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".

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Must-See Cinema: Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory 2015

Filmmaker Orlando de Guzman, a native of The Philippines, grew up with a folk saying that "it's better to be with seven devils than one policeman". He went to Ferguson MO in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, and found that saying still holds true for the black people in and around St. Louis -- this stunning, shocking, eye-opening film is the result of that journey.

While this technically is not true "cinema", it deserves to be seen, near and far, by as many people as possible.

Too bad the people who really need to see it likely won't watch it...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Exploitation Movies: Assassin of Youth (1937)

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 over-the-top exposé of the evils of marijuana, Assassin of Youth from 1937.

Full movie:

This is one of the classics of anti-marijuana propaganda. Sweet girl Joan Barrie is left her grandmother's fortune, but with an odd morals clause. She has to remain "pure" or she doesn't get the money. This doesn't sit well with her blonde(!) scheming cousin, Linda, who sets out to ruin Joan's reputation so that she can get the money. Odd that the "morals" clause applies only to Joan, but never mind that.

Crusading cub reporter Art Brighton goes undercover to expose the danger of marijuana "right here in River City". We learn that marijuana is the worst drug ever, we are treated to a film-within-the-film lecture by a "noted expert" who lectures us pedantically that the word "assassin" comes from "hashish" (here's the Straight Dope on that) and was applied to a group of paid killers in "Syria and Persia"(?) who smoke the dreaded weed and become robotlike murderers. We are also treated to an overwrought recreation of an insane man's confession that he killed five people -- including his uncle! -- while he was under the influence of the "narcotic weed".

In the festive party atmosphere that surrounds the "kids" in this movie (as usual, a bunch of 25-year-old teenagers), Joan falls in the lake and has to take off her clothes to dry them, Linda "accidentally" sets the clothes on fire, and when they return to town Linda and her boyfriend/secret husband make sure that the town busybody sees Joan wearing nothing. Nothing, that is, but a long trench coat that covers everything.

Along the way Joan's little sister takes a few tokes off of some "reefer", goes into a psychotic breakdown, is subjected to some tsk-tsk-clucking by a narcotics-expert doctor, and lingers on in a semi-vegetative state. The reporter enlists Joan's help in exposing the local dope racket, a comedy scene occurs at the court when the judge is trying to render the will, and everything works out in the end: Art rushes in with his stop-the-presses exposé, Linda is exposed, Joan gets the money, and at the end of the movie she and Art are going to get married.

In short, take away all the drug references and it's just another soap opera.

Also notable, for comic effect: The stoned-out party guy, the town busybody Miss Frisbee and her scooter, and Pop Brady who owns the soda fountain where everyone hangs out when they are not partying. (Even though these are all supposed to be high school kids, we never see the school, never see them in class.)

For what it's worth, the innocent girl/lead character is referred to as "Joan Barry" in all the writeups on this movie, but she is listed as "Joan Barrie" in the credits.

The money shot: When she takes off her wet clothes at the lake we see Joan's white skivvies, and then we see her naked, more or less, in a profile silhoutte. There's also some dancing where the girls raise their skirts to mid-thigh and show some -- gasp -- stocking tops.

Lessons learned: Don't dare take that first reefer. And, since all the reefers presented in these movies look like ordinary cigarettes (nobody hand-rolled joints in those days, it appears), better not to smoke at all. And of course, it goes without saying, don't trust blondes.

Directed by: Elmer Clifton, who also gave us Gambling With Souls and Slaves in Bondage

Taglines: Puff--Party--Tragedy! MARIHUANA - a Puff - a Party - a Tragedy!

Also known as Marihuana and The Marijuana Menace

More reading:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Music Break: FM (No Static At All)

Here's the quintessential jazz-rock band of the 70s and 80s, Steely Dan (which, yes Virginia, was named after a dildo) from the 1978 film FM. It's the title track from the movie, called FM (No Static At All).


A favorite group of mine. I got pretty much all their albums on vinyl, then had to switch to casettes and finally CDs. I am starting to suspect that whole improving-,musical-technology scene was al about selling duplicate copies of albums in the newest and latest formats. Now I have to duplicate them all in .mp3 if I'm going to listen on my iPod. Jeez.

And the beat goes on...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The "No Spin" Zone? Really, O'Reilly?

Our old buddy Bill Orally is at it again. He says that the two female supreme court justices, Ginsburg and Kagan (you know, the ones with the unspeakable "lady parts"), have to recuse themselves from that so-called Gay Marriage case, since they both have officiated at same-sex marriages. That makes them "not impartial" to the issue... As if officiating at an "opposite marriage" wouldn't have the same effect the other way?

Sidebar: Since Clarence "Official SCOTUS House Negro" Thomas officiated at Rush Limbaugh's marriage to wife number three -- or was it four? -- maybe he ought to be impeached for subverting the whole "one man one woman" God-intended concept of marriage. Divorce is one of those Biblical judgments that will be visited on the divorced sinners. Catholics still kind of believe that, Clarence. Maybe you were busy with "other priorities" when you were an altar boy (he is Catholic, you know) and missed that lesson. I fear that God will not judge you kindly for that.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, which is BillO the serial lying hypocrite. It's fine if he believes that justices who have spoken out on a particular topic -- even though neither of the "ladies" on the supreme court have actually commented on the particulars of this or any other same-sex marriage case -- should recuse themselves. Everyone's entitled to an opinion.

