Saturday, August 31, 2013

A few more MST3k episodes on Netflix

A few Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes have become available for instant viewing on Netflix. Among them are The Pod People, Gamera, A Touch of Satan, and maybe one or two others. Soultaker I think.

I always liked MST3k before I started reading what other admirers of the show say about it. From what I see online, many viewers are jerks who thrill at punishing low budget filmmakers by making fun of them. I've noted the irony of stand-up comics acting as hecklers. I don't want to hear any more belly-aching comedians complain about hecklers.

Joel was a prop comic. Mike, in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, couldn't act. Look at him crying, "Crow, you've got to stop!" Even the shot of him grabbing the ladder as Crow breaches the hull was unconvincing. The only one who went on to any success was Josh Weinstein who was the first to leave the show.

But, like I say, I always liked MST3k. I just have mixed feelings about it now.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Obama, Syria, NSA

Heard anything about the NSA scandal since the Syria stuff started? He'll keep threatening Syria as long it with distract the people from his treachery.

Obama's credibility is gone. Look at the comments on any article on the internet about Syria. One or two people believe Obama, everyone else thinks it was the rebels who launched the chemical attack if there was one. A poll found that only 9% of Americans favor any US involvement in Syria.

Obama claims not to have made a decision. Is he stretching it out as long as possible, or is he spooked by the fact that no one at all in the world supports him?

Bush, Cheney, Kissinger and others are afraid to travel abroad, afraid they'll be arrested for their crimes. It seems like Obama, spying on every person on earth who has an internet connection, would be in greater danger once he's out of office. 

I'm sitting here listening to NPR. They're not exactly objective. For one thing, they keep reporting what Obama "believes" when they're reporting what he says. Are they claiming that his every utterance is a sincere expression of his beliefs?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Joe Francis gets off pretty lightly

According to the L.A. Times:
"Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis was sentenced Tuesday to 270 days in jail and three years' probation for an assault and false imprisonment of three women.
As part of the sentence, he must complete a year of psychological counseling and an anger management course.

Francis was convicted of five charges — three counts of false imprisonment, one of dissuading a witness from reporting and one of assault causing great bodily injury — stemming from a Jan. 29, 2011, incident.

Judge Nancy L. Newman handed down the sentence after denying a motion by Francis' lawyer for a new trial based on allegations that one of the accusers lied during the trial and that the three women went willingly to the home and were never falsely imprisoned.

The victims told police they had gone to the Supper Club in Hollywood to celebrate a college graduation and had a brief conversation with Francis.

At closing time, Francis grabbed one of the women by the hand and took her to his limo. The two other women followed, believing that Francis would give them a lift to their car. But during the ride, Francis' bodyguard and driver allegedly produced sheriff's badges and did not allow the women to get out of the limo.

The group was taken to Francis' gated home, where a physical altercation ensued between Francis and two of the women as he allegedly attempted to pull one of them away from the others, authorities said.

Francis grabbed one of the women by the throat and hair and pushed and slammed her head into the tile floor four times, according to authorities.

The women were escorted out of the house and allegedly told that a taxi would not be summoned and paid for if they called the police. Authorities said Francis threatened the women if they called police.

While in a taxi driving back to Hollywood, the women called 911 and met LAPD officers where their car was parked. The results of the investigation were forwarded to the city attorney's office for prosecution.

Francis had previously called the jury that convicted him "mentally ... retarded."

I don't think you can go into pornography as a business decision. You have to be a scumbag to do it.

Look at Joe Francis. He's rich, he has a business which is pretty much legal, but look at the amount of time he's spent in jail, look at one stupid thing after another that he's done.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Breaking Bad, "Confession"

Well, they certainly fooled me with that title, "Confession". The last episode ended with Hank walking in to talk with Jesse who keeps his yap shut. But there are a couple of other confessions.

Hank is the desperate one now-----he's the one facing prison, who will have to use all his cunning to escape.

But a couple of the implausibilities of earlier episodes were brought up. There was Walt's whole plan where he would poison Brock so that Jesse would think that Walt had done it and come to kill him so that Walt could convince him that Gus did it. There was no reason for either one to poison the kid and I don't see why Jesse would have thought either one did it.

