09APR2021 – OCF Update – Life Imitates Art

On such a beautiful day I naturally decided to spend it extracting thorn brambles and Russian olive trees with a shovel and a 6 foot pry bar.  After a couple of hours of sweat and back ache I remembered a line from the movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

Curtin:  What are you going to do with your hard-earned money old timer when you get back and cash in?

Howard:  I’m getting along in years.  Oh, I can still hold up my end when it comes to a hard day’s work but I ain’t the man I was once, and next year, next month, next week I won’t be the man I am today.  Reckon I’ll find me some quiet place to settle down.  Buy a business maybe … a grocery or a hardware store, and spend the better part of my time reading comic strips and adventure stories.  One thing’s for sure … I ain’t going to go prospecting again and waste my time and money trying to find another gold mine.

I certainly know what Howard was talking about in that scene.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) – A Movie Review

Jimmy Stewart is small town attorney Paul Biegler in Upper Peninsula Michigan who is defending Army Lt. Frederick Manion (played by Ben Gazzara) who has shot and killed a man, Barney Quill, after he raped Manion’s wife Laura.  The prosecution in this case, Asst. State Atty. General Claude Dancer is played by George C. Scott.  Biegler is trying to prove that Lt. Manion killed his wife’s attacker while in a dissociative state because of his shock at his wife’s attack.  The prosecution has a two-fold job.  They try to convince the jury that Lt. Manion was in his right mind when he shot Quill and also that Mrs. Manion was an unfaithful wife and was voluntarily involved with her attacker.

The majority of the film is the courtroom trial and the sparring between Jimmy Stewart and George C. Scott is the main attraction.  Scott delivers his dialog with his usual aggressive and nuanced portrayal.  He attacks the Manions on the witness stand with all the brutal skill of a gladiator in the arena.  Stewart is forced to use the sympathy for a brutalized woman and her outraged husband to win the jury’s sympathy.  But the prosecution is able to showcase the flawed relationship between an overly flirtatious woman and her almost insanely jealous husband to give credibility to the idea that Lt. Manion was just a jealous man killing his rival in love and therefore guilty of murder.

A very young Lee Remick as Mrs. Manion is remarkably beautiful and her flirtatiousness throughout the movie does make it more likely for us, the audience, to also believe that her husband murdered Quill in a fit of jealousy associated with her habitually provocative behavior.

The supporting cast that includes Arthur O’Connell and Eve Arden as Jimmy Stewart’s small town legal team and a cameo by Orson Bean as an army psychiatrist add touches of humor to the film and there are even a couple of cameos by Duke Ellington as a jazz musician that reinforces the jazz musical theme for the film.  Not being a jazz-fan, this theme music actually isn’t a big positive for me.

I think the film intentionally leaves open the question of whether Lt. Manion was temporarily insane or not.  But the courtroom action clearly deprives the jury and the audience of the film of any sympathy for the prosecution.  Even believing Manion was not insane when he killed Quill doesn’t force these spectators to sympathize with either the prosecutor or the murder victim.  As flawed as the Manions are we still sympathize with them.  They are human to us.

This is not a great movie.  But it is interesting.  I can recommend it.

Chernobyl (2019) – A TV Series Review

A good friend sent me the DVDs for the HBO five-part-series “Chernobyl.”  Most people are relatively familiar with the 1986 nuclear power plant catastrophe in the Soviet Union (present day Ukraine) by that name and lately there has been a lot of attention paid to the exclusion zone around the plant and how the environment around the plant has begun returning to a wild state without people inhabiting it.  And the disaster at Chernobyl was a very important event both for the Soviet Union and for the world because of the amount of negative sentiment that this failure cast on both the Soviet Union and also the nuclear power industry.  In fact, Gorbachev was said to have written in his memoirs that Chernobyl was the root cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

But it is important to state that this film history is a dramatic representation of the events and deviates in several particulars from the actual events.  And in general, the producers have amplified many of the details to make the story more compelling.  Whether there is an ideological component to this amplification is of course hard to say.  But whatever the motivation the dramatic effect is definitely compelling.

