Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Walking Dead

"Modern" "Family" . . . My gosh, do folks actually watch this thing every week? And now in re-runs too!

Guess so. It's the number-one viewed American "comedy" show and the winnah of the last five Best Comedy Show Emmys. Really? The program -- and never before has that word been more applicable -- is like something created by the Stepford Wives or Donald Sutherland after the ending of Body Snatchers. The lighting and colors are the lighting and colors contained within every suburban shopping mall ever entered. While every possible identity-politics "character" moves through the zone of sterility like the zomboid he/she/it is. And such fresh ideas! The idiot dad. The over-sexed grumpy grandpa. The kids who are always smarter than their parents. The spunky soccer mom. The always-more-sensitive-than-the-straights gay guys. The crazy koochie-koochie-koo woman who gets all her laughs by not being able to pronounce correct English. The "realistic" whining direct into the camera. And no blacks or working-class stiffs to upset the stomach. The series reminds me of those movie shorts produced by Goebbels in the mid-1930s showing happy, beautiful, industrious, healthy Germans. Watching this corporate narcotic, one would never know that the US has been taken over by the military and the police, that it's conducting aggressive war all 'round the world, that everyone is spied upon, that every American-made product is a piece of shit, that corporations have their fists up everybody's bums, that half the country is unemployed or underemployed, and that most every citizen is a meth or a coke addict.

'Course the same hypnosis can be said to be laid on the self-regarding office posers and social parasites who feed off neo-liberal hate-fests such as House of Cards, Game of Thrones, or Seth MacFarlane's latest bowel movement. Ladies and Gentlemen -- your New Golden Age of Television!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Welcome to Pig City

Flags flying half-mast all over the Apple for names such as Ramos and Liu. Yet no lowering of anything official -- EVER -- and never prosecutions -- for murdered names such as Akai Gurley, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Abner Louima, Tamir Rice, Timothy Stansbury, Nicholas Heyward, Ousmane Zongo, Iman Morales, Darius Kennedy, James Young, Shereese Francis, Shem Walker, Ramarley Graham, Anthony Baez and many others.

Patrick Martin on the latest descent into class war.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Comfort and Joy

Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Breaking Santa?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Friday, December 12, 2014

Right in the Teeth

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Oh, What a Life It Was!

TimeWarner in partnership with Google (we're definitely heading toward a place where we'll feel perfectly fine saying things like "My baby was born, in partnership with Google" and "I went to the bathroom in partnership with Google" or "I got my girlfriend off last night in partnership with Google" and "My mom was buried yesterday in partnership with Google") --

Where was I? TimeWarner in partnership with Google has released the entire Life Magazine Archive from 1936 - 1972.

Politically, the issues are a Cold War mess, but still. Looking at these covers and words and images (and ads!), one can only ask: "What happened here?"  Where is this vivid, colorful, funny, masculine, confident, feminine, stylish, warm, sexy, youthful, bright, completely self-involved yet still modest nation?

How did we get so old and so stupid so fast?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

This Girl is a. . .

Happy 10th Birthday
to the
Best Daughter in the World!

Friday, December 5, 2014


Thursday, December 4, 2014


Black days have a history as long as the calendar, and attach to many events, but they have one common attribute: reversal, subversion, undermining. In modernity it has attached itself to financial collapse, natural disaster, terrorism, and military defeat. In the Roman calendar, a “black letter day” was one marked with charcoal on the wall calendar, one to be waited out with circumspection. By the time "Black Friday" stuck in the eighties, it had acquired a new meaning that cemented it. It was allegedly the day that retailers finally “went into the black” — made a profit — and shopping thus acquired a civic and patriotic dimension.

