A Man for All Seasons (1966) – A Movie Review

This movie is the adaption of Robert Bolt’s play of the same name.  It is the story of Sir Thomas More.  He was a politician and a scholar who lived during the reign of King Henry the Eighth of England.  But most of all he was a principled and deeply religious man.  Being a personal friend of the King, he rose to the rank of Lord Chancellor but when Henry desired to divorce Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn it put him on a collision course with the Pope.  And when Henry declared himself the Head of the Christian church in England, Thomas More had to resign from his office.  But the powerful and unscrupulous Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s chief minister, conspires to use More’s piety as a means of destroying him and ultimately have him executed.

And that is the plot of the movie.  Thomas More uses his considerable intelligence to walk the tight rope between maintaining his loyalty to the King and honoring his religious convictions.  But slowly and inexorably Cromwell cuts through that rope.

The movie is excellent.  The dialog is wonderful and intelligent.  The cast is great.  Cameos by Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey and Robert Shaw as Henry the Eighth are memorable but the main actors are Paul Scofield as Thomas More, Wendy Hiller as his wife Alice, Susannah York as his daughter Margaret and Leo McKern as the villainous Thomas Cromwell.  And there are other strong performances.  John Hurt plays the traitorous Richard Rich and Nigel Davenport is the colorful Duke of Norfolk.

The movie won the academy awards among others for Best Movie, Best Director and Best Actor for Paul Scofield.  And I think it deserved all of that.  I will caution the reader that I do enjoy theater and this is undoubtedly a play adapted for cinema.  It’s all about the dialog and the relationships of the principal character to the others.  And it is a tour de force for Scofield.  If you dislike plays this may not be for you.  But for me this is great storytelling.  The humanity and the intelligence of Thomas More are on full display.  I literally can’t say enough good things about this movie.

Highly recommended.

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance – A Book Review

Several places where I read on-line had praised Vance’s book so I decided to read it.  I already knew basically what it was about but I guess I wanted to see what all the excitement was about.

J. D. Vance’s family came originally from Appalachia, specifically Jackson Kentucky. His maternal grandfather and grandmother moved to Middletown Ohio after WW II to let him get work in the steel factory there and his family became part of the boom economy in the industrial Mid-West that followed the war. But as that economic expansion slowly collapsed into the Rust Belt reality of the 1970s and beyond, his family more and more shared in the dislocation and finally the hopelessness of life in that blighted region.

Through the personal history of his family he presents evidence and draws conclusions about what internal and external factors led to the train wreck that is the Rust Belt.  And he tries to back up this evidence by including general information on the socio-economic and cultural characteristics of the white working class and specifically Appalachian people in question.

The personal story of his family and the details of their lives is poignant and honest and draws sympathy from anyone who came from a family that is full of complicated people who struggle and succeed and fail and generally make a messy story to tell.  It’s about the love and hate and anger and fear and confusion that consumed the first decade and a half of his life.  It’s got colorful characters like his grandparents who swear and spit and brandish guns and break down doors if strangers seem to threaten their family.  It’s his mother who tried to find a middle-class identity for her small family but was too damaged to even save herself from drugs and broken marriages.

In the final analysis I think that the point the book tries to make is that the people who left Appalachia were so ill-suited to live in the modern world of nuclear families and suburban society that only the post-war boom allowed even the illusion that they had assimilated into the Mid-Western lifestyle.  Their people were shorn of the support that multi-generational family units provided to them back in the hills and were surrounded by people who had been raised in and could take of advantage of the community resources that exist in middle America.  Vance’s family was always suspicious and angry at the school system and the police and the other government entities that could provide assistance to people in need.  Their independence when stripped of the extended family support structure meant isolation and poverty and an endless string of failures that reinforced the sense of hopelessness that eventually led to drug addiction and despair.

I think it’s a pretty interesting story.  And I recognize the components that he brings up as existing in the real world.  But he does let the powers that be off the hook to a degree that I think is unrealistic.  The post-war boom was a result of government policy that encouraged the harnessing of the human capital that had been freed up by the end of World War II.  Tens of millions of enlisted men were brought back to this country and it had been so thoroughly transformed that only massive top-down control allowed for the re-integration.  Thirty years later there was no similar top-down planning to continue that existence once the earlier generation disappeared from the work place.  The corporations were allowed to shift into a globalist mindset and because those Rust Belt workers were inconvenient because they made too much money or weren’t desperate enough to work like Japanese or Chinese workers they were dismissed from the plans of industry.

Vance may slightly touch on this but his thesis is that personal responsibility and family support systems are what saved him.  When his mother’s chaotic lifestyle came close to destroying his chance at building a healthy life his grandmother stepped up and provided a stable and supportive home in which he was able to re-apply himself at school and finally prove to himself that it was possible for him escape from the cycle of failure and break through to the normal world.

