Sunday, September 29, 2013

1954 live TV version of Orwell's 1984

I never read Nineteen Eighty-Four. Turns out I had a pretty clear picture of the characters, storyline and most of the details of the book.

I watched a 1954 British TV version. This was broadcast live on the BBC. It was controversial at the time---the book was a bit morbid. It starred Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, with Wilfrid Brambell who went on to play Paul McCartney's grandfather in A Hard Day's Night.

I watched it on Roku, but it's available here on YouTube.

There was one moment when we see a big mic shadow, and at one point a door closes and the wall wobbles. But it was great. It was clear that it was a live TV show which has certain limitations, but it shows what you can do with little more than skill and talent.

The question for a lot of us is, what can you do without much skill and indeterminate talent?

I argued on this blog some time ago---I noted the admiration that the French New Wave had for American B movies and suggested that TV shows might be a better source of inspiration for low budget filmmakers today. They were about the same, genre material filmed on very tight schedules and low budgets. But B movies are just hard to sit through and there were stylistic changes in TV over the decades.

Frankenheimer noted that all the directors who worked in live television had terrible back problems caused by the incredible stress of, essentially, filming a ninety-minute movie in ninety minutes in front of ten million people.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Breaking Bad finale parties

"If you're throwing a Breaking Bad finale party, you don't get it. I'll be watching alone in an abandoned warehouse."

--J. Elvis Weinstein

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ray Carney, bad analogy to abusive adoptive parents

Well. Ray Carney still hasn't handed over the stuff and Jon Jost has posted that he's given up on him.

I kind of like Ray Carney's writings. I veered sharply from siding with him to Jon Jost to Carney again and back to Jost. Each time I switched sides, I felt deeply ashamed of my previous position.

As I understand it, Mark Rappaport was moving to France. He happened to run into Ray Carney in New York. He told Carney he didn't know what do with some of his stuff. He had already donated prints of his films to different archives, but he had this last bit of stuff. Ray Carney jumped at the chance to take it.

According to Carney, it was stuff that Rappaport was going to toss in the dumpster otherwise. His good prints had already been donated. And he had a bunch of old scripts,  prints of films and digital masters.

Rappaport's version is that Carney was going to store it for him and he could get it back when he wanted.

This was ten years ago. I don't think either one anticipated Rappaport ever wanting any of it back, so my guess is that neither one bothered remembering exactly what was said at the time. But I think Carney had a point---that he stored this stuff for ten years and it could just as easily have been twenty years before Rappaport asked for it back. He was supposed to store this stuff into perpetuity?

I tended to side with Carney on his battles with Gena Rowlands. I'm not sure why, but my initial impulse was to side with Carney on this, too, although I did in fact side with Rappaport and Jon Jost.

The whole thing is none of my business. I would have donated a couple hundred bucks to any fund to take care of it----to either pay off Carney to return the stuff or to pay for more digital masters to be made----but I don't know the people involved and, like I say, it's none of my business.

It sort of reminds me---and this is a terrible analogy, I know---of the parents in central Oregon. They adopted a bunch of kids, and had to raise money to take care of them. At first people were happy to donate, but it went on and on. They adopted all these children with no means to take care of them and they weren't becoming self-sufficient. People got tired of raising money for them. Then the parents were arrested for child abuse.

With Carney, even if you kind of side with him, how long is this going on? Even if you thought he was right, you still figured he'd give the stuff back.

For God's sake, he could photocopy all of Rappaport's papers,copy the digital masters and take the films down to Costco and have some DVDs made. He can have his cake and return it, too.

And I'll tell you what has always bothered me about Carney.

Look at the pictures of him. He's always smiling. The bastard has dimples. But look at the picture of him smiling. There's nothing in his eyes. How does anyone smile that much without wrinkles around his eyes? He's 66-years-old.

Plus there are the bow ties and suspenders. I lived in Boston for a short time and bow ties were more common there, but he looks like a college kid trying to play a crusty old country lawyer in a school play set in the 1930s.

I thought his students would have some influence on him, that it would be settled once he got back to class.

It could be, even if his reputation is damaged-----here's another analogy----it's like what they say about presidential debates. Being on stage with the President of the United States makes the challenger look presidential. Even if Carney looks like a jerk, he's going head to head with Mark Rappaport, an artist Carney clearly admires.

