Monday, August 31, 2009

Do you really believe in the power of prayer?

55-40 has an interesting question. If you believe in the power of prayer, and you pray for someone to die, what do you think you have done? Attempted murder seems an apt description.

And, of course, threatening the president is a criminal offense.

from Cornell University Law School:

TITLE 18, PART I, CHAPTER 41, paragraph 871
Threats against President and successors to the Presidency

(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits for conveyance in the mail or for a delivery from any post office or by any letter carrier any letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States, or the Vice President-elect, or knowingly and willfully otherwise makes any such threat against the President, President-elect, Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President, or Vice President-elect, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Religion Clause has a link to the sermon the pastor preached. Religion Dispatches says,
A look at the sermons of his virulently anti-gay pastor who's been praying for Obama's death, however, reveals similarities to a far right theology associated with militias, radical prolifers, and proponents of theocracy.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is a detective novel by P.D. James. Adam Dalgliesh is mentioned throughout but doesn't appear until the very end. This book introduces Private Detective Cordelia Gray, who has another book like this one in which she is the main character. I enjoy P.D. James' mysteries. There were a couple of odd word choices. For example: "...the usual unseemingly wrangling..." Now, shouldn't that be "unseemly"?

from the back of the book:
Handsome Mark Callender did not die the way a well-brought-up gentleman should. He was found hanging by his neck, a lipstick stain on his mouth and a picture of a nude girl nearby. The official verdict was suicide, but his aristocratic father suspected murder, and hired fledgling detective Cordelia Gray to investigate. As this determined young lady followed a twisting trail of guilty secrets and shameful sins, she soon reached the conclusion that the nicest people do the nastiest things — in a case that proves at every shocking turn to be "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman."

That's not quite right, though, because the picture of the nude isn't found until later, and at no point is there the suggestion that Mark Callender's father "suspected murder". Sometimes the text on the backs of books is not what you'd call accurate... Or maybe I'm just in a picky mood.

All Along the Watchtower

All Along the Watchtower is a 1967 Bob Dylan song covered here by Jimi Hendrix in 1968.

from youtube:

This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Thief Lord

I had some store credit at my favorite used book store that could only be used in their young adult section, so I picked up The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. It's a book I'd heard about but that my kids had shown no interest in. It has been made into a film (2006), but I don't like the book enough to seek out the movie version. There's an excerpt from the book here.

from the jacket:
Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy, where hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelter runaways and children with incredible secrets...

Prosper and Bo are orphans on the run from their cruel aunt and uncle. The brothers decide to hide out in Venice, where they meet a mysterious thirteen-year-old boy who calls himself the "Thief Lord." Brilliant and charismatic, the Thief Lord leads a ring of street children who dabble in petty crimes. Prosper and Bo delight in being part of this colorful new family. But the Thief Lord has secrets of his own. And soon the boys are thrust into circumstances that will lead them to a fantastic, spellbinding conclusion.

The Guardian likes it, closing with this:
The humane and masterly work of this German writer and her scrupulous respect for her readers show up much of our home-grown fantasy for the derivative, manipulative dross that it is becoming.

USA Today also likes it, saying it "Display[s] the kind of zest that makes you inhale a book in as few sittings as possible,"

Voices of a Distant Star

Voices of a Distant Star is a 2002 Japanese anime short film.

Veoh has this one so that you can watch it online without downloading their player. Hooray!!! Here it is:

Watch Voices Of A Distant Star in Animation  |  View More Free Videos Online at

DVDTalk says, "More than just a technological achievement, it gives the viewer a rich emotional experience tied to the needs of the main characters." AnimeNewsNetwork says,
Story, pacing, characterization, focus--it's all perfect. And to complement the elegant animation, Tenmon, one of three others who helped Shinkai realize his vision, offers a wonderfully delicate, understated piano score.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler is a made-for-tv filmed production of the play by Ibsen. It stars Ingrid Bergman, Ralph Richardson, Michael Redgrave and Trevor Howard.

It's available in 7 sections at youtube. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7

I'm having trouble finding reviews.

The Paper Moon

The Paper Moon is 9th in the Inspector Montalbano mystery book series by Andrea Camilleri. I discovered these accidentally, picking up a couple in my favorite used book store, never having heard of the author. I get such a kick out of them that now I buy them whenever I see them used and will even buy them new if I run out of used finds.

There are 2 film mentions:

first: "The rules of the game. Wasn't there a play of the same name by the above-mentioned Pirandello?" I looked up Luigi Piradello, and he wrote a play with a title that's translated The Game of Roles.
second: a mention of Rear Window

from the back of the book:
The latest installment of the popular mystery series finds the moody Inspector Montalbano further beset by the existential questions that have been plaguing him of late. But he doesn't have much time to wax philosophical before the gruesome murder of a man - shot at point-blank range in the face with his pants down - commands his attention. Add two evasive, beautiful women as prime suspects, some dirty cocaine, mysterious computer codes, and a series of threatening letters, and things soon get very complicated at the police headquarters in Vigàta.

