The Damnation of the United States?

Waving Distress Call

DATELINE:  Oh, the horror! The horror!

Yes, the apocalypse of democracy may be at hand.

Over 200 years ago, we had a Vice President named Aaron Burr who spat on the Constitution of the United States and wanted to destroy the fledgling, infant government. Today, history repeated itself. It was not infanticide of an American Dream: it was murder of the American republic.

We saw the same kind of gleeful faces running riot on the United States Capitol, self-righteous mobs that were empowered to destroy. This mentality occurs regularly in history.

We think these were the faces on people who threw Christians to the lions. We believe, had we been there, these were the faces of the people who tortured and killed others during the Inquisition.

We are fairly sure these were the kind of faces and attitudes that inspired the French Revolution where a social class of people were unceremoniously executed by guillotine.

We know these were the faces on mobs that rounded up Jews and sent them to gas ovens, marked for death with yellow stars.

We saw it again today: how easy and facile it is for those who want their way, and no other, to have it their way. It was easy to take down the American flag and replace it with the Trump banner.

We think the expulsion from government of men named Trump, Cruz, Hawley, for their self-serving violent ends and power plays is warranted, and must be demanded.

We believe that there are such people in America today who are not confederates of the Old South, are not white supremacists, but are simply Nazis.

Purely Nazis our fathers and grandfathers fought against in a war to save humanity. That generation of American heroes would be appalled that it has come home to roost in Capitol where people who cry out to burn down D.C.

Yes, Nazis took hold of America today. Not crypto-Nazis, or wannabe Nazis.

We saw the genuine article, a great swarm of insects, of Americans who have no respect for anything except their own willpower and wanton political agendas. These were the red fire ants on attack.

There was no hidden agenda today about democracy. It was a brazen attempt at a coup d’etat by people who think they live in a banana republic.

Perhaps they do. The rest of us do not.

Titanic/James Cameron 2020 Vision

DATELINE:  More Underwater Pix

Titanic: Into the Heart of the Wreck  is another new documentary on History Channel that gives us the lowdown on how the shipwreck is melting away in those frigid depths, owing to an iron-eating microbe.

What an ignominious end to a grand liner.

There is a history of underwater diving, photography and subs, which calmed down the divining rods.

James Cameron was the star of this documentary, the primary witness, though one Russian oceanographer has done 57 dives to the wreckage. A handful of people have gone to it many, many times.

James Cameron admits he made the famous movie version because he wanted to dive on the ship—and has done so over 30 times.

Cameron mentioned that his camera was in D-deck D35, which was next to passenger Richard White’s compartment. He switched out of D-26 one day after they sailed because a room was empty and he preferred not to share with his father.

Cameron also mentions that he does not believe in ghosts, but the pairs of shoes indicate victims. He did not believe artifacts should be taken from the inside of the ship, though that now is debated and legally challenged.

As for seeing ghosts, Cameron disbelieves—except for an overlay of memory that he feels is present. He is no scientist, holds no science degrees, but he has had 30 trips to Titanic, ahead of legit scientists.

This is similar to the electrons never die theory of Thomas Edison who felt traumatic memory was far more likely to survive as electrons in the atmosphere.

Nothing is discussed of the recent efforts to retrieve the Marconi radio. And, experts now believe the ship may last up to 500 years underwater, despite 27 forms of bacteria eating it.

 

 

 

 

Second Monolith Bites Dust

Criminal Intent

DATELINE:  Monkeys Win.

After a heist of art critics of the Utah monolith, there has now been a second brazen attack in Romania. The bad copy of the first monolith has now disappeared into the night.

Apparent vandals who moonlight as art critics came to the national park with a wheelbarrow and a brazen attitude, telling people to take their pictures now because the monolith would soon be gone.

Reports are now circulating that these were Trump supporters who believe they can make a monolith disappear at will—and they plan to make the recent U.S. presidential election disappear too.

The culprits include a man who has boasted of his crime against crime, setting himself up as a vigilante to remove “trash” from pristine desert areas. It turns out this cretin was banned from the national parks for his own abusive behavior.