In response to duty — to the alleged abandon disguised as duty — Black Friday has developed as the sly alternative. The activity is, by its very nature, as anti-Thanksgiving as you could get. Thanksgiving is, after all, a subject, even an abject celebration, in which one acknowledges submission to the whims of a distant God. Its role is in part to balance out Christmas and the practice of giving to children, in which non-reciprocity is celebrated: the child receives gifts without any expectation of reciprocal action on its part. The child’s role is simply to be. As adults we take our joy from that — Christmas Day without children is worthless and sad.

In that respect, Black Friday has a mutant aspect to it. It has taken the cornucopia effect of Christmas, and applied it to adults. It is, or was, a release from the duty of giving thanks, into a day of infantilized desire. Everything about Black Friday in its high phase acquired a ritual meaning: the drive to the mall, the lining up in the snow, the fist fights, the local news crews there for the fist fights, the rush as the doors opened, the carting away, the staggering under the weight of seventy-inch plasma screens.

The actual utility of the discount goods really functioned as a McGuffin for the activity of acquiring them. What possible improvement in viewing could a seventy-inch plasma screen offer that exceeded the sheer joy of carting it away at a major discount? You enacted the Dinoysian ceremony, but then all the shit stuck around, silting up your house. Black Friday participants, if they had any sense, would buy their goods, leave the store, and dump them straight in waiting garbage cans. They would never feel as good in their adult lives.
Go here for the rest of Guy Randle's very important essay.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Under the Influence

"I dwell in possibility
A fairer house than prose
More numerous of windows
Superior of doors
Of chambers as the cedars
Impregnable of eye"

- Emily Dickinson

An orchestra conductor has murdered his mistress; and has covered his tracks well. But for the loss of a boutonnière. He confesses, into the blue blaze of Blythe Danner's eyes.

Peter Falk and John Cassavetes first worked together on the director's 1970 masterpiece Husbands, beginning a six-year sunburst of collaboration that would include perhaps the greatest American movie of the 1970s, A Woman Under the Influence (1974) (as Love Streams [1984] is perhaps the greatest of the 80s), Elaine May's jaw-dropping Mikey and Nicky (1976), and the three best episodes of the TV series Columbo: "Etude in Black" and "Swan Song" -- directed by Cassavetes under the pseudonym Nicholas Colasanto -- and "A Friend in Deed" -- the best 100 minutes of 1970s American television, with Cassavetes and Elaine May both on set (both Woman Under the Influence and Mikey and Nicky were in post-production / pre-production during the making of the episode), directed by Ben Gazzara.

Gazzara, of course, was the third element of that sunburst, also first working with the director on Husbands -- and beyond. He would be with Cassavetes on Opening Night (1977) and Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) (another masterpiece). Ben Gazzara was the roué of the trio: the most glamorous, largest, the most "star-like," the warmest and most romantic, the most corrupt and least loyal; and the weakest. If we include Killing of a Chinese Bookie and take a vision of the whole, what Cassavetes has given us (among many other things) is a kaleidoscope of 1970s white American middle-age maleness (strangely ignored by such gruesome mythomaniacs as Tarantino and P.T. Anderson): each man changing and exchanging shapes, colors, roles, names, jobs.

Gazzara's direction of "A Friend in Deed" is very beautiful. As he was a generous-hearted actor, so as director. He balances the overall perfect structure (there's not a false note in the almost 100-minute episode, leading to the astonishing ending, certainly the best of any Columbo) with out-of-story detail and constant memorable moments: the beautiful girl attached to the Commissioner at the backgammon table; Columbo almost burning up the Commissioner’s limousine with his cigar; the detective's first visit to Janice Caldwell’s bedroom, before first fade-out, washed in Kubrickian light and sound, as he instantly recognizes the set-up; the street bar – "place of business" to Cassavetes veterans Val Avery and Eleanor Zee; how ready Columbo's colleagues are to believe anything out of laziness and rote; Artie Jessup’s fence dressed like a drop-out from The Real Don Steele Show; the detective's reaction when told by the coroner what was found in Margaret Halperin's lungs ("Soap, Lieutenant. Soap."); the very funny visitor from Holcombe House, wandering onto the LAPD murder scene; Falk trying to buy a new watch-band from the lovely Arlene Martell; Columbo's handling of the used-car salesman stud, and the salesman's handling of the detective; the strange little bald guy who rushes Jessup as Mark Halperin’s bar set-up begins; Columbo's fear as he tries to stop the Commissioner from destroying himself, by framing Jessup; Val Avery’s look of deep respect toward Falk as the trap is sprung on Halperin.

