Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Brave New Dystopia"

Hedges.
The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.” “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Poster Child for the Gutless

Chris Hedges on Obama and the collapse of the Liberal Class:



Monday, December 27, 2010

Flight

Part eight of Haibane-Renmei.



The earlier episodes (follow the links).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas: SCTV

My favorite. A miracle, also from December 1982.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas: Bob

Tinsel, snow, eggnog, stockings, ham and Newhart! "No Room at the Inn" from December '82.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas: AGS

Andy, Barney, Elinor Donahue, Aunt Bee, and the future world's worst movie director celebrate that magical moment, Christmas 1960.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas: Hitch

The Master, and very nasty: "Back for Christmas," 1956.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas: Odd

The best of the two-million sitcom Scrooge rip-offs, December 17, 1970.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas: HGWT

The best western show of all time at its most Christian, directed by the man himself: "Be Not Forgetful of Strangers"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas: Staccato

Over the next ten days I'm going to put up some of my favorite Christmas pieces, mostly TV episodes, and hopefully more rare than not. (How many times can you stomach Rudolph, Home Alone, or Frosty the Snowman?)

Leading off is everyone's favorite beatnik, Johnny Staccato. And a strange series it is. Not sure how much of Staccato is a put-on by Cassavetes, since he was quitting the show every other week. Or does it just seem like a put-on, because it's so plugged into such a specific atmosphere and moment? (Much like Kiss Me Deadly.)

This one, from Christmas Eve 1959 (Boog, Shrevie, and Fenwick must've watched it before the Colts / Giants championship game), is called "The Unwise Men" and stars the great Jack Weston. (Best part: JC's cheery closing.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brubeck

A little late, but Happy 90th Birthday!

Monday, December 13, 2010

High Times

Blake Edwards has died, at the age of 88.

While any movie with Julie Andrews in it is unwatchable, and while the Pink Panther movies all stink -- there are the wonderful TV creations of the late-50s: Richard Diamond, Mr. Lucky and Peter Gunn. And any man (with the help of Henry Mancini) (and Jack Kennedy) who could create endings such as these, was -- at times -- great.




Monday, December 6, 2010

Swine


It is now crystal clear that Barack Hussein Obama is the most powerful embodiment (yet) of what the late Hunter Thompson called the Generation of Swine: a brood dedicated to no ideology beyond kicking those beneath them and kissing the asses of those above; psychopathic self-regard; easy and cheap cynicism; a cesspool of greasy-pole climbers covered in pseudo-hipsterism showing condescension and contempt toward all things earnest and passionate. Obama's campaign and election truly were Events to Nowhere -- so the honor, the caring for others, the humility, compassion, patience, modesty, courage, self-mocking wit: yes the bleeding heart, what Simone Weil called "the tender germ of embrace" -- not here.

I know it's Olbermann, but still. . .



And Alex Cockburn on the Great Traitor.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Girls!


Part Bubbles / part Blossom / part Buttercup, Saya lives for this show -- and she's right, 'cause it's great! A real Hanna-Barbera throwback. (And sadly the last production from HB.)

Yogi and Booboo -- meet the Girls!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chomsky on WikiLeaks

And Happy 82nd Birthday to the Professor.



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter

Part seven of Haibane Renmei, "Arrival of Winter"



The previous six parts.

Friday, November 26, 2010

American Psycho


The man who godfathered the shift of $20,000,000,000,000 from US taxpayers to the Mutant Elite is finally standing up. As his cup runneth over with blood.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

End Game

The great Michael Hudson details the upcoming checkmate in the US class war on the world -- the vampires most fervent wish since the days of Barry Goldwater: a flat tax.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Solution

This must be parody, right?
Two years after the onset of the financial crisis, the stock market is recovering and Wall Street’s moneyed elite are breathing easier again. And this means in some cases they are spending again — at times cautiously, but sometimes with a familiar swagger.

It’s true that firms scaled back the corporate excesses, like fancy retreats and private jets, for which they were vilified as a brutal recession gripped the country. Many of those constraints remain in place, like flying commercial on business trips, or more limited private car service for employees.

But when it comes to personal indulgences, there are signs that the wallets are beginning to open up. Traders and executives say that jobs seem much more secure. Businesses whose fortunes ebb and flow with the financial markets are thriving again.

“Wall Street is back spending as much if not more than before,” said the New York cosmetic surgeon Dr. Francesca J. Fusco, whose business is booming again after a difficult few years.

Christie’s auction house says investors from the financial world who fell out of the bidding market during the 2008 credit crisis are “pouring” back in.