The main protagonist of the series is Valery Legasov, a senior Soviet scientist who takes the lead in first convincing the Soviet administration that a terrible disaster has occurred, then advising the emergency operation on how to mitigate the ongoing catastrophe and finally to expose the actual cause of the catastrophe and force the authorities to take the steps necessary to prevent another occurrence.

Other important characters include Boris Shcherbina a central government official who is reluctantly appointed to investigate and then execute the emergency actions needed to cope with the disaster on the ground; Vasily and Lyudmilla Ignatenko, a fire fighter and his wife who are among those who are exposed directly to the results of the hellish radiation levels existing at the site of the explosion; and finally, Ulana Khomyuk, a nuclear scientist who in actuality didn’t exist.  She is a composite of all the nuclear scientists who aided Legasov in his investigation of the causes of the Chernobyl disaster.  Since most people are more or less aware of the historical event let me get down to my reactions to the series.

The first episode is as riveting as a science fiction horror film.    When the explosion occurs the nuclear plant control room staff are told by the chief engineer on duty, Anatoly Dyatlov, that they are only dealing with a small fire caused by a hydrogen explosion in an auxiliary tank.  It appears he is in denial and he orders his crew and the arriving fire fighters to battle the blaze as if it is a normal fire.  Because of this they are effectively fed into the jaws of hell.

As Dyatlov and his superiors try to convince the Soviet officials that the disaster is a small unimportant event, Legasov starts to hear the evidence and at a meeting that includes Mikhail Gorbachev he declares that what has really occurred is the unthinkable.  That the reactor core has exploded and is now strewing enriched uranium into the air, contaminating the Soviet Union and Europe for thousands of miles around and killing anyone who comes close to the source.  When Boris Shcherbina objects that Legasov is just speculating Gorbachev tells him to go with Legasov to Chernobyl and get the facts.

From there the series follows this team to Chernobyl and chronicles their efforts to solve a problem that has never been seen before by humanity.  Interweaved are the stories of the others whose lives have been destroyed by their proximity to the disaster.  Soldiers, scientists, helicopter pilots, miners, doctors and nurses, government officials and family members.  And after the action on the ground there is a trial to lay the blame for Chernobyl at someone’s feet.  And it is at this trial that we finally find out exactly what went on in the control room right before the explosion and we get to see how the Soviet Union handles the truth.

It’s a harrowing story.  And it is well acted.  None of the actors are familiar to me but they are very good.  And mixed in with the horror there are personal moments that touch the viewer.  There are even a very few moments of humor.  I found I had a good deal of empathy for even some of the less noble characters.  They were human beings confronted with inhuman force.  And some of them acquitted themselves with intelligence and bravery.  That makes for a powerful story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xulAgMNK5Jk

 

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) – A Movie Review

This is a WWII submarine story.  A submarine commander P.J. Richardson, played by Clark Gable, survives the destruction of his submarine during operations against the Japanese in the Bungo Straits.  The Japanese destroyer responsible, called the Akikaze, had previously destroyed at least four submarines and Richardson is determined to have his revenge.  Richardson thinks he has figured out how to defeat the Akikaze and he convinces the navy to give him command of another submarine, the Nerka.  The Nerka’s executive officer, Lieutenant Jim Bledsoe, played by Burt Lancaster, has been disappointed in not being given the command, but he cooperates with Richardson and acts to convince the crew that the unorthodox and frustrating tactics that the commander puts them through are legitimate.

The commander brings the Nerka into the Bungo Straits and using his knowledge of the Japanese tactics he successfully engages a Japanese destroyer and destroys it.  But when he goes after the Akikaze the Japanese seem to know in advance of his presence and the Nerka is nearly destroyed, several men are killed and Richardson is badly injured.