Or -- stop the presses! -- maybe two diametrically opposed opinions. Way back in 2006, when Antonin "Tony Quack-Quack" Scalia made a speech in which he quite clearly indicated which way he would rule on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case pending before the court.

Billy the Liar said that only the "nutty left" wanted Scalia to recuse himself, even though it was quite clear which way he would rule in the case.

No spin zone? Really, O'Reilly? Maybe it's because you are the center of the universe, and you don't spin. Everything revolves around you.

Or maybe it could be the PTSD that you caught from some random slut of a loofah mitt back when you were "in a war zone, okay?".

Donations for Nepal

Please donate to Unicef for earthquake relief in Nepal.
They experienced a 7.8 earthquake with much loss of life, over 2,000 people. Click to be taken to the UNICEF page where your dollars will help the suffering children of Nepal.

Your charitable dollars are tax deductible. Please send something now! Even $5 will help a starving and cold child in that far off place.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Poetry Slam -- "To His Coy Mistress"

Introducing a new feature, the Saturday Poetry Slam. We'll see how this goes...

As many of you know, I was an English major in college. What led me to that was a lifelong love of literature, and I figured I could get a degree for just reading stuff I was going to read anyway. I had actually kind of forgotten about how much I liked poetry until recently, when I started revisiting some the poems that had struck my fancy or my psyche or my emotions way back in the salad days of my youth.

Which led me to this classic from the mid-1600s, "To His Coy Mistress",
by Andrew Marvell. On re-reading it, I am amazed once again at how SO not-old this sounds, even though it was written over 300 years ago!

You will note some familiar phrases in this poem, I'm sure. They have served as titles of books or movies, in the last century especially.

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
       But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
       Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Relocation Camp at Manzanar -- A Look Back With Ansel Adams

The great American photographer Ansel Adams was famous for his landscapes, especially his photos of Yosemite National Park.

But it isn't so well known that in 1943 he went to the wartime Japanese-American "relocation camp" at Manzanar, California, and took a series of photographs there. Now, thanks to the SFGate website in San Francisco, we can take a look at 61 of those photos.

Be sure to click them up to full-screen size.

These are good companion photos to my Book of the Month for March, The Train to Crystal City, even though they deal with a different camp. Things weren't all that different in any of those concentration
relocation camps.

I'm Back -- Tanned, Fit, Rested and Ready

Well, since it's been raining like a sonofabitch here all week, I'm lying about the "tanned" part. Probably on shaky ground with the "fit" as well...

Anyway, thanks to all of you for the birthday wishes. Now that I've had some time to settle into being 70, it's not all that different from 69. Age is just a number, they say.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Now I am a Septuagenerian

Today is my birthday. I am 70 years old.

Fuck, where did the last 70 years go? I just learned -- without having taken advantage of it, nudge nudge wink wink -- that for the last decade I was a SEXagenarian... Damn!

Well, you know the old saying. "Time's fun when you're having flies..."

If 60 was the new 50, then obviously 70 is the new 60...

Funny thing, I don't FEEL like I am 70. Not that I'm any kind of expert on what 70 is supposed to feel like, or look like. My father was dead by the time he was my age. It seems like pretty much everyone I knew growing up ended up dead before they were 70.

I don't get why I was spared. It's like one of those dystopian sci-fi movies I am so fond of, like I Am Legend (2007), which also appeared as The Omega Man (1971) or The Last Man on Earth (1964), based on the classic sci-fi novel I Am Legend by the notoriously-paranoid Richard Matheson.

Except not everyone around me is a zombie/vampire/etc.

Wait. I take that back. When I look around and see how many people still vote Republican, I know that I am surrounded by zombies. Or vampires. Or morons. Or something.

Anyway, throughout my 60s I kept remarking on the fact that when I was growing up, people who were in their 60s back then were old. As in Fucking Old! I kind of thought it was just a matter of perspective, like when you were younger than about 10 or so, the years seemed to just creep by, summer vacation was so looong that you were more than ready to go back to school when it was over, just for the novelty, and it took forever to get from one Christmas to the next. But now I am no so sure. Better medical care, better pharmaceuticals, better nutrition, a better lifestyle, better movies, better ... something...

Actually, I think it's all the preservatives that they've been putting in our diet. They not only preserve your food, they also preserve your body. Two hundred years from now, if you dig me up you'll find that I am still that same buff-looking 30-year-old studmuffin that I still see looking back at me when I look in the mirror... Of course now he is kind of peeking around the shape of some old man that I don't know, but he's still there!!!...

All this attention I've been paying to myself and my aging process has inexplicably tired me out. I think I'll be taking take a few days off.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The World's Oldest Profession -- in Modern Vietnam

When I went back to Vietnam in 2008, I went in naively believing that prostitution was illegal and that it would no longer be the kind Wild-West-Everything-Goes attitude I had experienced as a young soldier 40 year earlier.

In fact, things were pretty quiet on the sex-for-sale front in Hanoi. I had only one approach and offer, a really cute little slip of a girl who sidled up to me on the street about ten o'clock at night and asked in a quiet sotto-voce, "Would you like ...mahsshage...? I figured that prostitution still existed but was being run on the q.t., a sort of sub rosa approach to the world's oldest profession.

