If you don’t mind a suggestion for you to extend photography, I’d suggest you start taking your camera with you where ever you go to record the unexpected. I just happened to stumble on the below.
If you don’t mind a suggestion for you to extend photography, I’d suggest you start taking your camera with you where ever you go to record the unexpected. I just happened to stumble on the below.
Here’s another way to extend your focus range without special gear or software: shoot the scene from a distance using a telephoto lens. And then crop in. This works best when using a camera with sufficient MP that you can have a usable resolution after the crop.
[Editor’s Note: The following post by War Pig was in reaction to my essay “The Paradox of Western Civilization.” I thought it was such a good antidote to the usual anti-western diatribes that it deserved to be appended to that earlier piece. – photog]
I am half Blackfoot. The North American Indians were not peaceful, elven protectors of Mother Earth. Being an Indian in the days before the Palefaces is almost a religion, even to Indians who know better.
The tribes in those days were beset by continual internecine warfare. Enemy camps and villages raided, women and even girls raped and maybe carried off or murdered, children old enough to be adopted into the attacking tribe taken. Slaves taken. Children too young to be of use were slaughtered, even babies in their swaddling. Often killed right in front of the mother as a cruel joke. She could then look forward to being gang raped and either taken as a slave or killed. All goods and animals not taken were burned to further try to completely wipe out their rivals. North American Indians committed genocide gladly when they could. Those males and older children too old to adopt were taken back to the victor’s camp where they were tortured to death in slow and devilish ways. It was what the tribes had instead of movies for entertainment.
Even if not under attack, the life was hard. Little agriculture meant hunt or gather or starve. Eventually planting maize caught on. Famine was a threat at every turn, the environment was also cruel. In hard winters the very old would wander off into the winter to die to save resources for the rest of the tribe as the elders were of no use anymore. Also, epidemics could run through an area and kill most if not all.
The North American Indians were not simple Neolithic hunter gatherers. They wasted and polluted. They exploited their environment and committed warfare to the limits of their technology. They stayed in an area until they used it up then moved on, following the buffalo. They littered, leaving broken things carelessly behind them. When they hunted buffalo, it was often near “jumps”. Cliffs where they would stampede the buffalo over said cliffs to die, some instantly, most slowly, below. They killed far more buffalo than they could eat or dry or use the hides and sinew. Most of the dead herd would rot and draw scavengers. They did have some herbal knowledge but most of their medicine was shaman tricks.
When Palefaces arrived the Indians gladly traded with them for metals and especially weapons and liquor.
Now, many a Caucasian group has been a thorn in the side of the world. Leopold of Belgium, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc., etc. The British taught the world how to run a drug empire and taught the world that cross-ocean slavery could be very profitable. But in that they were just parroting the mores of their Neolithic ancestors. Today, Africa and lower Asia are the main flash points for trouble. You mentioned the Rwanda Genocide. Arabs want to kill all Jews. Milosevic wanted to kill all Muslims in his nation. He had a cute trick of forcing them into a mosque or other building, then setting it on fire with men, women and children all dying as his soldiers stood outside and shot any who tried to escape. Slavery is still practiced, sometimes openly, in Africa and lower Asia. Hard line Islamic nations allow girls as young as 8 to be sold or given into marriage to old men to pay debts. The girls are then raped over and over again, often by men sometimes 50 years their senior. When old enough, usually at 12 they become pregnant and many die as a result as they are seldom afforded medical care.
Women’s rights as a whole are not respected outside of the Anglosphere and those places conquered by the same. Women in most of the world outside the anglosphere can be bought and sold. Bride murder is common in rural India even today. Oh, it is made to “look” accidental and no real official notice is taken. Go get another wife with a higher dowry.
Look at Mexico and see a failed narcostate. Look at Venezuela and see a failed socialist/communist state. Dictators and “ruling councils” abound.
And what are our children taught by socialist union members in our public schools? That all is okay, every point of view is valid. People who are successes must be dragged down to the common level, except for the ruling oligarchy, of course.
