Category: Quotable (page 1 of 2)

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.

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).


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).


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.

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: 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: 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).


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!]

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.

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

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

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.

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 ]

Beery Originalist Quotables

As the beery angry drunk Bratty “C’mon Just  Touch It!” Keginaw takes the Supreme Court in supremely retrograde and heavily misogynistic directions, here are a few Original Originalist quotes worth Originally quoting, from a few of our first Original Founders:

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11 (Ratified by founding father and president John Adams and approved unanimously by the Senate)

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”

James Madison, Letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774

“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

Thomas Paine, Excerpt from The Age of Reason

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

George Washington, Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

“No religious doctrine shall be established by law.”

Elbridge Gerry, Annals of Congress, 1:729-731

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

“Denominated a Deist, the reality of which I have never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian.”

Ethan Allen, Religion of the American Enlightenment

“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

The United States Constitution, Article VI, Paragraph III

“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner or on any pretext infringed.”

James Madison, First Federal Congress, Congressional Register, June 8, 1789

“Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this thing called Christianity.”

Thomas Paine, Excerpt from The Age of Reason

“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated.”

George Washington, Letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792

Amen.

Squeezed to Death

If you have to evacuate an airliner in a hurry, can you get out of your extremely cramped seat and row fast enough? Probably not. And then you have to dodge all the idiots trying to save all their luggage and personal electronic devices at glacial paces.

But it’s the ever-shrinking seat and row size that will probably be the deadliest problem if there’s a problem with the over-stuffed aluminum tube in which you’re squeezed because most of the country is too damn cheap to pay more than $29 to get from Dubuque to Miami. « At least one editorial » (which was probably ignored and forgotten faster than that flight took to get from Dubuque to Miami) sounded an alarm:

“Given how passengers have grown in inverse proportion to the spaciousness of airliner seats, anything like ‘expeditious’ evacuation of an entire airliner seems doubtful. … Under such constraints, can today’s jets be evacuated in the 90 seconds mandated by the F.A.A.? Not according to passenger advocacy groups like Flyers Rights, which has repeatedly and unsuccessfully petitioned the F.A.A. to use its rule-making authority to stop airlines from shrinking seats and passenger space. Not according to Representatives Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, and Rick Larsen, Democrat of Washington, who have asked the Transportation Department’s inspector general to investigate F.A.A. safety standards that haven’t been updated in decades. Incredibly, it will require an act of Congress to ensure that the F.A.A. does something, because the agency has denied that seat sizes and body mass index are factors in emergencies. The agency has even denied that it has the authority to regulate airliner seat size.”

The New York Times

As always in this country, it will take a massive tragedy and lots of unnecessarily burned/maimed/dead people before we do something about this. Pity.

Of Manifestoes and Buildings and Truman and Stuff

[Edited two days later to fix some typos and unclear, stream-of-consciousness-type unclear phrases.]

During the recent effort to rename the Russell Senate Office Building, it would have been nice to remember that both Richard Russell, the building’s current namesake, and John McCain, the proposed replacement namesake, (while useful tools to poke the likes of President Orange Poopy Pants and the Supreme Court), weren’t total paragons of virtue all the time.

Where McCain is concerned, his virtues are many and have been told rather exhaustively this past week. As for his vices, well, two words should be highlighted when his legacy is recounted: “Sarah” and “Palin.”

As for the namesake guy, Richard Brevard Russell Jr., United States Senator from the Peach State of Georgia, well, his legacy needs a few more words than just two (although if you want to stick to just two, how about “white” and “supremacist”?). Let’s just look on the ol’ internettubesweb, shall we and see what we can see about ol’ RBR?

“Russell supported racial segregation and co-authored the Southern Manifesto with Strom Thurmond. Russell and 17 fellow Democratic and one Republican senators blocked the passage of civil rights legislation via the filibuster. After Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Russell led a Southern boycott of the 1964 Democratic National Convention.”

Wikipedia (ugh; sorry, lazy reference)

The “Southern Manifesto” was, what, exactly? Stay with me here. The Supreme Court ended “separate but equal” educational facilities and opportunities for different races in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. This pissed off a lot of people (and they and their grandkids are still pissed off about it in 2018), so, in 1956, a bunch of pissed off Congress critters got together and said they supported the Constitution, just not certain parts of it, like the Supreme Court deciding on the Constitutionality of stuff that the Congress critters decreed.

The pissed-off Congress critters also supported, of course, the Only Amendments Which Count: the Second [genuflect when you say that] and the Tenth [look bewildered and take their word for it; be prepared to genuflect when they tell you to genuflect]. Therefore, they, the pissed off Congress critters, would Just. Not. Have. Any. Of. Brown v. Board.

So, like outraged teenagers who for the first time have learned about stuff like the existence of poverty or CIA assassinations or student loan debt or their university’s investments in repressive regimes such as South Africa or Israel or the U.S., they (stay with me here: “they” means the pissed-off Congress critters) got together and issued forth AN MANIFESTO, in which they laid down the law.

Here are the choicest excerpts, with my sarcastic comments in brackets:

“We commend the motives of those States which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means.” [I suppose that in the South it was lawful to throw yourself bodily across the entrance to schools and universities when negroes show up, so I give ’em that point.]

“We appeal to the States and people who are not directly affected by these decisions to consider the constitutional principles involved against the time when they too, on issues vital to them may be the victims of judicial encroachment. [Slippery, slippery!! Today: Miscegenation in Miss-ssippi; tomorrow: Legal cocksucking in Boston!]

