Saturday, October 7, 2017

Miss Stellwagon Scores a Point

In the 1948 film comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Cary Grant’s teenage daughters lecture him that their teacher, Miss Stellwagon, has informed them that advertising is a basically parasitic profession that encourages people to want things they don’t need and can’t afford.
Throughout the movie, Grant’s lucrative Madison Avenue job is in peril because he can’t think of a good slogan for a product called Wham. Finally he comes up with the perfect slogan — by stealing it from his black maid.
I call that a point for Miss Stellwagon.
Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas in "Mr. Blandings"
“Mr. Blandings never seems to have any work to do, apart from thinking up a catchy slogan for Wham, and he has six months to do that in from the time when he finds out that the account has devolved on him,” noted James Bowman of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “For this, the agency pays him $15,000 a year, or the equivalent of between $250,000 and $350,000 today, depending on the equivalency measure you choose. And when he finally does stumble on a slogan, it isn’t even his but that of Gussie, the maid, played as a now cringe-inducing stereotype by Louise Beavers. Rather like the gold-seekers in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the advertising business seems rather buccaneering. Finders keepers and tough luck Gussie, who makes a final appearance in an exaggerated chef's toque and presenting an enormous platter full of Wham above the slogan: ‘If you ain't eatin' Wham, you ain't eatin’ ham’ — a patent falsehood to rank with ‘If you can't sleep at night, it isn't the coffee, it's the bunk.’
“Yet neither question — that of the slogan’s rightful owner or its truthfulness — ever arises in the movie. Its concern isn't with how Jim gets his money but with how he’s going to spend it.”
I can’t help thinking Americans were a lot smarter in 1948 than we are in 2017.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sweet Land of Lottery, Of Thee We Sing

I am particularly fascinated by the revulsion with which many readers of the New Yorker greeted Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery when it appeared in the June 26, 1948, issue.
“One of the most terrifying aspects of publishing stories and books is the realization that they are going to be read, and read by strangers,” Jackson wrote later. “I had never fully realized this before, although I had of course in my imagination dwelt lovingly upon the thought of the millions and millions of people who were going to be uplifted and enriched and delighted by the stories I wrote.
“It had simply never occurred to me that these millions and millions of people might be so far from being uplifted that they would sit down and write me letters I was downright scared to open; of the 300-odd letters that I received that summer I can count only 13 that spoke kindly to me, and they were mostly from friends. Even my mother scolded me.”
The readers seemed unpleasantly surprised, as if Jackson’s fantasy tale were some big, hard stone thrown by one of the residents of Jackson’s pious and traditional American town.
People who choose to wear blinders often get blind-sided, I suppose.
It can smart, even today, when you suddenly realize that behind the ringing Madison Avenue slogan of “Liberty And Justice For All” lies the ritualized shooting of unarmed black men by America’s anointed agents.
Rereading the story last May, I realized how aptly it anticipated Donald Trump’s America  — happy small-town families selecting innocent people to torture to death in a ritual that serves their self-satisfied, never-to-be-questioned tribal traditions and vanities. Then, no doubt, they do a little shopping and argue about dinner.
“‘The Lottery’ takes the classic theme of man’s inhumanity to man and gives it an additional twist: the randomness inherent in brutality,” wrote New Yorker writer Ruth Franklin in a 2013 retrospective. “It anticipates the way we would come to understand the 20th century’s unique lessons about the capacity of ordinary citizens to do evil — from the Nazi camp bureaucracy, to the Communist societies that depended on the betrayal of neighbor by neighbor and the experiments by the psychologists Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo demonstrating how little is required to induce strangers to turn against each other.
“In 1948, with the fresh horrors of the Second World War barely receding into memory and the Red Scare just beginning, it is no wonder that the story’s first readers reacted so vehemently to this ugly glimpse of their own faces in the mirror, even if they did not realize exactly what they were looking at.”
And although she died in 1965, I don’t think 21st century America would surprise Jackson much.  She described the tone of the first letters she received as “…a kind of wide-eyed, shocked innocence. People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.” 