Expensive restaurants report a pickup in bookings. At the Porter House restaurant in the Time Warner Center across from Central Park, the head chef, Michael Lomonaco, says business is up about 10 percent over a year ago and “people are starting to shake off what happened.” The restaurant is a favorite of A-list Wall Street executives, including Goldman Sachs’s chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein.

Real estate agents say Wall Street executives have already begun lining up rentals in the Hamptons for next summer. Dolly Lenz of Prudential Douglas Elliman said the bidding this year was “hotter and heavier” than previous years. “There is a passion now in the market I haven’t seen in a while,” she said.

She said her clients, almost exclusively from Wall Street, were afraid to lose out. Just recently, Ms. Lenz said, she had three people bidding more than $400,000 for a summer rental in Southampton.
Guess not.


Meanwhile.


And.


Mark Twain:
There were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror — that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Exit

Each man trying to outrun his past, by returning to it: David Janssen at his warmest and most intimate; and a middle-aged Mickey Rooney, very special. "This'll Kill You" from January 18, 1966.

TV noir at its best, directed by Alex March. (With the young and luscious Nita Talbot.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Face of Evil


A piece of toilet-buildup by the name of Michael Bloomberg -- nominally the Mayor of what was once the greatest and most human city in the world -- made these announcements yesterday:
10,000 New York City jobs will be eliminated between now and the end of next year

6,200 of these are public school teachers (an announcement made only days after appointing former Hearst Magazines pimp Cathie Black as NYC Schools Chancellor, a woman with no experience in education or anything else human)

Hundreds of jobs eliminated from the Administration for Children's Services

$20 million cut from the already devastated library system, once the greatest in the world

Several thousand student summer jobs gone

$20 million cut from the Department of Cultural Affairs

The closing of the Department for the Aged

2,000 jobs eliminated from the Department of Parks and Recreation

The closing of two-dozen fire stations (inner city fire stations, of course)

A one-third cut in funding for public school vacation programs

Almost 1,000 jobs eliminated from the Departments of Transportation and Finance
Bloomberg bleated that these "hard choices" were made because of a $3 billion budget gap -- a gap he could pay for out of his own dirty pocket and still have $15 billion left over.

The New York City Police Department, of course, was untouched.

And Wall Street soared. . . .

Monday, November 15, 2010

State of Grace


The best book so far written on the Kennedy Assassination, and the best book on John F. Kennedy himself. Originally published by the small and brave Catholic house of Orbis Press, Simon & Schuster -- amazingly enough -- bought the paperback rights and brought it out last month, promoting the book and author Jim Douglass in a wide-ranging nationwide tour.

As I wrote upon the book's initial release:
In Kennedy's murder by the forces of the Unspeakable, a contemporary crucifixion, Douglass sees meaning beyond the resulting Vietnam genocide, beyond the takeover of our society by back-stabbers, soul-crushers and ghouls, beyond the shifting of cultural meaning toward something hideously empty and narcissistic -- meaning in the symbol of a man willing to die for his beliefs, for his (in Douglass's term) "turning." One can argue with this, for at the heart of Douglass's profoundly spiritual argument, there is something anti-political: rather than viewing John Kennedy's murder as a political and economic act by men who saw themselves only in those terms, we experience it through Douglass's writing as a modern day Stations of the Cross. First Station: Kennedy refuses war with Laos. Second Station: Kennedy refuses invasion and air attacks during the Bay of Pigs; Third Station: Berlin Wall goes up, Kennedy lets it stand. Etc. It is an agony, as we follow Kennedy's turning and his movement toward the Golgotha of Dallas.

So what do we do? Much can be said for acceptance and a belief in transcendence, a belief in Grace. But as Jack Kennedy said: "Here on earth, God's work must truly be our own." Do we let this crucifixion stand? Do we accept the vampires now in almost total control? Do we try to protect a man who may soon be experiencing his own turning, Barack Obama? [Not necessary.] Do we take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them? Can they ever be ended here on earth? Do we let Catholicism be defined by Hitler-Jugend Joseph Ratzinger, the man who led the war against Liberation Theology? Do we let Christianity be defined by Tim LaHaye and his life-haters?

Such questions. That "JFK and the Unspeakable" forces us to ask them marks the Douglass book as a rare and beautiful masterpiece, one I'll be going back to many times through the years.