I would feel great if I got in a public feud with someone big. Like Frankie Muniz or Marjoe Gortner. I would feel like I hit the big time even as they ridiculed my lack of achievement and millions joined in their attacks on me.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Miley Cyrus and an intern whose name I don't remember

I knew this high school girl who was doing some sort of internship at a store where I worked. The store owner went to a concert---some famous singer. And she looked over and there was our intern with a couple other teenage girls on the edge of the stage dancing and gesturing to the singer in what they imagined was a suggestive manner. They just looked like awkward high school girls.

"Saw you at the concert," the store owner said.

The intern didn't look too embarrassed. She rolled her eyes. She acted like she played an embarrassing role in a school play. It was embarrassing, but it wasn't her fault. She didn't write the part.

This came to mind watching video of Miley Cyrus. What the hell is she doing?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Breaking Bad, second to last episode

Well. I watched the episode. It'll be repeated in three hours but I don't think I could handle watching it again. When Aaron Paul was asked what the most difficult scene was for him, he said it was one that hasn't been broadcast yet. I think we just saw it. I hope we just saw it, that there's nothing worse next week.

We get to see more of the guy who will whisk you away and change your identity and I feel better about it now.

There was confirmation of what we all knew, that the phone call to Skyler was to get her off the hook with the cops.

There was a scene where Walter's wedding ring drops off his finger which reminded me of the scene in The Sixth Sense. Was it an actual reference to that? It does spur Walter getting back in action.

It does seem that Mike was the one holding it all together. Once he's gone, everything goes to pot.

Look at the scene a few episodes ago where Walter meets with the neo-Nazis and hires them to murder Jesse. Walter is sitting there. Todd is sitting behind him. And we realize that money alone gives him no power in this situation. They could take him at gunpoint if they want. The only thing stopping them was that they didn't especially want to at that moment. Without Mike to back him up, he's helpless.

It was Mike being in a Mexican hospital that allowed Walt to kill Gus.

We were rooting for the cops for a while, but now law enforcement is putting the pressure on Skyler. They'll do everything they can to put her away her unless she tells them where Walter is, but she doesn't know and they don't care if she knows or not. They'll destroy her anyway.

The cops aren't even giving Skyler protection. They're watching her house but the Nazis are still able to break in. Lydia wants Skyler killed. The Nazis are doing pretty much as they please and the cops are worthless.

Man, I hate Nazis.

Andrea is dead, Brock has been kidnapped by the Nazis so they can force Jesse to continue cooking for them.

Who is the bigger problem?

Is it Walter who's destroying everyone's life, or is it Jesse's bad karma rubbing off on everyone around him? Everything would have been fine if Jesse had disappeared when Saul had arranged it for him. He could have climbed in the minivan and ridden away.

Hank and Gomez would still be alive, Hank trying to figure out how to catch Walter and failing. Andrea would still be alive. Brock would be fine. The car wash would continue to operate. The only thing is that the Nazis who took over Walter's meth production might have come after Walter to force him to cook for them.

Walt told Jesse it was for his own good to disappear and he was right. Now Jesse is held captive by the Nazis.

Walter let Jesse's other girlfriend die of the heroin overdose, but he may not have been able to save her anyway, and Jesse was the one who gave her the heroin in the first place. He's as much at fault in the airline disaster as Walter. It was his bright idea for Hank and Gomez to go after Walter's money, taking them out alone into the desert where they were horribly killed. Andrea would still be alive, Brock would be safe, and really, going back a while, the other kid, Brock's uncle Tomas, wouldn't have been murdered if Jesse had left well enough alone. If you see a child in a gang being horribly exploited by criminals, call the police, don't go to the criminals.

Jesse setting out to kill the two drug pushers who murdered Tomas is what set off the chain of events that led to him murdering Gale which led to Gus murdering that guy with a box cutter which led to Walt killing Gus.

Another thing about Justin Bieber's tattoos

Justin Bieber appeared in a couple of episodes of some cop show playing a delinquent. An actress on the show later apologized for telling interviewers that the boy was a brat. Apparently he ruined a cake on the craft services table and locked a producer in the bathroom. His spokesman rationalized his alleged brattiness by claiming he was "in character".

But the actress who apologized for calling him a brat, in her backtracking, said that he was pretty good actor. He was untrained and had no experience, but he did great. He was a natural talent.