“Even though we constitute a minority in the present Congress, we have full faith that a majority of the American people believe in the dual system of government which has enabled us to achieve our greatness and will in time demand that the reserved rights of the States and of the people be made secure against judicial usurpation. [We have a tripartite system of guv’mint, not a dual, dumbasses, but let’s not quibble over our greatness being derived from two or three systems. These pissed-off Congress critters are saying that even though a majority rejected their being in the majority in the Congress, they were certain that the majority supported their minority in believing …something something about the Tenth Amendment. As for “Judicial usurpation,” that term has been gradually replaced with the more down-to-earth term “judicial activism,” which now means “any court’s decision we don’t like, especially the ones about equal negroes, women in control of their bodies, brown-skinned immigration, prying guns from our cold dead hands, and … those other ones, like the ones letting queers live and shit, yeah, those.”]

“We pledge ourselves to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation. [Now here, the pissed-off Congress critters were on to something. Under the rubric of invoking “Massive Resistance,” they noted that it was lawful for whites to take their children and their money to whites-only private schools in redlined housing developments, meaning Brown v. Board was pretty much dead from the get-go. As for the last clause in the MANIFESTO, the pissed off Congress critters failed to prevent the usage of the National Guard a few times to enforce the decision (damnit John F. Kennedy and, er, um, Dwight Eisenhower!!), then got all friendly with the same National Guard when it executed four dirty hippies at Kent State. [Sarcasm ahead] “Use your guns to kill the hippies, just don’t use them to make my precious pale son sit next to an icky black nappy-headed five-year-old negress in kindergarten show-and-tell.”[/Sarcasm]]

“In this trying period, as we all seek to right this wrong, we appeal to our people not to be provoked by the agitators and troublemakers invading our States and to scrupulously refrain from disorder and lawless acts.” [“Sons and Daughters of the South! This is a “trying” period as we seek to save the White Race from extinction through the diabolical use of court orders to force our chill’run to share their coloring books and colors with the Colored! Be on the lookout for: Agitators! Troublemakers! Fifth Columnists! Carpetbaggers! Miscegenationists! Thugs! MS-13ers! But even as these Yankees sack and pillage our fair Southern lands for the second time in a hundred years and threaten a formal Second War of Northern Aggression, you all should scrupulously refrain from touching a hair on their comma-nist heads in a disorderly and lawless fashion. Mess ’em up while they “resist arrest,” then haul their asses to Parchman and shoot ’em “while trying to escape.” Just do it all in a lawful fashion.]

Declaration of Constitutional Principles, or, “The Southern Manifesto,” the start of “Massive Resistance” to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1956. Bracketed words are my own sarcastic commentary and not in the original document.

So this is fun! Oh, but wait! This just in …

“[Richard Russell] proclaimed his faith in the “family farm” and supported most New Deal programs for parity, rural electrification, and farm loans, and supported promoting agricultural research, providing school lunches and giving surplus commodities to the poor. He was the chief sponsor of the National School Lunch Act of 1946 with the dual goals of providing proper nutrition for all children and of subsidizing agriculture.”

Wikipedia (ugh again I say ugh)

Oh! That puts a better light on him …

But wait again! School lunches for negroes weren’t, er, they were the same but just separately equal, you see. And Russell’s political heirs are trying mightily as we speak to trash what is left of the school lunch program. With Imperial Queen Betsy “If You Don’t Buy Some Amway, My Crazy Creepy Mercenary Brother Will Shoot Your Ass” DeVos in charge of the Dept. of Ed. and Sonny “Negro Slaves Served in the Confederate Armies and Loved It!” Perdue in charge of the Dept. of Ag, that children are learning and anyone is eating is rather a major Jesus-sized miracle at this point. But I digress as always.

Okay, you get the point. Man is always, unlike our system of government, a duality: good/evil, light/dark, well-intentioned/malevolent. Russell was no different. There was some good mixed in with the … wait, what’s this? … “In the 1930s and 1940s, Russell participated in Southern filibusters to block federal bills aimed at suppressing lynchings and poll taxes” [Hartford Courant]. Well hell’s bells! Screw it. Alright, Russell was an asshole and the building should be renamed. Maybe not for John “Sarah Palin” McCain and maybe not as an intentional tweak on the nose of President Orange Tantrum Pants, but for someone of better moral fiber. I propose “The Colin Kaepernick Senate Office Building.”

What brought this tirade on? Actually, I just finished The Accidental President, A.J. Baime’s very good detailing of Harry Truman’s incredibly historic first four months as president in 1945. In the book, it seems the very same pissed-off Senator Richard Russell makes an appearance at the end. While Truman was dealing with everything from the atom bomb to Joseph Stalin to the Japanese to the Chicago Tribune to the very pissed off Reluctant First Lady Bess (a.k.a. The Boss), he had to deal with Richard Russell.

Russell, ever-outraged Southern Belle whose barrel hoops have become hopelessly entangled in several of his seven layers of petticoats, sent a letter to Truman telling Harry S., nay, DEMANDING that Harry S. grab that [sarcasm ahead warning] slanty-eyed Jap bastard Emperor Hirohito and hang him like he was a negro attempting to enter an elementary school, [/sarcasm] er, uh, rather, hang him like a war criminal.

In response, Harry S. delivered a perfect, vintage “Give ’em hell, Harry!” response:

“Truman had received a missive from Senator Richard Russell, Democrat of Georgia, who asked that the United States continue bombing until the Japanese ‘beg us to accept unconditional surrender.’ Russell believed ‘the vast majority of the American people’ thought the emperor ‘should go,’ and that ‘if we do not have available a sufficient number of atomic bombs with which to finish the job immediately, let us carry on with TNT and fire bombs until we can produce them.’

“(To this, Truman responded: ‘I certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations because of the “pigheadedness” of the leaders of a nation and, for your information, I am not going to do it unless it is absolutely necessary . . . My objective is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a humane feeling for the women and children of Japan.’)”

A. J. Baime. The Accidental President New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2018

And so, we have a major government office building named after a white supremacist/professional outrage machine/snowflake who voted to let small children have lunch but who was on the receiving end of one of Harry’s best “Give ’em Hell” smackdowns. I’ll bet he sure lost his pantaloons over Harry’s 1947 integration of the armed forces. Plus, he was probably a beta cuck.