Self-styled art critics, trash collectors, and Trump conspiracy theorists, now have combined to steal whatever is not nailed down. Ballots are next.

Whether the same crew flew into Transylvania, or whether it was a local group of crypto-Nazis we have not yet determined.

 

In any respect, the people above the law are now making the law the rest of society. So it usually is before a Hitler take-over.

 

From dust to dust, so goes the short lifecycle of a monolith.

 

 

 

 

 

Death in Venice Part 2

Death in Venice and Washington?

DATELINE: Drips for Drips

Not since Death in Venice when Dirk Bogarde’s bad dye job melted during a pandemic have we seen such a just dessert.

Yes, that’s Rudi Giuliani playing the role of a lifetime: the man who catches the coronavirus while chasing young electoral college voters! In the famous Visconti movie, Von Aschenbach loses his youth to bad makeup under the unrelenting conditions of Venice at its worst.

Now, Rudi loses his cool to bad mascara dripping off his sideburns under the unrelenting conditions of Trump at its worst.

We did not realize that Rudi had been cast in a remake of the great classic tale of unremitting moral decay in the face of losing an election.

Trump has simply drained his hair of all color, and Rudi has not taken the cues properly. His master will not be pleased to turn his press conferences into streaming jokes with streaming bad dye dripping.

The other case of drips came when the Wicked Witch of the West stole Toto and was pressed by the Electoral College to return the mutt to a Kansas voting booth. 

All bad taste aside, when you’re paid $20,000 a day to represent the POTUS, you likely don’t have a potus to put hair dye in.

 

Eulogy for Tommy Heinsohn

Soul of a Team

Tommy Heinsohn is gone. For the past few years, he had been less likely to broadcast games, giving up road trips entirely. But he still went to the studio into his eighties to provide insights no one else could know.

He has gone off now with Red and the Leprechaun to a better place.

And what he had to give may be matchless: he knew them all in basketball. He played with them all, coached them all, advised them all. He was one of the original Celtics—and his fiery attitude made him like someone from Mount Olympus on a holiday among mortals. From the 1950s to the 21stcentury, he made an impact on the Boston Celtics.

We do recall the crew-cut blond who had a passion for play that struck us many decades ago. We watched him every chance.. How thrilling it was that he never went away from Boston. He stayed as coach, holding such old-fashioned loyalty. And when the team moved away from his bombast and ref-bashing, he would not take another coaching job anywhere else. He was a Celtic.

He gave counsel to all—from Rondo to Couz. When irked with Bob Cousy, he called him “Robert.” When Dave Cowens in retirement and in an interview complained he never got a Tommy point, Heinsohn rolled his eyes, “Okay, okay, you have a Tommy Point.”

He was immutable and beyond the adjectives of media where they change voices like some people change T-shirt slogans. Tommy Heinsohn was indelible.

It’s not to forget that he was a cultured man who had a skill for painting, perhaps as a form of therapy or relaxation. But like basketball, he mastered whatever he put his talents to doing. How we would like to have one of those prized watercolors.

How we will miss his insights and his colorful expression. He knew what to say and how to say it. And, now that is gone from us. Oh, let’s not be selfish: he shared all those gifts with us for a long time. We should not be greedy. He deserves his time in immortality, high above the parquet for real.

Adieu, Mr. Celtic.

Brian Jones of Rolling Stones

Lies and More Lies

DATELINE: Murder Won’t Out

 

A new documentary on the fate of one of the founders of the Rolling Stones legend has been produced, written and directed by Danny Garcia. This is surely one of the ultimate acts of a groupie of the first order. His paeon to Brian is truly sad.

Jones was another of those rock stars who died at age 27, resulting from a self-destructive lifestyle of drugs and drinking. By the end, one month after he was pushed out of the group by Mick Jagger, he was dead.

Jones was actually the one who put an ad out in 1962 to form a jazz band. Mick Jagger and Keith Richard came to see him and were blown away by his musical talent and brilliant mind. He was the original leader of the group, but his sensitivity led to a hasty downfall.