The great Jim Douglass spoke of his work in a brilliant and very moving speech in Seattle, Washington, late 2008.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Winding Lee

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bending Over



Meanwhile, the Nobel Peace Laureate announces a $5,000,000,000 arms sale to the Corporate Outsourcing Cesspool known as the government of India. This on the heels of last month's $60,000,000,000 arms deal -- the largest in human history -- made with the exquisite democracy of Saudi Arabia. In US federal court Monday, Obama's minions argued for his right to murder anyone on earth (in particular American citizens) at any time, anywhere, for any reason. And Obama has lifted a 12-year ban -- a restriction which survived the Bush/Cheney years -- on US funding of Kopassus -- the death squads of his old homeland of Indonesia.

And about that Afghanistan withdrawal. . . and those Bush tax cuts. . . and the Obama Cat Food Commission. . .

Absolute fucking nightmare.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Victory!



Bring back the RCA-501 computer and dump the always sickening Chuckie Todd!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Flush

Regarding Tuesday.

Cenk Uygur.



Ratigan, Cenk, and Greenwald.



The great (and defeated) Congressman Alan Grayson.



Ralph Nader.



Laura Flanders and Thomas Frank.




Wednesday, November 3, 2010

They Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty. . .

Mark Ames.
Maybe what’s happening in America today will seem funny to some other culture in some future time—how it happened that in the depths of America’s decline, Liberals, the great opposition to everything mean and ruthless in this culture, couldn’t muster up a get-together for anything better than a mock-in. Led by a clown.

I confess, I couldn’t hack it. I came to the rally–saw those two pastry chefs from the Mythbusters show get all the Liberal Elites to hold a post-modern human wave, an ironic human wave allowing all the self-conscious Liberal Elites to play like Real America, while salvaging their vanity because it was all ironic and post-modern… And to make sure that everyone knew they were not really human-waving but rather meta-human-waving, the Mythbusters duo deconstructed the human wave. And all the Liberal Elites smiled and laughed knowingly, because all 150,000 were in on the biggest inside-joke wankathon in American history. And that was it for me–I was outta there.

A century-old ideological movement, Liberalism: once devoted to impossible causes like ending racism and inequality, empowering the powerless, fighting against militarism, and all that silly hippie shit—now it’s been reduced to besting the other side at one-liners…and to the Liberals’ credit, they’re clearly on top. Sure there are a lot of problems out there, a lot of pressing needs—but the main thing is, the Liberals don’t look nearly as stupid as the other guys do. And if you don’t know how important that is to this generation, then you won’t understand what’s so wrong and so deeply depressing about the Jon Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity.

That’s what makes this rally so depressing and grotesque: It’s an anti-rally, a kind of mass concession speech without the speech–some kind of sick funeral party for Liberalism, in which Liberals are led, at last, by a clown. Not a figurative clown, but by a clown–and Liberals are sure that this somehow makes them smarter and less lame–and indeed, they are less lame, because they are not taking themselves too seriously, which is something they’re very, very proud of. All great political struggles and ideological advances, all great human rights achievements were won by clown-led crowds of people who don’t take themselves too seriously, duh! That’s why they’re following a clown like Stewart, whose entire political program comes down to this: not being stupid, the way the other guys are stupid–or when being stupid, only stupid in a self-consciously stupid way, which is to say, not stupid. That’s it, that’s all this is about: Not to protest wars or oligarchical theft or declining health care or crushing debt or a corrupt political system or imperial decay—nope, the only thing that motivates Liberals to gather in the their thousands is the chance to celebrate their own lack of stupidity! Woo-hoo!
All of it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Gonna Be. . . . I Believe!

WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!



The cherry on top: winning it in Dallas, Texas in front of this miserable cracker:


GIANTS!!!!!!!!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two Smarty Pants Sitting in a Tree. . .


What a well-paid and mildly amusing tool Jon Stewart is. (As is idiot colleague Steve Colbert, the man who invited the heroic Julian Assange onto his Report, only to try and rip him a new asshole -- in defense of America's national security.) Here is Stewart allowing Uncle O. to make funny and to bleat about how much more time he needs. (For what, Mr. President? Both your testicles are already gone.) And here is Stewart leading a March on Washington against Extremes.

Extremes? ExtremeS? Plural? With an "s" on the end?

We're all certainly familiar with one extreme. The one which launched four aggressive wars during the lifetime of The Daily Show. The one which made torture a national policy and eliminated habeas corpus. The one which destroyed any connection between the vote and the resulting government. The one which created the greatest income gap in United States history. The one which accomplished the complete commodification of culture, education, health care and much else. The one which destroyed the society's industrial base and infrastructure. The one which created massive rage and alienation, and then created a phony political movement from that in order to direct the anger toward the puppet national government rather than the puppet-masters.

Where, Monsieur Stewart, are the other extremes? Certainly not on your show. Neither are they in the country.

