Monday, June 22, 2015

Ten Years Down -- I Quit!

It was exactly ten years ago today that I published my very first post on this blog, a blog that I wondered at the time if I could even carry on for six months without running out of stuff to write about... Ha.
For the record, here is my very first post, Twins in Uniform. (Jeez, it looks like even way back then I was not above writing some "clickbait" headlines...)

This continued as a weekly feature, counting up the number of days that the slacker Bush twins, Jenna and Not-Jenna, had wasted since they graduated college, all the way up to my Dead Horse Edition, when, after 163 weeks of these gentle reminders, their continued reluctance to serve their country forced me to cancel what I fondly called my weekly Bush Twins in Uniform Watch.

It was a good run while it lasted. By the time of that final post they had spent a total of 1507 days NOT in uniform since they graduated college.

Oh, in case you were wondering, Jenna and Not-Jenna never did take my advice and enlist in the military service. Yeah, big surprise that.

So anyway, after over 2700 posts I think it's time I stepped aside. I just don't have that "fire in the belly" that I used to have. Lately you've probably noticed that I've basically been phoning it in, when I bother to post at all.

A huge thank you to all my regular readers. But I really think it's time I stepped aside and let the younger generation take over. After all I am 70 years old...

As I say when I get the rare sales call, "I'm an elderly shut-in on a fixed income".

Goodbye and thanks for reading. Keep up the fight!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday Music Break: Free Bird

If by some odd chance you have not already seen Rob Zombie's "two-film trilogy" of cult=classic exploitation horror movies, starting with 2003's House of 1,000 Corpses and ending with its 2005 sequel, The Devil's Rejects, I'd advise you to stop reading right now and go see them. House of 1,000 Corpses is available here on YouTube, and The Devil's Rejects is available on DVD from Netflix.

Note: Spoilers follow.

As you all know, I am a big fan of "cult classic" exploitation movies. Everyone thinks the whole phenomenon ended in 1959 or so, but that isn't so. It just took a few turns and went underground (even more). The midnight-movie success of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which as far as I know hasn't stopped showing somewhere since its debut in 1975, is living proof of this.

So here are the masters of  southern hard rock Lynryd Skynyrd with the song that routinely appears on everybody's list of top ten rock and roll masterpieces, Free Bird:

This is the final scene, with the original soundtrack, from The Devil's Rejects, and it shows the best slow-motion death scene since Sam Peckinpah's seminal The Wild Bunch from 1969. Hell, maybe it's even better than that. I'll let you be the judge.

Warning: Once you have watched this, you will never be able to "unsee" it. And you'll likely never hear Free Bird the same again.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

JFK Assassination: The Hidell Draft Card

One thing that has nagged at me for the last 50+ years is the "Hidell Draft Card" that was allegedly found in the possession of Lee Harvey Oswald, which neatly tied him into the receipt of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle sent to the Hidell PO box. It did tie up neatly several threads of the "investigation", but I don't think I've ever seen a real serious analysis of that card itself.

Take a look at that card. It kind of looks like a "regular issue" draft card, except for one glaring exception: The photograph.

Selective Service registration cards did not have photographs.

Putting aside the questions as to whether that photo really is LHO, but assuming the Warren Report is correct and Oswald created that phony draft card so he'd have some kind of photo ID, the question is this: Why would he go out of his way to create a phony ID that pretty much every male in the United States would look at askance, since draft cards NEVER contained a photograph? Every male over the age of 18, at least since the end of WWII, was issued a draft card. Who would not question the validity of one that had a photograph?

So what do those numbers on draft cards indicate? Like Social Security numbers, they were an easy way to identify an individual.

Mine was 45 23 45 152

First box -- state (e.g., Washington is 45), arranged alphabetically (Alaska and Hawaii were not states when this was first set up, which is why the count is off now; Washington should be 47).
Second box -- Draft board number within the state (23), usually consisting of a county or similar administrative subdivision.
Third box -- Year of birth (1945).
Fourth box -- Numerical count of people registering for that birth year -- (I was the 152nd person to register).

"Hidell" Selective Service Number: 42 224 39 5321

Unless I miss my guess, 42 was Utah (Texas was 41), and it's doubtful there were 224 local draft boards in Utah. Oswald was born in 1939, but again it's doubtful that there were over 5,000 men at that draft board born in 1939.

So it's kind of odd that Oswald would put a photo on his already-obviously fake Hidell draft card, when literally every male in the country knew what one was supposed to look like. This really doesn't pass the "smell test".

I don't know, of course, and as usual, what it really means. It's just another anomaly in an event that is so chock full of anomalies that they are spilling out over the top.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

More on the Kennedy Assassination

Regular readers know that I am fascinated -- maybe obsessed is a better word -- by the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

I just stumbled on a fairly reasoned analysis on a site called Stratfor Global Intelligence that asks some questions that have been more or less ignored, and focuses on a neglected actor in the whole assassination cast of questionable characters: Marina Oswald.

The official story, found in the Warren Report, asks us to believe some pretty incredible things about the wife of Lee Harvey Oswald:

1. Marina, part of the Soviet upper-middle class, reasonably educated and an attractive young woman, meets Lee Harvey Oswald and is so smitten by him that she agrees to marry him in a little over a month — two weeks of which he spent courting her from a hospital bed.
2. The Soviet government grants Marina permission to marry him in the span of 10 days, despite the fact that this is an MVD colonel's niece marrying a U.S. defector.
3. Oswald immediately decides to head back to the United States, and in spite of her uncle's supposed objections — and Prusakov [her MVD, aka KGB, uncle] could have stopped this dead in its tracks if he wanted — she is granted permission to leave the Soviet Union in the company of an American defector. The time between her formal request and receiving permission is a matter of weeks.
Endless questions flow from this, ranging from what the mission was to why the U.S. embassy permitted Marina into the country. This now enters into the realm of speculation. However, one thing is clear to us: Any theory as to what happened on Nov. 22, 1963, that does not take into careful account the role of Marina Oswald is inherently flawed. This includes the Warren Commission's own findings. If Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy, there has been no adequate explanation of Marina Oswald's role in this.
It's pretty interesting stuff. The author takes the position that the Warren Report is probably basically correct, but the glaring questions about Marina have gone unanswered.

As I've said before, the truth will likely not come out in my lifetime. Maybe not in anyone's lifetime -- after all, most of the participants and "interested parties" are now dead. It kind of bugs me that after 50+ years I will go to my grave without knowing the truth...

Saturday Poetry Slam -- Ozymandias

by Percy B. Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".
More Reading:
   · Ozymandias on Wikipedia

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

What a Week!

My brother-in-law was here from Hawaii all week and he goes like a bat outta hell. He doesn't have anything but high gear. So I am exhausted from running around after him. It's not fair -- he's a week younger than me and has all that energy.

I am exhausted so it's going to be some light posting for a few more days.

Thanks for reading.

--The F Man

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Must-See Cinema: Rockers 1978

This week I am proud to present 1978's Rockers, a semi-documentary look at the old-school Jamaican roots reggae culture.


