Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck.

Good Night, and Good Luck is two movies, one a little bit better than the other. The better movie is made up of the archival kinescope footage of live television (it wasn't generally refered to as TV back then) coverage of a couple of Congressional hearings that occured in 1953 and '54.

A milestone in its day and still the best political coverage television has presented to this day, The Army-McCarthy Hearings is generally familiar to American viewers through Emile de Antonio's powerful editorial condensation, Point of Order. The other footage is culled from a Senate Subcommittee investigating hiring practices in the Armed Forces. This sequence is also very dramatic in demonstrating the bullying intimidations of "the Junior Senator from Wisconsin" toward witness Annie Lee Moss as contrasted with the protective libertarianism of Arkansas Senator John McClellan.

The other movie shows the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations of presenting live TV, especially in the context of editorializing against the prevailing anti-Communist bullying and professional blacklisting. This, more scripted movie, is good, but not good enough. Edward R. Murrow, his producer Fred W. Friendly, network owner William S. Paley and the other CBS personnel are shown as decent, dedicated one-note stick figures. They seem to be living their lives according to the precepts of the Yale School of Jouralism and Miss Manners. There are no plot surprises or character revelations. As circumstances require, the brave network owner stands tall against his defecting sponsors, and the unfairly harried newscaster commits suicide. But the noble team of the CBS news department strides bravely on.

Just why writer-producer-director-actor George Clooney felt that GNAGL would be a film for our times is unclear. Joe McCarthy didn't create the climate in America that lead to neurotic our anti-communist fear and loathing, but he did capitalize on it. But he is also long ago dead. Maybe Clooney believes there are present day government officials who have re-employed McCarthy's bullying scare tactics and outrageous accusations to serve other ends than true benefits to the American people. Maybe Clooney presents the McCarthy era as a warning of the infringement on rights that America has to be on guard against.

At the end of the film, I sat through the credits, waiting for the character roll that would tell us what significantly happened in the further lives of the senators, witnesses and news personnel depicted. Maybe they are saving that for the DVD release.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Harry Christmas

"They all lied," said Gambera, a retired English professor living in San Rafael. "They did it for the cause."

..."Ideale Gambera, whose father was a Boston anarchist in the 1920s, said he could empathize with Sinclair's angst about revealing his doubts. Gambera, 80, said there was a strict code of silence to protect the group and hide the nature of their activities. He said his father, Giovanni Gambera, a member of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, told him before he died in 1982 that Sacco was one of the killers."They all lied," said Gambera, a retired English professor living in San Rafael. "They did it for the cause.'"

And Upton Sinclair, an active Socialist writer and politican, died in 1968 without ever revealing his knowledge of Sacco's guilt and his own false defense of this, and other killer anarchists. What a disheartening lack of character this letter reveals. Sinclair shows himself to be a literary, political and moral coward.

Liberals and Leftists, of which I am one, have proven to be as vicious as Conservatives and Reactionaries in their pursuit of power and the control of American minds. Unfortunately, mindless Americans are all too ready to dupe themselves.

I don't support Capital Punishment, unless I can be Judge, Jury and Executioner. Nonetheless,

Fact: the Rosenberg's were guilty.

Fact: the American Communist Party was a tool of Russian Bolshevism and its drive toward international imperialism.

Fact: Alger Hiss was guilty.

Fact: Many well-meaning Liberals in the 1930's were duped joining a local Communist Cell, but re-canters like Elia Kazan and Edward Dmytryk had every free right to criticize and even name their unrepentant and still conspiring associates.

Fact: "Tookie, Tookie, lend me your gun" Williams was guilty and wouldn't admit it and there is nothing the Reverend Jackson can to bring his victims back to life or reverse the gangsterism that Tookie iniated and promoted and which has devastatingly over-shadowed his puny literary pretensions.

Fact: There are too many lies to list.

