Category Archives: Movie reviews

Whatever happened to … Cassidy?

Whatever Happened To Randolph Scott – shown at right didn’t happen to “Hopalong…”

(… as in “Cassidy.”)

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 There was a cute young volunteer at the office the other day.  (At the local Keep America Beautiful, where I work off and on as a supervisor.)   Her name was Cassidy.

So when the Big Boss Man called her “hopalong,” I got a bit confused.

assumed that maybe – when she put her bag behind the office table –  she’d done a little hop. Or maybe she’d had a limp the day before.  But later – working at the recycle bins – it hit me.  So I asked her about the nickname and she said, “Oh yeah, that’s what a lot of old guys call me!

I then asked if she knew who “Hopalong Cassidy” was.  She didn’t, so I got out my trusty smartphone – or a reasonable facsimile – and showed her the Wikipedia article, complete with pictures.  (Including the early “rough around the edges” version, by Frank Schoonover, at right.  It’s Hopalong Takes Command, “for the 1905 story ‘Fight at Buckskin.'”)

But that little episode set in motion a whole set of trains of thought(Or more precisely, train-lines of free association.)  

Those train-lines included – but weren’t limited to – the question, “Whatever happened to the guy who played Hopalong Cassidy?”  For that matter, “Whatever happened to the guys who played other old-time cowboy heroes?”

Those queries also include – but aren’t limited to – whatever happened to Randolph Scott, Lash LaRueJohnny Mack Brown, or for that matter, Gene Autry.  For one short answer, check sites like 10 Best Old Cowboy Movies, or Famous Old Western Actors, both courtesy of the Screen Junkies website.  Or you could check 16 Best Western Movies | The Art of Manliness, for more on the ongoing appeal of those old-time cowboys.   That short answer?

Few figures in history have had as powerful an impact on American masculinity as the cowboy.  For over a century, the cowboy has — for better or for worse — been a standard of rugged individualism and stoic bravery for the American male.  While the mythologization of the American cowboy began all the way back in the 1880s … it wasn’t until the advent of twentieth century cinema that the cowboy cemented his place as an icon of manliness.

Gene Autry.JPGThen too, through the magic of hyperlinks, you can check for yourself what happened to Randolph Scott, Lash LaRueJohnny Mack Brown, or Gene Autry.  (As shown at right.)

But we were talking about “Hopalong Cassidy.”  (“Hoppy,” for short.)

Clarence E. Mulford created Hoppy in 1904.  And in the original version, he was portrayed as “rude, dangerous, and rough-talking.”

(Not uniike Bugs Bunny or Woody Woodpecker.  Bugs was originally “loud, zany with a goofy, guttural laugh” and a “hayseed voice.”  But in later versions he was shown as “cool, graceful, and controlled.”  Woody too went on to “evolve over the years, from an insane bird with an unusually garish design to a more refined looking and acting character.”)

Be that as it may, in the movie version played by William Boyd – starting in 1935 – Hopalong Cassidy too was transformed into a clean-cut hero.  (As shown in the bottom image.)

…white-haired Bill “Hopalong” Cassidy was usually clad strikingly in black (including his hat, an exception to the western film stereotype that only villains wore black hats).  He was reserved and well spoken, with a sense of fair play…  “Hoppy” and his white horse, Topper, usually traveled through the west with two companions – one young and trouble-prone with a weakness for damsels in distress, the other older, comically awkward and outspoken.

Gabby hayes.pngIncidentally, George Reeves – who later played Superman – was one of those who played the “young and trouble-prone” sidekick.  And among those who played the older man – “comically awkward and outspoken” – was Gabby Hayes.  (Seen at left, he played Hoppy’s original “grizzled sidekick, ‘Windy Halliday.'”)   But Hayes left because of a salary dispute…

Also incidentally, Hayes went on to a long career as a movie sidekick.  He made 44 movies with Roy Rogers, 15 with John Wayne – “some as straight or villainous characters” – seven with Gene Autry and six with Randolph Scott:

Hayes, in real life an intelligent, well groomed and articulate man, was cast as a grizzled codger who uttered phrases such as “consarn it,” “yer durn tootin’,” “dadgummit,” “durn persnickety female,” and “young whippersnapper.”

But once again we digress.  We were talking about William Boyd, and about Cassidy, “Hopalong” or otherwise.  Boyd was born in 1895 and died in 1972.  The Boyd link too noted that Hoppy’s character changed drastically from the book to film versions:  “from a hard-drinking, rough-living wrangler to its eventual incarnation as a cowboy hero who did not smoke, swear, or drink alcohol (his drink of choice being sarsaparilla)…”

Then too, Boyd made the then-radical transition from movies to television.  When Hollywood branded him a “washed-up cowboy star” in 1948, Boyd made a desperate gamble.  He bought the movie rights, which set the stage for his moving to the new – and untested – TV format:

Boyd’s desperate gamble paid off, making him the first national TV star and restoring his personal fortune…  [He licensed] merchandise, including such products as Hopalong Cassidy watches, trash cans, cups, dishes, Topps trading cards, a comic strip, comic books, cowboy outfits, home-movie digests of his Paramount releases via Castle Films, and a new Hopalong Cassidy radio show, which ran from 1948 to 1952.