Our Constitution was not in effect 20 years before the professional politicians began taking over. Why? Because they are ruthless enough and amoral enough to do anything, literally ANYTHING which will get them elected and reelected. The founding fathers figured there would be a complete change in the House of Representatives every 6 years at most. Where they erred was in not establishing term limits from the get-go. Russia, and before them the old Soviets, have been after our institutions of education since the late forties. Agents provocateur planted in universities. Half of FDRs cabinet were closet commies and more than a few Stalin’s agents. Then they began infiltrating the newspapers and magazines. As more commie professors turned out more commie-leaning graduates, their long-term effort saw fruit. Khrushchev would have been so proud.
Tom D kindly provided a nice closeup of a pair of bald eagles.
In addition to his other occupations, War Pig is a gifted story teller and that is an honorable profession. — photog
Since people seem to like my stories of life pre-1980, here is one from my callow youth.
Another tale from my youth.
When I was quite young, in the middle nineteen-fifties, I went out to watch my paternal grandmother catch, kill and clean a chicken for supper. It was my first time watching. I helped her catch a fat, old hen (her chickens were all free range, plus they got feed). She took it up and with her dangerously sharp butcher knife, she beheaded it in one fell swoop. That didn’t bother me. What got me is that the headless chicken was set down to run and pump out the blood. Chickens can run for an amazingly long time without a head.
Well, the chicken, by chance, came straight at me, spraying blood. That was too much for my young mind and I took off screaming bloody murder while the chicken followed me. I ran to the fence and climbed up the post and perched there, crying, while the headless chicken finished its act of terror by flopping on the ground, spurting blood. Mamaw was laughing so hard she could hardly bend over to pick up the chicken, tie the legs together and hang it on a hook on the side of the shed to finish bleeding out.
She eventually coaxed me off the post and to come and watch the rest of the operation. It didn’t help that the chicken’s head was still apparently alive, it’s beak moving as if to curse the both of us. I stood behind mamaw, putting her between me and the soulless fowl. She heated up a wash pan of water to boiling over a small gas burner, then took down the chicken’s body and drenched it in the scalding water. With a gloved hand she removed most of the feathers then used a small paring knife to pull the “blood quills”. She opened the chicken, keeping the heart, liver, gizzard and egg sack (the egg sack is what mamaw kept for herself, papaw got the rest) and throwing the rest of the offal, and the head, to the farm dogs and cats. A cat grabbed the head and ran off with it.
She then went inside and cut up the chicken. Mamaw had likely cut up hundreds, if not thousands of chickens and she took less than a minute to do it. Her butcher knife had been made for her by papaw from an old truck leaf spring and boot heel leather for handle scales. It was scary sharp. It seemed she just waved the knife over the chicken and it fell apart into the bowl. She then filled the bowl with water, added salt and set it in the fridge to brine. She put the back into the freezer for making chicken stock. She changed the water twice to get rid of leftover blood. Later, she put the chicken into buttermilk and let it set for two hours until time to cook supper. She got it out of the buttermilk, dredged it in flour, waited until the coating softened, then dredged it in flour again and fried it in lard. Better tasting chicken you never ate.
The brining and changing the water drew all the blood from the meat so mamaw’s chicken was always clean down to the bone, none of the red nonsense you see by the bones in restaurant chicken today. The buttermilk does something magical to the meat and frying it in real leaf lard imparts a flavor vegetable oils or shortening cannot match.
As she set the table, she told papaw the story and he almost choked laughing so hard. I got a wing and a drumstick all to myself to go with the mashed potatoes and fresh chicken gravy, made from the fond, melted lard/chicken fat and leftover bits in the pan and considered myself a lucky boy.
I thought sci-fi fans might get a kick out of a review of this film since its source was a graphic novel and its director is David Cronenberg, who I rank with Kubrick as among the most important directors working in the genre.
The movie has a quality cast, including Viggo Mortensen as the rural Indiana restaurateur, Tom Stall; Maria Bello as his wife Edie; Ed Harris as the gangster Carl Fogarty; Ashton Holmes as Jack Stall, Tom’s son; and William Hurt as Tom’s kingpin brother from Philly. There are also a host of additional small-role actors that do an excellent job. Harris is particularly effective as the one-dimensional killer as is Holmes as the nerdy millennial.