This film, loosely based on that masterpiece of Italian neo-realism, Bicycle Thieves, shows a slice of daily life of the Rastafarian roots reggae culture, featuring many actual reggae musicians and a score that includes many of the greats: Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear. The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission.

I first saw this at a local college film festival circa 1980 and was blown away by it. Then it disappeared, but thanks to the DVD revolution it's available on DVD from Netlix.

If you watch it, it's best to brush up on your Rasta/Patois-English first. Even though it is subtitled in more-or-less standard English, some things will still remain a mystery.

I wanted to include a video of Peter Tosh singing my favorite cut from the soundtrack, Steppin' Razor, but for some vague copyright reason, YouTube won't allow it to be embedded on any other websites, so you can see it here.

Highly recommended.


Monday, June 01, 2015

Monday Music Break: Born in the USA

Here's Bruce Springsteen with Born in the USA from 1984:

But really, the big question is this: Are politicians, especially Republicans who seem to have carved out their own patriotic niche just for this song (I'm looking at you, Ronald Reagan), too stupid to know what it's really about? According to Parker Malloy at The Daily Beast, the answer to that question is yes, they are.

In case there's still a question, here are the lyrics:
Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says "son if it was up to me"
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said "son don't you understand now"
Had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there he's all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now
Down in the shadow of penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I'm a long gone daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I'm a cool rocking daddy in the U.S.A.
Hmmm. Not quite the patriotic anthem they want you to think it is, is it?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Taking a Break

I'll be taking a break for a week. My brother-in-law (i.e., the famous IBIL) is in town and will want for a lot of attention and hand holding. I'll still post the ones that are in the system, so to speak, i.e., have been written and set to post a future time, but won't have time for any new ones until sometime early next week.

When I get out of jail following just a touch of assault and battery and attack with a moderately-deadly weapon...

No, I am sure that the best possible behavior will be exhibited on all sides, and we'll come through the week with nothing worse than just a few skinned knuckles.

See you all next week and thanks for reading.

--"The F Man"

Saturday Poetry Slam -- The Second Coming

The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) (also his second appearance here)

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The Second Coming is an antiwar poem written by Yeats after the end of the First World War. It is considered a major work or Modernist Poetry, and you'll not that the  last line springboards into a book title, Slouching Towards Bethlemem , a 1958 collection of essays  by the excellent stylist (and one of my favorite authors), Joan Didion, which I highly recommend that you read as well.

Even though it was written nearly 100 year ago, the poem still retains a profound resonance to the events of this century: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity..."

This is one my favorite poems.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Keep Your Goddam Gummit Hands Off My Medicare!


This used to be a joke, but now the Rethugs have come up with a plan to pay for the Trade Adjustment Act benefits available to people whose jobs have been lost and offshored due to "trade practices" -- and caused by the TPP (which according to the Chamber of Commerce will increase American jobs) by tapping into Medicare.


Tell Congress to keep their goddam gummit hands off our Medicare! Sign the petition that is being jointly promoted by The Daily Kos and CREDO.

Tell Congress that we won't put up with it. I was talking with my own congressman just last night, and he said that they do listen to their constituents' concerns. He also brought up this very topic and said that while he was already leaning towards a "No" vote on the so-called Fast Track, this particularly piece, if true, would put him solidly in the "No" camp.

Let Congress know how you feel! Sign the petition today!

Must-See Cinema: Touch of Evil 1958

I am happy to present  the Orson Welles 1958 masterpiece, Touch of Evil. This movie is widely considered to one of the last -- and best -- examples of Hollywood's classic film noir era.


It was also widely considered to be a dud, another misstep in a career filled with them, but over the years it has gained in stature. This despite the worse-than-horrible miscasting of Charlton Heston as a Mexican(!) detective in a border town. Supposedly the studio forced Heston on Welles and basically said, "deal with it". So he did.

The opening scene is famous for its opening take "long take" using a movable crane to follow a car from the time a bomb is placed in its trunk until after cruising through the streets of the border town, it crosses the US border and explodes. Reputedly Welles used up fully half of his filming budget on just this one shot:

That is, of all places, Venice California masquerading as the border town of Los Robles in this movie. Orson Welles is outstanding, even in the fake nose, as corrupt sheriff Hank Quinlan, and watch for some surprising minor-character near-cameos of Marlene Dietrich, Mercedes McCambridge and Dennis Weaver. If you watch that "long take" carefully, you'll also see an Alfred Hitchcock-like appearance of Welles himself crossing in front of the car as it is stopped at a light on the street.

In many ways it is Orson Welles' most personal film. He's played a lot characters who were destroyed by their own hubris (Charles Foster Kane, MacBeth, Othello, for example), and Hank Quinlan is no exception, but you can't help but see echoes of Welles and the studio system he fought for so many years in the machinations of Quinlan's desire to get the conviction, no matter what, thanks to that little "touch of evil" that everyone carries with them...

I can't praise this movie enough. I loved it so much that I even bought my own copy of the DVD, and I hardly ever do that. Highly recommended.

More reading:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Exploitation Movies: Devil's Harvest (1942)

Now that we've exhausted (in more ways than one -- see Maniac from two weeks ago) the 1930s, it's time to move on to the 1940s.

This week's feature is Devil's Harvest from 1942:

Full movie:

This is probably the very worst anti-marijuana movie in the genre. It's not even close to Ed-Wood-so-bad-it's-good bad, it's just bad bad. Even so, there's some unintentionally funny stuff, such as Oliver the elderly hot-dog vender with a cart right across from the high school, who serves "stacks" of weed with his hot dogs, and pudgy Sam, the head gangster's right-hand man.

There's also a party with your typical long-in-the-tooth "teenagers" where marijuana is smoked and, as you know always happens at marijuana parties, a riot breaks out. "Good girl" Kay O'Farrell ends up going undercover for the cops to bust the local drug lord, Larry McGuire -- who of course has a pencil-thin mustache!

It's an undercover operation that lasts for months -- you can literally see the days falling off the calendar -- and ends abruptly with the cops arriving late to the party, after Larry has been shot by another gangster who has just gotten out of prison and wants to take over the business.

There's surprisingly little pot smoking in this movie -- just at the wild party near the start of the film.

The money shot: A bit of skivvy dancing at the early "loco weed" party, and good girl dancer Kay shows a bit of thigh a couple of times. There may be a bit of nudity in a distant shot of another female dancer at the club but it's hard to tell.

Lessons learned: "Whoever named that stuff 'loco weed' sure knew what they were talking about." (actual quote from the "kindly" police lieutenant)

Directed by: Ray Test (his only film).

Taglines:  A Vicious Racket With It's [sic] Arms Around Your Children! A fifth column sowing destruction in the youth of America, A good girl until she lights a "reefer", The truth about MARIJUANA the smoke of Hell!

More reading:

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Memorium on Memorial Day

In memorium on this Memorial Day, I raise a salute to the men and boys from Cowlitz County, Washington, who lost their lives during the War in Vietnam.

