Thursday, December 30, 2010

Type casting, George Reeves, Mel Gibson

You know how they could have saved George Reeves' career?

He had starred as Superman on TV. But that ruined him. When he appeared in a movie around that time, members of the test audience saw him and started murmuring, "Superman! It's Superman!" His part was trimmed down to nothing.

Here's the way out of the typecasting. They should have put him in a movie where he'd go through the whole thing with his leg in a cast and he could constantly hurt himself. Maybe have him appear in a gun battle. When the other guy runs out of bullets, he could throw the gun at Reeves, hit him in the head and knock him down.

"OW! OWWWWW! My head! My head! Owwwwww!" Reeves could have said.

The audience would forget all about him having been Superman.

Other actors have done things sort of like that.

After playing Moses and Ben Hur, Charelton Heston played a swingin' architect in Earthquake and an equally swingin' pilot in Airport '75.

Steve McQueen's wife did most of the driving in The Getaway, and his character had very poor driving skills in The Hunter.

So here's what Mel Gibson should do. He should do a sequel to his old Australian movie, Tim. He had played a developmentally disabled 18-year-old gardener who marries his middle-aged employer. In the sequel, Tim could be a widower. Lonely and depressed, he innocently joins a neo-Nazi group, but soon realizes his mistake and quits in disgust.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another thing about the cheap camcorders

A fifteen dollar camcorder is the perfect gift. It's cheap. No embarrassing gratitude from the recipient. Potentially fun to mess around with, but I don't think many people would waste fifteen dollars on one for themselves. I didn't. Just bought them as gifts.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas camcorders

Well, it's the Christmas season, and this year, all the young people on my Christmas list are getting camcorders. Cheap ones. There are only a few kids I buy for.

Aiptek is selling a couple of refurbished models on its website for $10 or $15 each. So I ordered a few of them.

I did a search on You Tube for reviews and examples of video shot with the cameras in question. They seemed okay. For fifteen bucks, they were great. The kids they're for are all teenagers. I don't know if they'll be pleased, or if they'll be frustrated and disappointed when they try using them, or if they already have camcorders or camera phones or digital still cameras with video settings. The cameras are standard definition, so they'll look pretty good on You Tube as long as there's plenty of light while filming, but may not be so great on a TV screen.

Maybe I'm just an old person unaware that, in this day and age, video is no longer a novelty. Like the old people in my day who'd give you a transistor radio for Xmas and think it was a space age marvel because, during the Depression, owning a radio was a tremendous luxury. Not that I didn't appreciate my transistor radio.

If nothing else, they can do what these people did with their cheap camcorder:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Community access TV guy in the news

One community access TV guy sort of hit it big. At least he's making a bigger spectacle of himself than usual.

A fellow named Barry Sommer had a show on the local cable access channel. He would sit and read anti-Muslim items he apparently got off the internet. For example, one thing he read was a complaint by the British television writer Ben Elton that the BBC cut a Muslim joke from a show but he didn't think they would have cut a similar joke about an Anglican. It didn't seem like much of a comment on Islam, but Sommer seemed to feel it was deeply significant.

In addition to his community access TV show, he's apparently self-published a book attacking Islam. It appeared to be available only on kindle. I haven't seen it, but judging from its title and looking at his TV show, my guess is that it's a copy-and-paste job, a compilation of stuff he found on the internet.

Sommer is 56. He's unemployed and has a high school diploma. He lives in a trailer in an unincorporated area between Eugene and Springfield.

But Sommer proposed that he teach a non-credit course on Islam at the local community college, and for some reason, they went along. They offered his course. No one signed up for it. A Muslim civil rights group pointed out Sommer's background to the college. On his blog, Sommer supported a constitutional amendment to ban the practice of Islam in the United States. He described it as “brilliant, crystal clear and something to seriously consider in the face of Islamic supremacism”.

LCC dropped the class. Not surprisingly, Sommer is claiming to be a victim. And now that "civil rights" group Pat Robertson started is threatening to sue to reinstate the class.

