Oct 182015

tomTom Hanks stars in a story about a regular guy who finds himself involved in deep, dark, mysterious and dangerous matters, rises to the occasion and masters the situation.

Sound familiar? That’s the plot line for many of Hitchcock’s best films. “The 39 Steps”, “North by Northwest”, and “Rear Window”, just for some examples.

The movie is set in 1957, during the cold war. That was the year after Hitchcock released “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (the second version), which had that basic plot line, and the year before he released “Vertigo”.

Both of those movies starred this guy.jimmy

What brings this to mind is that in thinking about the movie I decided that “Bridge of Spies” would have required zero changes to have Jimmy Stewart in the lead, and to have actually been filmed it that year. It was Stewart’s exact kind of movie. The dialog is perfectly suited to Stewart’s trademark stammering delivery, particularly scenes where he is being persuasive. No whiz-bang effects, just straight ahead camera work. I mentioned the similarity to Marion and she suggested Doris Day for the part of the wife of the Tom Hanks character, which is perfect.  Doris Day was pretty good in “The Man Who Knew Too Much”.

Spielberg directed, and I have to wonder if this similarity was conscious. It is a good movie.


 Posted by at 11:37 pm
Oct 182015


So, I saw this and was naturally reminded of the Supreme Court.

Earlier this year there was a case called Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.    Texas sells specialty license plates on which people can put a message of their choice. Anyone who likes that message can pay extra to those plates. They are not vanity plates, its more like when states have a slogan like “Live Free or Die”, or “Famous Potatoes”. Its kind of goofy, there are plates sponsored by a fast food chain that say “Mighty Fine Burgers”.  A group of redneck pricks applied to be able to get plates with a confederate flag, and to Texas’ credit they were denied. They appealed on First Amendment free speech grounds and lost, with Justice Thomas voting along with the four liberals. Odd, you say? This is a typical example of people who are hard core conservatives except as to matters that affect themselves. Thomas grew up in Georgia in an era when there was plenty of Klan activity, and he knows that flag to be a terrorist symbol.  Thomas’ vote on this is discussed here. The decision came out right around the time that that other redneck prick shot a bunch of Black people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

Anyway during oral argument there was this exchange

Full audio at Oyez.

Ginsberg did not pull that reference out of the air. There was a case in 2007 in which a high school kid sued for a violation of his free speech rights after he was suspended for putting up a poster that said, “Bong hits 4 Jesus” across the street from his high school. Morse v. Frederick.  He lost because Kennedy went with the conservatives for the proposition that kids don’t have free speech.

So, had Thomas not flipped, it seems like the Constitution would require that some kids in Texas would not be allowed to drive to school.

 Posted by at 1:37 pm
Aug 152015

alfred jarry

This is Alfred Jarry. I ran across this photo kind of randomly. He looks just very contemporary, so I looked him up.

Turns out he was an archetype Artistic Genius. French, iconoclast of the first order, famous and successful in his day, into absinthe, probably gay, died penniless at 34 in 1907, of TB exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, novel published posthumously, unknown today. The whole package.  His last request was for a toothpick. He rode a bicycle. Picasso admired him, did a sketch of him,  and bought up his estate after he died.  Pioneer of the symbolist movement, now seen as a forerunner of Dada. He added a key element to the movement when he defined “pataphysics” as “the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments”. Thats pretty Dada precursive right there.

And, really, great photo.

Wikipedia entry

 Posted by at 1:33 am
Jul 142015



This New York Times article expresses more than I could just how inane the world of men’s fashion is. (I say “inane” of course, because usage of the word is otherwise almost exclusively confined to the Times crossword. But it fits here.)

For years, I have seen articles about these attempts to treat men as if they were amenable to the same forms of suggestion/coercion as women. In addition to wondering just who, in real life, pays money for shit like this, this highlights, to me, just how crazy it is that anyone of either gender would allow the influence of the creeps who run the fashion industry to affect them.



 Posted by at 7:18 pm
May 262015

roseIran. Good movie. Recommended. This is a movie in which somehow, and I really can’t say exactly how, the audience just knows something is wrong, not as it seems.  A suspense movie. What the audience does know is also pretty wrong. Its set in an extremely specific time and place. Iran, June of 2009. During the Green Revolution. Even more specifically, all of the action in the movie takes place in the main character’s apartment. He never leaves. We don’t really know why he is holed up. This is a terrific premise for a suspense movie, and it is carried off very well.  Massive protests are happening outside his window. There are a number of scenes shot on cell phones of what was plainly actual video from the protests showing the cops doing what cops do in those situations, huge numbers of people marching and the like. People come and go from the apartment, including a beautiful and mysterious stranger, and he has phone conversations, but we have a hard time figuring out his deal until the story decides to reveal it. A very satisfying movie experience.

The thing about Iran is that the people who live there are to a great degree not at all into all the religious stuff. Just the opposite. They are regular people who dress like us and just want to have a nice apartment an a decent job. Nicest people you could hope to meet.

Iran under the Shah was a pretty open place, politics aside. Women were encouraged to get an education, people in the cities dressed and acted like middle class people in Europe, and the religious bigots had little power. Because no one but the Shah had power. He was an asshole, a puppet of the US which had overthrown a different election and installed him, the better to get Iran’s oil. He was a typical stupid dictator. He made hash of the economy and civil society. He was hated. When the Iranians could, they got rid of him, in 1979.  The people who were best organized were the religious fanatics, because the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK,  had imprisoned or murdered the secular opposition, and the army was corrupt. Also,  Khomeini was a famous exiled dissident, and pulled a fast one on his return after the Shah was deposed. So the religious nuts took over.

In 2009 the Iranians voted in a fellow named Mousavi for President, he was secular but had been in the government until he crossed the religious party once too often. So, the government transparently stole the election; which is how one of our favorite nutcases, Ahmadinejad, got into power. There were massive protests that grew every day. It was the first protest movement that made creative use of the internet and Twitter. It was put down by a massive Tiananmen style show of force. The world just watched it happen.  The point of the protests was not just the election, it was desperately wanting to become a regular country.

This is the backdrop of the film. Our main character is secular, professional, probably pretty well off. Its not so surprising he is not in the streets, but what is his deal, we wonder.


 Posted by at 6:01 am