You can read all 27 names here, especially the ones who were friends of mine from junior high and high school: Bill Wagner, Dale Kruse, Claude Weiderman and Dennis Silvesan, and Lynley Rash who was the younger brother of a good friend of mine. Also Dave Aasen, Greg Curtis, Dick Gilcher and Mike Ray, who were friends of friends of mine and whom I knew slightly.

R.I.P Guys. You did your duty. Now stand down and rest. We will never forget you.

Special Memorial Day Monday Music Break: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Here's a special Memorial Day music break, the moving and haunting Where Have All the Flowers Gone? written (mostly) and performed by the late great Pete Seeger.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Poetry Slam -- Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium
by William Butler Yeats. 1928

THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

You can read more about Sailing to Byzantium on Wikipedia, Smart readers will note that the the first line formed the basis for the title of 2007's No Country for Old Men I will leave it to you discover what, if any meaning, the title has in relationship to the poem.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Must-See Cinema: Rosewater 2014

This week's must-see cinema is a fairly new one, Rosewater from 2014, directed by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart in his directorial debut.


This is a terrific movie, especially the psychological torture scenes rendered in unbelievable verisimilitude. It concerns the story of an Iranian-Canadian film journalist who goes on a brief trip back to Iran to cover the 1999 presidential election and finds himself caught up in a strange and mysterious web of suspicion that rivals something out of Kafka.

It was filmed in Jordan, with some second-unit shots of events in Tehran. and features the real life story of Maziar Bahari, whose 2011 book describing his nightmare, Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival , describes the 118 days he was kept in solitary confinement and underwent some brutal psychological torture at the hands of a guy called "Rosewater" -- hence the title.

It is definitely not a comedy -- although there is some humor in it, in the interrogations by Rosewater and Bahari's response to certain questions, and a brief appearance by The Daily Show's Jason Jones, recreating a scene from a location shot in Iran that is used against Bahari. It is a surprising and enjoyable first outing from a director who could have a whole new career ahead of him when he quits The Daily Show later this year.

More reading:
  · Rosewater on the IMDB.
  · Rosewater at Rotten Tomatoes
  · Rosewater at  Metacritic
  · Rosewater for rent on Netflix

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Music Break: City of Night

For those of you who think that I don't listen to any music from this century, here's the terrific group Pink Martini with City of Night:

If you ignore the kind of amateurish wipes and transitions, there is some spectacular urban night photography in this video.

This song is from Pink Martini's 2007 third album, Hey Eugene!.

All of their music is available on Amazon -- and if you buy through this blog I get a few pennies back on each purchase.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Poetry Slam Saturday -- Dulce et Decorum Est

Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen., 1893 - 1918

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Wilfred Owen was one of a large group of talented literary types who went off to fight World War I and died there. To his death can be added those of H. H. Munro ("Saki"), Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Guillaume Apollinaire and many more. Who is to know whether some future Nobel Prize in Literature would have been awarded to one or more of these people, who instead died in the prime of their creative lives?

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace's Odes. The line can be roughly translated into English as: "It is sweet and right to die for your country." Here Owen uses it ironically and calls it "the old Lie".

Friday, May 15, 2015

"Please Judge, I Am an Orphan"

I've used this joke hundred times to illustrate pure chutzpah: A guy murders both of his parents and then pleads for leniency because he is an orphan.

And that's kind of what we have with fulltime Republican moron Luis Lang in South Carolina, who couldn't be bothered to get Obamacare coverage when it was available (i.e., within the three-month open enrollment period) because it was "socialized medicine" and he prided himself on being able to pay his own medical bills.

Yeah, and as the Bible has it, "Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall." (Yes, that's the real quote, not the oft-quoted and pithier but erroneous, "Pride goeth before a fall.")

Now he's sick with diabetes-related blindness issues and is whining because he doesn't have coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The Daily Kos has the whole story, and it's not a pretty one:

All seemed good until this February when a series of headaches led him to the doctor. Tests revealed that Lang had suffered a series of mini-strokes tied to diabetes. (It's not clear to me from the piece whether Lang knew he had diabetes earlier or whether that was the diabetes diagnosis as well.) He also has a partially detached retina and eye bleeding tied to his diabetes. The initial medical care for the mini-strokes ran to almost $10,000 and burned through his savings. And now he can't work because of his eye issue and can't afford the surgery that would save his eyesight and also allowing him to continue working.
I don't mean to sound like an asshole, but this is exactly why people buy insurance in the first place. The whole concept is that you shell out several hundred dollars per month when you're not sick or injured so that you'll have your medical bills covered in the event that you become sick/injured. He made a gamble that he'd never become so sick/injured badly enough that he wouldn't be able to afford 100% of the cost...and it finally caught up with him.
In fact, this is exactly the hypothetical scenario which Ron Paul was asked about during one of the GOP primary debates back in 2012 (the infamous "Let Him Die!!" moment).

Now the dickhead has the gall to blame Obama and the Democrats because he made some stupid -- no some idiotic -- choices and finds himself holding the shitty end of the stick.

Instead of blaming the real culprits, the Republicans in South Carolina who "don't want none o' that god damned soshulazzed med'cin", he's flailing out at the very people who, had their advice been followed, would have alleviated his situation.
Because, again, if the ACA hadn't been passed, their situation would be...well, exactly the same as it is now.
In fact, it would be worse because without the ACA, even if his income does pick back up again, pre-ACA insurance companies would still refuse to touch him with a 10-foot pole, whereas under the ACA he at least has a shot at getting covered if he can stick it out for another 8 months.
This, of course, leads to the most jaw-droppingly honest look at the conservative mindset I've seen in months:
 “(My husband) should be at the front of the line because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues,” Mary Lang said last week. “We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.”
"Screw you, everyone else!! We spent years helping enact policies which shaft the poor, and even deliberately blew off taking steps to help ourselves if we ever fell on hard times, but now that we need help, everyone else should get the hell out of the way and move us to the front of the line."
So much for the Party of Personal Responsibility. I guess we couldn't really expect anything else.

Except this: He's started an illiterately-written GoFundMe page (no, I won't link to it, thank you) begging for money to help with the medical bills. And it is likely that many bleeding-heart liberals will donate to it, because by and large we don't want even assholes like this to suffer.

And the final kicker will be when he thanks all of his Republican friends for their donations that show up Obamacare for the nightmare that it is.

You can fix ignorant, but you can't fix stupid. At this point I'm leaning towards the Tea Party "Let Him Die" Solution. I know that sounds cold and hard-hearted, but come on...

Okay, not really. Even assholes deserve to live. Even Republican assholes.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Jam of Tarts? An Assay of Trollope's? A Flourish of Strumpets?

It's a concept that is almost gone from common English, but there used to be nouns in our vocabulary that described collections or groups of birds, animals, even humans. Some of them were pretty descriptive -- a parliament of rooks, a murder of crows -- and some had a delightful flourish -- a spring of teals, an exaltation of larks.