I asked her a few "journalist" questions, engaging her long enough to look around and see her "guy" idling on a motorcycle a half a block away, looking like he'd leap for a chance to rip my lungs out. I did find out that a blow job would be $40, only eight times what it would have been 40 years earlier. But those 1968 prices were for Saigon, and we were a long way from there. Finally I had to turn her down and she left kind of crestfallen, as though I had personally snatched the $40 out of the mouths of her children. And maybe I had.

But when we got to Saigon Ho Chi Minh City it was Katie Bar the Door! Every tourist hotel in our price range had a small bar attached to it, and those bars were literally crawling with nice, good-looking Suzy-Wong-type hookers. There I learned that most of the girls were sort of freelancers, who worked for the bar itself, and the bar owner took care of the bookkeeping and the protection. Blow jobs had gone up to 60 Dollars, so it doubled the inflation rate to twelve times the going rate back In The Day.

I was -- am still -- happily married at the time and I figured that She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed would not accept my actions as legitimate historical research -- "Please, dear. I had to do it. For my art! For Science!" So I did not take the opportunity to sample the local wares. But I did lean that prostitution is much more prevalent, much more open in Ho Chi Minh City than anywhere else in Vietnam., The cops? They get paid off for looking the other way when not actually providing security for the girls. It all seems to work out well, even though prostitution is still technically illegal there.

Which is why I found a current article in Cracked so interesting: "No Fat Tourists: 5 Rules of Life as a Prostitute in Vietnam". Read it for an eye-opening look at the World's Oldest Profession being conducted in a "Communist" Country. I put quotes around that since it's kind of hard to see a culture that operates almost fully on consumption, has huge advertising billboards along every highway, and has its own stock market as a "communist" country...

Monday Music Break: Warren Zevon, Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner (1978)

Here, from his Excitable Boy CD is Warren Zevon with "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner":

"Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner", ostensibly the story of white mercenaries in Africa in the mid-1960s, was the last song that Zevon performed live, on the Dave Letterman Show just before his untimely death in 2003.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Aaand... Here Is Why Dick Cheney Is NOT Going to Miss Jon Stewart

Check this out, in case you missed The Daily Show yesterday:

Fuck, that is both brilliant comedy gold and incisive -- the incisivestTM -- political commentary, all wrapped up in one delicious ten-minute bite of meat-wrapped chocolate-dipped snark!

While I practically busted a gut from laughing while I was watching it, it also drove up my blood pressure to dangerous levels, from the wrathful rage I harbor for Dick Cheney.

The guy is a bully and a thug and an über-hypocritical asshole. He is also a Republican -- but I repeat myself.

How can someone consistently be that out of touch with who he is and what he has done? That new heart didn't do anything for him except keep him needlessly above the dirt. But, if you are doing the work of The Devil, I guess you don't really think about that stuff...

Here's Why I'm Going to Miss John Stewart

When John Stewart leaves The Daily Show sometime this year, this is the kind of thing we are going to miss:

I'm not at all sure that the new guy can deliver this kind of acerbic commentary on the American political scene. I wish him the best of luck and I will give his show a fair chance. But I gotta tell ya, I'm major-disappointed with Larry Wilmore's show. I hope Trevor Noah will be able to pull it off.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

If It Sounds Too Good to be True...

... it really isn't.

According to an email making the rounds, fellatio decreases the risk of breast cancer for women.

Yeah, sounds legit!

Everything, except the name of the "scientist" who "discovered" this breakthrough:  Dr. B. J. Sooner...

Well, That Backfired

It's clear that Washington State's own Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Blithering Idiot), like most Republicans, lives in a different reality, on a whole other planet.

If you recall, she was the "official" Republican Party anti-Obama ranter after his 2014 State of the Union. During her rebuttal, she brought up one "constituent" of hers, someone she called "Bette from Spokane" who had an enraging tale of woe regarding the Affordable Care Act.

According to this Wonkette story, "Bette from Spokane"

... was kicked off her wonderful health insurance and would have to spend $700 more a month for a new plan under the ACA. Except none of that turned out to be true: Bette’s old “affordable” plan only covered catastrophic care, with a $10,000 annual deductible — though it did include four (4) free office visits a year. And the replacement plan she complained about to McMorris Rodgers was one of the priciest plans offered by her insurer when it canceled her junk insurance — Bette didn’t even bother looking on “that Obama website at all,” because it was communist, although she’d have found several options providing better coverage at the same price as her junk plan.
No one really knows what happened to "Bette from Spokane" -- or if she was even a real person -- but that didn't stop Little Cathy from her vituperative rage against Obamacare. Even though that same trick didn't work for Ted Cruz a year ago, Little Cathy forged ahead and asked her many Facebook followers to help her expose the evil that is Obamacare:
Whether it’s turned your tax filing into a nightmare, you’re facing skyrocketing premiums, or your employer has reduced your work hours, I want to hear about it.
Please share your story with me so that I can better understand the challenges you’re facing:
And share they did! People flooded her Facebook page with "stories of how they’d finally gotten insurance after being denied due to pre-existing conditions, or how their previous private plans covered practically nothing, or how they were healthcare workers who were seeing a lot of new patients who otherwise might have gone to the ER for unaffordable care. Oops."

