Monday, October 31, 2011

Kim Kardashian files for divorce after two months

Well, I don't know. To be honest, I haven't kept up with this. How much did Kim Kardashian's "wedding" cost? $10 million? And they got paid over $17 million for it? Turns out that the engagement ring alone cost $2 million.

But Kim's pimp/mother declared that the groom was living off Kim's work. He was a basketball player and the players have been locked out in a labor dispute. She would be the only breadwinner!

So. Kim filed for divorce.

I saw on The Soup that Kim's second husband knew nothing about her first "marriage" even after they were engaged.

I generally favor no-fault divorce. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Kardashian should have to prove infidelity. Make her produce another sex tape.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Madoff kin

Come now. Was it really that bad being a Madoff?

Bernie Madoff's wife and surviving son were interviewed on 60 Minutes. Poor woman was only allowed to keep two and a half million dollars. The son said that he reported his father as soon as he admitted what he'd been doing----but the truth is that they reported him after they talked to their lawyers and their lawyers told them to report him quick, before he turned himself in.

Well, by doing the crap he did, all Madoff did was rob his investors. His activities didn't ravage the economy like some of these other Wall Street guys'. Businesses aren't shutting down, people aren't losing their homes. Most of Madoff's victims have pulled through okay. One of the victims did kill himself, which makes Mrs Madoff's sob story rather disgusting---she and her husband took a couple of extra Ambien before bed in what she claimed was a suicide attempt. Madoff couldn't have killed himself if he wanted? His son pulled it off.

But, really now. Is it really that terrible? They freely agreed to go on 60 Minutes. The shame's obviously not that great. They lived for years as billionaires, and they still have millions of dollars. Does the slight embarrassment of having their father behind bars really outweigh the benefits they've enjoyed?

Madoff knew full well he would be caught sooner or later. He got to be fabulously wealthy, and the only price he pays is spending his old age hanging around the geriatric wing of the prison.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Suicide in movies

When my brother was in high school, he had a friend, a very nice kid, whose mother died of cancer. A few days later, his father walked into the woods. He was missing for a few days and was found to have committed suicide.

I had to mention this in conversation quite a few years later when people in my family argued that O.J. must have been guilty. He had been suicidal during the Bronco chase. Why else would he kill himself, especially after the mother of his children was killed.

Then there was a rich woman I knew whose ex-husband sent her daughter to one of those discipline-oriented boarding schools because he thought she was suicidal. He thought suicidal depression was a discipline problem.

And, of course, there are people who talk about suicide as the "coward's way out".

But unless they're characters in a samurai movie, people don't kill themselves because they've carefully weighed their options and decided that would be the most reasonable course of action. There's a very good reason why people who attempt suicide end up in the psycho ward.

Things may be different in other countries. I just watched a Japanese mystery movie from 1961. And I see that it was remade in 2009.

In one scene, a man's brother is convinced he was murdered. "He didn't have a reason to commit suicide." He says this as if suicide would have been perfectly logical if he had had a reason. He's not shocked or bewildered that his brother would kill himself. Just didn't have a reason.

Movie was pretty good though. It was based on a serialized novel by Seicho Matsumoto. I read another novel he's written and it was pretty good. Maybe he just had a great translator.

But it kills it for me when the logic of a movie depends on a rational explanation for a psychotic act.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gay Swedish movie

It must be hard being a Swedish filmmaker. Everything is so nice there. It has one of the lowest rates of poverty in the world after Norway and Finland and maybe Denmark. What possible conflict could they have? They're so tolerant and progressive! I guess they are, anyway.

Is it the Swedes or the Norwegians who do the Nobel Peace Prize? They wanted to give one to George Bush, but there was so much outcry they dropped the idea. They gave one to Obama and he gave an acceptance speech explaining why he loved war. He had barely been elected at that point and had only ordered a handful of drone strikes, although one of his campaign promises was to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Both Norway and Sweden have troops in Afghanistan and both took part in the bombing of Libya which killed at least 50,000 people.

Maybe Scandinavia isn't all it's cracked up to be.

I just watched a gay Swedish film, Patrick 1.5.

A married gay couple moves into a pleasant Swedish neighborhood. All single family homes. They have a garden. The husband works as a doctor and I don't remember what the other husband does. They're one of the most affectionate married couples I've seen in the movies. Maybe they should have toned that down.

One husband wants to adopt a baby. The other is a divorced former heterosexual and doesn't really want to, but he goes along. Maybe he feels lucky to be married to a doctor.

There's no international adoption for gay couples.

"A Swedish baby would be okay. Or a Dane. A Swede or a Danish baby. Well. No. Not a Dane."

After a time they're told there's a child for them. His name is Patrick, age 1.5. One and a half years old.

This turns out to be a typo. He's a surly gay-hating 15-year-old with a criminal record for carrying a knife and aggravated assault.

They immediately try to get rid of him. The neighbor children are always shouting anti-gay slurs at the gay couple. When they call Patrik a "homo" he chases them down and apparently beats some of them up. When the gay doctor goes to the neighbors to apologize, he finds that no one is home until he knocks on one door and discovers there's a neighborhood party they didn't invite the gay couple to.

Oddities in the movie are that the tough-looking tattooed gay guy who is arrested for "abuse of a public official" when he gets a parking ticket is terrified of the fifteen-year-old. And they never took the baby monitor out of the kid's room. They had him on a little TV screen the whole time. Strangely, all the kid did was sit staring into space. Is that what Swedes think teenage boys do when they're alone in their rooms?

I did fast forward through a lot of it, so maybe my assessment isn't very good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Relatively recent silent films

There are the movies of Guy Madden, many of them shot on super 8. I liked the ones I've seen.

The music is from a Soviet composer and he imitates silent film here.

I liked Brand Upon the Brain. I can't think of the others I've seen. I'd better watch them again.

