Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Islamic Subliminal Messaging

Here's something I'll bet you didn't know. I didn't know it either, and I consider myself something of an expert on "subliminal messaging".

Remember this from the 2008 and 2012 campaigns?

That was, as you know, the official logo for the Barack Hussein Obama campaign.

Well, it turns out that this wasn't just a logo. It was a subliminal Islamist message!

At least according to Professional Wingnut and Bloviating Blowhard Michael Wiener Savage and his guest, the maybe-kinda-sorta "former terrorist" Walid Shoebat:
“What is the symbol or campaign logo of the Obama administration?” Savage asked. “What are these Obama bumper stickers? Let’s see, a blue crescent over fallen red and white stripes. What is the crescent? Is that not the symbol of Islam? And the blue stripe over the red stripe represents the states that vote Democratic red over the states that vote Republican blue, and so he now unites them under the banner of Islam.”
Jesus, wake up America!!! It's right in front of your face!!!

As the author of the story says, somewhat sotto voce, maybe Wiener Savage ought to take another look at that logo...

["Obama logomark" designed by Sender LLC. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia]

Exploitation Movies: Rebellious Daughters (1938)

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 Rebellious Daughters from 1938.

Full movie:

Despite the nudge-nudge-wink-wink nature of its title and tagline, this is a standard 1930s melodrama showing how two diametrically-opposed parenting styles can lead to destruction for two girls. On the one hand is Barbara "Babe" Webster, whose social-climbing divorceé mother is too busy and too detached to show her daughter any affection (she even abandons her on her birthday to go with "The Carlyles" to the seashore). On the other is our "good girl" Claire Elliott, the product of a single-father family (mother died at some earlier point), who has been raised very strictly with "too much" parenting.

These are the poles, and the movie takes great pains to point out that neither one is good for the children. Especially the daughters. We never get to know how old these girls are, but the implication is that they are 18 or so (played by 25-year-old actresses, naturally), old enough to head for the bright lights of the big city, New York, as runaways.

They meet Joe Gilman, the stock bad guy (you can tell because of the mustache) in a super fancy nightclub in their home town of Glenhaven MA -- what a fancy nightclub with a band is doing in this obviously one-horse town in Massachusetts is an open question, but as I've said before, these movies don't have to make sense. Joe Gilman has a fancy dress shop in NYC and tells the girls they can come to work for him and be "models".

Yeah, right. But, as it turns out, he really does have a fancy dress shop and he does give them jobs as models. But we quickly learn that it's just a front for his real business, which is extortion of the wealthy men whose wives shop at his store. It's a variety of the old Badger Game, and when Babe is talked into cooperating, she's smart enough to realize the potential for financial reward. Uh-oh. Naturally, since in these movies, "somebody" has to die, it's gonna be Babe.

The one unintentionally funny scene in this move takes place just outside NYC. In the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking San Fernando Valley. Babe goes over a cliff in a car to her death, with a little "help" from Gilman, but survives long enough for a "death scene" at the hospital -- presumably back in New York, since Claire is able to see her just before she expires.

It all gets wrapped up nicely, though, right after we think that Claire is doomed when she moves into a fancy apartment that costs ... $40 a month! But no, her boyfriend is a crusading reporter who blows the whole thing wide open with a "surprise" ending.

The money shot: None, even though they had ample opportunity -- the "modeling" scenes, the badger-game scenes, and the final scene, wherein our heroine appears in her "nighties", a pajama-looking thing which fully envelops her body, right down to the wrists.

Lessons learned: Parents, if you are too lenient or too strict, your daughters will come to a bad end. And, as ever, stay away from men with mustaches...

Directed by: Jean Yarbrough,  who went on to have a successful career directing Abbott & Costello comedies and a number of television shows. Oddly, this movie does not show up in his filmography on his Wikipedia page.

Taglines: They paid a high price for the luxury and excitement they sought and got!

Also known as Wayward Daughters

More reading:
   · Rebellious Daughters on the IMDB

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Music Break: La Donna È Mobile

Here is the incomparable Luciano Pavarotti with the most famous aria from Rogoletto by Giuseppi Verdi,  "La Donna È Mobile":

Yes, in stark collision with all that I outwardly portray, I am actually an opera buff! I can't count the number of people who have known me for a while -- sometimes quite a while -- and yet are surprised when they learn that.

She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I had the equivalent of "season tickets" to the Seattle Opera for many years until "other priorities" militated against renewing them. Still, we try to catch one or two operas a year at McCaw Hall.

You will no doubt recognize this song. It has been used, to various effect, in a ton of movies, but the best cinema use of it, IMHO, was in the fight scene between good-guy Frank Castle and "The Russian" in 2004's The Punisher.

See also La Donna È Mobile on the Arias Database.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day Four With the iPhone -- Update

Well, that trick didn't work. I lured my grandchildren over with promises of alcohol and On-Demand movies (don't worry, they are both over 21), only to learn that they, contrary to what I thought, don't even have iPhones!

Instead they have something called Android phones, which are essentially so different from our iPhones that they couldn't help at all. Or claimed they couldn't, anyway. Good thing I didn't bring out the good scotch...

So, still on that learning curve... I can always put some dark window tinting and a sign that says "free candy" on my van and cruise the grade schools. I'm sure that won't cause me any problems at all...

If posting seems a little light in the next few days, it's all the fault of that damned phone.

Day Four With the iPhone

After managing to pull out what hair I had left (I'm getting to look more like my avatar every day anyway...), I've finally reached a point where I am kind of getting acclimated to my new iPhone. After many too-numerous-to-count "how do I..." Internet searches, and in the meantime accidentally erasing all of my contacts, I am feeling more comfortable.

But there is so much that feels, to me, non-intuitive about navigating the menus, etc., in the damn thing. I definitely will have to get the grandchildren over here and give us some lessons. Problem is, they are so fast on their phones that I don't think we'll be able to keep up.

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to ask Siri for driving directions to the nearest App Store.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Bible Belt Is Also...

Hmmmm. I wonder if there's any connection here?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Welcome to the 21st Century

I just did what I said I would never do, and that was get a Smart Phone -- i.e., a phone that was smarter than me.

We are now the proud possessors of twin versions (only diff is the color) of the iPhone 5c (hey, I know it's not the latest and greatest, but I'm an elderly shut-in on a fixed income here...gimme a break).

Talk about a learning curve. It's like going from a rotary dial phone to a Star Trek communicator. Or it seems more like going from two tin cans on a string to telepathy.

I'm not a knuckledragging Neanderthal, nor am I a neo-Luddite. But I am forced to admit now that I am ... apparently ... a technological moron.

And after I criticized Ted Cruz for the same thing. Tsk-tsk.

It's actually a bit embarrassing. We were always "early adapters" to new technology. Our first cell phones, back twenty-some years ago, were the size and weight of bricks -- they reminded me of WWII walkie-talkies. Over the years we upgraded them, and upgraded them again, until we were satisfied with the LG "Rumour" phones that featured a slide-out keyboard for easy typing. We kept those for a long time. Too long it would appear, since advances in technology swept past us like a rip tide.

They actually were adequate for us, for the several years that we had them, and probably still would be. But when She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed saw another dealer at the antique mall, where we have a space selling "collectibles" and other junk, snapping photos on her iPhone and immediately posting them to Etsy and Ebay, she got "phonis envy" and suddenly we HAD to have iPhones...

So we got them. I can't say enough good about our provider, Credo Mobile (the woman at customer support literally spent over an hour on the phone with us); the main problem wasn't with them, it was with me, the putative "electronix expert, yup-yup" in the house.