Okay.  His emphasis makes sense based on his experience and world view.  I think there is another side to the present crisis and he somewhat touches on this too.  Some say he is blaming the victims.  I think that overstates it.  I think it’s an interesting book.  I know it made me reconsider some things in my past.  And the anecdotes about his grandparents and that generation of his family are fun to read.  His family is somewhat in volved in the Hatfield and McCoy feud interestingly enough.  I’m not sure that this book is for everyone but if you are interested in the dynamic that has laid waste to the Rust Belt it might be something for you to read.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 24 – The Ultimate Computer

And yet another iconic episode.  Dr. Richard Daystrom is the genius who as a very young man invented the computer systems that are currently used on all Federation star ships.  Now Daystrom has progressed to a new computer the M-5 that can run a star ship without a human captain or almost any crew at all.  Commodore Bob Wesley has selected the Enterprise to test out the new system by setting up a war game between the Enterprise and four other star ships.

Daystrom comes aboard to set up the M-5 and continuously antagonizes Kirk and McCoy by stressing the fact that the M-5 will eliminate the need for a star ship captain and most of the crew.  Spock on the other hand is very familiar with Daystrom’s work and once the testing of the system commences, he agrees that the M-5’s performance far exceeds the results expected from a human crew and captain.

But in route to the second war game trial, the M-5 randomly attacks and destroys an ore freighter that luckily had no crew.  In addition, when Scotty’s engineering staff attempts to de-energize the M-5 the machine vaporizes one of the red shirts and employs a force field to prevent any human intervention in its control of the Enterprise.  After unsuccessfully trying to outwit the machine and disconnect it from the ship’s controls they are forced to watch in horror as the M-5 attacks the four star ships with full powered weapons.  One ship is completely incapacitated and its entire crew killed.  Commodore Wesley gets permission to use his remaining ships to destroy the Enterprise.  At this point we learn that the M-5 is acting illogically because it was constructed from the “engrams” of Dr. Daystrom’s own brain who as it turns out is mentally unstable.  This explains Daystrom’s very personal relationship with the machine and his erratic behavior now reinforces the fact that M-5 is quite mad.

In a final attempt to prevent the M-5 from destroying the remaining star ships Daystrom attempts to reason with the computer.  He attempts to convince M-5 that killing humans is murder and against the laws of man and God.  But Daystrom begins to identify with his creation and begins justifying self-preservation as the M-5’s right.  He begins ranting about the unfairness of how he was treated after his initial successes and finally he starts to gloat over M-5’s superiority over its human opponents.  Finally, he has to be sedated and hauled away to sick bay.

Kirk takes over and finishes the job of convincing M-5 that it is guilty of murder.  Unfortunately, he does too good a job and the computer decides to commit suicide by deactivating itself and thereby leave the Enterprise vulnerable to destruction by the Star Fleet squadron.  Scotty is able to restore only the shields but not communications.  Kirk orders the shields to remain lowered and he gambles that Bob Wesley will break off the attack rather than destroy the defenseless ship at least until the situation can be clarified.  When this succeeds Kirk explains to Spock that he gambled on Wesley’s humanity.  McCoy then uses this human virtue to assail Spock’s seeming preference for machines over humans.  Spock reiterates his already stated preference for humans over machines but states that a computer that has McCoy’s mental makeup would spout so much illogic that it would be a great source of amusement.  The End.

Everybody loves this episode.  When the M-5 flawlessly passes the first war game against the star ships, Commodore Wesley congratulates the M-5 on its performance and also sends his greetings to Captain Dunsail.  When he hears this Kirk storms off the bridge while the rest of the bridge officers look shocked.  When McCoy asks “who the blazes is Dunsail?”  Spock explains that dunsail is a term used at Starfleet Academy to describe a part serving no useful purpose.

McCoy goes to Kirk’s cabin to give him some medicinal alcohol.  Kirk admits to feeling useless and asks McCoy whether he himself is guilty of vanity, fearing the loss of his prestige as captain  McCoy tells him to ask Jim Kirk because Jim Kirk is an honest guy.  But sixty million Americans were yelling that night at their tv’s saying, “Yes you conceited blowhard, you strutting prima donna, that’s what this is about!”

But Kirk does have one great line.  When the M-5 shuts itself off.  Kirk yells to Scotty to go down to engineering and permanently deactivate the M-5.  His final words to the engineer are to shout, “PULL THE PLUG ON IT!”

The other attraction in this episode is the characterization of Doctor Daystrom.  He has both delusions of grandeur and a persecution complex.  At one point while he was reasoning with the M-5 he attempted to salve the computer’s feelings about being in error and when the machine stated its record of achievement Daystrom concurred stating, “Yes, I am great, you are great.”  Then when he went completely bonkers, he started reciting his grievances against his colleagues, “They laughed behind my back at the boy genius and got rich on my invention, my work!”

I really like this episode.  Two blowhards sharing the stage, Daystrom and Kirk.  Wonderful.

