Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Moon and the Stars

Happy Valentine's Day to mine

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sacred Heart

It is her birthday month. The Saint was perhaps the deepest and most beautiful thinker of her century.

Simone Weil left us with these five self-judgments:
1. Not to be dishonored.

2. Not to die without having existed.

3. To traverse this somber age in manly (or womanly) fashion.

4. To perish with a clear vision of the world we shall be leaving behind.

5. To work toward a clear comprehension of the object of our efforts, so that, if we cannot accomplish it, we may at least have willed it, and not just have desired it blindly.
Her essay on concentration ("Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God"), concentration being the ultimate act of love, puts the reader in a state of Grace.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Near Dark

Two People (1945) is the bête noire of Carl Dreyer's monumental career. Made a year after Day of Wrath, it has been a work ignored or shunned by film historians and critics, Dreyer fans, and most intensely by the director himself. (Dreyer fought a long and costly legal battle to get his name off it. He lost.) So presumed has been the movie's worthlessness, it has been seen by very few; and has therefore been difficult to see until recently. The script was taken from Dreyer and changed in several major ways by his studio. His casting demands were ignored. And one scene Dreyer insisted must be cut was not eliminated. Yet Two People is a secret masterpiece, one which could have been made by no one else.

For 71 ardent minutes, we are in one apartment containing two people: a husband (Georg Rydeberg) and a wife (Wanda Rothgardt). The man has been accused of professional theft by a famous and powerful colleague, a colleague once involved with the man's wife and who winds up dead, at first an announced suicide then later discovered to be a murder victim. Dreyer sends us back and forth: Did the husband do it? Did the wife? Maybe neither.

Hence the story. What makes the work pure Dreyer is the sexual repression and sexual license flowing from the same source: a power-saturated system of evil surrounding the characters. In many ways, Two People is Carl Dreyer's attack on the morally-benumbed Danish middle class, the Professional class, thriving while immersed in compromise, intrigue, and death: it was made -- as was Day of Wrath -- under Nazi occupation. So the characters dwell in the land of sexual and professional betrayal, embraced by glowing white walls and swooning art music. Yet the walls are filled with shadow. And Dreyer's angles and cuts move deeper and deeper into darkness. And in the face of moral reckoning: escape through suicide.

After 70 years, Two People speaks to us strongly: professional and sexual obsessions inside a Death State.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Brief Encounter II

Chris Floyd on the Iowa carcasses:
People have been getting the analogies wrong. Trump is not the new Hitler; he's Goering ~ a big, shambling, self-inflated, sinister showoff. Your Hitler figure is Cruz: a humorless, blinkered crank driven by hate, resentment and an abiding sense of divine destiny. And if analogies are your bag, here's another one: "It was Barzini all along."

Monday, February 1, 2016

What is a Liberal?

Surely not the corporate pimps that Iowa turkeys are caucusing about tonight.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Dave Brubeck, piano
Paul Desmond, alto sax
Norman Bates, bass
Joe Morello, drums

"Plain Song"
"Curtain Time"
"Sounds of the Loop"
"Home at Last"

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Brief Encounter

Friday, January 22, 2016


It goes to show. If you cut yourself off enough from the filth and depredations of our current century, occasionally you'll lose touch with the glories of past centuries.

Setsuko Hara died last September. I learned of her death this week. She was 95 and passed never having been seen again by the world outside the Shinto temple she retired to in 1963. Hara was the great female star of Japanese movies through the 40s, 50s, and early-60s; but when her mentor (she was his muse) Yasujiro Ozu died in December '63, Hara disappeared into the mists of incomparable moments forever untouched by age, earthly corruptions, or movie marketeering.

For Ozu, she was everything female, aside from sex: sorrow, gentleness, longing, heartbreak, the disappointments of the world. She was also great for Kinoshita and Naruse and Kurosawa, who all saw her more as a flesh-and-blood postwar Japanese woman, someone who ate, felt bitterness, could be petty and deceptive, and actually kissed. Of all the major directors from Japan's golden age, only Mizoguchi never used her. Hara would have melted under his fire.

Her greatest film and perhaps the greatest film from the golden age not directed by Mizoguchi.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Honorable Men

Professor Peter Dale Scott and journalist David Talbot speak of the 20th-century American Satan, Allen Dulles.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Stations of the Cross

Robert F. Kennedy, the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Mensch and the Murderer

Through its first six Crackle seasons, Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee has been an oasis in our current comedy desert of sour knowing nihilistic vomit, with Adolf MacFarlane being, of course, our reigning Vomit Führer; and funny -- actually, not so funny -- how the vomit factory never seems to touch where or what the United States Fourth Reich is and is fast becoming, beyond the gutsy jokes about Donald Trump's hair. CICDC is warm, cheerful, good-hearted and self-deprecatory ~ as we would expect from the comedian who comes closest to defining the word mensch.

(Many other comedy oases can be found, btw, in the 2016 cartoon world: Teen Titans Go!, Adventure Time, Wander Over Yonder, Robot Boy, Gumball, Atomic Betty.)

Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee is also gentle. Maybe too gentle.

Each episode Jerry chooses and drives a car he thinks matches the personality / style of his guest.


Look at the lines on that car: beauty, summer, flash, optimism, grace, masculinity, modesty, wit, sex. No. This is the man who embodies the 1963 Corvette, the man who gave it birth.

Barack Obama is this:

And this:

And this:

Access to the White House must be quite the coup, yet Jerry is in an agonal state throughout, trying to pretend the stiff is actually interesting and funny. It must have put Seinfeld in mind of this, from January of '93.

Obama isn't even that funny. But this guy is, a lot funnier.

This is the real Barack Obama.

Ha, ha.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Semper Fi

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler:
War is just a racket. There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
On the other hand:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Born 97 years ago this week.

"Sunday Stroll" -- maybe the most beautiful six minutes in jazz.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Stand Still Like the Hummingbird

Will be one way to survive 2016 ~ America's Year Zero.

Henry Miller.

Friday, January 1, 2016

When It Rains

Going back a couple or three decades, even with the perspective time gives which tends to goldenize works from the past, there hasn't been much to cheer about in the dreary Marketeer world of American movies. Look at our recent director heroes: Clint Eastwood, the Coen Brothers, M. Knight Shyamalan, James Cameron, David Fincher, Ronnie Howard, Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, Ang Lee, Kathryn Bigelow, Spike Jonzzzzz, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofksy, Peter Jackson.

Christ. . .

The exception that proves the point: Charles Burnett.

Funny, because the greatest American filmmaker of his generation can't seem to find work. Since 1995, the year of "When It Rains," Burnett has been allowed to direct nine made-for-TV movies destined for the Hallmark Channel or Lifetime; and a half-dozen mostly self-financed shorts. Theatrical features since 1995? None. (Ron Howard and the Coen Boys?: Forty.)

Jonathan Rosenbaum:
A strong case can be made that Charles Burnett is the most gifted and important black filmmaker this country has ever had. . . . Given the difficulties he had in the 70s and 80s [and 90s and 00s and 10s] getting films made, Burnett seems in danger of becoming our Carl Dreyer -- the consummate master who makes a film a decade, known only to a small band of film lovers.
Rosenbaum lists the 13-minute short "When It Rains" as one of the ten greatest movies ever made.

A good way to begin the New Year.