and other claims of property and vehicle damage over the previous five years. He was best buds with the company owners. They were quite wealthy and covered the losses and mayhem he caused.

My suit was filed as soon as I was awake in ICU. The state and Feds had already launched investigations. The city was filing vehicular manslaughter and other charges. My husband’s murder was big local news for awhile. Then the Feds raided the truck company offices. Tons of violations: everything from improperly licensed drivers and improperly certified trucks to filing false income taxes and false business taxes and false OSHA and Labor department forms and so on and so on.

Their insurer was immediately ready to talk settlement with me and my insurers. Given the mounting evidence of criminal operations that they had been insuring, their exposure was huge. My insurers got undisclosed settlement amounts in the millions. I signed on the dotted line and took a little over $30 million, which was compensatory, so not taxable. My attorney took home a $10 million check, which the truck company’s insurer had to pay; it didn’t come out of my $30m. And I still had three operations and four more weeks of hospitalization to go.

Around 20 days later, the money was in a bank account and I was starting the painful and slow process of rehab. I moved into a small apartment across the street from the hospital for the first month.

Our four dogs were taken care of at first by our friends, then the wonderful people of the rescue group we had adopted the dogs from came together and took them in temporarily.

After over 10 weeks, I finally went home. I could stand unsteadily and walk with the equipment at the rehab place, but I couldn’t drive or anything else. I planned Adam’s memorial service, which was held after his cremation and when I was just barely able to stand the surreal and terrible ceremonial. I was in pain, physically and emotionally, and the service was a blur of images and crying and confusion. I went back to the apartment and slept for two straight days.

As the money sat in the account, I could pay bills. The house was paid off. I began to try to decided which car I should eventually buy. Other financial decisions had to be made. We put a chunk in an account to pay for medical expenses. The truck company’s insurer too on the cost of paying any health expenses, including surgeries and hospitalizations, related to the murder wreck. The claims were paid, thank god, but I never knew if they would hold up their end of the bargain.

I also had to testify at preliminary hearings and trials of the driver/murderer, the company owners and others. The drunken maniac got 25 years and had to serve 10 years of that before parole consideration could be given. The husband/wife owners got 10 years each. They were an incredible piece of work, both of them; complete idiots and assholes, chaotic hot messes who had lurched from drama to drama throughout their lives, inexplicably managing to amass millions along the way. The state and Feds cleaned them out and slammed their asses to the wall. On top of their 10 years for the murder and related charges, they were given additional sentences stemming from the IRS, OSHA and other agency charges. They were barred from ever owning a truck or trucking company ever again. They would not be able to drive again for years. The murderer himself could not drive for five years if he were to be released on parole. I made it my mission to pressure parole board and state officials to keep the assholes in prison for as long as I could.


Act II

Out of the hospital, rehab three times a week, I’m a millionaire who has lost the love of his life. There are four hounds to be fed and attended. Getting groceries was almost a major operation. There were doctor’s appointments and three post-hospitalization surgeries. And there was anxiety and depression and screaming and crying constantly. I ultimately lost over 50 pounds, which I needed to do, but it was a very brutal diet. Rehab got me in shape. I worked out some more just to not have to think. It was the lowest point of my life, my pit of bottomless despair.

With the coming of spring, I began to live a little more and think a little more and drive a little more and talk a little more in therapy and be basically functional. I still thought it would perhaps be better to check out and be done with it all. But as each day passed, the consensus with friends was that I had been given the gift of surviving, of continuing to live, and that I should live the life I had been given. Many people had worked hard to bring me back from the brink. Suicide would have been an insult to their work. To the support of my friends. To survive and also live and have a future was made my mission, even if I wasn’t very into the idea. I lived, I breathed. I functioned. The elephant sitting on my chest which was the oppressiveness and anxiety and panic and stress from losing Adam and have to survive began to fade slowly.

By the summer, I was not sure what I wanted. I now had the money to go wherever I wanted. For months, I had been extremely reluctant to leave the house, the first house he and I had bought together, the first place where the deed was in both our names: “Adam Foster and Sean Jacobs, a married couple,” the deed read. I couldn’t stand the thought of selling it, but the thought of always being there was beginning to get a bit oppressive too. There were reminders of him everywhere. His unmade bed. His urn containing his ashes. His clothes. His shoes. His journals from a lifetime of obsessively writing down everything that had ever happened to him; journals that would sometimes anger me in the future when I would sit and read them, particularly the ones on his laptop where he wrote out some of his frustrations with me, with us. Nothing too horrible, just a bit unfair. Nothing that revealed anything like an affair or something, that wasn’t Adam. Just mostly little stuff. But sometimes those little things that bothered him would sting me and make me defensive in my own mind. I sometimes argued with him out loud or in my head. When I would argue with his journal out loud, the dogs would get kind of pissed that I was interrupting their naps, or keeping them up in the middle of the night. Still, it wasn’t enough to lift the Queen Victoria-level mourning of my husband’s sudden loss. It helped to get pissed at him, but not enough.

So slowly, in spite of what I wanted, I functioned more and more. I planned. I made decisions without him. I bought clothes and a replacement Jeep when I could drive again. I got dental work done to repair some damage and decay and got some facial and skin work on my torso to repair some damage there.

My new slim self, still not really wanting to eat much, my new clothes, my slightly better face, neck and torso added up to a new me. If people didn’t know what was going on, they would have thought I had hit a middle age crisis and had gone a new expensive car and facelift bender. It was necessary. I needed a car, ours was smooshed together. The facial and skin surgeries were necessary to keep reducing the size of scars and keep them supple. And the weight loss, unexpected as it was, was also necessary because I now had a future to live, however reluctantly.

I was a new man, basically, even if I was even more a bitter, jaded and hostile queen than before. By summer, with folks behind bars and most of the medical stuff behind me, I started to finally look at what that future might look like. I couldn’t see staying where I was; I refused to sell our house, but I wanted to move away from the City of Incredibly Bad, Dangerous Drivers.

I was born and raised in New Mexico. We moved away when I was 10, and I had spent the next 46 years trying to scheme my way back home. With the settlement money, I knew I could build a very nice house near Santa Fe or Albuquerque. I couldn’t work, so it could be anywhere, as long as it was a reasonable drive to doctor’s offices or hospitals. I began to plan the return.

Friends took care of the hounds for me in August for a few days and I flew to Albuquerque. I spent the time exploring and looking at land that would be good to have my house on. I tried to narrow down my house plan choices. I looked at houses to buy so I would have a place to live while my new one was being built.

I also looked at architectural firms in the are which could handle construction management and maybe even a plan from scratch. I narrowed it down to three. And at the first firm, two of the principals were great and agreed to take my preferred plan off the shelf from an online company and adapt it to my needs and help with my land choice and also provide landscape and interior architectural work. The last two, they said, could be amply handled by their partner, whose name was Bryan Spenser.


Act 3

I was neither expecting nor trying to meet anyone and make anything happen. I was just trying to get a house built and settle down and heal in my home state, my spiritual home for all of my life. New Mexico was already working well for me. I closed on a temprorary house, and it sat ready for some renovations before I would move in. I had a move date and a way to get the four hounds to New Mexico; I rented an RV that accepted doggy passengers for a ridiculous amount of money and got ready to leave in September. My best friend and I would drive the RV and dogs along I-40 west to the new home in about three or four days.

But first, there was Bryan.

After talking for about an hour with the principal architect of the exterior and the construction manager, they brought in the interior architect, who would lead the team responsible for anything inside the house, all 5,585 square feet of it.

The door opened and the two partners introduced us. As soon as he walked in the door, I was stopped in my tracks. Our eyes met and locked and a strange sensation hit me. I could barely think. He. Was. Beautiful. Not beautiful like a male model or celebrity or movie star, not like a gay porn star. Just a beautiful, sweet, smiling man, who was beautiful because he was, to put it simply, my type: blond and hairy, slightly shorter than me. I immediately wondered how old he was (he turned out to be 13 years younger than me, 43) and if he might be into derelict daddies. (More about my body dysmorphia issues later.)

I stood up to shake his hand, our eyes still locked. I realized we both had sort of lopsided, silly grins on our faces and I had no idea why. Then, I swear to God, our hands met and with some static probably from the carpet, we shocked each other. Our first touch was literally an electric shock. What happened over the next year was even more shocking.

We were both startled and hesitated to let go, but we managed to be smooth enough to get out, “Nice to meet you!” and sit down. My mind whirled. His was similarly unsettled and confused.

It was about 3 p.m. on a Friday by this point. The others left the room and Bryan and I discovered that we both like to talk. A lot. We talked for two-and-a-half hours until we realized the staff was leaving and we were sitting in the conference room alone, making notes and sketches.

I blurted out that I really enjoyed talking to him. (“Smooth mood, idiot, he’s gonna think you’re trying to hit on him,” I thought.) And then came salvation: he said he really enjoyed it too and if I didn’t have any plans, we could just continue over dinner; he knew of a few places since I was new in town (“What the hell? Did that just come out of my mouth? Oh God! He’s going to think I’m hitting on him! I could just die!” he thought.)

We were watching each others’ eyes to see if there was a hint of rejection; no, just slight embarrassment. I said that I would actually love that (“Don’t say ‘love,’ idiot!” I thought.) He asked if I liked New Mexican and also said there was a very nice quiet bar we could also hit after dinner. (“Oh, shit, just take out your dick and wave it at him!!!” he thought.)

I said that since I was born and raised, I had been fed New Mexican pretty much all my life and it sounded great. And so did the bar. (“Oh yeah, turn him off with your sarcasm. And what bar? Is it a gay bar?” I thought.) He said oh d’uh, of course you know New Mexican food, sorry, you must think I’m an idiot. And we don’t have to go to the bar if you don’t want to. It’s just got soft music so we can talk more. (“Wait, that’s a queer-friendly space. He’ll probably beat my ass up!” he thought.)

(“Is he even gay?!” we both thought at the same time.

He had been given the bare details about what I was doing, but we first started talking about why I was coming back to New Mexico. Loss of husband nine months ago, settlement money, need to get away from a place of tragedy, desire to be back in my spiritual home, etc., etc., etc.

I saw how his eyebrows lifted and a little smile played at the corner of one side of his lips. He then licked them a little and got serious and said condolences and all that. (“So he IS gay! And is in need of comfort in his mourning period! Oh, Daddy! Let me be your comforter!” he thought.)

I thanked him and then trailed off as I watched him reach inside his open shirt collar and took out a necklace with rainbow triangles on it.

[This is a fictional work in progress. Y’all know this is probably gonna become kinda porno. More to come soon!]

I Resemble That Remark

From I Wake Up Screaming (1941) on TCM tonight comes a description so fitting for me:

“You’re an ink-stinking word slinger.”

❤️🧡💛💚💙💜 So now that’s my Twitter handle. ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

Movie Night: Red Dust


Four Stars
Four Stars

From 1932, it’s the second of six films Jean Harlow made with Clark Gable: Red Dust. (21 years later, it would be remade as Mogambo, the setting moved to Africa, with Ava Gardner in the Jean Harlow role and Grace Kelly in the Mary Astor Role. It stank. Red Dust is superior, like most Hollywood remakes, to its later imitator. The six films Gable and Harlow did together were: The Secret Six (1931); Red Dust (1932); Hold your Man (1933); China Seas (1935); Wife vs. Secretary (1936); and Saratoga (1937). Harlow died during filming of Saratoga.)


The « synopsis » according to The Movie Database (TMDb) runs thusly:

“Dennis, owner of a rubber plantation in Indochina, is involved with Vantine, who left Saigon to evade the police; but when his new surveyor, Gary, arrives along with his refined but sensual wife, Barbara, Dennis gets infatuated by her.”

TMDb

IMDb has a « a shorter and poorer way of putting it »:

“The owner of a rubber plantation becomes involved with the new wife of one of his employees.”

IMDb

Way to drain flavor completely out of a synopsis, Amazonians!

Red Dust is pretty much everything that cancel culture despises today. There’s racism, sexism, slavery, the patriarchy time 100, misogyny, misanthropy, animal abuse, cuckolding, adultery, (and behind the scenes, homophobia and violence) and probably a few other things I can’t even identify off the top of my head right now. But even if cancel culture would like to burn this film, it’s rather juvenile to think adults can’t look, read or watch something from earlier periods of our history and gain some understanding of a time in the nation’s life and adopt what we’ve just seen as our own outlook. In other words, watching Red Dust won’t make you go out and slap blond women on the butt or enslave coolies in Vietnam or any of the other multitudinous sins.

We have been wondering if a boycott TCM movement will start; pretty much everything they show is a reminder of the really evil or tawdry foundations of this country. And pretty much everything they show is also a pointer to a better future, even if that future is on hold right now while Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson, Orban, Netanyahu, Erdogan and various ayatollahs hold power.

But all that is a digression. The film itself should be considered in context. It has it’s funny moments in the banter of Gable and Harlow, but it is a drama with a twist ending. It’s the tale of what happens when a rubber plantation owner hires a surveyor, Gene Raymond, who brings along his pretty wife, Mary Astor. While Raymond writhes on the bed with malaria, Gable and Astor spark up some flames. And in the middle of all this lands, Harlow, a brassy blond hiding out in the jungle after some unspecified misunderstandings with the gendarmerie in Saigon (pronounced, inexplicably, as “Say-gone”). There’s some business with a local tiger, some difficulties with not being able to trust the local coolies, a caricature of a cook, Willie Fung who does the grinning, giggly “so solly” bit, and inadequate bathing facilities.

The attraction here isn’t really the cultural relic/curiousity value, it’s the variation of the old man meets woman, they hate each other, they clash with sparkling dialogue and then end up together ’til death they do part. This bit has been done to death in Hollywood’s 100+ year run, but it can be freshened and redeemed if the scriptwriter is up to the job. In this case, the writer wasn’t really up to the job with the majority of the script, but for some reason, excelled with the dialogue as long as it was between Harlow and Gable. And that’s where it shines.

Of course, anything Harlow did shined, especially Dinner at Eight. Gable gets first billing here, and the movie is supposedly about him, but it’s Harlow who does the best job. The proof is in the difference between the Harlow/Gable exchanges and those of Astor/Gable. Harlow wins hands down every time she’s onscreen. Gable may have dominated the 1930s cinema with his star power, culminating in 1939’s bullshit “Lost Cause” revisionist rebel/traitor masterpiece, Gone With the Wind, but Harlow was superior in every way, at least when she was given half a chance.

Sadly, Harlow was suffering from nephritis and died of uremic poisoning during the filming of her last Gable vehicle, 1937’s Saratoga. Remarkably, she was just 26 when she died, having such an amazing career in such a short time that it’s mind-boggling to think of what she might have done with a longer life. This would be repeated in the case of Judy Holliday in the 1950s, who was an awesome actress whose life ended too soon. It would have been incredible for Harlow and Holliday to have done a film together at least once. Ah, what might have been (at least if they had been given a great script and director).

We at least have Harlow and Holliday on film fairly easy to access. Red Dust is on TCM as well as DVD.

What did reviewers have to say about Red Dust?

And that behind the scenes homophobia violence? Well, that’s the Gene Raymond story, who married Jeanette McDonald (of “Nelson Eddy and” fame), but had a rather interesting life. Producer/Director George Sidney once called Raymond “the most gorgeous thing the world has ever seen.” Seems a bit far fetched for me, but he was pretty. And therein lay the problem. We’ll let Wikipedia take over:

“Biographer Sharon Rich reported in her Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald biography, Sweethearts, that Raymond and MacDonald had a rocky marriage, with Raymond physically and emotionally abusing MacDonald, and having affairs with men. This began on their honeymoon [in 1937] when MacDonald discovered Raymond in bed with Buddy Rogers.”

Wikipedia

I’m sure that would have been pretty frickin’ hot, the most gorgeous thing in the world in bed with the equally hot Buddy Rogers. But go on:

“Rich reported that Raymond had been arrested three times, the first in January 1938, as verified by a court document, and also in England during his army service, for his behavior. Raymond’s wedding to MacDonald, orchestrated by Louis B. Mayer forced MacDonald to become Raymond’s beard and the 1938 arrest resulted in Mayer blacklisting him in Hollywood for almost two years.”

Ibid

It gets better:

“Biographer E. J. Fleming also alleged that Eddy had confronted Raymond for abusing MacDonald, who was visibly pregnant with Eddy’s child while filming Sweethearts which ended with Eddy attacking him and leaving him for dead, disguised in the press as Raymond recovering from falling down the stairs.”

Ibid

Both Rogers and Raymond, like most queers of their day, went on to other marriages with women and spent their remaining years deeply in the closet. It needs to be pointed out that:

“Raymond publicly refuted the allegations of abuse, neglect and details of his marriage to MacDonald, which were published during his lifetime.”

Ibid

That quote construction seems to leave out things like affairs with men and romping in bed with Buddy Rogers, but who knows.

Critics at the time were fairly kind and the movie made a $400,000 profit (around $6.8 million in today’s dollars). The New York Times left a review up to a writer only identified by his initials, M.H., who basically recounted the plot and, while they liked Harlow, were a little snide about Harlow’s admirers in the audience at the screening at the Capitol:

“Life on a rubber plantation in French Indo-China receives attention in “Red Dust,” a pictorial adaptation of a play by Wilson Collison which is now at the Capitol. It is a far from pleasant spot, with its heat and sudden deluges of rain, its blinding sand storms and jungle beasts. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of this tale is more interesting than its story, especially the glimpses of the men at work.
“Dennis Carson, played by Clark Gable, who is in charge of the plantation, avers that so long as people in other countries want balloon tires and hot-water bottles such toil must go on. The natives are indolent, which causes Carson to use the lash on them, but no sooner have they settled down to labor than they are forced often to seek shelter from a sand storm.
To this uninviting area comes the immodest Vantine, a woman from Saigon. She at least makes existence more lively for Carson, who who is not precisely hospitable to her. There is trouble on all sides for Carson.

[There is a recounting of the Gable/Astor entanglement and Harlow’s involvement.]

“… Barbara and her husband eventually leave the plantation and Vantine takes up her abode in Carson’s comfortless shack.
“The dialogue is not especially bright or strong, but some of the lines spoken by Vantine, who is impersonated by Jean Harlow, aroused laughter from the audience. Miss Harlow’s presence in the picture apparently attracted a host of other platinum blondes, for on all sides there were in the seats girls with straw-colored hair. Miss Harlow’s performance suits the part. Mr. Gable is efficient in his rôle. Miss Astor offers a striking contrast to Miss Harlow. Tully Marshall makes the most of a minor rôle, as does Gene Raymond, who appears as Willis.”

M.H., The New York Times

I’d agree about most of the dialogue (see choice quotes below for yourself). But it’s a pretty spot-on review from the original screening.

Anyway, regardless of its content and the soap operas behind it, Red Dust is a worthwhile, entertaining history lesson and should be taken as a positive sign of just how we’ve come in almost 90 years. Or, you know, you could ignore such Pollyanna-ish constructs and, I don’t know, burn it.


Red Dust Lobby Card
Red Dust: Clark Gable and Mary Astor

Red Dust: Willie Fung, Gene Raymond, Jean Harlow

Best quotes:

Dennis Carson: Why’d you get off the boat at all? You know it doesn’t stop here again for four week, don’t you?
Vantine: Sure I do. Think I’m overjoyed about it? But, its just got to be, that’s all.
Dennis Carson: Well, then?
Vantine: I left the boat here for the same reason I took it at Saigon.
Dennis Carson: What reason?
Vantine: I got mixed up in a little trouble and I thought I’d stay out of town ’til the Gendarmes forgot about it.
Dennis Carson: And what a cast iron nerve you’ve got.
Vantine: You have to have in my line. But, don’t worry, big boy, I’ll stay out from under foot. I’ll even pay for my board if you insist on it nicely.

Red Dust

Dennis Carson: Come on, lets have it. Who are you? Where’d you come from?
Vantine: Don’t rush me, brother. I’m Pollyanna, the Glad Girl.

Ibid

Dennis Carson: Here you are kid.
[stuffs some bills in Vantine’s cleavage]
Dennis Carson: It isn’t half enough, but, when I get down to Saigon, there’ll be more. Keep your chin up.
[pats Vantine twice on her behind]

Ibid

[The bath scene]
Dennis Carson: [naked, Vantine jumps in a rain barrel] Get out of there! Say what’s the idea?
Vantine: What?
Dennis Carson: Getting in that barrel?
Vantine: Oh, I don’t know? Maybe I’m goin’ over Niagara Falls. Whoop!

Vantine: What’s the matter? Afraid I’ll – shock the duchess? Don’t you suppose she’s ever seen a French postcard?
Dennis Carson: You’ll let those curtains down if its the last bath you’ll ever take!

Vantine: Hey, where’s the reception committee? It’s been a nice little walk. Did you hear that hungry pussy cat back there?
Dennis Carson: Now, listen. This woman’s decent. You watch your language and stop running around here half naked.
Vantine: I’ll stay as comfortable as I like.

Red Dust

Vantine: [sarcastically] What a pleasant little house party this is gonna be.

Ibid

Vantine: [sarcastically] I thought we might run up a few curtains and make a batch of fudge while we were planning on what to wear to the country club dance Saturday night.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: That’s a… a very polished little speech for a… barbarian.

Ibid

Vantine: Don’t mind me boys, I’m just restless.

Ibid

Gary Willis: [eating dinner] Those coolies are tough to handle, aren’t they?
Dennis Carson: Didn’t I tell you they were a lazy bunch?
Gary Willis: Well, I mean, I didn’t know they were so sneaky about it. The minute you turn your back on ’em, they’re up to something or other they shouldn’t be doing.
[Dennis and Barbara look at each other]
Gary Willis: Are they always like that?
Dennis Carson: I’m afraid so.
McQuarg: I was telling him about that time that Malay tried to knife you in the back.
Vantine: Its a great country for that sort of thing.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: I won’t stand for this! Do you think you can treat Gary like – like one of your coolies?