The movie opens by following two motel guests, one in a dark button-down shirt in the middle of the desert, i.e. a bad guy, packing up to “head east” and “avoid the big cities”. The younger partner complains of the boredom and yawns his way through the rest of the scene, including when he’s asked to go back to the front desk and fetch water from the cooler for the long drive. There he sleepily encounters the clerk and maid whose throats his partner has just slit and almost nods out as he notices that a small child is emerging from the back room and shoots her. Like I said, bad guys.
This lovely bit of business is immediately contrasted by Tom and his quiet nuclear family. In these introductory scenes of the Stalls they all speak so softly and behave so tenderly to one another that the opening scene becomes submerged by the normal impulse to separate this seemingly vulnerable family from the monsters. But we know they will come and the savagery of the two drifters is anticipated by the inevitable high school bully that humiliates Jack in gym for daring to catch a fly ball to right. Violence, large and small, is almost clumsily emphasized. Cronenberg was said to have commented in connection to the film, “I am a great believer in Darwinian evolution and that violence is baked into our genes”, presumably explaining his lack of subtly on the issue.
When I read his comment, I thought of Cronenberg’s other films, like “Dead Ringers”, the story of twin gynecologists that descended into a surgical horror. And other of his films, Naked Lunch, Crash, Fly, all disturbing, but not particularly violent in any conventional sense. Rather, at their core, his films stylize death and disfigurement in a kind of grotesque eroticism. His focus, until “History”, was more in line with Poe than Peckinpah. Afterwards, however, gangsters and violence become common in his movies. One suspects the shift may be understood at least in part as commercial, but also, he seems to be trying to work out more conventional themes in more mature ways. For instance, “History” includes Bello in a frontal nude scene that seemed all too blue-blooded for the director of Naked Lunch.
In any event, when a very fickle fate sends our drifters into Tom’s diner, we are shown all the good that violence can do. For just as blue shirt instructs his youthful partner drooling at the waitress to “start on her”, mild mannered Tom dispenses with the would-be butchers faster than you can flip a flapjack. His ruthless efficiency at smashing a hot coffee pot in the face of one assailant, retrieving his gun and then dispatching both make his adversaries seem like amateurs. Even professionals like Ed Harris’ Carl and his gang can’t measure up to Tom’s lethal skill set. Carl, hearing of Tom’s heroics on the news, emerges from Tom’s past as if vomited out of hell’s mouth. His face seems half melted, one eye is clouded, he claims his visage is a reflection of Tom’s true nature and he has come to return him to it.
I won’t belabor the obvious. I’m sure the reader knows there is only one way our genes and destiny can resolve such a history. It’s a pretty good film, especially given its source. “A History of Violence” made money and won acclaim but it was less influential than one might have guessed back in 2005. When I saw it back then, I thought that some of the film’s hokier elements like the straw man bullies and one-dimensional housewives would evolve along with the genre. I was wrong, in fact, the thinnest parts of graphic novel sources like Watchmen or Westworld, the robot/costume stuff, became the focus of their realization on the screen. We have devolved, but I’m sure that statement comes as no surprise.
The Fat Man is a learned critic of cinema. I welcome his contributions and hope to see him on a regular basis.
There are many ways to consider The Irishman, Scorsese’s’ latest, and hopefully last, gangster pic. We can try to at least mention them all but it may be best to see it as another allegorical mock epic. Almost the entirety of post-war US history not only acts as a backdrop to the film, but the movie suggests its main characters were central players in such events as the Kennedy assassination, the Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crises, perhaps even Watergate. The baby boomers can’t get over their all but irrelevant history of air conditioned atavism and faux passivism. They have no epic story to tell, so they are continually painting up their cowardice in the face of a minor war or their alternating deification and denunciation of their fallen non-hero, JFK.