A lot of good his acting ability will do him now. Unless they want to slather him with body make-up, the boy can play only characters who always wear long sleeve shirts and long pants or sinewy characters covered with religious tattoos.

I've seen these people who've had their faces tattooed, sometimes covered with tattoos. Hard to imagine that they're happy with that.

There was a local youngster who always wore a hat pulled down on his head because he and his friends had tattooed the word "ACID" across his forehead. He was homeless and some horrified doctors removed the tattoo for free.

But I see these people with extensive tribal looking tattoos on their faces. They sit out asking for spare change. The only thing I can think is that they were burning their bridges behind them, afraid that they might someday abandon their current lifestyle and become squares. They want to make sure that could never happen.


The picture above is a mugshot. I don't know what this guy's story was, but that's how you'll look in your fifties with that crap on your face.

And here's a tattoo that didn't have its desired effect:


Why would anybody do this?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Justin Bieber is to tattoos what Michael Jackson was to plastic surgery

I didn't realize Justin Bieber had so many tattoos. He was a cute boy, but now he's just repulsive.

Miley Cyrus did the same thing----started getting tattoos and now she can't prance around almost naked on national TV without being self-conscious.

Here's a quote I've pasted into this blog before:
Honestly, I’ve never seen an attractive tattoo.  Never.  Not one.  Not “USMC” (Untied States Marine Corps), not a heart with an arrow piercing it; not a flower, not a butterfly, not a bird, not a horned demon, not a Chinese character purporting to translate as “Peace,” or “Harmony.”  Every tattoo I’ve ever seen manages to detract from the person’s appearance.  In truth, seeing that crap plastered on people’s bodies makes me think of graffiti spray-painted on an overpass.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Saul Goodman, Perry Mason

Perry Mason was kind of amoral in the early seasons

There was one early episode of Perry Mason. Perry and Paul Drake enter an apartment and find a dead body, a murder victim. And Perry tries to stop Paul from calling the police.

Paul tells him he has to call or he could lose his license. So Paul calls, reports the body but when he tries to say more, Perry hits the receiver. He tells Paul to report it if he has to, but not to gossip about it.

The early Perry Mason never quite broke the law, but he would do stuff that seemed borderline. There was an episode where he goes back to a crime scene and fires a gun into a tree so cops will find the bullets.

Seems like it would be a nice change to have a TV lawyer like that again.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jaden Smith a Scientologist?

Jaden Smith has never actually attended school except for the Scientology-based one his idiot parents operated for a few years.

But the boy has tweeted that:
If Everybody In The World Dropped Out Of School We Would Have A Much More Intelligent Society.

If Newborn Babies Could Speak They Would Be The Most Intelligent Beings On Planet Earth.

Education Is Rebellion.

School Is The Tool To Brainwash The Youth.

All The Rules In This World Were Made By Someone No Smarter Than You. So Make Your Own.

People Use To Ask Me What Do You Wanna Be When You Get Older And I Would Say What A Stupid Question The Real Question Is What Am I Right Now

If A Book Store Never Runs Out Of A Certain Book, Dose That Mean That Nobody Reads It, Or Everybody Reads It.
The one about newborn babies being the most intelligent beings on planet Earth---I take this to be Scientology crap. They think people are reincarnated, so the babies are actually billions of years old. I don't know why else he would think that. Maybe he's never seen a newborn baby before.

I don't know if Twitter has spellcheck, but the boy's spelling seems pretty good, although the words "intelligent" and "rebellion" are the only ones that would pose a challenge. He correctly writes "brainwash" as one word. He wrote "dose" instead or "does", but I take that to be a typo.

I don't understand the capitalization thing.


It reminds me of the song that French degenerate songwriter Serge Gainsbourg wrote for sweet wholesome teenage pop singer France Gall, "Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son". (Here she is performing it on the Eurovision song contest, 1965.)

She sings that she is just a wax doll. She performs, puts out records, the kids dance to her music, and she hopes that some day she will be able to live her songs.

Gainsbourg explained that kids listen to pop music, looking to teen stars for guidance with life and love, but the pop stars know far less about it than the kids who listen to them. Pop stars, being pop stars, aren't able to experience life.

And here we have Jaden Smith, a rich home-schooled celebrity kid.  He could drop out of school and it wouldn't hurt anything. Especially that Scientology school his parents set up. And, yes, I'm sure it's purpose was to brainwash the young.