Ibid

Barbara Willis: We shouldn’t have done that.
Dennis Carson: We did.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: Do you mind if I stay here with you?
Vantine: Think you can stand the company?

Ibid

Barbara Willis: It’s stupid of me to be so frightened.
Vantine: This storm isn’t the only thing that has you worried around here, is it? I saw him kick the door shut. He came out with rouge all over his mouth. I suppose he asked to use your lipstick?
[lights a cigarette]

Ibid

Barbara Willis: Oh, it’s too silly. What do I mean I’m scared? It was just one of those exciting little moment things.
Vantine: Well, watch out for the next moment, honey. It’s longer than the first.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: I don’t know how it happened. I didn’t do anything. He didn’t have any reason to believe that I’d…
Vantine: I didn’t hear any cries for help.
Barbara Willis: Oh, I don’t know what came over me. I should have stopped him. I tried, but…
Vantine: But you couldn’t. Even when you tried, could you?
Barbara Willis: No. That’s why I’m scared.

Ibid

Dennis Carson: All those lame cracks won’t help you any if I come back and find you’ve been annoying her.
Vantine: Oh, I wouldn’t touch her with your best pair of rubber gloves!

Ibid

Dennis Carson: What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy?
Vantine: Just a little nauseated. This rain seems to have uncovered a pile of garbage around here.
Dennis Carson: Stop looking through key holes. It’s bad for the eyes.

Ibid

Four Stars
Four Stars

Red Dust. 1932. TCM. English. Victor Fleming (d). John Lee Mahin, Wilson Collison, Donald Ogden Stewart (w). Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Mary Astor, Gene Raymond, Donald Crisp, Tully Marshall, Forrester Harvey, Willie Fung. (p). Harold Rosson, Arthur Edeson (c).


American Civil War Casus Belli: African Negro Slavery.


A report on Battlefield.Org points out two things: Americans are inexplicable divided as to the causes of the Civil War, reflecting both historical ignorance as well as the continued delusions among the current crop of Lost Causers who continue to believe in and are invested fully in, the generational denial surrounding the Great Mass Treason which resulted in 1,000,000 American casualties.

Let’s be clear: The war was about slavery, from first to last. And after the guns stopped firing, the war continues in multiple ways that all-too-often includes violence and murder.

But let’s look at the « Battlefields.Org discussion of the Casus Belli », which starts with a piquant little survey from 2011:

“In 2011, at the outset of the sesquicentennial, a Pew Research Center poll found that Americans were significantly divided on the issue, with 48% saying the war was ‘mainly about states’ rights,’ 38% saying the war was ‘mainly about slavery,’ with the remainder answering ‘both equally’ or ‘neither/don’t know.'”

Battlefields.Org

Fascinating, if appalling that that many people either aren’t sure or are convinced that it was the santized “states’ rights,” rights which, after all, gave the states the “right” to keep and bear slaves.

Battlefields.Org then goes on to examine the four declarations from states (Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas) which wanted all posterity to understand why they committed treason and nearly destroyed the country. Those declarations are fascinating reading and we’ll get to them below.

Civil War Casualties (Probably at Antietam, September 1862).

Battlefields.Org brokedown the content in the secession declarations thusly:

Georgia;
56% Slavery; 23% “Context”; 5:% Economic Issues; 4% States’ Rights; 2% Lincoln’s Election.

Texas:
54% Slavery; 21% “Context”; 15% States’ Rights; 6% Military Protection; 4% Lincoln’s Election.

Mississippi:
73% Slavery; 20% “Context”; 4% Lincoln’s Election; 3% States’ Rights.

South Carolina:
41% “Context”; 37% States’ Rights; 20% Slavery; 2% Lincoln’s Election.

[“‘Context’ refers to procedural language and/or historical exposition that is not connected to a specific argument,” says Battlefields.org.]

I would quibble with their interpretation of the declarations. Slavery is absolutely number one in every case. Everything else flows from it: They hated the north’s refusal to enforce the southern states’ rights to … own African negro slaves and the refusal to catch such property and return it to its owners. They hated the Republican/Anti-Slavery/Abolition party which had caused its leaders to control of the Federal government, where same leaders would make war on the southern states’ rights to … own African negro slaves. And as for “context,” it’s usually just a rehash of the history of the Revolution and their continued stubborn clinging to their idea of what being in the union meant; i.e., it meant they were free to leave at any time for any reason, but the reason was always going to be about slavery and the fed’s containment strategy of … African negro slavery.

Saying “Lincoln’s Election” was a “cause” is therefore also disingenous. He’s not mentioned by name. He’s just happens to be the leader the northern agitators and abolitionists had chosen to head up their program of destroying the south and …. its peculiar institution: African negro slavery.

So Battlefields.Org can parse it out this way and with a word cloud that says “States” is the most-used word, not slavery, but again, it’s disingenuous. The right that each southern state wanted to assert in all situations and around the country and the world was … African negro slavery. Period.

They went to war to preserve their right to own African negros as slaves in perpetuity. To Andrew Jackson’s heirs here in Donelson/Hermitage, they fully believed that African negros would continue to be slaves working cotton fields along the Stones River in 1860, 1890, 1950, and even 2019 and beyond.

Period.

It really is that simple. There are multiple “reasons,” but each reason is a reason because it directly relates to owning African negros as slaves.

And therefore, the 11 states separated themselves in an effort to preserve slavery; they committed treason, went to war and created a million American casualties and utterly failed, thank God, to preserve their peculiar institution. They have never ceased however, even after getting thoroughly kicked in the balls and sent running home to mommy, licking their wounds and keeping the freed African negroes down, to operate, with waxing and waning success and effort, to resurrect the same old arguments, rehashed and rehashed.

White supremacy and domestic terrorism is epidemic and a singular gift of the varied framers of “Articles of Secession” throughout the south all those years ago.

At any rate, here are the money quotes from the four articles of secession of the states of Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Georgia and South Carolina are particularly verbose and yawn-inducing. They are catalogues of grievances, great and petty. Virginia is short and sweet: The Brits tried to make us do some stuff and we left. Now the antislavery power is trying to force us to do some stuff, so we’re leaving again. But ultimately it all amounts to: “The Northern people are being mean to us and they’re going to make us give up our negroes .” Yeesh.

Casualties on the scene at Dunker Church, battlefield of Antietam. September 1862.

Georgia


“The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic.

“While the subordination and the political and social inequality of the African race was fully conceded by all, it was plainly apparent that slavery would soon disappear from what are now the non-slave-holding States of the original thirteen. The opposition to slavery was then, as now, general in those States and the Constitution was made with direct reference to that fact. But a distinct abolition party was not formed in the United States for more than half a century after the Government went into operation. The main reason was that the North, even if united, could not control both branches of the Legislature during any portion of that time.

“We had acquired a large territory by successful war with Mexico; Congress had to govern it; how, in relation to slavery, was the question then demanding solution. This state of facts gave form and shape to the anti-slavery sentiment throughout the North and the conflict began. Northern anti-slavery men of all parties asserted the right to exclude slavery from the territory by Congressional legislation and demanded the prompt and efficient exercise of this power to that end. This insulting and unconstitutional demand was met with great moderation and firmness by the South.

“They raised their standard in 1856 and were barely defeated. They entered the Presidential contest again in 1860 and succeeded.
“The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its leaders and applauded by its followers.

“For twenty years past the abolitionists and their allies in the Northern States have been engaged in constant efforts to subvert our institutions and to excite insurrection and servile war among us. They have sent emissaries among us for the accomplishment of these purposes. Some of these efforts have received the public sanction of a majority of the leading men of the Republican party in the national councils, the same men who are now proposed as our rulers. These efforts have in one instance led to the actual invasion of one of the slave-holding States, and those of the murderers and incendiaries who escaped public justice by flight have found fraternal protection among our Northern confederates.

“Because by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union; put it under the ban of the Republic in the States where it exists and out of the protection of Federal law everywhere; because they give sanctuary to thieves and incendiaries who assail it to the whole extent of their power, in spite of their most solemn obligations and covenants; because their avowed purpose is to subvert our society and subject us not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides. To avoid these evils we resume the powers which our fathers delegated to the Government of the United States, and henceforth will seek new safeguards for our liberty, equality, security, and tranquillity.”
Approved, Tuesday, January 29, 1861

Articles of Secession, State of Georgia

Mississippi



“A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.”
“In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
“It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.

“It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.
“It tramples the original equality of the South under foot.
“It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.
“It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.
“It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.
“It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.
“It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better.
“It has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives.
“It has broken every compact into which it has entered for our security.
“It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system.
“It knows no relenting or hesitation in its purposes; it stops not in its march of aggression, and leaves us no room to hope for cessation or for pause.
“It has recently obtained control of the Government, by the prosecution of its unhallowed schemes, and destroyed the last expectation of living together in friendship and brotherhood.
“Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.”

Articles of Secession, State of Mississippi

South Carolina


“The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”
“This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.
“The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.
“The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.
“The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

“On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
“The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.
“Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.”
Adopted December 20, 1860

Article of Secession, South Carolina
Civil War casualties (Petersburg?)

Texas


“Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?
“The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slaveholding States.
“By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States.
“The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of banditti from the neighboring territory of Mexico; and when our State government has expended large amounts for such purpose, the Federal Government has refuse reimbursement therefor, thus rendering our condition more insecure and harassing than it was during the existence of the Republic of Texas.

“The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article [the fugitive slave clause] of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact, designed by its framers to perpetuate the amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holding States in their domestic institutions– a provision founded in justice and wisdom, and without the enforcement of which the compact fails to accomplish the object of its creation. Some of those States have imposed high fines and degrading penalties upon any of their citizens or officers who may carry out in good faith that provision of the compact, or the federal laws enacted in accordance therewith.

“In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color– a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.
“For years past this abolition organization has been actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union, and has rendered the federal congress the arena for spreading firebrands and hatred between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States.
“They have for years past encouraged and sustained lawless organizations to steal our slaves and prevent their recapture, and have repeatedly murdered Southern citizens while lawfully seeking their rendition.
“They have invaded Southern soil and murdered unoffending citizens, and through the press their leading men and a fanatical pulpit have bestowed praise upon the actors and assassins in these crimes, while the governors of several of their States have refused to deliver parties implicated and indicted for participation in such offenses, upon the legal demands of the States aggrieved.
“They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides.
“They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose.
“They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.
“They have refused to vote appropriations for protecting Texas against ruthless savages, for the sole reason that she is a slave-holding State.
“And, finally, by the combined sectional vote of the seventeen non-slave-holding States, they have elected as president and vice-president of the whole confederacy two men whose chief claims to such high positions are their approval of these long continued wrongs, and their pledges to continue them to the final consummation of these schemes for the ruin of the slave-holding States.
:We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
“That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.
“By the secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.

“For these and other reasons, solemnly asserting that the federal constitution has been violated and virtually abrogated by the several States named, seeing that the federal government is now passing under the control of our enemies to be diverted from the exalted objects of its creation to those of oppression and wrong, and realizing that our own State can no longer look for protection, but to God and her own sons– We the delegates of the people of Texas, in Convention assembled, have passed an ordinance dissolving all political connection with the government of the United States of America and the people thereof and confidently appeal to the intelligence and patriotism of the freemen of Texas to ratify the same at the ballot box, on the 23rd day of the present month.
“Adopted in Convention on the 2nd day of Feby, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one and of the independence of Texas the twenty-fifth.”

Articles of Secession, State of Texas

Virginia


“The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.
“Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the ordinance adopted by the people of this State in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the Union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.
“This ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State, cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule to be hereafter enacted.
“Done in Convention, in the city of Richmond, on the 17th day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Articles of Secession, Commonwealth of Virginia

It’s all quite fascinating, eh? Basically, they’re “<Whine, whine, whine> You’re going to take our slaves, get ’em hopped up, and let ’em rape our women and murder us in our beds, when everyone in the whole world knows that God himself created the African negro to serve the white man. I mean, they get free housing and medical care and food! Anyway, we’re gonna commit treason now and try to destroy the entire country in order to protect our natural racial superiority, which gives us the Christian right to own African negros as property.”

The Civil War’s casus belli is not difficult to figure out. The secesh told us repeatedly why they attempted to do what they did: the ownership of their fellow human beings based on skin color. Perfectly simple.


Dead Rebel soldier somewhere on the battlefield (Petersburg?).

Movie Night: Born Yesterday


Four.5.Stars

From 1950, it’s the wonderful Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden gem, Born Yesterday. (No, not that 1993 crapfest of the same name … how dare they try to “improve” on Judy and Broderick with —gasp— Melanie Griffith, John Goodman, and Don Johnson!)

The « synopsis » of the original, best Born Yesterday, is, per The Movie Database (TMDb):

“Uncouth, loud-mouth junkyard tycoon Harry Brock descends upon Washington D.C. to buy himself a congressman or two, bringing with him his mistress, ex-showgirl Billie Dawn.”

TMDb

IMDb has a « a shorter and poorer way of putting it »:

“A tycoon hires a tutor to teach his lover proper etiquette, with unexpected results.”

IMDb

Born Yesterday is pretty fabulous and much, much more that those paltry synopses reveal. Or it is at least until it sinks in to today’s audience that it’s just as fresh and applicable today (especially today!) as it was in 1950. In that year, the movie warned against the unAmerican activiteis of the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, which ultimately wrecked many lives, but failed, while today it pointedly shows that Broderick Crawford’s Harry Brock is in charge of the country, the Senate, and the judiciary and is sitting in the White House rage-tweeting.

In fact, the current ugly age of our country is the alternate ending to Born Yesterday with Judy Holliday silenced, threatened with death and manblamed and William Holden dead or emasculated while Harry Brock gleefully and dementedly flies around destroying the country.

Just as an aside: How much influence did the flying circus that was HUAC have over the 50s? Here’s some tidbits from the era, because what was going on with HUAC deserves some attention:

“TEACHER FIRED
“San Mateo, Nov. 17—Thomas D. Hardwick, Burlingame high school journalism teacher, has been fired from his job for refusing to sign the state’s new loyalty oath.”

San Mateo Times, Nov. 17, 1950

And still this stuff was going on 7 years later. This time, the human toll of stamping out ghostly “un-American activities” is more fully highlighted, especially the ordeal of teacher Hardwick, who had to become a factory worker to survive:

“SAN FRANCISCO UPI – Cameras continued to focus today on the House un-American activities committee hearing despite House Speaker Sam Rayburn’s flat announcement in Washington there would be no more television broadcasts. Chairman Francis Walter (D.-Penn.) of the subcommittee shrugged his shoulders and threw up his hands when asked about Rayburn’s announcement. And the TV cameras continued to grind away.

San Mateo Times

“SAN FRANCISCO UPI – Congressmen turned from teachers to other professions today in an un-American activities inquiry already marked by the suicide of a subpoenaed Stanford Scientist and suspension of a radio broadcaster from his job for refusing to testify. A Richmond factory worker who taught in Burlingame High school seven years ago was a reluctant witness yesterday before the House sub-committee on Un-American activities.
“But he had a quick reply when asked about the testimony of another witness that he had been a Communist. Thomas Hardwick, 49, declined to answer when asked if he was aware from 1946 up to the present day of a secret Communist group in San Francisco and elsewhere known as the “Professional Cell.” Hardwick said he believed the question was “in an area where Congress is forbidden to legislate” under the First (free press and speech) and the Fifth (self-incrimination) amendments.
“Hardwick was dismissed m 1950 from the Burlingame High school faculty for refusing to sign a loyalty oath.
“Yesterday’s reluctant witnesses included a San Francisco radio broadcaster, Louis Hartman, 42, also known as Jim Grady, and a television and radio engineer. Hartman, a free lance man on radio station KCBS, refused to answer when asked whether there was a Communist Party professional cell active at Berkeley.

San Mateo Times | Thursday, June 20, 1957

But I digress (but only a little bit): New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther « loved Judy Holliday and the movie, and used Broderick Crawford’s performance to sound a warning that is incredibly prescient about our current political predicament »:

“Just in time to make itself evident as one of the best pictures of this fading year is Columbia’s trenchant screen version of the stage play, “Born Yesterday.” More firm in its social implications than ever it was on the stage and blessed with a priceless performance by rocketing Judy Holliday, this beautifully integrated compound of character study and farce made a resounding entry at the Victoria yesterday.

“On the strength of this one appearance, there is no doubt that Miss Holliday will leap into popularity as a leading American movie star—a spot to which she was predestined by her previous minor triumph in “Adam’s Rib” as the tender young lady from Brooklyn who shot her husband (and stole the show). For there isn’t the slightest question that Miss Holiday brings to the screen a talent for characterization that is as sweetly refreshing as it is rare.

“Playing the wondrous ignoramus that she created on the stage—the lady to whom her crude companion rather lightly refers as a “dumb broad” this marvelously clever young actress so richly conveys the attitudes and the vocal intonations of a native of the sidewalks of New York that it is art. More than that, she illuminates so brightly the elemental wit and honesty of her blankly unlettered young lady that she puts pathos and respect into the role.

“But it must be said in the next breath that Miss Holliday doesn’t steal this show—at least, not without a major tussle—for there is a lot of show here to steal. Not only has the original stage play of Garson Kanin been preserved by Screenwriter Albert Mannheimer in all of its flavorsome detail—and that, we might add, is a triumph of candor and real adapting skill—but George Cukor has directed with regard for both the humor and the moral. And Broderick Crawford has contributed a performance as the merchant of junk who would build himself up as a tycoon that fairly makes the hair stand on end.

“Where this role was given some humor and even sympathy on the stage, in the memorable performance of Paul Douglas, Mr. Crawford endows it with such sting—such evident evil, corruption, cruelty and arrogance—that there is nothing amusing or appealing about this willful, brutish man. He is, indeed, a formidable symbol of the menace of acquisitive power and greed against which democratic peoples must always be alert. And that’s why his thorough comeuppance, contrived by his newly enlightened “broad” amid the monuments of serene and beautiful Washington, is so winning and wonderful. In short, a more serious connotation has been given the role on the screen and Mr. Crawford plays it in a brilliantly cold and forceful style.”

The New York Times

“He is, indeed, a formidable symbol of the menace of acquisitive power and greed against which democratic peoples must always be alert.” A perfect description of Born Yesterday‘s villain … and Donald Trump both.

At any rate, I highly recommend this one. I took off half a star for the flag-waving, O Beautiful, misty-eyed crap here and there; but it actually doesn’t detract much, it just points out how much we’ve lost.

The Associated Press review « isn’t much of a review, but notes the movie’s success »::

“Born Yesterday,” another Academy entry, was previewed before the usual starstudded audience this week. It is a faithful adaptation of the Garson Kanin play about the junk dealer’s babe who gets educated by a newspaperman. The story should be familiar to a large segment of the public by now and it is enhanced by some scenes of Washington landmarks. The show comes off as one of the best comedies in recent seasons. This is largely due to a sparkling portrayal of Judy Holliday as the dumb blonde. She is wonderfully funny. Only drawback is that her lines are sometimes inaudible. Broderick Crawford plays the junk man with full voice all the way and William Holden is a quietly competent view of the newspaperman.”

Bob Thomas, the Associated Press

Born Yesterday Lobby Card
Another Lobby Card

Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford and William Holden … stickin’ it to the Man.

Best quotes:

Paul: A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in.

Born Yesterday

Billie Dawn: He always used to say, “Never do nothing you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of The New York Times.”

Ibid

Harry Brock: What’s a peninsula?
Billie Dawn: Shhhh.
Harry Brock: Don’t gimme that “shush.” You think you’re so smart, huh – what’s a peninsula?
Paul Verrall: It’s a…
Harry Brock: Not you, her.
Billie Dawn: It’s that new medicine…

Ibid

Billie: Because when ya steal from the government, you’re stealing from yourself, ya dumb ox.

Ibid

Congressman Norval Hedges: I said to Sam only last week this country will soon to have to decide if the people are going to run the government, or the government is going to run the people.

Ibid

Harry Brock: WHAT’S GOIN’ ON AROUND HERE?
Jim Devery: A revolution.

Ibid

Harry Brock: How d’ya like that! He could’ve had a hundred grand. She could’ve had me. Both wind up with nothin’… Dumb chump!… Crazy broad!
Jim Devery: [raises a glass as a toast] To all the dumb chumps and all the crazy broads, past, present, and future, who thirst for knowledge and search for truth… who fight for justice and civilize each other… and make it so tough for crooks like you…
[Harry stares at him angrily]
Jim Devery: …and me.

Ibid

Harry Brock: Shut up! You ain’t gonna be tellin’ nobody nothin’ pretty soon!
Billie Dawn: DOUBLE NEGATIVE! Right?
Paul Verrall: Right.

Ibid

Billie: Would you do me a favor, Harry?
Harry Brock: What?
Billie: Drop dead!

Ibid

Four.5.Stars

Born Yesterday. 1950. TCM. English. George Cukor (d). Garson Kanin, Albert Mannheimer (w). Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden, Howard St. John, Frank Otto, Larry Oliver, Barbara Brown, Grandon Rhodes, Claire Carleton. (p). Friedrich Hollaender (m). Joseph Walker (c).


Donelson Renovates

I don’t write much about Donelson, our little slice of Music City. But here’s a couple of recent exceptions, one sort of optimistic and nice, the other more caustic and negative.


For a bedroom community which has never really had much of an identity, Donelson is currently attempting to remake itself with at least a bit of one.

The Donelson station developments aim to create the 21st century version of the old downtown, which didn’t ever exist here. This new downtown will still be basically a strip mall of businesses, just with a spiffy, fresh new design.