Like I always say, it's a time of "agonizing reappraisal"... But not really, since we are stuck being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. At least I don't have to feel technologically all 19th Century when I deal with my grandchildren. Who at least know, intuitively, how this shit works.

Maybe they can give me some "training"...

What Is an American?

It would appear that Obama Derangement Syndrome not only applies to the president, but also his entire family.

There's an email circulating amongst the wingnuttery to the effect that "Harvard-educated" Michelle Obama, welcoming newly-sworn-in citizens at a naturalization ceremony, claimed that none of the so-called Founding Fathers, signers of the Declaration of Independence, were "born in America".

Smart people (i.e., readers of this blog) know that this is technically true, since if they were born in what later became the United States of America before July 4, 1776 (which they would have to be), they were not "born in America". They were born in various colonies of the crown, which made them British citizens.

And, yes, let's put aside the inconvenient fact that people from the other 34 countries in North and South America -- two whole continents! -- are also "Americans" and some of them are kind of resenty when we say we are "the Americans"...

But that hasn't stopped the wingnuttery from trying to make a Big Fucking Deal of it, trying to portray "Harvard-educated" Michelle as an idiot -- notice how that anti-intellectual-elite mindset only applies to Liberals? I can find absolutely no dismissive mention from the wingnuttery of the "Harvard-educated" Ted Cruz.

So what is an American? I'll let Bill Murray 'splain that, in this clip from Stripes (1981):

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Polygamy: It's God's Plan

Okay, let's talk about that whole "one man one woman" thing. Despite the history-denying hypocritical Mormons and their support of California Prop 8 with that very slogan, the entire Right Wing is up in arms over the "destruction of marriage" by Teh Gay.

Usually I consider it beneath me to comment on this (yeah, right), but I read something today, AFA Hopes To Save Marriage From The 'Forces Of Evil' on RightWing Watch, that kind of peckered up my interest, so to speak:

The American Family Association placed a full-page advertisement in today’s edition of the Washington Post, in which the group warns the Supreme Court not to “bend what God designed merely to suit the desires of man, knowing that you do so at the expense of children, perhaps even civilization itself.”
The AFA’s Fred Jackson, who was guest-hosting “Sandy Rios In The Morning,” hailed the ad’s “forceful message” to the court and claimed that gay marriage undermines what God established in the Garden of Eden about 6,000 years ago.
“So for at least 6,000 years, people have understood marriage as between a man and a woman and it is only fairly recent history and certainly in this country have the forces of evil attempted to change all of that,” Jackson said. “It is absolutely amazing — one of the saddest facts is how many denominations, church denominations in this country, have succumbed to this pressure.”
Yeah, I know, "Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve". I get that. But what I don't get is this: "for at least 6,000 years, people have understood marriage as between a man and a woman". [emphasis added]

There's obviously a typo in there, since it should read "a man and women". Even a casual reading of the so-called Word of God, the "Holy Bible", shows that polygamy was not only tolerated by God but accepted as no big deal, if not actively encouraged. See What the Bible says about Polygamy for a few of the references to multiple wives and "concubines" in The Book.

One of the main arguing points that the wingnuttery pops up with regularly is that legalizing so-called Gay Marriage (or, as we over here in the Reality-Based Community call it, "marriage") is that it will lead to any number of "icky" things -- like polygamy. For some reason polygamy is generally number one on their list, followed closely by Rick Santorum's celebrated "man-on-dog sex" and so on down the increasingly-disgusting line.

But we need to take a step back here and look at this. Despite it being given a bad rap by child-raping assholes like Warren Jeffs and others in Fundo-Mormon and other cults, is there really anything fundamentally wrong with it? I'm open to all the usual arguments -- it demeans women, it removes too many fecund pubescent girl-children from the breeding pool, etc. etc., but if three (or more, in any combination of genders) people want to set up a household together and have the legal and contractual advantages of "marriage", why shouldn't they?

Interestingly enough, ironically enough, if the agenda for so-called "religious freedom" gets through the state legislatures and through congress, the unintended-consequence backlash may be more than the Religious Right has bargained for. For example: "My particular religion demands that I must strictly follow the practices outlined in the Old Testament. I can't eat shellfish, I can't plant my field with different crops, I can't wear two kinds of cloth, but I can and do have multiple wives. You say I can't do that? Sorry, Charlie, but The Law says I can..."

As I said the other day, be careful what you ask for -- you just might get it.

The Whitest Nigerian Prince? Ted Cruz

Turns out that, for an alleged smart guy, Ted Cruz is Internet-ignorant/stupid (he's not even Master of His Domain -- see www.tedcruz.com). He also shares his campaign fundraiser donation page security certificate with something called "nigerian-prince.com". Really.

This is probably not such a big deal. It's not like he's a real candidate anyway. He and the other putative Rethug "contenders" who showed up at the Kochsuckers Gala in Palm Springs are just astroturf meat puppets, running-dog lackeys of the über-rich capitalist pigs who want to give the rubes -- the god, guns and grits crowd of the Moron-American Voting Bloc -- the illusion of "choice" before the adults shove aside the goobers and anoint Jeb Bush (after all, he is "one of them") inheritor of the crown.

Come on, like you didn't already know that?

Anyone who gives money to Ted Cruz deserves to be 419-scammed by a Nigerian Prince.

Unless -- is it possible? -- Ted Cruz really is a Nigerian Prince, and he's been the one all along offering to share, with each and every of us who has an email account, a large chunk of his zillions of dollars, inexplicably tied up in some mysterious African bank, for only a small processing fee (aka "campaign donation")?


HT to BadTux the Snarky Penguin for the link to the Nigerian Prince story. And thank you god for giving us an unusually early start with the traditional Republican Clown Car

Must-See Cinema: Russian Ark 2002

Being a known -- and convicted -- cinephile, I'm a big fan of film technique. One of the techniques that I quite like is the "long take", wherein the camera keeps rolling through a lengthy shot, usually along with extensive camera movement. Think of the opening scene in Orson Welles' classic crime-noir Touch of Evil, where we start with a closeup of a bomb being planted in the trunk of a car, then follow that car with a crane shot as it drives a considerable distance through a Mexican border town, and finally explodes on the other side of the border.

Many films over the years have used this technique to great effect, arguably the most ambitious of which was Alfred Hitchcock's Rope from 1948, which tried to appear that it was all one long take. Because of the physical limitations of film, the longest take in the movie was about 10 minutes, before the camera ran out of film. Hitchcock "cheated" his way past this by having the camera blocked by a man's coat as it was about to run out of film, so the film looks as though it was just one long shot. It doesn't quite work, but it is interesting to watch.

Then came the advent of digital video equipment, which meant that you were not going to run out of film, and the length of an individual shot was limited only by the size of your hard drive.

Today's Must-See Cinema selection is Russian Ark, which is kind of the apotheosis of the long take: The whole movie, 96 minutes, is one long unedited shot.


An unnamed narrator wanders through the famed Winter Palace, one-time home of the czars and now the Hermitage Museum, in Leningrad St. Petersburg. As he passes through 33 rooms in the palace, he wanders into, in no particular order, set pieces of Russian history. They range from a homely view of Nicholas, the last czar, and his family enjoying a private meal, to Catherine-the-Great fancy dress balls with hundreds of participants. The whole movie had a cast of over 2,000 people, and pretty much all of them had to hit their marks and get it perfect. After all, it was one continuous shot.

I can't sing the praises of this filmmaker, Alexander Sokurov, enough. He had only three tries to get it right, since the Russian authorities gave him an extremely limited amount of time to complete filming. The sheer audacity of this attempt pays off big time in the end, a visually stunning and mesmerizing tableau of over 200 years of Russian history. Don't try to make a lot of sense of it while you are watching it. Just flow with it. You can -- and will -- think about it later, after it is over.