Monday, October 2, 2017

To Live and Die in Las Vegas

The crowd flees in terror as a sniper mows them down at a Las Vegas concert.
When I heard early this morning that some sniper named Stephen Paddock had shot 50 people to death at an open-air concert in Vegas and wounded another 200, I was sure of only one thing: that Fox News would already be huddled somewhere with the NRA, carefully crafting lies to broadcast about the gun massacre.
I turned to CBS News, and watched the talking heads discussing regulations to prevent such American mass shootings.
HOTEL regulations, of course.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
A child shoots up a local high school. A gun-worshipping politician returns to Congress after being gunned down while playing baseball. Some sniper gets himself all cozy on the 32nd floor, killing 50 people and wounds another 200 at a country music concert.
Why, there’s nothing to see here, folks! Just another typical week in America. None of this has anything to do with GUNS, certainly!
The NRA will assure us, as it always does, that more guns will solve the problem. But gee, it’s kind of hard to shoot back at a sniper on the 32nd floor, isn’t it? Maybe the NRA will suggest all Americans need concealed carry shoulder-fired rocket launchers now.
The timid, sold-out corporate media reporters can actually look at the hundreds of people screaming and running and pissing their pants in Vegas, and then dare tell us this isn't “terrorism.”  Of course it’s terrorism. It’s NRA terrorism.
The NRA wants us to get accustomed to American mass shootings with unlimited numbers of victims. Forget about it, treat it as routine, file it on the back page with boil orders and bake sales. No amount of slaughter, even if it’s dozens of children having their brains blown out, will ever be enough to justify the least interference with their gun rites. 
Not rights. 
But never fear, Congress is sure to address the Las Vegas sniper massacre soon — by legalizing silencers.
And by next week, some Republican will gunsplain to me, with great confidence, how the Las Vegas sniper massacre was nothing but a hoax.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Life Here in Trumpistan

Firing squads, concentration camps and "reeducation centers" featuring torture. We all know where Trump's ship of state is headed, if we don't seize the wheel and change its course.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Look What I Found at Dollar Tree Today

Actually, I believe a children's game used the name before my blog or this series of children's novels did.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Handbag That Saved President Roosevelt

The president-elect speaking in Miami in 1933, just before the assassination attempt.
In 1933, mired in the economic quicksand of the Great Depression, a 32-year-old unemployed Italian bricklayer named Giuseppe “Joe” Zangara bought a .32 caliber US Revolver Company handgun for $8 at a Miami pawn shop, intending to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Zangara said he had nothing against FDR personally, but just wanted to murder a rich person.
On Feb. 15, the yacht on which FDR had been sailing docked at Miami, and he hurried to address the American Legion encampment there.
As Roosevelt sat in his car chatting with Chicago Mayor Anton “Tony” Cermak, Zangara fired five shots from no more than 40 feet away. He missed Roosevelt, who sat unflinching with his jaw clenched. Luckily, a doctor’s wife who was in the crowd, Lillian Cross, had struck Zangara’s arm with her handbag just as he fired.
“The first shot he fired was so close to my face I got powder burns from it,” Cross said. She and other horrified spectators dragged him to the ground.
But the damage was done. Five people were shot, including a Secret Service agent and a woman named Mabel Gill, who was fatally wounded. So was the Chicago mayor.
“The chauffeur started the car,” FDR recalled. “I looked around and saw Mayor Cermak doubled up …. I called to the chauffeur to stop. He did, about 15 feet from where we started. The Secret Service man shouted to him to get out of the crowd and he started forward again. I stopped him a second time (and) motioned to have (Cermak) put in the back of the car, which would be first out.”
On the way to the hospital, FDR held Cermak and tried to keep him still, saying, “Tony, keep quiet — don’t move. It won’t hurt if you keep quiet.”
Raymond Moley, a Colombia political science professor and aide to Roosevelt, watched FDR carefully that day for a reaction to the death and danger. “There was nothing,” he said. “Not so much as the twitching of a muscle to indicate that it wasn’t any other evening in any other place. Roosevelt was simply himself — easy, confident, poised, to all appearances.”
FDR’s courage in the face of an assassination attempt went some distance toward reassuring the frightened, ailing nation about the man who would be president.
Defiant to the end, Zangara was quickly tried and executed, but he lives on in musicals like Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins and stories like Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. In Dick’s novel, Zangara succeeds in murdering FDR, and the Axis powers win World War II.
This is just the kind of historic account that brings a tear to the eyes of NRA members, reminding them of their wistful longing for the good old days when you could buy a handgun for only eight bucks. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Beware the 'Menace' of Iran

Ans If you believe in the "menace of Iran," I've got a nice bridge to sell you.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Take a Look at a Real Hero

One tin soldier rides away.