Then there was the thing where Saul "knows a guy" who can help people disappear and create whole new identities so they could live out their lives somewhere else. It's hard to believe there's much call for that in Albuquerque. When Jesse was going off to meet that guy in order to be whisked away, I figured the guy was just a killer. He'd collect his money then kill the people he was supposed to be saving. Wasn't there a serial killer in France who would do that----under Nazi occupation he would charge Jews to help them escape France and then murder them.

How is it that Huell's so good at picking Jesse's pockets? Is there any explanation for this skill? Was there any indication that he could do this before that thing with the Ricin cigarettes?

The episode ends with Jesse pouring a can of gasoline out in Walter's house. Was Walt, Jr., home, upstairs listening to loud music with headphones oblivious to the danger until it's too late? (Is it a two story house?) Come to think of it, we've already seen in a flash forward that Walter's house hasn't been burned down. There was no fire damage, was there?

Will the arson attempt bring police to the house who'll be able to search the place? Will Jesse be arrested again and feel better about spilling the beans about Walter's treachery? Has Walt's cancer really come back? He's been telling people it has, but there's no indication of that other than his saying it. In an early episode, he was actually distressed that his cancer went into remission. When he went into the meth business, he did so with the understanding that he wasn't going to live very long.

There was a Japanese movie about a kid who somehow learns that the world is coming to an end, so he goes out and kidnaps a girl and commits a number of other crimes. I didn't watch the movie to the end, but you knew the kid was going to feel like a jerk when the world didn't end after all.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

American Graffiti

I haven't seen American Graffiti in years. What happened to it? Does the fact that it's pretty much
disappeared mean that it was overrated to begin with?

I was a kid when I went to see it in a theater. The movie ended with a epilogue telling us what became of the male characters. Cindy Williams was infuriated that they didn't say a word about the girls. They tell us that the Richard Dreyfuss character went on to become a writer, implying that he had written the true story of all his friends that the movie was based on which is a common enough ploy.

It was basically a rock and roll hot rod movie made some years after that genre was presumed dead.

Was it a stroke of genius that Lucas made the thing, or was it a fluke that it was as successful as it was? The crew thought it looked like a made-for-TV movie. I'll have to see it again.

Russian law banning gay propaganda to minors

Twenty-five years ago, my sister was trying to convince me to vote for Michael Dukakis. I pointed out to her that Dukakis was a gay hater. He banned gay foster parents in Massachusetts---they were dragging children out of homes with gay foster parents and, in some cases, foster parents who refused to tell the state whether they were gay or not. He publicly stated that he would never give an executive order banning discrimination against gays in state jobs and that he wouldn't do so as president. The scum running his campaign were gloating about gays picketing him----it would get him the anti-gay vote and the gays would vote for him anyway.

This had no effect on her support for Dukakis.

A few years later, she supported Clinton who instituted "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military and signed the Defense of Marriage Act. She supported Al Gore with his gay-hating right-wing Orthodox Jewish running mate. She supported same-sex marriage opponent Barack Obama.

But now she's outraged over Russia and their law against propaganda of non-traditional sex aimed at minors. Violators can be fined up to $1,500.

She would be attacking Putin no matter what he did. Russia is offering some slight challenge to US imperialism and is therefore being vilified by the US and the lapdog press.

The Russian law has the support of a large majority of Russians and opposition to it from outside Russia isn't helping Russian gays any. Why would they want their movement associated with imperialism, with countries vilifying and threatening Russia?

It's something Russian gay rights groups are going to have to fight themselves. Support from the US won't do anything for them,

Until the last ten or fifteen years, American gay groups stayed as far away from teenagers as they could. They didn't want anyone accusing them of trying to recruit young people. They were trying to prove they weren't a threat to kids. Look at old gay rights materials and see how often the term "consenting adults" appears. It's worked extremely well in the United States. People don't care that much what adults do with other adults, so once the public stopped thinking gays were a threat to kids, opposition to gay rights began to vanish. 

Russian activists would be well advised to use the same tactic there. But I doubt these Russia-haters in America and Europe will let them.

