Sunday, December 24, 2017
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Monday, December 18, 2017
Americans seem to assume that the alternative to materialism is poverty. I find that ironic because it’s clear to me that the necessary result of materialism is emotional and mental impoverishment.
So the alternative to materialism isn’t poverty. The alternative to materialism is an indifference to wealth that may well provide a relative immunity to greed.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Monday, December 11, 2017
On the July 8, 2009, Fox & Friends during a discussion of a Swedish study showing that married people are less likely to get Alzheimer’s, this Fox News sage said that Americans don’t have “pure genes” like Swedes because “…we keep marrying other species and other ethnics.”
Specifically, Kilmeade said, “Swedes have pure genes, because they marry other Swedes, because that’s the rule. Finland — Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society. In America, we marry everybody. So we’ll marry Italians and Irish.”
However, I doubt that Kilmeade included such insights in his Islamophobic propaganda “history” — not only because he didn’t write it, but because he probably can’t even read it.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Now watch as the GOP carefully selects a fresh list of prominent Democrats to destroy with more unverified and/or easily fabricated accusations. The Republicans must be licking their lips, in between the bouts of laughter.
Where did any Democrat get the truly laughable idea that Republicans will now somehow respect their "moral authority?" What Republicans respect is POWER, and the witch hunter Democrats have just handed them more of it.
We’ve silenced a major progressive voice, leaving a sex criminal in the Oval Office and a child molester about to be seated in the Senate. Yes, women can certainly sing hosannas now.
The Democrats will only need a cigarette now when the Republicans line them up against the wall. They're already wearing the blindfold.
Friday, December 8, 2017
Monday, December 4, 2017
Monday, November 27, 2017
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Sunday, November 12, 2017
|Colin Blakely as John Watson and Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes in Billy Wilder's film|
Concerning on the commercial failure of his 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, director Billy Wilder said, “I should have been more daring. I wanted to make Holmes a homosexual … That’s why he’s on dope, you know.”
I first saw it at a drive-in in 1970. It was hard to find. And it was always pretty clear to me from the finished film that Wilder DID make Holmes gay. Despite all the romantic stuff with the beautiful German spy at the end of the film, its most sadly touching moment comes earlier, when Holmes refuses to deny to Watson that he is homosexual.
The doggedly heterosexual, brainy, manic Wilder loved Holmes, and had wanted to make a film about him for his entire career. But perhaps audiences were not ready, in 1970, to see a film in which the Great Detective is both taken seriously and finally defeated.
“Holmes appeals to Wilder for his human failings more than for his legendary qualities as a detective — The Private Life depicts a crushing humiliation which Dr. Watson has suppressed from public knowledge,” Joseph McBride and Michael Wilmington wrote in Film Quarterly. “But Wilder’s tone is unusually subdued, even elegiac, perhaps because the film is set in a simpler, more gentlemanly era far from the barbarism of James Bond and Pussy Galore.”
I’d be fascinated to see the three-and-a-half-hour Private Life that Wilder originally prepared, but wasn’t permitted to release. I always have the nagging sense that even Wilder’s failed concepts were just slightly ahead of their time. The possibility that Holmes and Watson might be gay finally became a mere running joke in the BCC’s Sherlock.
Elementary, Wilder would’ve said.
Sunday, November 5, 2017
Paul, Matt, Jake and I saw Thor: Ragnarok Saturday afternoon. Lighthearted fare that builds seamlessly to blood-and-thunder, summon-my-power melodrama. In other words, a perfectly satisfying comic book movie.
Cate Blanchette tackles the potentially tedious role of a death god with wry assurance peppered by convincing menace. Chris Hemsworth is as boldly charming as ever, even being put through some rough paces here.
Now, having so many characters to play around with after 17 Marvel superhero movies, it’s all like a delightful game with lots of surprising and fun playing pieces.
I do have to say that they pitched Jane Foster overboard like trash in this movie. Not that they ever really achieved that Richard Donner Superman/Lois thing they were going for in that relationship anyway. I think Natalie Portman was the problem. They needed someone who would sell it the way Margot Kidder did. Kidder said that what Donner wanted of her was to be able to convincingly look gah-gah over Superman.
The first Thor movie ends on a wonderfully romantic note that would have been perfect had you believed the relationship.
Saturday, November 4, 2017
My favorite books as a teenager included Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith. The canny creator of The Talented Mr. Ripley wrote a book that is equal parts inspirational, autobiographical and advisory.
I read an Effingham library copy when I was in high school and it took me decades to find a hardcover copy of my own. She made me want to be a professional writer.
Other favorites included The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I have since escaped their dark, Neptune-like gravitational pull, but I will never forget them. Rand’s philosophy offers useful hymns to individualism — particularly for the young, when they most need to hear them. But unfortunately, despite her self-congratulatory trumpeting of reason, Rand confused her own whims and passions with facts, much to the detriment of the political economy and moral bearings of the U.S., as it turned out.
Then there was Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming. The second of the James Bond novels remains the most vivid in my mind, with its evocation of New York circa 1953, with its tough heroic action, with its vulnerable, clairvoyant heroine, with its Freudian-daddy villain’s horrifying schemes of vengeance, with its lyric Silver Meteor train ride from Manhattan to St. Petersburg and those offhanded observations of Bond’s that seemed to express the height of sophistication when you were a teenage boy.
The problem isn’t getting the caviar you want, you know. It’s getting the proper amount of buttered toast to spread it on.
Ian Fleming took an eager sensual pleasure in life that ended his life early, but that can still sweep us along with its zest. The real Bond — as real as any Bond can be — is there, in Fleming’s novels.
Friday, November 3, 2017
Monday, October 23, 2017
Sunday, October 8, 2017
Saturday, October 7, 2017
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
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
|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.
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
Friday, September 22, 2017
Thursday, September 21, 2017
|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
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Friday, September 15, 2017
Monday, September 11, 2017
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
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
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.”
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
|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
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
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.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Monday, August 7, 2017
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
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
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.”
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Saturday, July 22, 2017
|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
|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.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Monday, July 17, 2017
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.