Naturally something like that couldn't remain unsullied for long. Wags came up with such things as an addition of mathematicians, a clutch of mechanics, a tedium of golfers, an intrigue of politicians.

For a while during the 19th and early 20th Century even the hallowed halls of Oxford were not immune. Three dons discussing the concept were walking home one night from the pub when they saw a group of "ladies of the evening" going by.

"Okay. What would you call that particular group?" one of them asked the others.

"Obviously that is a jam of tarts," the first one said.

"No, that's an assay of Trollope's," the second one insisted.

"You're both wrong," the third disclaimed. "That is a flourish of strumpets."

A voice came up next to them from a gap in the hedge. "No, gentlemen," the voice said. "What we have here is an anthology of pro's."

That voice allegedly belonged to the poet Conrad Aiken.

Still it's a fun little story of language at play, showing the sheer pleasure that can be had with a little knowledge of the English language, and that anecdote became one of the cobblestones that formed the path of my steadily advancing intent to study English in college and work with words the rest of my life.

More reading:
See Precision of Lexicographers on the World Wide Words website

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Rise of the Nones

I note that the latest Pew Research poll holds that "56 million Americans now identify themselves as agnostic, atheist or 'nothing in particular.'” We are called "nones", for "religious preference: None". That’s more than 22 percent of the population.

That's a lot of people for the Christianists and their Christian Reconstruction army to round up and make disappear. It's not just a paltry six million Jews and a few Gypsies and communists to deal with this time around. And that 56 million doesn't even include American Jews,  Muslims, Buddhists, etc., all of whom will have to be swept up as well.

That's a whole lot of people. If the average train car would hold 100 people, that's 560,000 train cars to haul us away. I don't think there's that much rolling stock in the world, let alone the USA.

Face it Religious Right, you are losing ground.

Which makes them all the more dangerous. Like a cornered animal. I think I may have to stock up on a few more 2nd-Amendment-SolutionTM "protection devices" myself.

And BTW, it's long past time for someone in the Congress other than Pete Stark to come out of the theological closet. I know you're in there. Show some guts and show your faces.

Besides, Pete Stark isn't actually in Congress any longer. He;s retired, but not before he was reelected several times even after he admitted he was an atheist. Atheism is no longer the moral equavalent being a child-molesting communist pederast to the American voters -- those who are not still in the Moron-American Voting Bloc, anyway.

Must-See Cinema: American Chain Gang 1999

Although it didn't originate in the United States, the chain gang became an almost uniquely American feature of "justice" after the Civil War. When it was finally clear that The South didn't have slaves any more to do all the shit work, they created a "new slavery" in the form of shackled-together black men (mostly), convicted of "crimes" and forced to "pay their debt to society" by working on farms, roadways, public lands, etc. It had been phased out by 1955, but in 1995 it was revived.

In 1999 filmmaker Xackery Irving made an award-winning documentary on the revival of the chain gang in America, both in Alabama and in Maricopa County, Arizona (home of the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio) which features the first all-female chain gang.

This is a chilling look at the revival of the chain gang system of punishment and retribution -- there's no other way to describe it, since it certainly doesn't qualify as rehabilitation of any kind.

We get to know a few prisoners and guards during the course of the film. The guards seem to think that the prisoners under their supervision are being "rehabilitated", and even the prisoners agree in general, saying that they don't want to come back to prison when they get out, that they are "cured". But as we learn at the end of the film, a depressingly high number of the inmates, who were followed up by the filmmakers after filming stopped, were back in the system in one way or another. Or dead.

This is a depressing look at a slice of the prison system in this country, and it's not a pretty sight. There's no violence on screen, but it is talked about a lot, both by the inmates and the guards, and the guards seem perfectly willing to kill a prisoner who tries to walk away. It's not clearly stated, but a couple of the guards seem a little too eager to do it if they get the chance.

Not an uplifting film, but one that is definitely worth watching.

More reading:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Perfectly Good Threat, Wasted

Now that Liberia has its Worst Disease in the History of the World, i.e., ebola, under control, what will the fuckers at Faux News find to worry about?

What, no Obamapocalypse?

It wasn't that long ago when they were telling us to BE AFRAID BE VERY AFRAID of those smelly foreigners who were sneaking across our southern border, leaving a visible-from-space trail of ebola slime behind them like an invasive flood of foreign-language-speaking toxic slugs, when Bill Orally publicly and stridently called for the public execution of the head of the CDC, when they wanted to issue a travel ban to anyone who ever even thought about going to West Africa (which, it may come as a surprise to the talking dicks heads at Faux News, is not a country).

As much as they tried to spruce up their Fear MenuTM with delicious specials like parboiled ebola and ebola flambé, it just didn't pan out for them. It was a perfectly good fear and it all went for naught. Wasted.

But I'm not worried about them running dry. There's always gonna be more, especially now that Obama has nailed them in public, by name, for their bullshit on "the poors", they'll be going after him with both guns blazing. Or, as we in the reality-based community call it, Wednesday...

So what's next on The Fear Menu? Stay tuned...

Exploitation Movies: Maniac (1934)

The 1930s produced a cornucopia of grindhouse exploitation films (aka "sexploitation" movies), usually disguised as "educational" movies that were ostensible cautionary tales about one social problem or another.

This week's feature is Maniac from 1934:

Full movie:

This is another huge hot mess from Dwain Esper, the "King of the Celluloid Gypsies".

While it's kind of hard to tell what's going on in any given scene, the whole thing is a forced march through the many manifestations of 1930s ideas of insanity, with explanatory titles popping up periodically to tell us about things like Dementia Praecox, Manic-Depressives, and Paranoia.

Briefly, it's about a mad doctor, his crazy assistant and a large variety of sex-infused craziness. We're thrown a lot of wacked out stuff in a short period of time, including the weird goon of a neighbor who raises cats and rats. He has a thousand of each -- cats for the fur, rats for the cats to eat, and the rats in turn eat the corpses of the cats after they've been skinned, a nifty self-contained backyard entrepreneur operation.

There's a lot of emphasis on cats in this movie, including cats fighting in a funeral home(?), a cat that gets his eye gouged out and eaten(!) by the crazy assistant -- who has killed the mad doctor and assumed his persona -- and two women in a hypodermic-syringe-weapon "cat fight" in the cellar.

Wikipedia says that the plot is loosely based on "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allen Poe. Okay.

Along the way there's a lot of scenery-chewing hyper-thespianism by pretty much everyone involved, especially the mad doctor in the opening scenes. It's been heralded by several sources as the "worst movie ever made". I can believe it.

The money shot: Several of them, all of them completely gratuitous, including the simulated rape of a nude zombie girl, several "examinations" of women in various stages of undress by the mad doctor/crazy assistant, and a "meanwhile back at the ranch" scene with the crazy assistant's ex-wife and her skeezy female roommates in which everyone prances around in their briefest skivvies. I told you it was a hot mess...

Lessons learned: Beats me.

Directed by: Dwain Esper, whom we have seen before on this blog.