Married five times, Boyd retired from acting in 1953.  He invested in real estate and “moved to Palm Desert, California.  He refused interviews and photographs in later years, preferring not to disillusion his millions of fans who remembered him as their screen idol.”

Which I suppose could be an object lesson for some of today’s actors and sports figures, who play past their prime.  But in closing, let’s get back to “Cassidy.”

The Partridge Family David Cassidy 1972.jpgCassidy – as a first name especially – comes from the Irish and means “clever.”  (Or “curly-haired,” from the Gaelic Caiside.)  It first appeared “among the 1,000 most-popular names for American girls in 1981,” and reached a peak of popularity in 1999.  (When it was “the 99th most popular name for American girls.”)

And Wikipedia noted that “Cassidy may have become a first name due to baby-boomer parents naming their children after ’70s teen idol David Cassidy.  (Seen at right, or perhaps “the Grateful Dead song, ‘Cassidy.'”)

So here’s a newsflash for all those coming-of-age young ladies named Cassidy.  And who were given that name by baby-boomer parents  (And – most likely – by baby-boomer mothers who had the hots – when young – for David Cassidy.)

 

Now you know why all those old guys call you “Hopalong…”

 

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The upper image is courtesy of Randolph Scott – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “With Jack Lambert in Abilene Town, 1946.”

Also re: Randolph Scott.  Like Boyd, Scott retired – at age 64 – a  wealthy man.  Through “shrewd investments throughout his life,” he eventually accumulated “a fortune worth a reputed $100 million, with holdings in real estate, gas, oil wells, and securities.”  But neither “Randolph” nor “Scott” became associated with a teen idol, who later gave a name to a generation of baby-boomers.

Note also Cassidy (as a surname).  That common Irish surname translates to “descendent of Caiside,” a family from “County Fermanagh.  The Caisides were originally a medical family, who were hereditary physicians to the Maguires.”  The Maguires are also from County Fermanagh, but that surname is uncommon, and said to descend from “Cormac mac Airt, monarch of Ireland about the middle of the third century.”

The lower image is courtesy of The HOPALONG CASSIDY Poster Page, WILLIAM BOYD.

On “THE Revenant”

Man [against] the Wilderness…”   That’s pretty much the theme of The Revenant

 

Here’s a review of The Revenant, the 2015 “frontier revenge film.”  It’s set in 1823, in what later became the states of Montana and South Dakota.  The film – with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role – was “inspired by the experiences of frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass.”

Revenant reviewIn a word, the film is intense.  But perhaps the best summary came from the first line of the Rolling Stone review.  (Which you’ll have to look up, on account of “we” are trying to be a class act here.  And a BTW:  “Brutal” is another good one-word description.)

Suffice it to say the film features breath-taking winter photography of the American West, “before the coming of the White Man.”  (In the words of The Hollywood Reporter, “brutal realism and extravagant visual poetry.”)  But that Ode To Beauty is interspersed with graphic images of the savagery it took to actually survive in that wilderness.  

And in what could be a related note:  “In European folklore, a revenant is a corpse that has returned from the grave to terrorize the living.” (See Revenant (disambiguation) – Wikipedia.)

That’s another good way to sum up the movie.

More to the point, the real-life Hugh Glass was called the revenant “from the 19th century French verb revenant, meaning someone who returns from a long absence, or a person or thing reborn.”  The nickname came after his epic 200-mile journey – in the dead of winter, down the Cheyenne River to Ft. Kiowa, shown at left – after being mauied by a momma Grizzly.

And speaking of a Man in the Wilderness, that was the 1971 film with a variation on the theme of basically the same story.

That film too was “loosely based on the life of Hugh Glass.”  It featured Richard Harris as “Zachary Bass” – not “Hugh Glass” – and John Huston as Captain Henry.  (See also Man in the Wilderness – Wikipedia.)  Captain Henry – the “hunting party leader” – showed up in both films. But Huston’s portrayal – of Henry as demented nemesis – was more like his role as Noah Cross in Chinatown.  In Revenant, the Captain is good-hearted but much too willing to trust…

Which is another way of saying the bad guys in Revenant are “Thomas Fitzgerald” and a youthful Jim Bridger.  Bridger went on to become one of the “foremost mountain men, trappers, scouts and guides who explored and trapped the Western United States.”  But in the 1823 expedition he was an “unwitting dupe” to Fitzgerald’s scheming and treachery.

Tom Hardy was admirable as Fitzgerald. (Shown at right.)  He’s the type of loudmouth, self-seeking blowhard who seems to plague every all-male gathering. (Or “hunting party” for that matter.)

Another note:  In various reviews there seemed to be some confusion between Thomas Fitzgerald and Thomas Fitzpatrick.  (The latter was known as (the) “Broken Hand,” from a firearms accident that mangled his left hand.)

So anyway, throughout the movie Fitzgerald constantly complains, badmouths, and is a general – and genuine – “PITA.”  For example, he’s the first to suggest killing Glass outright.  (After Glass was graphically mauled by a mother Grizzly Bear protecting her cubs.)