And think how many American and Vietnamese lives would have be saved if any of America's leaders had paid attention to Ali.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fight White Terrorism

With bargain-basement cynicism, the GOP deliberately ginned
up the 'birthers,' employing coded racism for political gain. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Beware the Big Lies of the GOP

The absurd claim by some Republicans that Obama was president during Hurricane Katrina is NOT merely stupidity. It’s a calculated fascist Big Lie meant to confuse low-information voters.
The GOP regularly tries such Big Lie trial balloons. Remember the prominent Republicans who lied that the 9-11 terrorist attack DID NOT happen during the Bush administration? They were Dana Perino, Mary Matalin, Todd Harris and Rudy Giuliani. That’s not a coincidence. That’s enemy action. And they did that unchallenged on the so-called “liberal media.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why Republicans Demonize Antifascists

For almost 20 years now, I have identified my politics as “antifascist.” Given the enormity of historic evil that has resulted from fascism, that ought to be a noncontroversial position. Any sane, decent human being should be antifascist.
But the Republicans have decided to do to the term “antifascist” what they previously did to the terms “liberal,” “entitlement,” “social justice warrior” and “politically correct.” Republican propagandists like Frank Luntz and Karl Rove successfully demonized those terms through their minions at Fox News and elsewhere. Their intent was to discredit the very concepts of compassionate politics, earned government benefits, people who fight for the rights of others and politeness.
The GOP is on a constant propaganda mission to redefine language and make the better appear the worse. As Jeffrey Martini observed, science and education are now described as “liberal scams.”
The Republican Party has decided to demonize the term “antifascist” for the obvious reason. The GOP is the American fascist party, thriving in a dung heap of its own propaganda, screaming in fury whenever it’s scalded by the cleansing touch of factual truth.
Batman's got the right idea.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Guide to the Good Should Be Within

Developmental psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development.

“In the esoteric traditions, codes of morality are less important for the simple reason that the ultimate purpose of the spiritual effort if to attain a level of personal development at which morality is natural,” Walt Anderson wrote in Open Secrets: A Western Guide to Tibetan Buddhism. 
“It is discovered within oneself, and external authority is no longer necessary or meaningful. This principle is not foreign to western psychology. Lawrence Kohlberg theorized that the most highly developed human beings operate out of inner moral principle. The same point is made by Abraham Maslow in his studies of healthy, ‘self-actualizing’ people who, he says, have relatively little respect for the formal rules and regulations of the society but at the same time a strong sense of concern for others.”

Saturday, August 12, 2017

And What Rough Beast, Its Hour Come Round at Last...

My friend Dan said, “A racist in a sports car runs over a crowd of counter-protesters. His act was instigated by his anger over state officials having removed a statue of Robert E. Lee, a symbol of oppression and bigotry that was erroneously sanctioned by the State of Virginia. The state’s decision to remove it addresses one simple question: Why should African Americans pay taxes to support erecting a statue of a man whom had he won, would have kept them in bondage? They shouldn’t, thus the removal was the right thing to do, so don’t give me that bullshit Lee is just part of their history or heritage. For in this case, as James Joyce put it, ‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.’”
Matt Mattingly, Joseph Bryan Judd and I were just in Joe’s book store wondering when the Virginia racists would start killing people. But we were behind the times. They already had.
This was fascist murder, coldly planned and executed, to protect the symbol of a state that fought for human slavery.
Let’s remember, there’s only one side that's wrong here. Utterly, historically wrong. And — for anyone who can’t add two and two, and lacks all moral sense — that would be the side fighting to protect a memorial celebrating a rebel slave state. Don’t let anyone try to “both sides” their way out of this horror.
I'm looking forward to the holidays this year. I want to greet the people who tried to lecture me last year on what a great president Trump would make. Always presuming we survive to the holidays, of course.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Just Don't Pretend to Be Surprised