Taglines:  He menaced women with weird desires! A Subject Seldom Discussed, True and Authentic/Nothing Withheld, Strange Loves Exposed, What Are the Dangers of Desire? What Wrecks Romances? The Truth About Love Fearlessly Told

Also known as Sex Maniac

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Monday, May 11, 2015

People Killed in the Name of Atheism: Ø

My buddy-blogger BadTux the Snarky Penguin had a post the other day in which he identifies the number of atheists who have killed "defending" their "religion" is exactly zero:

The same, alas, is not true of organized religion. A bunch of right wing Christianists (when Atlas Juggs blogger Pam Geller [I LOVE that] is involved, you know it’s batshit crazy Christianists) chummed for Islamist extremist in Garland, Texas. They got their wish — a couple of ISIS wanna-bes tried to crash their party, and got shot down for their trouble by the cops waiting in ambush.
At this point I’m completely puzzled as to why atheism has a bad name in America. The number of atheists who’ve blown themselves (and others) up in defense of their faith is… uhm…. zero. The number of atheists who’ve engaged in or attempted mass shootings in defense of their faith remains… uhm… zero. The number of atheists who’ve used their faith as an excuse to conquer other nations remains… erm… zero. The number of atheist pedophiles who’ve had their crimes covered up by their faith remains… erm… zero. The same cannot be said of virtually every organized religion on this planet, almost all of which have been used as excuses for conquests, bombings, shootings, pedophilia, slavery, genocide, or worse at some point in time.
So why is it that the religious wackos get their panties wadded up more about atheists than pretty much anyone else? I think that it's because they feel, deep down in their heart of hearts, that they know we are right, and if they give in to their natural inclinations in that direction, they won't feel the impulse to kill someone in the name of God any more. Can't have that shit.

Of course there are people who argue the point of God's existence who imply (I've heard them say it) that only the fear of hellfire and damnation is what is keeping them from opening up with an AK-47 on a bunch of... well, gays, or Democrats, or Socialists or Liberals -- maybe even atheists, I'd guess. Yeah, that's one fine loving and forgiving Supreme Being you've got there, guys. Who wants to believe in a fucked up God that would judge all that killing so harshly when one of his disciples is doing it, but who is extremely fine with it when He wants to slaughter a bunch of innocents himself? How can you even trust, let alone "love", that kind of God? As I've said before, that guy is actually a bit of a dick.

Monday Music Break: MacArthur Park

Here from 1968 is the  Richard Harris version of the much-reviled MacArthur Park, which according to Dave Barry is "the worst song in modern history".

Okay, come on, it's not all that bad -- in fact, I actually kind of like it. But when you combine some tortured-metaphor lyrics with the overwrought performance of a stage-trained Shakespearean actor, I can see where some might consider it a "bit much". As one comedian said a number of years ago, "Lighten up, Richard. It's just a cake."

Interesting job with the accompanying video of the real MacArthur Park itself, more recent obviously than 1968. It's by a Finnish guy named Seppo Korpipaa (who has his own channel on YouTube) and I'm impressed that he traveled halfway around the world, apparently just to shoot this footage and edit it to the song.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Here Is What's Really Going on in Texas

This is from the Christians for Michelle Bachmann ("True Christians dedicated to supporting and electing Michele Bachmann for POTUS in 2016 just as God has instructed") page on the Facebook:

Wake up, America!!!

Saturday Poetry Slam -- Two Villanelles

Today we have two poems that capture the essence of the Villanelle. Because of the constricted artificiality of its demanding structure, the Villanelle is a form of poetry that is very difficult to pull off successfully. It is of great credit to a poet who can do it, and these two poems represent what I consider among the best of the form.

Villanelle Of Change
 by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Since Persia fell at Marathon,
The yellow years have gathered fast:
Long centuries have come and gone.

And yet (they say) the place will don
A phantom fury of the past,
Since Persia fell at Marathon;

And as of old, when Helicon
Trembled and swayed with rapture vast
(Long centuries have come and gone),

This ancient plain, when night comes on,
Shakes to a ghostly battle-blast,
Since Persia fell at Marathon.

But into soundless Acheron
The glory of Greek shame was cast:
Long centuries have come and gone,

The suns of Hellas have all shone,
The first has fallen to the last: --
Since Persia fell at Marathon,
Long centuries have come and gone.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
by Dylan Thomas, to his dying father

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Further Reading:
   · See Poem Hunter for 97 more Villanelles.
   · Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night on Wikipedia

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Garland Shooting? It's Obama's Fault

Of course, Ted Cruz is going to say that it's Obama's fault that two wannabe jihadiboys shot up Pam Geller's "celebration of free speech" in Garland, Texas.

Well, that makes sense. After all, who else's fault could it be? Certainly not Pam Geller, the foaming-at-the-mouth-rabid Islamophobe wackjob who set up the phony "contest" to draw cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. She was only exercising her god-given rights to "free speech".

And it's not really the fault of the two Islamists who shot the place up and ended up dead themselves. No, they were just innocent-ish pawns, unwitting foot soldiers in the Long Con that Obama, the Islamist-in-Chief, is running on the Amurrican People. Is it a mere coincidence that this shooting happened in Texas, which it now appears is Ground Zero in the Obama Muslim Secret Plan to take over America (aka the military training exercise dubbed "Jade Helm 15")? I don't think so.

We should listen to the sage advice of such wise men of politics as Chuck Norris, aided and abetted by that brilliant geopolitical genius of South Texas, Louie Gohmert, and -- wait for it -- none other than ... Ted Cruz. Oh, and be afraid! Be very afraid!!!!

As we all know, thanks to Faux News, ISIS/ISIL has, literally, battalions, brigades, divisions, even regiments of jihadis camped out on secret bases in the Mexican desert, right across the river from ... Texas!!! From El Paso you can see the flickering flames of their camel-dung cooking fires at night! Need I say more? Wake up, America!

Just as an aside, does anyone besides me find it odd that the takeover is starting with Texas? This begs the obvious question: What the fuck do ISIS/ISIL and the Islamic Jihadists even want with Texas? Have they ever even been there?

Anyway, back to professional anti-Islam wingnut nutjob Pam Geller, who can protest all she wants that it was only a "free speech" issue, when we all know -- and she knows -- that it was the moral equivalent of falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Of seeing a small fire and throwing gasoline on it to try to put it out. Or even the guy who killed both of his parents and pleaded with the judge for leniency because he was an orphan.

One thing is sure: We can look forward to more of these irresponsible and dangerous provocations from Geller. If "looking forward" is the correct term. I'm sure she won't be satisfied until she's dragged us into WWIII.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Seventh Day Adventists and the Separation of Church and State

Now that noted Republican "house Negro" and Faux News darling Ben Carson has climbed into the Republican clown car, I think it is interesting that the official house organ of his church, the Seventh Day Adventists, has reiterated its stance on the separation of church and state.