“America, America, God spread they stupidity on thee!”

————————

[By the way, Russell may or may not have known it, but Truman had two options in August 1945:

1. Use the bomb and then allow the Japanese to accept reality, surrendering unconditionally while keeping their emperor, or

2. Continue the war with an invasion of the Japanese home islands with a planned 766,600 troops, not winning the war until approximately November 15 of 1946 (!), which would have cost an untold number of American casualties (we incurred 3/4 of a million casualties in the war. A doubling of that figure for the invasion of Japan is not unreasonable). For reference, the 1945 fight for Iwo Jima resulted in 20,000 U.S. and 25,000 Japanese casualties. Iwo Jima is approximately 8.1 square miles. The Battle for Okinawa cost over 40,000 U.S. and over 80,000 Japanese casualties.  Okinawa is 466 square miles. The square mileage of Japan is over 145,000. Half-a-million American casualties and another year-and-a-half of war … Russell might have welcomed it.]

————————

[I should also highlight what I was told in a 1989 interview by John Smith of Marlow, Oklahoma, a survivor of the Japanese invasion of Wake Island, Dec. 1941-Feb. 1942: “Thank God for Harry Truman and thank god for the atomic bomb.” The other nine Wake Island vets who were gathered in his home for one of their periodic reunions agreed with John unanimously.

Harry’s use of two bombs did indeed greatly reduce Japanese casualties and more of the destruction Richard Russell wanted. And it saved 3/4 of a million American men another year-and-a-half of hell and possible injury and death, as well as releasing P.O.W.s like John Smith from almost four years of hell, mistreatment and starvation. Some of those P.O.W.s weighed less than 100 pounds when they were finally were freed—their freedom thanks to God, Harry S. and the atomic bomb.

Richard Russell’s preference would almost certainly have consigned them and countless others to death, if not by American bomb hits on prison compounds or by the complete incendiary destruction of Japan, then by the long, slow agony of starvation, a situation that was getting worse the longer Japan hung on.

Richard Russell, like Robert E. Lee, was a fool. Get his name off the Senate Office Building and put it in the history books under “Pompous racist ass who maybe did one or maybe two decent things his whole life.” And since I brought him up, the traitor Robert E. Lee should have met Joseph Goebbels’ end: his body dug up, cremated, and the ashes thrown into the nearest river. What? Too much?]

Atomic Poetry

On 1-Jun-1945, six weeks after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, new U.S. President Harry Truman convened a meeting to update the status on and debate the use of the soon-to-be-born atomic bomb. But first, at the Pentagon, a group consisting of James Byrnes (soon to be Secretary of State), generals George C. Marshall and Leslie Groves, Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi, among others, convened to make a decision on how to advise the new president on the bomb.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson was also present … and well prepared:

“Stimson was now focused exclusively on the atomic bomb. He had become transfixed by its potential historical impact. He had prepared handwritten notes for these meetings, which curiously read like modernist poetry. The verse was a window into the secretary of war’s state of mind.”

His notes:

Its size and character
We don’t think it mere new weapon
Revolutionary Discovery of Relation of man to universe
Great History Landmark like
Gravitation
Copernican Theory
But, Bids fair infinitely greater, in respect to its
Effect
—on the ordinary affairs of man’s life.
May destroy or perfect International
Civilization
May[be] Frankenstein or means for World Peace

—Secretary of War Henry Stimson | 1-Jun-45
As quoted by A. J. Baime, The Accidental President. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.

The Accidental President is fascinating reading, while the jury is still out on Stimson’s poetic questions.

TCM Tonight: Summer Under the Stars – Joan Crawford

Of COURSE we had to watch some Joan tonight. Not taking time to behold the wonder that is our patron saint, Lucille LeSueur, would be anathema, blasphemy, time wasted!

Poster of Sudden Fear Movie
Sudden Fear Movie Poster

First up was 1952’s Sudden Fear — Joan with Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame, Bruce Bennett, Virginia Hudson and Mike “Touch” / “Mannix” Connors. David Miller directed. Playwright takes up with menacing actor Palance, who is really plotting with Gloria Grahame (who else?) to knock off Joan and take all her fabulous wealth. Mike Connors is there to be supposedly pretty and try to romance Gloria Grahame, who brushes him off because, of course, she likes being smacked around by her dreamboat Palance. Also, she has a closet with handy poison and a gun all ready to go.

Summary: “After an ambitious actor insinuates himself into the life of a wealthy middle-aged playwright and marries her, he plots with his mistress to murder her.”

IMDb.

Fabulous quotes:

Myra Hudson: “Remember what Nietzsche says ‘Live dangerously!'”
Lester Blaine: “You know what happened to Nietzsche?”
Myra Hudson: “No, what?”
Lester Blaine: “He’s dead.”

Lester Baine and Myra Hudson, Sudden Fear

“I was just wondering what I’d done to deserve you.” 

Myra Hudson, Sudden Fear
Harriet Craig movie poster
Movie poster of Harriet Craig, 1952.

Next up was 1950s Harriet Craig — Joan with Wendell Corey, Lucile Watson, Allyn Joslyn, William Bishop, K.T. Stevens and Ellen Corby. Directed by Vincent Sherman. She plays, what else, a Mommie Dearest without the kids, who actually hates kids, disorder, had to work to survive in a laundry and other foul places, but who now worships a perfectly clean, massive house and a Ming vahse and browbeats the servants and the little boy next door. Only thing missing is cans of Dutch Cleanser. Harriet is my paternal grandmother with money, youth, and better tailoring. Now THAT woman knew how to clean! The Ming vahse fails to survive the picture, as does her marriage.

Summary: “Domineering Harriet Craig holds more regard for her home and its possessions than she does for any person in her life. Among those she treats like household objects are her kind husband Walter, whom she has lied to about her inability to have children; her cousin Claire, whom she treats like a secretary; and her servants whom she treats like slaves.”