Chris Hedges, in his brave new book Death of the Liberal Class, writes about the likes of Colbert and Stewart (and their audience).
The legitimate rage being expressed by disenfranchised workers toward the college-educated liberal elite, who abetted or did nothing to halt the corporate assault on the poor and the working class of the last 30 years, is not misplaced. The liberal class is guilty. The liberal class, which continues to speak in the prim and obsolete language of policies and issues, refused to act. It failed to defend traditional liberal values during the long night of corporate assault in exchange for its position of privilege and comfort in the corporate state. . . The liberal class, in our age of neo-feudalism, is now powerless. It offers nothing but empty rhetoric. It refuses to concede that power has been wrested so efficiently from the hands of citizens by corporations that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty are irrelevant. It does not act to mitigate the suffering of tens of millions of Americans who now make up a growing and desperate permanent underclass. And the disparity between the rhetoric of liberal values and the rapacious system of inverted totalitarianism the liberal class serves makes liberal elites, including Barack Obama, a legitimate source of public ridicule. The liberal class, whether in universities, the press or the Democratic Party, insists on clinging to its privileges and comforts even if this forces it to serve as an apologist for the expanding cruelty and exploitation carried out by the corporate state. . . Once the liberal class lost all influence it became a class of parasites. The liberal class, like the déclassé French aristocracy, has no real function within the power elite. And the rising right-wing populists, correctly, ask why liberals should be tolerated when their rhetoric bears no relation to reality and their presence has no influence on power. . . The corporate state, by emasculating the liberal class, has opted for a closed system of polarization, gridlock and political theater in the name of governance. It has ensured a further destruction of state institutions so that government becomes even more ineffectual and despised. . . The liberal class, despite becoming an object of public scorn, still prefers the choreographed charade. Liberals decry, for example, the refusal of the Democratic Party to restore habeas corpus or halt the looting of the U.S. Treasury on behalf of Wall Street speculators, but continue to support a president who cravenly serves the interests of the corporate state. As long as the charade of democratic participation is played, the liberal class does not have to act. It can maintain its privileged status. It can continue to live in a fictional world where democratic reform and responsible government exist. It can pretend it has a voice and influence in the corridors of power. But the uselessness of the liberal class is not lost on the tens of millions of Americans who suffer the awful indignities of the corporate state. . . The purging and silencing of independent and radical thinkers as well as iconoclasts have robbed the liberal class of vitality. The liberal class has cut itself off from the roots of creative and bold thought, from those forces and thinkers who could have prevented the liberal class from merging completely with the power elite. Liberals exude a tepid idealism utterly divorced from daily life. And this is why every television clip of Barack Obama is so palpably pathetic. We have been robbed of a vocabulary to describe reality. We decry the excesses of capitalism without demanding a dismantling of the corporate state. Our pathetic response is to be herded to political rallies by skillful publicists to shout inanities like “Yes we can!”
The real thing, RIP.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Early Autumn

Part 6 of Haibane Renmei, "Loss"



The earlier parts.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Final Round and Counting

18 days before election, the two candidates debate for the 4th and final time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Number Three

50 years ago this evening. This one's a true kinescope, not necessarily a good thing, as you will see. And as you will see, the two candidates were on separate coasts. Separate universes, actually.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Round Two

Kennedy-Nixon Debates, part two of four, 50 years ago tonight.

This is the one where the Vice President stops wearing light-gray suits and starts wearing make-up.

Monday, October 4, 2010

When the Saints Go Marchin' In

Chris Hedges.
We can hold One Nation marches every week. It will not make any difference until we revolt against the formal structures of power.

The liberal preoccupation with positive forms of propaganda ignores the root of our problem. The tea party and hate mongers on Fox such as Glenn Beck, however repugnant, are the manifestation of the crisis, not its cause. The forces assaulting the remnants of American democracy will not be cowed or discredited with rallies, such as the one in Washington on Saturday. We will blunt these rising anti-democratic forces only when we organize outside conventional systems of power. It means dismantling the permanent war economy and the corporate state. It means an end to foreclosures and bank repossessions. It means a functional health care system for all Americans. It means taking care of our poor and unemployed. And it means a system of government that is freed from corporate interests.

Mass support for anti-democratic movements and public acceptance of open violations of human rights are not caused, in the end, by the skillful dissemination of misinformation or brainwashing. They are caused by the breakdown of a society and the death of a liberal class that once made reform and representative government possible. The timidity of our liberal class was on public display during the march in Washington. Speakers may have called for jobs, but none would call on citizens to abandon the rotting hull of the Democratic Party and our moribund political system or put Wall Street speculators in prison. The speakers at the rally proposed working within the current electoral system, although most Americans are aware that it has been gamed by corporate interests. This is hardly a call, especially given the failures of the Obama administration, that will fire up the unemployed and underemployed.