Keith wanted to sing an occasional song, but there was no way to supplant Mick Jagger. By the time of “Satisfaction,” Brian was mostly dissatisfied with the direction and tone of the group.

His drinking and unreliability made him anathema to the others, and they plotted his removal because he was so unable to show steadiness in a rock field of people out of control.

Jones was thrown out of his home by parents who did not want him to give up classical music, and he was a three time father of illegitimate children by age 19. He was excessive in a world of excess.

Jones was friends with bob Dylan and John Lennon who were more sympathetic than Mick Jagger, but Scotland Yard set-ups of the rock scene were growing. Fake drug busts enhanced any drug usage, and Jones was victim. He was shocked at the hostility and fell apart, even according to his father Lewis.

Was Jones murdered? Evidence suggests that police were not forthcoming about the possibility. Jones had only the equivalent of three pints of beer in his system—and prescribed drugs. He was involved in a fight with a thug contractor who was repairing his Sussex home—and to whom Jones owed him much money.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richard refused to participate in the biography made 50 years after Brian’s death.

A fictionalized movie called Stoned seemed to follow this theory.

 

 

Rhonda Fleming, 97, Fades Away

Alias Jesse James, 1959 with Bob Hope

DATELINE: Smart and Lovely

To hear that Rhonda Fleming had passed away was an anticlimax. She had been out of public eye for twenty or thirty years. And her age was given as 97. She was not cheated out of time, but her film career cheated her out of nearly everything else.

In the 1960s when she was fairly done as a smart leading lady, she did not go into a TV series that might have cemented her legacy. Instead, she did stage shows in Vegas for a time and lived out her life in teaspoons of fame.

At her peak, Rhonda’s fiery red hair made her a good second choice to all the roles that went to Maureen O’Hara. Yet, she still managed to play opposite Ronald Reagan four times and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby separately.

If there was a last film recalled about her, it was Alias Jesse James, a cameo-studded Bob Hope western comedy that featured every TV and movie cowboy. She held her own.

Rhonda was never offered much beyond the sensible woman. She was stunning to look at, but played it as equal to any leading man. They must have liked that because so many wanted to appear with her co-star.

Now you may catch her on the cable movie channels. Perhaps one will feature a few of her movies, nothing earth-shattering, something with Charlton Heston or Vincent Price. You have to admire an actress who did her job and was the consummate professional.

We can’t say we’ll miss Rhonda Fleming because she was gone years ago. It’s just another empty spot in the pantheon of old Hollywood.

 

 

Altmanesque

DATELINE: Great Director Documentary

A biographical film on the life and work of Robert Altman uses a touchstone word, “Altmanesque,” as the word asked of all his most famous stars. Their inarticulate explanations may reveal more about the paucity of their vocabulary than about the notable filmmaker in the simply titled Altman.

He began TV work on schlock like the Whirlybirds,but learned the craft.

A man who never caved in on his principles, he was fired from movies and TV shows regularly for extending the bounds: he was thrown off Combat and Bus Stop.Those episodes look tame today, but were shockers of moral depravity back in the early 1960s.

When he confounded Jack Warner by having overlapping dialogue during an argument between two actors, he was banned from the studio. He did not play by silly rules, and today those rules look so silly that we laugh about it.

Altman had tremendous loyalty too, and often worked with the same actors. He was an actors’ director more than anything else: putting their ease of delivery at the top of movie success.

His most famous movies were twists on the usual genre, like Western film, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, or fantastic Brewster McCloud. MASH put him on the box-office straight and narrow. He went up and down, always interesting, but not until 1990 and The Player did he wake up the movie world.

His Oscar was honorary for a lifetime of achievements, but his films were variable, so different that each became the favorite of different people.

 

 

 

 

 

Jack the Tailor of Beverly Hills

 DATELINE: You Are What You Call Yourself!

 Clothes Make the Man!

Upon first coming across a one-hour documentary on a fashion store in Beverly Hills, we thought it was one of those vanity documentaries, produced by its subject. Jack Taylor was a 90-year old high fashion artist from old Hollywood days.

The film is a tad old, with Taylor gone in 2016 and his main supporter, Mike Douglas, a decade before that. Yet, we are always eager to catch up on our past misgivings.