Actual Facebook screen captures show these responses, too numerous to adequately quote here. Take a look for yourself.

You gotta wonder about the sanity of the Republican Party in general. Is Obamacare perfect? No, but it's the best we've got right now, until we can put Medicare for All into effect.

And that's why it's important to elect Democrats next year. Send the Republican Party where it belongs, into the dustbin of history.

And before you ask, yes that means voting for Hillary Clinton. If we have to. Just to keep another Bush out of the White House...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Must-See Cinema: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948

This week's must-see cinema feature is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre from 1948, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt and Bruce Bennett.


This happens to be one of my very favorite movies of all time. It was based on a 1927 book of the same name (terrific book as well) by the odd mystery-man of American letters B. Traven, and has the dubious distinction of being the likely source for the well-known phrase from the late 60s and early 70s, "don't Bogart that joint". In a famous scene from the movie, one that used to be routinely edited out for television, Bogart and Walter Huston are sharing a "peace pipe" (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) with a bunch of Indios and Bogart says something to the effect of "Why are we passing this around? Why doesn't everybody just have his own?"

Etymology sites will inform you, pedantically, that the phrase comes from Bogart's habit of holding a cigarette between his lips, but I think that it too general, and that the most reliable theory stems from this scene in this movie.

Anyway, the film centers on a group of ne'er-do-well hangers on, barely existing on the scrappy edges of expat life in Mexico, who luck out and find gold -- a lot of gold -- in the mountains. Fred C. Dobbs, the Bogart character, representing Mister Average Man, allows his lust for gold to color his reality, with tragic results which were predicted by The Old Man.

The name Fred C. Dobbs kind of took on a life of its own after the release of this movie, to the point where it made an appearance as the name of a character in, of all things, the television series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and M*A*S*H.

Other references to the movie occur regularly, featuring  the famous line, "I don't got to show you no stinking badges!" Even if you've never even heard of this movie, you will recognize that line.

Directed by Walter Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart and Huston's own father, John Huston. Huston fils won two Academy Awards (Directing and Adaptation) and Huston père won Best Supporting Actor. The film was nominated for Best Picture but lost to Hamlet. Old B. Traven himself, in disguise as his agent Hal Croves, was present for most of the filming.

Watch for a young Robert Blake as the kid who sells Bogart a lottery ticket early in the movie, and a cameo by John Huston himself as the rich American in the white suit that Bogart keeps begging money from in the town square.

More reading:
  · The Treasure of the Sierra Madre on the IMDB.
  · The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  on Rotten Tomatoes
  · The Treasure of the Sierra Madre -- Rent it on Netflix

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Exploitation Movies: Reefer Madness (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.

Today we have the granddaddy of all exploitation moves, and certainly the most notorious. It's the celebrated Reefer Madness from 1936.

Full movie:

It has all the usual stuff -- 25-year-old high school students smoking the dreaded "reefer", hooked on it by nefarious members of a well-dressed gang who maintain an apartment "dope house" where the kids can come and take a break. It doesn't take long for things to fall apart -- as usual in these movies -- and we see in rapid succession the "violence" that marijuana is so well-noted for. A hit and run in a teenagers car is followed by an accidental shooting of the teenager's sister, while all the time we cut to shots of the piano player, "Hotfingers", getting more and more frantic as the dope hits him, and then even more insane when it wears off and he is desperate for his "fix".

It's so perniciously difficult to control because it grows wild in every state, we are told by the stern narrator, and for the addict, it is worse than heroin!

As a casual observer, I was struck by the amount of marijuana smoke being exhaled. It looked quite cinematic with the lights behind it, but nobody ever seemed to inhale it. It must have been some good shit if they all got that high just from a mouth hit.

The money shot: No nudity, but it's a treat to watch Hophead Ralph turn rapidly into rank, raving insanity from the effects of his addiction to marijuana.

Lessons learned: Don't take that cigarette, even if the person offering it looks trustworthy. Don't trust people in suits maintaining an apartment just for high school kids to hang out. And of course, the big boss of the dope ring has a mustache.

I first saw this in a smoke-filled art theater in Isla Vista CA, just off the UC Santa Barbara campus in 1974. The smoke was so thick that you could barely see the screen, and the audience was so loud with its catcalls that you could hardly hear the dialogue.

Directed by: Louis Gastner. The original move was a straight informative documentary-type presentation intended to "warn the children" until our old buddy, Dwain Esper got hold of it. He recut it to make it seem more salacious and bring in better box office on the exploitation circuit.

This is the film that went missing for 30 some years, until was rediscovered in the spring of 1972 by the founder of NORML, Keith Stroup, who found a copy of the film in the Library of Congress archives and bought a print for $297. It became an instant hit among the youthful college student hippie-types of the world. and it also ushered in a new Golden Era for exploitation films in general. It was named by film critics as one of the worst films ever made -- and when you look at the list, that is some impressive company..

Taglines:  SEE youthful marijuana victims - what actually happens! Sin - degradation - vice - insanity! Tell your children! Women Cry For It - Men Die For It! The Sweet "Pill" That Makes Life BITTER! Adults Only! Drug Crazed Abandon! 65 years later, audiences are still hooked! It's Public Enemy, Number One!