Donelson is like most of the houses in its borders: Buildings from the 1950s whose owners are dying out, so the children and grandchildren are taking over and either selling them or freshening them up. Hopefully, it will result in a more pleasant place to live and breathe in, although there will always be two negatives: Lebanon Pike and its sprawling ugliness and the overhead landing pattern which puts planes low and loud over us as they swing into runways 20 Left and Right.

No one will probably ever be talking or protesting or doing anything about the overhead noise, but at least some folks are doing something about ugliness. We hope there are more positives to come, especially along Lebanon. Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it. Beefing up the Music City Star would help immensely, but that’s also problematic at best.Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it.No one will probably ever be talking or protesting or doing anything about the overhead noise, but at least some folks are doing something about ugliness. We hope there are more positives to come, especially along Lebanon. Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it. Beefing up the Music City Star would help immensely, but that’s also problematic at best.

For the foreseeable future, then, we’ll take some cosmetic change and hope the community’s groups and businesses continue to try to improve the community’s image, at least. Whatever happens will surely be an improvement.


On the other hand, a different hot take: Development around the Donelson Music City Star train station is proceeding apace; two projects are underway to transform the seen-better-days corner of Lebanon and Donelson pikes. The first is Donelson Plaza, to the north of the station; the 1961 building is getting a complete face lift, with the eastern half is being completely rebuilt from scratch to serve as the new Donelson Branch of the Nashville Public Library.

The Plaza will feature the library as well as shops, restaurants and apartments, with the idea being that you can live at the Plaza and walk/bike to the buses/trains at the station and never need a car. No word on whether WeGo will be able to boost bus and train service to the center, or if we’ll see the more probable nightmare scenario of being constantly in ever greater amounts of traffic.

(Side note: Frequently, drivers exiting the station in the evenings are desperate to avoid Lebanon Pike and its intersection with Donelson Pike. So, they use a short, rather asininely-designed (is that a word?) road that heads east out of the parking lot behind Fifty Forward, ending on Donelson and completely avoiding two stoplights and lengthy waits. Only problem: That connector is supposed to be one-way, westbound only. Never mind it’s wide enough for two cars and that someone is just being, well, asinine over it, a police car was sitting there are on the evening commute on a Friday night, just determined to up the asshole quotient and send commuters to add to the chaos and traffic on Lebanon which is stacked up all the way back to downtown. Brilliant, no?

Many cities would just make it a one-way west into the parking lot in the morning, and one-way east out of the parking lot in the evening, but that would be too simple and oh-fend someone. No word on how much a ticket for such common sensical motor vehicle “violations” will set you back, but it’s probably attractive for the city.)

But back to the main event: The 1961 Donelson Plaza was purchased by Holladay Partners, which is developing the 12 acres as a new urban town center—the downtown Donelson never had, and which has been completely abandoned by towns and cities around the country, but we digress. They hope the redo will result in green space, restaurants, retail shops and apartments. Also not mentioned: How much per month will a one-bedroom unit set you back and what will happen to the center’s funky and clunky thrift stores, the bartending school, the bowling alley, etc.? Well, a partner in the developer’s office is on record thusly: “We do have existing tenants leasing and, of course, we will honor these. As people move out and it gets turned over, this will determine our next phase.”

In other words, we’ll let ‘em stay, but we’ll kick ‘em out and jack up the rents and put something high dollar in there as soon as possible so the “wrong” kind of Hippy Donelsonite won’t be shopping there. We must wonder if the plaza will feature the “architectural asshole” designs popping up everywhere: “public” seating that is intentionally so uncomfortable or designed in such a way as to prevent what the British call “rough sleepers,” and we call “homeless,” among other things. Ah well, time will tell.

The developer itself will anchor 14,000 square feet of office space on two levels. What is being displaced for that is another aspect which goes unmentioned.

Meanwhile, diagonally across the intersection and across the tracks menacing the bowling alley is a hulking mass of apartment buildings going up to four stories and packed into a tiny space along the tracks. One wonders how much a one-bedroom in that complex will cost and whether there is any additional sound proofing and plaster and ceiling protection for all the Music City Star trains which rumble through blasting their horns for the Donelson Pike crossing from as early as 7:15 a.m.

No matter, there will be some green space and a pool and you can walk to the train station (if you can summon the courage to cross both Donelson Pike and the railroad tracks. We’ve watched on more than one occasion as some idiot’s sense of self-importance prompted him to weave between the crossing arms with the train’s arrival imminent, speeding on his merry way. If walkers and bikers are now to be added to the mix, well, could get interesting.

The one exit onto Donelson is sure to be a joy as things are brought to a halt by southbound apartment dwellers trying to turn left into the driveway cause backups at 5 p.m. across the tracks and back up to Lebanon. Personally, I wouldn’t risk life and limb to live there, stacked four high in boxes with balconies that feature the fantastic combined noise of KBNA 20L airliner arrivals overhead, Music City Star trains blowing whistles below, and the screaming tires and honking of motorists trapped on the tracks while my neighbors try to make it into their new boxes. It’s not an attractive prospect for me, but what do I know? I’m sure it will all be just fine and dandy when these projects get built out just in time for the next big recessional flop in 2020.

Progress is great and all. But progress via developer is often thoughtless and crude. As far as we can tell, developers won’t be paying for better traffic control near either project and nothing will change in anticipation of the much greater numbers of cars along an already over-stretched section of Lebanon and Donelson pikes. Perhaps all will be well. We’re not going to hold our breath here.

The Indictment

Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) is an attorney and the former director (9-Jan-13 to 19-Jul-17) of the U.S. Office Government Ethics, which exists to “Provid[e] leadership in the executive branch to prevent conflicts of interest.” That’s a mission which, since January 2017, is going completely unfulfilled and, in fact, is being subverted beyond all belief.

After leaving the USOGE in the summer of 2017, Shaub “joined the Washington D.C.-based election law organization the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) as Senior Director, Ethics. At CLC he has focused on protecting what he calls the erosion of democratic norms that the country has witnessed in his time,” according to Wikipedia. The last six months of his tenure at USOGE were also the first six months of the Godfather’s tenure and therefore was when he witnessed the complete takeover of the democracy and its renovation into a kleptocracy headed by a old, narcissistic, lunatic, mob boss. So he’s seen some things and knows whereof he speaks.

Shaub wrote today a concise listing of the multiple points of illegality, theft, unConstitutionality, incompetence, petulance, and general assholery committed by this mobster and his cronies, supported fully and without reservation by the God and Guns evangelical crowd, of which I’m proud to say I’m an EX member, who was in that cultish atmosphere from birth, not by choice and left as soon as I gracefully could. But I digress.

Here’s « Shaub’s full indictment » and it includes the Republican party, especially those in the Senate:

“Senate Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the republic itself. I’m not naive enough to think they would hold Democratic presidents to the low standard they’ve applied to Trump, but all future presidents will be able to point to Trump to justify:

“a. Soliciting foreign attacks on our elections;
b. Using federal appropriations or other resources to pressure foreign governments to help them win reelection;
c. Implementing an across-the-board refusal to comply with any congressional oversight at all;
d. Firing the heads of the government’s top law enforcement agencies for allowing investigations of the president;
e. Retaliating against whistleblowers and witnesses who testify before Congress;
f. Investigating investigators who investigate the president;
g. Attempting to retaliate against American companies perceived as insufficiently supportive of the president;
h. Attempting to award the president’s own company federal contracts;
i. Using personal devices, servers or applications for official communications;
j. Communicating secretly with foreign leaders, with foreign governments knowing things about White House communications that our own government doesn’t know;
k. Abandoning steadfast allies abruptly without prior warning to Congress to cede territory to Russian influence;
l. Destroying or concealing records containing politically damaging information;
m. Employing white nationalists and expressing empathy for white nationalists after an armed rally in which one of them murdered a counter protester and another shot a gun into a crowd;
n. Disseminating Russian disinformation;
o. Covering for the murder of a journalist working for an American news outlet by a foreign government that is a major customer of the president’s private business;
p. Violating human rights and international law at our border;
q. Operating a supposed charity that was forced to shut down over its unlawful activities;
r. Lying incessantly to the American people;
s. Relentlessly attacking the free press;
t. Spending 1/4 of days in office visiting his own golf courses and 1/3 of them visiting his private businesses;
u. Violating the Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution;
w. Misusing the security clearance process to benefit his children and target perceived enemies;
x. Drawing down on government efforts to combat domestic terrorism in order to appease a segment of his base;
y. Refusing to aggressively investigate and build defenses against interference in our election by Russia, after the country helped him win an election;
z. Engaging in a documented campaign of obstruction of a Special Counsel’s investigation.
aa. Lying about a hush money payoff and omitting his debt to his attorney for that payoff from his financial disclosure report (which is a crime if done knowingly and willfully);
bb. Coordinating with his attorney in connection with activities that got the attorney convicted of criminal campaign finance violations;
cc. Interfering in career personnel actions, which are required by law to be conducted free of political influence;
dd. Refusing to fire a repeat Hatch Act offender after receiving a recommendation of termination from the president’s own Senate-confirmed appointee based on dozens of violations;
ee. Calling members of Congress names and accusing them of treason for conducting oversight;
ff. Attacking states and private citizens frequently and in terms that demean the presidency (see Johnson impeachment);
gg. Using the presidency to tout his private businesses and effectively encouraging a party, candidates, businesses and others to patronize his business;
hh. Causing the federal government to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at his businesses and costing the American taxpayers well over $100 million on boondoggle trips to visit his properties;
ii. Hosting foreign leaders at his private businesses;
jj. Calling on the Justice Department to investigate political rivals;
kk. Using the presidency to endorse private businesses and the books of various authors as a reward for supporting the president;
ll. Engaging in nepotism based on a flawed OLC opinion;
mm. Possible misuse of appropriated funds by reallocating them in ways that may be illegal;
nn. Repeatedly criticizing American allies, supporting authoritarian leaders around the world, and undermining NATO; and
oo. etc.
“None of the Republican Senators defending Trump could say with a straight face that they would tolerate a Democratic president doing the same thing. But, given this dangerous precedent, they may have no choice if they ever lose control of the Senate. Is that what they want?
“And this is only what Trump did while the remote threat of Congressional oversight existed. If the Senate acquits him, he will know for certain there is nothing that could ever lead to Congress removing him from office. And what he does next will similarly set precedents.
At this point, I would remind these unpatriotic Senators of the line “you have a republic if you can keep it,” but a variation on this line may soon be more apt when Trump redoubles his attack on our election: You have a republic, if you can call this a republic.”

Walter Shaub via Twitter

We cannot indeed call this a republic; it is a shambolic kleptocratic theocracy. And our last one, remote chance of restoration will come next November. If we’re not out there with the numbers just posted today in Hong Kong’s election (72% or so), then our democratic republic will fall and, given what is likely to be a similarly shambolic kleptocracy in Great Britain, democracy, decency and the rule of law will be largely at an end on the planet, ending the final, very slim chance we have of mitigating accelerating climate catastrophe.

A “cancer on the presidency” has metastasized “hugely.”

« Read the rest of his tweets ». Fascinating.

What We Hath Wrought

The Beeb is reporting that « Turkey and its allies are (“allegedly”) committing war crimes, especially against Kurdish women » in Syria:

“Turkish-backed forces fighting Kurdish militias in north-east Syria have been accused of committing war crimes, with acts of brutality surfacing on mobile phone footage.

“The UN has warned that Turkey could be held responsible for the actions of its allies, while Turkey has promised to investigate.

“Bearded men shout ‘Allahu Akbar [God is the Greatest]’. One captures the scene on his smartphone and says: ‘We are mujahedeen [holy warriors] from Faylaq Al-Majd [Glory Corps] battalion.’ In the background are the corpses of Kurdish fighters.

“Further away, a group of men plant their feet on a woman’s bloodied body. One says she is a ‘whore’.

‘The gruesome footage is much like that produced by the ultra-violent Islamic State (IS) group.

“Yet the men in this video are not IS militants, but rather fighters for a rebel alliance known as the Syrian National Army, trained, equipped and paid for by a Nato member, Turkey. They are under the command of the Turkish army.

‘The video was filmed on 21 October in northern Syria. The woman beneath the fighters’ feet is Amara Renas, a member of an all-woman unit of Kurdish fighters, the YPJ, a force that played a significant role in defeating IS in Syria.

BBC

Notice how the BBC calls the video “brutal” and “gruesome,” words which are not in quotes or alleged. The video is not allegedly brutal and gruesome, it IS brutal and gruesome, says the BBC. Yet they get nervous about calling Turkish jihadist allies war criminals, even though the crimes are very much graphically shown in the brutal, gruesome video.

More importantly than all this, these war crimes are being committed against Kurdish women fighters specifically, and against our Kurdish allies generally. After the mobster-in-chief in the White House unleashed all this.

Not only should he and his administration be impeached and removed for high crimes and misdemeanors, he should also be held personally responsible for these war crimes. Impeachment is certain, but removal is unlikely, and seeing him tried for war crimes is a fantasy.

After all, the last time we had a chief executive who unleashed war crimes (remember Abu Graib anyone?), nothing happened. That president is just sitting around painting pictures of hot dogs while lolling in his bathtub.

Still, there is value in keeping a chronicle of crimes and never forgetting them. This current stain on a house that is never free of stains in some form needs to be remembered and prevented. And we should all start using quotes when referring to executive mansion: The “White” House has been various shades of blood red from its inception.

RIP Amara Renas and all the other unknown women and men and children who fought on our behalf as well as their own. May you haunt our collective memory forever.

Normandy 2019

«One of the most brilliant things I’ve seen in a long time». Steve Bell and The Guardian continue to hit these out of the park. Go there and read, donate, support. They cover the U.S. as, if not more, effectively than the Times and Post or any other American news organization. Not that those exist anymore, but still.

Far more importantly, RIP Kurds. From you stretching back all the way to Columbus is a long, unbroken trail of genocide. Perhaps things will be just a tiny, marginally bit better in 2021. Knowing other Americans as I do, I’m not holding my breath. I am sincerely sorry that you will not have breath to hold until 2021. What a treasonous betrayal.

Impeach. Remove.

Movie Night: The Big Clock


Five Stars!

From 1948: That fabulous film noir, The Big Clock with Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester and Harry Morgan.

The « synopsis »:

“Stroud, a crime magazine’s crusading editor, has to postpone a vacation with his wife (again) when a glamorous blonde is murdered and he is assigned by his publishing boss Janoth to find the killer. As the investigation proceeds to its conclusion, Stroud must try to disrupt his ordinarily brilliant investigative team as they increasingly build evidence (albeit wrong) that he is the killer.”

TMDb

IMDb, (which is, as I always say, one of the many tentacles of the suffocating Amazonia totalitarian state in which we live), has «a slightly different way of putting it»:

“When powerful publishing tycoon Earl Janoth commits an act of murder at the height of passion, he cleverly begins to cover his tracks and frame an innocent man whose identity he doesn’t know but who just happens to have contact with the murder victim. That man is a close associate on his magazine whom he enlists to trap this ‘killer’ — George Stroud. It’s up to George to continue to ‘help’ Janoth, to elude the police and to find proof of his innocence and Janoth’s guilt.”

IMDb

The New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther was « impressed and urged people to see it and pay close attention »:

“… For this is a dandy clue-chaser of the modern chromium-plated type, but it is also an entertainment which requires close attention from the start.

“Actually, in the manner of the best detective fiction these days, it isn’t a stiff and stark whodunit activated around some stalking cop. Nary a wise-guy policeman clutters up the death-room or the clues. As a matter of fact, the policemen are not called in until the end. And the fellow who does the murder is known by the audience all along.

“He’s a dynamic publishing magnate, ruler of a realm of magazines and a double-dyed rogue who runs his business on the split-tick of a huge electric clock. In a mad, jealous moment, he kills his sweetie, a not very temperate young thing, and then calls upon the cagey editor of his crime magazine to find the man. Two circumstances make this ticklish. The clues have been rigged to make it look as though the murderer were another fellow. And the other fellow is—the editor.

“Out of this cozy situation of a guy trying to square himself, even though he is thoroughly innocent and knows perfectly who the murderer is, Scriptwriter Jonathan Latimer and Director John Farrow have fetched a film which is fast-moving, humorous, atmospheric and cumulative of suspense. No doubt there are holes in the fabric—even a rip or two, perhaps—and the really precision-minded are likely to spot them the first time around. But the plot moves so rapidly over them and provides such absorbing by-play that this not-too-gullible observer can’t precisely put his finger upon one. (That’s why we urge your close attention—just to see if there is anything to catch.)

“As the self-protection clue-collector, Ray Milland does a beautiful job of being a well-tailored smoothie and a desperate hunted man at the same time. Charles Laughton is characteristically odious as the sadistic publisher and George Macready is sleek as his henchman, while Maureen O’Sullivan is sweet as Ray’s nice wife. Exceptional, however, are several people who play small but electric character roles: Elsa Lanchester as a crack-pot painter and Douglas Spencer as a barman, best of all. Miss Lanchester is truly delicious with her mad pace and her wild, eccentric laugh.”

The New York Times

It is, indeed, a wonderful picture and Charles Laughton and his wife Elsa Lanchester are fabulous.


The Big Clock (1948) Lobby Card
The Big Clock (1948) Lobby Card

The Big Clock (1948) Stolen from Burt's Place
The Big Clock (1948) Stolen from Burt’s Place

Best quotes:

Earl Janoth: [talking on intercom to Steve Hagen] “On the fourth floor – in the broom closet – a bulb has been burning for several days. Find the man responsible, dock his pay.”

The Big Clock

Louise Patterson: [after George Stroud outbids her for a picture] “Isn’t it a pity… the wrong people always have money.”

Don Klausmeyer: “I’m Don Klausmeyer, from Artways magazine.”
Louise Patterson: “Yes. [giggles] Oh, yes. Didn’t you review my show in ’41?”
Don Klausmeyer: “I think I did.”
Louise Patterson: “Oh, come in, Mr. Klausmann.”
Don Klausmeyer: “KlausMEYER.”
Louise Patterson: [laughs gleefully] “I’ve been planning to kill you for years.”
Don Klausmeyer: “Our organization, the Janoth Publications, is trying to find someone, possibly a collector of your pictures.”
Louise Patterson: “So have I for fifteen years.”

IBID

Pauline York: “You know, Earl has a passion for obscurity. He won’t even have his biography in ‘Who’s Who’.”
George Stroud: “Sure. He doesn’t want to let his left hand know whose pocket the right one is picking.”

IBID

George Stroud: “You’re the only blonde in my life.”
Georgette Stroud: “I’m a brunette.”
George Stroud: “And you’re the only brunette too.”

IBID

Five Stars!

The Big Clock. 1948. TCM. English. John Farrow (d). Kenneth Fearing, Jonathan Latimer, Harold Goldman (w). Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Sullivan, George Macready, Rita Johnson, Elsa Lanchester, Harold Vermilyea, Dan Tobin, Harry Morgan, Richard Webb, Elaine Riley, Frank Orth, Lloyd Corrigan, Theresa Harris. (p). Victor Young (m). Daniel L. Fapp, John F. Seitz (c).


Movie Night: The Yellow Rolls Royce


Four Stars!

From 1964: A somewhat strange concoction, The Yellow Rolls Royce is a star-studded anthology, a look at the life of, well, a yellow Rolls Royce Phantom during the 1930s and 40s.

The synopsis:

“One Rolls-Royce belongs to three vastly different owners, starting with Lord Charles, who buys the car for his wife as an anniversary present. Another owner is Paolo Maltese, a mafioso who purchases the car during a trip to Italy and leaves it with his girlfriend while he returns to Chicago. Later, the car is owned by American widow Gerda, who joins the Yugoslavian resistance against the invading Nazis.”

TMDb

The New York Times reviewer A.H. Weiler wasn’t terribly kind to this “assembly line job.” He wrote on 14-May-65:

“… ‘The Yellow Rolls-Royce,’ which arrived yesterday at the Music Hall fresh from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s European works, performs, despite its color, opulence and surface polish, largely like an assembly-line job. It is, it should be stressed, a pretty slick vehicle, that is pleasing to the eye and occasionally amusing, but it hardly seems worthy of all the effort and the noted personalities involved in the three glossy but superficial stories that make up this shiny package. One is reminded of the now classic Rolls-Royce advertising slogan, “The loudest noise comes from the clock.”

“‘The Yellow Rolls Royce’ may be a rich, handsome, colorful vehicle. But, aside from its varied passengers, it simply indicates that the Rolls can be pretty rough on romance.”

The New York Times

The most enjoyable part of this vehicle (see what I did there?) is probably the Shirley MacLaine/Alain Delon/George C. Scott/Art Carney story. Scott is a Capone-style 20s gangster, MacLaine is his gun moll, and Delon is her seducer, while Carney gets to drive his boss and the moll around and keep tabs on what Delon is up to while sightseeing in the Rolls. I said enjoyable, but probably meant amused.

TCM accompanied this showing with a short shown in theaters at the time extolling the virtues of the Rolls Royce and its appearance in the forthcoming film. This makes it seem that Rolls Royce had paid millions for a movie-length advertisement, and that’s not far off the mark. There is an attempt to focus on the stories in the anthology, but that yellow car is always in at least the background, ubiquitous.

In other words, this is probably the granddaddy of all product placement movies, far more egregious than even Joan Crawford’s conspicuous scattering of Pepsi bottles in Strait Jacket (see below). The Yellow Rolls Royce is worth watching for the performances of the greats of the Golden Age’s transition into … whatever we call what came once the Golden Age was dead … but the value probably ends there. I gave it four stars simply for those performances by those greats; there’s not much more to it than those, sadly.


The Yellow Rolls Royce Theater Card

Shirley MacLaine and Alain Delon have a problem: George C. Scott.