They're for it. Which kind of puts them out of the mainstream when it comes to evangelical churches in this country:

The Adventist Church has a longstanding position of not supporting or opposing any candidate for elected office. This position is based both on our historical position of separation of church and state and the applicable federal law relating to the church’s tax-exempt status.
While individual church members are free to support or oppose any candidate for office as they see fit, it is crucial that the church as an institution remain neutral on all candidates for office. Care should be taken that the pulpit and all church property remain a neutral space when it comes to elections.Church employees must also exercise extreme care not to express views in their denominational capacity about any candidate for office, including Dr. Carson.
We also want to remind our church members, pastors, and administrators of the church’s official position on the separation of church and state. The church has worked diligently to protect the religious rights of all people of faith, no matter what their denominational affiliation.
Yes, that seems to me to be surprisingly reasonable and cogent, especially for a religion that holds that anybody who "breaks the Sabbath" -- works on a Saturday (the 7th day, get it?), for example -- is bound straight for hell. Well, not "hell" exactly, since they don't really believe in a literal hell. Just in the total annihilation of the spirit.

But naturally, as it so often happens, the real treats in this story are found in the comments section:
"This is almost uncalled for, this is common sense and to say it makes it sound like a majority of the church doesn't trust Ben Carson, which couldn't be further from the truth. He is a strong supporter of church/state separation." [oh really?]
"Did the church issue this warning when Mr. Obama was running for office? Didn't it apply then as well? Who is this statement for? Every SDA already knows this? Speculative and disappointing. They should have kept as silent on this as they did when Mr. Obama was running." [Obama was not a member of this church, so why should they have anything to say about his candidacy?]
"It's funny to me the churches stand on this. Isn't this being political in its self? Trying to sway the church members by intimidation. Although it's ok tho go against the bible and ordain women as pastors? I'm confused? Do we pick and choose which point we want to follow? As long as it is justified by the church?" [I think that's how religions work...]
And what about Ben Carson signing books on a Saturday? Is he going to hell annihilation for working on the Sabbath, or has God made a special dispensation for him so he can make money and become president?

The man's candidacy is a fucking joke. And, despite them coming out strongly for church-state separation, so is his culty church.

Must-See Cinema: Freaks 1932

In 1931 director Todd Browning, fresh off his successful screen adaptation of Dracula, who had previously bought the rights to a short story by Tod Robbins called Spurs, started filming what has been called a "subgenre of one" semi-horror film, now considered a cult classic, entitled Freaks.


Browning went out of his way to cast actual circus sideshow performers with real deformities in this movie, including the famous conjoined (aka "Siamese") twins, the Hilton Sisters, legless Johnny Eck, the "Human Torso" Prince Randian and many others. In an unusual move, Browning did not try to exploit the performers. Instead they are presented as fully human, with all the wants and needs and fears of the fully functional. It's the "normals" who come off as monsters here.

The film was incredibly controversial, not only for its subject matter but also for the shocking display of so many "freaks" on the screen. After an initial screening, MGM demanded many cuts before it would okay its distribution. And this was in pre-code Hollywood, even before the Hays Office and  the Motion Picture Code.

In all the studio demanded -- and got -- nearly half an hour of scenes deemed too "shocking" deleted from the movie, including the fate of strongman Hercules (in the cut scenes he is castrated by the angry "freaks" in the climactic scene from the movie and we later see him singing ... as a soprano!). The final version, which is all we can watch now, is a kind of choppy and awkward affair that would have benefited from the more detailed exposition. The cut scenes are considered to be lost forever. The studio also tagged on a new happy-ish ending.

Browning's career never quite recovered from Freaks. The movie was banned outright in England, and was hardly shown in the United States until the rediscovery of the "cult film" by the counterculture in the late 1960s. It was shown extensively as a "midnight movie" throughout the 70s and 80s, and those of us who had read about it for years finally got to see it.

Taglines:  Can a full grown woman truly love a MIDGET? "We'll Make Her One of Us!" from the gibbering mouths of these weird creatures came this frenzied cry... no wonder she cringed in horror... this beautiful woman who dared toy with the love of one of them! The Strangest... The Most Startling Human Story Ever Screened... Are You Afraid To Believe What Your Eyes See? The Love Story of a SIREN, a GIANT, and a DWARF! (As you can see, the taglines were far more exploitative than the film itself.)

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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Food Stamp Challenge

Every so often someone will issue a challenge to politicians to try to live on Food Stamps (It's called SNAP now and distributed via an EBT card) for one month. To their credit, several of them have taken that challenge and, for varying lengths of time, have spent on food the cash equivalent of a SNAP grant for the size of their family. Usually for a very limited amount of time, a week or so generally.

For reference, the average per-person SNAP food allowance in the US is $133.00 per month. But SNAP is handled by the states, and the state benefits range from a paltry $115 in New Hampshire to a "lavish" $217 in Hawaii (where BTW everything is more expensive).
The people who talk about the "Food Stamp Challenge" are of two stripes: One (the well-meaning Democrat) says that it's difficult to live on the food allowance of a typical welfare recipient but it can be done, and the other (the cynical Republican) says that all the welfare abusers buy is chips and soda and ice cream, so they get fat, and it's not our fault that fat people are "hungry" or malnourished because it's their fault they are not getting the right amount/kind of food.

I think that the Food Stamp Challenge a good idea, but it needs to be taken to a "real world" level. For example: Try it for a longer period of time -- at least a month -- and don't cheat by supplementing it with the supplies of food you already had before the challenge started.

People in the inner cities don't have cars, or don't have reliable cars, or don't have cars that are totally street-legal (chancing an expensive ticket for a broken brake light for example), so you can't just cruise it on out to the suburban WalMart and trot out that "magic card" to buy your food.

You can, however, if you have the inclination, take public transportation to get to one of those suburban supermarkets to get the best deals in food, but you will likely have to make at least one, and likely several, transfers. But then you have to struggle back home on those same buses carrying some large bags of groceries. In the real world, your food choices are limited to what's on the shelves of your local 7-11, your Kwik-E-Mart, your bodega, your "little store".

Now let's take a look at what you can reasonably buy with that SNAP windfall.

You can't buy a lot of frozen food, since you likely live in a scroungy slumlord apartment with a refrigerator that is ridiculously small, barely functional, certainly not capable of keeping those frozen chicken breasts from thawing out. You likely will have to take a walk of several blocks while carrying your groceries, so you can't take advantage of buying in scale to get lower prices. You likely won't buy much fresh produce since the delivery of it mostly doesn't make it as far as your inner-city mom-and-pop. And organics? Forget about it. Even if they come from a small farm just outside of town, even they don't deliver inside a certain urban line, either.

Instead you'll find yourself picking up a lot of empty starches, pre-packaged lunch meats, balloon bread made from bleached and "enriched" flour, and that nasty plasticky "American Cheese Product", since that's all that your local market carries. Oh, but you will be able to load up on chips and sodas and ice cream, since your EBT card will buy a lot of that. It's easy to make a filling if not nutritious meal out of a bag of chips and a liter of soda. Then watch your waistline expand and your health decline. You will gain weight without really intending to, and then you will earn the scornful wrath of Republicans who deny that we have a problem feeding our people since so many of the poor ones are fat -- "living high off the hog" on our tax money.