I hear he films on Super 8, but he has several cameras running simultaneously, so it probably costs about the same as one camera filming with 35mm. I noticed the child actor in Brand Upon the Brain got screen credit as a camera operator.

Not sure what I think of silent film. I like a lot of them, and what I don't like about them has more to do with the era they're from than the fact that they're silent.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Andrei Tarkovsky

Until recently, the only movies I'd seen by Andrei Tarkovsky were Steamroller & Violin, his student film, and Ivan's Childhood.

Steamroller & Violin was an interesting movie. Made in the late '50s, it seemed like it was a bit under an hour long. This was his "graduation film", made as he completed film school. Interesting how much better Soviet film students were than those of the sad wretches we have toiling away in the universities of this country.

It had a theme that I've noticed in other Soviet films---a fatherless boy befriending a strange man. Not surprising in a country that lost about 30 million men in World War Two.

To get to his violin lesson, the kid has to slip past the violent kids who live in his apartment building. But it was interesting that the kid leaves his violin lying there. The tough kids see it. I thought they'd destroy it. But they open the case and look at it in awe.

I always imagined that Soviet children were better disciplined than these young ruffians.

Ivan's Childhood was a great movie, I thought, about a kid whose mother and sister were killed by the Nazis. He has joined the partisans and acts as a scout for the Soviet Red Army during World War Two. It was hugely successful. It had audiences in the Soviet Union in tears which wasn't surprising. But I hear Tarkovsky never liked it.

I get the impression he was the Stanley Kubrick of the U.S.S.R. Vaguely high brow, but making these big budget movies that are critically acclaimed but are cold and not very well liked.

Now we have people attacking the U.S.S.R., claiming they repressed poor Tarkovsky. I haven't seen the movies he made after he left the Soviet Union. What were the capitalist movie studios willing to bankroll? I can't imagine he would have done that well in Hollywood.

For one thing, he was opposed to color film. He thought movies should be in black & white.

The Soviet movie industry had the same problems Hollywood did and then some. They had to compete with television, they had movie ratings to contend with, and the Soviet government wasn't going to subsidize them. If the studios wanted to continue to function, they had to sell tickets. In fact, while MGM was opening a casino and Disney and Universal studios were running theme parks and George Lucas was making a fortune off merchandising, Soviet studios had nothing to rely on but ticket sales. And, unlike Hollywood, the Soviets had to compete with Hollywood. The U.S.S.R. showed a lot of foreign films, something that never posed to threat to the American movie industry.

But here they had Tarkovsky making quasi-high brow movies nobody liked. In one case, he spent six months and around a million dollars (in 1975 dollars) making The Mirror, which went into limited release as sort of an art film.

I recently watched Stalker and Solaris, and I liked both of them, although, for some reason, it's hard for me to get too excited about science fiction. I don't know why. I can't take them that seriously. If I thought about, I'd either realize I was completely wrong or I would have a clear explanation for what I already knew intuitively. I don't know which.

Hollywood did a re-make of Solaris which grossed $14 million against a $47 million budget. Tarkovsky did better than that anyway.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Did Clinton order the murder?

Apparently Muammar Gaddafi was injured in a U.S. missile strike. They've been out to murder him since this thing began.

This means that the NATO rebels who rushed to the scene were probably told to go there by the U.S. And we know that they immediately sent a cell phone video to Hillary Clinton. They showed her on the news watching the video.

"Wow," she said.

So the question is, did the NATO rebels take it upon themselves to murder Gaddafi, or did Clinton order them to?

It was a war crime either way.

There are a number of Bush administration officials who have to be very, very careful where they go when traveling abroad or they might themselves under arrest for war crimes. Now Clinton and Obama have joined that club.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rachel Maddow wallows in human blood

I watched Rachel Maddow ethusing about the murder of Muammar Gaddafi. I've never seen her so happy.

She started talking about how terrible he was, but----let me see. What did she say?

She said Reagan bombed Libya, which she seemed to think was proof that Gaddafi was bad. Then she mentioned the bombing of that Pan Am flight, which pretty much everyone outside the United States thinks was the work of Iran in retaliation for the U.S. shooting down an Iranian airliner.

But Maddow didn't connect the two events. Reagan ordered the bombing of Tripoli. He had several planes targeting Gaddafi's tent. They seriously injured members of his family and killed his baby daughter. And this, allegedly, was his reason for his retaliating and blowing up an airliner over Scotland.

Reagan ordered the bombing because, he claimed, the Libyans had bombed a nightclub in Germany. The "proof" was some radio message sent to Libya, which people now think was the work of the Israelis.

Maddow didn't see fit to mention that U.S. and Britain have been sending people to Libya to be tortured as part of the "war on terror".

They keep repeating the claim that NATO launched its bombing campaign to "protect civilians". The UN resolution called for a no-fly zone, but NATO immediately started slaughtering people.
They dropped 30,000 bombs on the country. According to the NATO rebels, they killed around 50,000 people.

Now, according to these people, Gaddafi had no support at all. None. No one in the country supported him. Who were the fifty thousand people they killed? Why did they have to drop 30,000 bombs to depose someone who absolutely everyone hated?

I don't know how many Americans watched the video of Muammar Gaddafi covered with blood surrounded by the NATO rebels. It's hard to imagine that many people would feel any sympathy for the sadistic scum who murdered him.

I've heard coverage of this for months. All of it consisted of U.S. reporters ridiculing the Libyans for trying to show them the results of the bombing and the victims of the bombing.

The footage of Muammar Gaddafi covered with blood is probably the first footage we've seen of the victims of NATO's bombing campaign.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Candy Snatchers

There was an interview with Sherwood Schwartz talking about The Brady Bunch. He was talking about the trip they took to Hawaii. There was a scene where Peter was in bed in the hotel and realizes there's a huge tarantula on him.