This is one of my favorite foreign films of all time.

You can watch it streaming from Netflix , or you can watch it streaming on YouTube. My personal preference on this is Netflix, since you get it in HD and the quality is better.

More reading:
  · Russian Ark on the IMDB.
  · Russian Ark on Rotten Tomatoes

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Does God Only Speak to Stupid People?

It sure looks that way. Each one of these people have said that God has spoken directly to them:

In a different time, they would have been locked away because they heard a "voice" that no one else could hear, a voice that directed them to do something.

I'm not a scientist, but that sounds a lot like schizophrenia to me...

Exploitation Movies: Gambling With Souls (1936)

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 movie is Gambling With Souls from 1936.

Full movie:

This movie is all about the base degeneracy that inevitably comes from gambling, including a slide into prostitution and murder when a girl can't pay her gambling debts.

The story begins with a police raid on a gambling club/brothel, a bunch of scanty-girls scrabble around to try to keep from being busted, and finally we see Mae Miller with a pistol in her hand, standing over the dead body of "Lucky" Wilder, the club owner.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks at police headquarters -- we see Mae, happily married to a struggling doctor, who wants the high life, the good things. At first she's willing to wait until he "makes it", but a small gamble on a boxing match that takes place at a garden party(!) where the women in her circle play bridge (these movies don't really have to make any sense) leads her to the posh gambling club of "Lucky" Wilder, where her "friend" Molly Murdock steers her into a roulette game that is rigged. Yeah, big surprise, that. But, in the time-honored "first one is free" tradition, it is rigged in her favor. Until she gets hooked on gambling and racks up $10,000 in IOUs. (According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, that's over $168,000 in today's money.)

From there the only way she can hope to pay any of that back is by becoming one of Lucky's "working girls".  If you ask me, that's going to be a lot of "work". But she is apparently pretty skilled -- her first "date" nets her $1,000(!).

Finally, Lucky seduces and impregnates Mae's little sister Carolyn (who looks like she's about 16). She has an abortion -- which, naturally in these cautionary tales, kills her. After an over-the-top death scene at the hospital, Mae goes back to the club and shoots Lucky. Six times.

Mae's husband is one of those stick-by-your-woman guys and supports her throughout the "now" segments at the police station, complaining that the police ought to do something to shut down the evil that has enveloped the city. "I want my wife back," he says to the DA. "That's up to the judge and jury," the DA tells him. Fade to black.

The dead guy, racket boss Lucky Wilder, (his nickname is apparently meant ironically), may have been based on Charles "Lucky" Luciano, an American Mafia mob boss whose early career was featured in a major subplot in the terrific HBO series, Boardwalk Empire. Despite several brushes with death, a stretch in prison in the US and being deported to his native Italy, "Lucky" was lucky to the end, dying of natural causes (a heart attack) at the age of 64. Unlike most of his mob associates, most of whom checked out due to what was called with macabre humor "lead poisoning" -- like Lucky Wilder in this movie.

And get a load of this promotional poster:

[Note: Image from Wikipedia and is copyrighted;
it is used here under the "fair use" doctrine]

Jeez, who wouldn't want to see this movie?

The money shot: Right at the start of the movie, we see the "working girls" scampering around in their skivvies. No nudity, but the next best thing. Then there are a couple of "exotic dancers" at the club, and a hot black girl dancer at a "Negro" club in "the slums" who looks a bit like Josephine Baker in her prime.

Lessons learned: Don't bet money on anything, don't sign IOUs, stay away from all gambling, and don't trust a friend who wants to take you to a club.

Taglines: Rigorously Adults Only! Women of today sold into bondage! Actually adapted from authentic police records! See all (IMDB)

Directed by: Elmer Clifton, who also directed another exploitation film already featured in this series, Slaves in Bondage

Also known as The Vice Racket (reissue title)

More reading:
   · Gambling With Souls on the IMDB

Monday, March 23, 2015

Is This Okay? Really?

Today the Supreme Court heard the orals in a case out of Texas, wherein something called The Sons of Confederate Veterans sued the State of Texas over whether they could have a Confederate Battle Flag on it's vehicle license plates.

"Free speech!" was the rallying cry. "The state can't tell us what to put on our cars. Nyahh-nyahh-waaahh!"

A low point came after the plaintiffs' attorney was asked, What about a swastika? Does the state have the right to keep that off of the license plate?

Sadly, the lawyer said No, it did not.

So I guess this is what you will be able to get on your Texas plate in the near future, if this lawsuit suit is successful:

It's Different. Just Because...

OK, now that Amurrica's favorite Texican, Ted Cruz, has formally stepped up to the plate and accepted a few token slowpitches from the students at Still-Valiant-in-His-Fight-to-Stay-Dead Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and he is officially a candidate for Presidense of These Newnited Staytes, there's a question that ought to dog him for the rest of his candidacy.

Let's see the birth certificate.

At least he, unlike Obama, admits that he was born in a foreign country. To an American mother and a not-American father. Just like the Birthers claimed about Barack Obama, to the point of getting all mad-dog-frothy around the mouth in their Obama-Derangement-Syndrome madness.

Okay, where are the wrathful "proof" requesters this time? Where are the angry demands for the birth certificate? Where are the my-mind's-made-up-don't-confuse-me-with-facts Teabaggers on this issue? They are strangely silent.

Imaginary conversation with a representative Teabagger:

"Well, it's different this time."
"Okay, why is that?"
"It's because ... it's because ... it's just different!"
"Different how?"
"It's just different!"
"Different because Ted Cruz is a Republican? Different because Ted Cruz is more like 'one of us'? Different because Ted Cruz isn't an uppity 'Negro'? Yeah, it's 'different' this time, all right..."
"See! You agree with me!"
Fisticuffs follow...
Fortunately I don't have a lot of these imaginary conversations any more. Even though I do have Obamacare, I still can't take the medical bills from the resultant physical altercations.

Finally, Glenn Beck Says Something I Agree With! (???)

What the fuck, stop the presses! I can hardly believe it myself, but here it is:

Go to the whole story, Get Ready To RUMBLE: Glenn Beck And Karl Rove Throwdown Over The GOP, on NewsCorpse.

RUFKM? Glenn Beck and Karl Rove? Cage match? Bring it on!!!

Monday Music Break: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Here's Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole with the old Judy Garland classic as you've never heard it. This guy's voice is incredible:

"IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole was a noted Hawaiian singer/musician who died in 1997 at the early age of 38. He was a native Hawaiian (a rarity on the islands these days), and as you can see in this video, morbidly -- tragically -- obese. He was also a supporter of Hawaiian sovereignity.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Want Prayer in School?

There are only two bad outcomes in life. One is not getting what you want, the other is getting it...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

For All of My Australian Friends...

Yeah, okay, I know it's "stupid" but come on, it's funny too!

Whew! Glad That's Over

Well, it is now Saturday morning and we're still here! Escaped god's eclispical judgment, again! I'm beginning to think He's not all that serious about this shit.

Anyway, since we are still alive and in one piece, how about a little humor to enliven your weekend:

A duck goes into a pharmacy and says, "Gimme a tube of chapstick and put it on my bill."
The next day the duck goes back into the pharmacy and says, "Gimme a condom."
"Certainly," the pharmacist says. "Do you want me to put it on your bill?"
"No!" the duck says. "Whattaya think I am, some kinda pervert?"