If we survive the current North Korean situation without nuclear war, it will be in spite of Trump, not because of him. Not a terribly encouraging fact to ponder.
But I kind of ran through all my emotional reactions to this nine months ago, when Trump was elected. That’s when the American nuclear nightmare became inevitable, and haunted me. After all, Trump had already repeatedly expressed his puerile, criminally irresponsible desire to use nuclear weapons in war.
How bizarre it must be to be someone who cannot foresee simple, inevitable, logical consequences.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Finally, a Film Worthy of Godzilla's Stature

The 2016 Toho film Shin Godzilla is about an inept bureaucratic response to the monster's arrival in Tokyo. That alone makes it one of the rare Godzilla movies that offers an actual interesting story in which humans play a real role in the drama.
Shin Godzilla is excellent, a social and political satire wrapped neatly and adroitly in a giant monster movie. It’s wryly observant about the way bureaucratic confusion, ego-stroking and timidity generally fk things up. The politicians matter-of-factly regard the disaster as secondary to their political ambitions. Boy, is that true to life.
The film is really quite smart, and holds together thematically in a way most Godzilla movies don’t.
The appearance of Godzilla’s nuclear breath is deliberately delayed, and incredibly dramatic and formidable when it’s finally used.
For my money, this is the best Godzilla movie since the first, and my friend Nicholas Swaim may have answered the question of why that is. “It’s a comment on the 2011 tsunami/meltdown in Japan, much like how the first film is on the atomic bombings and Lucky Dragon irradiation,” he observed.

Friday, August 4, 2017

At Dawn With the Dog on Democratic Streets

Every morning at dawn, George Hilton Beagle and I take a dawn walk through a public park and on open, connected streets past beautiful old houses, the kind built before the cowering, furtive cul-de-sacs and ruling-class “gated communities” became fashionable. You know, back before all the Republicans started sneering at the very word “democracy.”
This is one of the houses George and I pass every day, the historic Thomas Marshall house at 218 Jackson St., Charleston, IL.  Abraham Lincoln stayed there when practicing here as a lawyer and during the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Beware the Grammar Rouge

Being clear and accurate in 21st century America gets you branded as an “elitist.”
 Cory Thomas Blake said: “You are considered politically correct if you know proper syntax, tense, grammar & spelling.
Eric Severson replied: “It’s funny how that is considered p.c. but one can also be called a Grammar Nazi for following these conventions. You’d think modern-day Nazis would be more fastidious about grammar than they are.”
Blake said, “Maybe we can give them a new title — Grammar Rouge instead of Khymer Rouge, or something. They were anti-education, illiterate idiots, too.”

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Day Britain Never Surrendered

Christopher Nolan's 2017 film "Dunkirk"

While I was watching Dunkirk with Anthony, Paul, Matt, Bart and Jeff, the word that kept coming to mind was “tight.”
Director Christopher Nolan focuses tightly on the common-man Brits trapped and struggling in this World War II drama, putting you right INTO the cockpit of the Spitty, below decks on the sinking ship and aboard the small civilian craft crossing the English Channel to save the trapped troops. The storytelling is also tight, beginning at almost the end of the story with the despairing, defeated soldiers being machine-gunned and bombed, moving with unrelenting suspense for a brisk 107 minutes.
By the end of the eighth day, 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a quickly assembled fleet of over 800 boats, many of them Thames vessels, car ferries, pleasure craft, speedboats and other small civilian boats. This film’s tight focus puts that extraordinary historic effort into personal, human terms while never stinting on the adventure.