No, I don't think that welfare recipients and other users of SNAP are living high off the hog on their meager allowance of Food Stamps. But they make easy targets for the abusers of the poor in the Right Wing. They are a ready-made demographic that "proves" that we are being too generous in our assistance to "lazy" people who "ought to be working". At jobs that no longer exist, but never mind that...

Sure, there are some cases of people abusing the system. This a natural part of any system where something people want and need is given away for free. But the way to fight it is not on the backs of the honest people who need it and are getting it. The best way to deal with it is to educate the people who are receiving SNAP on the most efficient ways to buy and prepare the foods that are available to them.

I couldn't give a shit if people using SNAP's EBT cards are buying steak and lobster. At least they are eating real food that is nutritiously good for them.

Exploitation Movies: This Nude World (1933)

A sub-genre of the exploitation movie was the pseudo-documentary, providing a "non-judgmental" view of some exotic locale or practice. Bali was a hot topic since it had beautiful women who generally went topless, and "real life documentaries" filmed there in the early 1930s held a tittilating grip on the American movie-going audience. See Virgins of Bali, for an example.

Also popular were "real looks" at the worldwide nudist movement, which brings us to this week's feature, This Nude World from 1933:

Full movie:

Considered one the first "nudist documentaries", unfolding with a straightforward narration in a voice that's a clone of the famous Lowell Thomas, this movie promises a peek into the world of "naturists" in their natural habitat.

Surprisingly, it actually delivers, with sequences shot at a nudist camp in the Catskills, one outside of Paris in France, and finally one in Germany which exists in Berlin itself as well as in the forests outside the city. Since it is in B&W and doesn't feature full frontal nudity, since it's mostly long and medium shots, (and since you can't avoid thinking about seeing your grandmother naked), it's not very tittilating. Lots of full "backal" nudity, though, and an interesting look at the nudists of the very early 30s.

I am assuming that the German portion of the movie was filmed prior to the Nazis coming to power, for reasons that will become obvious as you view that section.

The money shot: A spliced-in shot of a naked girl walking up a short  steep hill and then turning to walk back down again. The only full frontal in the movie, and it's obviously taken from some other film, since it doesn't really fit in here. Even the film stock is different.

Lessons learned: "Nudism is a healthy lifestyle, but it may not be for you." This is explicitly stated at the end of the movie.

Directed by: Mitch Minden, who also directed Hitler's Reign of Terror, called the "first ever American anti-Nazi film". This film itself has an interesting history. It was shot by Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. (yes, of those Vanderbilts) on a trip to Germany, and then put together by Minden. It was believed lost for 70 years until a copy showed up recently in Belgium. As far as I can tell, it's not available over the Internet, but you can see a short "news mcnugget" on it here. It is not known how Vanderbilt decided to hire Minden as director.

Taglines: "Authentic Trip Through an American Nudist Colony!" and  "Guaranteed the Most Educational Film Ever Produced!"

Also known as Back to Nature, The Nudist World, This Naked Age, This Naked World

Oddly enough, this film has no entry on the IMDB.

More reading:

Monday, May 04, 2015

My review of Last Days in Vietnam

During the final weeks of the American presence in Vietnam things turn to chaos, there's a mad scramble to get out and all the Americans make it, leaving a large number of our Vietnamese allies, workers, sources and agents behind. This is a gripping documentary look at the streets of Saigon and the interior of the US Embassy as events first spin and then rip out of control.


Despite its definitely one-sided nature, this movie is worth seeing, if only because of a ton of archival footage from the last days of South Vietnam as an independent nation, covering the final departure of the Americans and a couple thousand locals from the US embassy. Many of the sequences have never been see before.

However, it's kind of surprising -- and disappointing -- that director and producer Rory Kennedy (last child and posthumous daughter of Bobby Kennedy) felt it necessary to give so much screen time to war criminals like Henry Kissinger (who does his best tut-tutting in faux concern for the people of South Vietnam that were left behind), and later (Bush II) Deputy Secretary of State and traitor Richard Armitage (he was the one who publicly outed Valerie Plame), and too little to people like Frank Snepp, who was actually there and really knew what was going on.

There's a lot said in this movie about the ruthless North Vietnamese but nothing about the equally ruthless Saigon commanders. There's also practically nothing about the CIA -- although Armitage himself had likely been working with them earlier in the Phoenix Program -- and they were the ones actually in charge in Saigon in the last months before the bug-out.

Graham Martin was the US ambassador on the scene, who unrealistically, even neurotically, tried to believe that an evacuation was not necessary, until he was finally convinced by the events, at the very last minute, thereby dooming any number of South Vietnamese who thought they were our allies and we would get them out. He comes off in this movie as not a bad guy, really, just someone who was in over his depth, a borderline doddering old man who just didn't quite "get it". Frank Snepp in his seminal work, Decent Interval also had something to say about Martin, but he was unsentimentally harsh in his descriptions.

Need I add that Martin, along with Kissinger and Armitage, were all Republicans? The Republicans were the ones who were supposed to have secured "peace with honor" in Vietnam. They were the ones who secured that peace accord in Paris with an assurance to South Vietnam that, "Sure, we'll be right back if the North Vietnamese break the agreement. Now sign here."

Monday morning quarterbacking holds that the North Vietnamese had a healthy fear of what Richard Nixon was capable of and did not really want American firepower released on their country again. But that was rendered moot when Nixon was forced out of office by Watergate, and Gerald Ford, although a long-time enthusiast for the war (and noted bumbler), was incapable of coming up with any kind of action plan.

A scant two weeks before Saigon fell, he asked Congress for $751 million in military aid for South Vietnam, to resist their "aggressive foes from the North" (who by that time were about 40 miles from Saigon), but it was too little, too late and Congress did not allocate the money. Maybe if Ford had faced reality, owned up to the facts, and asked for the "humanitarian aid" necessary to evacuate as many South Vietnamese as possible, he would have been more successful. But Ford, like Martin, was neurotic and obsessive about not "losing" the war, and that would be seen as "giving up"...

For his part, the cynical Kissinger had no intention of upholding the commitments in that agreement. But neither did South Vietnam's president/strongman Nguyen Van Thieu, who barely waited 24 hours before he broke the agreement with an attack on some North Vietnamese positions.

For some unknown -- and unfathomable -- reason, Kissinger and North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho shared the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, but at least Le had the good graces to decline it.

All in all, this movie was an unsatisfying look at the history and politics surrounding the fall of Saigon. Rory, Rory. I really would have expected better of you.

Still, the movie is worth viewing just for all the unseen videos of the last chaotic days, the last helicopters out, the South Vietnamese choppers full of refugees making surprise landings on the Navy ships off the coast, and the heartbreak of all the people who were left behind. Especially the last 450+ who were already in the embassy grounds and were repeatedly assured (i.e., lied to) that they would be evacuated.