Also known as Tell Your Children (Original title), Dope Addict, Doped Youth, Love Madness, The Burning Question

More reading:
   · Reefer Madness on the IMDB
   · Reefer Madness on Rotten Tomatoes

Monday, April 13, 2015

President Dick Cheney? RUFKM??!!

Now that the Republican Clown Car is getting more and more riders, it's apparently time to insert the most tragically laughable candidate of all: Dick Cheney.

Yes, you read that right. Over the weekend George "I'm-not-a-liberal-but-I-play-one-on-television" Stephanopoulos asked his "round table" guests, who is the "most promising Republican" who is not already in the race for the White House in 2016. "Most promising Republican"??? Yes, really.

A surprise nomination: Dick Cheney! 

According to the rightwing eminence-grise and always-wrong Billy Kristol, “If they get to nominate Hillary Clinton, why don’t we get to nominate Dick Cheney? I mean, he has a much – he has a much better record. He has a much better record.” (I can almost hear the schoolyard "if she gets it then we get it, it's not fair!" whine)

A record of what? Encouraging Baby Doc Bush to invade the Middle East in a new Crusade? Pimping lies to the media about the totally "there can be no doubt" non-existent connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda? Expounding in mightily-grave tones about the mysteriously-vanishing weapons of mass destruction that Saddam had, then didn't have, then had again, then put onto Greyhound buses or something and shipped off to Syria where, presumably, they've now fallen into the hands of ISIL/ISIS, who inexplicably have not yet deployed them (am I the only person who's been paying attention to this shit...)?

Okay, by now everyone knows how I feel about Dick Cheney. But a President Dick Cheney? It boggles the mind. I'm really not ready for another Clinton, but if it's another (even if "another" means "the original") Cheney... Well, given my outspoken hatred for the man, it's probably best if I start looking for some foreign clime that doesn't have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Not that it will matter much. It's a simple task to "disappear" someone off the streets of any urban area, anywhere on the globe, and whisk them away to an unknown location for "enhanced interrogation".

If, by some weird happenstance, the next president is Dick Cheney, WASF. Just remember I said that, after I vanish into seemingly thin air...

Monday Music Break: The Rabbit of Seville and That's Opera Doc

To keep the opera theme going for a third week, I proudly present Looney Tunes The Rabbit of Seville from 1950, starring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

The Barber of Seville was the very first opera She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I saw at Seattle Opera's McCaw Hall many years ago. Naturally, I was especially interested in seeing how it compared to "the original" (i.e., this version). My verdict? Not bad, but a lot longer...

Sorry about the kind of odd-looking colors. This was the best one I could find. It has all the zany anarchy of a regular Looney Tune cartoon, with the added bonus of music from the overture to the Barber of Seville. It is hilarious, one of the best cartoons in the Looney Tunes catalog. I never get tired of watching it. And, interestingly enough, in 1950 no one panicked when a little bald guy with a gun started shooting at a rabbit on the stage -- it really was a different time. So different that barber shops such as the one suggested in this cartoon hardly exist any more. I think there are maybe one or two old-school barber shops left in my whole county.

The only other time that the great Chuck Jones and his group of brilliant animators tackled opera again was in 1957 with What's Opera Doc? where they take on Richard Wagner and primarily Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung):

I guess it was too hard to animate a 6-minute short set to opera music and make it conform to the traditional Looney Tunes visual craziness, so we are left with only two examples of what could have been an incredible body of musical parody masterpieces.

To the people that turned them into an Internet-friendly format and posted them on YouTube: Thanks, guys! Now  we'll have them forever!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Vermont to Capture 70s Counterculture

In another story, I see that the Vermont State Historical Society is collecting memorabilia and other things for a projected museum piece on Vermont's hippies and the 70s Counterculture.

Aside from peace signs and food cooperatives, the 1970s influx of longhaired youth to Vermont brought experimental communes to the hillsides and social activism, as well as drug use and fears of a hippie invasion.
Now the Vermont Historical Society is collecting stories and artifacts in a two-year study to document the lasting influence the decade has had on the state. It's holding forums around the state for people to tell their stories, good and bad, about that era in Vermont.
"The hippie generation is not just drugs, sex and rock and roll, as we all can attest to," Ann Taylor, 63, said at a forum last week in Burlington. "What I truly love is that we were involved politically, back to earth. We care about nature, we understand the wellness concept and what that is."
Sounds like fun. I can't wait to see the final product Of course actually getting to Vermont might be a problem for an elderly shut-in on a fixed income...

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have "Daddy Issues"?

Say it ain't so, daddy!

Yeah, you don't have to be an armchair psychologist to know that, but Ana Marie Cox has the inside dope over at The Daily Beast. It's the inverse of that famous and lasting Republican wet-dream, that Obama suckled on the mother's milk of International Communism from his daddy-surrogate, Frank Davis, flipped on its head and reversed in the mirror.

But if you think it’s even possible that sitting at the knee of Frank Marshall Davis could turn Obama into the Manchurian Candidate, then shouldn’t you care that in the Cruz and Rand households, the ideological indoctrination was intentional, specific, and continued long into adulthood?
Fuck, it's gonna be a long election season. At least we have the early passengers in the Republican Clown Car to laugh at, with the potential for so many more climbing in before, as I say, the adults take over and anoint their fair-haired boy/heir apparent, Jeb Bush. Or, since he thinks he is "Hispanic" (at least when it comes to voting), maybe I should say "Heb" Bush...