The world's full of kids trying to pull their lives together, trying to make some kind of future for themselves. Jaden Smith's not one of them. I don't know if that's an entirely good thing for him, but there are very few kids who are going to get anything of any value from his comments.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Walt and Hector

You know what would have been a gripping, hair-raising moment on Breaking Bad? If, while wiring the bomb under Hector's wheelchair, Hector had kept glaring at Walt like he wanted to kill him. Wouldn't it have made more sense for Hector to have blown himself up and blown up Walter? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Maybe Gus would come to personally kill Hector, but what if he sent an underling to commit this monstrous act? Then what? Then Hector would be killed without having taken revenge on anybody. If he blew up Walt, at least he'd have that.

Couldn't Walt have used a rifle? Wouldn't that have made sense? He could have killed Gus while he was in the hospital overpark even though Gus suddenly suspects something. It wouldn't have been chemistry-oriented, of course. It wouldn't have been remotely interesting. And Walt would have had to run around carrying a rifle which would be harder to explain that the heavy magnetized object he had in the bag. And Gus's bodyguards would have shot back. And witnesses would have heard where the shot came from and police would have rushed to the scene.

The world is full of complete morons who get away with horrible crimes. And then you had Leopold and Loeb, the boy geniuses, who wanted to commit the perfect crime and bungled it so badly that it was a bit of a miracle that they weren't captured immediately.

There are much bigger and much, much dumber drug lords than Gus or Walt.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

John McCain, Pravda

McCain thinks he's president.

When asked about what he thought about Vladimir Putin's piece being published in the New York Times, McCain said he hoped that HE would able to publish something in Pravda.

First of all, Pravda is the paper of the Russian Communist Party. Putin's party is Russia United.

Second, Pravda ceased publication for several years and then came back in a much more modest form. It's not a mass circulation paper.

Third, Putin is the PRESIDENT of Russia. How would John McCain publishing something in a Russian newspaper be equivalent to Putin publishing something in the New York Times?

During the Soviet era, it was fairly common for Pravda to publish letters to the editor from the U.S. At the University of Oregon, a member of the College Republicans was bragging about he got a letter to the editor published in Pravda.

There was a Cuban psychologist who interviewed McCain in Vietnam. According to an article on Counterpunch.com http://www.counterpunch.org/2008/06/13/mcnasty/ :
According to Fernando Barral, a Cuban psychologist who questioned McCain in January 1970, “McCain was "boastful" during their interview and "without remorse" for any civilian deaths that occurred "when he bombed Hanoi."  McCain has a similar recollection, writing in his [autobiography] that he responded, "No, I do not" when Barral asked if he felt remorse.” (9)

McCain told [Barral] that he had not been subjected to “physical or moral violence,” and “lamented in the interview that ‘if I hadn’t been shot down, I would have become an admiral at a younger age than my father.’”
“Barral said McCain boasted that he was the best pilot in the Navy and that he wanted to be an astronaut.” The Cuban psychologist concluded that McCain was [a] ‘psychopath.’” (10)

R.J. Mitte, Trevor Gagnon

There was the sit-com, The New Adventures of Old Christine. The kid in it, Ritchie (Trevor Gagnon), was at the center of the show. He was the reason that Christine was in constant contact with her ex-husband and his new wife, also named Christine. He was the reason Christine's brother lived with her (he acted as the kid's nanny), why she had to deal with the other mothers at Richie's high priced private school.

But Ritchie did pretty much nothing on the show. It was almost a running gag. He would come in and Christine would tell him to go change or go take a bath or go play in his room. When they visited his grandparents, they came in and he immediately asked if he could go play in the basement.

He was the Walt, Jr., of The New Adventures of Old Christine. Walt, Sr, is doing it all for him---"cooking" methamphetamine, risking horrible violent death, inflicting horrible violent death, causing airline disasters, destroying countless lives with the drug itself. Skyler could have managed just fine as a childless widow, and probably would have done okay with a teenage son who wasn't disabled. The kid would go to college in a couple of years.

The first five seasons of Breaking Bad cover only a year in the characters' lives, so it's been a constant, daily life and death struggle for Walter. All those people who were killed were killed in one year, so what has it been on average? One murder every week or two, not counting the midair collision.