That’s because the company of hunter-trappers got ambushed by Arikara warriors to start the film.  As a result, some 16 of the 24 men in the hunting party got killed and/or scalped.  (Also shown graphically in the film.  The survivors’ escape is shown below left.)  

In turn, Glass’s injuries threatened to slow down the whole group, trying to escape further death at the hands of the Arikara.  And by the way, the film-Fitzgerald wore that bandana-like thing on his head because he’d been partially scalped.  (In an earlier run-in with another band of Indians.  And in an ode to karma, the job gets finished at the end of the film, “and deservedly so.”)  

 And speaking of gore, the film goes to great lengths to illustrate what Glass actually had to put himself through in order to survive.  (From both the harsh winter conditions and his injuries.)

For example, in one scene, “Glass” slits open a just-dead Indian pony, pulls out the entrails and crawls inside – naked – to keep from freezing.  (After yet another near-escape from death.)  In another sequence, Glass has to cauterize a still-open bleeding wound in his throat.  He applied gunpowder to the wound, then lit-it-to-explosion with some burning brush.  Which brings up the fact that for much of the movie, DiCaprio‘s dialog consisted of grunts and screams.  (And deservedly so…)

And aside from having to deal with:  1) the “Momma Grizzly,”  2) the Arikara,  3) big-mouth Tom Fitzgerald, and of course  4) the brutal winter conditions, Glass has another set of “villains” to deal with:  A party of horny French hunters and trappers.  But they’re not just direct competitors of the American fur trappers.  They also instigated the Arikara ambush in the first place.  (As a way of “stealing business away from [their] competition.”)

And aside from all that, they kidnapped the daughter of the Arikara chief.

Which brings up another gory scene.  Glass sneaks up behind one of the Frenchmen – raping the Ree maiden from behind – and slits his throat.  (“And deservedly so.”)  The girl ran one way through the snow, and Glass – on a stolen horse – galloped away in another direction.  But of course “we” knew she’d reappear in a later scene, and so she did.  (At the end of the movie, on variations of:  1) The enemy of my enemy is my friend;  2) Karma; and  3) Poetic justice.)

The long and short of it is that the story of Hugh Glass is a timeless classic, as shown by the 1922 newspaper feature shown below.  (Illustrated by Charles M. Russell.)  But unfortunately it’s not for everyone.  On the other hand, it provides a much-needed message to all the whiners, complainers, back-stabbers, badmouths, and blowhards who seem so prevalent today:

Walk it offNancy!”

 

A 1922 Milwaukee Journal article on “Hugh Glass’ exploits,” illustrated by Charles M. Russell… 

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The upper image is courtesy of The Revenant (2015) Movie Photos and Stills – Fandango.  (As are the images of Tom Fitzgerald – Tom Hardy – and the hunter-trappers escaping across a creek, with DiCaprio in the middle, carrying a wounded man in a Fireman’s carry.)

The second-down (DeCaprio) image is courtesy of  ‘The Revenant’ Movie Review | Rolling Stone.  The caption:  “Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant.’ (Kimberly French).”

Re: “Coming of the White Men.”  See Coming of the White Man – Wikipedia, about a sculpture in Portland, Oregon, depicting “two Native American men, including Chief Multnomah, looking towards the Columbia River upon the arrival of Lewis and Clark.”  See also, Coming of the White Men[:]  Geronimo His own story, for a Native American point of view.

Re:  “Brutal realism and extravagant visual poetry.”  Those were Todd McCarthy’s words, in his Hollywood Reporter review.  See The Revenant Reviews | Movies.com.

Re:  Jim Bridger.  As noted, Hugh Glass ultimately forgave Bridger for his part in the 1823 matter, largely because he was so young.   In the winter of 1824-1825, Bridger went on to gain fame as the first European American to see the Great Salt Lake.  He was also “among the first white men to see the geysers and other natural wonders of the Yellowstone region.”  And in 1830, Bridger and some other trappers “established the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, competing with the Hudson’s Bay Company and John Jacob Astor‘s American Fur Company for the lucrative beaver pelt trade.”  He remained active – serving as Army scout and guide – until 1865.

Re: The estimate of men killed in the initial film-ambush.  The sentence as originally written said “some two-thirds of the ‘white men’ were killed and/or scalped.”  But I felt that “neutral” phrasing didn’t do justice to the actual situation.  (Of a great number of American men killed.)  So I searched the Internet for the actual number of men in the hunting party, to no avail.  As an alternative, I counted the number of men in the “survivors’ escape” photo, added two, and multiplied by three.

 Re: “Walk it offNancy!”  A variation on that theme is “Get off your pity potNancy!”  Walk it off generally means to deal with a “negative emotional event without complaint; to take it like a man.” According to the Urban Dictionary, “pity potis a euphemism for generally “feeling really sorry for oneself.”  As to “Nancy,” that term is used “as a disparaging term for an effeminate man.”  (In other words, a man who couldn’t have done what Hugh Glass did.)  See also “nancy boy,” and “negative Nancy,” for similar disparaging terms apropos to a review of The Revenant.

The lower image is courtesy of the Hugh Glass link in the article, The Revenant (2015 film) – Wikipedia.