But when Richardson orders Bledsoe to prepare for another attempt to destroy the Akikaze, he relieves Richardson of command based on medical disability and says that he will return the Nerka to base.  But Bledsoe changes his mind and attacks and destroys the Akikaze.  But during the attack Richardson realizes that the Akikaze was working with a Japanese submarine to destroy American submarines.  He alerts Bledsoe and the danger is averted and the Japanese sub is destroyed.  But Richardson dies of his injuries and the Nerka buries him at sea.

This is a fairly straight forward war movie.  But the principal actors Gable and Lancaster make it a very memorable film.  Some of the other actors do a good job.  Jack Warden is a veteran actor and is probably the standout among the supporting characters.  There is one amusing detail in the ship life.  The crew has a pin-up picture of a girl which they each pat on the butt before they go into battle.  This amusing and lifelike touch adds obvious interest for the natural audience of this movie.  Highly recommended.

Blood Simple (1984) – A Movie Review

This was the Coen Brothers first movie.  Even in their first picture all of the Coen Brothers’ tendencies are on full display.  I have a love/hate relationship with their movies and I’m sure it colors all of my views but that is probably true of a very large part of their audience.  The Coen Brothers are undoubtedly extremely talented movie makers.  Their dialog, cinematography and actor selection are quite remarkable.  But there is such a blackness, such a nihilistic core in their work that you always walk away shaking your head.

The plot involves a married couple Julian and Abby Marty, played by Dan Hedaya and Frances McDormand.  Julian owns a bar in Texas and when the movie begins his bartender Ray is driving Abby back from some trip.  We quickly learn that Abby is not happily married to Julian and in fact Ray and Abby are about to stop at a motel for a sexual tryst.  Unbeknownst to them Julian has hired a private investigator named Loren Visser (played by M. Emmet Walsh) who has followed them and is able to get pictures of Ray and Abby in bed together and provides these to Julian.

After some violent encounters between Julian and the lovers he hires Visser to kill them for $10,000.  When Julian returns from an alibi fishing trip Visser meets him at his office and hands over some pictures showing Ray and Abbey in bed with blood spattered on their bodies.  Julian secretly steals the photo and hides it in his safe while taking out the $10,000.  When Julian hands over the money Visser takes out the small caliber gun that he somehow stole from Abby and shoots Julian in the chest and leaves after throwing the gun on the ground.

Now we find out that the death photos of Ray and Abby are fakes.  Ray shows up at the bar and finds Julian shot in the back-room office.  But when he sees Abby’s gun, he assumes she shot Julian.  He decides to dispose of the body.  He puts it in his car and drives out into the farmland surrounding his town.  While stopping on a road to look at a plowed field as a possible burial location for Julian, he discovers that Julian is not quite dead yet.  He has crawled out of the car and is inching down the road on all fours.  Ryan agonizes over running Julian over with the car or banging him in the head with a shovel but because of an approaching truck he just drags him back in the car and heads onto the field.

He digs a grave and puts Julian in but as he begins to bury him Julian finds Abby’s gun that Ryan has stuck in the assumed dead man’s coat pocket.  He then pulls the trigger a couple of times but none of the chambers he tries has a bullet in it so Ray takes the gun from him and buries Julian alive.

Ray returns home to Abby but he thinks she shot Julian and since he won’t say what has happened, she is completely in the dark about Julian and is scared by Ray’s strange behavior.  They become suspicious of each other.  Now Visser discovers that the doctored picture of Ray and Abby is missing and he decides he will have to kill Ray and Abby to ensure no one figures out his involvement.  At this point all three protagonists are sneaking around in the same locales and the tension builds.  Finally, Ray and Abby are holed up in his apartment and Visser comes to get them.  Ray suspects that someone is out there and tells Abby to shut the light but she is a stubborn dope and because of this Ray takes a sniper shot to the back and falls down dead.  Visser comes into the apartment and a game of cat and mouse develops between him and Abby that ends with a knife through his hand in a window in another room from the one he is standing in and him shooting holes in a wall to allow his other hand to enter the other room to get the knife out.  It’s bizarre to say the least.  Finally, Abby retrieves her gun again and shoots Visser through the door of the room he is in.  She still thinks it’s Julian after her so she says, “I’m not afraid of you, Marty.”  And Visser, lying on the floor, dying, says laughingly, “Well, ma’am, if I see him, I’ll sure give him the message.”

