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.