Interesting thing is how polite the press has been about Sommer's "qualifications". They mention his book and his TV show. They don't mention that his only qualification to do the TV show is that he paid a ten dollar annual membership fee to the TV station and that he paid to have his "book" "published". My guess is that no one reporting on this has seen either one.

The Muslims he quotes in the book and on the show ought to sue him for copyright infringement.

Pacifica Forum

Sommer used to be part of Pacifica Forum which was designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, for whatever that's worth. It's a strange little discussion group made up of aging crackpots.

It started out as a much more serious pacifist discussion group. They were critical of Israel, as any genuine peace group is. This resulted in their being targeted by local Jewish and pro-Zionist groups. They were smeared as "anti-Semitic" and run out of their regular meeting place. The founder of the group was a retired law professor. As a retired professor, he was entitled to use classrooms at the University of Oregon for meetings, so they started using rooms at the university.

That's when things started getting weird. Being critical of Israel, they attracted a Lithuanian anti-Communist who blamed Jews for socialism. He wanted to give a lecture to the group. Members didn't want him because he was clearly an anti-Semite, but the 90-year-old founder overruled them in the name of "free speech".

What they did after that didn't make sense. Local Zionists called them Nazis. They inexplicably responded to what I think were false accusations of Nazism by inviting actual Nazis to speak. A "historical revisionist" spoke there (although he stuck to the topic of Palestine) and they invited David Irving to speak (he had just gotten out of prison in Austria where he'd been locked up for denying the Nazi genocide.)

This attracted the one aging local Nazi, a short gray haired guy who keeps showing up in a kilt. Then HE wanted to speak there. He gave a presentation and showed a video from a Nazi rally he attended in California.

That brought on a wave of protests against Pacifica Forum that went on for months. University students wanted the group off campus.

Barry Sommer, who is Jewish, joined Pacifica Forum after the protests started and gave his own lecture, not on Islam but on the Nazi genocide. I was there. There was a large crowd, nearly all of them protesters in addition to the dozen or so elderly people who made up Pacifica Forum.

Sommer spoke for about an hour. The main thing that stood out to me was that he doubted that there had been gas chambers. He dismissed eyewitness testimony as "anecdotal evidence." He doesn't know what anecdotal evidence is.

It wasn't long after that that Sommer and another couple of guys, including the Lithuanian who had started the group's downward spiral, left Pacifica Forum to devote themselves to their hatred of Islam.

One more thing about video

I didn't want to be seen at Sommer's lecture. I didn't want anyone thinking I was part of Pacifica Forum, certainly, and I didn't especially want people to think I was part of the anarchist groups protesting. But there were cameras everywhere!

In the old days, I would attend a rally or an event and would be one of only a handful of people taking pictures or filming. Now everyone has a cell phone camera or digital camera and they take pictures constantly. It's free. They're not wasting film. You can't stay out of the crossfire.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What if Clint Eastwood had starred in The Pawnbroker?

It's amazing the movies people take seriously now.

There was a ridiculous movie called Homicide written by David Mamet. A Jewish detective investigates the murder of a Jewish shop owner. It turns out they were involved in some Zionist group which has a secret cache of weapons. The Jewish detective comes to embrace his Jewish identity by blowing up a building if I'm remembering correctly, and this was presented a good thing.

It was like if Mickey Spillane tried to write a novel about anti-Semitism. I was amazed that people took it seriously. It got good reviews at the time but has disappeared since then.

And I finally watched the movie Gran Torino starring elderly California millionaire Clint Eastwood.

It reminded me of the spoof movie trailers they used to show on Mad TV and the old cartoon The Critic. They showed trailers for movies with bizarre casting decisions. They had Woody Allen in a Die Hard-like action film---terrorists take over the prep school for Korean girls where he works as a clarinet teacher. "More violent than his early, funnier movies," they quote one critic as saying.

Gran Torino was like The Pawnbroker starring Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.