IMDb

Fabulous quotes:

“No man’s born ready for marriage; he has to be trained.” 

Harriet Craig.

“I’m going next door. Where the scheming widow lives.” 

Walter Craig.
Movie Poster of Torch Song

We also caught the tail end of Torch Song from 1953, with its infamous scene of Joan doing some serious legwork and vamping in full black face lip synching as India Adams sings Two Faced Woman and one of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands, Michael Wilding, playing blind, complete with drunken old biddy mother, seeing eye dog and costumes and more lip synching and other acts of violent culture appropriation.

Summary: “Jenny Stewart is a tough Broadway musical star who doesn’t take criticism from anyone. Yet there is one individual, Tye Graham, a blind pianist who may be able to break through her tough exterior.”

IMDb

Fabulous quotes:

“Your idea of art’s the fruit in the slot machine.”

Jenny Stewart

Jenny: “Carl, after you drop me will you take Mr. Norton home?” Carl: “Yes ma’am. What’s your address Mr. Norton?” Jenny: “Any dark bar.”

Jenny Stewart and her chauffeur

Joan emotes with aforementioned Michael Wilding, as well as Gig Young, the always fabulous Marjorie Rambeau, Harry Morgan, and Maidie Norman, who plays the usual part reserved for women of color: the maid, who remains completely silent when the white folk smudge their faces with charcoal, paint on big lips and start singin’ field hand songs. (Maidie was five hundred times the actor Joan was, but made-up black face gets Oscars and real black face gets two lines talking about how dinner or the fancy white woman dress is ready. Ms. Norman and Ms. Rambeau are pretty much the only redeeming features of this one, as well as a little bit of Mr. Wilding’s handsome mug. Should’ve been titled Black Face Lip Synching Song, but theaters in the south would have been all in a snit and shit. If you’re not into being entertained by many appalling elements in a 90-minute period, skip Torch SongSudden Fear and Harriet Craig I can personally recommend.

Tonight is the end of this year’s Summer Under the Stars. How appropriate to end it with Dearest Joan. And that fabulous production, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? so that Bette Davis can yet again trample on Joan’s special Summer Under the Stars day.

It’s now September. Thank god. This summer weather-wise and otherwise was brutal. Fall can’t get here fast enough.

‘Splaining Things to the Kids

A Democratic Socialist explains «what Democratic Socialism actually is»: Not just a return to the halcyon days of the New Deal.

“I’m a staff writer at the socialist magazine Jacobin and a member of DSA, and here’s the truth: In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism. And we want to do that by pursuing a reform agenda today in an effort to revive a politics focused on class hierarchy and inequality in the United States. The eventual goal is to transform the world to promote everyone’s needs rather than to produce massive profits for a small handful of citizens.

“Democratic socialists share goals with New Deal liberals. But they want to go further.

“Pooling society’s resources to meet people’s basic needs is a tenet of social democracy, one that’s been advocated domestically by much of the labor movement and many of its political supporters among New Deal and post-New Deal liberals. This is a vision we share. But we also want more than FDR did. A robust welfare state in an economy that’s still organized around capitalists’ profits can mitigate the worst inequalities for a while, but it’s at best a temporary truce between bosses and workers — and one that the former will look to scrap as soon as they can.”

Vox

Yup.

Eggheads

There is brilliance «here» by Matthew Stewart:

“Here’s another fact of life in West Egg: Someone is always above you. In Gatsby’s case, it was the old-money people of East Egg. In the Colonel’s case, it was John D. Rockefeller Jr. You’re always trying to please them, and they’re always ready to pull the plug.
“The source of the trouble, considered more deeply, is that we have traded rights for privileges. We’re willing to strip everyone, including ourselves, of the universal right to a good education, adequate health care, adequate representation in the workplace, genuinely equal opportunities, because we think we can win the game. But who, really, in the end, is going to win this slippery game of escalating privileges?”
The Atlantic

And this:

“In Trump, the age of unreason has at last found its hero. The ‘self-made man’ is always the idol of those who aren’t quite making it. He is the sacred embodiment of the American dream, the guy who answers to nobody, the poor man’s idea of a rich man. It’s the educated phonies this group can’t stand. With his utter lack of policy knowledge and belligerent commitment to maintaining his ignorance, Trump is the perfect representative for a population whose idea of good governance is just to scramble the eggheads. When reason becomes the enemy of the common man, the common man becomes the enemy of reason.
Did I mention that the common man is white? That brings us to the other side of American-style resentment. You kick down, and then you close ranks around an imaginary tribe. The problem, you say, is the moochers, the snakes, the handout queens; the solution is the flag and the religion of your (white) ancestors. According to a survey by the political scientist Brian Schaffner, Trump crushed it among voters who ‘strongly disagree’ that ‘white people have advantages because of the color of their skin,’ as well as among those who ‘strongly agree’ that ‘women seek to gain power over men.’ It’s worth adding that these responses measure not racism or sexism directly, but rather resentment. They’re good for picking out the kind of people who will vehemently insist that they are the least racist or sexist person you have ever met, even as they vote for a flagrant racist and an accused sexual predator.”
Ibid

And then he brings it home:

“No one is born resentful. As mass phenomena, racism, xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, narcissism, irrationalism, and all other variants of resentment are as expensive to produce as they are deadly to democratic politics. Only long hours of television programming, intelligently manipulated social-media feeds, and expensively sustained information bubbles can actualize the unhappy dispositions of humanity to the point where they may be fruitfully manipulated for political gain. Racism in particular is not just a legacy of the past, as many Americans would like to believe; it also must be constantly reinvented for the present. Mass incarceration, fearmongering, and segregation are not just the results of prejudice, but also the means of reproducing it.”
Ibid

Where then shall we go thither?