Sharia Law

For those who, like me, are concerned that Sharia Law (The Law of ISLAM!!!)  is being brought to America:

Saturday, April 11, 2015

An Act of Mormon Courage

The Mormon Church has always made a big deal of getting their true believers to buy into their shit. In every regular meeting, let alone things like the General Conference, they demand that everyone display their fealty to the cult leaders but "voting" en masse to support and sustain "The Prophet, Seer and Revelator" and the so-called First Presidency (which consists of the Prophet and two of his minions). Not only that, they are expected to vote to support and sustain the Twelve Apostles, and pretty much everyone down a lengthy hierarchy, including their own "ward" or "branch" leaders. To which they "signify" by a showing of hands.

But at the last General Conference of the church, all was not well in Zion.

Seven people actually went against the massive flow of "supporting and sustaining" and shouted, in answer to the regular pro-forma question of supporting the Prophet, "Opposed!"

In the tight-knit conservative, über-conformist cult that is modern Mormonism, that was an act of astounding courage. My hat is off to those seven people who were willing to stand up and call "bullshit" on what they clearly saw, and what clearly was and clearly remains, "bullshit".

Oh, and any of you Mormons who are reading this and who are questioning your faith, you don't have to suffer your spiritual crisis all by yourself. Drop by and they will help you. You are not alone.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Without a Trace of Irony -- or Embarrassment

I note that one "L. Tom" (who calls themselves that?) Perry, of The Twelve -- the twelve Mormon apostles, that is -- made an interesting comment at the One True ChurchTM annual conference last weekend:

Speaker after Mormon speaker warned Saturday about the need to defend "traditional families" — a legally married mother and father, who rear their children together — and about the dangers of "counterfeit and alternative lifestyles."
. . .
Perry, who at age 92 is the oldest Mormon apostle, lamented the media's glorification of "immorality and amorality," suggesting that it makes it harder to keep marriages and families intact.
"Despite what much of media and entertainment outlets may suggest, however, and despite the very real decline in the marriage and family orientation of some," he said, "the solid majority of mankind still believes that marriage should be between one man and one woman." [emphasis added]
Are you fucking kidding me? One man and one woman? Counterfeit and alternative lifestyles? This coming from the prime purveyor and practitioner of polygamy in this country for most of the 19th Century?

Yes, I mean the Mormon Church!!!

Jesus wept...

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Damn "Gotcha" Journalism

Rand Paul thinks he needs to "mansplain" things to a CNBC interviewer who practices "gotcha" journalism. You know, the kind of journalism where "reporters" ask "questions".

Wonkette has the the whole sordid tale, along with the full video interview that shows Rand Paul's bubbly personality and total sincerity and complete consistency in his stated views over the years.

Oh, and vaccines are good unless they are bad and parents should have the choice to let their children die from preventable diseases. Because, duh, freedom!

Plus, as Wonkette points out, he's being kind of a dick about it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Must-See Cinema: Going Clear 2015

By now you've probably heard of the HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief that premiered last week. If you haven't watched it, track it down and see it. If you don't have HBO at home already, this is the best reason to get it. If not, you can wait until Netflix gets it at some undetermined date in the future -- at least you can put it into your "I Want This When It Is Released" queue.


This film does a complete exposé on the cult that is Scientology, based on interviews with a number of high-level defectors, showing how founder L. Ron Hubbard -- significantly a science-fiction writer -- cobbled together his weird system of belief out of his own paranoia, and was able to seduce a huge number of people -- mostly disaffected youth at the beginning -- into joining his secret brotherhood. It also explains how Scientology was able to convince the IRS that it was really a church, and thereby protect its over one billion dollars -- yes, over ONE BILLION -- in assets from being taxed.

As you would expect, the famous Scientologists are covered -- Tom Cruise and John Travolta especially, who are the celebrity faces of Scientology. The movie goes into some detail as to why they still remain in the cult and why they appear to have accepted and condoned the abuses of Scientology leaders of other members.

It's an enlightening and scary look into the inner workings of Scientology, and enough to piss you off that so many people can be taken in by simple brainwashing techniques applied to them expertly by their "auditors". These secrets are exposed by actual former cult members, many of them high-level, who came out and who are not afraid to speak out despite the many threats and legal actions the cult is willing to take towards them.

The one thing that they all feel -- and this is common among former members of any cult -- is how embarrassed they are by their former lives in the cult.

Not for the faint of heart, but still a must-see documentary.

More reading:
  · Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief on the IMDB.
  · 10 Bizarre Snapshots from the World of Scientology on Listverse
  · Top 10 Problems with Scientology on Listverse
  · Top 10 Evils of Scientology on Listverse.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Exploitation Movies: Damaged Lives (1933)

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 we present Damaged Lives from 1933, a "scared straight" cautionary tale about the dreaded social disease, syphilis.

Full movie:

Young upcoming shipping company executive/man about town, Donald Bradley, skips a date with his fianceé to go to a "business meeting" -- which just coincidentally is taking place at one of those swanky New York nightclubs -- where he hooks up with a blonde socialite, takes her home and the inevitable happens.