In The Pawnbroker, Rod Steiger played a traumatized concentration camp survivor who now works as a pawnbroker in a bad neighborhood. He tries to repress all emotion. An ineffectual social worker tries to counsel him and he teaches his trade to a young ethnic.

In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood plays a traumatized Korean War veteran who is a horrible person. An ineffectual Catholic priest tries to counsel him and he teaches his trade to a Hmong neighbor. And he threatens people with guns, saying Dirty Harry-like things to them as they stand watching him reach into his jacket for a gun.

I may be giving too much away here, but this might have been considered a serious film because Clint Eastwood didn't actually kill anyone.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ishmael Reed on Obama and anger

During the presidential campaign, when right-wingers accused Obama of wanting to take away their guns (I don't think he ever mentioned gun control) someone pointed out that a white candidate would have done what John Kerry did---get a rifle and a camera crew and go hunting. But Obama couldn't do that. A black man with a gun would frighten white voters.

I hope Democrats in Congress can stop the lousy tax deal Obama made with the Republicans, but, on a similar note, here's from an essay by Ishmael Reed that appeared in the New York Times. There's a link to it below:

...I’ve been thinking recently of all those D’s for deportment on my report cards. I thought of them, for instance, when I read a response to an essay I had written about Mark Twain that appeared in “A New Literary History of America.” One of the country’s leading critics, who writes for a prominent progressive blog, called the essay “rowdy,” which I interpreted to mean “lack of deportment.” Perhaps this was because I cited “Huckleberry Finn” to show that some white women managed household slaves, a departure from the revisionist theory that sees Scarlett O’Hara as some kind of feminist martyr.

I thought of them when I pointed out to a leading progressive that the Tea Party included neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers — and he called me a “bully.” He believes that the Tea Party is a grass-roots uprising against Wall Street, a curious reading since the movement gained its impetus from a rant against the president delivered by a television personality on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

And I’ve thought about them as I’ve listened in the last week to progressives criticize President Obama for keeping his cool.

Progressives have been urging the president to “man up” in the face of the Republicans. Some want him to be like John Wayne. On horseback. Slapping people left and right.

One progressive commentator played an excerpt from a Harry Truman speech during which Truman screamed about the Republican Party to great applause. He recommended this style to Mr. Obama. If President Obama behaved that way, he’d be dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people. His grade would go from a B- to a D.

What the progressives forget is that black intellectuals have been called “paranoid,” “bitter,” “rowdy,” “angry,” “bullies,” and accused of tirades and diatribes for more than 100 years. Very few of them would have been given a grade above D from most of my teachers....

Reed's got a point there. But...

I didn't think Obama was a progressive or a liberal to begin with. I'm still disappointed by him.

They're mad at him for the continuing ban against gays in the military. I'm not sure I'm against "don't ask, don't tell". As long as it's in effect, they'll never be able to bring back the draft.

There are two are three wars going on, depending on how you count them, and the U.S. and Israel are intent on starting at least one more. They don't have enough troops. They're calling back people who left the military years ago and they're sending National Guard to war. So far, the only ones calling for a draft are "liberals" who think it would only be fair to force young people who oppose the war to fight in it and imagine this would energize the anti-war movement.

As it is now, if they try bringing back the draft, every eighteen-year-old boy and his best friend will register as domestic partners the day they graduate high school.

During World War Two, all you had to do to avoid the draft was say you were a homosexual. Back then, it was unimaginable that anyone would falsely claim to be gay. By the time the Vietnam War rolled around, draft boards started demanding proof, or at least evidence. And, today, it's unimaginable that any young man would allow himself to be sent off to war when all he had to do was say he was gay. And with same-sex marriage and civil unions, becoming officially gay has never been easier.

Hopefully Democrats will stop the tax deal in Congress. And maybe it won't be such a bad thing if Republicans block the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wikileaks and the lapdog press

I can't remember who the journalist was. Was it Christopher Hitchens?

He called around to the various TV networks that employed Henry Kissinger as a commentator or analyst. Ted Koppel was the only one who would speak to him.

