Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Passion

From Superman is Jewish?: How Comic Book Superheroes Came to Serve Truth, Justice, and the Jewish American Way by Harry Brod:
By the time we reached the 2006 Superman Returns film that brought Superman back to the big screen after a long hiatus, Superman's de-Jewification had proceeded so far that he was not only the ultimalte all-American, he was even being claimed as a Christ figure. Another nice Jewish boy was being resurrected as a Christian god. The Warner Brothers/DC Comics publicity machine launched a two-pronged campaign before the film's release, one aimed at the usual action-adventure crowd, and the other aimed at conservative Evangelical Christians and flying under the general cultural radar, specifically positioning Superman Returns as the next Christian blockbuster, hoping to cash in on the trend following The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Strictly speaking, of course, casting the Big Blue Boy Scout as a Christ figure would make him more Jewish, not less. But many Christians forget that very thing.

The film's sub rosa marketing as a Christian blockbuster isn't a surprise. To the extent there was a messianic theme, though, it hurt the movie. Superman does indeed seem to be carrying the sins of Mankind in Superman Returns. This doesn't leave him with much chance to enjoy, or be enjoyable. The 1978 Superman knew enough to get out of Christopher Reeve's way and let him be his charming self, which also jibes with him being Superman. Brandon Routh doesn't get the same opportunity, always having to stick to the margins and deny himself. It's a shame, because the one scene - after an airplane rescue - that allows him a little twinkle shows that he's good at it.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Across the border

I'm an immigrant. A white immigrant from a country whose national language is a fairly American-sounding English. Do these modifiers make me luckier than most? Oh, I know they do. Been getting a lot of reminders lately of how bad it can be for others and how much worse it can get.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A buck an ear


Glenda Jackson Sings "Battle at Sea" with the... by taxidrivermow

A friend loaned me a VHS copy of Nasty Habits not too long ago. Based on Muriel Spark's The Abbess of Crewe it's a black comedy metaphor for Watergate with Glenda Jackson in the lead, which is to say the Nixon part.

I've remembered this episode of The Muppet Show for a long time. Jackson, give or take a scheming nun, is best known as a serious dramatic actress. So it's admirable that she's so willing to throw herself into the part of a high seas pirate taking over the Muppet Theater.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pour another one out



A few delightful moments with Rob and Laura Petrie, along with the spooky invisible horn section that no one is freaking out about for some reason.

Monday, January 23, 2017

K&J

It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I didn't know until just now that Ray Davies had been knighted. Congratulations to the Queen on her excellent taste.

Curious as to what the Jayhawks collaboration will sound like. He's always had a little country in his sound, mixed in with the Britishness. An alt-country move isn't unnatural, although it is unexpected. No one can accuse him of resting on his laurels.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Market report

One thing it's getting harder to find? Men's underwear with a fly in the front. Looking at pair after pair today I saw just a smooth front, no opening. So did I miss a memo? Is the whole "pee while standing up" thing over? That's a shame. I was just getting the hang of it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

You deserve a break today

First time in a while that I've seen a movie in the theaters. I went to see The Founder today. It's an interesting picture about Ray Kroc,who wasn't the founder of McDonalds restaurants, but did found "McDonalds" as a corporate behemoth. The first of the restaurants was built in San Bernardino by Mac and Dick McDonald, migrants from New Hampshire, who eventually hit on the idea of applying Henry Ford's industrial techniques to the making of burgers and fries. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Kroc screws them out of their part in the business while taking it national. Of course there's a little bit of huckster to them as well, and this quality might leave them more vulnerable than they would be to a more vicious - if alcoholic and unpromising - con man.

The cast is excellent, led by Michael Keaton as Kroc and Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonalds. Lynch might be best known - at least by me - as Marge Gunderson's husband Norm in Fargo. He's not the only Coen Brothers connection either. The music is done by their favorite composer, Carter Burwell. He earns gratitude for saving the audience from a soundtrack full of Mickey D's jingles, as thematically appropriate as they might have been.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Nothing up my sleeve

Something I've learned recently. Overcoats are most often worn with suits, which I guess is part of the idea. So they're designed with the idea that you'll have other pockets. An overcoat might have only the two hip pockets, which aren't that deep and don't have anything covering them. That makes an overcoat a less than great place to carry, say, an extra pen you might need. You gotta come up with a different plan.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

BQ

Question on my part. Today I saw a flock of pigeons swoop down on the street when a kids was throwing peanuts - or some kind of bar food at any rate - on the sidewalk. In their midst were some smaller birds. They had brown plumage, curved beaks, and they sort of hopped while they were on the ground? Any idea what kind of birds these might have been?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movies on ridding yourself of troublesome priests

Last night I watched Becket, a historical epic from 1964. "Epic" in the realm of film usually implies "really long" and this one moderately qualifies. It's about two and a half hours. It holds up pretty well for that duration, though.