Jack Taylor hardly needs publicity, and business is dying out as his A-list celebrity patrons pass away. He would soon follow and take an era with him. He was the man who tailored all those magnificent suits worn by Cary Grant from the 1930s till his death. Grant would order a dozen suits at time.

We wondered if there were any celebs who’d go on camera for a commercial appearance—and there were plenty of men: Mike Douglas, Hal Linden, swore by Jack Taylor. Monty Hall wore a different outfit every show on Let’s Make a Deal, all created by Taylor.

He made clothes for Elvis, Sinatra, Charles Bronson, and so many men. He was not easy either. He would tell them not to eat or put on weight. His suits were meant to show them off at their best shape. His most obstreperous client was Jackie Gleason who needed 3 sizes, because of his weight changes over weeks and months.

Taylor would tell them to eat only half the plate at the restaurant. He did not do alterations, or sew the suits. He has a 60-year tailor for that: he has worked for Taylor for sixty years. He’s in his 80s. But both lament there are no tailors any longer.

We are looking at the extinction of men’s fashion. There was no endangered species list: men’s suits and ties were dinosaurs when the political landscape changed its pants.

Clothes for men nowadays are off the rack at best, and China imports at worst. Jack Taylor knows his world of well-dressed men is fading away. He thinks the 1940s were the last gasp, but the war killed it at that point. And, the 1970s turned into a fashion death knell for men’s clothing with jeans and t-shirts as the extent of wardrobe.

We never expected to be fascinated at expensive clothes, being a recluse who never makes public appearances. However, celebrities still know a good suit is essential, but they are going to have a hard time finding anyone to replace jack Taylor.

Remembering Leonard Nimoy!

DATELINE:  Family-Based Eulogy!

  Nimoy with Quinto.

A few years after the original and amazing Mr. Spock passed away, his daughter Julie has come up with a biographical documentary about Leonard Nimoy.

Such loving family portraits are often good for the soul and avoid messy scandals and unpleasant issues. There is no mention here of Nimoy’s period of hating Mr. Spock and trying to avoid the character. Instead, we see how he comes to embrace the icon and play him even in the Zachary Quinto remakes! Nimoy steals the movie.

In such a tale of life, we were surprised at what we had forgotten: Leonard was a Bostonian who grew up near old Scollay Square, though he calls it the West End and says he was a street kid in a tough neighborhood. Well, yeah, it was the red light district of Boston for years! He never reveals that!

He went to Pasadena Playhouse at 18 and stayed in California forever after that. He did return to Boston to do a few plays in later years (Fiddler on the Roof, etc.).

The early years of struggle with dozens of guest roles on TV and working as a cab driver (where he met fellow Bostonian JFK once as a passenger), are quite fascinating.

His daughter has a criticism of her father: his two-pack a day cigarette smoking that gave him COPD. It ultimately was a death knell, though he lived until 83 years with the condition.

Fans will be delighted with how this creative and versatile artist lived and worked: he was poet, director, actor, and above all else at the end, a highly emotional family man. He joked how his ancestors were aliens to America and came to this country, but he was born in America and went to Hollywood and became an alien.

Nice little film.

 

 

 

 

 

Endeavour Winds Up and Down Season 7

 DATELINE: See Venice & Die.

 

Nearly everyone associated with the program Endeavour believes that season 8 will be the end of the series’ run. If so, it is not going to end well for most of the characters, apart from Morse who goes on to another life as Morse in late middle-age (already filmed in case you missed them with Thaw as old Morse).

The hostility and break between Thursday and Endeavour seemingly irrevocable and, in a future world, likely it is fatal.

We begin and end with the overwrought opera in Venice, and its ultimate plot is revealed to us as some kind of reconciliation to the future season. The end  tableaux  is exactly like the opera.

Playing at Mycroft, we were one step ahead of Morse’s Sherlock, but Endeavour’s red herrings were not stand-alone. We were irked by the endless mayhem. The clues were mix and match. We won’t spoil much by telling you that you have more serial killers in an Oxfordshire towpath than on the streets of Chicago.