Hitchens wanted to know why ABC News was employing a commentator who advised that reporters be barred from covering events in Palestine.

It was the beginning of the first Intifada. Kissinger made a speech calling on Israel to close off the West Bank and Gaza, throw out all reporters, and begin slaughtering Palestinians.

Ted Koppel first tried to deny that Kissinger had actually advocated that, but Hitchens corrected him...I can't remember how Koppel finally weaseled out of it, how he justified Kissinger's continued employment.

And now we have Wikileaks. The American news media is outraged that it's being allowed to report on the news.

On, Glenn Greenwald wrote:

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer was beside himself with rage over the fact that the US government had failed to keep all these things secret from him... Then - like the Good Journalist he is - Blitzer demanded assurances that the Government has taken the necessary steps to prevent him, the media generally and the citizenry from finding out any more secrets: "Do we know yet if they've [done] that fix? In other words, somebody right now who has top secret or secret security clearance can no longer download information onto a CD or a thumb drive? Has that been fixed already?" The central concern of Blitzer - one of our nation's most honored "journalists" - is making sure that nobody learns what the US Government is up to.

Now it's been revealed that the New York Times has reported the memo in Wikileaks which claims that Iran received long range missile from North Korea, missiles capable of attacking European capitals. But, at the request of the Obama administration, they did not report that Russia gave a detailed refutation of the claim. Russian Intelligence refuted the claim that Iran had the missiles or that they were interested in developing the capability to attack Europe.

The New York Times didn't get this information from Wikileaks---it got it from The Guardian newspaper in Britain.

So who is the New York Times hiding this information from? It's already been published in Britain and it's there on Wikileaks. None of this information is secret anymore---it's already been published outside the U.S. Only the American public is kept from knowing this.

In general, secrecy laws are aimed at keeping information from a country's own population, not from some foreign government.

In the 1980s, there was the case of the book Spycatcher. It revealed a number of secrets about British Intelligence, such as their plot to assassinate Nasser and their conspiracy with the CIA against British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The book was banned in England. It was available everywhere else in the world, including Scotland. But it was banned in England. Newspapers were prosecuted for quoting from the book.

There were the classified human radiation experiments done in the United States during the cold war. Experiments where they exposed impoverished black cancer patients to radiation killed between eight and twenty people. These continued into the 1970s.

The stated reason for keeping the experiments secret is so the victims wouldn't be able to sue and to prevent public outcry against it. According to Wikipedia:
One of the doctors involved in the experiments, Robert Stone, was worried about litigation by the patients, so he only referred to them by their initials on the medical reports. He did this so that, in his words, "there will be no means by which the patients can ever connect themselves up with the report", in order to prevent "either adverse publicity or litigation"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cheap high definition

I hate to be so cheap, but what is the least expensive way to get high defenition video?

There are the various "camcorders" like the Flip thing, but I don't know if it's "true" high definition.

There are also digital still cameras with a video mode that'll give you high definition. Like the new Canon Power Shot that they say you can get on the internet for $140.
There's a $400 Panasonic digital camera, that'll give you high definition video, and you can set the aperture and focus while you do it. I assume that'll work. There are some point-and-shoot digital cameras where you can set the aperture and focus, but it makes no real difference because the chip is so small that everything is in focus anyway.

I've seen lovely video shot with digital SLRs that was very nice. With most camcorder, everything is in focus. The digital SLRs, they were able to get a nice shallow depth of field.

I heard that, with the Nikon digital cameras, (at least with the point-and-shoot ones) the sound is always out of synch on video mode.

There are more conventional camcorders.

There's the Panasonic three chip HD camcorder which they said somewhere you can get for about $900. But the site I looked at discussing this noted that the three chips make the picture only slightly better than the more affordable single chip HD camcorders sold by Sony and Canon. Be sure there's an external mic jack.

Aiptek makes several very inexpensive high definition camcorders. They have the great advantage of coming with external mic jacks.