It's what you might call loosely based on the historical record. Thomas Becket is counselor to King Henry II (which he was) his friend and companion in drinking and whoring (hard to tell at this distance). He's also a representative of England's old Saxon guard in the Plantagenet court (quite false, as Becket was really a Norman.) Henry appoints Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, thinking he'll have his own man in the pulpit. Instead the duties of the Church cause Becket to define himself against his king, and their friendship ends.

The inciting incident, by the way, is a priest arrested for "debauching" a nobleman's young daughter, who then tries to escape and is killed by the nobleman's guards. Becket excommunicates the nobleman. This case comes off a little differently in contemporary times. Yes, it seems like an injustice was done to the priest, but the Catholic Church hasn't always had the best record of policing its own.

The two main performances are a fascinating study in contrasts. Peter O'Toole plays Henry, and does bring his blas√© charm to the role at times. But Henry isn't a distinguished gentleman. He's a passionate friend and also a petty tyrant, one who's enslaved by his own immature whims. Between his hot-blooded rants and his Van Dyke beard, the character is almost Klingon. And yes, there are questions of what kind of love he has for Becket, the man who spurned him.

Becket is played by Richard Burton, moving through the scene at his own pace. Whatever debauchery he commits in his days as a sensualist takes place off-screen, seeming more theoretical than anything else. He's somewhat self-denying from the first. The change is more that he goes from enjoying the use of power in service to his king to seeking guidance from Heaven. It would be difficult to name another actor who got so much mileage from playing the quiet one, which is why he's perfect here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Why you buggin'?

I'm in the middle of reading Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron. This came out in 1967, which may have been the height of the New Wave of science fiction. It's about the battle of wills between a rabble rousing talk show host and a corporation that sells the promise of immortality. As with a lot of stories written in the past about what to them was the future it's fun to compare it to how things really turned out.

Stuff that's sort of right:
* There's legalized and commercialized pot in the novel's setting. That's sort of a patchwork issue in the United States. A lot of people in the late sixties probably expected this to happen at a much faster rate than it actually has.

* Portable networked telephones that people take everywhere. The book also has vidphones, which sort of exists. Apps like Skype and FaceTime seem more popular in real life

Stuff that's mostly wrong:
* Jack Barron's show is called "Bug Jack Barron" and it's a call-in show where ordinary citizens call in with their grievances and Barron helps them take on the institutions that are oppressing them. Populist TV hasn't really played out like that.

* Mississippi is a nation within the nation, ruled by blacks. Ha ha, no. At least to the second part.

Of course it's not really a prediction form, it's a novel. So how does it stand up? Pretty well. Spinrad does the police in different voices, making sure various characters sound distinct from each other. Of course then we come to women, and I'm not sure it's actually good in that respect. There seems to be a lot of hysterical housewives, even if they're supposed to be something other than that.

Still, worth digging up.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Empathy

One challenge in life is to perceive what other people are seeing, to understand how they might feel about something. Some people, I'm sure, are better at it than others. Me? I at least expect other people to feel something. As far as getting inside their heads I guess a lot. Some guesses are more accurate than others.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Who will bell..?

Marionettes Petting Cats Ver. 1 from Krista McGuigan on Vimeo.

If you're held up by strings, I'm pretty sure getting in a cat's face counts as living dangerously.

And yeah, I know, cat videos on the Internet, dime a dozen. Still I loved some of the expressions in this.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

White outside, dark inside

Today was the first big - really big - snowstorm of the winter. I had a couple of things I was going to pick up at the library. Couldn't of course. The library never opened, as I was pretty sure they wouldn't. In fact nearly anything that required leaving the house was out. But by now I know the signs, so I'm at least not particularly disappointed.

(Header explanation: White outside because of the snow, while a lot of places have the lights off because they're closed. Just in case you were wondering.)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Surprises

Watched an old Veronica Mars tonight. Having to do with the theft of Troy's car and some steroids another guy had stashed away in it. Quite good.

And I thought Troy was such a nice guy. Well, actually I thought he was a complete and utter simpleton, but the harmless kind. Guess you shouldn't assume.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Easy as...

While I do read mysteries on a fairly regular basis - among other things, as variety is the spice of life - I don't gravitate that often to Agatha Christie. And when I do read her it's more often Miss Marple than Hercule Poirot. Nonetheless I did read her Poirot novel The ABC Murders and was glad I did. Notable things about it:

* It was published in 1936 and concerns an apparent serial killer, although not described in those terms. Christie was well ahead of the curve here in terms of cultural obsessions. Classic detectives like Poirot don't generally look into serial killings, although Ellery Queen did in Cat of Many Tails.

* But the case isn't quite what it appears to be. Christie changes things up in the eleventh hour, momentarily getting the reader off-balance perhaps.

* While Christie might have a reputation as something of a snob, that doesn't really come through in this novel. The victims cut across class lines and all are taken seriously. All the families have complex reactions, too.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sly

I have to think it must be pretty fascinating - breathtaking at times - to see foxes in your backyard. They've evolved for stealth and speed, and in a way they're the most catlike of wild canines. City life is more my speed than the country, but spying the occasional fox would be one of the better compensations.