Friday, March 20, 2015

Basic Language Skills for International Travelers

I am an international traveler. I have visited some 22 different countries, and I can verify that there are just three phrases that the average person will need to get by in a foreign environment. The rest of your communication can be achieved by the "charades" method, or by the simple point-and-nod method.

These are the essential phrases that you need to know when you go to: 

  • Germany: Ein bier bitte. Danke. Wo ist die Toilette?
  • Italy: Una birra, per favore. Grazie. Dov'è il bagno?
  • France: Une bière se il vous plaît. Merci. Où sont les toilettes?
  • Spain & Latin America: Una cerveza por favor. Gracias. ¿Dónde está el baño?
  • Kenya: Bia moja tafadhali. Asante. Ambapo ni choo?
  • Vietnam: Xin cho một ly bia. Cảm ơn bạn. Nơi là nhà vệ sinh?
  • Czech Republic: Jedno pivo, prosím. Děkuji. Kde jezáchod?
  • Union of South Africa: 'N bier asseblief. Baie dankie. Waar is die toilet?
  • Hungary: Egy sört kérek. Köszönöm. Hol van a WC?
  • Amsterdam: Een biertje neem. Dankjewel. Waar is het toilet?
  • Turkey: Bir bira lütfen. Teşekkür ederim. Tuvalet nerede?
  • Poland: Jedno piwo proszę. Dziękuję. Gdzie jest toaleta ?
  • United States, Britain, Australia, etc: One beer please. Thank you. Where is the toilet? 
This is the Rosetta Stone of Beer. As I say, this is all that is required if you need to get that beer, drink it down, and then piss it out in the bathroom. And you will. Travel is tiring, it is draining and it makes you super thirsty. Make sure you get the local beer. Chances are it will be far superior to your American favorite and it won't make you look like a Beer Imperialist demanding Budweiser.

Once you interact with the locals in their own language, you create an aura of good will surrounding you, and then you'll be able to request anything else you want just by pointing at it on the menu. You will find that most all of the native speakers do pretty much all speak a variety of English, and they will be glad to help you. Once you have shown them that modicum of respect by at least trying to speak their language.

Naturally it's a good idea to arm yourself with a Berlitz Phrasebook of the country you are going to, and then you will have very little difficulty at all.

If everyone did this, traveling abroad as an American would be a great pleasure. What are you waiting for? Grab that passport and take off! Make your getaway!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More Advice to Obama: Don't Be Seen With an Umbrella!

One of the most common "lost" items in this household is the ordinary umbrella. For the record, it is not me who loses them -- it is She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. For as long as I've known her she has had a variety of umbrellas, and almost all of them have been lost, mislaid, stolen, forgotten, left behind, disappeared, beamed up by aliens, etc.

And me? Of course I can't lose one because I don't carry one. For people of my age and older, the umbrella is the very symbol of "appeasement".

For those who were homeschooled, that's the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain being greeted by Adolph Hitler at the 1938 Munich Conference that led to Hitler invading the Sudetenland, sealed the fate of Czechoslovakia and led to charges of "appeasement" against Neville Chamberlain, who gave in to Hitler's demands for "liebensraum" and secured, in Chamberlain's own words when he arrived back in the UK, clutching that umbrella firmly in hand, "peace in our time".

We all know how that turned out.

Note the umbrella in the picture. BTW, also note the physical placement of the two world leaders. Chamberlain is two steps below Hitler in that photograph, so it appears that he is trying to supplicate to Der Führer. I don't even have to be told to be sure that it was taken by a photographer from the Third Reich. Hitler and his Nazis were nothing if not cognizant of the propaganda value of ... well, everything.

And this, in short, is why people of a certain generation and older see the umbrella as the symbol of appeasement.

And Neville Chamberlain, meanwhile, has recently become, long after his death, a ridiculous obsession of the Right Wing in this country, because of that umbrella ... appeasement! 

Even if they don't always know what appeasement means:

"Appeasement" has become become a dirty word, rightfully so, and no red-blooded Amurrican would be seen dead with its symbol, the umbrella. And that's why Obama needs to just stop it with the umbrellas already!
Sidebar: There is a school of thought which holds that Chamberlain's actions, while they did result in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, bought some valuable time for England (and England Jr., aka the United States) to build up her forces and prepare for the war that everyone knew was inevitable.
The after-the-action analysis indicated that Hitler was all bluff and if, at any time during his initial blusters -- marching into the demilitarized-after-WWI Rhineland, for example -- he had met any resistance he would have backed off.
But that's all Monday-morning quarterbacking. Without that time machine, there's really no way to know.
And, even though I live in one of the wettest corners of the country, I still won't carry an umbrella...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Must-See Cinema: Beat the Devil 1954

By now you know that I am a fan of the oddball, the quirky, the offbeat, in films. Today's must-see-cinema choice is Beat the Devil from 1954 (Wikipedia mistakes it at 1953), and it has all of that and more.


The movie stars Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley (playing the role that Sydney Greenstreet would have played had he still been acting), Peter Lorre, and Bernard Lee (who would go on to widespread recognition with his appearances as "M" in the earlier James Bond movies), and was directed by the great John Huston. It was "scripted" by Truman Capote -- if you can call it that: Each day's filming was done more or less by the seat of the pants and a lot of the actors made up their own in-character dialog as they were shooting.

The plot centers on a rag-tag group of small-time swindlers and shady ne'er-do-wells in a small Italian port who hatch some big plans to go to "British East" -- aka Kenya -- allegedly to sell vacuum cleaners(!) but instead to strike it rich some shady uranium mine deal.

Eventually they take passage on a questionable tramp steamer bound for Mombasa, but are forced to abandon ship off the coast of Africa and have to straggle ashore, where they are immediately taken into custody. The scene in the office of the local police/immigration official in North Africa is totally hilarious.

The Italian scenes were filmed along the spectacular Amalfi Coast.  Watch for the classic Hispano-Suiza car (photographs) being allowed to run over the cliff and the ensuing dialog. Priceless.

I've referenced this movie before in this blog; longtime readers will know already that this movie supplied as a recurring line my pirated phrase, "a chill on my liver". I still say it all the time, when I am feeling a bit under the weather.

You can rent Beat the Devil from Netflix or, better yet, buy it from Amazon, because I have the feeling you are going to want to watch it more than once. For copyright reasons, it is not available on YouTube.

BTW, Bogart is on record as saying he never liked the movie: "Only phonies like it." Probably because he spent a lot of his own money bankrolling it. But, unless I am a "phony" (and I am not), he is wrong -- it is a terrific movie and an outstanding example of a box-office bomb that became a cult classic.

More reading:
   · Beat the Devil on the IMDB.
   · Roger Ebert's Review

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rare Solar Eclipse a Warning from God?

It's being billed as an event that takes place only once every 100,000 years. This from a website (WorldNetDaily) that thinks the earth and the rest of the universe is only 6,000 years old. Do the math on that and you'll find something missing. Like science.

It's a total solar eclipse that will happen just at dawn over the North Pole. And because it is over territory that is not claimed by any nation, it will serve as a sign from god to all nations that the End Times are near. It's an "unmistakable" sign of judgment.

And it's going to happen THIS FRIDAY!!! Be afraid, be very afraid!

WND's "biblical experts" are all creaming their jeans over this. According to one professional expert, Little Bobby O'Dell, "This is likely a message from God to the entire world."

Another "expert", Pastor Mark Blitz, says, "In Jewish tradition, a total solar eclipse is a warning to the Gentiles and a sign of judgment on the nations. When we look at where the darkness will be, it will be in northern European countries like England and Sweden where we see the rise of Islam and anti-Israel sentiment. Europeans especially should take heed."

Yeah, uh-huh.