Best quotes:

Mae Jenkins: [Looking indifferently at the leaning tower of Pisa] “So it leans. So a lot of things lean.”
Paolo Maltese: [Turning to Mae] “You ever heard of Galileo, maybe?”
Mae Jenkins: “Sure I have heard of Galileo.”
Paolo Maltese: [Turning to Joey] “She ever heard of Galileo?”
Joey Friedlander: “Nah …”
Paolo Maltese: “Five-six hundred years ago, this Galileo dropped two stones off that tower, one big one, and one little one.”
Mae Jenkins: “So?”
Paolo Maltese: “So he proved the law of gravity or somethin’. I don’t know.”
Mae Jenkins: “And brained a couple of citizens, maybe. Big deal.”

The Yellow Rolls Royce

Paolo Maltese: “And this is the girl, my fidanzata, that I am bringing home to meet my folks. Of all the women in the whole world that I can choose from to be my wife, who do I choose? An ignorant slob of a hatcheck girl who thinks Pisa – Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, Joey – is a stopping-off place between hamburger joints.”

Ibid

Four Stars!

The Yellow Rolls Royce. 1964. TCM. English. Anthony Asquith (d). Terence Rattigan (w). Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, Shirley MacLaine, Jeanne Moreau, George C. Scott, Omar Sharif, Alain Delon, Art Carney, Joyce Grenfell, Edmund Purdom, Wally Cox. (p). Riz Ortolani (m). Jack Hildyard (c).


Movie Night: Sweet Charity


Three Stars?

From 1968: It’s quite possibly the most depressing musical ever made, Sweet Charity. I’m not sure what this was supposed to be, but it also seems to be the most depressing play Neil Simon ever wrote. And it’s all a piece with the extremely depressing year in which it was made.

The «synopsis»:

“Taxi dancer Charity continues to have Faith in the human race despite apparently endless disappointments at its hands, and Hope that she will finally meet the nice young man to romance her away from her sleazy life. Maybe, just maybe, handsome Oscar will be the one to do it.”

TMDb

Back in the day, the UK’s «Spectator critic Penelope Houston» touched on all the problems of Sweet Charity, but apparently wasn’t as negative as I am about it:

“It seems a little hard to criticise a musical because of the financial circumstances of its heroine. Sweet Charity, though, is the sort of film which sways in its second half, like Funny Girl, towards the unrequited, grin-and-bear-it ending. What Charity Hope Valentine is grinning and bearing is life as a dance-hall hostess (in the Fellini original, on which the stage musical was based, life as a not very successful prostitute); and since the film is set fairly, squarely and lovingly in New York of the rich ‘sixties, there seems no particular reason why its heroine can’t find a line of work that appeals to her more. This is partly a hazard of the sort of musical which takes over the almost serious subject, and in the end tries to come to terms with it in the almost serious way. Plotlines which did for Italy in the 1950s fray badly when dropped down in the middle of all this expensive decoration, so set on making too much of too little.

“And, of course, the dancehall, that useful old Hollywood haunt for mistily reprehensible goings-on, actually comes across as a rather well-conducted establishment, with heroine’s friends Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly (both excellent) bounding about like a couple of genially astringent school prefects. But if Charity, played by Shirley MacLaine in her sharpest innocent-at-large style, really wants to escape, it’s hard to see what is holding her back.

“One is supposed to find Charity’s plight rather true and touching; and on the whole doesn’t. And it is perhaps tough on Shirley MacLaine that her particular line in rueful, shrewd, precariously hopeful fatalism, though executed as winningly as ever, already suggests a speculation which the film doesn’t care to take up: the heroine of The Apartment almost ten years on, the valiant last of the kooky girls. All the same, the performance bounces, as does the film when it’s looking down the line of morose dance-hall girls (‘Hey, Big Spender’), ambling into Fellini parody in an absurd mock-Roman nightclub, or flinging its dancing girls about a grubby rooftop in a number so nostalgic for older musicals that one is only surprised they don’t burst into ‘New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town.'”

Penelope Houston, The Spectator

“Precariously hopeful fatalism.” That’s a pretty fair, if paradoxical, take on Charity’s life outlook.

The film starts with Charity being dumped (quite literally) by her would-be fiancee and nearly drowning. It proceeds through an obviously doomed night with a celebrity film director, then follows an ultimately, but not so obviously doomed, engagement and ends with a “Keep on the Sunny Side” denouement … “keep your chin up even if it’s been ground into the dirt,” is I guess how I would describe it.

As I said, it’s all surprisingly depressing for a musical, but the late 60s was a depressing decade. The same year as Sweet Charity was released saw the assassinations of MLK and RFK and the end to any dream of a Camelot restoration, plus mass riots and worsening casualties in the pointless failure of the war in Vietnam. That would seem to indicate that a big movie musical would need to provide a necessary uplift to viewers: toe-tapping, heartening, he-gets-the-girl-they-live-happily-ever-after type of stuff. Instead, audiences were treated to a sweet girl being dumped brutally three straight times and musical numbers that seemed to celebrate girls begging for money (“Hey Big Spender …”), jealousy (“If my friends could see me now …”), girls trapped in bad situations (“There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This …”) and a sense of hopeless wandering (“Where Am I Going? …”). An American in Paris it ain’t (“Our Love is Here to Stay,” “Tra-la-la (This Time It’s Really Love),”I Got Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” etc., etc.), but I suppose that was the difference between 1951 and 1968.

Audiences seemed to agree with the “depressing” assessment; while it cost $20 million to make, it only brought in $8 million at the box office and just about destroyed Universal, which then, so the story goes, forced it to make the successful Airport (1970), a film whose star Burt Lancaster described as “a piece of junk,” but which, according to «Box Office Mojo», made $100,489,151. That one had a happy ending, with the bad guy dead and everyone/everything else saved (Helen Hayes and a Boeing 707), with the notable exception of Dean Martin/Barbara Hale’s marriage.

Shirley MacLaine is wonderful in Sweet Charity, as she has been in pretty much everything she’s ever done. It’s worth noting that a “corny” happy ending was filmed because Bob Fosse feared the studio would want it, but the studio surprised him and decided to keep the original stage musical ending. I think it was the right decision, but regardless of which ending you use, this thing was probably not rescue-able. The songs and dances, Shirley MacLaine and Cita Rivera, et al, were great; it’s just the stuff in between that is less than satisfying.


Sweet Charity Lobby Card
Sweet Charity Lobby Card

Best quotes:

Charity Hope Valentine: “Wow, this place is sure full of celebrities. I’m the only one in here I’ve never heard of.”

Sweet Charity

Charity Hope Valentine: “Fickle Finger of Fate!”

Ibid

Helene: “There ain’t no use flappin’ your wings, ’cause we are stuck in the flypaper of life!”

Ibid

Vittorio: “Without love, life would have no purpose.”

Ibid

Oscar Lindquist: “The odds against us are at least a hundred to one.”
Charity Hope Valentine: “Those are the best odds I ever had.”

Ibid

Three Stars?

Sweet Charity. 1969. TCM. English. Bob Fosse (d). Neil Simon, Peter Stone, Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano (w). Shirley MacLaine, John McMartin, Ricardo Montalban, Sammy Davis Jr., Chita Rivera, Paula Kelly, Stubby Kaye, Barbara Bouchet, Alan Hewitt, Ben Cy Coleman (m). Robert Surtees (c).


Movie Night: Strait Jacket

["'Tina! Bring me the axe!" Joan Crawford hacks up the Six Million Dollar Man in 1964's Strait-Jacket. "Lucy Harbin took an axe, gave her husband forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave his girlfriend forty one."]
Four and 1/2 stars!

From 1964 (and presented by the fabulous Svengoolie): It’s Mommie Dearest with an axe, but with a twist! Here is Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket!

The «synopsis»:

“After a 20 year stay at an asylum for a double murder, a mother returns to her estranged daughter where suspicions arise about her behaviour.”

TMDb

IMDb has «a slightly different way of putting it»:

“After a twenty-year stay at an asylum for a double murder, a mother returns to her estranged daughter where suspicions arise about her behavior. “

IMDb

Oh, okay, that’s not so different. Hmmm. Is there collusion between those two sites? But how else would you describe this thing? Let’s check «Rotten Tomatoes» then:

“In this chilling blood-tale in ‘Psycho’ style, Robert Bloch modernizes the Lizzy Borden story. A wife (Joan Crawford) literally axes her cheating husband and his lover, witnessed by her three-year-old daughter. Mom is packed off to the insane asylum for 20 years before reuniting with the daughter (Diane Baker). From this point, the axe murders continue along a contrived plot intended to lead the audience astray until the mystery is solved. Crawford’s strong performance and the excellently constructed suspense are the best elements of the film—and the chopping saves the show when the plot tends to slow.”

Rotten Tomatoes

But more importantly, what did critics say about Mommie Dearest, er, I mean Strait Jacket? Shaun Mulvihill over at Fan Boy Nation pretty much covers it very well:

“… Strait-Jacket is now hailed as a camp classic, which it is no doubt, but it’s also a throwback melodrama that is punctuated by its moments of violent ax murders. Shout!

“Having not seen Strait-Jacket in at least 10 years, one thing stood out in revisiting the film on the new Blu-ray – this film isn’t too dissimilar to the sordid drama of «Mildred Pierce» that won Joan Crawford her lone Oscar. Even though in the wake of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, as Crawford was being repurposed as a scream queen, she always gave her all to the performance. Strait-Jacket may have been seen as a B-movie to the studio and the critics reviewing the film in 1964, Crawford gives an A performance as the mentally ravaged Lucy Harbin. Of course, Crawford made sure to employ her role as the spokeswoman of Pepsi in the film, inserting six-packs of Pepsi throughout the film.
“The violence of Strait-Jacket looks quaint by today’s standards, with some rather unrealistic looking limbs being violently severed by a swinging ax. Even though Strait-Jacket is released after Herschell Gordon Lewis created the modern gore film with Blood Feast, Strait-Jacket is remarkably graphic for a studio film of its era. The posters used the violence as a selling point, proclaiming, ‘Strait-Jacket vividly depicts ax murders!’ I won’t lie, the violence of Strait-Jacket is funny by today’s standards, but it’s important to remember its context of film violence of its era.

“There’s no defending Crawford the person and her deplorable actions. On the screen, though, she shined bright and continues to shine as her classic are restored and revived on home video. Strait-Jacket may not have been her proudest moment, but you’d never know it from her dedicated performance. It’s a true testament to Crawford’s presence as a performer that Strait-Jacket is much more a Joan Crawford picture than a William Castle picture. Castle was a great showman and huckster, and he stepped aside to give the spotlight to bigger showman. William Castle knew he didn’t need a gimmick when he had Joan Crawford.”

Fan Boy Nation

It’s all tremendous fun, especially if you remember the context. Yes, it foreshadows Mommie Dearest, which makes you wonder where that particular flick came from (did Christina Crawford confuse a viewing of Strait-Jacket with her life? Oh, sorry. I’m sure her trauma was very real.) But for gosh sake, cinema Joan wielding the axe on Lee Majors in 1964 and then supposedly-real-life Joan wielding the axe on a tree 17 years later is rather … interesting.

Nonetheless, it’s always a fun time. The bonuses here are George Kennedy as a farmhand foreshadowing by 22 years Billy Bob Thornton in 1996’s Swing Blade (“I like them French fried potaters.”), all the Pepsi placement, and Lee Majors in pre-Six Million Dollar Man mode, along with his very hairy chest, fluffily rising and falling just before the axe falls. Also fun is Edith Atwater as a society matron, her tut-tut husband Howard St. John, and their son, John Anthony Hayes as their son in the very-good-looking-man role, who discovers something very unsettling about his would-be fiancee.

The ending, featuring Edith Atwater’s horrifying discovery and a mask and Joan suddenly replaying her role as Nurse Lucretia Terry in The Caretakers (1963), is pretty fabulous, but shhhhh, don’t reveal it to anyone so as not to spoil their spine-tingly, horrifyingly good time! Watch it!


Strait-Jacket Lobby Card
Strait-Jacket Lobby Card

Best quotes:

Daughter Dearest, they should have called this thing. Love these quotes, especially, “Lucy Harbin took an axe …”

Carol Harbin: “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! No I didn’t mean that, I love you. I hate you!”

Strait-Jacket

First little girl: “Lucy Harbin took an axe, gave her husband forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave his girlfriend forty one.”
Carol Harbin: [Lucy storms out to find two girls playing jump rope] “What is it, Mother?”
Lucy Harbin: “I heard them …”
First little girl: “London bridge is falling down, falling down, London bridge is falling down, my fair lady.”
Carol Harbin: “It’s just a nursery rhyme, mother.”
Second little girl: “Take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up, take the key and lock her up, my fair lady.”

Ibid

Four and a half stars – for the camp value alone!

Strait-Jacket. 1964. MeTV. English. William Castle (d). Robert Bloch (w). Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, Leif Erickson, Howard St. John, John Anthony Hayes, Rachelle Hudson, George Kennedy, Edith Atwater, Mitchell Cox and Lee Majors' hairy chest as one of the axe victims. (p). Van Alexander (m). Arthur E. Arling (c).


Movie Night: A Cry in the Night

[The movie poster for A Cry in the Night. What did "Cert X" mean? Was Perry Mason in an X-rated film?!]

Four Stars!

From 1956: A weird flip-flop which is like a Perry Mason episode … because it stars Perry Mason‘s Raymond Burr as a violent voyeur/kidnapper and Perry Mason‘s Richard Anderson (more famous for the Bionic Man/Woman stuff) as one of Burr’s victims. The bonus here is the kidnappee is Natalie Wood.

The «synopsis»:

“A police captain’s emotions get in the way when his daughter is kidnapped.”

TMDb

IMDb’s «synopsis» isn’t much better:

“A deranged man kidnaps the nubile daughter of a police captain. “

IMDb

There doesn’t seem to be any contemporary reviews of this noir, so we’ll have to rely on a «user review on IMDb by “bmacv”», who writes:

“When Raymond Burr’s face (grotesquely lighted by John F. Seitz) looms out of the shrubbery at Lovers’ Loop [sic], he adds A Cry in the Night to his long string of films in which he cemented his reputation as the noir cycle’s most indispensable and unforgettable creep. He’s prowling the petting grounds looking for a girl, and doesn’t care how he gets her. Assaulting the male half (Richard Anderson) of a necking couple, he kidnaps the other (Natalie Wood), spiriting her off to a den he’s fixed up in an abandoned brickyard. This time, though, there’s a catch to Burr’s villainy: He’s a dim-witted hulk, a childish monster akin to Lennie in Of Mice And Men.

“Even less wholesome is Carol Veazie as Burr’s doting, sweet-toothed mother. Managing simultaneously to suggest Dame Judith Anderson, Jean Stapleton and Doris Roberts, she shuffles around drinking coffee in her horse-blanket bathrobe, whining about that missing slice of apricot pie. Nineteen-fifty-six, some may recall, was the high-water mark of a national panic about ‘Momism,’ a threat deemed scarcely less perilous to the republic than the international Communist conspiracy; Veazie endures as one of its most formidable operatives (her successors would include the unseen Mrs. Bates in Psycho, Angela Lansbury’s Mrs. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate, and Marjorie Bennet’s Dehlia Flagg in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?).”

IMDb

The reviewer is right: Whatever the novelty of seeing goodie two-shoes Perry Mason as a Peeping Tom/Kidnapper, it’s Carol Veazie who is the standout. She is indeed freaky-deaky, rattling on about her “something sweet before bed from Baby,” that brought to my mind “It puts the lotion in the basket” dude from Silence of the Lambs. After watching so much Perry Mason over the last year or so, thanks to MeTV (I had never seen an episode of it before), seeing his freaky turn was a bit laughable. But Veazie: Now THAT was truly creepy.

Edmond O’Brien and Brian Donlevy were good as always as the cops, and Irene Hervey was so very 1950s mother that at first I thought she was Jane Wyatt of Father Knows Best, the quintessential 1950s mom. Natalie Wood gave the screaming her best and pre-Perry Mason‘s Richard Anderson competently walked around in a daze.

The weirdest thing in this weird concoction though was the very short subplot of Madge (Mary Lawrence), who is, we can only guess, O’Brien’s sister? Wood’s sister? Who knows? She’s there for a couple of scenes, Hervey says Madge is unhappy because she’s unmarried and then <boom> nothing further happens with her. Weird, weird, weird.

Still, it’s all good clean, dirty fun, that says much about the decade it was made in, as well as being a good example of its genre. Worth a look if you get the chance.


Perry Mason, er, Raymond Burr Strangles Natalie Wood!

Best quotes:

Terence McNally knows how to write ’em:

Capt. Dan Taggart: “I just wanna know what’s bothering Madge.”
Helen Taggart: “She isn’t married, that’s what’s bothering her. She’s 37 years old and she isn’t married.”

A Cry in the Night

Boy on Motorcycle: “Sock her again! They love it!”

Ibid

Capt. Ed Bates: “How do ya tell a guy that his kid has been grabbed?”

Ibid

Capt. Dan Taggart: “I don’t care about your coffee! Your son has kidnapped my child!”

Ibid

Four Stars!

A Cry in the Night. 1956. TCM. English. Frank Tuttle (d). David Dortort, Whit Masterson (w). Edmond O'Brien, Brian Donlevy, Natalie Wood, Raymond Burr, Richard Anderson, Irene Hervey, Carol Veazie, Mary Lawrence, Herb Vigran. (p). David Buttolph (m). John F. Seitz (c).


Movie Night: The Ritz

[Like Jack Weston in The Ritz, we sat with our mouths open the entire movie.]
3 3/4 Stars!

From 1976: What’s the hell is this thing?! Antonio Salieri as a gay, towel-clad habitué of … a gay bath house? The Four Season‘s Jack Weston as a mob family son-in-law on the run who hides in … a gay bath house? Treat Williams doing a high-pitched voice “thing” running around in a towel in … a gay bath house? Rita Moreno as the drag-queen-esque singer in … a gay bath house? Ben Stiller’s Jewish daddy playing a pissed-off Italian mobster running around in aa towel and garters trying to find Jack Weston for “offing” purposes … in a gay bathhouse? Kaye Ballard screaming and fainting … in a gay bathhouse? Paul Price as a chubby chaser … in a gay bathhouse?

Yes, it’s all those things and more in «The Ritz» … a gay bathhouse … with the aforementioned Jack Weston, Rita Moreno, Treat Williams, Jerry Stiller, Kaye Ballard, Paul Price and in what was for me, a performance better deserving of an Oscar than that Amadeus thing: F. Murray Abraham. For 1976, this thing was pretty advanced. Major stars or soon-to-be stars (Abraham’s Oscar came a mere eight years later.)

But so much to write about here. Regardless of whether you saw it then as scandalous that such perversions were being exhibited in public theaters or whether you see it now as being stereotypical, offensive and overly focused on white, male, straight actors and queer panics and Italian stereotypes, to wit … offensive!! … there is much to actually be loved here. Ahead of its time, groundbreaking, unheard-of and un-mentionable, we laughed out loud a lot, even at the corny bits. But I guess that could be that we are, after all, two fags of a certain age (I was 12 1/2 when this thing came out, but seem to have no memory of it, largely because the churches of Duncan, Oklahoma, would have collectively LOST. THEIR. SHIT. and burned down the theater which dared to satanically show this reeking pile of offensive (there’s that word again) spitting in the face of the Christ child … ergo, I didn’t see it, it was only moderately successful and many of its reviewers were clueless about what it all meant.

So yes, there are problems.

The synopsis:

“On his deathbed Carmine Vespucci’s father tells him to ‘get Proclo.’ With ‘the hit’ on, Gaetano tells a cab driver to take him where Carmine can’t find him. He arrives at the Ritz, a gay bathhouse.”

TMDb

IMDb, one of the many tentacles of the suffocating Amazonia totalitarian state in which we live, has «a slightly longer way of putting it»:

“On his deathbed, Carmine Vespucci’s mobster father tells him to ‘get Proclo’ – Carmine’s brother-in-law Gaetano. With ‘the hit’ on, Gaetano tells a cab driver to take him where Carmine can’t find him. He arrives at The Ritz, a gay bathhouse where he is pursued amorously by ‘chubby chaser’ Claude and by entertainer Googie Gomez, who believes him to be a Broadway producer. His guides and protectors through The Ritz are gatekeeper Abe, habitué Chris, and bellhop/go-go boys Tiger and Duff. Squeaky-voiced detective Michael Brick and his employer Carmine do locate Gaetano at the Ritz, as does his wife Vivian, but family secrets come out.”

IMDb

The late and much lamented Roger Ebert «seemed a bit bemused» by The Ritz back in the day:

“One of the character’s problems, though — and it becomes the movie’s problem as well — is that he’s so unbelievably dumb, so slow to catch on. Forty-five minutes into the movie, he’s still doing incredulous double-takes and mouthing forbidden words as he discovers what his fellow patrons are doing in their cubicles. I don’t know if we’re supposed to identify with his endless state of shock — or laugh at it — but after a while we wish the movie would be funny about something else.
And, just in the nick of time, it does. Weston runs into two of the denizens of the Ritz: The unflaggingly ambitious would-be singer Googie Gomez, and the indefatigable Claude. Each has a personal reason for pursuing Weston: Claude has a fetish for fat guys, and Googie thinks Weston is a big-time Broadway producer who will discover her and hire her for — who knows? — maybe a bus-and-truck tour of “Oklahoma!” Googie, played by Rita Moreno, has some of the funniest moments in the movie. To the incongruous accompaniment of a poolside orchestra in black tie, she butchers several song-and-dance numbers, loses a shoe and a wig and winds up in the pool. She is also ferocious in her ambition, tossing rivals down the laundry chute and promising Weston the hanky-panky will start after her second show.