Gazzara and cinematographer William Cronjager's searching, hand-held, close, constantly moving camera captures an undertone missing from all of Cassavetes's work (and perhaps a major failing): the characters are seen through a class-based lens. For all the oppressions and limitations Cassavetes's lost dreamers struggle against, economic forces and structures are not among them. Here Gazzara makes them felt. Commissioner Mark Halperin, intensely played by Richard Kiley, paves the way for LAPD Reichsmarschall Daryl Gates. Halperin mouths word-for-word what would constantly drip from Gates's mouth: trying to balance protection of LA's gated communities with the "so-called" problems of the inner city; bleating about "junkies and losers and welfare-cheats" as Halperin lies back in his Bel-Air bedroom -- bought and paid for by his wife. (Another indication of Gazzara giving everyone his due: as played by Rosemary Murphy, Margaret Halperin is a pretentious upper-class liberal, lacking any genuine warmth and eminently murderable.) As given to us by Gazzara, the Commissioner is seen as a decadent protector of rot, free-and-happy to: gamble, procure prostitution, break-and-enter, plant false evidence, burgle, blackmail, become an accessory after the fact in murder, and actual murder itself. Gazzara opens, briefly and only at times, the immense -- much more immense today (as everywhere) than in the relatively egalitarian 70s -- class divide of Los Angeles -- a place where the strong are allowed to eat the weak, in particular the weak husband cuckolded over-and-over again by the eventually murdered wife (and then getting away with it because of his position, but for the genius of the main character), where the strong husband cheats over-and-over on the stuffy rich wife, lives off her, and murders her. Gazzara's characters are seen as products and agents of class -- something never felt under Cassavetes.

Also, if Cassavetes seeks to "reimagine representation by situating the individual in a matrix of influences and relationships that he or she is unable to rise above" (in the words of Raymond Carney), is it possible we come closer to that reimagination by placing the matrix within a more classical movie structure? Has Gazzara done that? Can we view the Commissioner as representing Columbo's own matrix, one he is trying to overcome?

No, we can't. And Gazzara does not. While incomparable, Falk does not step out of the role we pretty much have assigned to him before the story begins. And the parameters of 1970s network TV (even in this Year of Watergate) are also not breached. "You just lost your badge, my friend." That is where Falk and Gazzara do not go. Even though “Friend” is great popular art, we are left with the knowledge that it would never happen this way. An LAPD Commissioner bagged for domestic murder by one of his own Lieutenants? Perhaps if the up-front, first-day evidence pointed heavily toward the Commissioner, they must run with it. But the Lieutenant uncovering the truth about his boss through dogged brilliance – when all the initial evidence points toward an easily framed three-time loser? Never happen.

But this would (notice the framed photo of Simone Weil on the fireplace mantel).

And so would this.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Head Shots

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Walter White Knows What To Do

About Ferguson and many many other things. . .

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Man Died That Day

And a husband. And a father. R.I.P.

As the World Ends

The CBS Network, 51 years ago.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Taking Care

Madison Square Garden, May 20th, 1962. (Was Raymond Shaw waiting in the rafters?)

This magnificent document is just a normal speech on a normal day from a man arguing for a healthy labor movement, social insurance, community health, hospitalization plans, and decent housing.

"To break a union is to break yourself."

(For those who have a problem with the sound and video quality, go watch Obama in HD.)