Twenty years ago, Americans were horrified that gay men were demanding that they be allowed in the Boy Scouts. They wanted to know why gays were so keen on being scout masters. Public opinion in the US has changed a lot, but why wouldn't Russians feel the same way?

I'm not in favor of the Russian law, but Russian gays would be well-advised to use the same tactics that have been so successful in the U.S.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Prozac Nation

Started watching Prozac Nation. You get to see Christina Ricci naked, but it's about an especially vile Harvard girl. According to Wikipedia, the author of the memoir it's based on was fired from a newspaper for plagiarism, publicly claimed to be a lawyer before she had ever been licensed to practice law anywhere, used heroin, and claims that any sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza was based entirely on "anti-Semitism". She wrote an article attacking her parents for a teen magazine in which she falsely claimed to have reconciled with her father. The book was a memoir by someone who never did anything but write a memoir---a Harvard girl telling us how extra special she is at the same time thinking her problems are of universal interest.

You can do that sort of thing on a local level. There's a guy who lived just a couple of blocks from me who wrote a memoir about his "shocking" childhood with his rich mother and his father who was a dentist or some such thing.

I was slightly acquainted with the guy's mother who was a friend of one of the owners of a business where I worked. She was kind of obnoxious. She thought it was funny to talk in a Zsa Zsa Gabor accent. Turns out she's an "artist".

It was amusing to hear about the book, but I have no interest in reading it.

The author, I think, is a teacher now and I hear he regrets having written the book. He brags about playing with a shotgun when he was 14, hinting that he was suicidal. His mother was disgusting. The cover of the book has a picture of her teaching him to smoke cigarettes when he was about nine.

Just writing this entry is dreary enough.

Friday, August 23, 2013

George Lucas, Mythmaker, John Baxter, stuff

Reading Mythmaker, John Baxter's biography of George Lucas. I learned some things I didn't know before:

1.  During the Vietnam War, if you were a film school graduate, you could get drafted or join the military and they would make you an officer right away and give you valuable motion picture experience---at least, that's what people told Lucas. Lucas was diabetic and was turned down by the military in any case, and it turns out that so many cameramen and photographers were killed in Vietnam that they wouldn't let you leave. Filmmakers kept having their "service" extended, one guy stuck in the Army for eight or nine years.

2.  I knew that Lucas and Coppola came up with idea for Apocalypse Now. They thought they could go to Vietnam and film it in 16mm while the war was still happening. Lucas was mad when Coppola made the movie without him, so, pathetically, he made the movie More American Graffiti focusing on the Vietnam War figuring he would out-do Coppola.

3.  In the first draft of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is caught having sex on a space ship somewhere and Princess Leia was eleven-years-old and got slightly older with each subsequent draft.

4.  Lucas gave bonuses and points to people who worked on Star Wars, but not to the people who worked on the special effects. He became enraged if anyone disagreed with him.

5.  Critics had to strain to like Star Wars. Pauline Kael praised it for its bad acting, as if George Lucas hired bad actors and failed to direct them properly on purpose.

6.  The original treatment for Star Wars was much closer to the Kurosawa movie The Hidden Fortress.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Werner Herzog PSA

A link to Werner Herzog's documentary on accidents caused by texting and driving:

A PSA made by a great director---reminds me a little of the ads for Jesse Jackson's campaign directed by Spike Lee in that the approach is simple enough, but the director still seems to make a difference.

The ads Lee directed were in black and white, filmed on a city street. The camera slowly moves toward Jackson who slowly walks toward the camera as he speaks.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Peter Bogdanovich, Breaking Bad

Peter Bogdanovich said he was watching Breaking Bad with a friend.

"Why can't they make movies like this?" his friend said.

"This is better than any movie," he said.

Well, yes, it is pretty good, and it wouldn't work as a movie. It is pure television.

Alfred Hitchcock, who called himself a "purist" as far as film went, failed to produce Pure Television when he made his TV show. Make use of television's unique qualities that distinguish it from other narrative forms.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Breaking Bad season premiere

Hank was upset, gives a rundown of Walt's crimes, which, when you list them all at once, seem rather substantial. Bombing a nursing home, murdering witnesses.