“And yet ‘The Ritz’ never quite succeeds. Its ambition is clearly to be a screwball comedy in the tradition of the 1930s classics and such recent attempts as ‘What’s Up, Doc?‘ and ‘Silent Movie.’ But it lacks the manic pacing, and the material grows thin; Terrence McNally’s screenplay (based on his own play) depends so completely on comic material dealing with homosexuality that other opportunities are lost. And Richard Lester’s direction is a little erratic; the movie lunges forward and then hits dead spots, and the final 10 minutes seem to take forever to dispose of various plot points. Still, ‘The Ritz’ has, its moments. When again will we see Jack Weston as an Andrews sister?”

Roger Ebert

When again indeed? Well, uh, never! Which is the conceit, although by the time he appears as an Andrews Sister, he looks a lot like George Wendt of Cheers fame. But that’s an aside.

This one could open up cans upon cans of works about the way we see old cultural pieces through the lens of today’s culture wars. The intersectionaled, cisgendered lesbian womyn of today probably wouldn’t appreciate this one. There’s some disgusting stereotypes with Googie as Rita Moreno playing up her New York Puerto Rican accents (example: “One of dees days ju is going to see de name of Googie Gomez up in lights and you gonna ask to juself, ‘Gwas dat her?’ An den ju gonna answer to juself, ‘Jes, dat gwas her!’ Well, let me tell you something, Mister: I gwas ALWAYS her, jus dat nobody knows it!'” That’s sure to make the next generation’s SJWs all go into a tizzy.

Except they won’t because ultimately, this thing is being shown on Retro or TCM or something and


The Ritz
The Ritz

Best quotes:

Terence McNally knows how to write ’em:

Gaetano Proclo: “Listen, there’s something I have to tell you.”
Chris: “You’re not gay?”
Gaetano Proclo: [relieved] “No!”
Chris: “What, are you a social worker or something?”
Gaetano Proclo: “No, but I didn’t know that everyone in here was …”
Chris: “GAY! See? It’s not a bad word. You might try using it sometime.”
Gaetano Proclo: “You mean to tell me that everyone in here is gay?”
Chris: “God, I hope so. Otherwise I just paid ten dollars to walk around in a towel in front of a bunch of Shriners.”

The Ritz (1976)

Gaetano Proclo: “We used to have a guy like that back in the army. We called him ‘Get away from me Claude.'”

Ibid

Patron With Cigar: “Crisco.”
Gaetano Proclo: “What?”
Patron With Cigar: “Crisco Oil Party. Room 419. Pass it on.”
Gaetano Proclo: “Pass what on?”
Patron With Cigar: “Bring Joey.”
Gaetano Proclo: “Who’s Joey?”
Patron With Cigar: “You know Joey. Don’t bring Chuck. You’ve got that?”
Gaetano Proclo: “Crisco Oil Party. Room 419. I can bring Joey but not Chuck.”
Patron With Cigar: “Check.”
Gaetano Proclo: “What’s the matter with Chuck?”
[answer is whispered in his ear]
Gaetano Proclo: [absolutely horrified] “Chuck is definitely out!”
Patron With Cigar: [walking away] “Hey, you won’t be disappointed.”

Ibid

Googie Gomez: “Think of a tropical night. Think of a beetch.”
Gaetano Proclo: “What bitch?”

Ibid

3 3/4 Stars!

The Ritz. 1976. TCM. English. Richard Lester (d). Terrence McNally (w). Jack Weston, Rita Moreno, Jerry Stiller, Kaye Ballard, F. Murray Abraham, Paul B. Price, Treat Williams, Dave King, Peter Butterworth. (p). Denis O'Dell (m). Paul Wilson (c).


Movie Night: An American Tragedy

[Phillips Holmes in An American Tragedy, realizing he really does hate that grasping little factory girl and would be much happier drowning her.]

FourStars

From 1931: «An American Tragedy» with Phillips Holmes, Sylvia Sidney and Frances Dee. The first cinematic adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s novel of the same name, it was eventually remade as a more famous film in 1951 starring Montgomery Clift, Shirley Winters and Elizabeth Taylor: A Place in the Sun.

But this version has much to recommend it. Except the sound. The sound is like what Singin’ in the Rain was parodying. Sound in motion pictures wasn’t yet refined, so everything in the pic, especially background noise, is loud and excruciating. In the courtroom scene when the D.A. pounds his fist on the bannister in front of the accused, the resounding thuds shook the walls. Meanwhile, whole sections of dialogue were hard to pick up. Just a quibble.

The synopsis:

“A social climber charms a debutante, seduces a factory worker and commits murder.”

TMDb

It’s hard to find reviews for films of this age, but fortunately «Richard Cross of 20/20 Movie Reviews» came through, writing in 2013 and comparing the two film versions:

“An American Tragedy was remade in 1951 with Montgomery Clift in the role played here by Holmes but, while this version isn’t without its faults (which are due more to its age rather than any inherent flaws). it’s far superior to the Clift version, even though Griffith (or Eastman, as he was called in the later version), is a much more sympathetic character in the second movie. Holmes’s version is selfish and manipulative, and yet we never entirely lose some level of sympathy for him. Deep down he’s not a bad person, but he falls victim—like Roberta—to his own cowardice and weakness of character. These character flaws are gradually and painfully exposed during the trial, a lengthy sequence which was once one of the film’s strengths but which appears a little far-fetched and overacted today. The grandstanding acting style of Charles Middleton (Flash Gordon’s nemesis, Ming the Merciless) and Irving Pichel is a real drawback which isn’t helped by the way Samuel Hoffenstein’s screenplay call upon them to almost engage in fisticuffs. Overall though, An American Tragedy stands up well for its age.”

Richard Cross

Dreiser’s work, and therefore the two films, was based on the real life murder of «Grace Brown by Chester Gillette» in an upper New York lake on 11-Jul-1906. Basically, amoral social climber from poor background seduces poor factory girl, gets her pregnant, wants to marry a rich socialite and so kills poor factory girl by smashing her in the head with his tennis racket and dumping her body in a lake, fakes a canoe accident, trips self up by being basically an idiot, dies in electric chair after mercy is refused by Governor Charles Evans Hughes.

Both movie versions were faithful to the book and real life, as far as these things go. The real life event could stand the Erik Larson deep dive nonfiction treatment, to see how and where Dreiser departed from events. For the 1931 film, Holmes manages to make you want to both hug him and strangle him. Sadly, Holmes’ extensive career, including an appearance in the Our Gange feature General Spanky, came to an end thanks to World War II. He had just completed flight training in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was being transferred from Winnipeg to Ottawa, when the transport he was riding in collided in mid air with another aircraft over Ontario. He was only 35.

An American Tragedy Poster
[Including this poster from An American Tragedy because it’s too awesome and Art Deco for words. Now THAT’S a movie poster!]

Best quotes:

Well, there’s not any from the movie, really. These are from the book:

“Clyde had a soul that was not destined to grow up. He lacked decidedly that mental clarity and inner directing application that in so many permits them to sort out from the facts and avenues of life the particular thing or things that make for their direct advancement.” “

An American Tragedy (book)

“And they were always testifying as to how God or Christ or Divine Grace had rescued them from this or that predicament—never how they had rescued any one else.”

Ibid

“For in some blind, dualistic way both she and Asa insisted, as do all religionists, in disassociating God from harm and error and misery, while granting Him nevertheless supreme control. They would seek for something else—some malign, treacherous, deceiving power which, in the face of God’s omniscience and omnipotence, still beguiles and betrays—and find it eventually in the error and perverseness of the human heart, which God has made, yet which He does not control, because He does not want to control it.”

Ibid

4 Stars! (Because sound. Ow.)

An American Tragedy. 1931. TCM. English. Josef von Sternberg, Hans Dreier (d). Phillips Holmes, Sylvia Sidney, Frances Dee, Irving Pichel, Frederick Burton, Clair McDowell, Charles Middleton, Arnold Korff. (p). John Leipold, Ralph Rainger (m). Lee Garmes (c).


Movie Night: Thieves’ Highway

["Let me smoke your butt, Nick!" Valentina Cortese and Richard Conte in Thieves' Highway. Take that Bogie and Bacall!]
4 3/4 Stars!

From 1949: «Thieves’ Highway». We weren’t really planning to watch, but were drawn in immediately. I think we had seen it before, but it’s been a long while. Glad we watched. Ironically, Valentina Cortese just passed away on 10-Jul of this year. Watching her performance here was fitting, and showed just how big of a loss was her passing.

Thieves’ Highway is a classic Noir tale of truckers and apples and greed and sex and San Francisco and California and highways and death. Besides the fabulous Valentina Cortese and Richard Conte, it features Lee J. Cobb in a dress rehearsal for his role in On the Waterfront, Jack Oakie and Millard Mitchell, who would be seen six years later in the classic Singin’ in the Rain, as the movie producer R.F. Simpson.

The synopsis:

“Nick Garcos comes back from his tour of duty in World War II planning to settle down with his girlfriend, Polly Faber. He learns, however, that his father was recently beaten and burglarized by mob-connected trucker Mike Figlia, and Nick resolves to get even. He partners with prostitute Rica, and together they go after Mike, all the while getting pulled further into the local crime underworld.”

TMDb

Michael Sragow, writing in an essay for the Criterion Collection «Thieves’ Highway: Dangerous Fruit» has some nice observations:

“Like the movie’s rattletrap trucks lurching down the highway as they carry way-too-heavy loads, the characters in Jules Dassin’s brilliantly volatile Thieves’ Highway struggle under psychological and moral baggage until they can lay their burdens down. Working from a novel and script by A.I. Bezzerides, Dassin made this swift, fluid melodrama in 1949, after Brute Force and The Naked City. … it has a rich sensuality all its own.


“All the symbols in this movie are rock-hard and understated. The white military star on Nick’s truck makes a mute, omnipresent comment on postwar disillusion. And each time you hear “Golden Delicious,” the image it conjures of Olympian delight contrasts sardonically with the perils of the road and the savage competition of the San Francisco marketplace.”

Michael Sragow, The Criterion Collection

(I love how Sragow introduces Nico: “Garcos … has sailed around the world without ever getting worldly.” HA!)

He then notes the inner workings of the film and places it in context:

“Dassin … is just as deft as Kazan in Boomerang! (1947) or Panic in the Streets (1950) at using real locations for knifelike verisimilitude, then catching their most far-out and surprising emotional repercussions.”

“Dassin begins scenes with compositions that border on cliché–whether of a cheerful Fresno suburb or the bustling streets and crowded pier-side haunts of San Francisco’s marketplace. But each time, he punctures the cliché with cascades of complex details emerging spontaneously from the conflicted drives of the characters and the life-or-death stakes of their situations.”

IBID

Sragow, writing 1-Feb-05, then notes something that is culturally a hot button right now: toxic masculinity:

“Under Dassin’s direction, Conte here minted a fresh leading-man archetype-a rough-edged, virile naïf, containing equal amounts of violent distrust and gallantry. And Mitchell brings deep-grained orneriness to Ed, a summa cum laude from the school of hard knocks, willing to rook others to satisfy his sense of justice. What gives this movie its charge isn’t just the physical danger of the road and the injustice perpetrated when fixers like Figlia use dirty tricks on truckers and buyers—it’s the psychological drama of men tossed off balance by want and need as they strive to achieve equilibrium.”

“Ed pulls Nick out from under his truck after Nick botches a tire change and gets his face buried in sand. When the older man bandages his neck, and these two finally forge a bond, Nick mutters that passersby might get the wrong idea.”

IBID

Pretty advanced for 1949, but like the ending, it gets set right: Nothin’ but manly man hetero stuff … 1949’s equivalent of “No Homo.”

And just so we’re clear that Conte/Mitchell and Oakie/Pevney are just no homo bros, in comes Rico to keep the men manly. Curiously, she’s rather butch, both in her toughness and her physical, trenchcoat-wearing appearance. In fact she’s sporting a short Italian haircut (which would be the focus of an I Love Lucy episode in a few years), which accentuates her Italian “earthiness,” (also the focus of an I Love Lucy episode in a few years). AND her character was originally named “Tex.” (See the paragraph about Hope Emerson below for more on this stuff.) Sragow sums it up:

“Played by Valentina Cortese with dazzling emotional clarity and erotic warmth, she’s at once this film’s beating heart and the center of its existential concerns–she dares Nick to trust his instincts and trust her, despite her shady deal-making and background.”

IBID

The review is also interesting because it delves into the writing:

“Bezzerides’ writing at its peak boasts a dynamic blend of iconoclasm and bitterness–an ideal combination for the intersection of kinetics and moodiness that is film noir.

“Bezzerides objected to several alterations to his book and deplored the casting of Dassin’s then-girlfriend Cortese in a role originally called “Tex.” But in movie terms, he was incorrect on every count–to use his phrase, the only truly “chickenshit change” was a studio-inserted scene in which cops berate Nick for taking the law into his own hands. Cortese’s sometimes comical, sometimes poignant, always live-wire oomph makes this proletariat adventure unique and gives it the ravaged soul and earthy glamour of a demimonde romance. No gal in movies has ever looked sexier or more good-humored drying her hair after a shower. When Nick says Rica has “soft hands,” she says she has “sharp claws.” She uses them only to play tic-tac-toe on his chest–a fitting game for a film in which one false move can turn ethical and commercial triumph into disaster.”

IBID

In a shorter review, «John Chard» agrees with Sragow, and adds that the chicken shit ending, tacked on to appease the Production Code’s moralists, is ridiculous:

“Revenge, hope and desperation drives Dassin’s intelligently constructed noir forward. It’s a film very much interested in its characterisations as it doles out a deconstruction of the American dream. … Dassin and Bezzerides push a revenge theme to the forefront whilst deftly inserting from the sides the devils of greed and corruption of the California produce business.
“The trucks’ journey is brilliantly captured by the makers, both exciting and exuding the menace of the hard slog for truckers. … [once in San Francisco] underhand tactics come seeping out and the appearance of prostitute Rica (Cortese) into Nico’s life adds a morally grey area that pings with sharp dialogue exchanges. Real location photography adds to the authentic feel of the story, and cast performances are quite simply excellent across the board.
“The code appeasing ending hurts the film a touch, inserted against Dassin’s wishes, and there’s a feeling that it should have been more damning with the economic tropes; while the fact that Nico’s father is more concerned about being robbed of money than losing the use of his legs – is a bit strange to say the least. However, from a graveyard of tumbling apples to the fact that more than money is stolen here, Thieves’ Highway is sharp, smart and engrossing stuff.”

John Chard, TMDb

Sharp, smart, engrossing … and for us LGBTQ+ viewers, chock full of forbidden fruit.

We loved this one. Having spent many years in the Bay Area, we could relate to much of the scenery and sensibilities and subtext.

And speaking of subtext again, worth noting is the appearance of the wonderful Hope Emerson, a career character actor with a long list of credits, including Adam’s Rib in the same year as Thieves’ Highway. In Adam’s Rib, she played a very talented gymnast in a courtroom, in a role that noted both how big and butch she was, in an era when that kind of thing was invisible. She is somewhat the same in Thieves’ Highway, minus the gymnastics, as a very tough female fruit buyer. Dassin pretty much broke the Code in multiple ways throughout the movie; although the Code had the last say with its smarmy cop platitudinal lecturing about not taking the law in your own hands, the weight of his film said, “Nuts to you!” to the Code.

A good pairing for this would be The Grapes of Wrath, which starts with starving Okies hitting Route 66 in search of fruit picking work. Follow that with Thieves’ Highway and you get a clear picture of what it takes to get an apple off a tree into the teeth of someone wanting to cheat a doctor a day.

Sadly, much is unchanged in this process, except the grower, the picker, the trucker and the distributor-to-grocery-stores are all corporate behemoths and conditions may, if anything, be worse than 1940’s Grapes of Wrath and 1949’s Thieves’ Highway. We’ve let much slide since Reagan, who married anti-New Deal propaganda with our generation’s laziness and produced massive rollbacks of workers’ rights (and the current occupant of the White House), and our grandchildren will have to fight three times as hard as their ancestors between 1870 and 1950 did for decency, living wages, respect, clean air, clean water, and safe working conditions. Whether they will do it remains to be seen.


Best quotes:

Nico ‘Nick’ Garcos: [to Rica] “You look like chipped glass.”

Thieves’ Highway

Nick: “Hey, do you like apples?”
Rica: “Everybody likes apples, except doctors.”
Nick: “Do you know what it takes to get an apple so you can sink your beautiful teeth in it? You gotta stuff rags up tailpipes, farmers gotta get gypped, you jack up trucks with the back of your neck, universals conk out.”
Rica: “I don’t know what are you talking about, but I have a new respect for apples.”

Thieves’ Highway

My rating: Four 3/4 stars; Not a full five because of the Code-appeasing ending, tacked on against the director’s protests.

Thieves Highway. 1949. TCM. English. Jules Dassin (d); A.I. Bezzerides (w); Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J. Cobb, Barbara Lawrence, Jack Oakie, Millard Mitchell, Joseph Pevney, Morris Carnovsky, Tamara Shayne, Kasia Orzazewski, Norbert Schiller, Hope Emerson (p). Alfred Newman (m). Norbert Brodine (c).


Movie Night: Apollo 11

[Is my lipstick on straight? Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin taking first pics on the moon in Apollo 11. Houston, there's no Fotomat around here!]

5 Stars!

From 2019: «Apollo 11». It’s the 50th anniversary, in case you hadn’t heard, of humans on the moon, so this is an appropriate thing to do. We missed it on IMAX back in March, but it’s still pretty awesome on a home UHF bigscreen.

The synopsis:

“A look at the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon led by commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin.”
—TMDb

And CMP Michael Collins, it should be added.

It’s a magnificent bit of cinema and well-worth watching, especially on this day. It freshly reminds you of just exactly how incredible the achievement of half-a-billion people, represented by three men, was, in an incredibly difficult decade.

This one also stands out because of fresh, never-released footage and the filmmakers’ approach.

Sandra Hall «noted» its rejection of typical documentary or cinema techniques which would have landed it solidly in the middle of the pack of 50-year anniversary docs:

“Miller uses no voiceover. Nor are there contemporary interviews looking back on the mission and its legacy. Thanks to the vividness of the footage and some inspired editing, he has succeeded in recapturing the atmosphere of the time. The air of immediacy he’s conjured up entices you into accepting the illusion that the mission happened only yesterday. …
“Nor is there any of the heightened drama that fiction has bestowed on those crucial seconds as Armstrong finessed the touchdown, switching to manual control and straining to avoid the large boulders and the crater in their path.
“It was hair-raising and last year’s Armstrong biopic, The First Man, made the most of it by filling the scene with flashing red lights and a chorus of warning bleeps before a visibly rattled Ryan Gosling felt safe enough to smile.
“Yet this film tells us that the moment was remarkable only for its aura of unshakeable calm. The voices sound untroubled. The only sign of tension is the arrow on the fuel gauge as it moves inexorably towards the empty sign.”
—Sydney Morning Herald

An aside, because it’s 20-July: Why did Kennedy always seem to pronounce “decade” as “deh-KADE” instead of the usual “DECK-ade“? A Bahston chowduh thing? We’ll never know, but probably hear it every year of our lifetimes.

Best quote: Not, surprisingly, the obvious Armstrong first one, but:

“Beautiful view … Magnificent desolation.”

Buzz Aldrin

My rating: Five Stars. No quibbles here!

Apollo 11. 2019. Online. English. Todd Douglas Miller (d); Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Cliff Charlesworth, Michael Collins, Walter Cronkite, Charles Duke, Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Gene Kranz, Jim Lovell, Bruce McCandless, Richard Nixon, Deke Slayton (p).


Movie Night: Desk Set

["Curfew shall not ring tonight!" Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Desk Set. A RomCom about 30somethings played by 50somethings falling in love under the benevolent gaze of EMERAC.]

4 ¾ Stars!

From 1957: «Desk Set», my personal favorite among the nine Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy films. Not only is it hilarious, it has fabulous midcentury (ugh, that word) interiors, jokes only librarian/book/research nerds understand, an awesome supporting cast including EMERAC and Kate gets to get blotto and talk about the “Mexican Avenue Bus” (the Lexington Avenue Bus, that is).

The synopsis:

“A computer expert tries to prove his electronic brain can replace a television network’s research staff.” TMDb

TMDb

I’m beginning to think The MovieDb folks need better synopsis writers.

Movie Metropolis‘ James Plath «wrote this review» in 2013:

“Desk Set catches them 15 years into their affair and 10 years before Tracy’s death. You can sense their level of comfort with each other—something that actually works against them in a romantic comedy in which opposites and antagonists are supposed to eventually attract. Tracy plays Mr. Sumner, an efficiency expert hired by the Federal Broadcasting Company to find departments in which his new-fangled computers (the size of a room, by the way) might save work-hours. Hepburn is Bunny Watson, who runs the research department rather than the always-absent boss (Gig Young) with whom she’s been having a seven-year relationship … waiting for a ring and running out of patience. … “The formula is pretty basic, but it’s the characters (and the actors) that make “Desk Set” fun to watch. It might also be one of the best films to document those legendary wild office parties from the ‘50s and ‘60s, with everyone imbibing so much Christmas cheer that they all start to get a bit of a Rudolph nose. “Desk Set” weaves machines vs. humans and gender-role themes into a pleasant battle-of-the-sexes film that feels more leisurely than most gender bender scripts that come out of Hollywood. This adapted screenplay, interestingly enough, comes from the pens of Henry and Phoebe Ephron, whose daughter, Nora, would receive Oscar nominations for her own work (“Silkwood,” When Harry Met Sally…,” “Sleepless in Seattle”). The script gives Tracy and Hepburn just enough to work with, and whatever charm that “Desk Set” has comes from the two stars and their interaction with each other and a decent supporting cast. Joan Blondell is particularly funny as Bunny’s sometimes abrasive co-worker, with Dina Merrill and Sue Randall also cutting up in the research department.”