And poor Walt, Jr, hobbles along on his crutches oblivious the death and destruction left in his wake.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Stuff I DON'T like about Breaking Bad

Okay, so here's what I don't like about Breaking Bad.

We don't really learn anything about the operation of Gus's drug business except that it seems to completely evaporate when he dies. Makes sense to a degree since the DEA was now onto them. But in the Mafia, everyone just moves up in rank.

For Walt's plan to kill Gus to work, Jesse had to assume for some reason that Walt poisoned Brock, then Walt had to convince him that Gus poisoned Brock for God knows what purpose. He had to assume that Gus would come down to the nursing home to kill Hector and it required that Hector agree to blow himself up. Would Walter have blown himself up under those circumstances? Would any character on the show have been willing to do this? (Might be a clue about that machine gun in the flash forward. Maybe Walter does think it makes sense to intentionally kill yourself while getting revenge.)

How is it that Huell is so good at picking pockets? Was there any explanation for this skill?

Saul knowing a guy who will provide them with whatever service they need----how much of this is there in Albuquerque? There's a guy who will go to prison in your place if you pay him.

If the guy who will whisk you away and give you a new identity in another state or country doesn't turn out to be a serial killer who takes your money then murders you in the desert, I'll be disappointed.

A lot of the episodes are kind of dull. Like the one with the fly.

The hitman with a heart of gold thing is stupid. Mike was a monster. Killing him wasn't so hard after all. I'm sorry his death was so peaceful. (Well, he didn't have a heart of gold, exactly, but they made him into a nice guy and they made like Walt had done a terrible thing by killing him.)

I don't think high school kids pick on handicapped kids that much. In junior high they do, but it's far less common in high school. But maybe they'd pick on Walt Jr in any case.

I don't like the montages.

Jesse is really annoying. I don't like him when he's really emotional and I'm not amused by his use of such words as "yo" and "bitch". I don't think I'll be that upset when he gets killed. He's nice to children, but the poor boy has terrible, terrible karma.

Hank is a horrible person. The racism got old fast.

Is it that easy to claim to have won a fortune gambling? Don't you have to provide some documentation to the IRS? Don't casinos fill out tax forms if you win a vast amount? Why would Walt pretend to be so ashamed of his gambling when all he did was win a fortune at it?

What the hell kind of place is Albuquerque? Are there really child gang members killing and being killed there? Do they really have Mexican drug lords? In an early episode, Walt blows up Tuco's office and no one called 911.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Zimmerman again

Cops are trying to look at video recorded on his wife's smashed i-pad. She said he smashed it, he said she hit him with it.

Zimmerman

George Zimmerman's not so dumb. Got his wife to commit perjury. As soon as she plead guilty, he started threatening her and her family with a gun. He punched her father. Now when he's arrested, he'll be able to point to his wife's perjury conviction and accuse her of lying. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

One more Breaking Bad thing

I read a couple of Breaking Bad recaps yesterday and today. I don't remember where.

One suggested that Walter wasn't as smart as we were led to believe. He lies and manipulates people and knows a lot about chemistry, but he was just outsmarted by people he has no respect for--by dimwitted scum including the neo-Nazis who ignored his orders.

In one scene, Walt did what I can't imagine Gus doing. He met with Todd and his Nazi uncle, thinking he could simply hire them to murder Jesse, not recognizing that he was putting himself into serious danger with no protection at all. It reminded me of the scene in Plan 9 From Outer Space when Dudley Manlove and Mona McKinnon lure three armed men into the flying saucer even though they have no way to defend themselves.

But that's what Walt's been reduced to----surrounded by trash, Todd and his Nazi uncle.


I read one article which discussed rejected plot ideas.

One was that Walt, Jr, comes home with a black eye. Walk thinks he was being bullied at school. He plants drugs in the locker of the kid who did it. Then it turns out that Walt, Jr, was the bully and the other kid was protecting himself.

The idea was rejected because the stakes weren't high enough and they wanted to keep Walt, Jr, innocent.

But why is Walt, Jr, so secretive about his phone conversations with Lewis? Could it be that Hank put ideas into his head when he took him out to show him meth addicts? They talked to a prostitute. Did Walt, Jr, realize how affordable many prostitutes are?