Good lord, what can you say?  The Coens revel in ordinary people becoming submerged in criminality and violence.  There are never any heroes.  There are only varying shades of black and dark gray.  Visser is a twisted man but Julian is hardly better and Ray and Abby are impulsive fools who get swept along in the flood of hatred and greed.  To say it is over the top would be an understatement unless we are putting the statement in the context of other Coen Brothers movies.  Remember this was their first film.  Later on, this movie would be considered a light hearted romp.

But as a Coen Brothers movie it is a success.  The plot bounces along from outrage to outrage and instead of reaching a satisfying conclusion the screen just goes black and the end-credits role.  You have just been told a very disturbing crime story but it was effectively told.  If you enjoy this kind of movie experience then you should watch this film.  They do this very well.  But please don’t expect a happily ever after ending.  There ain’t no such thing in the Coen Brothers universe.

The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard by Tyler James Cook – A Book Review

Full disclosure, Tyler Cook is the proprietor of the website The Portly Politico, a fellow conservative and in my opinion a fine fellow.  He and I have shared many an interesting conversation on-line about a number of different topics, political and non-political.  He’s a multi-talented fellow and a good guy.  So, I wasn’t surprised to find that he has also self-published a book and asked me to review it.  And always on the look out for something good to review, I immediately agreed and he was kind enough to send me a review copy.

“The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard” is a short book and is made up of a number of “cases.”  The eponymous Inspector is a Sherlock Holmes-like savant who usually solves the case simultaneous with the initial narration of the crime.  But the final solution always involves logic that is a complete non sequitur to the clues.  That is the joke.

The thing that I noted was that the content of the stories reflect the various ages at which Tyler wrote them.  So, the earliest tales are very, very short and have solutions that defy any conventional logic.  They are what a teenage kid would find funny.  And as the series of stories progresses, they become more complex and the writing adds touches of noir-like characterization and other dramatic effect.

And finally, as the author enters adulthood his writing becomes mature and his story telling powers become developed.  The culmination is a story called, “Inspector Gerard and the Dead-End Job Caper.”  It is a comical piece that dramatizes Gerard’s ennui and determination to abandon crime-solving and take up a life as a fish-monger.  This story has everything.  Dramatic tension, character development, local color and timing.  Well, maybe not, but it is funny.

So here is the verdict.  Tyler Cook is a smart talented writer.  I can see that in the output of his blog.  “The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard” is a showcase of his earliest fiction writing output.  It reflects his sense of humor applied to the mystery genre.  It is amusing but very short.  I think the takeaway from this selection is that Tyler is going to write a longer and more commercial work in the future.

Tyler has the story on Amazon and I see it’s on kindle unlimited for free I believe.  Because of its short length and the ironic nature of much of the work I wouldn’t know if many folks would be happy to pay a lot for the collection.  But I encourage readers of the Portly Politico to try it out and then lobby Tyler to spread his wings and write the comic novel that he obviously has in him.

Kim (1950) – A Movie Review

I remember finding a copy of the novel Kim in my home when I was a kid.  Not knowing much about colonial India at the time some of the references were obscure to me.  But the story was engaging.  Many years later I saw the motion picture and enjoyed the story all over again.  Errol Flynn and Dean Stockwell carry most of this movie on their shoulders with Stockwell as the title character, an orphan son of a British soldier living as a native boy in the streets of India and Flynn as a spy for the British Intelligence Office known as Mahbub Ali, The Red Beard.  And in the Flynn’s affable relationship with the boy, it reminds me of his performance in the 1937 movie “The Prince and the Pauper” where his character befriends and ultimately saves the Prince of Wales from his misadventures.