Charles M. Russell (1864-1926) was a noted “artist of the Old American West.”  Known as “the cowboy artist,”  he created “more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Indians, and landscapes set in the Western United States.”  An example:  The 1908 oil-on-canvas painting at right, “Smoke of a .45.” 

And incidentally, the director of The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu  – won three Oscars in 2014, for directing, writing, and producing “Birdman.”  See my review at On “Birdman,” the movie.

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For another good review see Hugh Glass, the Real Man of “The Revenant” Movie.  It identified Glass’s nemesis as “John Fitzgerald,” but also asked the rhetorical question, “Have we become a nation of wusses?”  I.e., some of the film crew walked off the set because of the difficult conditions: 

Behind the scenes, DiCaprio has told media outlets the remote locations and frigid temperatures – the movie was film only in natural light during winter – was one of the most difficult films he has done.  Those same factors led some crewmembers to walk off the set. Which begs the questions: have we modern-day Americans lost our ability to rough it in the wild?

I took the liberty of translating “our ability to rough it in the wild” to the more-direct question: “Have we become a nation of wusses?”  For one answer see Canoeing 12 miles offshore.

“In the Heart of the Sea”

image: Sperm Whaling:  The Chase

“Sperm Whales – The Chase…”

 

 I first read about the Essex 54 years ago.  (I was 10 or so.)

My aunt gave me a set of American Heritage Junior Books.  The one I liked best was The Story of Yankee Whaling.  (Published in 1959.)

But that book didn’t just include the story of the Wreck of the Essex. (With a POW – loosely translated as “angry whale” – ramming and sinking a ship, as shown in Ron Howard’s new In the Heart of the Sea.)

 Yankee Whaling also included the gory tale of Samuel Comstock, star of the “bloodiest mutiny in the history of American whaling,” on the whale-ship Globe:

The mutineers [in 1815] killed Captain Worth and three other officers.  Soon after William Humphries, one of the mutineers, was accused of plotting to take the ship; a kangaroo court of the mutineers tried him and, finding him guilty, hanged him.

Yankee Whaling had vivid descriptions of the mutineers hacking up some victims – mostly officers – and throwing others to the sharks.  (Just the stuff 10-year-old boys love to read.)

Which could mean the Globe mutiny will soon be “coming to a theater near you.”  In the meantime we have Heart of the Sea.  That movie shows a whale sinking a ship, then “stalking” the survivors 2,000 miles across the vast Pacific.  (In a bit of Hollywood hyperbole.)

In the Heart of the Sea poster.jpgOn the other hand – in 90 days at sea, in small leaky boats and without enough food or water – the eight survivors of the Essex did things that the Globe mutineers would likely have found revolting.  (See the classic joke, re:  “the peasants are revolting.”)

There’s more on that later, but first note Garry Wills‘ version of the Lord’s prayer.  His version reads, “and bring us not to the Breaking Point.”  (Instead of the usual “lead us not into temptation.”)

Briefly, Heart of the Sea tells the story of eight men – survivors of the original crew of 21 – who got forcibly taken to their breaking point, then well beyond that.

Which is another way of saying the original – true – story was bad enough.

The problem?  The true story of eight men surviving 90 days of living hell – on the vast Pacific – is both incredibly long and incredibly boring.  (On film anyway.)  Which is another way of saying that amount of living hell doesn’t translate well to film.  So in making the movie, Howard had to take liberties with some facts and make up others out of whole cloth.

Despite all that, the film earned my highest compliment.  I paid three times more than usual – to see the IMAX version – and still felt like I got my money’s worth.

Getting back to the Essex:  I read the American Heritage version 50 years ago.  Then five or six years ago I came across the book version of Heart of the Sea, by Daniel Philbrick.

The heart of the story – what made Philbrick’s book different – was that tale of eight men in small boats, undergoing 90 days of heat, hunger and thirst.  And the book version gave that long, boring ordeal its full scope.  But a film is like a shark.  It has to move – visibly – or it will “die.”  (Lose its audience.  Or to paraphrase McLuhan, “the format shapes the message.”)

Accordingly, in making a film of Heart of the Sea, Ron Howard came up with a workable yet eminently appealing mix of fact and fiction.  For starters, he used the classic seafaring style, focusing on “two quarrelling men in charge of a big ship, like Mutiny on the Bounty” – as shown at left – “or Jaws.”  (See “scurvy and beards.”)

Another twist was the flashback:  One remaining survivor – Thomas Nickerson – interviewed by Herman Melville (“Moby Dick“) some 30 years after Nickerson served as cabin boy on the Essex.

And “young cabin boys” raise an historical anomaly:

In 1822 … New England mothers sent their sons to kill whales in the Pacific Ocean at an age when modern parents would think twice about letting them have the car for a weekend.

Which brings up an early departure of fact in the film.  Melville actually interviewed Pollard, long after he’d lost his “captaincy.”  Some three years after the Essex sank, Pollard commanded the whale-ship Two Brothers when it sank.  (Off the Frigate Shoals.)  So by the time he got interviewed by Melville, Pollard had been demoted to “night-watchman” on Nantucket Island.  (And as such considered a “nobody” to the islanders.)