“We need jobs,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said at the march. “We’ve bailed out the banks. We bailed out the insurance companies. Now it’s time to bail out the American people.”

But Sharpton and the other speakers, too close to the power elite in the Democratic Party, did not call for rebellion. There was no war cry against Wall Street and the purveyors of death in the defense and health industry. There was no acknowledgement that unfettered capitalism and globalization are killing our ecosystem and creating a worldwide system of neo-feudalism. There was no acceptance that the corporate state must be dismantled if we are to save ourselves. Any effective resistance must begin with a condemnation of our political elite and liberal institutions, including the press, the universities, labor, the arts, religious institutions and the Democratic Party, for selling us out. But the speakers on the mall in Washington would not go there. And I suspect, for this reason, the Americans who are hurting most found nothing they said of interest.
More (with chilling follow-up comments).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Poor Little Lamb Who Has Lost His Way


In the run-up to the Demo Debacle of 2010, the White House fixers and liars have carted out a campaign to fool the Hope-a-Dopes (what few there are left) once more: gentle, peace-loving President Obama has been the victim of bad, bad people giving him bad, bad advice.

There seem to be takers.

Establishment gossip-monger and kiss-ass (and intelligent agent) Bob Woodward. (Russ Baker with some eye-popping Woodward background.)

William Pfaff.

The normally sane Bob Parry.

The rockin' and rollin' Uncle O. himself.

Robert Dreyfuss.

The ever-dumb Kevin Drum.

But not everyone.

Justin Raimondo, Tom Engelhardt, Andrew Bacevich, and Patrick Martin.

Meanwhile, Obama's FBI is rounding up anti-war activists, his Justice Department is defending his right to secretly murder anyone on the planet, and his National Security State is arguing for a takeover of all Internet privacy -- while militarily attacking US ally Pakistan.

Baa, baa, baa. . .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Honor Man


In 1961, he turned down the movie role of James Bond because he thought Ian Fleming was a "talentless smut peddler." Then recommended best friend Sean Connery for the part. In his own masterpiece John Drake series trilogy, a trilogy about the intelligence world of the 1960s -- Danger Man, Secret Agent, The Prisoner -- he refused to shoot and/or kiss anybody. He was born in Astoria, Queens to Irish immigrant parents, quickly moved as a toddler to Mullaghmore, Ireland -- then to Sheffield, England as a boy. Married actress Joan Drummond in his early 20s, wrote love notes to her every day, and stayed with Drummond until his death in 2009, at the age of 80.

Patrick McGoohan is my favorite television actor -- no one else comes close. He is always the most intelligent, elegant, interesting, courageous, and thoughtful man in the room. And the least egotistical. Watch him here in a scene from "Identity Crisis," one of two Columbo appearances for which he won an Emmy. The great Peter Falk is closing in, suspecting that a man called "Steinmetz" is actually an invention, actually Patrick McGoohan himself -- the real murderer -- in disguise.



"The T-33. . . . Silver Star": the moment when McGoohan realizes he's done, that his protected life -- again here the life of a top intelligence agent -- is over, yet his voice and eyes become modest and respectful ("I'll get your coat"): the better man has won. McGoohan's devotion is never primarily to himself, but to something outside and higher.
*
Danger Man premiered in Britain in 1960 (with American financing), ran for 39 episodes at 26 minutes per, and -- in spite of its enormous popularity throughout Europe -- was canceled when the US financing dried up. McGoohan plays unarmed undercover agent John Drake, working at times for British intelligence, French intelligence, NATO, and CIA.

One of the first incarnation's earliest and best, "View from the Villa," from September 1960. (The villa's location, by the way, is Portmeiron, North Wales -- The Prisoner's goofball setting.) And as we can see, Mr. McGoohan was an amateur middleweight champion.



Drake would return three years later under the same series title in Britain, called Secret Agent everywhere else. The running time for each story was now doubled to 50 minutes (with many two-parters), but the most significant change would be Drake himself. Now more of a le Carré-type character -- sick of his "professionalism" and sick of what it is he's supposed to be protecting.

"You're Not in Any Trouble, Are You?" from October 1965 (with Susan Hampshire as the very fetching dish).



Then came The Prisoner. . .

For me, no. Despite McGoohan's elegance, fascinating confusion, and very good humor, watching it is like being forced to wear a Nehru jacket, listen to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," watch Skidoo, and drink Tang all at the same time.

For a funny overview of every Prisoner episode, go here.