James Plath, Movie Metropolis

Joan Blondell is fabulous as always and the film marks an appearance by Sue Randall, who would later play Beaver’s teacher on Leave It to Beaver. Neva Patterson is awesomely uptight and Dina Merrill is far too glamorous to be a research assistant, but it works. The would-be pairing of Gig Young and Katharine Hepburn is a bit far-fetched, and both Kate and Spencer seemed just a little long in the tooth for a RomCom, but those are quibbles. It works and works raucously well.

A short bit about a rainstorm and a guy from legal and his wife, kids and mother-in-law is hilarious and reminds you of I Love Lucy. But the best bit is a silent one by Ida Moore, an unnamed “Old Lady” who wanders in from time-to-time, checking out a book or enjoying the spiked punch at the office Christmas party. Supposedly, she was, way back in the day, the original model for the giant sculpture which is Federal’s logo, and she has had the run of the place ever since. Ida Moore does this with such aplomb and excellence that even Kate seems to be in her shade.


Best quotes:

Besides the “Mexican Avenue Bus,” there are many great lines/bits:

Bunny Watson: “Have some tequila, Peg.”

Peg Costello: “I don’t think I should. There are 85 calories in a glass of champagne.”

Bunny Watson: “I have a little place in my neighborhood where I can get it for 65.”

Desk Set

Richard Sumner: “Hello? Santa Claus’s reindeer? Uh, why yes I can… let’s see, there’s Dopey, Sneezy, Grouchy, Happy, Sleepy, uh Rudolph, and Blitzen! You’re welcome!”

Ibid

Bunny Watson: “Just for kicks. You don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to. I mean, don’t dwell on the question, but I warn you there’s a trick in it: If six Chinamen get off a train at Las Vegas, and two of them are found floating face down in a goldfish bowl, and the only thing they can find to identify them are two telephone numbers – one, Plaza Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh, and the other, Columbus Oh-1492 – what time did the train get to Palm Springs?”

Richard Sumner: “Nine o’clock.”

Bunny Watson: “Now, would you mind telling me how you happened to get that?”

Richard Sumner: “Well, there are eleven letters in Palm Springs. You take away two Chinamen, that leaves nine.”

Bunny Watson: “You’re a sketch, Mr. Sumner.”

Richard Sumner: “You’re not so bad yourself.”

Ibid

Bunny Watson: “I don’t smoke, I only drink champagne when I’m lucky enough to get it, my hair is naturally natural, I live alone… and so do you.”

Richard Sumner: “How do you know that?”

Bunny Watson: “Because you’re wearing one brown sock and one black sock.”

Ibid

And of course my personal favorite, Curfew Shall Not a-Ring Tonight!:

Richard Sumner: [Watching the computer result on “Corfu”, which is mistaken as “curfew”] What the devil is this?

Bunny Watson: [Also having a look] It’s the poem, “Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight.” Isn’t that nice? [reciting] “Cromwell will not come till sunset, and her lips grew strangely white… as she breathed the husky whisper, curfew must not a-ring tonight.”

Miss Warriner: [while Bunny goes on] Mr. Sumner, what can I do?

Richard Sumner: Nothing. You know you can’t interrupt her [the computer] in the middle of a sequence.

Miss Warriner: Yes, but, Mr. Sumner…

Richard Sumner: Quiet! Just listen.

Bunny Watson: “She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh, at the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must die.”

Richard Sumner: Uh, how long does this go on?

Bunny Watson: That old poem has about 80 stanzas to it.

Richard Sumner: Where are we now?

Bunny Watson: “She has reached the topmost ladder. O’er her hangs the great dark bell, awful is the gloom beneath her like the pathway down to hell. Lo, the ponderous tongue is swinging. ‘Tis the hour of curfew now, and the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her breath and paled her brow.”

[telephone rings]

Bunny Watson: “Shall she let it ring? No, never! Flash her eyes with sudden light, as she springs and grasps it firmly…

[answers the phone]

Bunny Watson: …curfew shall not ring tonight!”

[audible click]

Bunny Watson: They hung up. And I know another one! “Out she swung, far out, the city seemed a speck of light…”

Ibid

My rating: 4 3/4 stars for, ironically, casting.

Desk Set. 1957. TCM. English. Walter Lang (d); Phoebe Ephron, Henry Ephron, William Marchant (w) Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Gig Young, Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill, Sue Randall, Neva Patterson, Henry Ellerbe, Nicholas Joy, Diane Jergens, Merry Anders, Ida Moore, Rachel Stephens, Don Porter, Sammy Ogg (p). Cyril J. Mockridge (m). Leon Shamroy (c).


Movie Night: Hot Millions


[How veddy British! Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith in Hot Millions. Also, how veddy Sixties!]

4 1/2 Stars!

From 1968: «Hot Millions». Some fun British fun from Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith.

True story. The very first time I ever went to a theater and saw a movie was in February 1968 at the Plains Theater in Roswell, NM. Which is sadly now the “International UFO Museum and Research Center” 1947 alien landing tourist trap and that’s upsetting and rather terrifying. But upsetting and terrifying is what my first movie experience was; my four-year-old self bawled all the way through it and I think my sister had to take me to the lobby.

The list of things that scared me was long in those days; well into my teens, I was pretty much scared of everything. No reason; I had a good childhood, wasn’t abused or anything. But movie theaters, especially high ceilings and balconies, terrified me. So did fire engines, police cars, motorcycles, Walt Disney, sirens, fireworks, Carlsbad Caverns, roller coasters, teachers and teenagers.

But what was the most terrifying of all was the first movie in a theater: Blackbeard’s Ghost, starring Peter Ustinov. It was a funny kid’s Disney movie, typical of the time, with Dean Jones, Suzanne Pleshette, Elsa Lanchester, Elliot Reid, Richard Deacon and Michael Conrad, in his pre-Hill Street Blues days.

And the worst scene was Ustinov as Blackbeard, riding a police motorcycle with siren blaring, invisible to everyone except Dean Jones. I really bawled at that. Even if it was about the funniest one in the movie. Sirens, invisible pirates, a huge theater, yeesh.

At any rate, Hot Millions is what we’re actually talking about here.

The synopsis:

“A con-artist (Peter Ustinov) gains employment at an insurance company in order to embezzle money by re-programming their “new” wonder computer.”

TMDb

It’s a lot more fun than it sounds, although «Roger Ebert’s impression» is probably spot on as usual:

“Today I would like to bow to another critic for my opening thought. Writing about Hot Millions in the New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann observed that it didn’t make him laugh out loud, but at the end of the film he realized he’d been smiling for nearly two hours. That says it very well: Hot Millions, which is not a hilarious comedy, is a pleasant, warm one.

“The warmth comes because the characters are developed rather more than is usually the case in movies about (a) embezzlers or (b) eccentrics. The British comedy tradition accounts for these two genres quite completely; eccentrics are usually Terry-Thomas whistling through the gap in his teeth, and embezzlers usually try for a sort of efficient anonymity.

“This is not, I suppose, a great comedy. But Ustinov and Miss Smith act with a sort of natural appeal, and there are moments you will enjoy very much. Especially recommended for computer programmers, their accomplices and their molls.”

Roger Ebert

I personally don’t need my sides to split when I watch a “comedy,” but that’s just me. There’s a lot more than just smiles to recommend this one–ts droll English humor, its glimpse at fashions and designs and trends of 1968, the fantastic acting of everyone, including the performance of Bob Newhart, whose movie outings are often forgotten, the sarcastic wit and the satire–it’s a long list and will need a second viewing to get it all.


Best quotes:

Carlton J. Klemper [talking about his corporation taking over the whole world]: “Yes sir! When the time comes, I may even put in a bid for all of England.”

Marcus Pendleton: }Hadn’t you better wait till it’s solvent?”

Hot Millions

Prison Governor: “You should be in politics, not in prison.”

Marcus Pendleton: “Well, in a way, I was, wasn’t I? When they caught me embezzling at the Conservative Central Office.”

Prison Governor: “Yes, I could never understand why you chose that of all places.”

Marcus Pendleton: [after a pause, says sternly] “I’m a Liberal.”

Prison Governor: “Oh.”

Elderly Gentleman card player: [Irritated by all the talk] “If this keeps up, I shall violate a lifetime principle and play bridge with women.”

Patty: “What does he want?”

Marcus: “Assets.”

Patty: “What are they?”

Marcus: “Young female donkeys.”


4 1/2 Stars!

Hot Millions. 1968. TCM. English. Eric Till (d). Peter Ustinov, Ira Wallach (w). Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith, Karl Malden, Bob Newhart, Robert Morley, Cesar Romero, Peter Jones, Ann Lancaster, Patsy Crowther. (p). Laurie Johnson (m). Kenneth Higgins (c).


Movie Night: Die Brücke


Five Stars + !!!!

From 1959: «Die Brücke (The Bridge)». Sure it’s an anti-war war film. But it also works as horror: you know what these teens are about to suffer as the film moves from happy school days with worries about English class, liquor, a boat and some girls to its inevitable conclusion, and you want to shout, “Don’t go in that basement [on that bridge]!” For a first-time film director, Bernhard Wicki sure knew what he was doing. This is German cinema at its finest.

The synopsis:

“A group of German boys are ordered to protect a small bridge in their home village during the waning months of the second world war. Truckloads of defeated, cynical Wehrmacht soldiers flee the approaching American troops, but the boys, full of enthusiasm for the “blood and honor” Nazi ideology, stay to defend the useless bridge.”

TMDb

I paired it with Ich war Neunzehn, the East German/Russian film about a 17-year-old Red Army lieutenant’s last days of the war north of Berlin. It’s hard to think of a better illustration of the end of the European theater of war free of the pernicious and ubiquitous American boo-yah of so many countless war films. With these two films, you get rare perspectives of both the end of the war and of the beginning of the peace; Die Brücke illustrates the final gotterdamerung of the Reich and Ich war Neunzehn illustrates the post-gotterdamerung of East German communism overseen by Russian propaganda.

While I still dearly love Der Untergang (2004), it and so many other films tell the same old stories of the major characters of the war. These two films however show what life was like for millions of ordinary people. Die Brücke barely mentions Hitler and Churchill, and they are far off and far removed from the school boys’ mundane cares. Ich war Neunzehn doesn’t mention Stalin. They both allude to the systems of fascism and communism, but that’s not the focus. The result in both cases is refreshing. Instead we see real human beings surviving or dying without madeup actors with little clipped mustaches and their historical names in print below to tell viewers this madeup actor is Hitler or Stalin or Churchill.

David M. Keyes of «Cinemaphile» describes Die Brücke this way:

“The bridge persists as a stubborn link between a decaying empire and imminent liberation, defended enthusiastically by seven young men on the precipice of mortal danger. They wear masks that distort their notion of the inevitable, but not merely out of ignorance; they have been molded by the vehement enthusiasm of nationalism, which remains unchanged even after buildings have crumbled and soldiers have been erased from the battlefields. Most of them are all too eager to step in as defenders of their treasured Reich, though the faces of their parents reflect a more anxious concern.
“In one notable moment, for instance, one of the mothers tearfully pleas with her son to ignore the drafting letter he has received, insisting that he flee to the country to stay with relatives. He declines, grinning the whole way, which places emphasis on the underlying conflict: can these teenage boys be faulted for being slaves to the pure and idealistic, even as the possibilities of triumph seem lost in a haze of downtrodden confessions? Perhaps it is more sobering to see them as symbols of the uncultivated, especially under the rule of the Nazis: because this essentially made them the most expendable in an impending fight against enemy combatants, an obligatory defeat only aggravates the wound created by their destructive occupation.”

Cinemaphile

I’ll come back again and again to this one, and to Ich war Neunzehn; next time, I’ll view them back-to-back on the same night.


My Rating: Five Stars +!!!!!

Die Brücke. 1959. Criterion Collection. German with English subtitles. Bernhard Wicki (d); Manfred Gregor (novel); Folker Bohnet, Fritz Wepper, Michael Hinz, Frank Glaubrecht, Karl Michael Balzer, Volker Lechtenbrink, Günther Hoffmann, Cordula Trantow, Wolfgang Stumpf, Günter Pfitzmann, Heinz Spitzner, Siegfried Schürenberg, Ruth Hausmeister, Eva Vaitl, Edith Schultze-Westrum, Hans Elwenspoek, Trude Breitschopf, Klaus Hellmold, Inge Benz, Til Kiwe, Edeltraut Elsner, Vicco von Bülow, Georg Lehn, Johannes Buzalski, Heini Göbel, Alexander Hunzinger, Alfons Teuber (a).

On Crime and Punishment This Fourth of July

As the gigantic Fascist Cult of Nationalistic Personality Display takes over formerly democratic, non-partisan American space/time in Washington DC tomorrow, it’s worth looking back at some of the (quickly forgotten) roots of the democracy. « This one is about Marquis Cesare Beccaria radical ideas on crime and punishmen».

“‘On Crimes and Punishments‘ was the first attempt to apply principles of political economy to the practice of punishment so as to humanise and rationalise the use of coercion by the state. After all, arbitrary and cruel punishment was the most immediate instrument that the state had to terrorise the people into submission, so as to avoid rebellion against the hierarchical structure of the society. The problem that Beccaria faced, then, was the simple fact that the elite had complete control of the law, which was a family business and a highly esoteric language that only the initiated could master. The path leading to the rational reform of penal law required a fundamental philosophical rethinking of the role and place of law in society.”

Aeon

«The full treatise has been translated for English and is available here». It’s well worth a challenging read-and-think on everyone’s part at this particular moment in the country and society.

[Image: «Ben Jennings in the Guardian» He’s fabulous! So is the Guardian! Go read them (and donate if you can) now!]

Movie Night: Ich War Neunzehn


Five Stars!

From 1968: «Ich war Neunzehn (I Was Nineteen)». Mesmerizing. Intense. Now in my top ten of all time. Yes, it’s Ostie/DDR propaganda sucking up to the Russians. And it’s very well done, transcending the (now deceased) confines of the DDR strait jacket.

The synopsis:

“April 1945: Gregor Hecker, 19 years of age, reaches the outskirts of Berlin as part of the Red Army’s scouting team. Having fled Germany with his family when he was eight, he is confronted with the dilemma of having to fight men from the very country he was born in. Through dealing with challenging situations (e.g. he is appointed commander of Bernau, talks to many disillusioned Germans, and is once and again attacked by scattered groups of German soldiers), he grows more confident that not all hope is lost for post-war Germany.”

TMDb

As a reviewer at DVD Talk puts it, ” The DEFA was responsible for some very creative films, but it was still under the auspices of a Communist GDR, so there’s the inevitable Stalinist propaganda. The Russians are naturally portrayed as the heroes of the war, and made to be the biggest victims of the war. ” The reviewer, Daniel Siwek, goes on:

Konrad Wolf’s 1968 feels like a real 1945; he takes us back to his youth and we’re submerged in the fog that he had to navigate through once upon a time. It spends a lot of time repeating it’s points and questions, but when you consider the subject matter, isn’t that the way it really is as well? It’s hyped as one of Germany’s greatest films, and while I’m no expert in Deutsche cinema, I can understand that it’s definitely a film that deserves to be examined and appreciated.

DVD Talk

Well worth having it in a collection and re-viewing it every once in awhile. Russian/German with English subtitles.


My Rating: Five Stars (Yes, I do tend to see films I know I’m going to love, rather than ones I’m likely to which I might be ambivalent. Ergo, lots of five star ratings.)

Ich war Neunzehn. 1968. Criterion Collection. German/Russian with English subtitles. Konrad Wolf (d). Wolfgang Kohlhaase (w). Jaecki Schwarz, Vasiliy Livanov, Rolf Hoppe, Galina Polskikh, Jürgen Hentsch, Kurt Böwe, Hermann Beyer, Mikhail Gluzskiy, Jenny Gröllmann, Wolfgang Greese, Johannes Wieke, Fritz Mohr, Otto Lang, Aleksey Eybozhenko, Anatoliy Solovyov, Klaus Manchen, Walter Bechstein, Afanasi Kochetkov, Dieter Mann, Wolfgang Winkler, Martin Trettau (a).

Pocket Guide to France, or, Onward to Parisian Mademoiselles

As they moved off the beaches after 6-Jun-44, U.S. service personnel read this. Here are some particularly important excerpts.

Pocket Guide to France
Prepared by Army Information Branch, Army Services Forces, Information and Education Division, United States Army
War and Navy Departments, Washington, D.C.
1944

“Why You’re Going to France
“You are about to play a personal part in pushing the Germans out of France. Whatever part you take—rifleman, hospital orderly, mechanic, pilot, clerk, gunner, truck driver—you will be an essential factor in a great effort which will have two results: first, France will be liberated from the Nazi mob and the Allied armies will be that much nearer Virtory, and second, the enemy will be deprived of coal, steel, manpower, machinery, food, bases, seacoast and a long list of other essentials which have enabled him to carry on the war at the expense of the French.
“The Allied offensive you are taking part in is based upon a hard-boiled fact. It’s this. We democracies aren’t just doing favors in fighting for each other when history gets tough. We’re all in the same boat. Take a look around you as you move into France and you’ll see what the Nazis to to a democracy when they can get it down by itself.”

“A Few Pages of French History
“Not only French ideas but French guns helped us to become a nation. Don’t forget that liberty loving Lafayette and his friends risked their lives and fortunes to come to the aid of General George Washington at a moment in our opening history when nearly all the world was against us. In the War for Independence which our ragged army was fighting, every man and each bullet counted. Frenchmen gave us their arms and their blood when they counted most. Some 45,000 Frenchmen crossed the Atlantic to help us. They came in cramped little ships of two or three hundred tons requiring two months or more for the crossing. We had no military engineers; French engineers designed and built our fortifications. We had little money; the French lent us over six million dollars and gave us over three million more.
“In the same fighting spirit we acted as France’s alliy in 1917 and 1918 when our A.E.F. went into action. In that war, France, which is about a fourteenth of our size, lost nearly eighteen times more men than we did, fought twice as long and had an eighth of her country devastated.”

“In Parting
“We are friends of the French and they are friends of ours.
“The Germans are our enemies and we are theirs.
“Some of the secret agents who have been spying on the French will no doubt remain to spy on you. Keep a close mouth. No bragging about anything.
‘No belittling either. Be generous; it won’t hurt.
“Eat what is given you in your own unit. Don’t go foraging among the French. They can’t afford it.
‘Boil all drinking water unless it has been approved by a Medical Officer.
‘You are a member of the best dressed, best fed, best equipped liberating Army now on earth. You are going in among the people of a former Ally of your country. They are still your kind of people who happen to speak democracy in a different language. Americans among Frenchmen, let us remember our likenesses, not our differences. The Nazi slogan for destroying us both was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union There Is Strength.””

Pocket Guide to France, US Army

“No bragging or belittling.” “Remember our likenesses, not our differences.” “In Union There is Strength.”

How refreshing.

Beginning of the End Day


[Yes, the pics are graphic. Look at them. Own them. Be glad they’re in black and white.]


Dead horses on a French street. Above: Dead American on a French Beach.| National Archives
Dead Americans on a Belgian street. | National Archives
Dead Germans on a French Street. | National Archives
Dead humans at K.L. Mulhausen. | National Archives
Dead US Coast Guard sailor on the USS Menges. Every thing suffers in war. | National Archives

As the 75th anniversary of the launch of Overlord arrives, it’s important to remember that it was just part of a very big picture, the beginning of the end of World War II. Up until that point, it had been a very long, very hard slog. But afterwards you could practically see directly from the beaches of Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold on 6-Jun-1944 to the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2-Sep-1945. The war now had its expiration date.

No one cheered harder for the faint glimpse of the end than P.o.W.s in Japan, Korea and China. A few of those had survived four years of torture, starvation, beatings, illnesses such as beri-beri and even being bombarded by their own Army Air Force; they were the survivors of Wake Island, which resisted overwhelming Japanese invasion forces between 8-Dec and 23-Dec-1941. Had it not been for Overlord and Manhattan, those men would have died. Instead, they beat the odds thanks to Truman and Ike, Normandy and Trinity. (To quote directly: “Thank God for Harry Truman and thank God for the atom bomb!”)

I always think back to 1989, when as a newspaper reporter, I was privileged to meet just 11 of the Wake Island survivors, who gathered fairly often for small-scale reunions. That year, while working as a reporter who occasionally wrote some features about WWII vets, I got a call from a friend of mine, Marie Smith, (who had kept me sane during my cursed four months while we worked at <shudder> Wal-Mart), to tell me about an upcoming gathering of Wake Island survivors and their wives at the house of her and her husband John. These people were at that point closer than family, bound forever by what happened on a tiny atoll in the middle of a vast ocean.

The article below is what I wrote at the time, but there are two caveats: First, I apparently misspelled some names. I’ve corrected this at the bottom of this post with their bios. And second, this represents nowhere near everything I was told that day. I felt like an eavesdropper, someone who could watch and hear them, but who was so far removed from their time and experience that comprehension was impossible.

In 2016, the daughter of Tony Schawang of Falls City, NE, the man into whose soybeans Braniff 250 fell in 1966, told me an anecdote about her father, who landed on Omaha Beach 75 years ago. She said she once asked him about that day and he said, “Girlie, you don’t need to know anything about that kind of thing.” He was right.

A photographer took Tony’s picture the morning after the Braniff crash. He looks shell-shocked. I could only imagine the horror of seeing 42 dead people and a crashed airliner fall to earth in front of you. But after finding out that Tony had already seen way worse in 1944 made that picture clearer, more understandable. That’s a thousand-yard stare he has in that 1966 photo. I will now always wonder if he was seeing the wreckage of Braniff 250 … or the wreckage of Omaha Beach. Or a bloody mashing together of both. (As much as I respect Mr. Schawang, as the photos above attest, I disagree. We should always know, and see, the consequences of war.)