Christopher Knight didn't want to do the scene. He didn't want the thing on him. But he did it. They asked Schwartz how he felt about that. He shrugged.

There's more to being an actor than saying your lines, he said.


I watched a 1973 movie called The Candy Snatchers which took this to extremes.

It was the story of three kidnappers. Their victim is a Catholic schoolgirl named Candy, played by 20-year-old Susan Sennett.

The character, Candy, goes through almost the entire movie tied up, blindfolded and gagged. And, to avoid continuity errors, the actress playing her remained tied up, bindfolded and gagged pretty much the entire time she was on the set each day. She said in the commentary track that they would prop her up in a chair between shots.

They drag her into a van, they drive her into the hills, and they bury her alive. They drop her in a hole (she said they really dropped her, but not as far as it looked), she's in a box. They lay boards over the box then begin shoveling dirt over it. There's a tube that allows in air.
There was no reason for the actress to actually be in the coffin as they bury it. But they left her in there as the did this. She was screaming and crying---the actress said that she wasn't acting. She was, she said, freaking out. She later suffered clausterphobia and she said that all that time being blindfolded made her overly sensitive to sound ever since. There was a rape scene on top of that, and they didn't even invite her to the premiere which was held in Florida where the actual kidnapping it was based on had taken place.

Surprisingly bad movie. The writer/director was a TV script writer. So it was surprising that the script had so little going for it. The kidnappers had no motive other than general greed. Candy's stepfather didn't want to pay the ransom and was poisoning the girl's mother, also out of generalized greed.

There's an autistic kid who sees the girl being buried. He's the one witness to it and he can't tell anyone.

This kid's mother was played by Bonnie Boland (who appeared in an episode of the Brady Bunch.) The parents and the autistic child are invited to dinner with the father's boss at work. He's a salesman, and if things go well, he might get his own territory!

But the boss tries to talk to the kid. The parents explain that he doesn't talk.

"Doesn't talk?" the boss says. "Did you hear that, mother? He doesn't talk! Whoever heard of a kid who doesn't talk! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW! HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW! HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW!"

I didn't understand what he found funny. But, in spite of his seeming amusement, the boss was deeply offended by the child's inability to speak, so the father wasn't going to get his own territory. So they come home and the mother drags the kid off his bed and severely beats him. Such an odd scene for a comic actress.

Anyway, a grim, nasty, cheap, ugly movie.

There's no reason why it should have been this bad. The auteur was a professional writer. Even if they didn't have money, they could have taken time to find some decent locations. That doesn't cost anything.

It's shameful that that poor girl suffered like this, especially for such a lousy movie.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Woody Allen, Stephen King, JK Rowking, Terry Gross, Arthur Krim

I've seen interviews with Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. They talk about how horrible their lives were before they got their books published. Both of them had periods of poverty, I guess. King was from an impoverished family. When he was in college, he wore overshoes---rubber galoshes you put on over your shoes---instead of actual shoes.

I don't know why he couldn't find a pair of shoes anywhere. I've bought shoes at Goodwill or at garage sales. I wore a pair of shoes a friend of mine found out in the snow. At least, he said that's where he found them. I figured the extreme cold would kill any bacteria.

But the thing is that both King and Rowling were working as teachers when they hit it big. They both had pretty good jobs, but they talk like they were living in abject poverty.

I've heard interviews with writers on Fresh Air on public radio and Terry Gross talks to writers as if they were going through some terrible torment working the jobs they did. One had translated books before writing his own. Another was in advertising. Again, pretty good jobs, and these people talk like they were working at a car wash (like I did) or washing dishes for a living.

Now I'm sitting here with Woody Allen's Interiors, playing on Netflix. I just watched a scene with one of the sisters riding in a taxi with her husband. He wants her to take the job at an ad agency. She feels it would be anonymous. She would be swallowed up. Her creativity would be stilted.

How easy did Woody Allen think it was to get a job in advertising? To anyone but a character in a Woody Allen movie or an idiot being interviewed by Terry Gross, it would be a great job.

In fact, Diane Keaton plays a poet in this thing. Would it really be a step down for a poet to get a job in advertising? I've knew a couple of very successful, prominent poets. One of them won a big literary award but they couldn't scrounge up bus fare to be present at the ceremony to pick it up.

Who was the beatnik who wrote the ad slogan for Raid, "Kills bugs dead"?

Interiors was this movie Woody Allen made for United Artists. Arthur Krim, the head of UA said that they were giving Allen the money to make to help him grow as an astist---they weren't expecting it to make any money off it.

When I was in high school, I had a teacher talk about this---how wonderful it was that a movie studio was helping Woody Allen in this way.

In fact, Krim was planning on leaving United Artists to start Orion Pictures. He wanted to take Woody Allen with him. So he spent United Artists' money for Woody Allen to make this terrible movie in order to curry favor with Allen so he could steal him away. Which he did.

Allen's "serious" movie are all like this. He gives people impressive sounding professions he knows nothing about, thinking this will give it some deep meaning. In September, one character is an astrophysicist for some reason.

It reminds me of The Cosby Show. Bill Cosby wanted it to be loosely based on his wealthy family, but he didn't want to make it about a celebrity like himself. How does he explain their wealth? He plays a doctor with a wife who's a lawyer. Neither one exhibits the slightest medical or legal knowledge. It's a stand-up comedian's idea of a professional couple.

And here we have Woody Allen's idea of artists and poets. He always has them talk about photography, something that doesn't require the sort of skill painting or sculpture or other art forms do.

I'm sitting here with the movie playing as I write this. My God it's bad!

Now the actress sister is complaining that she only works in television and they pass her over for all the "classy projects".