When watching the show, he didn't seem so bad. For the most part, his crimes seemed to be acts of desperation and fairly reasonable under the circumstances. But there were so many of them, and how reasonable was it really? It's like when you start adding up how many people the Cartwrights killed over the years on Bonanza, or that horrible family on The Big Valley.

He did kill a couple of child-killing drug dealers.

Now I'm watching an episode from last season on Netflix. Hank talks with his supervisor whose career is wrecked by the fact that he was hanging around with Gus Fring. Will this give Hank pause when it comes to accusing his brother-in-law? Will it damage his own career, the fact that he didn't notice that his brother-in-law was a drug kingpin?

Mike was upset that Andrea suggests that he murder eleven people as a prophylactic measure, which does seem to be what Walt has done and goes on to do.

What becomes of Walt, Jr, and the baby? And Skyler?

They're already talking about a spin-off series about the lawyer, so he lives and stays out of prison, unless they're misleading us completely.

What about Jesse?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Can Jaden Smith Read?

Will Smith has shut down his "school", The New Village Leadership Academy, which operated on the "educational theories" of The "Church" of Scientology.

One website claimed that there were children in the school who hadn't learned to read and parents were outraged to learn about the connection to Scientology. The school was kept very small to avoid state regulations.

Apparently Will Smith's kids were homeschooled before this. I don't know who taught them, but the children of his friend, Tom Cruise, were "tutored" by Scientologists. As I've mentioned, this was reportedly one reason Katie Holmes wanted her daughter out of there. Cruise's two adopted children were ignoramuses. They knew nothing about current events, they knew nothing about the world or any religion other than Scientology. This was fine with Cruise who is a well-known dullard, but Katie wanted more out of life for her daughter.

You think that's what the Smiths did? Handed the education of their innocent children over to Scientologists? Is this why Jaden Smith announced he wanted to be an emancipated minor at 15 and buy a house and why his father didn't dismiss the idea? Scientologists believe in reincarnation----they think that children are thousands of years old which is why they can be forced to work and sign away their lives to the "church".

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Outmoded method for learning foreign languages-----or is it?

Okay, this is completely off topic, but there is the "grammar-translation" system of language learning. What you do is you memorize the grammatical rules of the language, you memorize a list of words, and you translate text from the language into your own. This was the preferred method for learning foreign languages in the past but teachers shun it now.

But I did hear a kid on the radio. He speaks six languages, all learned pretty much on his own, and this is how he did it. He started studying a language, started having fun translating various texts to English, found it worked very well and started using it with other languages. He could speak them. He chattered away in one for the interview.

And if you get on the internet, there are "language nerds", people whose hobby is to learn new languages for no reason. They use different methods. And one that's popular is something akin to the "grammar-translation" method. One said he would start translating texts in the language until he felt brave enough to try speaking to someone in the language.

I read elsewhere that you don't really have to work that hard on the grammar. By simply reading text in the language you're learning, you can effortlessly pick up proper grammar.

On the other hand, I had a friend in high school who took German. He took it for four years, got good grades and seemed proud of his German skills even though he couldn't speak or understand German. He enrolled in a German class in college. It was only then that it dawned on him that, after four years, he should be able to speak German like the students from other high schools did.

His teacher apparently used the backward "grammar-translation" method. My friend spent four years studying German grammar. I had the impression that they did more grammar than translation. I saw no sign that he could read German, either. He spent four years filling out worksheets.

When you do well in a class that's difficult and boring, you assume you must be learning a lot. He probably thought his depth of knowledge was far greater than that of those other kids chattering away frivolously in their target language. I don't know what was wrong with that dumb kraut teacher. I googled him and was surprised to find that he was actually popular with his students, although that type of teacher is usually popular with certain kids.

You can't judge teachers from what the kids think. Every time a teacher or principal is fired for abusing or molesting pupils, you'll find a large number of students coming to their defense. A teacher in this area was arrested for attempting to murder his wife's boyfriend. The boyfriend fought him off. The teacher left behind his backpack which contained, among other things, a "to do" list for carrying out the murder. Students at the school circulated a petition demanding that the teacher be allowed to return to class while awaiting trial. "He hasn't been convicted yet."

It doesn't stop at high school. There were students at a university who launched mass protests when the university president was forced to resign after being arrested for making obscene phone calls from his office.