It is impossible to think of Patrick McGoohan without affection -- his ever-changing accents, his grace, his timing and non-chalance -- his wonderful pleasure in performance. His pride in craft. McGoohan embodies a vanished time when we had a more direct relationship to a performer. A generous-hearted actor (and man); a glamour without narcissism. He always seems to be in a blissful present, with an expression that says "You can’t imagine what it’s like being in this room and performing these words.”

Actually, watching him, we can.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In the Company of Men


One was the Prince of Darkness; the other, a Prince. Yet both were giants who defined their worlds. They recall us to a time when the country believed in the connection between action and consequence, not only in the political realm, but in the private as well.

50 years ago tonight: the Kennedy/Nixon Debates, Round One:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Made in the USA

A bombing Wednesday at a martial parade in western Iran killed at least 10 women and a 5-year-old child, including the wives of two Iranian military commanders. The explosion struck amid a large crowd attending the event, which was intended to underscore the nation's battle readiness.

Another 35 people were injured, 12 seriously. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, which occurred in the restive ethnic Kurdish city of Mahabad.

According to Iranian media, the bomb struck pedestrians gathered along a Mahabad sidewalk to watch an annual Sacred Defense Week military parade commemorating the victims of the 1980-88 Iran- Iraq war. Initial news accounts described the attack as a suicide bombing. But state radio later reported that the bomb was placed in the branches of a pine tree.

The semi-official Mehr news agency said the 11 a.m. explosion took place 55 yards away from the podium where military brass were watching the proceedings and that two of those killed were the wives of senior military commanders.
The background.

Again Chris Floyd:
Even the perpetrators of these war crimes no longer to pretend that these conflicts have any real purpose; the War Machine’s own “intelligence analysts” regularly report that the wars are exacerbating the very problems they are ostensibly designed to quell: violent extremism, divisive tribalism, ignorance and poverty, repression of women, political instability in strategic regions, fear and insecurity at home, etc. But none of this matters – not to the Peace Laureate and his party of spineless corporate servitors, nor to the Republicans and their cretinous Tea Partiers, nor, it seems, to the vast majority of the American public who follow these blood-soaked factions of ruthless, third-rate gangsters, bagmen, morons and courtiers.

And now another election season is upon us. The massive acts of state terrorism committed by the United States will fall even further beneath the media radar (if that’s possible). “Progressive” forces will furiously debate the best way to rouse the “base” to support their admittedly disappointing champion, if only to keep the drooling hordes of zealous Know-Nothings at bay. They will put aside the daily murder of innocent people by their champion in order to play a few “savvy” hands of partisan politics – as if they were living in some kind of ordinary, open political system, instead of a phantasmagorical Grand Guignol of state terror, state murder and corporate rapine, a rigged game where the only outcome is more and more and more of the same.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Tea Party is Burning

And so is Chris Floyd.
The political-media-blogospherical establishment is currently working itself into a lather over the elevation of a "nutty" Tea Party woman to the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Delaware. The selection of Christine O'Donnell by a tiny sliver of voters in a closed primary in a tiny state whose main claim to fame is its decades of whorish service as a protective front for rapacious corporations is, we are told, an event of world-shaking proportions fit for endless analysis and scary headlines all over the world.

It's true that O'Donnell has taken the politically risky step of denouncing America's national pastime -- masturbation -- and has, over the years, supported any number of positions that put her on the far side of common sense. But one struggles in vain to find that she has advanced anything remotely as radical -- or lunatic -- as the idea that the President of the United States is some kind of intergalactic emperor who holds the power of life and death over every living being on earth in his autocratic hands. Yet this is precisely the position proclaimed -- openly, before Congress, God and everybody -- by the highly educated, intellectually sophisticated, super-savvy Laureate of Peace currently residing in the White House.


This same president has also fought tooth and nail -- often in open court -- to shield torturers, escalate pointless wars of aggression, relentlessly expand a liberty-stripping Stasi-style security apparatus, give trillions of tax dollars to rapacious financiers, health-care corporations, insurance companies and bloodstained war profiteers, while launching cowardly drone missile attacks on the sovereign territory of close ally, killing hundreds of civilians in the process - and has just signed off on the biggest arms deal in history with one of the most viciously repressive tyrannies on earth.


So I'm sorry, but I just don't see how a putzy, klutzy, wilfully ignorant Tea Partier from perhaps the most corrupt state in the Union is somehow more dangerous than the people we have in power now -- including a Vice-President who for decades was the senator (and corporate bagman) from this very same most corrupt state in the Union, and used his power to advance a "Bankruptcy Bill" that was one of the most savage class-war attacks on working people -- and the poor, and the sick, and the vulnerable -- that we have seen in many a year. Then again, as far as I know, Joe "Bankruptcy Bill" Biden has never publicly condemned the practice of masturbation.