Robert Downy, Jr, says we need to forgive Mel Gibson

I didn't like Mel Gibson in the first place and I haven't kept up with the latest stuff. What did he do? Leave unkind messages on his common-law wife's answering machine? Did he punch her or something? I don't know, so I probably shouldn't be speculating. I saw that idiot Ben Stiller do that on TV. He said something about a former child star who was arrested after some minor incident. It was nothing serious--not a case of a child star gone renegade. But Stiller sat there on national TV thinking out loud, "I'm not sure if he served any time for that, or if he was convicted." (The charges were dropped.)

The anti-Semitism accusation was crap. He made The Passion of the Christ which the ultra-right-wing head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center claimed was anti-Semitic because it didn't re-write the New Testament to make the Pharisees look good. And Gibson got drunk, asked the Jewish cop if he was Jewish and made a hyperbolic remark about the number of wars the Jews have started. (The war the Israelis launched against Lebanon had just ended, but Lebanese children were still losing their hands, arms and legs to the millions of cluster bombs the Zionists dropped on Southern Lebanon.)

Like I say, I haven't kept up with any of the other stuff. I generally don't like him, so I generally went along with the attacks on The Passion of the Christ, but we should probably look at this stuff again and be very specific about what terrible sins he's supposed to have committed and then stack it up against other celebrities.

A few examples:

John Lennon made cruel comments about the circumstances of Julien Lennon's conception.

Phil Silvers liked hanging around with Jewish gangsters because he liked "tough Jews".

Am I the only one who remembers seeing Buddy Hackett on the The Tonight Show talking in his adorable, childlike manner about how the Mafia murdered some men who burglarized his house? I was a kid when I saw it and I might have misread it, but he indicated that, as professional criminals, they should have known not to rob someone who worked in a mob-owned casino.

Robert Mitchum attacked a woman reporter.

There was that whole palimony thing with Lee Marvin.

Ted Danson and that stupid blackface incident.

That time Marlon Brando kissed Larry King and he was a lousy father.

All the Mafia stuff with Frank Sinatra.

Racist jokes in Marx Brothers movies. Groucho referring to African-Americans as "darkies".

Name a Hollywood star who hasn't been in a racist movie. Well. I don't know. I'm sure there are some.

That French guy in Pepe Le Moko who became a Nazi collaborator.

Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden's disgusting trip to Israel to show their support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon around the time of the Sabra and Shatila massacre.

John Wayne described himself as a white supremacist (did he know what he was saying?)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dante's Inferno, 1911

Watched the 1911 Italian version of Dante's Inferno. 100-years-young!

It was strangely refreshing----filmed entirely static camera, in long shot. They would have a title explaining what was happening, then we'd see it happen. Strangely, it made it seem more naturalistic. They just told you what was happening. No montage or pantomime to reveal information.

It's all there on You Tube. There's part one of five.

Near death experiences then and now

I heard some lecture which was being used as background noise an alternative music record. The guy talked about how, today, when people have near-death experiences, they almost always imagine themselves going to heaven running toward the light. But he said that, in medieval times, when people had these experiences, they always found themselves in Hell. They would come back trying to live better lives.

I've had atheists who must have had some doubts about their atheism because they said they thought that, if it turned out that there was a God, He would understand their disbelief.

But this movie----people went to Hell for pretty much anything. Gluttons were in hell. And, oddly, spendthrifts and misers both suffered the same fate. Harpies were there. Is that a sin? There was a man who committed suicide after being tortured and blinded---he was in hell. And there were heretics and blasphemers, of course. Oh, and hypocrites. Pretty much everybody went to hell in those days.

In which I tie together Daniel Boone and Breaking Bad

There was an episode of Daniel Boone directed by the great B director, Joseph Lewis. Lewis had directed the movie Gun Crazy, filmed the first implied oral sex scene in Hollywood history and directed a lot of episodes of the Rifleman.

The original script for the Daniel Boone episode he directed called for a coincidence. Daniel Boone runs into some woman in town. She runs away. He meets her again in the country somewhere. Was she an escaped indentured servant? I don't know.

Lewis didn't like this. He changed the script. Daniel Boone sees her in town, she runs away. As he heads home, Boone uses his tracking skills to follow and find her.

Lewis didn't like having coincidence in his scripts. He wanted his characters to make things happen using their special skills.

And this was a weakness of some episodes of Breaking Bad. Skyler was being blackmailed by her boss. And how is this solved? Half by her actions, half by accident. She goes to Saul, for some reason Saul knows two goons who he sends to her former boss's house. They force him to write a check to the IRS. They Fed Ex the check. Then they plan to hold the guy until the check clears.

But the fellow panics, makes a run for it, trips and falls, and, strangely, the fall kills him.

There was the scene in the desert where Walt and Jesse are held in a house by Tuco, the violent, unbalanced local drug lord. Walt and Jesse are trying to figure out how to kill him. They want to poison him by coaxing him into taking some methamphetamine, but he won't do it. His elderly grandfather, sitting in a wheelchair unable to speak, keeps ringing his bell.

"Why are you ringing the bell? Oh my God! They're trying kill me!"

He starts beating up Jesse.

Walter sees Jesse has a rock in his hand.

Walter distracts Tuco. His grandfather was trying to tell him "THAT WE WERE GOING TO POISON YOU BECAUSE YOU'RE A PSYCHO AND YOU DESERVE TO DIE!"

And Jesse hits him with a rock.

But it's Hank, Walters DEA agent brother-in-law who pulls up, gets into a gun fight with Tuco and kills him.

I don't know. Should they have had Walter get out of it with his superior intellect alone? It would have meant they'd need another reason why the Mexican drug cartel wanted to murder Hank. Of course, it was Hank's skill as an investigator that led him there---THAT wasn't a coincidence.

Should Skyler have used her accounting skills to neutralize the threat from her former employer? The death in a freak accident was a bit much.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Obama gearing up to attack Iran, apparently

Well, Obama is gearing up to attack Iran, spreading his absurd lie, that Iran sent a used car dealer to Mexico to somehow locate the head of a Mexican drug cartel so he could hire them to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

Does anyone outside the U.S. government believe this? Does anyone inside the U.S. government believe it?