“The United States, to be clear, is hardly the most egregious offender in the annals of human inequality. The European nations from which the colonists of North America emigrated had known a degree of inequality and instability that Americans would take more than a century to replicate. Whether in ancient Rome or the Near East, Asia or South America, the plot remains the same. In The Great Leveler, the historian Walter Scheidel makes a disturbingly good case that inequality has reliably ended only in catastrophic violence: wars, revolutions, the collapse of states, or plagues and other disasters. It’s a depressing theory. Now that a third wave of American inequality appears to be cresting, how much do we want to bet that it’s not true?”
Ibid

If I have quoted rather liberally, it is to be sure because the piece deserves to be quoted liberally across the land. Read the whole thing.

Treading a Careful Path in Post-Castro Cuba

«Here’s a fascinating, albeit rather eye-crossing, analysis» of what is happening in Cuba from a Communist perspective. Whatever happens, the way forward is difficult regardless of where one sits on the left-right political spectrum. Will it be a longer-drawn-out 1989 followed by a Franco-Batista-Bolsanaro triumph and bloodbath? Will it become Venezuela? Or will a Scandinavian socialism settle in? Whichever, it’s going to be an interesting new era.

“… we should not resort to useless and ultimately pedantic whining particularly virulent among many left-communist sects. We should organize our thoughts in helpful and productive ways, not just stating the facts, but analyzing them. There is a discrete left-opportunist trend that seeks to throw all developments in Cuba post-1959 into the dustbin and forget about it. This does as little for us as the right-opportunist line; both fail to grasp the full reality of revisionist corrosion and capitalist restoration in Cuba, although one cloaks itself in stultified theory. We should not stop at holding out hope for the legitimate Communists in Cuba, but should actively unite with them and learn from them.”

AntiImperialism.org

For Bill

Back in 2014, I included a chapter in my book detailing Bill Schock’s war experiences as they related to his reporting on the crash of Braniff International flight 250 in 1966.

The editors at McFarland, rightly but regretfully, suggested I delete the chapter since it was rather tangentially related to the subject, namely “Deadly Turbulence: The Air Safety Lessons of Braniff Flight 250 and Other Airliners, 1959-1966.” (Yeesh, that title.) They wanted 80,000 words; I gave them 96,000, so yeah, some cuts were needed—like the chapter about events which happened in 1966.

But for what it’s worth, in honor of Bill, here’s the deleted chapter. I hope it does him at least some honor.

Farewell, Bill. Thank you.

Update 05:00 26-Jun-18: I revised the chapter to correct a few annoying typos and to add some information, including original source documents for Bill’s war record. Click the link below again to get the revised version. Thanks!]

Read the chapter at this link:
«Deleted Chapter About Bill Schock from Deadly Turbulence by Steve Pollock»

A Final “Hangin’ Out the Warsh”

«This is Bill’s final column» out of countless ones he wrote over 71 years for the Falls City Journal.

With this column, he said farewell; the Journal has been sold and moved to a much smaller space in downtown Falls City which it had occupied until 1950.

It’s all extremely symbolic of the state of small-town journalism in the wayward America of the 21st century.

He wrote about one memory that I can personally relate to very much from my time at the Duncan Banner:

“A man came into the office and was pondering over the counter. Finally, he said, ‘I guess I’ll keep on another year. It ain’t the best paper in the world, but it is something to read.’ Another time a man brought an ad in for placement in the Journal and when he was told the price he said, ‘The old man gave me a better price.’ The clerk said, ‘Who’s the old man?’ He said ‘Bill Schock.'”

Falls City Journal

History as Prophecy

I have been attempting to read «Michael Burleigh’s The Third Reich: A New History» since it came out in 2000. Instead, I’ve read «William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich» twice. Nothing wrong with anything I’ve read of Burleigh’s work; quite the contrary. In fact, it has to do with how big the book is; the first edition is 950-plus pages and weighs a ton and I’ve had hand/wrist problems since, well, 2000. And I have Rise and Fall on Kindle.

But I always thought that Burleigh’s opening paragraph (and all Third Reich histories in general) were always backwards looking; in other words, they were histories. Sure they warned about what could happen if we weren’t careful, but that was all theoretical and probably wouldn’t happen and we put a stop to it in the first place and it couldn’t happen again.

Turns out, how wrong I was. His opening ‘graph was instead prophetic. And how.

“This book is about what happened when sections of the German elites and masses of ordinary people chose to abdicate their individual critical faculties in favour of a politics based on faith, hope, hatred and sentimental collective self-regard for their own race and nation.”
—Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History

The paragraph’s last sentence was actually not as accurate, however:

“It is therefore a very twentieth-century story.”
Ibid

Yeah, that part? Not so much. But sections of American elites and masses of ordinary people have indeed, just 16 years after the book’s publication, chosen to “abdicate their individual critical faculties” and their “faith, hope, hatred and sentimental collective self-regard for their own race and nation” do in fact rule the day.

The only thing Burleigh couldn’t do is tell us how this particular American very twenty-first (and seventeenth/eightteenth/nineteeth/twentieth) century story will turn out.

We have, after all, already committed genocide against milions of people based on race, segregated millions of people based on race, destroyed democracy in favor of wealth (for a very few) and world domination, and are conducting limitless war without end throughout the world. What else is there? What else can we do from here on out than we haven’t already done before? Isn’t nuclear holocaust the Last American Frontier?

I’ll just stick my nose back in Burleigh’s magnum; the events in it have already happened and the good guys won and put an end to the suspense.

Scenes from Old Age …

[Scenes from old age (level 54 edition)]

From “Mail Call Three” episode of M*A*S*H (S6,E20; 1978, when I was 15), Radar complaining about his widowed mother having a boyfriend and maybe getting married:

“Old people shouldn’t get married. SHE’S ALMOST 50!!”

Get off my lawn, O’Reilly!

On Shitholes


God’s Destiny for America has a Pottymouth

[Once again, my conscience overflows and will not give me rest without giving vent to something political/religious. So skip/block/defriend to your heart’s desire; just don’t say you didn’t get a trigger warning.]