Friday, July 21, 2017

'Angels in America' and Perfection in London

Russell Tovey (Joseph) and James McArdle (Louis)
Paul, Matt, Cameron, Bart, Jeff and I went to Champaign to see the live cinemacast of Tony Kushner’s epic play Angels in America from London, and I found it breathtaking.
Russell Tovey, Nathan Lane and particularly Andrew Garfield gave bravura performances that were in turns funny, searing and simply thrilling.
Garfield was almost hypnotic in his brave and angry dance with death. “One wants to move through life with elegance and grace, blossoming infrequently but with exquisite taste, and perfect timing, like a rare bloom, a zebra orchid,” he says. “One wants... But one so seldom gets what one wants, does one?”
In the close-up shots, you could see the vulnerability and fear hidden behind Tovey’s eyes, and the grinning, hellish rage that shines out of Lane’s. Lane plays Donald Trump’s monstrous mentor, Roy Cohn.
“Yeah, you heard of Ethel Rosenberg,” Lane says, “Maybe even read about her in the history books. Well, if it wasn't for me, Joe, Ethel Rosenberg would be alive today, writing some personal-advice column for Ms. Magazine. She isn’t. Because, during the trial, Joe, I was on the phone every day talking with the judge. Every day, doing what I do best — talking on the telephone. Making sure that that timid Yid nebbish on the bench did his duty to America, to history. That sweet, unprepossessing woman, two kids, boo-hoo-hoo, reminded us all of our little Jewish mamas. She came this close to getting life. I pleaded till I wept to put her in the chair. Me, I did that. I’d have fucking pulled the switch if they let me. Why? Because I fucking hate traitors. Because I fucking hate communists. Was it legal? Fuck legal! Am I a nice man? Fuck nice! They say terrible things about me in The Nation? Fuck The Nation! You want to be nice or you want to be effective?! You want to make the law, or be subject to it? Choose!”
What an experience.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Life in America's Fact-Free Bubble

The fact-immune digital information echo chamber, a bubble manipulated by malign forces and inflated by intellectual cowardice, is the source of our current political disaster.
And no, it’s not “both sides.” The fact-free propaganda echo chamber of lies is on the RIGHT — that place where global climate change doesn’t exist, where tax cuts magically increase revenue, where Obama was born in Kenya, where women don’t get pregnant from rape because the body “has ways of shutting that that thing down.”
Fox News reporters and pundits lie about facts all the time. They are fascist propagandists. That’s WHY they pose as journalists, so you’ll believe the lies they peddle.
It is the RIGHT that expresses this epistemological philosophy for you: “On one hand I hear half the media saying that these are lies, but on the other half there are many people that go, no, it’s true,” said Trump spokesperson Scottie Nell Hughes. “And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they’re not really facts. There’s no such thing, unfortunately, any more of facts.”
In fact, facts remain facts. That’s what keeps Trump's supporters screaming so loudly and constantly — their futile attempt to drown out the facts.
Nor are facts “biased.” They’re simply facts. The people who toss the term “bias” around constantly are always out-and-out liars. Yet it’s those who confront lies with documented facts who are branded as liars themselves by the corrupt, the know-nothings and the moral cowards who foolishly claim that truth is only a yellow line down the middle of the road.
Unmoored from factual reality, we’re adrift in a sea of madness, just waiting to strike another iceberg in the darkness.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Saved by Small Wonders

This child was reportedly lost at a convention, and knew where to turn for help.

Two barely articulate toddlers sat in the cart ahead of mine at the store.
The little girl proudly showed me her arm sticker. “Wonder Woman,” I said.
Her brother showed me his. “Oh, that’s the Flash,” I said.
He agreed by pantomiming running very, very fast.
Maybe there’s hope for the future after all.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Spider-Man: A Friendly, Neighborhood Reboot