The other recap I read noted that Gus had a strict sense of order, Mike had some sort of moral code such as it was, Jesse has a sense of right and wrong, and Walt has----pretty much nothing. Which is what left him dealing with Todd and his Nazi uncle. And Lydia is working with them, too, and doesn't seem to mind.

I just looked at a list of the sixteen worst things Walter White has done. Disagree with several of them:
  • Walter was perfectly justified in the poison-gas-in-the-RV thing he did in the pilot. In fact, good for him! 
  • I'm glad Walter ran over than then shot those two horrible drug dealers who first forced a child to murder a guy and they murdered the child.
  • Walter deserved praise for killing Mike. He would have driven off and escaped any consequence for his horrible crimes.
  • It was bad that he made Jesse kill Gale, but good riddance to Gale. In the list, they call Gale a "true innocent". Well, no, he wasn't. He was producing methamphetamine for the mass murderer, Gus. 
But, you know, it's like the movie, Slingblade. This may be a spoiler if you haven't seen it. But it ends with the slingblade guy murdering a man whose death was a fairly good thing. But the slingblade guy was still locked up for it, and you still wouldn't want the guy wandering around loose. Killing bad people doesn't make you good. You certainly don't want a child hanging around with him.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Jack Nicholson retiring

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that Jack Nicholson, 76, is retiring due to memory loss. He's not able to memorize lines.

There are ways around it. Cue cards were originally used to help older actors. Marlon Brando used an ear piece, like the one George Bush, Jr, used to cheat in the debates. Someone would read his lines into his ear and he would repeat them. It takes a little practice to sound natural, but if George Bush, Jr, can do it, Jack Nicholson ought to be able to. Brando used cue cards early on. He used them in Last Tango in Paris in the early '70s.

Brando was such an oddball. There were reports that he wouldn't wear pants on the set. He was terribly overweight and didn't want any full body shots.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

With the economy the way it is...

Charles Bukowski noted that during World War Two, even when the economy was good and there was a labor shortage, it was hard to find unskilled work. Now that the economy stinks, it's almost impossible. I have a cousin trying to claw his way into the job market without much luck. I can see why workers get discouraged and give up. As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. (That's not really the definition of insanity, but that's what they say.)

There can be advantages to this. Look at the Great Depression. There was a flourishing of creativity in American art. Artists knew no one would buy anything, so they did what they wanted. There were more "public intellectuals" since there was nothing else for an intellectual to do.

When the finance "industry" caused the recent massive economic collapse, there was a sudden glut of DJ's in New York. All the scum working in the financial industry were suddenly unemployed, had no hope of finding work, and so pursued their dream of playing records for a living. Which might explain something about the financial collapse.

The subject of this blog being what it is, here we are in an age when you can buy a high definition video camera for fifty bucks, where you can make a movie for essentially no money, where do-it-yourself distribution is at least physically possible with no money. The country is awash with unemployed film school grads (my cousin for one).

But I don't know how much is actually going on. Even those of us who like the IDEA of people making dramas for a hundred bucks on a Flip video camera might not enjoy the grim results. There may be a lot of movies like that being made but I'm not watching them.

I've never been able to interest the few film students I've met with no-budget filmmaking. They all want to go to Hollywood. I always assume they'd be interested in discussing extreme-low-budget cinema since it's their only realistic hope of doing anything, but all I get is blank looks.

How do you market a no-budget drama anyway? When you're selling a movie with no stars, no recognizable names, made with no money, and you're selling it sight unseen, you have to be able to tell them something other than "it's REAL dramatic!" You have to have something objective to say about it. Like "It's got LOTS of nudity!"

Monday, September 2, 2013

It wasn't until I read a novel by Chester Himes--one in the Harlem Cycle--that I understood how you could have a mystery written in the third person omniscient. If the author is omniscient, why doesn't he just say who did it? If we know what's going on in the characters' thoughts, why don't we just hear one of them thinking about how they committed the crime?

Of course, if the book is written in the first person, the author presumably began telling the story after it was over and after he knew the solution. Why don't THEY just say who did it?

The results can be interesting either way.

Or they can screw it up. I started to read one novel by Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter, aka Salvatore Albert Lombino). It was an 87th Precinct novel set in a nonexistent city. It was King's Ransom on which Kurosawa's High and Low was based. In the movie, Toshiro Mifune played a character named Kingo Gondo. In the book, it was Gordon King.