Our Kennedy

Ordinarily filled with little but Obamoid / Zionist / anti-conspiracy swill, here Maher dishes it straight.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mailer in the Spring of '68

It should've been a Spring like any other Spring, as it should've been a political year like any other political year. It is the night of May 28th, 1968 in Manhattan and Norman Mailer is talking with Bill Buckley -- both men at the height of their literary and cultural power. One man calls himself a "left conservative"; the other is the Godfather of the American Conservative movement. Neither man knew it at the time, but everything communal, egalitarian, and progressive in the American spirit had crested and would never again reach high tide. Robert F. Kennedy would be assassinated in 7 days. And the next 46 years (and counting) would be a reactionary nightmare.

How self-satisfied was the intellectual Left on the cusp of its extinction.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Kogonada is a video artist who takes the work of great directors and makes it his own. To good or ill effect is the question.

More Kogonada here. (And thanks to Paul for the head's up!)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gone with the Wind

But not in John Kahrs's lovely Paperman (2012).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rain Girls

Rain, rain, rain here in November New York and maybe snow tomorrow! . . . what to do?

(This makes a lot more sense if you know the show.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Your 2014 U.S. Left, Redux

Proven by Chris Floyd!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Occasion of Sin

Friday, October 31, 2014

Queen of My Heart

Thursday, October 30, 2014




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Kind of Woman

I suppose for all of us -- boy, girl, straight, gay -- there's a moment in adolescence when we see an object, usually somebody we don't know, who crystallizes for us all the lust we have and makes it burning hot. It is a great moment, 'cause from then on we begin to understand what we're attracted to.

For me it happened on a Saturday afternoon in my parents' home, sometime around the age of 11 or 12. I was watching on TV, but not paying much attention to, a colorful 1950s musical called The Band Wagon. About 20 minutes into it, she entered. A Brunette Dream. Eyes like black diamonds, skin clear and golden, goddess-like. Hair jet-black and fine and smooth, glossy as a bird's wing. Long-stemmed, and wearing the sexiest shoes ever created, on the sexiest feet.

I began to pay attention. Toward the end of the movie, there was this -- and my boyhood was gone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


"I know there is a God -- and I see a storm coming;
 if He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready."
-- John F. Kennedy
He was the only one. The only one in the Administration who refused to attack the island. The only one who stood up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stood up to the rest of his National Security State (which wasn't his at all), stood up to the established media chorus calling for invasion and air strikes, stood up to the strategic coup being organized behind his back by one of his future killers, Lyndon Johnson. As we now know, the Cubans and Soviets had operational battlefield nukes which, if fired, would have taken out Miami, Washington DC, and New York City. Hence, the end of the world. At every turn, he refused confrontation. When the missiles and sites were discovered. When he ordered the blockade of Cuba, and the Soviet ships approached the quarantine line, he pulled that line back -- four times. When the Soviet tanker Bucharest, almost certainly not carrying any missiles or other armament, steamed toward the blockade line, he decided to let it proceed to Havana, again against all advice. Privately, Kennedy had begun to doubt the validity of the CIA photos, ostensibly proving the existence of the Soviet missiles. (CIA had doctored photos before, during the Bay of Pigs.) When Rudolf Anderson, Navy flier, was shot down in a National Security State covert operation directed against Kennedy by sending -- against direct White House orders -- a U-2 surveillance flight over the island at the hottest moment of the crisis, he kept the shoot down quiet until the crisis was over. "He chickened out again!" bellowed Air Force General Curtis LeMay. (A further anti-Kennedy covert op also involved a U-2: one just happened to "stray" low over Soviet territory, then was "rescued" by nuclear-armed F-102s back to base.)
"There was now the feeling that the noose was tightening on all of us, on Americans and Soviets and Cubans, on mankind, and that the bridges to escape were crumbling. But again the President pulled everyone back. . ." -- Robert Kennedy
When two letters arrived from Khrushchev -- the first agreeing to all United States demands, the second belligerent and escalatory -- Kennedy decided to proceed as if the second letter never arrived. (JFK would later agree, after the crisis was settled, to all the Soviets had asked for, in the second hard-line letter.) In the most dangerous moment in human history, when all force was on his side, he refused all force. As he whispered to his brother as the Joint Chiefs started clamoring for a first-strike against Moscow: "And we call ourselves the human race. . . I think of all the children in the world who have no idea what the United States or the Soviet Union even are. . . Well, better Red than dead."