During a lengthy sleepless (yet again) night, the above pictured “breaking news” started popping up on websites whereever you happened to be looking. The Presidential utterance was met by the usual silence from Graham, Dobson, Falwell, Jackson, Metaxas and Trump’s personal spiritual advisor Paula White (who wants your January paycheck or else God’s consequences will be visited on your head. Give her your 8% and you … get a Mercedes or something. Funny, but I thougth tithing was supposed to be 10%? Mercedes from God at a discount, I guess.). Meanwhile, Dallas First Baptist’s Jeffress doubled down; his only regret? Being a pastor doesn’t allow him to use the same phrase. We should refuse “shitholers” and bring more Norwegians into the country! Amen! Preach!

Then this afternoon came the Post’s «interesting analysis of what, to borrow the Presidential phrase, a “shithole” Norway used to be», and why it’s now THE place from whence our immigrants should come. This graphic is key to the article:

Graphic showing U.S. and Norway gross domestic product in comparison to each other. Norway now far exceeds the U.S.

So I earned something today: We should move to Norway if we want a higher quality of life away from pottymouths. The problem with that plan? They don’t take people from morally and economically vacuous “shithole” countries like ours.

Duly noted.

This country has not only slid downwards in domestic product, it’s been sucked into a vacuum of moral leadership. What are Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Bishop Harry Jackson, Eric Metaxas saying today? Dead air. They got tax cuts, the IRS was called off their backs and Bibi is happy. Was it just over 20 years ago that the same suspects were gnashing their teeth over merely how to explain the term “blowjob” to their children? We used to call this current kind of thinking “the ends (tax cuts, IRS exemptions and proclaiming that Jerusalem is the capital and therefore the Rapture is nigh) justifies the means.” And I don’t remember ever being told that was a good thing. I was told it was secular humanist “situational ethics” and it was evil. (An aside: If Jesus wants to come back, I seriously doubt a presidential proclamation moving, eventually, the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is going to be what actually moves Him.)

And thus we have Dallas First Baptist Church’s Robert Jeffress doubling down and saying he supports the “shithole” comments 100 percent. Not only that, but “America is not a church where everyone should be welcomed regardless of race and background.” He added some regret that as a pastor he’s not supposed to use naughty words.

(!)

Urm. Yes. America has always been portrayed (the reality notwithstanding) as the greatest and most welcoming secular church in human history. A shining city on a hill, said Reagan. “Give me … The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” said Emma Lazarus in The New Colossus, a poem we liked and believed in so much we had it engraved on a massive public monument.

Specifically saying she will have no comment is Paula White, who is often portrayed as Trump’s “spiritual advisor,” and who is currently demanding that “faithful” people give her church all of their January paychecks (which amounts to just 8%, not the Biblically commanded 10%—mustard seed faith on the cheap!). If they do, Jesus will bless you with riches! You get a Mercedes! And you get a Mercedes! And you get a Mercedes! And you get ’em at a 2% discount from God’s list price! And if you don’t pony up? God will visit consequences on your head. You get the plague! And you get a divorce! And you get a gay child!

There are some vestiges of sanity, so props where they are due: A.R. Bernard resigned from the White House “evangelical council” months ago and stated, “His own comments expose him. They were elitist and blatantly racist.” And former Southern Baptist head Ronnie Floyd stated the obvious, “I would not agree with those comments at all. We need to see that every person is made in the image of God. … Anytime we devalue a person it’s not good … Regardless of their skin or ethnicity, we need to honor one another.”

As I am sometimes reminded, I was dedicated “to the Lord” when I was a month or so old in the Roswell First Church of the Nazarene, a denomination where I learned things that were the 180-degree opposite of what Trump and White and Jeffress and Falwell and Graham and Dobson are doing. I learned that good old verse “by their fruits ye shall know them.” I was taught that quaint old Golden Rule, something about do unto others. I was also taught following Christ didn’t mean Mercedes. God knows, for all of Mom’s hard-earned 10% back to the church money, a Mercedes was never outside our door, unless it had broken down and Zsa Zsa needed a telephone to call AAA. No, in my childhood, following Christ meant a life of hardship and service and respect and sacrifice and a life lived in common and shared in common with other people, including lepers, tax collectors, felons, you name ’em. And rendering unto Caesar.

I was also taught the following pertinent scripture. Please note the absence of “except for those from shitholes” in these quotes:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28
“For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” Jeremiah 31:25
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” John 7:37
“In everything, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35

New Testament

Every single day is a new low. How low can we go? There is no bottom. So pretty goddamned low. Shithole low.

Roy Moore's Gotterdammerung

“Antonio: ‘Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!’”
Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3, Page 5.

We thank thee, Alabama; verily we doeth, for recognizing an ancient truth, as it applieth to Roy Moore. Congratulations, Senator Doug Jones!

They Don’t Like the New ‘America First’ As Much As They Did the Lindbergh Version


Deutsche Welle reports that “a new survey published by German public broadcaster ARD shows Germans trust Russia more than the US.” Or to be specific: “28 percent of respondents felt Moscow was a reliable partner, compared to 25 percent for Washington …. More than 90 percent said Paris was a reliable partner, while more than 60 percent said Britain …”

So let’s see if I’ve got this. Germany, a country in which there are still many women alive who were raped by invading Russian Red Army soldiers and in which the human products of those rapes are still living, now trust … Russia more than the United States.

Yes, I hear you. I too am sick of all the Winning and Greatness we have achieved Again.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash.]

American Carnage: 10-Nov-17

Peckerwoods!