Today I listened to a couple of "experts" on NPR's Talk of the Nation. A woman finally called in and asked them why they didn't consider the possibility that the U.S. government was lying to justify starting a war. The host, Neal Conan, couldn't understand----why would the United States want to attack Iran? We've already started so many other wars! It wouldn't make sense to start another!

Patrick Coburn wrote about it on the Counterpunch website:

The claim that Iran employed a used-car salesman with a conviction for cheque fraud to hire Mexican gangsters to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington goes against all that is known of Iran’s highly sophisticated intelligence service.

The confident announcement of this bizarre plot by the US Attorney General Eric Holder sounds alarmingly similar to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s notorious claim before the UN in 2003 that the US possessed irrefutable evidence Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction.

The problem is that the US government has very publicly committed itself to a version of events, however unlikely, that, if true, would be a case for war against Iran. It will be difficult for the US to back away from such allegations now.

Could the accusations be true? The plot as described in court was puerile, easy to discover and unlikely to succeed. A Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) informant in Corpus Christi, Texas, with supposed links to Los Zetas gangsters in Mexico, said he had been approached by an Iranian friend of his aunt called Mansour Arbabsiar to hire the Zetas to make attacks. A link is established with the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

None of this makes sense. The IRGC is famous for making sure that responsibility for its actions can never be traced to Iran. It usually operates through proxies. Yet suddenly here it is sending $100,000 (£63,000) from a known IRGC bank account to hire assassins in Mexico. The beneficiaries from such a plot are evident. There will be those on the neo-con right and extreme supporters of Israel who have long been pressing for a war with Iran. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been vociferously asserting that Iran is orchestrating Shia pro-democracy protests, but without finding many believers in the rest of the world. Their claims are now likely to be taken more seriously in Washington. There will be less pressure on countries like Bahrain to accommodate their Shia populations.

In Iraq, the US and Britain were always seeing Iran’s hidden hand supporting their opponents, but they could never quite prove it. It was also true, to a degree never appreciated in the US, that Washington and Tehran were at one in getting rid of Saddam Hussein and installing a Shia government. There were points in common and a struggle for influence. The same has been true in Afghanistan, where Iran was delighted to see the anti-Shia Taliban overthrown in 2001.

Some Iran specialists suggest there might be a “rogue faction” within the Revolutionary Guard, but there is no evidence such a body exists or of a convincing motive for it to be associating with Mexican gangsters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Maccabees were jerks

Okay, since Mel Gibson is making this Maccabee movie, here's something by Israeli Uri Avnery about it. I got it from Counterpunch, and you can read the whole thing here.

...Many years ago I had lunch with someone who was then a key figure in the Israeli economy. During the conversation I suggested that Shimon Bar Kochba, who led the failed Jewish uprising against Rome, in 132-135 C.E., was a crazy adventurer, that the Zealots of the Great Revolt who had preceded him were criminals and that the Maccabees too, before them, had fought a murderous civil war.

The banker stared at me with a look of endless astonishment in his clear blue eyes. He had never heard such strange views. On the spot, I decided to write a series of articles on the subject. They were published serially in Haolam Hazeh, and did not cause an uproar.

Some time later, however, Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former head of Military Intelligence and at the time a historian at the Hebrew University, wrote a book in the same vein, and the dam burst.

The Zealots’ rebellion against Rome, he wrote, was an act of madness. In present-day terms, they could be called extreme right-wingers. Sensible people such as King Herod Agrippa II warned about the futility of the adventure against the huge military might of the Roman superpower. But the Zealots silenced those voices, murdered whoever spoke against the revolt and seized control over the Jewish community. When the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem, in 70 C.E., Zealot groups burned one another’s stores of grain, certain that they were not needed because the Almighty himself would redeem his holy city.

One of the sensible people who remained in the city-gone-mad was Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai; he rightly predicted what would happen. Ben Zakkai pretended to be dead, had himself smuggled out of town in a coffin, approached the Roman commander and requested permission to settle in Yavneh and open a spiritual center there.

This was out-and-out treason: deserting the front, cowardice, maintaining contact with the enemy, collaboration. When I was an adolescent, I was a member of the Irgun pre-state underground, and we organized a mock trial for him. He was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. The Zealots were our heroes.

But the Jewish people’s collective wisdom in fact hailed Ben-Zakkai’s treason. His move is widely seen as enabling the survival of Judaism during the 2,000 years of Diaspora. In other words: His treason saved the people. His act was the patriotic one. The Jewish community was able to remain on its land and flourish until the appearance of the next madman, Bar Kochba, another member of the extreme right, to use today’s terminology.

The historical verdict on the Maccabees is more positive. They are favorably etched in the Jewish consciousness, whereas the Zealots’ activities are recalled in the mourning of Tisha B’Av. The Maccabees’ activities, on the other hand, are celebrated during the holiday of Hanukkah, and the Zionist movement has hailed them as freedom fighters who liberated the Jews from oppressive alien rulers.

And indeed, in contrast with the Zealots and Bar Kochba, the Maccabees had a realistic view of the political situation of their day. They made alliances and managed the rebellion wisely. But the Maccabees’ war, in the second century B.C.E., was first and foremost a civil war. We say the Maccabees conducted a murderous campaign against the Hellenists – but who were the Hellenists? They were the people who adopted the most enlightened and advanced culture of their day, approximately equivalent to American or general Western culture today.

The “national religious” camp of those days and the counterparts of today’s “hilltop youth” regarded the Hellenists as traitors, precisely the way today’s leftists are branded. (This, however, did not stop the Hasmonaean kings, who succeeded the Maccabees, from adopting Greek culture themselves, as some of their names show ).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

William Beaudine

I've seen several movies directed by William Beaudine. I thought they were pretty good. The worst of them were fairly well-made.