9  //  6.

Update:  Chemist had some good feedback that I thought I’d share:

“With all due respect Photog, you missed the best line in the show. It was McCoy’s to Kirk:
“Did you see the love light in Spock’s eyes? The right computer finally came along.”
Epic.”

 

Battle Ground – A Novel of The Dresden Files – by Jim Butcher – An SF&F Book Review

Spoiler Alert.  All my reviews are spoilers.  If you wan to avoid them go down to the end and just read my recommendation.

For anyone coming to this review without any background to the Dresden Files, Battle Ground is I believe the seventeenth book of that series.  Jim Butcher has created quite a complicated and very entertaining world that centers on a Chicago that is embedded in a reality that has several kinds of vampires, two faery realms, werewolves, sasquatches, Norse mythological characters, Knights of the Cross, Fallen Angels and wizards.  And in particular Harry Dresden is the extremely conflicted and always wise-cracking Wizard of Chicago.  If you want to delve into the series, I guess it would be much more sensible and fun to start at book one but to each his own.

Battle Ground is the conclusion of the story arc begun in the previous book, Peace Talks.  And for all intents and purposes this book is taken up by the Battle of Chicago.  A really angry Titan named Ethniu has decided to destroy Chicago as a way to turn the human world against the supernatural groups that were parties to the “Unseelie Accords” that acted as a council to ensure that humans do not discover the hidden creatures all around them.

Along with her amphibious allies the Fomor who have a settlement under Lake Michigan they attack the city and with the power of the “Eye,” that Ethniu wields, they begin destroying the city and killing the population.  Standing against this systematic destruction and murder of Chicago is Harry and his allies.  I won’t say friends because many of them fear and/or hate him.  He has an Italian American mobster turned supernatural power broker named Marcone providing significant infrastructure, manpower and significant strategic support.  He has his current boss the Queen of Air and Darkness, Mab the Winter Queen, providing her troops and her own very considerable magical powers.  There are Harry’s nominal brothers in arms, the White Council of Wizards that are always right at the edge of expelling him for all the unorthodox and insubordinate actions he takes.  This includes his grandfather Ebenezar McCoy who is more or less the head of the Council and who always seem on the edge of either throttling Harry or apologizing to him.  There are the Knights of the Cross who are Harry’s friends and possess power that can stand against the evil that the enemy represent but even with these allies Harry and his friends are hopelessly overmatched.

But Harry has one ace in the hole.  He has a magical resource that if he can lure the Titan to a certain spot would allow him to capture her permanently.  But in order to do that Ethniu would have to be lured in by targets that she wanted to destroy and the destruction that she would accomplish would be ruinous.  And that is what the book is about.  As Harry and his allies go block by block saving civilians and battling monsters the Titan levels the city skyscrapers on her way to confronting Mab and the other powerful leaders.  And it’s a long book, over four hundred pages and the overwhelming majority of the book is this battle.

If you’re a fan of the series, and obviously if you’re still reading at book seventeen then you are, you will like this book a lot.  Sure, there are parts of the battle that seem kind of repetitive or at least maybe overkill.  And I have never been a big fan of Harry’s romantic attachment to Karren Murphy.  For whatever reason it never seems to keep my interest.  And there are a few scenes where some of the characters sound a little too touchy feely with too much “I’m here for you,” and all that.  But there is plenty on the battle side and on the personal side of this story to satisfy fans of the books.  Some questions from Peace Talks get answered and some things that were left hanging remain that way.  Some old friends and enemies die.  Others change their relation to Harry and further complicate his life.  And some characters that do not have a major part in the action still provide a needed presence.  I always enjoy the character of Michael Carpenter.  He’s the retired Knight of the Cross who is probably the most grounded character in the series and also provides sanctuary for Harry’s young daughter when horrible things come looking for Harry.  And Harry reaches a kind of crossroads with respect to his stature in the supernatural world.  He is now a heavy hitter and has gained respect and even some wisdom.

What can I say?  You’re going to like most of this book. And there will be few things that you won’t care for.  But if you’re a Dresden fan you will have to read it.

Something to Raise My Spirits

I was writing a post about what might be going on this year.  It was coming out pretty depressing and so I put it aside.  As I mentioned yesterday the Mid-Winter Blues have reached me.  Adding depressing predictions is just something I can’t justify at the moment.  I need something light to move me through my day.

So, I checked my almanac and sure enough we’re over the hump of winter. There are approximately thirteen weeks in winter and we’re in week eight. and the days are about 90 minutes longer than they were at Winter Solstice.  So, by any measure of sidereal momentum, we’re on the upswing.  In honor of this milestone, I will put all doom and gloom aside.  After all, the human soul needs hope and light to carry on.  That’s what I’ll do.