Better Red than dead. Was this heard by anyone else? James Douglass:
For at least a decade, JFK’s favorite poem had been "Rendezvous" by Alan Seeger, an American poet killed in World War One. Kennedy recited "Rendezvous" to his wife Jacqueline in 1953 on their first night home in Hyannis after their honeymoon. She memorized the poem, and recited it back to him over the years. In the fall of 1963, Jackie taught the words of the poem to their five-year-old daughter, Caroline.

On the morning of October 5, 1963, President Kennedy met with his National Security Council in the Rose Garden of the White House. Caroline suddenly appeared by her father’s side, and she said she wanted to tell him something. He tried to divert her attention while the meeting continued, but Caroline persisted. The president smiled and turned his full attention to his daughter. He told her to go ahead. While the members of the National Security Council sat and watched, Caroline looked into her father’s eyes and said:
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air-
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath-
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
After Caroline said the poem’s final word, “rendezvous,” Kennedy’s national security advisers sat in stunned silence. One of them said later the bond between father and daughter was so deep “it was as if there was ‘an inner music’ he was trying to teach her.”

Henry Miller often wrote that each of us are placed here on earth in order to learn one lesson. We then move on. It is hard to appreciate John Fitzgerald Kennedy's life apart from its ending -- a manner of ending surely influenced by his actions during the Missile Crisis. Yet perhaps the miraculous singular purpose of his life was to save us all. For he did.

The Monday night, October 22nd, 1962 television address:

Many actors have played Jack Kennedy in movies and TV, on stage. None have captured the self-effacing, realistic, inner grace of the man. The decency. The isolation. The melancholy and fatalism. Here Bruce Greenwood does. Thirteen Days (2000) itself is merely in the deep end of the theatrically-released Movie of the Week genre and is nearly drowned by Kevin Costner's endless, insufferable presence. (He plays White House Chief of Staff Kenny O'Donnell who had little to do with the Crisis drama.) Greenwood makes it special. A remarkably intelligent actor who gives us the hardest of all things to capture on film: thought. And he embodies Kennedy as not only the center (despite Costner's suffocations); but also as target.

No one has appreciated John F. Kennedy more beautifully and profoundly than Catholic theologian James W. Douglass, in his masterpiece JFK and the Unspeakable and in continuing lectures. Here is Douglass at his most moving, Seattle, Washington, September 2008.

And a wonderful new documentary presented by the JFK Library showing what would have been, without President Kennedy: "Clouds Over Cuba"

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Giants Win the Pennant!

Again! Third time in Five years!!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Tale of Three Cities

Los Angeles, California, United States of America. On the nights of August 9th and 10th, 1969, Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Tex Watson, and Leslie Van Houten brutally murder seven upscale Caucasians in the Benedict Canyon and Los Feliz sections of the city. Three months later, the five killers -- known as the Family -- are arrested and put on trial for their lives. The following year all are convicted and sentenced to death. The death sentences are commuted to life in prison without parole, due to the California Supreme Court's People v. Anderson decision invalidating all death sentences imposed in the state prior to 1972. Forty-five years later, Manson remains incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison; Tex Watson at Mule Creek State Prison; Patricia Krewinkel and Leslie Van Houten at the California Institute for Women at Frontera. At Frontera in 2009, Susan Atkins passed away of brain cancer.