This story is a cloak and dagger spy story of the “The Great Game” between England and Russia in Asia and also a coming-of-age story for the boy.  He discovers his roots and makes some valuable friends.  He learns different lessons about himself from sources as different as a Tibetan Lama and a British Intelligence Officer.

And along the way he shows himself to be brave, resourceful and reliable to all those he befriends.  The story is one of Kipling’s best and has a fantasy feel to it that belies the 19th century time frame it exists in.  Stockwell and Flynn and the supporting cast are excellent in this tale and it is a throwback to the 1930s and 40s when movies of this sort were more common.  And the portrayal of life in colonial India with Europeans enjoying their white privilege would be completely unacceptable to woke viewers so of course knowing it would outrage those losers makes it that much more amusing to watch.

Read the book if you haven’t and then watch the movie.  Both are highly recommended.

The Dunwich Horror (1970) – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Move Review

(War Pig loves really bad sf&f movies.  This one’s for you War Pig.)

This movie is so monumentally bad that I feel compelled to dissect its awfulness so that we can learn something from it.  First of all, look at the date.  1970 is something of a low water mark in American cinema.  Now granted this was produced by American International Pictures and they only ever made really cheap and schlocky movies.  But that sets the stage for how this movie became what it was.  Next, the story is an old H.P. Lovecraft story so the cost of buying the movie rights must have been pretty close to zero.

Next take a look at the actors.  Sam Jaffe and Ed Begley were actual actors at one time but their careers were coming to an end and they probably really needed the money.  Dean Stockwell was a young guy whose career had begun as a child actor in the big studio system but with that system now a thing of the past he would earn his daily bread working in schlock and it suited him.  Sandra Dee was a product of the post war teen movies of the late fifties and early sixties.  She had played all the Gidget and Tammy parts and was now too old to be the girl next door.  This was what was next on her ride to oblivion.  It’s also funny to see that before she got some big screen parts in movies like the Godfather and Rocky, Talia Shire had a small role in this stinker.  So, there are some actual actors in this movie.  But what can they do with this thing?

And finally, what is the plot?  Well, in the original Lovecraft story Wilbur Whateley, played by Dean Stockwell, and his monstrous twin are the product of some kind of bizarre ritualistic impregnation of their mother by one of the Great Old Ones, Yog-Sothoth.  The book chronicles the attempt by Wilbur to use the Necronomicon to allow Yog-Sothoth to break through from his own dimension and conquer Earth and eat all the humans for lunch.

But the geniuses at American International Pictures decided that what Wilbur wanted was to go for another generation of Yog-Sothoth baby making and Sandra Dee would be the baby mama.  The monster brother is still in the plot but it seems like a sort of dangling appendage that nobody knows what to do with.

Ed Begley is Dr. Henry Armitage, a university professor who has a copy of the Necronomicon and is Sandra Dee’s boss.  He will try to save her life and foil Whateley’s diabolical plan.  And to round out the cast Sam Jaffe is “Old Whateley,” Wilbur’s grandfather who seems to have inexplicably changed his mind about being an evil servant of the Great Old Ones and now just runs around warning everyone about how dangerous everything is.  Comically they’ve painted thick black eyebrows on his face.  He sort of looks like Groucho Marx in that sense.