Here’s a video that lists the ten most conservative cities in the US.  The narrator is a little bit snarky, probably a liberal jerk but I still found it interesting.  I’m sure there are alternate lists but it’s a good starting point.  If you want to add a city to the list leave it in the comments.

And because I’m always looking for good science fiction movies here’s a video that claims to do that.  CineFix Top 10 Science Fiction Films of All Time  I agree with some of these picks disagree with a couple and have never seen a few others so I’ll check them out and maybe find something good.  If you disagree with any feel free to say.

And this just in, the idiots in the Senate have finally finished the farcical impeachment theater with seven cretinous Republicans voting with the Democrat creeps.  These were Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.  Burr was a bit of a surprise.  I wonder if he’ll join Romney and Sasse in being primaried out by their states when they come up for re-election.  Let’s hope.

Well, look at that.  Now my spirits have lifted.  I’ll get on with reading the accounts of the farce and wait for President Trump to comment on it and then tell us what the future will hold.

Well see there now, seek and ye shall find.  Ask and ye shall receive.  A nice reward and we can hope that serious people will now step forward to start discussing what our side can do to sidestep what’s going on in Washington DC and begin to return our lives to something resembling the better world we lived in just one long year ago.  I only hope the smart and powerful decide to come to our aid.  They can make this easier and less ugly.  If the little people have to do it ourselves it’s going to be very painful and so ugly that I don’t even want to imagine it.  No one wants the United States to go through something like the fate of Yugoslavia.  But more and more it’s looking like that is how it will play out.  But that’s a discussion for another day.  Today I’ll just bask in a good ending for a mid-winter day.

Update:  Now it can begin.

Observations from the Gulag Archipelago Relevant to Today – Part 1 – Show Trials

Solzhenitsyn’s epic history of the Soviet Union’s war against its own people is a crippling experience for the reader.  The first ninety pages are a seemingly endless list of purges that went on from 1917 to well into the 1950’s.  The scope, the strategies and the tactics that were used to terrorize, imprison, torture and mostly murder these poor human beings is almost beyond comprehension.  In Solzhenitsyn’s own words “If I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible what was the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men had forgotten God; that is why all this has happened.’”

To try and understand how a government of men would choose to decimate and more than decimate its own people is very difficult.  But it is telling that in every society where radical socialism has taken hold it follows the same pattern and causes monstrous suffering.  Because this same ideology is now loose in our own society, I thought it would be useful to select specific details from the Gulag Archipelago and elaborate on how they relate to our time and place.

I’ll start off the series with the concept of show trials.  Among the many purges there was a period when a decision was made to go after engineers.  They were selected because previously they had been given a certain immunity due to their usefulness.  Because of the backwardness of pre-revolutionary Russia and because of the agricultural disruptions that occurred due to the collectivization of the farmlands, having men who could manufacture and repair and improve modern equipment like tractors and automobiles was quite important.  Sending them to the gulag was quite counterproductive.  But at a certain point logic ceased to be strong enough to prevent the next victim group from being fed into the maw of the meat grinder.

And it was quite easy to incriminate engineers.  By definition they were intellectuals, a classic category of counter-revolutionaries.  Also, most of them had studied at the universities during the czarist period so there were all kinds of associations and attachments to people and organizations that had already been condemned and consumed in the earlier purges.

But the technique that the authorities wanted to most use was to find someone innocent of any real crimes and tell him that if he would denounce himself and all his fellows of some absurdly improbable crime in a public exhibition then he would get a lighter sentence.  And so, we got the show trial.

At the trial the accused had to go through the full histrionics of denouncing himself and confess to all his crimes and accuse all of his co-conspirators.  In the best case all of the other equally innocent men would also confess to their inhuman crimes against the collective.  And finally, they would finish off by demanding their own deaths as the only fitting punishment for their atrocious crimes.  And ironically, despite the assurances that they had received of a lighter sentence, often death was awarded to them.  But either way this theater of the perverse was conducted and make-believe crimes were punished and more fodder was fed into the killing machine.

Amusingly, these trials came to an end when during the show trial against the ceramic industry the defendants as a body decided at the last minute to deny all charges.  And since the prosecution had no actual evidence to produce against them at this very public trial, they were exonerated.  It just goes to show sometimes courage is rewarded.

Currently, examples of show trials in our country are only the thinnest of ghosts of what the Stalinist regime could perpetrate.  A recent example is New York Times science writer Donald McNeil Jr.  He was denounced for the use of the black ethnic slur that shall not be repeated unless you are black.  He was on a trip with students in Peru, for some reason, and one of his students finked out another of the students for having used the black ethnic slur that shall not be repeated unless you are black (tbestsnbruyab).  When McNeil said tbestsnbruyab in the context of condemning the use of tbestsnbruyab he was reported by those present of using tbestsnbruyab.  He was condemned by his colleagues and the incident was forgotten.  But two years later the retroactive punishment for this offense became capitol and his colleagues demanded his firing.  And being the good progressive that he is, he made a statement applauding his professional lynching.  Now admittedly this is poor stuff compared to shipping him off to a labor camp or putting a bullet in his brain.  But it’s a rousing start when it occurs in the so-called land of free speech.