My Lai and My Khe, Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam. On the day and night of March 16, 1968, in the peasant villages of My Lai and My Khe, over 500 men (mostly elderly), women, and children are killed and multilated; most of the women raped before death. The twenty-six murderers are part of an organization known as the United States Army -- more specifically Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. Only one of the killers serves any time, a Lieutenant by the name of William Calley, whose punishment is to be held under house arrest at Fort Benning, Georgia, pending appeal. Three years into this little vacation, Calley is pardoned by President Richard Milhous Nixon.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


September, 1963 -- McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums.

Tenor, John Coltrane, born 88 years ago today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wanted for Treason (and Murder)

Why murder him? What did he? By what right? Who told you to?
-- Racine
Released to co-conspirator Lyndon Baines Johnson 50 years ago today: the Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy -- the Warren Report. A death gas in book form, the Report (more accurately titled the Dulles Report) attacked what wasn't destroyed of the American spirit by the Dealey Plaza gunmen of 11/22/63; and finished it off. The Report carried out its two functions superbly: 1) allowing Kennedy's murderers to go free and undetected; 2) making sure nothing public and governmental would ever be believed again, weakening public power and allowing private tyranny to take over all American life. A takeover now complete.

We turn again to documentarian Shane O'Sullivan. Here, O'Sullivan and researcher Douglas Horne expose the most gruesome element of the Warren/Dulles malignancy, the medical cover-up.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Happy Anniversary!

To the U.S. War on the World!
Since  9/11, the United States government -- supported by a majority of the U.S. population -- has murdered:

1,000,000 Iraqis

200,000 Afghans

150,000 Syrians

80,000 Pakistanis

60,000 Libyans

10,000 Iranians

8,000 Yemenis

5,000 Somalis

Conservative figures all. And not counting those murdered by U.S. proxies (Israel, Ukraine, Georgia, Mexico, Columbia, Chechnya, the Phillippines, Indonesia). Also not counting "stateless" persons, foreign and domestic -- no doubt in the 10,000s -- who were just in the way or didn't pay the vig on time . . . or who died of broken hearts.

Current score: USA:          1,513,000
                        Evil Doers:        2,753

All right!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Peace Prize

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Shane O'Sullivan has been our most honest and therefore most important documentary filmmaker dealing with the American Assassinations of the 1960s. His Killing Oswald (2013) was the finest (the only?) work of the 50th Anniversary year which did not swallow wholly the official Warren Commission line.

Since the 1960s, the 8mm Elm Street home movie taken by clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder has been held up as our best proof that more than one gunman was firing at Kennedy in Dealey Plaza, due to the destruction of the Single Bullet Theory caused by the Z-film's timing; and the explosive movement of JFK's head and body ("Back, and to the left") caused by the fatal headshot(s). But is the Zapruder film we have all seen, the real Zapruder film? A man named Dino Brugioni was a top imagery analyst for CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center (he was the man who brought President Kennedy U-2 images proving Soviet nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba in October '62) and on the night of November 22nd, 1963, Brugioni was handed for interpretation an original negative of the Zapruder home movie. What he says he saw that night was very different from what we now see.

(Due to the bought-off chicanery of Dallas's Sixth Floor Museum, the Z-film was not allowed to be part of O'Sullivan's documentary.)

The heroic Douglas Horne guides us through a very sinister maze. 

An enhanced HD version of what Abraham Zapruder filmed that day. Or not. . .

Monday, September 1, 2014

Take Five

Happy 5th Birthday to the blog!

Swoon this.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Best TV Show of All-Time?

The show ran on the CBS television network from September 1957 through April 1963 for an astounding 225 episodes. (A radio show starring a different cast also played for four of those years.) Almost 40 episodes per season, at 26-minutes per, with many locations. (Current half-hour TV series: 20 to 22 episodes a year at 22-minutes each.)

And it is the best western series of all time. Of course, there are problems. Boone insisted on the often silly intros with him in 1870s San Francisco gentry garb, almost always coming on to a girl / rejecting a girl / or sighing with a "what can I do?" expression. (Thankfully these ficelles are not part of every episode.) And that's about it. Out of the 225, maybe 10 are stinkers. But the rest. . . .