And speaking of anomalies:  The film showed First Mate Owen Chase as the real hero.  It also showed Pollard as both a man who owed his captaincy to nepotism – connections – and a lesser sailor than Chase.  But once the ramming happened, Pollard recommended a shorter course to a closer set of islands.  (A course that would take advantage of prevailing “tail winds.”)

But unlike the cliche “Captain Bligh,” Pollard let himself be persuaded by Chase.  So the three small boats set sail for South America – 2,000 miles away – against the prevailing winds.  But as Wikipedia noted:  “Herman Melville later speculated that all would have survived had they followed Captain Pollard’s recommendation and sailed west.”

(It seems Chase and the crew feared the closer islands – the Marquesas – were inhabited by cannibals.  Which seems highly ironic, given what actually happened later...)

In yet another departure from fact, the real whale didn’t stalk the boats 2,000 miles across the Pacific.  Nor did the whale “have a moment” with Chase, near the end of 90 days adrift.  (When Chase refused to harpoon the whale-stalker, despite Pollard’s goading to do so.)

The film did feature an accurate translation of a “Nantucket sleighride“,” as seen at right.   It also showed a “flurry:”  The dying whale spraying his tormentors with a mixture of blood from his pierced lungs, along with mucus and seawater.  (In some manner of Freudian anointing.)

Then there were the “chockpins” worn by experienced whalers.  What the film didn’t show: They were apparently worn to “get babes.”

Then there was the matter of the boats landing on Henderson Island.  (Not Ducie Island, as in the film.)  Years after the wreck three skeletons were found on Ducie Island.  They were believed to be from the lost third-of-three boats “never to be seen again,” but that was never confirmed.

And finally, the film ended with two popular tropes.   One was that of corrupt businessmen, in the form of a “board of inquiry.”  The money-grubbing businessmen on the Nantucket board were shown arm-twisting Chase and Pollard to say the Essex ran aground, and that the missing crew-members drowned.  (They were afraid of higher insurance rates.)

A “board of inquiry” that apparently never took place, or at least not in that way.

The other was the look into the future trope.  The film ended with Nickerson and Melville parting ways after the all-night session of drinking, recalling and writing.  Nickerson told Melville – with faint disbelief – of a “new” discovery of oil, in the ground, somewhere in Pennsylvania…

Which led to the cartoon “whale celebration” below..

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All in all, Heart of the Sea is a film well worth seeing.  For those who’d love to get a feel for the pure adventure, “such as befell early and heroic voyagers…”  And especially for those who’d love to get a feel for being “alone, alone, all all alone, alone on the wide, wide sea…”

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Whales “celebrating the discovery” of oil in Pennsylvania…

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The upper image is courtesy of Artifact Article: Sperm Whaling: The Chase:

Three whale ships can be seen in the background, while two whaleboats are in the foreground.  In the whaleboats, boatsteerers are seen with their harpoons raised.  As they chase the whale, one can image that the call “thar She blows!” was sounded, as several whales can be seen spouting as they surface.

The illustration was by Benjamin Russell, born into a family of whaling merchants.  He started work in the office of a whaling agent in New Bedford, MA, but “showed more aptitude for drawing than business, often to the displeasure of his superiors.”  He later spent four years on the whale ship Kutusoff.  There his “acute observational sensitivity” resulted in sketches with “impeccable detail…  Russell’s images were rendered with mastered accuracy rather than artistic intention.” 

See also Benjamin Russell: Whaleman-Artist, Entrepreneur | New Bedford.

For more on the sources used in this post, see the notes below.

The “Story of Yankee Whaling” image is courtesy of American Heritage Junior Library | Series | LibraryThing.  See also American Heritage Junior Library | eBaywhere the book is available individually for $1.95, or as part of a set of seven, for $21.00.  For more on the author, see below.

Re: Samuel Comstock.  See also Globe (1815 whaleship) – Wikipedia, and Helter-Skelter on the High Seas – NYTimes.com.  The latter was a review of two books said to “unravel the saga of the bloodiest mutiny in the history of American whaling.”  Comstock was said to be “a keen ladies’ man,” to wit:  He possessed a “superabundance of something which the fair sex seemed to consider a very agreeable substitute.”  (For affection.)  Also this note, as previously noted:

In 1822 … New England mothers sent their sons to kill whales in the Pacific Ocean at an age when modern parents would think twice about letting them have the car for a weekend.

Re: “coming to a theater near you.”  See also In a World – TV Tropes.

Re: “Your majesty, the peasants are revolting!”  “They certainly are!”  See also Count de Money / “The People Are Revolting” – YouTube, and/or Ambiguity – Simple English Wikipedia, which noted the “British comedian Ronnie Barker said that he loved the English language because there are so many jokes you can make using ambiguity.”

Re: “breaking point.”  See Garry Wills’  What the Gospels Meant, Viking Press (2008), at page 87; found in Part II, “Matthew,” Chapter 5, “Sermon on the Mount:”

Our Father of the heavens, your title be honored … and bring us not to the Breaking Point, but wrest us from the Evil One.    

The usual translation in the Lord’s Prayer is – as noted – “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  See Wikipedia.  My life experience tells me the term “breaking point” is more accurate and appropriate.  See also The True Test of Faith, in my other blog.