Tom Holland as a perfect teenage Spider-Man.
I just saw Spider-Man Homecoming with Jordan and Jake, and loved it.
This is a high school sophomore Spidey, largely too immature to handle the great responsibilities inherent in great power but with a lot of a heart. That reminds me pleasantly of the earliest Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comic books while also managing to refresh the somewhat overworked superhero genre by marrying it to another popular movie genre: the teenage comedy.
And Tom Holland is perfect for that, an actor whose every earnest gesture both charms and rings true.
The villains in these superhero films have been becoming progressively more relatable, building up to Michael Keaton as the Vulture, a working-class antagonist who has what is finally a largely legitimate point of view. He’s right when he tells Peter Parker that, good lad though he is, there are things about adult existence that he does not yet understand.
The film is perfectly integrated into the larger Marvel universe, another aspect that reflects the earliest comics. Iron Man, Captain America, Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts all show up. The dialogue is also peppered with understated references to familiar Marvel characters and events. The Vulture’s high-tech flying equipment springs logically from the alien and robot invasions that we’ve already seen the Avengers fight off, and that makes good sense.
Although the comedic aspects of some of the hero’s early fights were overly belabored — Spider-Man is not that inept — I found the film to be genuinely suspenseful in a way that none of the lame Andrew Garfield vehicles were. Because young Peter Parker is really out of his depth, the sense of danger is heightened.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Night Falls After The Longest Day

Henry Fonda as Theodore Roosevelt Jr. in 'The Longest Day."
I just finished watching The Longest Day, in which Henry Fonda, playing Teddy Roosevelt’s son, insists on going into combat to prove that no favoritism will be shown to him.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was in fact the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops and was, at 56, the oldest man there. He was also the only man whose son also landed that day at Omaha Beach.
How quaint.
America’s rulers in Washington and Wall Street no longer fight and die in any wars. Nor do their children. They leave that sort of thing to the cannon fodder.
Reinstate the draft? I don’t actually think that will work. Warmongers like Trump, Bush and Cheney all managed to evade the draft and combat, and the rich and connected always will.
The only thing that will work is an actual UNDERSTANDING of the rights and responsibilities of a citizen in a democratic republic. But unless they start teaching that on the Kardashians’ show. I don’t see it happening.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Wall Street Journal on EIU's Crisis

The Wall Street Journal on the EIU crisis: “Less than a decade ago, (Eastern Illinois University) enrollment was at its peak of 12,000. Then it began slipping by a few hundred ayear. The decline picked up speed after the state’s budget troubles began in 2015. Since then, enrollment has dropped by about 1,500 to 7,400 last fall. ...Administrators say it is doubtful that they will have even 7,000 students this fall.”
“In Charleston, where the university is based, empty storefronts litter Lincoln Avenue, the main thoroughfare running by campus. Jerry’s Pizza, a staple for professors and students since 1978, closed last October, citing the university’s shrinking population. ‘For Rent’ signs are posted outside rows of apartments that cater to students, with one ad offering free iPad minis to students who sign a lease.
“ ‘Had we had 12,000 students here, the businesses would probably all still be here,’ says John Inyart, a former Charleston mayor who owns an auto-repair shop across from the university’s main hall. He has had to cast his net wider for customers as faculty and students dwindle, he says.
“ ‘Any community that had a university was kind of like Teflon. You had that stability in your community, with stable good paying jobs,’ says Cindy White, chairwoman of the local chamber of commerce. ‘Well, now, that’s not so much anymore.’ ”

Friday, June 23, 2017

When Spider-Man Almost Dated Tom Ripley

What did the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train really want to write? Wonder Woman.
In the mid- to late 1940s, the aspiring novelist Patricia Highsmith penned the comic book adventures of The Human Torch, The Destroyer, The Black Terror, Fighting Yank, Captain Midnight, Spy Smasher and other superheroes, but she never landed the gig she really wanted.
 “Always keen on advancement, Pat tried to write for the high-paying, widely distributed Wonder Woman comic book, but was shut out of the job,” noted biographer Joan Schenkar in her book The Talented Miss Highsmith. “This was in 1947, just one year before she began to imagine her lesbian novel The Price of Salt (filmed in 2015 as Carol). Wonder Woman, daughter of Amazon Queen Hippolyta and still the heroine of her own comic book, has a favorite exclamation: ‘Suffering Sappho!’ She lives on the forbidden-to-males Paradise Island with a happy coepheroi of lithe young Amazons, and she arrived in America in 1942, in the form of her alter ego, Lieutenant Diana Prince, to help the Allies fight World War II. The thought of what Patricia Highsmith, in her most sexually active period (the 1940s were feverish for Pat) and in the right mood, might have made of Wonder Woman’s bondage-obsessed plots and nubile young Amazons can only be inscribed on the short list of popular culture’s lingering regrets.”
Although Highsmith later tried to efface her comic book work, superhero-ish themes like alter egos and dopplegangers emerged to play a significant role in her most famous novels.
Highsmith had gotten into the superhero business by answering an ad from comic book editor Richard Hughes, but her favorite company was Timely (now Marvel). Timely editor Vince Fago reportedly tried to arrange a date between Highsmith and young Stan Lee, but neither was interested.
“So Spider-Man (the superhero Stan Lee co-created) misses his opportunity to date Tom Ripley (the antihero Pat Highsmith created),” Schenkar quipped. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How to Handle an Asshole