No other series is more dominated by a single personality and consciousness than is Have Gun Will Travel by Richard Boone's. His greatness as both actor and director -- and his deeply humanist sensibility -- makes HGWT a model of popular and populist art. Sometimes that sensibility goes awry, wasted on chum. At its best (actually, at its average as well), it was a constant search for what was the right thing to do. Paladin himself is a western superman: brilliant, handsome, rich; a boxer, a gunman, a stud. Yet the character is almost completely devoid of narcissism. Or if it is there at times, it becomes the subject of the piece. In the candy-colored yet morally black-and-white world of the 1950s, this is an astonishingly complex show, in terms of meaning and character.

There are many glories beyond him. Along with his artistic domination, Boone's heart is generous as both actor and director. Some of the best HGWT episodes are directed by Andrew McLaglen, Lamont Johnson, and Ida Lupino -- and he completely gives them their lead. Very literate (sometimes too literate) scripts by the great Herb Meadows and Sam Wolfe (and Gene Rodenberry). An endless succession of special acting turns, by both leads and supporting players: George Kennedy many times, Charles Bronson (amazingly good) many times, Kam Tang as Hey Boy,  Ben Johnson and Ken Curtis fresh off the Ford lot, Charles Aidman, Strother Martin, Ed Nelson, Harry Carey Jr., Shirley O'Hara, Denver Pyle, Jacqueline Scott, June Vincent, on and on. Also, the very lovely Lisa Lu as Hey Boy's replacement, Hey Girl. (Lu's also in several episodes as characters other than Hey Girl, where she also burns a hole in the screen.) Such a slender beauty it's no wonder Henry Miller started stalking her after seeing HGWT.

It is a beautiful show to look at, with a stark sheen. (Many cinematographers are credited, with Stuart Thompson grabbing most titles.) Much of the music is by Bernard Herrmann or based on Herrmann cues. Plus the immortal Johnny Western theme song.

If one comes to knows the series well, what's most remarkable is the continual changes in tone. Alternately leisurely, calm and quiet (and at times very funny); titles tight and tense as a Tohlakai drum; plots so dense they are opaque; stories where nothing much happens at all. We come back, though, to the show's awesome star. No actor has ever surpassed his engagement and commitment to a weekly role. His humor, strength, and charisma get more unique and impressive with each passing year.

One of the many good ones, from Season 2 (April 25, 1959): "The Man Who Lost"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why Not?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Not Anyone

One of the glorious moments of 50s cinema, with the wonderful Hadda Brooks at piano.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Three ways.


Lee Morgan.

Bill Evans.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Beside the greatness of Rick Nelson, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is best remembered for its astonishing longevity (14 seasons, 435 episodes) and for the equally astonishing moribund irrelevance of its later years (1960 and beyond). However, at its best it was great. Under the total creative control of Ozzie Nelson (who it's said made Otto Preminger seem like a pussycat on set), it was the original "show about nothing." Ozzie never had a job, seemed to have no plans for the day, was considered a boob by everyone, and was surrounded by friends, relatives, and neighbors who also had pointless, jobless lives. (What a refreshing change from the CV-obsessed garbage of modern television.) Yet everyone was happy, warm, relaxed, and gentle -- without a hint of smarm or calculation.

One of the wackiest early episodes is called "The Orchid and the Violet," from April 1953. Oz is mistaken for a bum (as he should be) by a florist and his wife, hysterically played by the great Alan Mowbray and by Orson Welles's own Jeanette Nolan, reprising her role here as Lady Macbeth.