This reminds me of the old story about the explorer in the wilds of the Amazon who is captured by the natives. They are going to perform some kind of horrible savage death ritual on him when he suddenly remembers that there is an eclipse coming at two o'clock.

"Let me go," he says. "For I am a powerful wizard who will block out the sun and plunge the world into darkness and all of you will die."

"Yeah?" says the chief. "Well, you better hurry up about it since there's going to be an eclipse in an hour."

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Music Break: One Toke Over the Line

This is one for your "now I've seen it all" file. Lawrence Welk and the fresh-faced-and-glassy-eyed Gail and Dale, with the "modern spiritual", One Toke Over the Line:   

Watch old Larry the Whelk -- you can't see even a glimmer of a knowing grin, not even an ironic raise of the eyebrow, as he introduces this "modern spiritual"...

Modern spiritual, huh? As you might expect, Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley, the song's writers and original performers, just happen to see it a little differently...

Exploitation Movies: The Road to Ruin (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.

Today's feature is The Road to Ruin from 1934.

Full movie:

This is another cautionary tale about a young girl whose life is ruined by sex and alcohol and marijuana. Typically, "good girl" Ann Dixon and her high school friends are 25-year-old teenagers, and we know the first time we see her best friend Eve that she is trouble. How do we know that? She's a bleach-blonde.

She's also a "fast girl" who uses some subtle peer pressure to get Ann to take that first drink, a leftover from a party thrown by her divorceé mother. (In these movies, a child of divorce always = trouble.)

From there, of course, it all goes rapidly downhill as Ann has some crying-afterwards first sex with her "teenage" boyfriend, and then hooks up with Ralph, an "older man" (i.e., about 30 -- only three years older than Helen Foster, the actress who plays teenage Ann) . She falls in love with him, he slips her a mickey of some sort and they "do it" on his couch after he discreetly switches off the light.

Then there's a wild party at the house of one of Ralph's friends, they all play a game of strip craps  (I guess it was faster for the whole getting-the-clothes-off thing to show strip craps rather than strip poker), Eve loses all of her clothes, and then someone suggests they take a dip in the pool.

No one has a swimsuit (of course) so the girls, already in their 1930s skivvies, jump into the pool with guys who don't look like they've taken anything off except their shoes and jackets. Eve, already naked, takes a swan dive off the board. A couple of uptight neighbors are outraged, call the cops (while the man -- comic relief -- keeps peeking out the window wearing a broad leer, "to keep an eye on things") and when the cops show up Ralph sneaks off and leaves Ann to face the music on her own.

At the police station Eve and Ann are labeled as "sex delinquents" -- really; we see their official cards -- and they are detained for an "examination" by a doctor. Ann passes her Wassermann Test but Eve doesn't. Ann's mother shows up to take her home, leaving Eve behind because her mother is "out of town" (i.e., she's at a wild party herself and can't be located).

Even though Ann managed to pass that Wassermann, she is still not off the hook -- not by a long shot: She is pregnant. She tells Ralph about it and he hems and haws and says he will marry her, but not now since he's "not free". He convinces her to get an abortion from the slimiest-imaginable "doctor", and then we fast forward to the death scene. Spoiler alert: She dies from complications from this "doctor" and his botched butchery.

One modern critic called this a "sordid drive down the path of moral and physical degradation, capped off with just enough of a moral lesson to alleviate any guilt the viewer might feel for watching such a decadent display."

I was actually surprised by the amount of professionalism shown here. There's some pretty good movie-making going on, especially in the first half, in spite of all the hand-wringing sensationalism. The actors do the best they can with a raft of wooden dialogue, especially the moralizing social worker in the "girls division" of the justice system who lectures Ann's mother on her lack of child-raising skills. Yes, of course it is the fault of the parents -- that's who this "educational" movie was aimed at. In fact, the producers billed it as suitable only for persons over 18.

Turns out it was a remake of a 1928 silent film of the same name, also starring Helen Foster in the main role. I haven't been able to find a copy of it, but there are reports that it was way more salacious than this version.

The money shot: The pool party -- girls in wet underwear and Eve doing her naked dive.

Lessons learned: Don't take that first drink, don't have sex, and if you get pregnant don't have an abortion. Especially not from some sleazy "doctor" with a leer fronted by a mustache! Oh, and of course don't trust blonde girls... Ever.

Directed by: Dorothy Davenport (billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid), who also makes a cameo appearance.

More reading:
The Road to Ruin on the IMDB
Dorothy Davenport on the IMDB

Quoting Winston Churchill on Muslims

My IBIL* is at it again. He forwarded me an email, 8 Pictures to Make You Think, from his Rethug buddy containing a bunch of "before" and "after" pictures, allegedly of "free" Iran before the 1979 revolution showing "happy" Iranian youth in "western clothes" in 1970 compared with the burkha-ridden frothy-mouthed murder-eyed radicals post-Ayatollah.

And the email quoted Winston Churchill in a speech from 1899, in which he supposedly "nailed it":

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.
No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."
So here is my response:
Fuck this. The problem is not Islam. The problem is Fundamentalism. It's the same with Christians (I can point to chapter and verse in the Holy Bible where "our" god is as big a dick as Allah -- in point of fact, for that matter, "our" god IS Allah) but, like the fish is the last one to understand the principles of water, most people in this country can't see that. Especially the Christian Fundos, who all think that they are "normal" representatives of God on Earth.
It's easy to pick and choose "representative" photographs, but these are not representative at all.
Here's just one picture to "make you think".
What do you make of this?

In case you don't know, that's Detroit's own Rima Fakih, Muslim, Miss Michigan, and winner of the Miss USA pageant in 2010. Yeah, she's probably a Terrorist as well, but I don't know where she's hiding that suicide bomb...
As far as the Burkah and Hijab -- sure, we think of them as weird, but are they really any weirder than men wearing dresses (Catholic bishops, etc.) or the magic underwear of the Mormons? We accept that (well, the Catholic thing, anyway) because it is part of our culture.
And I wouldn't be quoting Winston Churchill if I were you. He was a dipshit racist and an anti-Semitic imperialist dick who believed that "the Aryan stock is bound to triumph". You could look that up.
So feel free to send this back to that Rethug Faux-News-Watchin' anti-Semitic (Arabs are a Semitic people) friend of yours and tell him to blow it out his ass...
Like I say, like She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed says, I really shouldn't respond to this shit. But I just can't help myself. Besides, it gives me some surefire fodder for this blog -- almost as good as my wackjob cousin. A blog which BTW he never reads, so he won't know I refer to him as my "IBIL"...

*IBIL = Idiot Brother-In-Law

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I'm Back

I'm back in town after a long and tiring weekend away. Everyone is coping as well as can be expected. There was a very nice memorial for Mike, my granddaughter's husband, held at Cathedral Park in Portland OR, one of his favorite places. A lot of his friends were there and were very supportive of my granddaughter and the children.

It's called Cathedral Park because it is under Portland's St. Johns Bridge, one of the most picturesque bridges in the country, if not the world:

As you can see, the bridge was designed in the Gothic style, and from underneath it looks like you are in a Gothic cathedral:

But it was cold and rainy and wet, but fortunately someone thought to bring canopies. Obviously it was someone from Mike's side, since none of us are that aware.

It's a pretty nice park, if you ignore the half-dozen or so Long Island Whitefish in the parking lot...

Anyway, I'm back now. Yesterday's post was one of those write-it-in-advance-and-schedule-it posts that I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Today is an Extra-Special Once-in-a-Lifetime Pi Day

Today is Pi Day. Every March 14 is Pi Day. It has been around for a while, since 1988, actually, but today's Pi Day is special, because it is 3-14-15, which the astute reader already knows, represents the first five significant digits of the mathematical concept of pi -- π -- , which, as the ancient Greeks figured out, is what you have to multiply the square of the radius of a circle by in order to get its circumference.