I expect there will be other examples of looney lefties denouncing themselves.  And I think we’ll also see that after the fact they’ll be heard caterwauling at the gates of the Emerald City claiming that they weren’t given a chance afterward to be re-educated and rehabilitated.  But it’s a funny thing.  Once you’ve been cast out into that void it’s really hard to get the “good” people to take your calls.  Contamination from bad thinking is much scarier than COVID.  They’re going to have to get back to you sometime in the future.  And that future sure isn’t tomorrow and chances are it’s never.

So, as you can see, we are only at the very beginning of the great revolution that the Russians perfected.  But I will continue this series and I’m sure we’ll use our Yankee ingenuity to innovate and who knows even show the masters a thing or two.  So, stay tuned comrades.

You’re Telling Me! (1934) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

Full disclosure, W.C. Fields’ characters as the hen-pecked but thoroughly disreputable husband represents in my opinion one of the pillars of the self-respecting American husband.  Although constantly set upon by his wife and family he refuses to knuckle and become bovinely domesticated.  Sometimes he’ll pretend to bow to convention for the sake of a short period of marital tranquility but we know that at any moment he might use the excuse of his mother-in-law’s spurious death as an excuse to skip work and go to the wrestling matches or throw away an inheritance by buying worthless land while following the dream of becoming an orange rancher.  It is this absurd and quixotic aspect of Fields’s characters that convinces me to excuse some of the infuriatingly boring routines that he loads into his movies.  And several of these routines are on maddening display in “You’re Telling Me!”  I’ll skip over the recurring gag of a drunken Fields getting his head and arms tangled in the ornamental ropes on his living room doorway drapery.  That is a mere couple of minutes of idiocy.  But at the climax of the film there is an eight-minute stretch of Fields attempting to drive a golf ball.  A lesser man would have turned it off after a few minutes.  But I soldiered on.  I had to see how Fields’ invention of bulletproof car tires would bring about the story’s happy ending.

I write this introduction to show the reader that I am aware that “You’re Telling Me!” is not a faultless masterpiece.  On the contrary, it’s a W.C. Fields movie which means it is a combination of awful physical comedy, brilliant verbal quips and tragicomical storytelling.  I am also aware that a taste for W.C. Fields is not a universal trait.  Far from it.  But being a true believer, I feel it’s my duty to advocate for the great man.

The premise of the story is that Fields’ character Sam Bisbee is trying to prove to his long-suffering wife Bessie that in addition to being a drunk he is also a great inventor.  He is on the brink of demonstrating his 1000% puncture-proof automobile tire to the National Tire Company.  At the same time Sam’s daughter, Pauline is in love with Bob, the son of the wealthy Murchison family that live on the other side of the tracks.  Bob’s mother is played by Kathleen Howard who played Fields’ wife in two of his other great movies, “It’s a Gift” and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”  She comes to visit the Bisbee house to forbid the romance but is delighted to find that Bessie is from an old money family from the Old South.  But immediately afterward Sam shows up and showcases enough boorishness to outrage Mrs. Murchison and in reaction to this rejection Pauline demands that Bob and his mother leave and never come back.  Now that Sam has angered and disappointed both his wife and daughter, he is determined to make good on his promise as an inventor to make the family fortune and thereby restore relations between his daughter and the Murchisons.

We are given a convincing demonstration of his invention in his work shop.  He fires a pistol at the tire and catches the rebounding bullet in a baseball glove.  Now he puts four of these tires on his car and drives into the city to demonstrate it to the Board of the National Tire Company.  Sam parks his car in front of the office building, in a no parking zone, and heads up to the Board room.  The building attendants push his car down the block and apparently called the police to come and take it away.  The police arrive and park in front of the building and exit the scene to meet up with the attendants down the block.

Meanwhile Sam brings the Board down to the front of the office building and apparently not recognizing that the police car isn’t his own he proceeds to shoot out the tires of the police car.  The Board laugh mockingly at his failed demonstration and the police show up and give chase at the sight of their car being used for target practice.  Sam successfully flees as the scene ends.

Next, we see Sam on the train headed back to his home.  He has written a suicide not to Pauline explaining that he can’t endure the humiliation that his failure will spark.  Now we are subjected to another long annoying sequence of Sam attempting to kill himself by drinking a bottle of iodine.  He finally gives it up after seeing a passing graveyard next to the train.

Now we mee the Princess Lescaboura who is travelling on the train in a private room.  Sam wanders into her room accidentally when a servant leaves the door open and he assumes it’s the bathroom.  The princess had just applied iodine to a cut on her hand and seeing the bottle Sam assumes she is about to commit suicide so he recounts his own misfortunes and suicide attempt to dissuade her from the supposed suicide.