Normal one-night-stand. Except he also gets "it" from her. In a lengthy emotional scene the socialite tells Don that she has "it" and has passed "it" on to him. She can't quite bring herself to actually say it, but he gets the drift, and then she shoots herself.

Don gets married to longtime girlfriend Joan, and then a few months later the family doctor (played by Jason Robards Sr.) shows up at Don's office. After some arm-twisting they go to a "famous clinic" to confer with a "famous doctor", who breaks the dreaded news that both Don and Joan have ... syphilis! To make matters worse, Joan is pregnant!

There's a "scared straight" shock-walk through the clinic (footage obviously lifted from some medical documentary), where the doctor opens various doors for a little look-see at the patients, each of whom is worse than the last. Symptoms range from the minor "physical ataxia" (evidenced by continuous leg motions, like dancing) to the worst, a wheelchair-bound mental defective woman who has seven children, each of whom has separate but typical symptoms of congenital syphilis, in a laundry list ranging from mild retardation to death.

Back in their fancy-schmancy New York apartment, Joan is ready to end it all. She closes the curtains and the outside door, turns on the gas and waits for death next to a sleeping Don. Who wakes up just in time to open the door, turn off the gas, and convince Joan that they are getting the cure, their baby will be all right. Fade to black.

The money shot: None, although the Wikipedia article says, "noteworthy for containing one of the earliest filmed nude scenes in a sequence where a group of fun-loving women strip naked and go skinny dipping". I checked out several copies of this film and none of them have this scene. Moreover, there really isn't a logical place in this movie for this scene to have taken place. I think somebody got this wrong -- this description sounds more like

Monday, April 06, 2015

Monday Music Break: O Mio Babbino Caro

To keep the opera theme going, with a twist, here's a scene from Mr. Bean's Holiday, featuring Rowan Atkinson lip-synching to O Mio Babbino Caro:

This is from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini. While this is one of my very favorite favorite arias, the opera itself is seldom performed since it is basically a one-act play and too brief for opera goers to feel that they really got their money's worth.

For those who are, like me, really into it, that's soprano Rita Streich actually singing the aria.

   · Mr. Bean's Holiday on the IMDB
   · Mr. Bean's Holiday (Full Movie) on YouTube
   · O Mio Babbino Caro on the Aria Database

Saturday, April 04, 2015

You Still Ready for Warren? Take Action

I'm still Ready for Warren -- Elizabeth Warren for President in 2016! How about you?

If you are, you can do something about it. Go to Endorse Warren and add your name to the growing list of people who want a True Progressive heading the Democratic ticket in 2016.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Beast of Revelation? It's Fox News!

I am not making this up. If you assign its numerical value to each of the letters in F-O-X, you get something pretty really scary:

F = 6 (i.e., it's the sixth letter of the alphabet, so it's "6")
0 = 15 (add them together: 1+5= "6")
X = 24 (add them together: 2+4= "6")

FOX = 666!!!

And 666*, as all Biblical "scholars" know, is The Number of the Beast in the schizophrenic hallucinogenic-mushroom-infused fever-dream that is the so-called Book of Revelation.

Jesus! It's right there! Wake up, all you fundo Christianists! You are watching the official media outlet of Satan himself!!!!

* Unless it really is "616", as it appears in many early manuscripts of Revelation, in which case all bets are off. Unless ... F-A-X would fit nicely into this little adventure in apophenia, meaning that all fax machines are the tools of the devil.

But, regardless of the numbers, the world will still end, all Arby's coupons will be null and void, and alternate-side-of-the-street parking will be suspended.

Jesus is coming, look busy!

[HT to this Newscorpse story for the numerology demonstration]

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Woman Who Wasn't There: 9/11 and Stolen Valor

Stolen valor. It's common enough thing, people claiming that they were some kind of "war hero" when they've never even been there. I'm not talking about the kind of "résumé enhancement" that occurs when someone wears, say, a Unit Presidential Citation ribbon when they actually served in the unit after it received the citation. Everyone has done that kind of thing to some extent in their lives -- it's called résumé enhancement for a reason.

No, I am talking about the thousands of so-called Vietnam veterans who never spent a day in uniform, let alone in-country in Vietnam. It's a big enough problem that the Vietnam Veterans of America have a page devoted to it, A Legend in Their Own Minds: Poseurs, Fakes, and Wannabes.

It's despicable, but it's also kind of understandable. These guys feel like they missed out, and now they want to be seen as part of the biggest adventure there was for men of my generation to have. Regardless of the fact that war was unpopular, and many of us who were there would  have really rather been doing something else somewhere else --  all of us had "other priorities", in the words of our draft-dodging vice president, Dick Cheney.

But it didn't occur to me that other events could have their own fakers. I just watched a documentary movie called The Woman Who Wasn't There, about someone calling herself Tania Head, who went to far-reaching and elaborate lengths to present herself as a survivor of 9/11. She constructed such a convincing back story that real 9/11 survivors embraced her and elevated her to the position of president of the survivors' group.

Ultimately her story, elaborately constructed though it was, just couldn't stand up to the smallest bit of scrutiny. As soon as a New York Times reporter started digging into it, the whole pack of lies collapsed and she disappeared.