Or, as it's usually represented, πr2  -- or "pi r squared".

Anyway, at 9:26:53 this morning, and again this evening, an even more special event will occur: π to ten digits, or 3.141592653 -- that's why today is a extra-special once-in-a-lifetime Pi Day.

Traditional celebrations of Pi Day include, naturally, eating pie and throwing pies. I intend to do both and I enthusiastically encourage all of you to celebrate as well.

Unless you were home-schooled and the Bible is your only source of knowledge. Then you can look at 1 Kings 7:23 and figure out your own version of π. You probably also subscribe to the Pie Are Round, Cake Are Square school of mathematics as well.

Much has been made of this apparent mistake by god in calculating the circumference of a circle -- see here for example -- but since I don't accept the Bible as a reliable guide in any other sense, I'm not going to squabble about what is essentially a rounding error by an "inerrant" god.

Nevertheless, Happy Extra Special Pi Day, everyone! We won't see another one like this for 100 years.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Suicide: The Ultimate Selfish-Aggressive Act

Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness. It's also an act of aggression. No, not aggression against yourself, although that is true, but it's an act of aggression against your loved ones, the ones you leave behind to wonder for the rest of their lives if there was something that they could have done.

Last night, the husband of my oldest granddaughter shot himself in the head. Admittedly, the kid had some ... issues, but it was the way he did it that was the most shocking, most disgusting act of selfish aggression that I have ever encountered.

He killed himself in the living room of their house, with my granddaughter and his oldest child, a four-year-old boy, with him. I thought that he really loved their children, and I watched him do everything he could to take care of them. But apparently I was wrong, and what he could do wasn't nearly enough.

He had been an angry depressive -- although he never abused her or the kids -- for a over a year. My granddaughter repeatedly encouraged him to seek professional help, but he refused to do it. She never suspected that it would go this far -- but families of suicides rarely see it coming, except in retrospect. Then a lot of things seem to fall into place, and so she will spend the rest of her life rerunning the last year in her mind, haunted by all of those "if only" thoughts.

But the four-year-old (who will be five in May) is the one who will be the most fucked up by this, for the rest of his life. He's already saying stuff like "My daddy didn't love me and that's why he did it"...

Sure, he's going to get grief counseling, psychiatric help, and constant reassurance from the rest of the family that it wasn't his fault, but deep down, is any of that going to really matter?

It's hard enough on someone to have a parent die when they are young. To see it happen, by the parent's own hand, is so fucking terrible that I don't have the words to describe it. It may have seemed to him to be the easy way out, but that "way out", that was so fucking easy for him, will screw up that boy of his for the rest of his life (the other child is only a year-and-a-half old, so it won't affect him the same way -- he'll just feel a profound but vague loss, wondering where his daddy is).

I'd feel bad for the father if I wasn't so goddam mad at him for doing it...

Must-See Cinema: Dr. Strangelove (1964)

No one born after the 1980s has any idea about the nuclear Sword of Damocles that hung over us all in the 1950s and 1960s. We were all going to die! Duck and Cover cartoons created a grade-school horrorshow experience, complete with drills designed to help you protect yourself from nuclear Armageddon. Post-nuclear-apocalypse fiction dominated the reading public with such titles as Philip Wylie's Tomorrow (in which a lot of people survived by making adequate Civil Defense preparations), and Triumph, in which, despite the name, pretty much everybody dies. On the Beach by Nevile Shute was a best-selling novel in 1957, a long-story-arc comic strip illustrating the book and appearing on, in my local newspaper, the Opinion/Editorial page in about 1958 and an acclaimed movie in 1959. Spoiler alert: No one survives.

Into this depressing mix came a black humor (back when "black humor" had a different and non-racial meaning) movie, originally scheduled for a pre-release screening on Nov 22, 1963 but postponed to June 1964 because of the JFK assassination. The movie was called, to give it its full title, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.


Dr. Strangelove is a both hilarious and scary story of how the world stumbles into total nuclear war, all because General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) takes it on himself to get back at the commies who are busy "polluting our precious bodily fluids" with fluoridation in the water. And the names! General Buck Turgidson, Major "Bat" Guano, Major "King" Kong (the inimitable Slim Pickens in a role turned down by Bonanza's Dan Blocker because it was "too pink").

Mere descriptions can't do this film justice. If you haven't seen it, click on over to Netflix and get it in your queue. You won't regret it. This is one of those films that I can watch again and again and it never gets old. It is also available on YouTube for streaming, but if you are like me, you'll want to watch it on the DVD, where you can see it all and get it all, in all its glory.

Directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick.

More reading:
Dr. Strangelove on the IMDB.
Roger Ebert's Review from 1999.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Exploitation Movies: Delinquent Parents (1938)

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.

Today we have a snooze-fest from 1938 entitled Delinquent Parents:

Full movie:

This one is so lame that it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia page. But it does have a grabber poster:

And some killer taglines: Under Age! Out of Control! A Picture You Will Never Forget... Modern Youth In Revolt!

The plot, such as it is, first focuses on a girl law student who gets pregnant and chooses to give her "illegitimate" daughter up for adoption, and then has to keep it secret from her husband and friends later in life. You can guess how well that works out for her. She becomes a judge(!) and that baby comes back to haunt her: We see the baby all grown up and when she finds out she's adopted, she goes "youth crazy". Blah blah blah.

The money shot: There really isn't one. A girl is seen dancing in wild abandon, lifting up her skit so we can see -- gasp! -- her thighs! That's her in the circle on the poster.

Lessons learned: Don't get pregnant, stay out of trouble with the law unless you can snag an "understanding" judge, don't dance like that. Oh, and if you are adopted, don't panic out and turn into an "underage and out-of-control youth". Get over it.

Directed by: Nick Grinde

More reading:
Delinquent Parents on the IMDB.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Success!!! Blogger Accepts "Porn"

And we have a winner! Just got this from Blogger -- An update on the Blogger porn content policy:

This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy stating that blogs that distributed sexually explicit images or graphic nudity would be made private.
We’ve received lots of feedback about making a policy change that impacts longstanding blogs, and about the negative impact this could have on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities.
We appreciate the feedback. Instead of making this change, we will be maintaining our existing policies.

And this means for you, my loyal dozens of readers, there will likely be no more "Pornography + Time = Art" Fridays.

Sorry. And it was shaping up to be such a fun fight, too...

Lucky Pierre

When I made my triumphant return trip to Vietnam in 2008, I happened to run into an old French guy in a bar in Hanoi. He was a veteran of Dien Bien Phu and like a lot of veterans of his generation, he was on a tour to reconnect with his old battlefields -- I was actually surprised at the number of old French guys in Hanoi, either on their way to or coming back from their battlefield tour.

This battlefield tour is, I was told, a big deal in the former North Vietnam. I didn't go on it myself since it meant a minimum of two days from Hanoi to go out there and back, just to see what is now a remote clearing in the jungle. But it meant a lot to the guys who were fighting there in 1954, and I don't begrudge them that.

Anyway, Pierre had to have been at least 75 years old (assuming that he was about 20 at the time of the battle of Dien Bien Phu), but he didn't look or act that old. He was actually pretty spry for an old guy -- I can only hope that I am as spry when I am that age (which is creeping up on me sooner than I want it to...).

When he found out I had been an American soldier during the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese refer to it, "The American War") he had some questions for me.