The Guardian calls Montalbano "the best company in crime fiction today."

I've read these:

1. The Shape of Water
2. The Terra-Cotta Dog
5. Excursion to Tindari
6. The Smell of Night

Under Capricorn

Under Capricorn is a 1949 Alfred Hitchcock film starring Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotton and Cecil Parker.

Internet Archive has this online:

Variety calls it "overlong and talky". The New York Times says, "it seems that neither Miss Bergman nor Mr. Hitchcock has tangled here with stuff of any better than penny-dreadful substance and superfical demands."

Ingrid Bergman

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1982 of Ingrid Bergman, remembered best for her role in Casablanca.

I have blog posts on the following of her films:

Casablanca (1942)
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
Notorious (1946)
Under Capricorn (1949)
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)
Hedda Gabler (1963, TV) has a lengthy list of resources and discusses some of her roles.

The photo at the top of the page is from Wikipedia Commons.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Privatize the Fire Department! It's the American Way!

If you think a free market privately-owned for-profit health care system is the way to go, then why not a privatized road system? Why do we allow the government to compete with the private schools? And surely we should also adopt this system for the fire department:

HT: Southern Beale

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Waters of March by Art Garfunkel

I heard an instrumental version of this song on the University of Memphis jazz radio station WUMR this afternoon. Here's Waters of March as I remember it:

I used to have Breakaway, the album by Art Garfunkel that includes this song, but I didn't keep it after I wasn't able to play vinyl any more and never replaced it with the CD.

War is illegal for the U.S.

and has been since we signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact on this date in 1928. It says:

The High Contracting Parties solemly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.


The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.


The present Treaty shall be ratified by the High Contracting Parties named in the Preamble in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements, and shall take effect as between them as soon as all their several instruments of ratification shall have been deposited at Washington.

This Treaty shall, when it has come into effect as prescribed in the preceding paragraph, remain open as long as may be necessary for adherence by all the other Powers of the world. Every instrument evidencing the adherence of a Power shall be deposited at Washington and the Treaty shall immediately upon such deposit become effective as; between the Power thus adhering and the other Powers parties hereto.

It shall be the duty of the Government of the United States to fumish each Government named in the Preamble and every Government subsequently adhering to this Treaty with a certified copy of the Treaty and of every instrument of ratification or adherence. It shall also be the duty of the Government of the United States telegraphically to notify such Governments immediately upon the deposit with it of each instrument of ratification or adherence.

IN FAITH WHEREOF the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed this Treaty in the French and English languages both texts having equal force, and hereunto affix their seals.

DONE at Paris, the twenty seventh day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight.

This is a binding treaty that we remain subject to. It's on the government list of treaties in force. Hmmm... I wonder, if someone brought this document to Washington's attention, could we bring our troops home?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Women's Equality Day

Today is Women's Equality Day, a celebration of the anniversary of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. That was a short 89 years ago. When my mother was born women were not allowed to vote. My maternal grandmother had 3 children before the 19th Amendment was passed.

Tennessee was the deciding vote for the 19th Amendment, which states
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This is the text of the Joint Resolution of Congress in 1971:
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.

We should not forget the battles that have been fought on our behalf, and we should show our appreciation by educating ourselves about the issues and exercising our rights. Before they take that right away from us, too.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sick Around the World

At the UT Health Care Forum this past Saturday one of the questions was whether or not panelists had seen the Frontline program Sick Around the World. I searched for it online and found it can be viewed at the PBS site. I watched it there tonight:

There is a teachers guide here. There are links, but nothing recent, particularly nothing related to the current attempts at legislation.

The New York Times says,
This fast-moving and entertaining hour starts from the premise that the American health care system, with its high costs, multiple gatekeepers and failure to provide insurance for much of the population, is a failure. And Mr. Reid makes the case (in about 10 minutes per country) that other capitalist democracies have not just cheaper and more equally available health care, but also better care over all, with longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates.

The Huffington Post has an article that says,
The film draws a sharp contrast between five other capitalist countries where everyone receives needed health care without risking bankruptcy and the fragmented non-system of U.S. financing and health care delivery where many fall between the cracks.

Charlie Rose discusses the documentary with T.R. Reid. You can watch that video here:

"The fundamental question is a moral question." -T.R. Reid

Paul Muni

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1967 of actor Paul Muni. He has a Facebook page, which is where the photo above came from. TCM has a short biography. says,
Muni required months to research his character and prepare for his performance. If the character was a historical figure, he would read every available book on the subject. If the character required a certain dialect, he would rehearse into a recorder until he was satisfied with his accent. Once filming began he would remain in character between takes and even when he was off the studio lot. Muni would literally become the person in the script, which helped to build his reputation as one of the finest character actors of his time.