Watch the movie for an eye-opening look at an obviously disturbed woman and the skillful manipulations she worked on the real survivors. Oddly enough, it appears that she never made any money off her impersonation, which makes it even more weird.

Watch it streaming on Netflix, but hurry because it won't be around after April 16.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Book of the Month: Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam 1973-75

Forty years ago this month the Vietnam war ended. It's kind of hard to believe that it's already been 40 years...

For most Americans, the Vietnam War ended in 1973 with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, the release of the American POWs, and the last American troops withdrawn from Vietnam. Then there's a big blank spot in everyone's knowledge about Vietnam until April 1975, when we saw on television the North Vietnamese tanks smashing down the fence at the presidential palace, the helicopters evacuating the remaining Americans -- along with a few of our South Vietnamese allies -- and Vietnam "falling" to the communists.

Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam 1973-75 by George J. Veith is a meticulously-researched documentation of what really happened during those two years between the time we left Vietnam until North Vietnam's final victory, from Richard Nixon's mendacity towards South Vietnam's Nguyen Van Thieu ("Of course the United States will attack Hanoi if they break the accords. Now, sign here.") to the war-criminal behavior of Henry Kissinger (who, against all reason, was awarded a joint Nobel Peace Prize along with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho, who at least had the good graces to turn it down), from the base corruption of the South Vietnam government to the bravery-in-the-face-of-impossible-odds of the South Vietnamese military.

The two years covered in this book came at the end of a full decade of American attempts to bomb North Vietnam back to the stone age, a decade of arraying the military might of a nation that had won WWII and was trying to use the same tactics on a civilian-based guerrilla-war enemy.

Ironically, from 1945 to 1973 almost the entire Ten Thousand Day War had been fought primarily as a hit-and-run guerrilla-action civil war. There were exceptions -- Dien Binh Phu, Khe Sanh and Lam Son 719 -- but it was only in 1973 that North Vietnam's strategy changed to the traditional armor-with-infantry attack-and-conquer tactics that won WWII. Then they were able to sweep down from the DMZ to swallow up South Vietnam.

Was it not inevitable? Was any other outcome possible? Veith seems to think there was, but I differ with that assessment.

How many times have you heard from revisionist-history "buffs" who want so desperately to believe it, that the war could have been won, If Only: If only the politicians had gotten out of the way and let the military fight, if only the anti-American leftwing journalists in the liberal media had reported "the truth" instead of pro-commie propaganda, if only Jane Fonda and her dirty maggot-infested hippie bums back home hadn't demonstrated against the war and given "aid and comfort to the enemy", not to mention the latest adventure into historical revisionism, the North Vietnamese were beaten and ready to "give up", but the politicians (i.e., the Democrats in Congress) wouldn't help South Vietnam.

Not that I believe for a minute that the North Vietnamese were ready to "give up" -- whatever you take that to mean -- but let's just pretend for the moment that they were.

So what? All that would have meant, in the long run, is that North Vietnam was ready to take a break, a vacation as it were, from the fighting, to give themselves time to rebuild the Viet Cong infrastructure in the south and their own army in the North. They had been at this since 1945 and they weren't about to let something like a cease fire, or even a "peace accord" stop them. They would never -- I repeat never -- have signed the kind of unconditional surrender that the Japanese were forced into at the end of WWII. At best (for the US) what would have happened was that we'd have had another Korea-like stalemate, in SE Asia this time, while North Vietnam would have had the breathing space it needed to rebuild.

The US had given only half-hearted support to the war even from the beginning. No one really knew why we were there, despite the assurances of Johnson and Nixon, and the US was facing the unwavering deterministic belief of the North Vietnamese that Marxist historical precedent, established in Russia and China, was inevitably on their side.

And, unlike in Korea, many of the South Vietnamese were supportive of reunification of the artificially-divided two Vietnams, and that reunification would have been -- could only have been -- under the regime of Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnam.

This book is military history primarily, and to the casual reader much of the detail of individual battles can be mind-numbing, but the overall descriptions of the blitzkrieg that Hanoi unleashed on South Vietnam -- and South Vietnam's heroic resistance to it -- are great.

We forget the lessons of Vietnam at our peril. As we have seen already in this century.

Must-See Cinema: Kill the Messenger 2014

Back in January I wrote a piece entitled Who Killed Gary Webb?, reviewing the book Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb, by Nick Shou. It was all about the California journalist who blew open the CIA-Contra-Crack Cocaine connection, and who, for his trouble, was rewarded with having his career ruined and his life ended abruptly.

I mentioned then that it had been made into a movie, but I hadn't see it. Now I have.


It's a highly credible account of Gary Webb and the ways in which he was destroyed for daring to expose the crimes of the US government. Of course the film can't go into the detail that was in the book, but it does a good job of presenting the top-level events and actions.

You'll see a lot of familiar faces here, including Academy Award winner Jeremy Renner as Webb, and the inimitable Michael K. Williams as "Freeway" Rick Ross.

You can get it from Netflix, who seemed to take their own sweet time in getting it out. But never mind that, it's here and available and definitely worth watching.

More reading:
  · Kill the Messenger on the IMDB.
  · Kill the Messenger on Wikipedia.