All you need to do when you are watching it, if you don't want to get pissed off, is fast-forward past that ugly mug of War Criminal Henry Kissinger and that bald round Mussolini-head of Traitor "Dick" Armitage.

Yeah, I think I still have some issues...

More reading:

Monday Music Break: Lydia the Tattooed Lady

Here's the one, the only, Groucho Marx in a classic scene from 1939's The Marx Brothers At The Circus:

The movie itself is not one of the Marx Brothers best efforts. That said, it isn't all that bad, even though to our modern sensibilities the scene with the ensemble black singers and musicians with Harpo is at times painful in its broad stereotypes. But really, this movie did put a lot of black people to work filming that scene, and I can't name another movie from the 1930s that didn't use common stereotypes for pretty much all minorities.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Saturday Poetry Slam -- The Man With the Hoe

The Man with the Hoe 
Edwin Markham, 1852 - 1940

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes.
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?
Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the Dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the stretch of Hell to its last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this —
More tongued with censure of the world’s blind greed —
More filled with signs and portents for the soul —
More fraught with menace to the universe.
What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time’s tragedy is in the aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned, and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Powers that made the world.
A protest that is also a prophecy.
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream,
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands
How will the Future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings —
With those who shaped him to the thing he is —
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world.
After the silence of the centuries?

That is some pretty powerful stuff, especially now.

More reading:
  · The Man With the Hoe -- Analysis
  · The Man With the Hoe - original painting by Jean-Francois Millet

Friday, May 01, 2015

Book of the Month: "Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!" by Eric Schaefer

Did you ever wonder where I get the information on those exploitation movies that I've been featuring on a weekly basis since February of this year? And why I've been running them?

Well, there is the fact that I've been a big fan of the genre since I was a callow youth of 18 or so and my buddy and I drove down to an "art film" (aka "grindhouse") theater on the sleazy side of downtown Portland OR circa 1963 to watch something called Hitchhike to Hell, a cautionary tale about young girls lured into prostitution in a remote area of what appears to be the desert of Eastern Oregon, a film which later turned out to be considered a demi-classic of the genre -- I can't seem to find a copy available for download or streaming, though. Added to that frustration is the fact that the struggle of searching for any particular exploitation film is exacerbated by the fact that most of them were released under a variety of titles. For instance, Hitchhike to Hell also appeared as Highway Girls, Highway Hell, Hitch-Hike to Hell, Going My Way Mister? and Honky Tonk Girl. They could appear under any of these titles.

But that aside, I did stumble onto this book, "Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!": A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959 by Eric Schaefer, and found that it was right up the alley of any fan of the genre, so it is my Book of the Month for May.

"Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!" a detailed historical examination, combined with an incisive academic analysis, of the many manifestations and permutations of the genre throughout the Golden Age of exploitation films. It breaks out into separate chapters the many subgenres of exploitation films (e.g., Sex Hygiene, Drugs, Vice, Exotic and Atrocity, Nudist and Burlesque) and provides many detailed descriptions of the films in each category. It also deals with such issues as production, distribution, advertising, exhibition and censorship of these films.

The history of the exploitation film is longer than I thought, going back, in the very early days, to some of the very first films by the Edison lab kinetiscope and Edweard Muybridge, who started making motion pictures of "naked ladies" right after he was done filming running horses for Leland Stanford so he could win a bet.

Some wag said that the first movie was a train going though a tunnel, and the second movie was some guy "reenacting" that with his girlfriend...

It also has a lengthy appendix of some 42+ pages listing all of the exploitation films that Schaefer could dig up information on. He did a ton of research on this but even he admits that he hasn't seen all of the movies listed here himself, since many of them seem to be lost. However, enough people did manage to both see them and write enough about that experience, so Schaefer can speak with some authority on them.

This book is highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of the genre, or a fan of movies in general, or of the history of movies, or of the history of morals and manners in the first half of the 20th Century.

Plus it is profusely illustrated with actual stills from the movies, many of them of a salacious nature, and copies of advertising posters.

Note: If you buy this book, or anything else from Amazon (through the search portal in the left-hand column), they'll kick back a few cents to me. I figure that this is the most user-friendly way to get some money out of this blog. I certainly don't want to "monetize" it by allowing Google to throw up some random ads. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Fall of Saigon, after a Decent Interval

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of the day that North Vietnamese tanks rolled through the closed gate in front of Nguyen Van Thieu's Presidential Palace in downtown Saigon and South Vietnam was defeated, finally fallen to the invading North Vietnamese and officially brought to an end what we in the West know as the Vietnam War, and what is still known in Vietnam as the "American War". It was the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, that signaled that the war was finally over.

The war had raged for over ten years of official fighting by the US, and over 24 years of fighting by the Vietnamese, who were eager to rid their country of foreign influence, first the French, whom they kicked out in 1954 and then the Americans whose combat troops left in 1973. For the final two years it was strictly a Civil war between the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese.
Nevertheless, it was doomed to end this way, right from the beginning. When the famous north Vietnamese general, Võ Nguyên Giáp*, said that more than a million North Vietnamese casualties a year was an acceptable rate of loss in order to win the war, the Americans did not take him seriously. They should have listened.

The few Americans left in Saigon that day had to beat an ignominious retreat, which is captured so well in his memoir, Decent Interval, written by CIA analyst-on-the-ground Frank Snepp. The remaining Americans, especially the CIA and the ambassador, do not come off well for the most part in Snepp's description of them in the final days.

The CIA and the US Foreign Service were understandably embarrassed by their actions and  did not want Snepp to publish this book. The CIA even took him to court to prevent its publication, urging prior restraint of the press for the first time in history. Fortunately they were unsuccessful, and Snepp was able to go ahead and describe the mess that was the US presence at the fall of Saigon.

Later on the CIA actually sued Snepp for violating a "non-disclosure" agreement that held that he -- and all CIA employees -- had to sign when hired, to the effect that they would not write or speak about anything that happened "on the job" without prior approval by the agency. Snepp got assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, who ruled against Snepp and held that the  book could still be published, but all proceeds from its sales would have to revert to the CIA.  See United States v. Frank W. Snepp, III, 897 F.2d 138 (4th Cir. 1990)/

And this is why I am not giving a link to a website where you can purchase the book. I don't know if that proviso is still in effect or not, but it likely is and I'd prefer not to give the CIA money, and so I encourage you to get it from your library and read that copy. If your local library doesn't have it, they can get it through Inter-Library Loan. Or you can download a questionably-legal copy in .pdf from this site for free.

Highly recommended for its day-by-day descriptions of an unraveling embassy and the desperation of its Vietnamese workers and allies, who were given hollow promises that the US would evacuate them as well.

* According to one story, Westmoreland met Giáp at some function years after the war and said, essentially, that the North Vietnamese should never have won that war. The Americans had them outnumbered, with better equipment, with better-trained troops, with better ammunition, with better air power, with a better Navy, and the Americans never lost a battle that they fought with the North Vietnamese.
"This is true, " Giáp said calmly. "It is also irrelevant".