What we learned this week:

• Comedian Louis CK and Crusading Crazy Ass Roy Moore were accepted into that venerable old boy’s club, that newly-open-to-didlers-from-outside-the-church institution, The Ancient and Venerable Order of Priests Expecting Complete, Knightly Exoneration; Rewarded With Oodles Of Dancing Students (a.k.a. “P.E.C.K.E.R.W.O.O.D.S.”) Golf and Country Club. Greeting them at the door was the Ancient and Venerable Third Assistant Vice President Clarence Thomas, who treated the new initiates to pubic hair-laced Coke cans and asked Roy Moore if Moore was interested in buying him, because living conditions in “free” Washington D.C., are highly overrated.

• Corey Feldman is still alive. And also Corey Feldman knows lots of Hollywood people who will be applying for membership at Peckerwoods G&CC very soon. This has Corey quite frightened.

• 150-year-old former presidents need help to take a piss, but are still able to feel up female reporters and tell them dirty jokes, both of which are done in front of former First Ladies.

• White gay men are no longer welcome in the gay rights movement because the whiteness of their skin means they are privileged, cisgendered and non-intersectional. Henceforward, when we’re getting the shit beaten out of us at school; can’t afford college; get harassed or beaten or shot by the police for kissing our boyfriends in public parks; gulp down the handful of toxic drugs we fought to get in the 90s while watching our mothers scour the kitchen sink after getting a glass of water lest God’s disapproval in the form of the AIDS plague will be visited on her house and infect her innocent grandchildren; spending the 54th year of life with our families berating us for our lifestyle choice and allowing demons to inhabit our bodies; well, we cannot possibly have any contribution or role in the LGBTQ community. Because our skin color is white. And that means we cannot participate, question, discuss, converse and sure as hell can’t culturally appropriate anything from anybody. No alliances with us are welcome. No matter how many suicide attempts we committed during our teen years because we are total fags, it counts for nothing. You must be black, female, lesbian, transgendered before you are allowed to participate in efforts to secure civil rights for LGBTQ, etc. Your skin color is white, so you must be a white supremacist Nazi dedicated to keeping people of color down. “Intersectionality is a bitch, white boys; paybacks are hell and Karma gonna bite you in your lily white highly privileged asses.”

• That Kathy Griffin is a bit off her nut though, isn’t she?

• John Hillerman is dead at 84. Yet, Justin Bieber and Joel Osteen still walk the earth. Osteen’s Mercedes-bestowing god sure has a wicked sense of humor.

• There seems to have been some baseball played. Something about a World Series won by perennially losers the Houston Astros. We wouldn’t know, we weren’t paying attention.

• New England Patriots player and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez’s brain was dissected and shown to be the worst case of NFL of the brain ever recorded. Oh, this just in, it was CTE of the brain. We regret (not) the error.

• O.J. Simpson will continue to haunt our lives even if he actually dies. This week: Tossed out of the Cosmopolitan in Vegas for being … the only intoxicated person in the casino. The Juice owes the Cosmo a favor; that place is a cesspool of skeezy. Getting banned from it for life probably will save his life (or perhaps a few courses of penicillin). We were at the Vdara/Cosmo complex in 2014. The swimming pool still gives me nightmares. And hives.

• They’re remaking/updating/relaunching a lot of old 90s TV series for no apparent reason than, like the Simpsons, the creative well in Hollywood dried up decades ago, probably about the time Carol Burnett packed it in on her variety show, which was was always packed with incredible talent. A Roseanne reboot and a Will and Grace reboot we did not need. Also, The Simpsons must die; each episode is worse than the previous, a race to a bottom we cannot make out but we know it’s there. Family Guy is suffering while its creator is buzzing around the universe, so it’s probably also time that James Woods whips out his AR-15 and ends the show’s life for good and all as well. Bobs Burgers is still reasonably fresh, but it may be peaking now. (And by the way, just ’cause I’m a white faggot does NOT mean I should have to watch the Will and Grace reboot. My intersectionality about class, wealth, New York City snobbery and poor body image means this show deeply oppresses me, even if it may have influenced some people decide not to shoot our faggoty white asses when we got legally married by the U.S. Supreme Court. Whatever may be, I’d still prefer old Lucy Show episodes to most of this dreck.

• Tuesday’s election seemed to be a case of buyer’s remorse, wherein the guy who bought a pink Ford Fiesta with the undercoating package and Scotch-guarded seats wakes up after a long nightmare and wants to toss the Pink Fiesta off the nearest cliff, but knows there’s just no way that’s going to happen. So instead, he settles for going to the nearest Ben and Jerry’s and consuming 23 different punny flavors, coincidentally imbibing enough “RoundUp” (TM) to shrivel his gonads to the size of B.B.s And while waiting for his blood glucose numbers to fall below 1000, stares at the Pink Fiesta and thinks, “I hate this fucking century and this fucking country and powerful people who diddle powerless people and get away with it. Every. Single. Time.” And then, feeling better and on the way home, the wheels on his pink Fiesta fall off for the 45th time that week.

• Speaking of Pink Fiestas, the anniversary of Trump’s ascendance to power is appropriately the same as Kristallnacht and the infamous “Stab in the Back,” whereby leftists and Jews back home knifed German troops on the Western Front in the back just right when they were about to end the whole damn war victoriously, causing the Kaiser to abdicate and the nation to find itself in need of rescuing by an Austrian corporal named Adolf Hitler. Putting the facetiousness aside for a moment, the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht should be looked upon as an abject lesson about what happens when you allow hate, ignorance, false equivalency, and frat boy snark mindsets to take over entire countries. But that would require Americans to actually absorb reality and study history, two things we are adamantly refusing to do at this moment. Gott Strafe Amerika! And he’ll do it too.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Dawn Armfield via Unsplash.]