This is a capsule summary of my conversation with Pierre -- you'll just have to imagine Pierre's accent:

"I am Pierre, " he said when I introduced myself. "They call me 'Lucky Pierre'. I was at Dien Bien Phu. Not a scratch. I was in Algeria. Not a scratch. I never even got the Indochine Venereal Disease. I was very, very lucky, and that is why everybody, they call me 'Lucky Pierre'!"

I hoisted my beer. "Well, here's to you, Pierre l'heureux!"

"Ah! Alors vous parlez français?"

"Un peu. Je suis un cours de français à l'université, mais il ya plus de plusieurs années..."

And that launched a verbal flood of French from Lucky Pierre, none of which I really got. Admittedly I was just showing off, and I had pretty much exhausted my already dangerously-low reserves of French. (I actually did study French in college a million years ago, but it was all pretty stiff textbook stuff and it did not really stand me in good stead in later life, neither on my trips to France* nor on my trip to Vietnam.)

But, a couple of "33"s later, Pierre said something to the effect of, "Why did you Americans think that you could just step in and take over when we French had lost so badly?" I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.

It was an easy answer. "Because you were French."

And that is the easy answer, but not in the conventional the-French-are-fucked-up kind of way you might think. We Americans really did think that we were better than the French (and we still do), and it was that very American arrogance, more than anything else I believe, that led us too down the garden path to defeat (there's no better word for it) in Vietnam: "Get outta the way, Froggie, and let a pro show you how it's done!"

"Because we were French??!!" Pierre said, sounding a little offended.

"Calmez-vous there, Pierre. It's really because we were Americans."

"Oh, you Americans," he said in an exasperated tone, shaking his head.

And that about summed it up, for both of us.

* When She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I were on holiday in France and tried to get our point across by stumbling around some awkward attempts to speak the lingo, most people were immediately helpful and guided us along, even to the point of speaking English themselves -- all the French want, all anyone wants really, is a little respect, and by and large Americans don't give it to them -- Americans already speak the language of god (the Bible was written in English, goddammit!) and there's no reason to resort to anything less.
So you won't hear any snarky comments about the French from me. Go get your fucking "freedom fries" somewhere else.

Monday Music Break: Blackbirds

Here are Voices on the Verge from their only album, Live in Philadelphia, with "Blackbirds":

I first heard these "girls" on a low-watt indie station out of Philly while I was driving up rural Clark's Valley, in Eastern Pennsylvania a few years back. I had no way to write down who they were or the name of the song, and I had a hell of time after I got home trying to find out more. But find them I did, and bought their album on CD ("buying an album", even on CD, sounds so quaint, so ... I don't know, "yesterday"...). I haven't regretted it.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

50 Years Ago Today in Vietnam

On March 8, 1965, the first official US combat troops, consisting of 3500 Marines, landed in Da Nang, Vietnam. There had been of course an ever-increasing number of "advisers" on the ground since before the 1954 French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, but these Marines were the first Americans who were sent there in force with the sole purpose of rooting out the Viet Cong to protect "democracy" in the not-really-a-country of South Vietnam.

We all know how well that worked out: Not well.

Sidebar: We very easily could have been there eleven years earlier. I knew a guy who had fought as a Marine in the Korean War and who was subsequently stationed in Japan. He told me one time that when it became obvious that the French would be defeated at Dien Bien Phu, the US loaded his whole division onto transport ships and headed south. For about a week they hove to, just out of sight, off the coast of North Vietnam while they made preparations for an amphibious landing. Then, for no stated reason, they suddenly left and steamed back to Japan.

I still have no idea what that was all about.

Before you dismiss this as just some more barracks-room braggadocio, keep in mind that I heard this story about 1961, long before most people in the US had even heard of Vietnam, let alone be able to find it on a map.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Babbly Nothin-Yoohoo and my IBIL

My IBIL (aka Idiot-Brother-In-Law) is an expert at yanking my chain -- he ought to be, since he's been at it for 35 years now. Yesterday he forwarded a pro-Netanyahu email from his Rethug friends that went on and on and on about what a "hero" Babbly is, called 5 Badass Things You Should Know About Bibi Netanyahu: 1. He's a war hero. 2. He has taken bullets for his country. 3. His family has paid the highest price for Israeli freedom. 4. He's damn smart. 5. He is one of the most successful politicians in Israeli history. Complete with a photograph for each one of the points, and a side-note under the "damn smart" section that he is friends with Mitt Romney. And that is supposed to show he's "smart"?.

And also complete with side-by-side photos of Babbly on one side and a two-shot of Obama and Biden on the other. They are labeled "Nut and Yahoo". (Okay, I'll admit that is kind of funny... Surprising, since I didn't think Rethugs even had a sense of humor.)

So here's my response:

So what? He's still a dick and an Israeli terrorist. He's been Chicken-Littling for over 20 years that Iran will have The Bomb "in two years". They are at least 19 years behind schedule. Where is it? And so what if they do? Pakistan has The Bomb and they are way more scary than Iran. Don't fall for it. If he ever starts saying "we'll be greeted as liberators" when we invade Iran...well, you know how well that worked out in Iraq. Iran is actually our potentially-best ally in the fight against ISIS.
Fuck your kneejerk Republican friends. It's time they stopped kissing Israel's ass and woke up to reality in the Middle East. Has Israel every sent troops to any shenanigans we've been involved in? Have they ever even committed any money towards shoring up "American Values" in any farflung backwater where we try to impose them at the barrel of a gun? It seems to me to be a pretty one-sided alliance. We give them guns and planes and shit, and all we get back is a handful of "gimme" and a mouthful of "much-obliged".
All they can do is say to the US about Iran, like Wimpy in the Popeye cartoons, "Let's you and him fight."
And Babbly Nothin-Yoohoo is BFFs with Mitt Romney? That in itself is enough for me.
(An aside to whatever dickwad at the NSA is reading this: Fuck you, too)

Didn't take long to get a response from him:
Cute recap of basics. Reckon we all need to carry around air sick bags at times like this. Well, all times with so much self interest. How can our congress sit back and let him talk to the hand, clap and not say anything about what you just said. Are they all ignorant or just in for the ride and what they can get out of it...........Seems our government it the scary one.
Well, that was kind of disappointing. I was hoping to get at least a little flame war out of this...

My reply:
Hmmm, was that a little too strong?
Don't forget that 50 Democrats boycotted the speech, but their side doesn't get told in the "news" -- only that they are Jew-hating communists. The whole thing was set up by John Boner as a slap in the face of Obama. Boner knew he was doing an end run on the diplomatic end of things, and trying to shore up Babbly's support at home where he faces reelection with only 39% of his voters supporting him.
And now that I have pretty much sealed my fate with that snarky sidebar to the NSA, I'll see all of you in the concentration "re-education" camp.

You are going there just for reading this...

Parsing the JFK Assassination

I've been a student of the JFK Assassination as well as a critic of the official explanation contained in the Warren Report for over 50 years and have written about it on this blog periodically.

The only thing I am certain of is that the Warren Report is wrong. That said, I really don't know what is right. It seems like every time you turn around someone is popping up with a new theory. The whole thing is like one gigantic Rubik's Cube, except that you can eventually, with enough time and by keeping your wits about you (or by using a "cheat sheet") solve a Rubik's Cube.

I have purchased, borrowed -- or out-and-out stolen -- and read well over 100 books on the JFK assassination, and most of the theories in them just seem to fall apart when you start asking the inevitable "Yeah, but what about...?" questions. No one has a waterproof and airtight theory.