Crazy, man!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Your 21st Century US Left

"To be ultra is to go beyond. It is to attack the sceptre in the name of the throne, and the mitre in the name of the altar; it is to maltreat the thing you support; it is to kick in the traces; it is to cavil at the stake for under-cooking heretics; it is to reproach the idol with a lack of idolatry; it is to insult by excess of respect; it is to find in the pope too little papistry, in the king too little royalty, and too much light in the night; it is to be dissatisfied with the albatross, with snow, with the swan, and the lily in the name of whiteness; it is to be the partisan of things to the point of becoming their enemy; it is to be so very pro, that you are con."             
-- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back to the Future

The great American Henry Wallace predicts America's corporate fascist future ~ April 1944:
·  On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions:
  1. What is a fascist?
  2. How many fascists have we?
  3. How dangerous are they?
·  A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.

·  The perfect type of fascist throughout recent centuries has been the Prussian Junker, who developed such hatred for other races and such allegiance to a military clique as to make him willing at all times to engage in any degree of deceit and violence necessary to place his culture and race astride the world. In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.

·  The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

·  If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.

·  American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.

·  The European brand of fascism will probably present its most serious postwar threat to us via Latin America. The effect of the war has been to raise the cost of living in most Latin American countries much faster than the wages of labor. The fascists in most Latin American countries tell the people that the reason their wages will not buy as much in the way of goods is because of Yankee imperialism. The fascists in Latin America learn to speak and act like natives. Our chemical and other manufacturing concerns are all too often ready to let the Germans have Latin American markets, provided the American companies can work out an arrangement which will enable them to charge high prices to the consumer inside the United States. Following this war, technology will have reached such a point that it will be possible for Germans, using South America as a base, to cause us much more difficulty in World War III than they did in World War II. The military and landowning cliques in many South American countries will find it attractive financially to work with German fascist concerns as well as expedient from the standpoint of temporary power politics.

·  Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.

·  Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after "the present unpleasantness" ceases:

·  The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler's game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.

·  The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

·  Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

·  It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini's vaunted claim that he "made the trains run on time." In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler's claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.

·  Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to "make the trains run on time." It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outran our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.

·  The worldwide, agelong struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things:
  1. Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique.
  2. Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.
·  The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.

·  Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.

·  It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and "with malice toward none and charity for all" go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Jeopardy '97

Oliver Stone:
I look back on Jeopardy as one of my highlights during a strange time in the '90s when I was having an enormous amount of fun. I was so bored at this point with the number of interviews, appearances, and junkets that I had to do. I don’t know how anyone can convey the torture of having to do fifty interviews in a day, repeating yourself about a film. These are the kinds of things that drive you insane, so I suppose in rebellion against that kind of mindset. I was on Jeopardy as a charity effort with Arianna Huffington and Wolf Blitzer, and I was trying to pick up this Korean girl in Washington D.C. who I was meeting for the first time, and these first time things can be very exciting, so she was in the audience and I had decided that morning to take ecstasy. I was on it on Jeopardy, and I was totally enjoying the show in a way that neither of my two co-contestants possibly could. In fact, Wolf was so uptight I was laughing even harder at his “projection” of intelligence. Arianna, a graduate in art history apparently forgot everything that day because she got zero points as I remember. I think I lost everything and won it back several times, and at the very end I whipped Wolf Blitzer with a question that I thought was ridiculously simple, but neither of these two could remember the painter of the “Last Supper.” I think a first grader could’ve figured that out, but I jumped on it and I won. The secret of Jeopardy is how fast your finger can get to the button. That millisecond makes a difference. Ecstasy gave me the power that day, but I couldn’t stay in the box however. Alex Trebeck kept telling me to get back into that box; he’s lucky I did. Anyway, I had a great night afterwards with that wonderful Korean girl who actually worked in a relief organization in Africa. All these Washington girls work in relief organizations… good hunting ground.
Including actual 1997 commercials!

Saturday, August 9, 2014


40 years since he fled the White House, just ahead of the Sheriff, with his pockets full of silverware.

Oliver Stone, Senator George McGovern, and historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. on the man who, in Hunter S. Thompson's words, "broke the heart of the American Dream."