The “whale’s eye” image is courtesy of In the Heart of the Sea (film) – Wikipedia.  See also In the Heart of the Sea (book) – Wikipedia, which included this on the author’s sources:

Philbrick utilizes an account written by Thomas Nickerson, who was a teenage cabin boy on board the Essex and wrote about the experience in his old age;  his account was lost until 1960 but was not authenticated until 1980 before being published, abridged, in 1984.  The book also utilizes the better known account of Owen Chase, the ship’s first mate, which was published soon after the ordeal.

Re: Marshall McLuhan andthe format shapes the message.”  The Rotten Tomatoes review said the “admirably old-fashioned” film-story boasted “thoughtful storytelling to match its visual panache, even if it can’t claim the depth or epic sweep to which it so clearly aspires.”  My theory is that neither the depth nor epic sweep of the true story could have been adequately translated to film. 

The “Bounty” image is courtesy of Mutiny on the Bounty – Wikipedia.  The caption: “Fletcher Christian and the mutineers seize HMS Bounty on 28 April 1789. Engraving by Hablot Knight Browne, 1841.”

Re: The “whale-stalking.”  Wikipedia said that after ramming the Essex – twice – the whale “finally disengaged its head from the shattered timbers and swam off, never to be seen again.”  

Re: “have a moment.”  An allusion to the 1984 film, Moscow on the Hudson (1984)

Vladimir Ivanoff: [confronting a stranger following him down the street]  FBI?   Gay Man on Street:  FBI?  No.   Vladimir Ivanoff:  KGB?   Gay Man on Street:  No.  G-A-Y.   Vladimir Ivanoff: Gay?  Oh, no, no.   Gay Man on Street:  Sorry.  You have a nice face.  I thought we had a “moment” back there.

The “Nantucket sleigh ride” image is courtesy of jrusselljinishiangallery.com/pages/sticker-pages.

Re: the number of survivors and their length of time at sea.  It took 90 days for the Owen Chase boat to be rescued, with three survivors.  It took 95 days for the Pollard boat to be rescued, at a different location, with two survivors.  The three original boats were separated in a storm, and the boat headed by Obed Hendricks – “boatsteerer” – was never seen again.  Wikipedia: “A whaleboat was later found washed up on Ducie Island, just east of Henderson Island, with the skeletons of three people inside…  [S]uspected to be Obed Hendricks’ missing boat, the remains were never positively identified.”  Thus the eight survivors, including the three who stayed on Henderson Island.

Re:  “Look into the future” trope.  It’s actually known as Externally Validated Prophecy:  “When a character makes a prediction about the future which is not fulfilled in the work, yet an audience aware of history knows will be fulfilled.”

Re: “pure dispassionate adventure.”   The quote is from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.  See also Donkey travel – and sluts and “Pity the fool” from my other blog.

The lower image is courtesy of Sperm whaling – Wikipedia, including the caption: “An 1861 cartoon showing sperm whales celebrating the discovery of new petroleum wells in Pennsylvania.  The proliferation of mineral oils reduced demand for their species’ oil.”   The caption in the cartoon itself:  “Grand ball given by the whales in honor of the discovery of the oil wells in Pennsylvania.”

*   *   *   *

Sources used for this post – or worth more reading:  Heart of the Sea (film) – WikipediaEssex (whaleship) – WikipediaHistory of whaling – WikipediaGirl on a Whaleship – ImagesEssex explainedand a review:  “Heart of the Sea” – Apollo 13 with scurvy and beards:

There was rumored to exist a secret society of young women on the island whose members vowed to wed only men who had already killed a whale.  To help these young women identify them as hunters, boatsteerers wore chockpins (small oak pins used to secure the harpoon line in the bow groove of a whaleboat) on their lapels.

See The Real Story Behind “In the Heart of the Sea,” which also included this:

The harpoon did not kill the whale. It was the equivalent of a fishhook.  After letting the whale exhaust itself, the men began to haul themselves, inch by inch, to within stabbing distance of the whale.  Taking up the 12-foot-long killing lance, the man at the bow probed for a group of coiled arteries near the whale’s lungs with a violent churning motion.  When the lance finally plunged into its target, the whale would begin to choke on its own blood, its spout transformed into a 15-foot geyser of gore that prompted the men to shout, “Chimney’s afire!” As the blood rained down on them, they took up the oars and backed furiously away, then paused to observe as the whale went into what was known as its “flurry.”

The site also noted that Melville interviewed Captain Pollard for his later book, Moby Dick, not Nickerson.  After a second failed whaling voyage, Pollard became the town’s night watchman; “To the islanders he was a nobody…”  For a lengthy account and history see the New York Times review.

A final note:  The American Heritage Yankee Whaling was written by Irwin Shapiro (1911–1981), an “American writer and translator of over 40 books, mostly for children and about Americana:”

After an initial foray into writing radical literature that encompassed his last year as a communist, Shapiro turned to children’s books…  He published many titles for Golden Books[, including one thought to be] a coded message about the imprisonment of American spy Isaiah Oggins in the GULAG…  The Library of Congress holds 44 titles in his name.