Beaudine was a silent film director. He directed Sparrows with Mary Pickford and a young Milton Berle. But his career went bad. He traveled to England, it did him no good. He finally began directing B movies and was extremely prolific.

He went on to direct a low budget exploitation film about unwed pregnancy which ended with a shot of the actual birth of a baby. He directed Spin & Marty on The Mickey Mouse Club and episodes of Lassie and The Green Hornet.

But the Michael Medved and his less successful brother, Harry, trashed Beaudine in one of their books. Anyone who reads the book then watched any of Beaudine's movies would be surprised at how dishonest the Medved boys were. They falsely claimed that he was known as "One Shot" Beaudine. In fact, they were the only ones who ever called him that.

In any case, in B movie production, as in television, you didn't shoot retakes unless you had to. If you could shoot a scene in a single take, you would. There was no time or money for retakes.

I've seen quite a few of Beaudine's movies. I didn't see any of the technical flaws the Medveds claimed.

Their attack in him seemed to be based entirely on the fact that he directed B movies. He brought them in on time and on budget and did quite well considering the limitations. What would a better director have done?

Monday, October 10, 2011

I have community access TV again

I got my Community Access TV back again. I switched back to cable and got rid of the satellite dish. It all stinks, of course. It costs a lot and even with 80 channels, there's nothing on.

I watched the tail end of a video of a TV writer discussing his craft followed by an elderly movie producer who got his start in B movies in the 1940s talk about his career.

A few years ago, I tried to work out how to do a dramatic series on Community Access TV. Several people have done locally produced soap operas over the years, but I was never able to follow them.

One of these amateur soap operas was on for several years, has a page on and had several actors go on to bigger and better things. The producer was a young fellow who had been a child actor and played Neo Harrington on Days of Our Lives. At 12, he appeared in a martial arts movie.

That soap opera started out very well, but got worse and worse over the years. I've never talked to anyone involved, but I suspect it was all the work, week after week, of arranging schedules, getting actors together when no one is getting paid and everyone has a job and a life to work around. In the end, the show consisted of almost nothing but scenes of actors alone on camera talking to themselves or talking on the phone about their situation, which I was never able to follow anyway.

I rented two quasi soaps on DVD, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, the soap opera spoof produced by Norman Lear, and Dark Shadows, the gothic soap opera from the late '60s.

Dark Shadows seemed to consist almost entirely of conversations between two people at a time. It was filmed "live on tape"---it was videotaped as if it were a live TV show. They never shot re-takes. They left in flubbed lines, scenes of actors trying remember their lines, microphones and studio equipment appearing on camera. It's amazing that they did so well, really.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman had a bit more going on. I did notice it had scenes that went on for twenty minutes and episodes that had only two or three characters appear.

Watching videos of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, a British sketch comedy show where all the sketches have only Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry.

Along those lines, there was a Community Access TV show called Two Kids with a Camcorder which had two teenagers doing what teenagers think is funny. The show was generally cute.

Come to think of it, there were two English guys on You Tube who did a pretty good video, maybe 20 minutes long. The thing is, it was just the two of them. They didn't even have anyone to operate the camera for them, all the scenes were doing with only one of them appearing on camera at a time, sometimes in disguise if they were playing a different character. Poor guys didn't get as many views as they deserved and I wasn't able to find their video last time I looked.

There was a group of college students who had a long-running sketch comedy show. It was a bit controversial. A local cop turned on the TV while getting ready for work and had it on.

"I was in the Army and I've been a cop for sixteen years, and I didn't know there were that many words for masturbation," he said.

What are these soldiers and cops doing that make them think their experts on euphemisms for masturbation?

Anyway, there was nothing anyone could do. They can only ban legally obscene material from public access TV. Everything else stays.

There was once a live broadcast from the studio. Some local anarchists thought they were making some brilliant political point by showing naked women mud wrestling. Maybe they were attacking repressive attitudes toward sex? I guess. But that was their downfall because the feminists turned against them and their group disintegrated.

The public access TV station is in the back of the high school, so outraged school officials stole the mud wrestling videotape from the station and spent several days watching it in outrage until they were finally forced to give it back.

Breaking Bad season finale

The season finale of Breaking Bad was on last night. Everything seemed to be wrapped up, like this was intended as the series finale. Jesse and Walt shake hands and go their separate ways. They both have their money, Walt also has a car wash. He had calculated how much he was going to need to leave his family when he died, and he has that much left. Surely, after all they've been through, these two won't go back into it.

Only thing would be trying to stay one step ahead of the law for the murders they committed over the last few seasons. Maybe Walt sees his chance to become a kingpin himself.

But I'm afraid next season will be like the final season or Roseanne. It just went on one year too many.

But it was a great episode! One extremely disturbing scene and a happy ending. Even the secretary got in on it. Walt pays her $25,000 for Saul's phone number after he disappears.

Walt did poison a child, as a number of viewers guessed, but the kid pulled through fine and doctors weren't surprised or baffled by the poisoning. They figured the kid ate a berry he shouldn't have.

Near the end, the family is gathered around the TV watching news. Skyler talks to Walt. She tells him what happened. She takes the phone where nobody can hear.

"Walt---was this you?"

"I won."

But this series seems to have run its course. There's no plausible way Walt or Jesse would willingly return to this work.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cleopatra killed Daniel Boone!

I used to watch re-runs of Daniel Boone when I was a kid. I don't know what I liked so much about it. I tried to watch it again a while back, but I just don't think the real Daniel Boone wore stretch pants.

But I watched a long interview with Fess Parker, who played both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett before that. He died in 2010. Turns out he was pretty smart. He went to law school, went to USC or UCLA when he moved to LA. He spoke Russian.

