Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Beyond Grace

In many ways, his speech at the United Nations, September 20, 1963, is a more radical moment than was the astonishment of American University, three months before. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty had been signed and was days away from Senate confirmation. The Civil Rights Bill had been entered into the constipated corrupt halls of Congress; and the March on Washington had just been celebrated. Medgar Evers was dead. And children had died: four little girls in Birmingham, five days before; and the President's own prematurely born son, Patrick, in early August.

Here Kennedy recognizes the State of Grace the world had entered into in 1963, thanks to himself, to Nikita Khrushchev, to Pope John XXIII and other leaders. And how fragile that State was. He calls not for an end to the arms race, but for total worldwide disarmament. He calls for a newly established worldwide food distribution program, one particularly embracing poor children. Calls for the creation of organizations across borders providing health care, farm subsidies and equipment, science education and laboratories, for all in need. New laws and enforcement power preserving the beauties and health of our natural environment. And a new United Nations charter strengthening human and civil rights treaties and courts, proposing new laws and courts should conflicts arise not covered by existing measures.

Most stunning -- and self-destructive -- of all is his call for an end to the space race, for a unified effort to explore the stars, the planets, the moon -- and a ban on all outer space weapons and military-oriented satellites. This, combined with Kennedy's refusal to Americanize the war in Southeast Asia, would have cost the corporate/military/intelligence vampires trillions of dollars.

They wouldn't lose a dime, thanks to the greatest American mass murderer of the 20th Century -- and one of Kennedy's assassins -- Lyndon Johnson.

It is a celebration of hope, community, cooperation, and all we hold dear on our short journey from birth to death. "My fellow inhabitants of this planet. . . ."

My God, how far we've fallen. . .

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Three Deaths

Jim DiEugenio on three murders that forever destroyed Third World nationalism.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


The Mount Rushmore of modern American Comedy: Pryor, Steve Allen, Newhart.

Bill Hicks.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Remembering 9/11

Forty-four years ago today, the US national security state murdered Chile's President, overthrew his elected Workers/Socialist government, and installed a fascist corporate totalitarian state which now seems to've been the future model for the USA itself. Under the business dictatorship headed by mass murderer Augusto Pinochet -- hero to the Chicago School of Economics -- tens of thousands were murdered or forced to flee their land, hundreds of thousands were imprisoned and tortured.

In memory.

Sunday, September 10, 2017



Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Greatest Movie Solo Dance Ever?

Yes, it is done in blackface. And yes we don't do things like that anymore. Yet Fred Astaire's tribute to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is so deep from the heart; and so beyond race.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Which Kind Are You?

The Marrying Kind:  what does that mean? As one who once married young and for love, I really don't know. I suspect, generally and not counting shotgun weddings, it refers to a personality more earnest than others, perhaps naive and silly, and certainly terribly optimistic. (Whoever said a "second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience" got it backwards. It's the first marriage that's pure hope.)

Director George Cukor decided to make a movie in search of the answer. New York City, which in 1952 included all the boroughs, not just Zagat Island. Young working-class newlyweds caught up in the deliriums of post-World War II America. Judy Holliday and a fine new actor, ex-prizefighter Aldo Ray. In-laws, broken dreams, money troubles; and the death of a child. The Marrying Kind find themselves pulled apart by The Practical Kind -- all those ready to provide every unmagical reason in the world to not stay together.

The movie says, "No -- love is not blind. In fact, love is the only state in which we truly see someone. To lose love is to lose vision, to lose understanding." For then the loved one becomes just like everybody else.

It is a very dear film. And how lovely to see a New York City that does not take itself too seriously, a place where people have real jobs (and real accents!).

Monday, September 4, 2017

Scab Nation

Professor Richard Wolff on the Land of Disunion and a possible world beyond.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Crazy 8

To the blog!

And to Rob! (The Dick Van Dyke Show premiered 56 years ago this month.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Be Afraid

David Cronenberg's The Fly premiered over thirty years ago this month and seems to have been largely forgotten. (While other US movies of the period continue to receive attentions and accolades -- Hannah and Her Sisters, Platoon, Back to the Future, After Hours, friggin' Blue Velvet.) Upon release it was generally (Kael, for once, got it right) dismissed as just another hi-tech remake and gross-out movie. It is instead one of the great works of art of the 1980s, a movie about separation and loneliness, fear of love and sex, fear of communion and hope. It is about Reaganism and what the 1980s did to our emotional culture. Consciously or not (we know Cronenberg's father died during production of a terrible cancer), the director seems to have sensed that we were taking a turn, that our hearts we're growing quieter, something of the best in human life was now going away forever; that what was public and communal would now be forced back into the darkness of privacy; from now on we would have to look more inward for satisfaction and understanding, through imposed hatred of all things public and the increased dominance of technology. Very hard to watch, it is a movie of overwhelming pain and sorrow and loss, with only three major speaking-parts in its almost 100 minutes.