She is touched by his mistaken concern for her safety and is also sympathetic to the pathetic personal problems he is in.  He says goodbye to her not knowing that she is royalty, thinking she is a young woman named Marie and invites her to visit his family if she ever stops in his town.

Incidentally while he was talking to the princess a couple of old biddies from his town see him talking to a young woman and spread gossip at home that he is having an affair.  And the story mutates until by the time he reaches home everyone is convinced that he has been involved in a drunken debauch with a stripper.  When Sam reaches town, every woman he meets upbraids him as a masher and every man in town slaps him on the back and wants to hear his story.

When he realizes that his wife will want to kill him when he gets home, he tries to come up with a gift that will assuage her anger.  One of his friends suggests a pet parakeet.  Sam replies that it’ll have to be bigger than that.  In the next scene we see him walking down the main street holding a rope around the neck of an ostrich that doesn’t seem happy about the arrangement.

In the meantime, the princess has arranged for a visit to Sam’s town.  The mayor and all the leading citizens meet her at the train station and she tells them that she wants to go to the home of her friend Sam Bisbee, the man who saved her life “during the war.”  Mrs. Murchison bends over backward to please the princess and the crowd heads for Sam’s house.  Along the way they find Sam and the ostrich and after the princess assures a drunk Sam that he is a hero they head for his home.  Eventually the princess arranges for a party to be given at Sam’s home in her honor and catered by the Murchisons.  The princess provides enough nonsense about how important Sam is back in her country that Mrs. Murchison announces the engagement of her son to Pauline.  And she arranges that Sam will perform the honor of dedicating the new golf course in town by hitting the first drive.  This gives us that agonizing eight-minute dose of torture before the National Tire Company president shows up and offers to buy Sam’s invention for $20,000.  Cutting him off before he can accept, the princess gets into abiding war and the president is forced to offer a million dollars plus a royalty to Sam on each tire sold.  Now the movie ends with Bisbees and Murchisons driving off to a party with the princess and Sam preparing for a two-week drinking bout with his friends.

As you can see, the movie consists of ridiculous events and absurd situations.  But some of the dialog is inspired.  My favorite situation is when Princess Lescaboura meets Sam’s wife.  Bessie is confused and honored by the princess’s friendliness but when the princess exclaims, “You must be the happiest woman in the world.”  All Bessie can confusedly say is, “Is my husband dead?”  And that encapsulates the magic of this movie.  Sam is the quintessence of the American husband.  His refusal to conform to his wife’s opinions on acceptable behavior and the suffering they both experience because of the conflict provides a funhouse mirror version of the real-life war between the sexes.

One small personnel note.  Bob Murchison is played by Buster Crabbe.  Here he is a young and very green actor that would one day thrill us as children when he played Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers.

So, do I recommend this movie?  It’s hard to say.  If you cannot get through the bad physical comedy bits that are ridiculously long then no, you will not enjoy this movie.  But if you can, then you will be rewarded by some truly inspired comedic moments.  Maybe the solution is to fast forward through those bits.  But that is the coward’s way out.  It’s up to you.

Eric Church – A Country Music Review

A couple of years ago I bought all five of Eric Church’s albums (see playlists at end).  I had seen him perform a couple of time on one or the other of the Country Music Awards shows and I thought he was head and shoulders above the stuff that was getting played on the radio stations.  When all that Bro Country stuff started up ten years ago it sounded so awful and contrived and just plain stupid that I was glad whenever I found someone who could write meaningful lyrics and talk about something resembling real life.

Church portrays himself as a working-class kid who grew up in a small town filled with work that got his hands dirty and Friday nights filled with booze and girls.  And that’s what he writes about.  But he also sings about some less simplistic goings on.  His first album “Sinners Like Me” has a song called “Lightning” that is the execution day recollection of a man who killed a liquor store clerk while attempting to rob the store.  We get his thoughts seeing the mother of the boy he killed and his own daughter sitting in the viewing area.  It’s a powerful and skillfully done song.  And that album is full of good songs.

In his later albums he starts singing about his life as a grown man and we hear about his wife and kids and what it means to be a wild kid who has to become a grown up.  And to other grown ups this might resonate a lot more than another song about Jack Daniels kicking Eric’s butt on Sunday morning.

On the five albums I’ve got he has about sixty songs and I’d say I only truly dislike three songs.  And one of those is his tribute to pot which I guess is one of his vices.

There are twenty songs that I like a whole lot.  And the rest are regular good, meaning I can listen to them in the rotation without getting tired of them.  I think that’s actually very good.  Church has an interesting voice and I’d describe his music as country rock.

If you want a song writer that can write both the Saturday Night honky-tonk songs and also more thoughtful and realistic stories then Eric Church is worth a listen to see if he clicks with you.  I can say I highly recommend him based on my standards. I’ve bolded the songs I especially like.