See Wikipedia, and also Irony … Literary Devices.

Alice’s Restaurant – Revisited

faux “Alice’s Restaurant” – which may be some kind of object lesson for today’s world.. 

 *   *   *   *

 And speaking of Thanksgiving!

Alice's Restaurant.jpg

Every year around this time I do my best to listen to Alice’s Restaurant.  (The “musical monologue by singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie,” released in 1967.)  When it first came out – in 1967 – the war in Vietnam was at its height.  Then there was The Draft.

There’s more on all that later, but first a lighter note.

In 1993 I started a tradition of listening to Alice’s Restaurant every Thanksgiving.  It has nothing to do with eating turkey or getting together with family.  Instead it has everything to do with my favorite college football team playing its hated arch-rival.

Back in 1993 that favorite college football team won its first national title.  And it just so happened that for that Thanksgiving weekend I had to drive up to Jacksonville.  (My late wife was working as a traveling sales lady.  For a church directory company.)  It also just so happened that was when my team played the hated arch-rival that stood as a final obstacle to the title game.

And that’s when I heard the full rendition – on the radio, of Alice’s Restaurant – for the first time in years.  And as it happened, 1988 was also when I met the woman who became my first wife.  It also turned out that 1988 was when I started getting serious on making a ritual sacrifice for my team.  (Doing things to help them win.  See also sublimation – referring to my former hobby.)

So anyway, at the end of 1988 I drove home from a Christmas vacation in Yankee-land.  Coming through Gainesville, I heard the full rendition of Alice’s Restaurant for the first time since the 1960s.  (When I also saw the singularly-depressing movie of the same name.)

There followed five years of close, but no cigar for my favorite team, from 1988 to 1992.

But it was different in 1993.  For Thanksgiving that year I drove north – not south – when I heard the song.  For another thing, in 1993 my radio played the song not once, but twice.  The result was that my team won its first national title.  And the last big test before the title game itself was playing and beating my team’s hated arch-rival, on that Thanksgiving weekend of 1993.

So again – ever since then, since 1993 – I’ve done my best to listen to Alice’s Restaurant every Thanksgiving weekend.   And if that all seems weird, see Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?  But getting back to those “Good Old Days of Yesteryear…”

Segregated Super Bowl 1955For one thing, Alice’s Restaurant reminds us that – for many folks – those good old days weren’t so good.  (An example:  The image at right: “segregated seating at the Super Bowl in 1955.”   Note also the Latin “sic.”)

For another thing, the song itself was “notable as a satirical, first-person account of 1960s counterculture.”

I’m not sure if we have that kind of counterculture today.  (Unless you count “liberals,” as Fox News does.)  But back in 1967 we sure had one.   In Arlo’s case – and to many young men of the time – the “opposition” was to the Vietnam war.  And as Wikipedia also noted:

The ironic punch line of the story is that, in the words of Guthrie, “I’m sittin’ here on the Group W bench ’cause you want to know if I’m moral enough to join the Army – burn women, kids, houses and villages – after bein’ a litterbug.”  The final part of the song is an encouragement for the listeners to sing along, to resist the draft, and to end war.

Unfortunately we haven’t ended war yet.  (We still have plenty of those to go around.)

On the other hand, today’s young men no longer have to worry about the Draft.  (Which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your viewpoint.)  All of which reminds me of a conversation I overheard on a flight out to Salt Lake City a summer or two ago.

Bigmouth.jpgThere was an old bigmouth – about my age actually – sitting in the seat behind me.  He proceeded to “pontificate” to the young man next to him about the 1960s, and how much better they were than today.

I forgot exactly how he put it – and there’s more in the notes below – but his words literally blew my mind(To borrow an old idiom from the 1960s.)

Or to put it in the words of Alice’s Restaurant, his recollection of the ’60s fit in precisely with the definition of massacree.   (The term Arlo used in the full, original title of the song.)  The term itself -as used in the song and/or title – refers to “an event so wildly and improbably and baroquely messed up that the results are almost impossible to believe.”)

Which is how I reacted to this particular bigmouth.  It was only later – after the drive home from the airport, and while enjoying one of Utah’s famed 3.2 beers – that I started to remember some of the things that were going on back in the ’60’s.  Race riots.  Assassinations.  The war in Vietnam.  Draft dodging.  Draft resistance.  The upshot being that while some great music came from the era – including Alice’s Restaurant – the decade itself was not fun to live through.

And in a big way, the Sixties are still with us.  (As shown in the image at right.)  On the other hand, there’s an old saying:  “If you stand on the bank of the river long enough, you’ll see the bodies of your enemies floating by.”

Which is another way of saying that Arlo did a reprise of the song.  But I’d never heard the reprise, until this last Thanksgiving weekend.  (For the first time.  See e.g., Arlo Guthrie Returns to ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ 50 Years Later.)

And this was after routinely listening to the original twice – on CD – on Thanksgiving weekends.

On the reprise, Arlo’s voice was deeper and more mellow.  On the other hand, at times he seemed to “overplay his hand.”  (To add some drama that seemed a bit forced, which sometimes afflicts us older folk.  On the other hand, the original had the spontaneity of youth.)