The Dawn of Childish Just Me

William Bradley’s ‘The Dawn of ‘Just Me’: Zack Snyder’s Neoliberal Superheroes’, just published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, contains a telling paragraph, the first part of which exactly sums up someone I personally know. I suppose it’s true of Zack Snyder, the person and the director, as well. Seems bang on:

‘In the end, I don’t know that Zack Snyder’s Superman films demonstrate a coherent philosophy. They seem to be the reflections of a guy who read a lot of superhero comic books as a child, made his action figures fight each other, saw a lot of special effects-driven blockbusters, read some Ayn Rand, got stoned, listened to some Rush, and then, as an adult, was loaned copies of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The Dark Knight Returns and came to believe that the entertainment of his childhood could be made acceptable for an adult audience if it was just made a little bloodier.’
—William Bradley, The Los Angeles Review of Books

This paragraph also captures an aspect of this kind of persona rather well:

‘Or the scene toward the beginning of Watchmen (2009), during the weekly “beer session” shared between Dan and Hollis. Note how Dan announces that he needs to get going, despite the fact that he still has about two-thirds of his beer left. Imagine you had a guest over, and that guest opened a beer while you were talking, and then promptly set the beer down and announced, “I must leave now.” You would assume that you had said something offensive to prompt such an abrupt exit. That, or your guest is an android who does not yet properly understand human protocol surrounding conversations over drinks.’
Ibid.

Mr. Bradley appears to have met some of the same people I’ve met.

Sassoon and Gaza: A Hundred Years, An Unchanged Mankind

In Palestine

“On the rock-strewn hills I heard
The anger of guns that shook
Echoes along the glen.
In my heart was the song of a bird,
And the sorrowless tale of the brook,
And scorn for the deeds of men.”
—Siegfried Sassoon, 30-Mar-1918

An interesting story of the month Siegfried Sassoon spent in Palestine is in the Los Angeles Review of Books currently. Nina Martyris in «Siegfried Sassoon and Palestine» notes that Sassoon “wrote [the words above] not on the Somme but in Palestine, where he was posted for a little over a month in the spring of 1918. He could easily be talking about the vicious war raging across Israel and Gaza’s rocket-strewn hills today.” She continues:

“To read Sassoon on war is to read about Israel and Gaza today. After he left Palestine, he wrote a tightly crafted sonnet called “Ancient History” on the fratricidal nature of war, told through the allegory of Cain and Abel. Ironically, that same story of brotherly murder provided the name of Israel’s Operation Brother’s Keeper, launched to search the West Bank for the three Israeli teenagers whose abduction and murder sparked the ongoing clash. In Sassoon’s scorching parable, Adam stands in for the cynical old politicians who watch their young kill one another.

“What makes this poem a moral grenade is its self-awareness. Sassoon knew that there were bits of Cain and Abel tussling inside him. At the start of the war, he had been a soldier filled with bloodlust, and made quite a reputation for himself for his revenge killings of Germans. But he had also sickened of the slaughter and campaigned for it to stop. In Sassoon’s case, Abel finally won, but the current war, with its far more ancient and complex metabolism, is inevitably stamped with the mark of Cain.
“The Gaza war has been fought as much with rocket fire and rhetoric as with cameras that have smote the world’s conscience with streams of pictures of Palestinian families half-buried under rubble. During the First World War, press coverage of the front was strictly monitored, and only photographs of dead Germans were allowed to be published in the British newspapers. In the absence of cameras there were war poems.”
LA Review of Books

Fascinating reading, even if it is pretty depressing.

The Old Lie (2018 Memorial Day)

On Remembrance Day … remember. War and the military should never be “celebrated.” Remembered with solemnity and an understanding of the brutality and savagery and destruction. But never “honored” or “celebrated” or as an opportunity for “sales.”

Died of Wounds
His wet, white face & miserable eyes
Brought nurses to him more than groans & sighs,
But hoarse and low and rapid rose & fell
His troubled voice: he did the business well.
The Ward grew dark; but he was still complaining,
And calling out for ‘Dickie’. ‘Curse the Wood!
‘It’s time to go: O God, & what’s the good? ___
‘We’ll never take it; & it’s always raining.’
I wondered where he’d been; then heard him shout,
‘They snipe like hell! O Dickie, don’t go out!’ …
I fell asleep: next morning he was dead;
And some Slight Wound lay smiling on his bed.
—Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

A Mystic as Soldier
I lived my days apart,
Dreaming fair songs for God.
By the glory in my heart
Covered & crowned and shod.
Now God is in the strife,
And I must seek him there,
Where death outnumbers life,
And fury smites the air.

I walk the secret way
With anger in my brain.
O music thro’ my clay,
When will you sound again?
—Siegfried Sassoon

(Documents from « The First World War Poetry Digital Archive », University of Oxford; University of Oxford.)

Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’‘ring like a man in fire or lime …
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: “Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.”
—Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Anthem for Doomed Youth
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, —
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
—Wilfred Owen

The Old Lie

On Remembrance Day … remember. War and the military should never be “celebrated.” Remembered with solemnity and an understanding of the brutality and savagery and destruction. But never “honored” or “celebrated” or as an opportunity for “sales.”

Died of Wounds
His wet, white face & miserable eyes
Brought nurses to him more than groans & sighs,
But hoarse and low and rapid rose & fell
His troubled voice: he did the business well.
The Ward grew dark; but he was still complaining,
And calling out for ‘Dickie’. ‘Curse the Wood!
‘It’s time to go: O God, & what’s the good? ___
‘We’ll never take it; & it’s always raining.’
I wondered where he’d been; then heard him shout,
‘They snipe like hell! O Dickie, don’t go out!’ …
I fell asleep: next morning he was dead;
And some Slight Wound lay smiling on his bed.
—Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

A Mystic as Soldier
I lived my days apart,
Dreaming fair songs for God.
By the glory in my heart
Covered & crowned and shod.
Now God is in the strife,
And I must seek him there,
Where death outnumbers life,
And fury smites the air.

I walk the secret way
With anger in my brain.
O music thro’ my clay,
When will you sound again?
—Siegfried Sassoon

(Documents from « The First World War Poetry Digital Archive », University of Oxford; University of Oxford.)

Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’‘ring like a man in fire or lime …
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: “Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.”
—Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Anthem for Doomed Youth
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, —
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
—Wilfred Owen