Sinners Like Me (2006)

  1. “Before She Does”
  2. “Sinners Like Me”
  3. “How ‘Bout You”
  4. “These Boots”
  5. “What I Almost Was”
  6. “The Hard Way”
  7. “Guys Like Me”
  8. “Lightning”
  9. “Can’t Take It with You”
  10. “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” (featuring Merle Haggard)
  11. “Two Pink Lines”
  12. “Livin’ Part of Life”

Carolina (2009)

  1. “Ain’t Killed Me Yet”
  2. “Lotta Boot Left to Fill”
  3. “Young and Wild”
  4. “Where She Told Me to Go”
  5. “Longer Gone”
  6. “Love Your Love the Most”
  7. “Smoke a Little Smoke”
  8. “Without You Here”
  9. “You Make It Look So Easy”
  10. “Carolina”
  11. “Hell on the Heart”
  12. “Those I’ve Loved”

Chief (2011)

  1. “Creepin'”
  2. “Drink in My Hand”
  3. “Keep On”
  4. “Like Jesus Does”
  5. “Hungover & Hard Up”
  6. “Homeboy”
  7. “Country Music Jesus”
  8. “Jack Daniels”
  9. “Springsteen”
  10. “I’m Gettin’ Stoned”
  11. “Over When It’s Over”
  12. “Lovin’ Me Anyway”

The Outsiders (2014)

  1. “The Outsiders”
  2. “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young”
  3. “Cold One”
  4. “Roller Coaster Ride”
  5. “Talladega”
  6. “Broke Record”
  7. “Like a Wrecking Ball”
  8. “That’s Damn Rock & Roll”
  9. “Dark Side”
  10. “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)”
  11. “Give Me Back My Hometown”
  12. “The Joint”

Mr. Misunderstood

  1. “Mr. Misunderstood”
  2. “Mistress Named Music”
  3. “Chattanooga Lucy”
  4. “Mixed Drinks about Feelings”
  5. “Knives of New Orleans”
  6. “Round Here Buzz”
  7. “Kill a Word”
  8. “Holdin’ My Own”
  9. “Record Year”
  10. “Three Year Old”

The Great McGinty (1940) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

Having just lived through a stolen presidential election I thought this was the perfect time to review Preston Sturges’ comical look at crooked politics.

The movie opens up in a bar in a Latin American country.  A young American is getting drunk and becoming more and more depressed.  He had to escape from the United States and leave his family behind because he was a bank teller who got caught stealing money.  The bartender played by Brian Donlevy follows him into the bathroom just in time to stop him from shooting himself.  The bartender tells him not to despair.  He tells the young man that his case is minor compared to his own.  Then he tells his story and the scene changes to the bartender’s story.  We find out his name Dan McGinty.

When we first see him, he is a hobo in tattered clothes wandering the streets of some big eastern city, probably New York.  It’s election day and a political hack (played by William Demerast) collars him and tells him that if he votes for the crooked mayor under an assumed name, he’ll get paid two bucks.  When McGinty asks the fixer, what happens if he can vote twice the guy tells him he’ll get four bucks.  So McGinty goes to every polling station and votes thirty-seven times.  But the fixer doesn’t have enough money to pay McGinty off so he brings him down to headquarters to ask the “Boss” for the cash.  The Boss, played hilariously with an absurd Russian accent by Akim Tamiroff, is so impressed by McGinty’s nerve that he takes him under his wing to make him a successful crook.  First, he makes McGinty a collector for the protection racket that the Boss runs.  When his verbal and pugilistic skills allow him to clean up even the most delinquent customers the Boss realizes that McGinty will rise very high in the Boss’s political machine.  He graduates to squeezing all the city contractors for the kickbacks that the Boss gets for letting them skip the bidding process.  The relationship between McGinty and the Boss is one of fratricidal familiarity.  They are both berserk fighters who enjoy nothing better than brawling with each other at the drop of a hat.  There are several brawls in the course of the movie.

Eventually the Boss decides that the old mayor is too weak and he decides that McGinty will be the new mayor.  But before he can run, he has to get married.  Apparently the newly enfranchised woman vote didn’t cotton to bachelor mayors.  He and his secretary Catherine form a marriage of convenience.  She is a divorcee with two kids and they both agree that a marriage in name only would suit them both.  But as you can guess eventually, they both fall in love and ruin the whole thing.  Catherine is at heart an idealist and she hopes that some day Dan can go straight and get out from under the Boss’s thumb.

Finally, the Boss decides to run McGinty for governor and he wins.  Now McGinty decides he wants Catherine and the kids to respect him so he has it out with the Boss.  And right in the governor’s office he and the Boss get into a colossal fist fight and then the Boss pulls a gun and tries to shoot McGinty for which he is hauled off to jail for attempted murder.