Do I want to see Christine O'Donnell in the Senate? No, of course not. Not only because in her freely chosen ignorance she has embraced the most primitive, bleakly reductive understandings of religion, politics, power, sexuality and human reality in general, but also -- and mainly -- because she will support all of the policies delineated above: the imperial wars for loot and domination, the presidential power to kill and incarcerate at will, the slavish support for Big Money in all of its destructive manifestations, the perversion of every single public program into an engine of private profit for the elite, and so on down the line. But as her Democratic opponent will do the same thing if he is elected, I don't see why we should be all het up about O'Donnell's corporate-funded victory in the teeny-tiny Republican primary in little bitty Delaware.


But hey, it's all good fun, right? The tribal partisans get to jerk their knees in orgiastic spasms, drawing oceans of newsprint and TV airtime, while the real business of empire -- slaughtering, torturing and repressing human beings -- goes on unnoticed and unabated.
Much more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Journalist

Jeremy Scahill:
Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater's work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater's owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.


Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince's companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.
The rest of Scahill's very important piece can be found here.

Amy Goodman spoke with him this morning on Democracy Now!:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Neo Conman

Coming off of Our Dear Leader's Friday economic press conference -- only the 5th held by Obama in prime-time, the fewest of any President since they invented prime-time -- Barry Grey makes the points.
Obama and his handlers have evidently decided that the best way to confront rising anger over the administration’s refusal to provide jobs or serious relief for the unemployed is to use the Big Lie technique—presenting pro-corporate policies as their opposite, touting deepening crisis as “recovery,” and citing the reactionary nostrums of the Republicans to justify the White House’s own right-wing program. The assumption that underlies this cynical public relations campaign is that the American people are infinitely gullible and suffer from collective amnesia.

One can only wonder whether Obama believes that the American people have forgotten the actual record of his administration: his multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street, his intervention to block legislation limiting bankers’ pay, his insistence that newly hired General Motors and Chrysler workers’ pay be cut in half, his refusal to bail out bankrupt state and local governments, his rejection of any public works programs to actually create jobs, his health care “reform” that slashes hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare and rations services to working people, his attacks on teachers and public schools in the name of education “reform,” his banking “reform” that strengthens the grip of the biggest Wall Street firms and sanctions the forms of swindling that led to the crash, and his efforts to run interference for the corporate criminal BP.

The most revealing moment in the press conference came in an exchange with reporter April Ryan, who asked: “On the economy, could you discuss your efforts at reviewing history as it relates to the poverty agenda, meaning LBJ and Dr. King?”

Obama responded by ruling out any government anti-poverty programs. In words that could have been uttered by Bush or any other “free market” ideologue, Obama said, “Now, I think the history of anti-poverty efforts is that the most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there—single most important thing we can do. It’s more important than any program we could set up. It’s more important than any transfer payment we could have. If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous circle…”

The meaning of this repudiation of past reform measures is clear: nothing is permissible that does not directly contribute to enhancing the profits of corporations and the fortunes of their executives and major shareholders. Above all, no steps can be taken to reduce the staggering concentration of wealth at the very top of the economic ladder.

Obama went on to declare, “That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some targeted things we can do to help communities that are especially in need… And I am very proud of the efforts that we’ve made on education reform—which have received praise from Democrats and Republicans.”

Here Obama revealed the actual nature of his so-called “targeted reforms.” He is “very proud” of spearheading an unprecedented assault on public education, scape-goating teachers for years of government neglect of the schools and promoting quasi-private charter schools while encouraging the closure of thousands of public institutions.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Magisterial

The man who would later be the victim of a Wasp-mafia/National Security State execution tells the "Greater Houston Ministerial Association" where to stick it, 50 years ago today.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11


38 years ago today, the American National Security State murdered the President of Chile, overthrew his elected Workers/Socialist government, and installed a fascist corporate totalitarian state which now seems to have 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/or tortured.

In memory.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Requiem for the Real

Looks like NBC has re-rebooted the vomit-inducing idea of a NEW "Rockford Files," formerly with some oatmeal face by the name of Dermot Mulroney, now with Hugo Boss model Josh Holloway.

The real thing. One of the great episodes of this or any other television series, "Requiem for a Funny Box":

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beginnings


My daughter starts elementary school today. She's pretty scared. Me, too.

In her honor, Part V of Haibane Renmei: "The Beginning of the World"



Other parts, go here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kunteki

Our best movie critic Chris Fujiwara has a new interview up, more comprehensive and illuminating than just about any movie class you can take.