The novel was a police procedural----it followed the police as they followed procedures to solve the case. Dragnet was popular at the time and that shaped the approach the novels took. But the book was seriously marred, I thought, by the fact that they didn't stick to this. Rather than following the police as they went about their jobs, they showed us the kidnappers surprised and somewhat alarmed that they kidnapped the wrong kid. 

Kurosawa corrected that error.

Ed McBain/Evan Hunter wrote several best sellers, quite a few of which were made into movies. There was The Blackboard Jungle, Every Little Crook and Nanny, Fuzz, The Young Savages, Strangers When We Meet, and several other novels made into movies, plus there are all the scripts he wrote for both film and television.

I read an interview with him. He said that writing a best seller isn't very hard, and looking at this book, I'd say he was right.

The opening paragraph was just slightly poetic----businessmen are having a meeting. And these are cigar smoking 1950s businessmen. There was something about the cigar smoke floating in the air like ghosts. From that point on, it was all very straight-forward. No further attempt at anything fancy. The rest of it was almost like reading a script. 

This, by the way, is what people mean when they say that novels are easier to write than short stories. Novels just don't have to be written very well and short stories do. Look at any crap written by Sheldon Leonard or Jackie Collins, or James Patterson and imagine a short story written at that level.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bloodhound Gang, stupid Nazi talk

So an American punk rock band called "Bloodhound Gang" decided to desecrate the Russian flag on stage. The bass player wittily shoved the flag into his underwear and then pulled it out in back. This was in Kiev in The Ukraine. The video was widely seen on YouTube. Their performance in Russia was cancelled, Russians pelted them with eggs and rotten tomatoes. They flew to Moscow for a connecting flight out of Russia and were beaten up by a couple of Cossacks in the airport.

It was only about twenty years ago that flag desecration was a crime in the United States. A man was arrested in Oregon for having a seat cover in his car made from a flag. When the Supreme Court overturned laws against flag desecration, Louisiana passed a law allowing people to assault anyone who desecrates the flag. There was talk about amending the constitution to allow laws against flag desecration.

Stephen Fry just called Russians Nazis because they passed a law prohibiting propaganda promoting "non-traditional sex" to minors. Violators can be fines up to 1,500 rubles ($47). Britain had far worse anti-gay laws--was it a Nazi state when those laws were on the books? It's illegal in Britain for teachers to discuss homosexuality in class. Isn't his country crawling with violent gay-hating football hooligans even now? Under the law in Russia, there's a fine for propagandizing the young, In Britain, they put gays in prison for years for doing nothing involving anyone but consenting adults. Gay men could avoid prison by agreeing to "chemical castration".

In America up until at least the 1960s, book publishers had to ship their books through the post office. Under federal law, this meant that all novels about lesbians published in the United States had to end with the lesbians dying or suffering horribly, otherwise the books would be charged with promoting homosexuality and would be barred from the mail. So was America a Nazi state?

Michael Dukakis was anti-gay. He banned gay adoption in Massachusetts. He publicly stated that he would never, either as governor of Massachusetts or as president of the United States, issue an executive order banning discrimination against gays in government jobs. As governor, he banned gay foster parents and sent goon squads to tear children from their gay foster parents. Was he a Nazi? Was Massachusetts a Nazi state? Were all those nice liberals who voted for him Nazis?

I've always tried to keep accusations of Naziism limited to actual Nazis, although, if someone does something that German officers were executed for after World War Two, I think it should be pointed out.

The only comparison I ever made between Hitler and Bush was that neither one ever held a real job before his rise to power, they both had criminal records. and Ernst Rohm and Karl Rove played remarkably similar roles.

Walt, Jr

Last week's Breaking Bad ended with Jesse kicking in Walter's door and pouring gasoline around the living room. I guess they're going to have to tell Walt, Jr, something now.

Poor Walt, Jr. I guess the actor really was about 15 when the show started. And look at him now.

Here's he is in a recent photo shoot:


On the show, he was being picked on in school, but other than his character being on crutches, he looked like he could beat the crap out of almost any high school kid. His character always seemed rather pitiful, childishly idolizing his monstrous father while his father was much closer with Jesse.

There was also something kind of repellent about him, thrilling to stories of his uncle killing people, laughing at murder victims like Gale----his poor father was horrified, and he was the one who plotted Gale's death.