I have blog posts on the following of his films:

Scarface (1932) below
Angel on My Shoulder (1946)

Scarface is a 1932 film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Paul Muni, George Raft and Boris Karloff.

Youtube has this film online in 9 sections (though there's part of it missing between parts 8 and 9), but embedding is disabled for the first part, which can be viewed at youtube. The remainder of the film should autoplay beginning with part 2 from here: [4/15/2012: this film is no longer available there]

The New York Times likens the slaughter to "that of a Shakespearean tragedy" and says, "Paul Muni as Scarface Tony Camonte gives a compelling portrayal." names it as "one of the three major films (along with Little Caesar and Public Enemy) that defined the American gangster genre in the early 1930s." Senses of Cinema has a short article exploring the film.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ain't Too Proud to Beg

Ain't Too Proud to Beg is a 1966 hit from The Temptations.

This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921 film)

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a 1921 Rudolph Valentino film, one of his most famous. says that "today's viewers, even those whose main interest is in nostalgia for Valentino, will be struck by the excellence of the film itself."

via Youtube:

The Sheik

The Sheik is a 1921 Rudolph Valentino film.

Internet Archive has this online:

Reviews are hard to come by, though the Wikipedia article reports mixed reviews when it was released. It apparently caused quite a scandal in some places.

Rudolph Valentino

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1926 of silent film star Rudolph Valentino. says,
Rudolph Valentino contrived to be a legend in his lifetime and, thanks to the ministrations of his fans and a life that was both contradictory and confused, he continues as one of the few immediately recognizable giants of the silent screen more than 50 years after his death.

I have blog posts on the following of his films:

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
The Sheik (1921)
Blood and Sand (1922) below

His 1922 film Blood and Sand, in which Valentino plays a tragic bullfighter, is available here at Internet Archive in a "digest version," severely cut and with music and narration added. LikeTelevision has the entire film interrupted by commercials:

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

The Brother from Another Planet

The Brother from Another Planet is a 1984 science fiction comedy directed by John Sayles. I had not seen this before, figuring it was just a mindless comedy, but it seems to me to be more of a social commentary.

"We're in for the Self-Actualization conference." LOL!

The Internet Archive has it online:

Roger Ebert likes it. Moria calls it a "marvellously witty little film".

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another Town Hall Meeting on Health Care Reform

A friend of mine knew how much I enjoyed Steve Cohen's Town Hall Meeting and invited The Daughter and me to go with her to the one at the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences. There were signs prohibiting signs inside the auditorium and forbidding weapons. Security was thick as fleas. We've decided that the lack of any publicity for this event was due to fear that there would be disruption from outside agitators, as had happened at the Cohen forum, but the lack of publicity resulted in a lack of attendees. Many seats were empty. Even people scheduled to be on the panels didn't show up, so I wonder how seriously they took this event.

The event was webcast, which was written on the agenda but not announced to the audience. It is archived and can be viewed at the link.

It was scheduled to begin at 9, was to include 3 separate panels (Federal, State and Local) and was to end at noon. None of that actually happened. The start time was delayed because the moderator was late. When he did finally show up -oh, it must have been 9:30 or so- he said he was over 50 and didn't have to give an excuse. Not a good start to my experience. There was an invocation offered by Bishop William Young of The Healing Center Full Gospel Baptist Church to "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" and prayed in the name of Jesus. The moderator was Leon Gray from Clear Channel Radio, and he began by talking about some of the myths that have grown up around the idea of health care reform and the importance of debunking those myths. He then introduced panel members for the panel on "The National View," mentioning several times throughout the morning that the representative from Cohen's office had not yet come.

Joseph Kyles, vice-president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, was out-spoken in his support of the 1,000 page "liberal" plan currently being considered in the house. He spoke about the concept of "disproportionate share". He was clear and concise.

Calvin Anderson from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, scheduled to be on the "Local View" panel, was on this first panel instead and I think had left before the later panel convened. He gave an overview of the history of health care reform, pointed out that there are currently 5 bills being considered (3 in the house and 2 in the Senate) and was insistent that a public option be required to abide by the exact same rules under which the insurance companies operate. Another clear, concise speaker.

Jim Kyle was on the agenda to be on the "State View" panel, but appeared here. He was next, and he was much fuzzier. He's a current candidate for governor, but I was not won over by his ability to get his point across, much less convince. Saying he had to leave at 10:30 (but not because this event wasn't important...) he talked about TennCare and his role in capping state health care expenses at 26% of the budget, leaving many uninsured. He used the phrase "cost shifting". I'm assuming that's the same concept as "disproportionate share".

Tomeka Hart, Executive Director of the Memphis Urban League, shared her knowledge of the needs and desires of Jane and John Q. Public. They just want this done. They've waited a long time already.