Now that we’re older, we can understand, and value, more of the meaning and reality of all this, but those Marines and their wives (and Tony Schawang) are now gone. We can’t have conversations with them just because we’re older and wiser and can now listen to them. They’re lost to history … and we’re much the poorer for it.

What do I now know? Don’t put D-Day in service to American (or British) exceptionalism or nationalism or patriotism, and don’t “thank” a veteran for his/her “service.” Man up, grow up and face up to the reality that no one wanted to “serve” us on the cold Normandy sand. They wanted to simply survive. The hard truth is that D-Day (and Wake Island) represented a failure. A failure to confront, contain and eliminate human anger, violence, and hatred in service to nationalistic ideologies in Japan, Germany and Italy. The failure to do that consumed, between 1914 and 1945 upwards of 150 million lives around the world. WWII soldiers HAD to “serve” at Omaha Beach because WE failed to protect THEM.

Instead of “Thank you for your service,” try, “We’re sorry you had to expend your blood, sweat, tears and toil to clean up our monumental failings.” Every time you meet one of the dwindling numbers of WWII veterans (and those of all the other magnificent little American wars we’ve fallen into), keep your mouth shut and your brain focused on peace. These “Greatest Generation” folks answered the bell and won the fight. We might not be as blessed next time.


Here are the original two Wake Island articles:

Memory Of WWII Still Vivid For Vets
(Part I of the Wake Island Story)

‘Considering the power accumulated for the invastion of Wake Island and the meager forces of the defenders, it was one of the most humiliating defeats the Japanese Navy ever suffered.’
—Masatake Okumiya, commander, Japanese Imperial Navy

By Steve Pollock
The Duncan (OK) Banner)
Sunday, August 13, 1989

MARLOW – It all came back to them this weekend – the stark terror of facing death while kneeling naked on a sandy beach the stinking hold of the prison ship; the brutality of the Japanese; the obliteration of youthful innocence.

They fought and bled for a two-and-a-half-square-mile horseshoe of an atoll in the midPacific called Wake Island. They were United States Marines and they did their duty.

There were 10 [sic] men of that Wake Island garrison at the Marlow home of John Smith this weekend. With Smith, they talked, drank and smoked their way through the weekend, laughter masking deeper emotions of brotherhood, camaraderie and painful memories.

In the Smith kitchen, their wives continued the latest of an ongoing series of therapy sessions, attempting to exorcise some of the demons of the last 44 years of their lives with the hometown heroes.


In 1941, with war inevitable, the U.S. government began construction of a series of defensive Pacific Ocean outposts, including Wake, designed to protect against Japanese aggression. They were a little late.

Little Wake atoll, with some 1,616 Marines and civilians huddled on its three islands, was attacked at noon, Dec. 8, 1941, several hours after Pearl Harbor.

The Marines knew war was possible, but “didn’t think the little brown guys had the guts to hit us,” one of them said.


Jess Nowlin’s hearing aid battery is getting a little weak as the afternoon wears on, but his memory and sense of humor are still sharp.

He said the Marines were going about their business when they heard the drone of approaching aircraft.

“We thought they were B- 17’s out of Pearl coming in to refuel. They weren’t. They broke out of a cloud bank at about 1,800 feet, bomb bay doors open. They tore us up,” Nowlin said.

The Japanese attacked from sea and air, but the Marines held out until Dec. 23; only 400 remained to defend 21 miles of shoreline from 25 warships and a fleet of aircraft. Surrender was inevitable.

Through a haze of cigarette smoke, Robert Mac Brown, a veteran not only of World War II, but of Korea and three tours of duty in Vietnam, remembers the post-surrender scene on the beach.

“We were stripped naked and they hog-tied us with our own telephone wire. A squall came through, but lasted only about 10 to 15 minutes. One of my clearest memories of the whole operation is of watching the water run down the bare back of the guy in front of me,” Brown said.

Japanese soldiers lay on the sand in front of the prisoners, swinging machine guns back and forth. The click of rounds being loaded into chambers was ominous. Fingers tightened on triggers.

“There was an argument between the landing force commander and a guy with the fleet. They screamed at each other in Japanese, arguing about whether to kill us or not,” Brown said.

The Marines made their peace and prepared to die.

The argument to make prisoners of the Marines and civilians won the day. The prisoners were allowed to grab what clothing they could to cover themselves.

And then a living hell began which would only be ended by the birth of atomic stars over southern Japan nearly four years later.


Taken off the island on small ships, the prisoners were forced to climb up the side of the Nittamaru, a former cruise ship pitching about on rough seas.

As the men walked back through the ship and down to the hold, the crew beat them with bamboo sticks, in a gauntlet of brutality.

Packed in the stinking hold, several hundred Marines and civilians had only one five-gallon bucket per deck to hold human waste. For the 14 days of the Nittamaru’s passage from Wake to Shanghai, they could barely move.

The cold of Shanghai was felt through their thin tropical khaki. It was January 1942. Robert Brown was to have married his girl on January 12. She married someone else.

“I thought you were dead,” she later told him.


From Shanghai, through Nanking, Peking, Manchuria and Pusan, Korea, the group journeyed in packed cattle cars to their eventual destination, a coal mine on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where they dug in the shafts alongside third-generation Korean slave labor.

They were slaves themselves until August 1945.

“Thank God for Harry S. Truman and the atomic bomb,” several survivors said, as the others echoed that prayer.

They went home to heroes’ welcomes, but the public ”’never fully appreciated or understood what we did,” Nowlin said.


They’re much older now — in their 60’s and 70’s — and it was a family reunion of sorts; they claim to be closer than brothers. They don’t miss their “get-togethers” for anything in the world; Robert Haidinger traveled from San Diego with a long chest incision after recently undergoing a major operation.

As they gazed through the Oklahoma sunshine, they didn’t see the cow bam beyond the lovegrass rippling in the August breeze; it was a Japanese destroyer was steaming close in to end their lives all over again.

“It was awful, terrible; I wouldn’t have missed it for anything; you couldn’t get me to do it again for a billion dollars,” Nowlin summed it up.


The men: Tony Obre [sic], Fallbrook, Calif; Robert Haidinger, San Diego, Calif.; Robert Murphy, Thermopolis, Wyo.; Dale Milburn [sic], Santa Rosa, Calif.; George McDaniels [sic], Dallas, Texas; Jess Nowlin, Bonham, Texas; Jack Cook, Golden, Colo.; Robert Mac Brown, Phoenix, Ariz.; Jack Williamson, Lawton; Paul Cooper, Marlow, and John Smith, Marlow.

The cost of the defense of Wake Island, from Dec. 8 to 23, 1941: Americans: 46 Marines, 47 civilians, three sailors and 11 airplanes; Japanese: 5,700 men, 11 ships and 29 airplanes.


Wives Cope With Husband’s Memories
(Part II of the Wake Island Story)

By Steve Pollock
The Duncan (OK) Banner
Sunday, August 13, 1989

MARLOW – It all came back to them this weekend – fists lashing out during nightmares, the traumatic memories, the attempts to catch up on lost time.

The wives of 10 Wake Island survivors met in Marlow with their husbands this weekend for reasons of their own.

“We go through therapy every time we get together. We help each other with problems,” they said.

The wives: Florence Haidinger, Maxine Murphy, Opal Milburn [sic], Irene McDaniels [sic], Sarah Nowlin, Betty Cook, Millie Brown, Jo Williamson, Juanita Cooper and Marie Smith.


They did their own bit during World War II: The Red Cross, an airplane factory in Detroit, North American Aviation in El Segundo, Calif, Douglas in Los Angeles, the Kress dime store.

They married their men after the long national nightmare was finished, and their lives became entwined by one event: the Japanese attack on Wake Island Dec. 8-23,1941.

Since the first reunion of Wake survivors and their spouses in 1953, these women have been like sisters.

“We love each other, we’re closer than family,” Jo Williamson said.

In Marie Smith’s kitchen, therapy was doled out in a catharsis of talk little different from that of the men gathered on the patio. Talk is said to be good for the soul; these women heal great tears in theirs every time they see each other.

According to the wives, the men came home from the war, married, had children and tried to pick up where they left off.

They wanted to take care of their families and try to catch up. They were robbed of the fun times of their late teens and early 20’s, the women unanimously agree.

“They have also lived every day as if it were their last,” Sarah Nowlin said.


The men needed some help after their harrowing battle and brutal three -and-a-half-year captivity.

According to the women, doctors never realized therapy was in order: “They never got anything.”

One man lashed out with his fists during nightmares; after a few pops, his wife learned to leave the room. Another would slide out of bed and assume a rigid posture on the floor, arms and legs folded. Yet they have all been gentle men.

“I’ve never seen my husband harm or even verbally abuse anyone,” a wife said Reunions such as this help the men and women deal with life as they age. The youths of 16-22 are now grandfathers and grandmothers in their 60’s and 70’s.


Life today is a bit baffling to them.

Extremely proud of their men, the women have no patience with draft dodgers, flag burners, Japanese cars or foreign ownership of America.

They didn’t agree with the Vietnam war policy, but duty to country should have come first, they said.

“I didn’t want my son to go to Vietnam, but I would have been ashamed of him if he hadn’t,” one said.

The issue of flag burning stirs violent protest and emotion in the group: “Made in America”’ labels are on everything they buy.

And the younger generation does not enjoy the women’s confidence: “I don’t think they could do what we were all called on to do,” they agreed.

And as Marlow afternoon shadows grew longer, the women of Wake continued to cleanse their souls.


Updated bios (confirmed via findagrave.com):

• Cpl. Robert Mac Brown, USMC, Phoenix, AZ.
Birth: 1-Feb-1918.
Death: 21-Sep-2002 (age 84).
Buried: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.

• Sgt. Jack Beasom Cook, USMC, Golden, CO.
Birth: 18-Jun-1918, Okmulgee, OK.
Death: 20-Nov-1999 (age 81).
Buried: Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, CO.

• Sgt. Paul Carlton Cooper, USMC, Marlow, OK.
Birth: 30-Oct-1918, Richardson, TX.
Death: 18-Sep-1994 (age 75), Marlow, OK.
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Cpl. Robert Fernand Haidinger, USMC, San Diego, CA.
Birth: 24-Nov-1918, Chicago, IL.
Death: 7-Mar-2014 (age 95).
Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA.

• PFC Robert Bruce “Bob” Murphy, USMC, Thermopolis, WY.
Birth: 5-Oct-1920, Thermopolis, WY.
Death: 5-Feb-2007 (age 86), Hot Springs County, WY.
Buried: Monument Hill Cemetery, Thermopolis, WY.

• Pvt. Ival Dale Milbourn, USMC, Phoenix, AZ.
Birth: 23-Jul-1922, Saint Joseph, MO.
Death: 18-Dec-2001 (age 79), Mesa, AZ.
Buried: Skylawn Memorial Park, San Mateo, CA.

• PFC George Washington “Dub” McDaniel, Dallas, TX.
Birth: 23-Dec-1915, Stigler, OK.
Death: 14-Jul-1993 (age 77).
Buried: Stigler Cemetery, Stigler, OK.

• PFC Jesse Elmer Nowlin, USMC, Bonham, TX.
Birth: 9-Dec-1915, Leonard, TX.
Death: 13-Sep-1990 (age 74), Bonham, TX.
Buried: Willow Wild Cemetery, Bonham, TX.

• MSgt. Tony Theodule Oubre, USMC (ret.), Fallbrook, CA.
Birth: 17-Aug-1919, Loreauville, Iberia Parish, LA.
Death: 7-Feb-2005 (age 85).
Buried: Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, CA.

• Pvt. John Clarence Smith, Marlow, OK.
Birth: 11-Mar-1918.
Death: 19-Jan-1994 (age 75).
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Sgt. Jack Russell “Rusty” Williamson, Jr., USMC, Lawton, OK.
Birth: 26-Jul-1919, Lawton, OK.
Death: 12-Jul-1996 (age 76).
Buried: Highland Cemetery, Lawton, OK.


The wives (I couldn’t confirm the details for all of them):

• Juanita Belle Sehested Cooper
Birth: 5-Dec-1920, Marlow, OK.
Death: 28-Jul-2001 (age 80), Beaverton, OR.
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Florence A Haidinger
Birth: 31-Dec-1934.
Death: 26-Sep-2014 (age 79).
Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA.

• Irene McDaniel
Birth: 24-Nov-1918.
Death: 7-Mar-2004 (age 85).
Buried: Stigler Cemetery, Stigler, OK.

• Maxine Gertrude Gwynn Murphy
Birth: 10-Nov-1923.
Death: 4-Mar-1996 (age 72).
Buried: Monument Hill Cemetery, Thermopolis, WY.

• Marie A. Smith
Birth: 11-Feb-1929.
Death: 16-Nov-1997 (age 68).
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Emily Jo Lane Williamson
Birth: 30-Mar-1924, Texas.
Death: 3-Jun-2007 (age 83), Comanche County, OK.
Buried: Sunset Memorial Gardens, Lawton, OK.

Paranoia, Fear, Terror and Facebook, et al.

Insane levels of fear and control and succumbing to terror. We are a nation which is perhaps the most fearful of all countries. And someone warned us about giving in to terror, especially that orchestrated by demagogues and news media personalities. Hmmmmmm.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers. It’s a vast expansion of the Trump administration’s enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.

In a move that’s just taken effect after approval of the revised application forms, the department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to request the additional information, including “social media identifiers,” from almost all U.S. applicants.

The change, which was proposed in March 2018, is expected to affect about 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the United States each year.

Associated Press

Yes, we’re so scared we’re insisting on a lot more:

In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

Associated Press
Franklin Roosevelt
Franklin Roosevelt

Just a few years ago, our leadership was saying:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 4-Mar-33

How refreshing. And he had Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, polio and the imminent deaths of 100 million human beings to worry about. We are no longer made of sterner stuff. We freak out over Twits (and their Twitterings) and have palpitations over words and clutch our pearls if someone is transgressive about … well anything.

Grow a spine Democrats! Listen to the dead man and stop fearing! Send tis administration packing by using the ballot box or Articles of Impeachment! Now!

Corporate Power

Is corporate power absolute yet? Or just overwhelming? Maybe … it’s just … mestastizing? There’s a fascinating documentary over at Deutsche Welle:

“The Wallonia region in Belgium triggered a Europe-wide crisis in the fall of 2016 by refusing to sign the CETA free trade agreement with Canada, as millions of EU citizens took to the streets to protest against the agreement. The CETA negotiations had turned the spotlight on the system of private arbitration courts. … Many states whose sovereignty is threatened are now finally waking up to the danger. But is it perhaps already too late to do anything about the seemingly over-mighty corporations?”

Deutsche Welle

Where Are the Bodies? We Have an App for That.

Find the human (not migrants, not immigrants, not aliens, certainly not illegals. Just human. Human.) bodies. There are plenty to look for all over the Arizona Open GIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants map:

“Since January of 2001, over 3,000 undocumented migrants have died within the Pima County OME jurisdiction. The information presented is stark and perhaps unsettling. However, both Humane Borders and the Pima County OME believe that the availability of this information will contribute to fulfilling our common vision.”

AOGISIDM

No Slope, No False Equivalency. Just the Same. Damn. Thing.

Immoral, indecent, inhumane. There is no slippery slope; this country is on a well-trodden path dating back at least to 1492. There is also no false equivalency. We are running concentration camps and human beings are dying. [Full Stop]

Details are in the OIG report to DHS. Full report is here.

The Wages of Sin, America, is …

And then Primo Levi pegged the inevitable results of such greed, hypocrisy, selfishness … and our addiction to those three destructive forces:

“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.”

Primo Levi

And the college students of the White Rose in Munich, 1942, in a pamphlet that would lead to their executions, also outlined how it’s impossible to have rational, intellectual discourse with those who have devoted themselves to irrational, anti-intellectual rot:

“It is impossible to engage in intellectual discourse with National Socialist Philosophy. For if there were such an entity, one would have to try by means of analysis and discussion either to prove its validity or to combat it. In actuality we face a [different] situation. At its very inception this movement depended on the deception and betrayal of one’s fellow man.”

The White Rose Society, 1942

No. You cannot argue with Fascists or Nazis or ignorant nationalists. Rational arguments won’t win over irrational people.

Random American Notes

Another in a series of random notes of things I want to remember:

Charles Dickens had this country pegged from the beginning—our addictions (tobacco and greed, hypocrisy and selfishness):

“Men were weighed by their dollars, measures gauged by their dollars; life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its dollars.

“Schools may be erected, East, West, North, and South; pupils be taught, and masters reared, by scores upon scores of thousands; colleges may thrive, churches may be crammed, temperance may be diffused, and advancing knowledge in all other forms walk through the land with giant strides: but while the newspaper press of America is in, or near, its present abject state, high moral improvement in that country is hopeless.

“As Washington may be called the head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva, the time is come when I must confess, without any disguise, that the prevalence of those two odious practices of chewing and expectorating began about this time to be anything but agreeable, and soon became most offensive and sickening. In all the public places of America, this filthy custom is recognised. In the courts of law, the judge has his spittoon, the crier his, the witness his, and the prisoner his; while the jurymen and spectators are provided for, as so many men who in the course of nature must desire to spit incessantly.

“An American gentleman . . . likewise stuck his hands deep into his pockets, and walked the deck with his nostrils dilated, as already inhaling the air of Freedom which carries death to all tyrants, and can never (under any circumstances worth mentioning) be breathed by slaves.

“Here’s the rule for bargains. ‘Do other men, for they would do you.’ That’s the true business precept.”

Charles Dickens, American Notes

Movie Night: Conquest


4 3/4 Stars!

From 1937: «Conquest», which pairs Greta Garbo with Charles Boyer and achieves something sublime (Garbo) and ridiculous (the script). Boyer is convincing at least as Napoleon. It’s based on the true story of Napoleon’s advances, on the field and off, and his retreats, on the field and off, and the Polish countess who he conquers, as well as his illegitimate son.

The synopsis:

“A [P]olish countess becomes Napoleon Bonaparte’s mistress at the urging of Polish leaders, who feel she might influence him to make Poland independent.”

TMDb

In the context of what would happen to Poland just two years after this was filmed, it was timely stuff. And anything about Napoleon is pretty much guaranteed to be pass-the-popcorn high entertainment.

Emanuel Levy «writing in 2010» had this to say;

“The project had been in development for years, based on MGM’s dream casting on Garbo, as the Polish countess Marie Walewska, Napoleon’s mistress. But they could not find the right leading man, within and without MGM. That changed after the Gallic actor Charles Boyer became an international star, thus deemed proper to play Napoleon.

“Tale, co-penned by Samuel Hoffenstein, Salka Viertel, and S.N. Behrman is too melodramatic to qualify as a genuine tragic romance and too fake to allow Garbo render a fully realized performance.

But it did not matter, as Garbo was then at the peak of her career, and MGM didn’t spare any money in making a lavish production, casting the film with numerous extras.

The scenes between Napoleon and his son (cute child) are fake and sentimental, and last farewell, when Maria fails to convince the emperor to escape with her, is ridiculous.”

Emanuel Levy, Cinema 24/7

He’s right, that ending is completely ridiculous, although «the boy, Alexandre Colonna Walewski, actually did exist», living until 58 years old and having an illustrious career in Polish and French politics, escaping Daddy’s continental conquest ambitions and confining himself to French legislative affairs.

The film itself is fairly representative of the period and shows how far ahead of her time Garbo was … that she could shine in spite of rather stilted dialogue, in a non-native language shows just how great an actor she was at the height of her career. It wasn’t bad, and I might have another look under certain conditions, but I probably wouldn’t buy it for the DVD collection, unless Criterion gets hold of it.


Best quotes:

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “I shall send it up to you, invite you to my quarters.”

Countess Marie Walewska: “I have a husband, sire.”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “He’s four times your age!”

Countess Marie Walewska: “He has his dignity. He has his honored name. He has his pride. And so have I, sire.”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Now I understand. So, it is pride you have in common!”

Countess Marie Walewska: “That does not become a conqueror, sire.”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “When you have conquered, Madame, you may instruct me. “

Conquest

“When you have conquered, Madame …” is mee-rowr fabulous! (I said above some dialogue is stilted, and so it is, but these quotes are pretty damn good, especially the following exchange with the Countess’ dotty, skeptical old mother

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “Who are you?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “I am Napoleon!”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “Napoleon? Napoleon who?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Hmm? Bonaparte!”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: ‘Napoleon Bonaparte? What kind of name is that? What nationality are you?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Corsican by birth. French by adoption. Emperor by achievement.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “So, you are an Emperor, are you? What are you Emperor of?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Emperor of France, madame.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “Hee, hee, hee. So you are Emperor of France. And my very good friend, His Majesty, King Louis Sixteenth abdicated in your honor, I suppose?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Well, he didn’t know it at the time but in a sense he did, madame.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “This house is getting to be a lunatic asylum.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “What were you before you became an Emperor?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “A corporal.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “That’s what I thought. A soldier. Why do you say you were an Emperor?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “One can be both, Madame. Alexander was.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “Everybody who goes crazy thinks he is Alexander. Now, if Alexander went crazy, who would he think he was?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Napoleon.”

Ibid

Brilliant.



My rating: 4 ¾ Stars for some dialogue, which is mostly, but just not quite, excellent.
Conquest. 1937. TCM. English. Clarence Brown, Gustav Machaty (d); Waclaw Gasiorowski, S.N. Behrman, Samuel Hoffenstein, Talbot Jennings, Helen Jerome, Salka Viertel, Carey Wilson (w) Greta Garbo, Charles Boyer, Reginald Owen, Alan Marshal, Hentry Stephenson, Leif Erickson, May Whitty, Maria Ouspenskaya, C. Henry Gordon, Claude Gillingwater, Vladimir Sokoloff, George Houston, Scotty Beckett, Dennis O'Keefe, (p). Herbert Stothart (m). Karl Freund (c).


