Friday, July 22, 2016

There's no business like business

I watched Executive Suite tonight. It's got a reputation, and was somewhat honored when it came out back in 1954. This is merited in some ways. In other ways it dates badly.

The plot is somewhat internecine but at heart comes down to this: An industrialist named Avery Bullard dies suddenly on the street. His death sets off jockeying and wheedling for who will take his place at the furniture company he runs. One candidate is a bean counter who only sees the company as a way to return maximum profits to the shareholders. There's another, more idealistic side, finally settling on the young VP of manufacturing.

The movie is directed by Robert Wise, who'd go on to film the iconic-yet-strange musical West Side Story and honor Shirley Jackson's novel in The Haunting. To his credit, he makes some bold choices. The film gets along without a musical score, the opening and closing credits accompanied only by a tolling bell. Bullard's death is an eyecatcher too, with a bit player whose face is never seen expiring as he hails a taxi.

It's well cast, too, with William Holden doing what he can with the idealist, Frederic March sinking his teeth into the cold controller, and Walter Pidgeon (whom will eventually show up in another post of mine) giving fine support as an affable treasurer. Shelley Winters is good too as the unhappy mistress of an executive who's being used. (Shelley was still in her sex symbol phase when this was made.)

Women in general don't get to do much in this film, though. It's basically a soap opera, so you expect the actresses to have meaty roles. But it's about business, so women only get to be wives and lovers and in a few cases secretaries.

Then there's the business milieu itself. The company deals in manufacturing, and Holden's character wants to invest in better methods. At one point a foreman rails against the shoddiness of the product they put out now, saying that Bullard would have broken the chairs and desks, declaring them not good enough. Holden gives a similarly kinetic performance in the boardroom when the final vote is about to be taken. So he wins, and March the professional miser loses.

Doesn't matter. In a few decades the company will still be outsourcing production to China.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Funny because it's true

We got onto the subject of Neil Innes a while ago, and that set me thinking again tonight, which led to this. Not sure what was up with the stilts - maybe just one of those random post-Python things - but this is vintage.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Creature comforts

gli animali perduti di Albertus Seba - the lost animals of Albertus Seba from A.G.E Trio on Vimeo.

Albertus Seba was a pioneering Dutch zoologist and engraver, which might give you some context. The audio helps draw me in too.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Queen Watch: "The Adventure of the Wary Witness"

Ellery Queen was created during the Interbellum wave of classical detective fiction. He was a gifted amateur, much in the vein of Dorothy Sayers's Peter Wimsey and Margery Allingham's Albert Campion, the latter bowing in 1929 like he did. (Christie's Hercule Poirot, by comparison, was an ex-cop.) He could be called the American equivalent of a British gentleman detective, although his father might come from a working class background. In any case he has his roots in the Golden Age. Murder mysteries of that era were artificial in construction and ultimately optimistic. More often than not the victim was horrible enough so that their death wouldn't strike the reader as a great loss. More often than not the culprit could be painted as someone deserving of their ultimate fate: death, lifetime imprisonment, or in special cases institutionalization. Most importantly, the hero could solve the crime by observing and thinking, and thus assure no one else would get hurt.

After the war, darker and tougher crime fiction became more prevalent, in authors as diverse as William P. McGivern and Graham Greene. The motion picture industry quickly got on board, leading to the rise of what French critics soon labeled film noir. While noir movies sometimes had happy endings, they had a tendency to imply a malign universe.

Friday, July 15, 2016


A couple of minutes ago I was sitting here looking at something on the computer and some kind of beetle made contact with the surface in front of me. I took its sudden existence as an aggressive act and it turned out not to be long for this world. I consider myself a fairly peaceful person, but might have some problems being a Jainist.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Speaking role

The title character of Dickens's Barnaby Rudge has a pet raven that repeats what he just said. Given that he's an easily led doofus, this isn't always a good thing. But it's a cool idea. And one based on real life.

I like the idea of a bird that's so well suited to messing with our heads. ("Where did that come from? Who's throwing their voice?")

Monday, July 11, 2016

As I wazzzzz saying...

The other night I said something to wake myself up. To my knowledge sleep-talking a.k.a. somniloquy isn't something I do very often. Not necessarily something I would want to have happen every night, but it wasn't an unpleasant experience. It's the sort of thing that happens in relatively shallow NREM sleep.

The statement I woke myself up with is, "Heh, true." Which sounds kind of Homer Simpson-ish to my own ears.