Then read everything at his brilliant (and newly-designed) website.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mighty Like a Rose

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cut Throat

The midterms approach and the jobs situation gets worse and worse. What will President Barack Obama do now? Perhaps a massive new Federal jobs program dedicated to rebuilding our schools, roads, bridges, libraries, energy and water grids, subways; dedicated to preserving the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past; or building handsome and balanced cities for our future.

(As promised in '07 and '08.)

No, this.
With just two months until the November elections, the White House is seriously weighing a package of business tax cuts - potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars - to spur hiring and combat Republican charges that Democratic tax policies hurt small businesses, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.

Administration officials have struggled to develop new economic policies and an effective message to blunt expected Republican gains in Congress and defuse complaints from Democrats that President Obama is fumbling the issue most important to voters. Following Obama's vacation and focus on foreign policy in recent weeks, White House advisers have arranged a series of economic events for the president next week, including two trips to swing states and a news conference.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Repost: Con Men

In light of the recent Emmys sweep -- a brave and brilliant voting organ that's never given a single Best Show award to the likes of Have Gun Will Travel, The Fugitive, Columbo, Bob Newhart, Rockford, WKRP, SCTV, Miami Vice, Seinfeld , Curb Your Enthusiasm, or The Wire(!) -- a repost.


Look at this asshole. Does this feel like 1963 to you? Or, does it seem like a shot from a Sex and the City out-take wherein the cast all dressed up for a Days of Wine and Roses party?

Mad Men – a perfectly shallow and narcissistic show – bears as much relation to the emotional, psychological, moral and political moods of the early 1960s as does Twitter, So You Think You Can Dance? (no you can't), the iPhone, and places like Salon.com. Far more a version of Sex and the City with much cooler clothes and cars and music (and girls), what's left out of this piece of plastic is everything we truly know about the time, which is everything its smarmy Yuppie audience has had a major hand in exterminating in our current culture: earnestness, optimism, a sense of community, grace, complexity, self-deprecation, hatred of the rich and big business, a refusal to demonize others and puff up ourselves, and (perhaps most important) the assumption that people are basically good.

Not only were slick and shiny dime-a-dozen ad-men no one's idea of a role model in the early-1960s, they became the embodiment of everything corporate, compromised, materialistic and oh-so-1957. ('Course one of the wonderful things about that time is no one thought along the lines of "oh-so-1957".) Take a look: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Lilies of the Field, the Beach Boys, Stanley Elkin, David Janssen, Jasper Johns, the 1962 Dual-Ghia, Steve Allen, Ornette Coleman, Rosemary Clooney, The Hustler, The Ladies Man, the TWA Terminal at Idlewild, and of course Jack Kennedy himself.

What we get here, rather, is the same old campy, self-referential "I gotta go right out and buy that tie!" mutant elite ass-kissing. Creator Matt Weiner tries very hard (and very successfully) to pull the wooly over the eyes of the self-enchanted mind-travelers who read/watch/listen in order to feel even more self-enchanted, for this glamorama soap opera has all the subtlety of a Bloomingdale's store window. (Come to think of it, Mad Men is the ultimate Bloomingdale's store window.)

Just take the role models. We have the ubercompetent corporate drone. The hysterectical stay-at-home worthy of Desperate Housewives. The frail, tremulous heroine buried under an avalanche of agency problems. (With the coming gravy of sexual harassment ladled over her. Abortion anyone?) The porcine connected jerk invulnerable to retribution because of his seniority. The burnt-out case, with bad job, bad marriage, stacks of unpaid bills. And everyone always chirp-chirp-chirping at those oh-so-important client meetings. (My kingdom for a cell phone!)

Sure smells like 1963 to me. Or is that the Starbucks down the block?

What’s most repulsive about Mad Men is how this time (the “last time before America became a slave to anxiety,” as Mailer put it) is seen through the Weiner-ish prism of contemporary Yuppoid self-congratulation. Yeah, sure they had the music and the cars and a real man as President. But we’re so much smarter now. So much more dedicated to our work, our appearance, our health, our environment. So much more civilized about race, and gender, and sexual preference. So much more educated with so much more knowledge right at our fingertips. And how ‘bout that clunky and pathetic old technology?!

An incredibly stupid show for its appropriately stupid audience. How is it possible to make a series about a time that seems more golden as the years go by, especially from the POV of the emotional and cultural cesspool America has now become, without so much as a glimmer of regret, sadness, or melancholy toward what's been lost? But then, what narcissist is capable of regret?

Back to the top: which one feels like 1963 to you?