Well, before you know it Wilbur convinces Sandra Dee to come to his groovy farmhouse and drink some tea and after he pulls the distributor cap off her car’s motor, she has to spend the night.  She has dreams that look like they were filmed with my kid brother’s super 8 movie camera.  Semi-naked hippies who look like rejects from the Manson family hopped up on hair tonic and looking for love chase her around.  It’s quite ridiculous.  When she wakes up, she shares these dreams with Wilbur and we can see that it’s all having the hoped-for result.  She’s looking for some Yog-Sothoth action.  So, Wilbur brings her up to an oceanside cliff with an altar where she will wear some kind of poncho-like garment that allows the cameraman to show us the side of her leg and butt for what seems like hours.  And Wilbur spreads her legs apart and props the Necronomicon against her groin while he reads passages to Yog-Sothoth.

At some point Wilbur’s brother breaks out of his room and eats about five people including Talia Shire.  We never really get a good look at him.  He’s got tentacles and eyes and I don’t know what else.  He makes guttural noises and he has problems with his adenoids for sure.

Finally, Ed Begley shows up at the cliff and he and Wilbur posture and spout meaningless syllables at each other.  Begley’s babbling proves to be the stronger and Wilbur’s head bursts into flames and he jumps off the cliff.  We briefly see what might be Yog-Sothoth appear as a cartoon character suspended over Sandra Dee’s groin before he disappears.  Then Ed Begley helps her off the altar and the movie ends but as it ends, we see an image of a fetus near Sandra Dee’s belly.  Yog-Sothoth scored again!

So, there it is.  It’s embarrassing to admit I even made it to the end of this awful waste of time.  As far as I know Talia Shire is the only living victim of this terrible thing.  I imagine it still haunts her.  Maybe her rich brother Francis Ford Coppola can buy the rights to the movie and destroy every copy so their family’s shame can end.  I’ve never been a big fan of Lovecraft’s prose.  His imagination was fertile and the images he came up with were vivid.  But his prose style was lackluster.  But even he deserves better than this.  The Dunwich Horror was one of his better stories.  Maybe someday someone will do a decent job of making a movie of it.  This was not that movie.

On Killing Off Fictional Family

I’m working on a fantasy story.  And I’m at the point in the origin phase where the protagonist needs a crisis to propel him into a new and horrible life.  And I’m wavering between some deus ex machina scooping him out of his normal life or a horrible injustice killing off one or more of his family.

And the funny thing is I feel bad about killing off his kin.  I mean, they’re good people and they’ve never done anything to me and all things being equal I might need them later.  So, I’m vacillating and trying to thread the needle.  Can I just kill off his father?  But I kind of need him for later.  How about his mother?  The murder of his mother would be a great catalyst.  There’s guilt and rage and despair and hunger for revenge and all sorts of mixed emotions.  That could work well.  But it feels like a cheap trick.

I could kill off his newlywed sister.  It’s going to happen at the wedding reception anyway.  But that’s even more conflicted.  There’s the bride groom and the other sisters and then the parents won’t be distracted by one of them dying so the protagonist will be dealing with all kinds of messy emotional baggage.  Everyone will be whining for a hundred pages and I don’t need that.

I’m planning some kind of mob hit.  I’m undecided between a shotgun blast coming out of the reception or a bomb thrown through the window.  Either way it’s not ideal.  Very messy.  Definitely not the beautiful death.

So, as you can see there won’t be any easy way to write this.  All kinds of angst and messy follow-on consequences.  But let’s face it, murdered family has been a great plot device since Cain killed Abel.  I’m already trying to work my way through a father with conflicted feelings about the son whom he loves but who is responsible for the death of his wife.  That’s got all kinds of possibilities.  As I said I need the father around later and his grudging cooperation in some plot devices would add a nice amount of resistance to some scenes that would otherwise lose all tension.

So, she has to go.  But I am grateful for her part up to this point and I will give her a nice close-up scene before the finale.  She’ll get to talk to her son and they will share something personal before I finish her off.  Then she’ll upstage her oldest daughter’s wedding.  What mother could ask for more than that?