Brad Cobb, executive Directory of NAMI Memphis, openly insulted Jim Kyle, saying (perhaps loosely quoted, though this is the essence), "I care. It's a shame you don't." There was an audible gasp. My friend and I have not had stellar experiences in our admittedly very limited experience with NAMI locally, and I wondered how Mr. Cobb had been able to mount such a high horse. He said we need more Federal help. He said the more we talk about reform the worse it seems to get. He mentioned that 201 Poplar is not a nice place to be, and he rambled a while about the trouble the mentally ill have getting medical care in emergency rooms. He felt combative to me.

Rep. Hardaway (host of the event, for which he received continual accolades) said he will offer a bill in the fall that will, if passed, open the state insurance plan for everybody.

Michael Caudle, M.D., Vice Chancellor, Health Affairs/Government Relations UTHSC, talked about the number of people who are uninsured but noted that having an insurance card does not guarantee a doctor will provide care. He talked some about end-of-life issues.

Emily Fulmer, Lead and West TN Organizer for the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign, was one of my favorites. Short and to the point, she said that it's a shame that hard-working people in America can't get affordable health care choice.

Randy Alexander, Memphis Center for Independent Living, said we should look at what we should do and find a way to fund it rather than just saying we can't afford it. He said we must overcome the fear-mongering.

George Flinn, radiologist (and owner of 7 radiology clinics)/Shelby County Commissioner/founder and CEO of Flinn Broadcasting Corporation, talked, but I was unable to follow a coherent thread through what he said. He spoke strongly for tort reform, telling a story about a 2 plus million dollar medical malpractice settlement and seemed to be saying tort reform must happen before heath care reform can. At one point late in the going Flinn noted that doctors will never abandon their charge, that they have taken an oath, that he sees patients who can't pay and who don't have insurance.... I want to know, if this is the norm, why folks seem to be having trouble accessing health care.

Above is a picture of George Flinn texting during the meeting while the other speakers talked. (He seemed to spend a lot of the time he wasn't talking texting. At least that's what he was doing whenever we looked in his direction.) Just checked and he wasn't tweeting, as his last tweet was in June. Maybe he was updating his Facebook status? No, he hasn't mentioned the forum on his Facebook pages. What was he saying that was too important to wait? We'll never know.

At that point, the moderator had collected the questions from audience members and began the Q&A. He said the questions about the federal aspects of the issue would be set aside and passed on to Cohen, since his representative was still not there (and yes, we know Cohen's in Africa, but a representative from his office had committed to attend).

These are the questions that got much response:

Q: What's the rush?
  • Tomeka Hart said there is no rush, that we've been working on this since about 1912.
  • Randy Alexander said let's just pass a law and change what we need to later.
  • George Flinn said he's against the rush and believes everyone should be heard.
  • Brad Cobb wants to rush tort reform
  • Calvin Anderson says not to rush the details and not to push past the implications.

Q: What are 3 things we can do after we leave this forum?
  • Randy Alexander said
    • Find the truth.
    • Spread the truth.
    • Be a community.
  • Emily Fulmer said
    • Get involved with the TN Healthcare Campaign.
    • Call and write Corker and Alexander and write letters to the editor.
    • Educate yourself and others.
  • George Flinn said
    • Tort reform
    • Don't treat your doctor like a criminal.
    • Cut out the bureaucracy.
  • Calvin Anderson said
    • Continue to participate in forums.
    • Discuss the details of the plan.
  • Tomeka Hart said
    • Talk to representatives about economic development.
  • Rep. Hardaway said
    • Be better educated and access information from broader sources.

At this point there was a short break. When the meeting re-convened, the moderator said UT had granted us an extra 30 minutes use of the facility. Cohen's representative had finally arrived citing a "miscommunication" and said he wouldn't be answering any questions but would pass them on to Cohen. Wharton was supposed to be on the local panel but never did show up. Maybe he forgot about it in the midst of all his other excitement. It seemed that this next panel and the 3rd one had been scrapped and substituted with a panel of the willing. They all spoke, some rambling less than others. At one point the moderator called a panelist by the wrong name, and when she provided her name he told her she had talked so long he had forgotten it. Not funny. And she was not one of the longest-winded.

Rep. Hardaway interrupted the proceedings, saying he had seen a couple of people who had specific expertise to offer and would like to use 10 minutes of the Q&A time to allow them to address the forum. No one objected.

The first one must have talked 10 minutes herself. She provided endless statistical figures, and her point seemed to be that minorities are generally not as healthy as whites and get poorer health care. For a point that, I'm sure, would have been conceded readily by most folks there, she did go on and on... I got restless in my seat. Many people left.