The Kennedy Assassination has one solution. The problem is that it is not an easy one, an obvious one, an apparent one, and a lot of the data can go to support one theory or another. The single assassin aka the Lone Nut Theory? Plenty to support that. The Mafia did it? Got it. The CIA? Of course. The anti-Castro Cubans? Good case for that. The Kremlin? Okay, maybe... Castro himself? Hmmmm, well....

Those are the biggies, but there are many more theories scuttling around in the lower part of the curtains that latch onto one aspect or another and stretch it out beyond the breaking point: Oswald was actually shooting at Connelly because of his "undesirable" discharge from the Marines (Connelly had been Secretary of the Navy); the Secret Service agent who was driving the limousine turned around and shot Kennedy point blank with a pistol; a Secret Service agent in the followup car accidentally shot Kennedy in the head with his experimental weapon (actually a prototype of the M-16) when the first shot was fired; or my personal favorite, Kennedy was assassinated by the South Vietnamese version of the CIA in revenge for the assassination of Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem on -- get this -- November 2, 1963! Less than three weeks earlier!

All of these theories have their hardline enthusiasts who can show you the all of the clues that prove their point -- when the clues are lined up "correctly". The big problem is that many of those clues are all fairly easy to use when you pull together your own theory, if you line them up correctly. The key is that "correctly" -- we are all predisposed to see things that support our presuppositions and ignore any messy extraneous details that don't fit. See my post on Pareidolia from New Years Eve. The trick is lining them up really correctly, to fit all of the facts. Not so easy to do. Actually, it's apparently impossible to do.

Over in the newsgroup alt.assassination.jfk, which I check out regularly, there's a guy who goes by the name "Ralph Cinque" who is really into the photographic evidence from November 22. He runs a blog called Oswald in the Doorway which is probably worth taking a look at. The long and the short of it is that he thinks that Oswald is innocent and the famous Altgens photo, taken seconds after the first shot, clearly shows Lee Harvey Oswald standing in the doorway of the Book Depository Building; therefore he couldn't have been on the 6th floor. Lately Ralph's been obsessed with the Time Magazine cover that shows a long-lens shot of JFK and Jackie in the limo at some point just before the assassination -- he's convinced that it's been "doctored" in some way. I'll admit that it does look a little "off", but it was a telephoto shot and anyone who's ever taken pictures through a high-power telephoto lens knows that the resulting photograph will likely look a little "funny".

Sidebar: It is also interesting that in that Altgens photo, you can't even see Lyndon Johnson, who was riding in the right rear seat of the convertible that was the second car behind Kennedy's, with Ladybird sitting next to him (look between and behind the two motorcycle cops on the right side in the photo -- you can see his wife Ladybird, unmistakable in that hat, but where's Lyndon? He was 6'4" tall and he ought to be visible sitting on Ladybird's right). That fact, in and of itself, has resulted in another branching JFK Assassination theory, one that holds that LBJ was either involved in it or else somehow knew in advance that Kennedy was going to be shot in Dealey Plaza and scrunched down in anticipation of the shots as his car turned into Dealey Plaza. Since Lyndon Johnson was a notoriously amoral Texas wheeler-dealer, it's really not that much of a stretch when you look at that picture and wonder, Where's Lyndon?
Anyway, Ralph treats his blog like a newsgroup chat, which makes it really hard to follow, but if you alternate between it and his posts on that newsgroup, it sort of makes sense. Kind of.

The book I'm reading now, Harvey and Lee: How the CIA Framed Oswald, by John Armstrong, posits that there were two different Oswalds, along with two different mothers, whose paths trail and cross and follow each other over time in several key locations: New Orleans, Fort Worth, the Marine Corps, and New York City. All of this was orchestrated by, of course, the CIA.

Armstrong, with a huge number of footnotes to source materials,  does a good job of bringing together such various well-known discrepancies as the height of Lee Harvey Oswald that is reported differently in several places (e.g., 5 ft 9 inches here, 5 ft 11 inches there, 5 ft 8 inches in another place), the scars that he did and sometimes didn't have, and also resolves the question as to how Oswald could be enrolled in two different junior high schools in two different states at the same time, how he could work two jobs at the same time, one in New Orleans and one in Texas, how he could also work a job in New Orleans while he was already in Japan in the Marine Corps, how he could be seen in anti-Castro training camps in Louisiana and Florida while he was also in Minsk in the Soviet Union. And it also answers the question that seemed to come out of left field a few years ago: Was Lee Harvey Oswald living in North Dakota at one point? Reliable-sounding witnesses say yes, the Warren Commission supporters say no.

The only solution, according to Armstrong, is that there had to have been two different Oswalds, the original and one who looked a lot like the original but who spoke fluent Russian (everywhere except in Russia!) and who slowly took over Lee Harvey's identity in order to be able to "defect" to Russia on a CIA spy mission. This other Oswald -- whom Armstrong calls "Harvey" as opposed to the original Oswald, "Lee" -- was the one who went to Russia pretending not to speak Russian (and Marina is the only one who has said that he did speak Russian while he was in the Soviet Union) and came back to Dallas just in time to be set up as a "patsy" for the JFK assassination. I know, it is convoluted, and Armstrong takes some 1200+ pages to deliver it.

BTW, the theory of Two Oswalds has been around almost from the beginning of the investigation. A guy named Richard Popkin, a respected academic, even wrote a book, The Two Oswalds which identified the many discrepancies between the Oswald that the WC (Warren Commission) wanted us to see and a shadowy "Second Oswald" hiding in the dark corners. For example, the Oswald who drove a car vs. the Oswald who never learned to drive, the Oswald who was acting the dick at a shooting range vs. the Oswald who was at work at the same time, etc.

Harvey and Lee is an expensive book, $90 on Amazon. Better to find a library and try to get it from them, either directly or through Inter-Library Loan (ILL) -- if you can; I found a couple of out-of-state libraries who had it but wouldn't loan it out to another library. But I did manage to find it in a kind-of choppy pdf format for free from a questionably-legal Box account. It does not contain the disk of photos and documents and other exhibits that comes with the book, though, and that's too bad. But if you want to look for them, Armstrong gives you enough information to find them with a little diligent searching. Use this Box at your own risk, but it also contains numerous other rare and out-of-print books on the Kennedy Assassination in addition to this one.

For a brief look at Armstrong's theory, check out his blog, Harvey and Lee where you see such photos as this one:

Look at those pictures and tell me that you would bet your next paycheck on both of them being pictures of the same man. On the left is the USMC photo of Oswald, on the right is the Dallas Police mugshot of Oswald. Check out Armstrong's site, but try to ignore the early-days-of-the-Internet look of his web design, though. I don't think it really does his presentation of the facts a good turn.

Another blog that covers this is called Oswald's Mother and if you dig down enough you will find some side-by-side photos of the two Mrs. Oswalds -- something is definitely a little "off" there as well.

With pretty much any event, you are going to find what appear to be anomalies. Those Six Seconds in Dallas are probably the most analyzed six seconds in history, and it's weird that the more they are analyzed, the further we seem to get from the truth. A few anomalies, well, that's coincidence. But when you start stacking up the anomalies, at some point you get beyond a mere string of coincidences and start to wonder just what the fuck is going on?

There are more loose threads here than you'd find in Rick Santorum's sweater-vest after he's been ravaged by pit bulls. None of them seem to lead to anything close to a satisfactory conclusion.

Fuck that. I want the Unified Field Theory of the Kennedy Assassination. Chances are I'm not going to get it. Just like Chief Justice and Committee Chair Earl Warren said, "not in this lifetime."

It actually bugs the shit out of me to realize that at my age I will likely not learn the truth as to who shot Kennedy, and how, and who else was involved, before I shuffle off this mortal coil.