Kit Marlowe is a Naughty Nellie and Probably a Witch

I just caught this from two years ago on The Guardian‘s website. Two years behind, that’s about my speed. But it is a fascinating document of Elizabethan paranoia and skulduggery.

“A controversial document in which the playwright Christopher Marlowe reportedly declared that Christ was gay, that the only purpose of religion was to intimidate people, and that “all they that love not tobacco and boys were fools” is to go on show online for the first time [in 2017. Like I said, I’m two years behind].

“The so-called ‘Baines note,’ a star item in the British Library’s Renaissance manuscript collection, offers tantalising evidence about the private life of Marlowe, one of the most scandalous and magnetic figures of the Elizabeth period.

‘Baines added a personal note, apparently aimed at watching government officials: ‘All men in Christianity ought to endeavour that the mouth of so dangerous a member may be stopped.’ A few days later, Marlowe was stabbed to death in Deptford, south London, in circumstances still regarded as suspicious.

The Guardian

Yeah, that’s the way to stop some member’s mouth: stab him to death. And lest we think this is anything new, remember, Italian police just found a body of a man who was killed by the Mafia and sealed up in concrete in the column of a building under construction. He had been there for awhile. Fun side note: The Mafia sometimes puts a rock in the mouths of stoolies after they’ve been offed.

But back to Elizabethan England: Christopher “Kit” Marlowe was quite a character. Just practically begged for offing.

“In the centuries since his violent death, Marlowe has been celebrated as gay icon whose works explored the realities of homosexual desire while it was still deeply dangerous to do so. Alongside the Baines note, the British Library has uploaded scans of the director Derek Jarman’s notebooks for his avant-garde film of Marlowe’s Edward II (1991). The play focuses on Edward’s love for his favourite male companion, Piers Gaveston; Jarman’s take on the story is nakedly political, featuring references to contemporary battles over gay rights.”

The Guardian

The Jarman film, which badly needs the Criterion treatment, is a rather confused mess, just like the decade in which it was made: the 1960s. But if someone would, while this manic mania for remakes in Hollywood goes on, shoot Edward II as written (mostly), you’d really have something. Mr. Marlowe is pretty incredible for doing what he did at the time he did it. I’m surprised he lasted to the ripe old age of 29. The Guardian has lots of writing about him and his works and the performances thereof; some good reads in those articles.

Here’s the Baines spy document text, with notes from The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Because, in case, you know, you don’t know what Sodomy, papists and pimps are:

“Richard Baines to the Privy Council

“Shortly before Marlowe’s death, the informer Richard Baines made the following accusations against the playwright in a note to the Privy Council, the group of advisors who worked closely with Queen Elizabeth.

“[One Christopher Marly]

“A note containing the opinion of one Christopher Marly concerning his damnable judgment of religion, and scorn of God’s word:

“That the Indians, and many authors of antiquity, have assuredly written of above 16 thousand years agone, whereas Adam [Note: Adam; other copies have ‘Moses.’] is proved to have lived within six thousand years.

“He affirmeth that Moses was but a juggler, [Note: Juggler: cheater, deceiver.] and that one Hariot [Note: Hariot: Thomas Hariot, mathematician and author of A Brief and True Report of the Newfound Land of Virginia.] being Sir Walter Raleigh’s man can do more than he.

“That Moses made the Jews to travel 40 years in the wilderness (which journey might have been done in less than one year) ere they came to the promised land, to the intent that those who were privy to many of his subtleties might perish, and so an everlasting superstition reign in the hearts of the people.

“That the beginning of religion was only to keep men in awe.

“That it was an easy matter for Moses being brought up in all the arts of the Egyptians to abuse the Jews, being a rude and gross people.

“That Christ was a bastard and his mother dishonest. [Note: Dishonest: unchaste.]

“That he was the son of a carpenter, and that if the Jews among whom he was born did crucify him, they best knew him and whence he came.

“That Christ deserved better to die than Barabas, [Note: Barabas: Matthew 27:16; Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18-19; John 18:40.] and that the Jews made a good choice, though Barabas were both a thief and a murderer.

“That if there be any God or any good religion, then it is in the Papists, [Note: Papists: Catholics.] because the service of God is performed with more ceremonies, as elevation of the mass, organs, singing men, shaven crowns, etc. That all Protestants are hypocritical asses.

“That if he were put to write a new religion, he would undertake both a more excellent and admirable method, and that all the New Testament is filthily written.

“That the woman of Samaria [Note: Woman of Samaria: John 4.] and her sister were whores and that Christ knew them dishonestly.

“That Saint John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom; that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma. [Note: Sinners of Sodoma: See Genesis 19. In Tudor England, the term ‘sodomy’ applied to a wide range of proscribed sexual practices, including homosexual activity.]

“That all they that love not tobacco and boys are fools.

“That all the apostles were fishermen and base fellows, neither of wit nor worth; that Paul [Note: Paul: cf. Epistle to Romans (King James Version) 13:1-2. ‘1. Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Note, however, that Paul continues, “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’s sake.’ (verse 5).] only had wit, but he was a timorous fellow in bidding men to be subject to magistrates against his conscience.

“That he had as good a right to coin [Coin: mint money.] as the Queen of England, and that he was acquainted with one Poole, a prisoner in Newgate, who hath great skill in mixture of metals, and having learned some things of him, he meant through help of a cunning stamp-maker to coin French crowns, pistolets, and English shillings.

“That if Christ would have instituted the sacrament with more ceremonial reverence, it would have been in more admiration; that it would have been better much better being administered in a tobacco pipe.

“That the angel Gabriel was bawd [Bawd: Pimp.] to the Holy Ghost, because he brought the salutation to Mary.

“That one Richard Cholmley hath confessed that he was persuaded by Marlowe’s reasons to become an atheist.”

The British Library; Notes from The Norton Anthology of English Literature

Fascinating. And very highly effective. It’s a laundry list that ticks off every box in the “How to get yourself killed by Christians” guidebook. Baines must have had great fun with this. He got to offend everyone from Indians to the Holy Ghost, have another man killed for it, and probably pocketed some nice change for his trouble. Fabulous.

Another Anniversary

It’s been TWELVE (12)!!! years??! Holy cow. In spite of all the special dogs (Feargal, Fergus, Fred, Roux, Sascha, Bosco, Goose, Tessa and now Charlie) we’ve had since Bayley crossed the Rainbow Bridge, the first dog who enters your life always leaves the most special imprint on your heart. And Bayley was indeed a special first one. So much so that we remember him and his anniversaries all the time. Here’s the post from 12 years ago, maudlin and sentimental and all that.

Bayley Murphey Beagle
20-Aug-1994 — 2-Mar-2007

Dear Bayley Murphey,

Thank you for being such a wonderful and good dog, a loving companion, for keeping us sane, for loving us unconditionally, for being such an incredibly important part of our lives for 12-and-a-half years. Thank you for putting up with all the picture-taking, ear rubbing, nail clipping, bathing, teefs-brushing and hugs and kisses. Thank you for curling up against us on cold, winter nights. Thank you being the touchstone of our lives. Thank you for being you.

We tried hard to give you a good life, full of all the things that good dogs such as you deserve. From the time of your puppyhood until today, you tried so hard to be good and please us, and you always did. We are richer for having had you in our lives, much, much poorer for your passing. Your suffering is over, now it’s time to run baying through the fields, chasing rabbits, rolling in squirrel pee, and lying under a tree gnawing a never-ending supply of beagle bagels.

Rest and sleep well, pookus. You leave a very large hole in our hearts and our lives.

Love,
Dad, Unca Frankie, and Unca David.

Steve Pollock

Anniversaries … so bittersweet. Sigh.

Puppy Bayley, Plano, October 1994.
Young Bayley being dignified, Plano, 1995.
Bayley napping in the sun, San Francisco, 2001.
Bayley and Frank in Ann Arbor, Autumn 2003.
Me and Bayley, Ann Arbor, Autumn 2003.

Sieg …

John Fugelsang on Twitter

Amen to John Fugelsang’s tweet. Also, it could have been written: “DEEPLY OFFENDED that black football players refuse to stand for the National Anthem bc freedom is all about mandatory loyalty posturing.”

This has been a problem for decades in this country, Jeebus knows.

Plus … this response is fabulous:

As an aside, here’s a great photo of the way students were forced to salute the American flag back in the days when America was great:

[Wikipedia Commons]

It’s worth noting some text from the decision written by Justice Robert H. Jackson (who would go on to prosecute Nazis at the Nuremberg trials—irony!) in West Virginia v. Barnette, the 1943 decision in which the Supreme Court said, quelle surprise, we cannot be forced to “pledge” “allegiance” to the U.S. flag:

“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections. …

“The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own. Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

Justice Robert H. Jackson

I would never presume to improve on anything Justice Jackson wrote, so …

—30—

[ Photo at top by Alex Martinez on Unsplash ]

Stupor Bowl Sunday As It Happens Happened

Have no earthly idea why, but s I’m livebloggin’ this thing. You could encounter boredom and outrage and other acts of writing regurgitation.

17:36: After stomping down the field with run plays, Brady’s first pass is intercepted. Crap on a cracker.

17:39: Rams do nothing. Third and out. Juli’s punt return not great. Now for the usual over-hyped commercials.

17:41: Hulu smashes it outta the park with a Handmaid’s Tale ad throwing Reagan’s “Morning in America” barf campaign ad back in his face. Awesome.

17:47: Time out early, Pats. Neither team has calmed down from early hype. If NE can keep Brady on the field, they can wear out the Rams defense.

17:49: Turkish Airlines: A Ridley Scott film? Seriously?

17:50: Give Gronk ball. Gronk run. Run, Gronk, run. Gronk run 17 yards. Good Gronk, good.

17:52: Second Pats timeout? Whuh?

17:54: Weird social justice/Dr. King legacy/NFL trying to … blackwash (?!) their Kaepernick problems … without mentioning Kaepernick. Ridiculous.

17:56: Gostkowski … misses a field goal?! That’ll come back to haunt them.

18:03: Rams got nothin’ but a penalty. Brady coming out for third time from their 19.

18:07: Hogan drops a pass. Y’all need to settle down, boys.

18:08: Julian gets a good one.

18:09: What are you doing, Tom??!! Yeesh!

18:10: Go, Gronk, go!! Smash, Gronk, smash!

18:11: And they have to punt. Is this gonna be a boring one? Rams have 24 yards of offense and Tom has been kinda weak. End of first quarter. 0-0.

18:17: Rams still go nuthin’. Almost bobbled an interception, which would have been a touchdown.

18:21: Gronk catch, but Gronk short.

18:22: Go Juli! Go Juli! Awesome.

18:23: Tom misses Chris. Long third down.

18:24: Gronk get ball, but Gronk short again. Tom mad. Gostkowski redeems himself for the earlier miss? Yes! Finally points. 3-0, Pats. The ice breaker?

18:28: Rams are only running. Not far, but they’re running.

18:29: Jared finally tosses an 18-yarder. Should have been challenged. Where’s Bill’s head right now?

18:30: Rams stuffed on ground again. Good on yer, Pats defense. And they have to punt. Get your act together now, Tom!

18:31: Complete asshole/bro dipshit/douchy whiteboy commanding everything around him to respond to his commands because … he owns a Mercedes. A pox on thee, Mercedes, a pox.

18:40: Some things happened. The commercials are idiotic as always. I’m bored. Why do the Rams keep running the ball? Why don’t they let the Saints suit up and take over?

18:41: Goff just got smacked to the ground. Van Noy!!! Awesome. And then they punt. And here comes more insipidness. Every year, for the millions spent on these stupid ads, they could … end homelessness. Buy patients drugs they can’t afford. Ensure health care for millions. God.

18:47: Two-minute warning. Halftime. Which will be completely ignored. Maybe I’ll go scrub the toilet. That would be more fun.

18:49: Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges doing a Stella Artois commercial with her flaunting big cleavage and him flaunting his ability to still remember his lines?

18:50: Mass confusion. Rams have 14? men on the field.

17:36: After stomping down the field with run plays, Brady’s first pass is intercepted. Crap on a cracker.

17:39: Rams do nothing. Third and out. Juli’s punt return not great. Now for the usual over-hyped commercials.

17:41: Hulu smashes it outta the park with a Handmaid’s Tale ad throwing Reagan’s “Morning in America” barf campaign ad back in his face. Awesome.

17:47: Time out early, Pats. Neither team has calmed down from early hype. If NE can keep Brady on the field, they can wear out the Rams defense.

17:49: Turkish Airlines: A Ridley Scott film? Seriously?

17:50: Give Gronk ball. Gronk run. Run, Gronk, run. Gronk run 17 yards. Good Gronk, good.

17:52: Second Pats timeout? Whuh?

17:54: Weird social justice/Dr. King legacy/NFL trying to … blackwash (?!) their Kaepernick problems … without mentioning Kaepernick. Ridiculous.

17:56: Gostkowski … misses a field goal?! That’ll come back to haunt them.

18:03: Rams got nothin’ but a penalty. Brady coming out for third time from their 19.

18:07: Hogan drops a pass. Y’all need to settle down, boys.

18:08: Julian gets a good one.

18:09: What are you doing, Tom??!! Yeesh!

18:10: Go, Gronk, go!! Smash, Gronk, smash!

18:11: And they have to punt. Is this gonna be a boring one? Rams have 24 yards of offense and Tom has been kinda weak. End of first quarter. 0-0.

18:17: Rams still go nuthin’. Almost bobbled an interception, which would have been a touchdown.

18:21: Gronk catch, but Gronk short.

18:22: Go Juli! Go Juli! Awesome.

18:23: Tom misses Chris. Long third down.

18:24: Gronk get ball, but Gronk short again. Tom mad. Gostkowski redeems himself for the earlier miss? Yes! Finally points. 3-0, Pats. The ice breaker?

18:28: Rams are only running. Not far, but they’re running.

18:29: Jared finally tosses an 18-yarder. Should have been challenged. Where’s Bill’s head right now?

18:30: Rams stuffed on ground again. Good on yer, Pats defense. And they have to punt. Get your act together now, Tom!

18:31: Complete asshole/bro dipshit/douchy whiteboy commanding everything around him to respond to his commands because … he owns a Mercedes. A pox on thee, Mercedes, a pox.

18:40: Some things happened. The commercials are idiotic as always. I’m bored. Why do the Rams keep running the ball? Why don’t they let the Saints suit up and take over?

18:41: Goff just got smacked to the ground. Van Noy!!! Awesome. And then they punt. And here comes more insipidness. Every year, for the millions spent on these stupid ads, they could … end homelessness. Buy patients drugs they can’t afford. Ensure health care for millions. God.

18:47: Two-minute warning. Halftime. Which will be completely ignored. Maybe I’ll go scrub the toilet. That would be more fun.

18:49: Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges doing a Stella Artois commercial with her flaunting big cleavage and him flaunting his ability to still remember his lines?

18:50: Mass confusion. Rams have 14? men on the field.

18:53: Going for a fourth-and-one. And … Gronk can’t hold on, just past his fingertips. Rams ball. Damn.

18:55: But Goff bites the astroturf. Then fires a pass, but too little too late. Then hits the turf with a low pass. 28 seconds left. Rams do nothing, nothing, nothing. Six punts. This one downed at Pats two, but the half is 16 seconds away. Don’t do something stupid here.

18:57: And here’s the half. Second lowest scoring Stupor Bowl in history. Stadium sounds like there’s no one in it.

19:18: Is this stupid halftime thing over yet?

19:23: ADT and Property Brothers threatening us that we’re gonna see a lot more of them. Please God, no.

19:29: Kick the ball and let’s get this thing going.

19:30: Goff passes right to … Highland, a New England defender, who can’t hold on to the ball. Then somebody runs. It’s pretty much the first half again.

19:32: Injury. And a guy in what looks like purple eyeshadow says something about Belicheck not saying anything of substance. Then a stupid ad with a kid being exploited to sell South Korean cars made in Georgia.

19:35: Broken arm. Gets the biggest crowd reaction yet. Bloodthirsty buggers down there in Atlanta.

19:37: Goff heads for the bench again. Pats getting the punt. Go Juli. He has more yards gained than the entire Rams offense.

19:38: Tom calls “Reagan! Reagan!” It’s a run to the right. Like Reagan, overblown.

19:40: Julian takes a pass and gets 37 yards. Woooooot! Julian MVP? He has 120+ yards, so why not?

19:43: And they have to punt. <sigh>

19:46: Rams in the hole, get a penalty.

19:47: Am I the only one bugged that the navy blue on the Rams’ helmets doesn’t match the blue on their jerseys? And Goff almost gets a safety. And they make their eighth punt. But it’s a 65-yarder … longest punt in Stupor Bowl history. It’s a dubious achievement, but there it is.

19:48: More feel gooding, this time first responders get their due in order to be exploited by those assholes at Verizon. Love first responders, Verizon can bite me.

19:56: We popped over to the Puppy Bowl in time for some nauseating exploitation. But I hope it helps some puppies.

19:57: Fourth first down? They’re showing signs of life? And Romo is a totally sarcastic smartass. And the Rams get one more first down.

20:02: Suddenly Rams show a spark. But McCordy smacks the ball outta the hands of the Rams receiver in the end zone. Frustration on the sidelines.

20:03: Goff gets totally snuffed into the turf. Bam! From Hightower.

20:04: Rams get a long field goal. It’s 3-3. How thrilling. First 50+-yard field goal in 15 years.

20:08: Holding on the Rams.

20:10: And three quarters are gone. 3-3 at 53.

20:13: First Stupor Bowl ever where there hasn’t been a touchdown in three quarters. And then Tom hits the turf. And they punt.

20:16: Goff flubs it and marches 5 yards back.

20:18: 12:23 to go and Pats take timeout. Please God don’t send us to overtime.

20:22: Goff gets plowed into the turf again. Flag on field: Holding, Pats. Geez, boys.

20:24: Holding on the Rams.

20:26: Goff gets bowled into the sideline spectators. Then a pass that was nothing.

20:28: Burger King digs up Andy Warhol’s corpse to flog whoppers. Now it’s folk songs calling for communist overthrow being used to flog beer.

20:29: All Pats Super Bowls decided in last three minutes and by small number of points. Yup. Go Gronk go!!!!

20:31: Julian’s 10th catch. Nice.

20:32: GRONK GRONK GRONK!!!! Will we finally get a TD in this game?

20:33: PATRIOTS SCORE TD FINALLY!!!!! WOOOOOT! Thank you Gronk! 10-3. Whew.

20:35: Not amusing Amazon commercial. Cripes.

20:36: Okay, you got 7 minutes to go boys. Do it.

20:41: Thank God. Some Rams things happened then a beautiful interception. Pats defense should be MVPs!

20:45: 26 yards gets them some space. Plus illegal use of hands by the Rams.

20:47: Some confusion over time. Time out LA.

20:48: 26 yards by Burkette. Yes!

20:50: Two Patriots penalties?! Justified, I’m afraid. Calm down.

20:51: Belicheck is MADDDDDDDD. No one knows what happened. Two minute warning!

20:55: Washington Post “Democracy Dies in Darkness” ad. Hmmmmm. You should have given murdered and threatened journalists much more airplay. But it’s a start.

20:58: Gostkowski wins the Stupor Bowl for the Pats. Good on ya boys!

21:00: Here’s the last minute. Rams’ last gasp.

21:03: 48 yard field goal try, but won’t work. It’s wide left. Brady and company celebrating.

21:04: Kneel down, Tom. And congrats. That’s the ol’ ball game.

21:09: Madness on field. MVP should be Juli. And it is.

21:26: Finally the trophy. Yeesh. Belicheck is touching a child. Wow.

21:30: Juli’s kind of a goober like Tom. But congrats to his … amazing game. And I’m out. Night!


[Text by Steve. Photo by Nathan Gonthier on Unsplash. ]


—30—

His Majesty Objects


His Majesty the Roux, Speaking on a Subject of the Gravest National Interest

His Imperial Majesty the Roux is rather protective of the Royal Demesne. So whenever friend and neighbor, the talented Lars Thorson (who just happened to be on Good Morning America and the Colbert Show this week, but that’s another post) walks the incredibly adorable, majorly awesome puppy the Townes-ter, His Majesty and at least 3/4 of the Royal Court (Queen Sascha typically can’t be bothered to soil herself in territorial disputes) collectively lose their … little doggy minds.

After some interminably loud defending the walls of the castle, HIM the Roux comes inside and complains for 15 minutes to us churls about Townes very existence in the Royal Orbit. Part of the Complaint revolves around the undisputed Treasonous Conduct of us churls in Divers Huggings and Walkings and Flauntings of the Dangerous Interloper, but as long as we churls pay the castle expenses, a standoff situation is guaranteed to prevail.

(Also, see how His Majesty’s face is getting lighter and whiter? He’ll be a dead ringer for King Lear soon. His Highness shall be eight (8!) years old next month. Lord, His old age will be a Thing to Behold! Also, shhhhhhh. Don’t tell him.)


—30—

WWI Collides with D&D and Memes

It’s two years old, but I’m just seeing it for the first time. It’s « one of the best visual “explainers” » I’ve seen that describes the spark which ignited World War I.

It tells the story of that horrible June day in 1914 via a series of memes and the lens of a Dungeons and Dragons session.

Given that the spark (predicted by Bismarck to be some “damn fool thing in the Balkans”) ignited two large-scale global wars AND that over the next half-century upwards of 150 million humans and untold animals would die from the cascade of events following that spark, well, it’s a story well-worth knowing, telling, re-telling and making as relevant as possible to generations down through time.