It is no shame that Scorsese reveals himself as sentimental and self-deluding in The Irishman. Many great films begin with cherished delusions, like the tradition of the Ronin or the hooker-with- a-heart-of-gold. Marty and Paul Schrader did wonders with that last fantasy in Taxi Driver, with the whore/Madonna duo played by Cybil Shepard and Jodie Foster. The fact that poor Jodie was still prepubescent was just a cute detail, like attending college to avoid the draft and then going on to graduate studies to learn to justify it to the memory of the poor guys that got killed. But at least Taxi was, in its dysfunctional characters and their infantile motivations, funny. “He’s not a murderer, he’s a Sagittarius” (or was it an Aquarius), protests Jodie Foster’s character, Iris, to Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle for criticizing her pimp, Sport. That may be the funniest line to come out of Hollywood in the 1970’s.
I guess it’s time to address the details of The Irishman and justify all this scorn I’m heaping. Let’s start with funny. It’s not. The cheap laughs squeezed out by mocking the blue-collar naivety of the regular-guy-come-psychopath, Frank Sheeran, the movies protagonist played by De Niro, are so hackneyed they will make you squirm. The rest is humorless. How Scorsese managed to get one of the most naturally funny actors of the 1970’s and 80’s, Joe Pesci, to turn in a joyless performance will remain a mystery.
But, you may ask, why is funny so important. This is big stuff, Pacino, De Niro, Pesci, Keitel, the all-stars, it’s an epic, remember?
It’s true Scorsese swung for the fences on this one, as he did with The Aviator, The Age of Innocence and The Gangs of New York. You’d think he’d learn. Not satisfied with his one true contribution to American cinema, Raging Bull, a small movie perfectly drawn, he continues to balk at the big canvas. He can’t do it. All of his attempts, whether he juices them with amazing sets as in Gangs, or beautiful costumes like in Age, or a remarkable profile like Howard Hughes, fail for the same reason. He can’t tell that story. He can scare us and make us laugh, but he can’t move us. His work can be natural or abstract but never profound. He knows it, as all directors do that pile on the violence. They’re impotent so they pour on the blood.
And Scorsese, as usual, does pour on the blood. We make our way through Frank’s mournful decent from hard working family man to prolific serial killer. We are told the war was to blame where he was asked to unofficially execute German prisoners. His wonders why these prisoners were so compliant in digging their own graves. He asks himself maybe they thought they would get a break if they did a good job? It never occurs to him they were just taking more orders, the same process that dehumanized them in the camps and him.
The Irishman is quiet for a Scorsese movie, without any of the Eric Clapton that accompanied the mayhem in Goodfellars. A number of times, in the background score and in shots of empty rooms through partially open doors we see references to that most quiet of directors, Yasujiro Ozu. Ozu, who directed Tokyo Story, is of course admired by Scorsese but unlike the Italian neo realists that he loves, Ozu and his peaceful style is wholly unsuited to a gangster movie. It’s a clue of what Scorsese is trying to do. Make peace. It explains the unfunny Pesci performance and the banality of De Niro’s narration. Scorsese never had the hand to paint the kind of movie that his contemporaries Roman Polanski and Francis Ford Coppola did. He could never shoot a scene like Brando in his office listening to the undertaker or like John Huston and Jack Nicholson discussing broiled fish. So he made up for it with rotating camera’s in the ring and forensic dialog ripped from FBI files.
But in The Irishman he tries Ozu and we get a whispering Joe Pesci saying “I chose us” to De Niro at the movies end to explain Hoffa’s betrayal. And Hoffa was betrayed, by Scorsese, by Pacino, by everyone who might be interested in what he did build into his union. It must be a curse to try to do a film about the union boss. Nicholson’s Hoffa was terrible, but at least he wasn’t transformed by an aging Italian actor and his friend’s pathetic confession into a one-dimensional stooge. Nothing is examined, nothing explained, just gossip.
And that is the reason the Irishman is a terrible movie. You can’t attempt to depict the sweep of a generation without saying something about why it matters. But because his generation still lies about the meaning of Kennedys and Castro and war, Scorsese has to lie as well. And so he does for the three hours of The Irishman.
Tyler has an historical model for why hitting back at the Left is smart. Timely with Barr investigating Russia-gate.
Tyler has a lot of good things to say about the topics we’ve both been seeing on the political stage. Plus he says some good things about me, so how can I resist.