He was very tall which may have saved his life. They wouldn't let him be a fighter pilot in the Navy during World War Two. Technically, he was too tall to be in the Navy at all, but they took him.

Daniel Boone was canceled thanks to the hyper-big-budget bomb, Cleopatra, starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. The studio poured so much money into it, they needed to sell anything they could. Daniel Boone was a top rated show, but the studio stopped production so they could put it into syndication and make some money that way.

Parker had been ripped off by Disney during his years on Davy Crockett. He was supposed to receive 10% of what they made from merchandising. Parker worked a grueling schedule promoting the show. He met with thousands and thousands of children, did frightening, socially awkward work, speaking before the Texas State Lesgislature, appearing at rodeos, shopping centers, visiting hospital pediatric wards.

But, naturally, Disney ripped him off. He said they didn't protect their trademark. Although, I suppose, it would be hard for a corporation to claim the rights to the name of an actual historical figure.

Daniel Boone was in the '60s, and Parker, as a producer of the show, tried to bring in a lot of black actors. He said he was very briefly considered for the role of James Bond, but that would be madness. He owned a winery in his later years and had Goldie Hawn and Jodie Foster bike out there to see him.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Breaking Bad this week

What will happen tomorrow on Breaking Bad?? What will happen tomorrow???

Aw, who gives a crap. It's going on another season anyway. Walter will still be working whatever happens.

Knowing the series is going on kind of ruins it for me.

VCRs hurt my enjoyment of movies. Now you got this clock sitting there on the TV, showing how much of the movie you've seen. You now have a pretty good idea how much time is left in the movie, how much time they still have to wrap it up. You know full well if you're watching a false climax or a real climax.

And now they have these TV ratings. They tell you up front what it's "rated", and why it's rated that way. Is there sex, violence, nudity? You no longer watch TV thinking, "I wonder if she's going to take her clothes off!" They already told you! They've taken away all the suspense.

I've watched movies where I wonder if a tense situation is going to explode in violence. Then I remember, no, no, there was no "V" in the rating.

What do they need this stuff for? Why do parents need to know WHY a show is rated "TVPG"? Do they want their kids watch violence but no sex, or sex and no violence? Do they not mind them seeing sex and nudity but don't want them hearing indecent language? But parents got their panties in a bunch because the original TV ratings just gave a general rating. You'd think they would be embarrassed to announce to the world that they're perfectly happy for their children to see inappropriate sex or violence, just not both.

Well, anyway, I'm not sure what's happening. Is Gus nice or mean? Hank was slightly rude last week but is still nice. Skyler was nice for a change. Walt, Jr., was speaking of ill of his father.

How old is Walt, Jr, anyway? He was in high school when the show started. It's been on a for a few years now. But he just had his 16th birthday---at least they just bought him a car for his birthday. Maybe time is supposed to be compressed. Or maybe they waited until he was 23 to buy him a car. Why would anyone buy a car for a 16-year-old?

And Walt, Jr., looks pretty athletic. He's not on crutches in real life. In the early shows, the other kids were picking on him because of his disability, but he's this big, athletic guy in his mid-20s now. He looks like he could beat the crap out of any high school kid. still care! I must know what happens next!

Does Gus realize that Jesse was in on a plot to kill him? He must know Walt's in on it. Did Walt poison Brock?

The fellow who plays Gus said in an interview that the reason Gus stops and doesn't get in the car is that he knows that HE didn't poison Brock and that he's been lured there. Which means he knows that Jesse lured him there. And he must figure that Walt poisoned Brock.

Oh, well. My hope is that they will all be arrested and given a fair trial with a jury of their peers. Then, in prison, they will be rehabilitated and released.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A book Hemingway didn't care for

Here’s Ernest Hemingway in a letter to Charles Scribner attacking James Jones and his first novel, From Here to Eternity. The book won the National Book Award for fiction in 1952. Scribner published both Hemingway and Jones:

About the James Jones book … It is not great no matter what they tell. To me is an enormously skillful fuck-up and his book will do great damage to our country. Probably I should re-read it again and give you a truer answer. But I do not have to eat an entire bowl of scabs to know they are scabs; nor suck a boil to know it is a boil; nor swim through a river of snot to know it is snot. I hope he kills himself as soon as it does not damage your sales. If you give him a literary tea you might ask him to drain a bucket of snot and then suck the puss out of a dead-nigger’s ear… How did they ever get a picture of a wide-eyed jerk (un-damaged ears) to look that screaming tough. I am glad he makes you money and I would never laugh him off. I would just give him a bigger bucket of the snot detail. He has the psycho’s urge to kill himself and he will do it. Make all the money you can out of him as quickly as you can and hold out enough for Christian Burial. Wouldn’t have brought him up if you hadn’t asked me. Now I feel as unclean as when I read his fuck-off book. It has all the charm and trueness of the real and imitation fuck-off. Mary sends her love to you and to Vera. Best always, Papa.

Hemingway's comments were rather unkind, quite disgusting and racist. He had that anti-Semitism problem with The Sun Also Rises and now this. He's the Rick Perry of American literature. And why the hyphen between the words "dead" and the racial slur?

Now that I know that From Here to Eternity damaged the country, I think I should read it. Especially now that the gay sex scenes, cut out when it was first published, have been restored.

Interesting that Hemmingway, who went on to commit suicide, called for Jones to die this way.

I got this quote off the Counterpunch website.

On The Office: James Spader stinks

Found this on a TV Guide website:

Just what is supposed to be amusing about new Dunder Mifflin CEO Robert California? And, by the way, why is he spending so much time in Scranton? Two episodes into the new season, Spader has yet to deliver anything resembling a laugh-out-loud punchline. He's mostly just played mind games with his employees, attempting to turn them against one another and making wild demands for sales increases.