Conclusion: Don't take sides, take a position or just sit on the sidelines and shut up!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Here it is; the movie you've been waiting for and you didn't even know it. Charles Schultz meets Todd Solondz. Think a Peanuts cartoon version of HAPPINESS or WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. If Todd screens MAYAEWK I believe he will feel complimented by the association. And if Sparky were around to see it, I think he would likewise be charmed.

MAYAEWK is a character loaded film, none of whom is "Me", but some may be "You" and all whom I readily recognize and feel privileged to "Know". With its multiple characters, each with a unique story, it is a deceptively simple, yet subtlely complex interweaving of these stories into a powerhouse resolution of existential reward and redemption.

Writer-Director Miranda July joins the growing list of significant new female filmmakers like the Sprecher sisters, Jill and Karen, Sofia Coppola and many others whose continued work I am anxious to experience.

Give yourself a Christmas or Channakuh present and rent "Me and You and Everyone We Know".

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

American Red Cross

The Red Cross has taken a lot of flack, lately, regarding its disaster relief reactions. I don't doubt the justification of some complaints, but one thing cannot be discounted, and that's the ongoing and very effective, life saving collection of human blood..

I first donated blood to the Red Cross about some 56 years years ago. Since then I have donated 120 units of blood. That's pints. Or 60 quarts. Or 15 gallons.

A unit of donated blood is usually separated and spread out to multiple patients. Sometimes one patient requires several units to stay alive. How many persons have lived because I spent an occasional hour of my time in a Red Cross clinic or traveling blood drive. I will never know. But today, I did it again.

Don't miss your chance.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Mirabile dictu! THE NEW YORKER has published a wonderful story. Once grandly noted for the high quality of its fiction, The New Yorker, though still an excellent magazine in the areas of reportage, public interest articles, movie reviews and cartoons, has fallen into a slough of drab story selection in recent years.

La Conchita is an enormously welcome exception to the oblique, irresolute and pedestrian stories I usually quickly dismiss after a few paragraphs, or come to feel like I've been had if I happen to plow through to a meaningless stoppage.

That is stoppage instead of ending. Ending would imply some sort of closure; completeness, which New Yorker fiction has come to disdain.La Conchita is another matter. A speeding bullet of narrative with a moving and unexpected character resolution.

I have never read anything before by T. Coraghessan Boyle, but I hope I have made a significant discovery for myself.This story was printed in last week's New Yorker, so I don't know how long they will keep the link active. I have pasted a copy to Word. If anyone want's to read it I will email it along.

Friday, December 16, 2005


A better title for this over-heated mish mash of conspiracy movie cliches would be Serioso. As in mucho serioso, which is how this sophomoric exercise in psuedo sophistication take itself.

The film ads shoutingly refer to its TRAFFIC antecedents. Traffic lite, maybe it is. But its film and story continuity is more like traffic accident. A multi-car pile up on the 405 at rush hour.

The film quickly intercuts between a gaggle of unconnected stories. Since there is almost nothing interesting, imaginative or new in any of the sequences, the quick intercuts are emplemented to distract viewers from its lack of story, character development or continuity.

The one series of scenes that does possess story logic is a curious justification of the 9/11 suicide pilots. As Bill Maher stated on his canceled ABC show, these men were anything but cowards. They flew to their deaths is pursuit of a social purpose. In this one small aspect, Syriana has a kinship with the BATTLE OF ALGIERS, a much, much better and profound depiction of corrupt power and the insurgency it begets.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

War Criminal

What is the difference between Adolph Hitler, who invaded Poland in 1939, and George Bush who invaded Iraq in 2003?

I see no difference. Where will George W. Bush rank in the history books to come? Behind Hitler and Stalin, to be sure. But definitely ahead of Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin and even Osama bin Laden.

How about it, America, aren't you tired of being lied to every single day by this smarmy con man and his cohort of liars and murderers?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Weather in December

Marcie just emailed some photos outside her home in McCook, Nebraska.

Going to work

Her front yard

Her back yard

And then there's this morning's view from my balcony in L.A.

it's private
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