The tale is overwrought like opera and stretches our credulity more than any previous season. It seems Morse’s fatal flaw is not a kiss of death, but a snobby arrogance. His Oxford background puts him above the flat-footed cops he works with, and he’s told as much several times. It is his hubris that causes a serial killer to use him as a “convenient idiot, or police pet,” by the equally brilliant A-train killer.

Ryan Gage as Ludo matches Shaun Evans as Endeavour, step by pulled out stop.

Reconciliations in some season eight may be hard to swallow if they even come. It seems that all the actors have played their parts on the stage, as Ludo tells us at the climax, and that may be enough.

Trapped in a Volcano

DATELINE: Horrible Ending

 Start of Eruption,White Island.

This one-hour news documentary from New Zealand is not a metaphor for anything social or political. It is a real examination of a horrid tragedy in December of 2019: on White Island, one of the rare active volcanoes in the New Zealand area, erupted suddenly with tourists on the rim of the crater.

It’s a once in a lifetime chance to see a volcano blow its top up close. It’s one-time because you will not survive the experience. The news film is called Trapped in a Volcano.

White Island supports a cottage industry of interested viewers. You can reach there by boat from nearby islands, or by helicopter service (several companies flew regularly a few people willing to pay a large fee), and the Royal Carribbean ocean liners went by and sent out dinghy-loads of passengers. Yes, thousands have gone there and lived to tell.

Not much warning or fear accompanied the visits by business tours even though the volcano is the entire island and erupted a mere three years ago. It has constant venting and ground is covered in yellow sulfur rocks, Steam is generally 200 or 300 degrees along the paths up the rocky terrain.

Famous news pictures showed a flow of dust and smoke billowing off the island and chasing a boat of tourists who departed ten minutes before the volcano blew. Another boatload was on the shore and was caught.

Going back, they saw a few struggling people covered in gray dust. Helicopters dispatched to do a rescue and found one copter smashed, all occupants who had landed were dead. Tour guides were dead. Nearly two dozen victims.

A lawyer representing families on the cruise ship were not told how bad it was by authorities on ship. Nor were they warned about the dangers of such a visit to White Island. Their lawyer said that was the cruise ship responsibility.

We would argue that before going there, we’d do our homework, and seeing live venting is not a good sign. Ballistic rocks fly out of the crater at 100 miles per SECOND. You cannot escape if the volcano decides to claim you.

Call it folly or vanity. Call it rich people’s privilege. We stand by the old-fashioned, unsympathetic term. It was plain stupid to go to White Island.

  Jack Arnold: Swiss Cheese at Last

DATELINE: Forgotten Co-Star?

John Saxon, d. 2020.

 One of the great 1950s sci-fi directors was Jack Arnold who gave us Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and a western No Name on the Bullet,that were astounding movies.

Alas, not every great director has the freedom to be an auteur. Arnold wound up in TV, directing some of the big TV shows from 1960 to 1990. It was all trash in the end.  Even directors have to eat.

One of his final theatrical movies was from 1976 in which he received a nice vacation to Zurich and Switzerland where he filmed The Swiss Conspiracy.  It has so many plot holes that even literate Jack Arnold could only give the stolen ice an ending on the ice of the Alps He was witty to the end.

The film is about blackmail over Swiss bank accounts. And, the cast is fairly stellar: Ray Milland as president of the bank, Anton Diffring as his vice president, John Ireland and John Saxon as assorted blackmail victims. It also happens to be a rare movie in which both Elke Sommer and Senta Berger appear.

If you have trouble telling them apart, this movie will help.

The star is benighted David Janssen, already looking worn out. He would die a few years later from his profligate living, but he was always busy in a role, mostly TV movies like SOS Titanic as John Jacob Astor.

Here he is some kind of retired federal agent who takes on a job to uncover a conspiracy of Swiss banking fraud. It’s a conspiracy because you will never figure out who was doing it and why everyone is murdered.

Perhaps the ultimate humor was to have as many plot holes as Swiss cheese. Jack Arnold does his best on this movie. He usually wrangles top drawer performances and makes the script literate, but even he had his limits. No wonder he turned to TV after this movie trifle.