The Office's writers seem to be confusing funny ha-ha with funny-strange — and not for the first time. (Will Ferrell's Deangelo Vickers, we hardly knew ye, thank God.) Spader successfully straddled the line between comedy and drama for years on Boston Legal. Surely, he can't be so serious on a sitcom.

What do you think of James Spader on The Office?

I have to agree. Nothing funny there.

The American version of The Office seems too much like a sit-com. The British version managed to maintain the reality TV show thing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ray Carney, Walter White, Breaking Bad, etc

I read something by Ray Carney. I probably misunderstood it.

He complains about subjectivity in film.

The idea is that, in general, we see things through the eyes of the protagonist, what their goals and intentions are.

I suppose that's the reason we can watch Dirty Harry without thinking, "My God! Clint Eastwood is a monster!" The reason we watch romantic comedies without thinking, "He's a stalker! That poor girl needs to get a restraining order and a can of pepper spray!"

I think you sort of got a hint of this in the movie Election. We never quite saw the narrator, the teacher, as the innocent victim he thought he was. When his actions come to light, he tells us that nobody remembered all the good things he did, and we wonder what he's referring to.

And now...and now...

And now we have Breaking Bad.

There were a couple of points in recent episodes where subjective intentions didn't count for anything. There was the scene of Walt lying in the crawl space, Skyler having just told him that she gave the money to her former boss.

We understand why she did it. But lying there in the crawl space, all Walter knows is that she gave a vast amount of his money, made at tremendous personal risk, to her former lover.

Earlier in that scene, we see Walt getting into a fight with Jesse. Jesse says accusingly that Walt brought his DEA agent brother-in-law to their lab! Which is sort of true. We understand why Walt did it. We understand what he was doing, but how would Jesse or Gus know?

I don't know what Walter's appeal was. I guess he only killed bad people, at least at first.

There was a case in 2010. A high school teacher named Valerie Elizabeth “Liz” Parrish was arrested for producing methamphetamine. She was trying to raise money to get her boyfriend out of jail. More recently, a school in West Virginia was closed down when traces of meth were found throughout the building. The principal and a teacher were arrested.

When we hear this, do we think that maybe these meth-producing teachers might be like that nice Walter White we see on TV?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Breaking Bad yet again

Breaking Bad Fine Art Print by Rick Forston, available for sale here

It's the only thing I watch now. The only current TV series. But what will happen this week?

Last week, Gus tells Walter he's fired. Jesse is "cooking" for him now. But Gus can't kill Walter like he wants because Jesse would refuse to work for him if he did. He tells Walt that he's going to have his brother-in-law, Hank, murdered and, if Walter tries to stop him, he'll have Walter's wife, son and baby daughter killed.

Walt runs to Saul, his lawyer. He wants to disappear with his family. Saul previously said that he "knows a guy" who can help them vanish. Saul tells him how much it will cost.

Walt races home. He goes into the crawl space under the house. But where is the money? There's not enough!

His wife Skyler explains that she gave several hundred thousand to her former employer with whom she had been having an affair. She did this because he had been audited by the IRS. If he didn't pay the back taxes he owed, he would be arrested for tax evasion and, as his accountant, she would be investigated as well and the IRS would then discover that she was laundering Walt's meth money.

The last episode ended with Walter lying in his crawl space becoming hysterical.

And in the promo for next weeks episode, we hear Walter confessing to...well. Something. He says he's done bad things since his diagnosis. Is he going to confess to his actual crimes or talk about his phony gambling problem? And who was he telling this to anyway?

I watched a teaser on Hulu. I don't know what's going on. Walter says it's time to stop putting off the inevitable. Looks like he and Skyler are in a motel and Walt's going out with a suitcase to go take his medicine, so to speak. But it didn't sound like he was going to turn himself in, and if he did, it would defeat the purpose of everything he did which was to make money to leave to his family.

I'm getting the impression that this was intended as the conclusion to the series and that they're going to tack on one more season.

I read a Breaking Bad message board a few weeks ago. I think I mentioned this before. I scoffed at one fellow who thought that Walter would go to Hank to get Gus. I scoffed. Hank was in terrible shape and how could he go along with his brother-in-law's terrible crimes?

The Mexican cartel was after Walt. They're now gone, killed off by Gus. Now Gus is after Walt. But Hank is already onto Gus and now the DEA knows that SOMEBODY is gunning for Hank (Saul said he wouldn't mention Gus's name when he tipped off the DEA.)

Well, I'll see in about 13 hours.

But, what a miserable life! The guy works for months making a fortune for Gus. He's getting paid himself but he can't spend the money and he knows that Gus will murder him the first chance he gets. The idea was to make money to leave to his family.

And another thing!

I didn't like the poetic justice in the accidental death of Skyler's former boss. I guess it was a problem. They (the writers and producers of the show) couldn't let him live because he was blackmailing Skyler and they needed a logical way out, but they couldn't murder him because it was known that he'd been sleeping with Skyler and Walt was down there threatening him.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

All Fall Down, Hud, Shane, and Brandon de Wilde

There were two movies Brandon de Wilde starred in, Hud and All Fall Down, which seemed so similar although the settings were completely different. They were probably different enough that I wouldn't have noticed the similarities if de Wilde hadn't been in both.

In both movies, he plays a youth who looks up to an older good-looking degenerate relative---his older brother played by Warren Beatty in All Fall Down and his uncle Hud played by Paul Newman in Hud. They both end with his getting over it.

All Fall Down was based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy. He also wrote the play Blue Denim, also made into a movie starring de Wilde, then 17, as a teenage boy trying to get an illegal abortion for his girlfriend played by Carol Lynley.

Herlihy also wrote the novel Midnight Cowboy.

Another person also noted the similar theme in Shane in which de Wilde, 10, idolizes the gun fighter played by Alan Ladd.

De Wilde was only 30 when he died in a car accident in 1972.