The next woman was abusive of the privilege in a different way. She screamed into the microphone. She said she'd been diagnosed with everything we could name (Leprosy? Really?) but didn't take medications. Surely I mis-heard that... She talked about the mind controlling the body and mentioned faith a couple of times. I have no idea what her point was, but I had to hold my hands over my ears, because the sound was so loud as to be painful. She told her name and her web address. It seemed to me like she was promoting something, though I'm not sure what, and I found her participation to by highly inappropriate.

After that, another Q&A began, but we left after a few of those. As I check the video it looks like we missed about 15 minutes.

This was our second town hall meeting, and they were as different from each other as night from day. We did see one person we recognized from Steve Cohen's meeting: one of the nice men in line behind us at that event sat one row behind us on the other side of the room at this one. We didn't see him after the first panel finished.

8/23/2009: The Commercial Appeal has a report. The reporter gives most of the print space devoted to quoting panelists to the BCBS rep and Dr. Flinn.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is, obviously, the 2nd movie in the Terminator series. Directed by James Cameron, this 1991 film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. The Younger Son chose this. Neither he nor The Husband had seen it before. The Younger Son likes the first movie better.


Moria likes it. So does Roger Ebert. calls it "A humongous, visionary parable that intermittently enthralls and ultimately disappoints. T2 is half of a terrific movie -- the wrong half." Variety says the director
has again taken a firstrate science fiction film and crafted a sequel that's in some ways more impressive - expanding on the original rather than merely remaking it.
The New York Times says,
Mr. Cameron has made a swift, exciting special-effects epic that thoroughly justifies its vast expense and greatly improves upon the first film's potent but rudimentary visual style.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is a fascinating book by David Mitchell. Structured in a way that has the first plot stop mid-sentence and conclude at the end of the book, the entire book is made of nested stories. Each story takes place further in the future than the last, with the one uninterrupted plot at the center of the book taking place in a far-future post-apocalyptic society of isolated primitives, and each story contains an element from the earlier narrative. The language is standard English suitable for its time, and the central story uses language that reminds me of that used in Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker.

from the back of the book:
A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles and genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction how disparate people connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

A.S. Byatt wrote the review in The Guardian and says, "Trust the tale. He reaches a cumulative ending of all of them, and then finishes them all individually, giving a complete narrative pleasure that is rare." calls it "a genuine and thoroughly entertaining literary puzzle." The New York Times says,
It is a devious writer indeed who writes in such a way that the critic who finds himself unresponsive to the writer's vision feels like a philistine. So let it be said that Mitchell is, clearly, a genius.... The novel is frustrating not because it is too smart but because it is not nearly as smart as its author.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Day at the Races

A Day at the Races is a 1937 Marx Brothers movie. Groucho plays Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush in this one, a veterinarian who takes a position as chief of staff at a sanitarium at the insistance of Margaret Dumont's character.

Veoh has this one online, but you have to download their player to see it. No, thank you. Been there, done that. Thought I'd never get the mess cleaned up.


Variety calls it "surefire film fun". The BBC has a mixed review.

At the Circus

At the Circus is a 1939 Marx Brothers movie. Groucho sings "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" in this one. You can see that piece of the film here at youtube.

Googlevideo has the entire film online:

The New York Times doesn't like it as well as their earlier films.

Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers is a 1930 Marx Brothers film. In this one we get "Hooray for Captain Spaulding!" (watch it at youtube) and "Hello, I Must Be Going" (which can also be seen at youbube).

GoogleVideo has the entire film:

The New York Times says, "This mad affair suits the principals and its absurdities brought forth gales of laughter yesterday afternoon. "

Horse Feathers

Horse Feathers is a 1932 Marx Brothers movie that takes place on a college campus. I love the line, "Whatever it is, I'm against it!"

Googlevideo has it online:

The New York Times likes it. TCM has an overview.

Privatize the Roads! It's the American Way!

This (from a Tennessee Democratic Party blogger) is exactly the argument I've been making as I fume and fuss over this issue around here:
One thing we do have is equal access to the basics of life in a civilized nation- roads, schools, electricity, water. Both my Mercedes-driving neighbor and my Honda-driving self (as well as people lower on the income scale than me who can afford no better than a 5-year old used Buick) have the protection of the fire and police departments, and are equally defended by our military. Since health care addresses these same basics of a civilized existence, the question we need to be asking is not whether we should have a plan that covers everyone, but why health care was ever lumped into the same category as all the other extras (bigger houses, nicer furniture, fancier cars and televisions) in the first place.

I also loved the Joe Scarborough interview with my new hero Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NYC), in which Weiner, arguing for a single payer plan, asks what we need insurance companies for while poor Joe is left speechless. part 1:

part 2:

Their director [of Medicare] makes 150,000 dollars. The director of my insurance company makes 4 million dollars. Why does that make any sense? It's indefensible...
I ask again: What value are insurance companies bringing to this transaction?