But the Boss gets his revenge and has McGinty arrested for being involved in a crooked contract back when he was mayor.  Now the Boss and McGinty are in adjoining cells and they strike a deal and the Boss arranges for both of them to break out of jail and escape the country.  McGinty just has enough time to call Catherine and tell her where there is a safety deposit box with enough money to take care of her and the kids for life.

In the next scene they’re back in the Latin American bar where McGinty is the bartender and the Boss is the owner.  Just as he finishes the story and calms the young man down, he decides to make the cash register ring.  This is supposed to tip off the Boss that McGinty is stealing from him and they get into one of their habitual fistfights.  Obviously, the fight is the highlight of the day for both of these exiles.

Preston Sturges wrote and directed this comedy and like many of his films it has an originality sadly lacking in most movies.  The characters of McGinty and the Boss are extremely vivid and despite their obvious criminality quite likeable.  The rest of the cast are more than adequate and the dialog is quite good.  Highly recommended.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 23 – The Omega Glory

In the highest circles of the Shatner-Khan hierarchy there is no more sacred text than “Eed plebnista” and “norkon forden perfectunun.”  One of my oldest acquaintances has been heard to spontaneously break out into this phrase with no visible rationale.  Because of these tendencies I tackle this review with great trepidation.  If I get it wrong there could be serious blowback.

The Enterprise is sent to planet blah,blah,blah to find out what has become of the Starship Exeter.  It’s found circling the planet and Kirk, McCoy, Spock and a redshirt fully primed for certain death beam over to the Exeter.  There they find a bunch of empty uniforms dribbling rock salt from the sleeves and pant cuffs.  Surprise, surprise, everybody’s dead and a video clip tells them that a disease brought up from the planet was the cause.  Being warned to beam down to the planet immediately they do so and find out that the lone survivor is Captain Tracey of the Exeter and he is engaged in Prime Directive defying aid to the Kohms in their war with the savage Yangs.  And unsurprisingly the Yangs are the descendants of the defeated white Yankees and the Kohms are the victorious Chinese Communists who won a biological weapons war and occupied the Yangs homeland.

But the Yangs are finishing off a long reconquest of their homeland and even with Captain Tracey’s fire boxes (phasers) the Kohms are in big trouble.  Tracey captures the Enterprise party and demands that Kirk provide him with ten more phasers with three extra power packs for each.  When the redshirt reaches for his phaser Tracey disintegrates him.  We also find out tha the disease that killed off the Exeter would have been harmless if the crew members had stayed just a short time longer on planet blah,blah,blah and now all of them could return to the Enterprise without risk to the ship or themselves.  But Tracey has discovered that the inhabitants live to be over a thousand years old and he is convinced that the secret to this amazing longevity can be discovered by McCoy and then sold by Tracey to the highest bidder once he’s beaten of the Yangs.  McCoy debunks the theory and says the longevity is just a natural byproduct of the survival after the bioweapon ordeal.

Meanwhile there is all this tuh-doing between Kirk and Tracey and a Yang prisoner who we find out is the Yang Chief Cloud Williams and his wife.  Finally Spock and Kirk escape from jail.  But eventually the Yangs attack the Kohms and we get to hear Tracey makes his horrified report of the battle, “They sacrificed hundreds just to draw us out in the open and then they came and they came.  We drained four of our phasers and they still came.  We killed thousands and they still came!”  Good times, good times.

So the Yangs capture all of the Federation personnel.  When the Yangs break out an antique American flag and Cloud Williams starts reciting a really garbled version of the Pledge of Allegiance Kirk completes the pledge and now Cloud wants Kirk to explain how he knows their sacred words.  But whereas Kirk wants to explain that they are from another world Tracey claims that Kirk and his crew are devils.  He uses as proof the fact that Spock has pointed ears and no heart.  Cloud Williams is unclear who to believe and asks if  Kirk can complete the most sacred of their texts which only a chief would know.  He starts it with “Eed plebnista.”  But Kirk can’t figure out what it is.  So instead he claims trial by combat against Tracey to the death.  Spock uses Vulcan mind games to get one of the Yang women to trigger a communicator and an armed landing party arrives with Sulu in command just as Kirk defeats Tracey but refuses to kill him.

Now hearing a few more of the words, “norkon forden perfectunun,” Kirk figures out that it’s the preamble to the Constitution and recites it and then gives Cloud and his tribal circle a civics lesson.  And then somehow they head back to the Enterprise, even though Sulu and the others are now infected with a disease that will dehydrate them down to bath salts within minutes.  The End.

“Eed plebnista” indeed.  There’s just so much to love about this episode.  Tracey beats up Kirk several times in the episode.  Shatner’s overacting while giving the Yangs their civics lesson.  And Tracey is so great in his angry intensity.  He wants that immortality drug and the power it will give him.  He comes up with that great “He has no hearrrrt!” line about Spock and finally he has his great narration of the Yang attack.

This gets a    10   //   7.