So, as you can see, for me the characters in my story take on a life of their own and I have to think carefully before I bring anyone in.  The butterfly effect is in full effect and especially when my character has a very long-life span, I have to be careful about cutting off all descendants of present characters because I might need their grandchildren or even great grandchildren at some point.

And finally, this action is meant to cut off his normal life and send him forward into a future where many of his actions are going to appear to him to be pretty evil.  To make that happen I’ll need something to disorient his moral compass.  The random brutal death of someone who symbolizes normalcy and happiness to him is just about right.  Add in a feeling that he is culpable in the death and I think I can work that into a tragic figure.  Will Shakespeare, hold my beer.

Finding the Good in Today’s World – Part 1

Going through the news and what passes for entertainment today is a pretty grim process.  It seems it’s woke wreckage and infantilism all the way down.  But if you let the mainstream media and the progressives in New York and Hollywood blind you to what else is out there then you’ve played into their hands.  Admittedly, it is work to “find the good” but it’s not an impossible task.

I’ll confess, I often fall back on complaining about how bad things have gotten and longing for the good old days.  But that doesn’t help anyone.  And in my defense, I do reviews of books, movies, tv shows and country music.  I do get a small but steady search traffic for those things and so I can claim that I do my small part for increasing the knowledge base of people interested in “finding the good.”  But I think it’s a good idea to put together information in an organized form and maybe supplement it with some comments.  After all I am what the idiot children call an “opinion leader” which I guess is a synonym for opinionated jerk.  So here goes.

First things first.  I believe in owning physical copies.  I buy paper books, CDs and DVDs.  I think some of the things I like will be cancelled by the industries that own them and will disappear.  And now we see Disney putting warnings on their old movies and publishers eliminating Dr. Seuss.  Well, okay.  Of course, I’ll need to buy a good supply of DVD players.  But they’re so cheap that it’s reasonable to do.  I’ve got a few hundred DVDs and a few hundred CDs and I used to have thousands of books but I pared that back a good deal and now it’s a few hundred of those.

And owning the physical copies means if I want to watch “The Sting” or read “Huckleberry Finn” I don’t have to search for a streaming service that hasn’t cancelled these works because they use forbidden words or ideas.  That’s enormously powerful.  And convenient.  Most of the streaming services only possess a small fraction of the “good” things you might want to see or hear or read.  Just yesterday I read that the BBC is going back and expurgating the “racist” dialog that they’ve discovered in John Cleese’s “Fawlty Towers” tv show.  John Cleese is a pompous fool who now regrets the thought policing that he and his generation introduced.  But I have the DVDs for that show and if I want to be reminded of when he actually was funny, I can watch them, so-called racism and all!

The next thing that you can use when looking for the good is chronological.  Basically, anything created before 1960 is probably free from systemic cultural poisoning.  Now granted there were plenty of leftists even back then but they had not captured the arts completely.  So, for instance, if you look at the book or movie awards from those years you will note that most of the books and movies are readable or watchable.  There are of course exceptions.  But compare that to the winners of book and movie awards today.  For me an Academy Award from the last decade or so is almost a guarantee that the movie is unwatchable psychobabble or celebrates disgusting sexual deviancy.  Nowadays it takes a review from someone I trust to get me to watch a movie or read a book.

So, I’ve gone on for a page with generalities.  In the next installments of this series, I’ll pick one area and provide some recommendations on things I’ve found that are good.  But just to get the ball rolling I’ll throw out one recommendation.

Modern television show: “Justified

Here is a show that ran from 2010 to 2015 that was based on stories by Elmore Leonard, a truly great crime writer and running to almost eighty episodes and there isn’t a bad episode in the bunch.  That’s pretty rare.  Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy and Walton Goggins give highly entertaining and nuanced performances and even a racist, sexist homophobe such as myself will admit that Hollywood didn’t screw this show up somehow.  Camera Girl and I have re-watched this series every few years and we still enjoy every episode.  I hope I never wear out the fun of watching it.