This is a good representation of the argument from

Groucho Marx

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1977 of Groucho Marx, whose death was pretty much ignored by most folks because of the death (only 3 days earlier) of Elvis. I have embedded a couple of key movie scenes here. There used to be more, but youtube and googlevideo removed them. says,
The Marx Brothers' irreverent brand of humor has been described as surrealistic, absurdist, and anarchic. Consistently anti-authoritarian, their films mock serious institutions and professions, figures of authority, and "high art," with special abuse reserved for anyone deemed pompous, rich, or respectable.

I've blogged the following of his films:

Animal Crackers (1930)
The Cocoanuts (1929) and Monkey Business (1931)
Horse Feathers (1932)
Duck Soup (1933)
A Night at the Opera (1935)
A Day at the Races (1937)
At the Circus (1939)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where Are You on the Political Spectrum?

You can take the quiz at Culture Kitchen.

Here are my quiz results:

Where are you on the political spectrum
Your Result: Liberal

Your political and policy decisions are influenced by the principles of liberty, equality, peace and justice. You have an altruistic concern for your fellow men and women. You are likely to be a Democrat, but not all Democrats are liberals.

Where are you on the political spectrum
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Mickelsson's Ghosts

Mickelsson's Ghosts is a 1982 novel by John Gardner, the last novel he wrote.

from the back of the book:
It is the story of Peter Mickelsson, a brilliant professor of philosophy, who, having totally lost control of his life, buys and sets about restoring an old farmhouse, only to find that he is haunted by the ghosts of former occupants.

He's not haunted only by ghosts of the house's former occupants, but by ghosts of his own imagination and weird happenings. Philosophy, psychology, religion, questions about madness and reality, abortion, the I.R.S., medical malpractice, incest, suicide,...

The New York Times concludes it's "a standard-brand thriller with a queer Gothic hum in the background."

Live Graceland Camera

Now that the tourists have finished paying their Death Week homage to The King, it's quieter at Graceland. You can see a picture of the house that updates every minute at this link. There are 3 virtual tours linked here.

The picture above is from Wikipedia Commons.

Monday, August 17, 2009

After Midnight

Eric Clapton's version of J.J. Cale's After Midnight was on Clapton's 1970 album.

This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elvis Presley

The Daughter offers these 2 tasteless Elvis jokes in honor of the day:

  • Q: What was Elvis' last big hit?
    A: The bathroom floor.
  • Q: What would Elvis say if he were alive today?
    A: "Let me out, let me out, let me out!"

If she really had a full appreciation of Elvis and real faith that he is still alive she would, of course, not think those jokes were so funny. She is not, however, a true believer. What can I say? I have tried to convince her, but she remains more than skeptical.

As a finish for our Elvis Presley Tribute Film Fest we watched Lilo and Stitch, which I wrote a blog post for back in January.

Earlier tonight we watched Elvis Has Left the Building and Bubba Ho-Tep.

Blog posts on other Elvis movies:

King Creole

Elvis Has Left the Building

2nd in our Death Week Tribute Film Fest is Elvis Has Left the Building, a 2004 film about Elvis impersonators who are dropping like flies. It stars Kim Basinger, around whom no Elvis impersonator is safe and John Corbett, a man whose soon-to-be-ex-wife is an Elvis impersonator. Annie Potts, Sean Astin, Angie Dickinson, Pat Morita and Wayne Newton (as himself) are also here.


MSN has an overview. Reviews are hard to come by, but we think it's hilarious.

Bubba Ho-Tep

In honor of Elvis Presley on the anniversary of the date of his supposed death, we watched Bubba Ho-Tep, a 2002 Elvis movie starring Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as President ("They dyed me this color") Kennedy. This is my 3rd time to see it, the 2nd time for The Husband and maiden voyages for The Daughter and The Younger Son.


Moria gives it 4 stars. 1000 Misspent Hours calls it "the best mummy movie I’ve seen in years, probably the best to hit the screen since 1959." Variety calls Bruce Campbell's performance "inspired". Rolling Stone says it's "absurdly clever". The New York Times starts off, "I'm not sure you could do much better in terms of high concept than the premise for the action-comedy ''Bubba Ho-Tep.''" Roger Ebert begins,
Elvis and JFK did not die, and today they're roommates in an East Texas nursing home whose residents are being killed by an ancient Egyptian Soul Sucker named Bubba Ho-Tep. I want to get that on the table right at the get-go, so I can deal with the delightful wackiness of this movie, which is endearing and vulgar in about the right proportion.

BBC says,
Cult horror classics don't come more instantaneous than Bubba Ho-Tep, a fiendishly funny comedy horror, in which an ageing Elvis Presley battles an Egyptian mummy with a little help from former President John F Kennedy.


Religulous is a 2008 documentary with Bill Maher.