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a genius scientist who works and lives in a warehouse on the dark side of the moon, his only companions being his lab animals. At a science convention Brundle meets a magazine reporter (Geena Davis, Goldman’s soon-to-be-wife of three years) who takes up the goofy and earnest man’s invitation to see something which will “change the world as we know it.” Indeed. We sense that Seth has tried this approach before, without much success. Since Ronnie (the reporter) hands over one of her silk stockings while flashing a gorgeous leg right after arriving at the warehouse, she must like him. Her first stance toward him, however, is a rather knowing condescension – until he demonstrates what will change their worlds: he “teleports” the silk stocking from one “telepod” to another (initially she calls them “designer phone booths”). She rushes back to her magazine’s editor-in-chief, a typical prick mediocrity perfectly played by John Getz. Seth is outraged and he convinces her (and the editor) to wait. He offers to bring her with him, step-by-step, until he and his travel/space revolution is ready to launch; and in hopes she will along the way fall in love with him. She does. Almost from the moment she does, he (literally) begins to fall apart. And the rich red aroma of sorrow – embraced by Howard Shore’s Grunenwald-like score and captured by DP Mark Irwin’s Tintoretto darkness – descends like a mourning veil.

Brundle is a man who wants nothing more than to love, to be part of something other than his own mind. Something it is not in his nature, or destiny, for him to have. He follows his self-destruction and lonely descent into hell with purity and courage. He does not fight it. It is all he really knows. After successfully teleporting a lovely baboon (his first attempt was not successful), Ronnie suddenly leaves him – to finally rid herself of the prick boss/ex-boyfriend. Within moments of her leaving him, Seth begins to fade, feel insecure, jealous and possessive. He drinks, gets quickly drunk, and in a stupor decides to teleport himself before the pods are ready. Successfully he believes.

Ronnie returns to him and they fall. At first, she makes him feel like a sexual superman. When we next see the couple in public, Seth is in full Yuppie regalia, turned into a would-be Don Johnson. He's now rocketing and she cannot keep up, she is too sexually square for this once and future shut-in. So he dumps her, after degrading her. “I don’t need you anymore! Never come back here!” He decides to prowl the streets and kick some Gentrification City ass. (Literally Toronto but a stand-in for Portland or Seattle or the Loop or some other pseudo-hipster shithole). After breaking an arm or two in half, he feels like the toughest stud in town.

Apart from Ronnie, the descent is fast, as he quickly becomes as physically repulsive as he must have feared he was his whole life. After a month, he asks her to return. He has been turned – like the failed attempt with the first baboon – inside/out, his fear and self-loathing now exposed for her to see. She has no choice but to turn away.

I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man,
and loved it. But now the dream is over,
and the insect is awake.

She shakes her head. But soon, Ronnie will plead with Getz to arrange an immediate abortion, words Seth will hear:

You should have seen him!
There could be anything in here,
in me, in my body. . .
I don’t want it in my body!

Penultimately, she is to kill his baby. Finally, he commits suicide by begging his loved one to murder him.

He also instructs her about Insect Politics:

Insects don't have politics.
They’re very brutal.
No compassion.
No compromise.
We can’t trust the insect.

A perfect description of our post-Reagan world, and never so anthropodic as in ObamaLand.

Only three characters speak for the movie’s first 50 minutes. (Five minor roles later include Cronenberg as Ronnie’s gynecologist, and a very nice and sexy turn by Joy Boushel as Seth’s bar pickup.) Getz is serviceable (and heroic at the end). Davis is beautiful and moving throughout. But the greatness of Jeff Goldblum is hard to describe or compare. Not for a moment does he hide beneath the make-up or technology. Unlike his character, he is a man to the end.

BrundleFly is what we have become, what we have been forced to become. On our way to becoming what Seth is at the very end: part-human, part-heartless insect (or should that be iNsect?), part-thing.

Be very afraid. . .

Saturday, August 26, 2017


Three ways.


Lee Morgan.

Brother Bill Evans.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


A sultry Friday night at Sportsman's Park, June 8th, 1962. Juan Marichal vs. Bob Gibson. Harry Carey and Jack Buck. The best club in San Francisco Giants history (they were 40-17 at the start of the game) against a young up-and-coming Cardinals team that would win three pennants later in the decade. Funny and sweet radio spots. Lots of smoking and drinking and lots more good cheer.

They've been saying around here that Camelot was a myth. The heck it was.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Old viper John Simon once joked that Jerry Lewis could cure muscular dystrophy overnight if during his next Labor Day telethon Lewis announced he would disappear forever if everyone watching sent in 25 cents. One of the worst of the two billion degradations in our current pop culture is that far more people think of Lewis in terms of "his kids" and that annual telethon than think of him as one of the great movie directors of his age. Which he was.

Lewis's movies are deep and complex and necessary, movies
which are especially beautiful to look at, with amazing and ever-changing pace. And it is here where we begin to understand just how deeply and devoutly Jerry Lewis believed in the magic and in the transformative possibilities of movies themselves. His Total Filmmaker is one of the best (and funniest) filmmaking books around.

The Ladies Man (1961) with Jerry's commentary.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Tonight's guest, that star of stage, screen, and radio. . . . Lee Oswald?

The second part (36:00), recorded several days later, is a marvelous job of mousetrapping and just a taste of what Lee would get a few months hence, on his way toward oblivion.