As we watched this film, word came to us that John Saxon had passed away at his home at age 83. He was in seminal form for this movie, and gave many supporting performances of high quality. He was one of those patented movie/TV villlains of the 1960s. His death was forgotten, occurring between Olivia De Havilland and Regis Philbin in a 24-hour period.

Deadly Companions Before Parent Trap

DATELINE: Steve Cochran Died 55 Years Ago!

Steve Cochran with Brian Keith.

Before Walt Disney cast them as estranged parents of Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap,  Sam Peckinpah wanted them as the estranged couple in The Deadly Companions.

Even in 1961, it was rare for a woman to be the top-billed star in a Western. It happened rarely, usually with Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Crawford.

This time Maureen O’Hara, the best leading lady for a half-dozen big stars like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, took on the role of hard and angry dance hall girl.

In the Deadly Companions, Brian Keith shoots O’Hara’s son by accident, killing him. When she wants to take the coffin to bury him in a dangerous town across Apache Territory, no one will help her –except Brian Keith. They are not boon companions.

Joining them somewhat unwillingly are Chill Wills and Steve Cochran as a couple of ex-Rebel bank robbers.

The reasons for the assorted bunch to stick together is hardly altruistic—or particularly believable. It does make for a singular Western in sea of oaters ending the decade. It predates the Clint-Leone spaghetti versions by a few years—and is the first film directed by Peckinpah who would turn to violence as a motif to keep up with the meatball brigade in the next ten years.

You have a chance to see that Keith was a solid leading man, not a TV star, and that Steve Cochran was cast perfectly as a  scoundrel. He was gone too soon after this film, and Chill Wills phones in his usual seedy kook bird version of his usually likable uncle.

We are reviewing the film on the 55thanniversary of Cochran’s death in 1965. He still looked youthful here and was always a classic bad guy. His death was peculiar in the movie and in real life too, as he was on a yacht floating for ten days because no one aboard could sail it to a port.

Gone, Forgotten, and Dismissed: Obit for a Colleague

DATELINE: Corona of Career

It’s minor and troubling to almost no one, except perhaps me.

A colleague of many years passed away not quite ten years after retiring. She was on the faculty of our small college for thirty years, same time and same length as I.

As Robert Frost once said, happiness reaches in height what it lacks in length. We were the disgruntled, unhappy “employees” of the College, even denied being called “faculty” by administration in our living and breathing careers.

The rank of professor meant nothing much, a professor emeritus was denied to us.

How much worse can it be when we die off?

The announcement of her death form the Human Resources Center came from a director who never knew her. It was a pithy two sentences saying she had “worked” at the college in Nursing Department for many years. Because of the pandemic, there would be no services. There was no additional information.

And apparently no other remembrances or comments. This was her final moment on the college register. No eulogy, no thanks, no appreciation, no nothing.

It shall be the same for me. In a tight-knit department like Nursing, she was anathema: disliked by her colleagues for being a stickler for the regulations, and not participating in the social life of fake camaraderie among those with whom you share no politics. So it was for me.

There once existed a half-dozen of us from differing departments who sat together, a huddled small group, at all faculty meetings. We recognized each other as pariahs of the school. If we didn’t sit together, no one would sit with us.

In the past decade we retired to no particular fanfare. Now we are dying to no particular notice.

I visited her at her office now and then, gave her copies of my books that were published, and she was appreciative. Two other faculty of that ilk have also died in recent years. We were a grim little group of despised faculty members: not by students, but by our fellow faculty.

If no department head colleague will do cheerleading of your credentials, hard work, accomplishments at the college at death, then there is nothing more to be said.

You are relegated to non-person, name stricken from the record, students never to breathe your name unless in curse for a low grade.

Thus, the end came for another kind associate. It made me hope the college will be one of those they say may close its doors in a few years: let all of them on faculty for those decades  share the same fate.

This memorial eulogy is anonymous for an unnamed, unknown faculty member from a breed of small liberal arts colleges that are fading away one by one.