Online at GoogleVideo:

The scriptures are not teaching science. It's very hard for me to accept, not just a literal interpretation of scripture but a fundamentalist approach to religious belief. It's kind of a plague. It presents itself as science, and it's not. (astronomer/priest)

The irony of religion is that, because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world actually could come to an end.
The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having key decisions made by religious people, by irrationalists,

That last quote is from Bill Maher and is part of a mini-sermon well worth listening to even if you don't watch the rest of the movie. It's about the last 10 minutes of the film.

The New York Times describes it as "a sometimes funny, sometimes cheap attack on organized religion." Variety calls it "brilliant" and "incendiary". Roger Ebert has a review, giving it 3 1/2 stars. The Guardian opens with this: "Shooting fish in a barrel is the order of the day in comedian Bill Maher's faintly tiresome attack on religion". Christianity Today points out that
it's not the hardest thing in the world to make a religion look silly when you only focus on the kitschiest, most grimace-inducing practitioners of it.
Slant Magazine compares it to Ben Stein's Expelled, saying
to both films' detriment, they employ a similar, debilitating brand of smug disingenuousness, feigning interest in discussion while arrogantly and speciously preaching in the very same manner that their subjects are ridiculed for.
Rotten Tomatoes links to many reviews.

blog responses:
Exploring Our Matrix

HT: MoviesFoundOnline

Jathia's Wager

Jathia's Wager is the first open-source science fiction film.
a science fiction story about a young man living in an isolated community of humans, who must make a life changing decision about his future and his species

a bit preachy...

It's online at googlevideo:

HT: SFSignal

Saturday, August 15, 2009


When I went downstairs for tea tonight I discovered The Daughter and The Younger Son playing Tantrix. I watched that round, and they let me in on the next one. I was Green. We've had this game for several years and pretty much obey the stated rules. You can play a solitaire version online here.

There's a Facebook page.

The photo above is from Joff Hopkins' Flickr stream.

The Body Farm

The Younger Son and I have talked about this for some time -he brought it up, and I don't mind discussing topics some might consider morbid- and we have decided we want to donate our bodies to the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center. Besides avoiding the continually sky-rocketing cost of funerals, this provides a service and keeps our bodies from being stuck in an air-tight box in a vault. Not much "ashes to ashes and dust to dust" involved in current funeral practices around here. It's not that we particularly want to donate our bodies to science, but the idea of natural decomposition just appeals to us as an alternative to the death-denying funeral culture. One of the F.A.Q.s:
2. What happens to my body after it is donated?

Once we receive a body, we assign an identifying number and we place it at the Anthropology Research Facility (ARF), our outdoor laboratory. The body may be used in a decomposition project or not. Regardless, all of donations go to the ARF and are allowed to decompose naturally.
Information on body donations is here. There's a wikipedia article here. The Utne Reader has an article. did an interview with the founder. There was a story on NPR's Weekend Edition. has a video. There's also a short (warning: graphic, not for the squeamish) video tour at youtube hosted by founder Dr. William Bass. There is a Facebook group.


Cendrillon (no English Wikipedia page) is an 1899 short Georges Melies film re-telling the Cinderella story. This is one of the earliest filmed Cinderellas. This film pioneered the first dissolve effect.

It's online at the Internet Archive: has an article.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Play Time

The Younger Son chose a foreign film tonight (bless his heart), and The Husband and The Daughter sat through the entire movie without a word of complaint. Play Time is a Jacques Tati film, released in France in 1967 and in America in 1973. We have the Criterion edition, and I also watched the short biography on the 2nd disc.

There's some video from the movie here:

There are several still shots from the film here. DVDTalk has an appreciation. opens with this:
Jacques Tati's Playtime is perhaps the only epic achievement of the modernist cinema, a film that not only accomplishes the standard modernist goals of breaking away from closed classical narration and discovering a new, open form of story-telling, but also uses that form to produce an image of an entire society.

Only the Cinema calls it
one of the most exuberant, free-spirited, formally playful tributes imaginable to the spirit of invention and humor that leads people to make their own fun in the most unlikely of contexts.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Thieving Hand

The Thieving Hand is a 1908 short film produced and directed by Stuart Blackton. Though he was better known for his work in animation, this silent film is live action with some interesting effects having to do with a prosthetic arm with a mind of its own.

Youtube has it online:

TCM has an overview. Weird Wild Realm has a plot synopsis and similar information on several of Blackton's films.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Drinking Liberally, Memphis

After our interesting experience at the recent Steve Cohen Town Hall meeting, The Daughter and I thought we'd seek out other local liberals. I had read about the Drinking Liberally group on a blog a while back, so I looked them up and we went. I knew where the place was, parking was no problem and the group was meeting just inside the door. So far, so good.

It went downhill from there.