Wisdom pointed out by my old friend Jim Jenkins: “Oh, there are a lot of lousy people in the world. Also, a lot of terrific people. You've gotta remember that, and you've got to move in the right circles. I have days where I just want everyone to go fuck themselves or walk off a cliff, but I only say that to myself, and I smile and I walk home and I have some tea, I talk to Garson [Kanin, her husband], I might take a nap. Then I wake up and I write, and in writing, I wipe away all the unpleasantness of the day, of the people, of the city, whatever. We have it in our power to overcome assholes, and I think we have them thrown into our path to see if we have the chops to handle them. Handle them.”

— Ruth Gordon

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Universal American Tornado Arrives

America is all one prairie, swept by a universal tornado. Although it has always thought itself in an eminent sense the land of freedom, even when it was covered with slaves, there is no country in which people live under more overpowering compulsions.
— George Santayana

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fox News Can't Save Trump with a Fire Hose

The problem for Fox News is, their lying propaganda only really works on offense. They need a Democrat in the White House. Their defensive game often rings false even to their own trained zombies.
Fox News is largely just a fire hose spewing rage. You can turn that against minorities, but you can't really use it to defend your blundering stooge in the White House.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Loser in Chief in the Land of the Losers

Someday, after he has inflicted untold suffering and disaster on Americans, Trump will be reduced to an object lesson in stupidity and failure — as irrelevant, meaningless and pointless as Bush and Cheney are now. In the eyes of history, they’re all one of Trump’s favorite words — “losers.”

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman: Finally, a DC Hero with Heart

Gal Gadot as the amazon princess Diana, a/k/a Wonder Woman
The 2017 film Wonder Woman shares a strong thematic vibe with Johnny Weissmuller’s first Tarzan movie in 1932 and Christopher Reeve’s first Superman movie in 1978. Once again, heroic innocence is pitted against the “civilized” forces of cynicism and murderous corruption, with the contrasts played effectively for both comedy and melodramatic pathos.
Wonder Woman’s origin story was contemporary when she was created in 1941, sending her off the amazons’ Paradise Island to fight for peace during World War II. This film does not update but backdates her origin to World War I, which in some ways works even better.
This independent, courageous superwoman is juxtaposed against the fight for women’s suffrage, and is determined to make good on the promise that this will be “the War to End All Wars.” We know what she doesn’t — that despite her impressive super powers, her mission is impossible, and that gives the film its poignancy.  Wonder Woman’s naiveté — her inability to understand why human beings would willingly slaughter children in a war, for example — stings because we also recognize it as the profoundest wisdom.
Wonder Woman’s tearing through the enemy trenches is reminiscent of Philip Wylie’s 1930 novel Gladiator, which was an inspiration for Superman.
Chris Pine’s low-key charm works perfectly for Capt. Steve Trevor. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (a name never used in the film, btw) radiates the same shining, un-ironic goodness that Reeve projected as Superman (no easy feat for an actor, btw).
You know, it doesn’t really matter how “dark” a superhero film is, as long as the hero has heart. And that’s a lesson that the DC Comics movies finally seem to have learned after several misfires. Wonder Woman is as good as a Disney-Marvel superhero movie, and that's high praise indeed. This film is probably the best thing ever done with this iconic character, and a worthy successor Lynda Carter’s campy-but-earnest 1970s’ TV series.