The bartender took us over to the group, saying, "I've got some new folks for you." The tables were already pretty full, and we sat in the first available seats we came to: on the side at the end of the table next to a man with a cute little boy. The bartender pulled another table up to make room for more folks, took our order (he was great) and told us where the patio was. We sat there for a while before anyone spoke to us, but one guy did get up and come down to where we were to introduce himself. He was cordial and asked how we learned about the meeting. Sometime during the hour and 15 minutes we were there, a couple of other folks who came introduced themselves; but everyone who came scooted in to sit next to the people at the other end of the table. No one ever did sit down at the table that had been added next to us. The guy next to me turned completely sideways in his chair so that his back was to me, making it impossible for me to see past him or hear anything that was said on the other side of him. The guy across from me was apparently new, too, and he told us he was interested in learning more about politics. He was there with his sister (I think), who talked with the folks at the other end of the table. There was no one seated to his left across from The Daughter. These people seem like they all already know each other and may not be used to strangers coming who have never met any of them before. We felt "really awkward" to quote The Daughter. They don't seem to object to strangers sitting at their table, but we figure it's probably a private group in actual practice -at least, it felt closed to us sitting where we were.

As we left I told them it had been nice to have met them, and they smiled in a sociable way, but I don't think they'll miss us when we never go back. The bartender seemed interested in having us come back. That's nice.

8/13/2009: I see this mention of the event at LeftWingCracker. I think the woman he identifies as "Kelly, the author of THE MEMPHIS LIBERAL" might have been the sister of the man who sat across from me, though I never heard her name mentioned last night. Her report of the meeting is here. It's evident, then, that they aren't a closed group and that they do welcome some newcomers. Sitting behind that guy's back where we couldn't see or hear anybody except for the guy sitting across from me (nice as he was) was just a bad place to be.

8/14/2009: LeftWingCracker is inviting everybody to Drinking Liberally at RP Billiards to visit with gubernatorial candidate Jim Kyle.

King Creole

The Younger Son and The Daughter had never seen an Elvis movie before. I felt like I had somehow failed as a Memphis native, so when I saw that King Creole was one of the movies being shown as part of the Elvis Film Fest, I bought tickets and took them yesterday. I think they were surprised by how good it was. The first time I saw this film it was on television. This was my third time to see it and my first time to see it in a theater.

King Creole is a 1958 Elvis movie directed by Michael Curtiz. It also stars Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau and Vic Morrow.


Variety praises Elvis' acting. The New York Times also praises Elvis, saying,
In Paramount's surprisingly colorful and lively "King Creole," most of it outright drama, he does a good, convincing walk-through as a downtrodden New Orleans youth who tangles with some gangsters (along with that blasted guitar). It's a sturdy, picturesque job

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Star Wars

I still call it the 1st Star Wars movie, but since it came out it has become Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It'd been years since we had last seen this, and we decided it would be a fitting end to our Peter Cushing Appreciation Day. Peter Cushing is Grand Moff Tarkin. The film also stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Alec Guinness. It is written and directed by George Lucas. We watched the Han Shot First version. You know... the real one.


The New York Times has a positive review. Time Magazine calls it "the year's best movie". Variety says it's "magnificent". The BBC says it "remains one of the most memorable and glorious fantasies ever made." Roger Ebert considers it a great movie and closes by saying,
If I were asked to say with certainty which movies will still be widely-known a century or two from now, I would list “2001: A Space Odyssey,'' and “The Wizard of Oz,'' and Keaton and Chaplin, and Astaire and Rogers, and probably “Casablanca''. . . and “Star Wars,'' for sure.

Moria loves it and says,
Perhaps what made Star Wars such an enduring classic – and there is no doubt about this for when Empire magazine conducted an All-Time Best readers poll in 1997, Star Wars emerged as the No. 1 film – is less to do with myth and pastiche than it is simply out-and-out entertainment.

Island of Terror

Island of Terror is a 1966 horror film starring Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Eddie Byrne, Sam Kydd and Niall MacGinnis.

You can watch it online at this link. Here's a trailer:

StompTokyo begins its look at this movie by saying,
You have to respect - well, perhaps not respect, but certainly admire - a movie like Island of Terror, that takes pains to set up a Simple Movie Fact in its opening minutes; that point being: these people are screwed.
1000 Misspent Hours describes the foreshadowing at the beginning of the film:
You see what I mean about the filmmakers using audience expectations to their advantage here, right? Here we are less than five minutes into the movie, and already we can see exactly how fucked these people are, and we have a pretty good idea why, too. And moments later, when we learn that Philips is rushing ahead on some super-advanced cancer-related research without checking with his colleagues in Rome, New York, and Tokyo, our suspicions only deepen. Then, when Philips’s experiment is interrupted by the main title display and the sound of breaking glass, we know without even needing to be shown that something has gone disastrously wrong.
Moria doesn't like it.