But the big news was his account of visiting the Jimmy Carter White House.

In 1977, Guthrie got invited to the Carter Inauguration.  (Which he figured would be pretty much the only time he’d get such an invitation.)  Here’s what happened next.

Chip Carter (the president’s son) advised Guthrie that they had found a copy of the ALICE’S RESTAURANT album in Richard Nixon’s record library.  Guthrie … found that interesting [but] didn’t think much about it until years later, when Nixon died and there was all this talk about the 18.5-minute gap in the former president’s tape collection.  At which point, it occurred to Arlo that “Alice’s Restaurant” also clocked in at 18.5 minutes!

See “Alice’s Restaurant” and Watergate.  (See also the note below on Carter pardoning the Vietnam era “draft dodgers.”)  So one point of all this rambling is that Arlo Guthrie turned a patently absurd situation into a timeless classic.  (And a Thanksgiving tradition to many.)

But there’s another point.  People who “wax poetic” on the Good Old Days usually forget what it was like actually living then.  See for example On American History, “patched and piebald.”

Nothing was clear, inevitable, or even comprehensible…   The real drama of the American Revolution … was its inherent messiness.

And that’s not to mention the “fractious disputes and hysterical rhetoric of [those] contentious nation-builders.”  The upshot?  Fractious disputes and hysterical rhetoric seem to have been with us in the past, and remain with us “even to this day.”  Or as John Adams put it, “as it is now, ever was, and ever will be, world without end.”

On the other hand – in the spirit of Harry Golden – here’s a more positive spin:

Maybe these days today aren’t so bad after all…. 

 *   *   *   *

New York’s Lower East Side “in the early 20th Century…”

 *   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Alice’s Restaurant | You Can Get Anything You Want…  This particular version is located at 17288 Skyline Boulevard, Woodside, CA.  (Not Stockbridge Mass:  “Stockbridge was the location of Alice’s Restaurant in the song of the same name by Arlo Guthrie which describes the town as having ‘three stop signs, two police officers and one police car.'”

For details about what happened to the original “Alice’s Restaurant,” see Wikipedia, and/or The original Alice’s Restaurant – Review of Theresa’s Stockbridge Cafe.

The original lead-in photo – seen at left – was courtesy of Draft evasion – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The original lead caption: “Potential “draft dodgers” – before the Draft lottery of 1969.”  The full Wikipedia caption, “U.S. anti-Vietnam War protesters at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  A placard to the right reads ‘Use your head – not your draft card.'”

Re: church directories.  Aside from the link given, other directory companies today include Church Directories & Family Portraits – Lifetouch and Barksdale Church Directories.  In 1993, the company provided one “free” full-color photograph to each family.  The sales staff – who came to the church a week or two after the photographers – earned their commission by selling extra copies and/or photographs. 

Re: “the segregated seating at the Super Bowl in 1955.”  The image is courtesy of the blog ivman’s blague, “one French professor’s humorous and serious perspectives on life.”  (Listed above as  Good Old Days of Yesteryear.”)  Unfortunately, the first Super Bowl was not played until 1967 – not 1955.  (The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.)  See Super Bowl – Wikipedia.  But notwithstanding that “typo,” such segregation unquestionably existed in the 1950s… 

Re: “Counterculture.”  That’s a “subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores.”

The Ethan Bronner quotes – listed below – are from his 1989 book, Battle for Justice  How the Bork Nomination Shook America.  (Anchor Books, published by Doubleday, at pages 249-50.)  

The “‘Patriotic’ Americans” image is courtesy of Liberal group claims Mitt Romney, Dick Cheney, Donald Trump, others are draft dodgers.  Regardless of its liberal bent, the article does provide a short-and-pithy summary of the ways to get a draft deferment in the Vietnam era.

The lower image is courtesy of Lower East Side – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Cliff Dwellers‘ by Bellows, depicting the Lower East Side as its in the early 20th Century” (sic):

In Cliff Dwellers, George Bellows captures the colorful crowd on New York City’s Lower East Side.  It appears to be a hot summer day.  People spill out of tenement buildings onto the streets, stoops, and fire escapes.  Laundry flaps overhead and a street vendor hawks his goods from his pushcart in the midst of all the traffic.  In the background, a trolley car heads toward Vesey Street.    

The point being:  That’s how many used to live – in the ‘good old days’ – including Harry Golden.  Another positive note: My college team beat its hated arch-rival the Saturday after Thanksgiving 2015, possibly by virtue of my hearing Alice’s Restaurant “thrice,” including the reprise. 

 *   *   *   *

For more on Alice’s Restaurant, see The Story Behind ‘Alice’s Restaurant‘: the 50-Year-Old Song that Is Forever YoungArlo Guthrie Looks Back on 50 Years of ‘Alice’s Restaurant,’ 50 things about Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Alice’s Restaurant,’ and Arlo Guthrie Returns to ‘Alice’s Restaurant‘ 50 Years Later.

 *   *   *   *

Re: the draft.  See Vietnam War DraftDraft lottery (1969) – Wikipedia, and content.time.com/time… article/0,28804,186225, regarding President Jimmy Carter’s pardoning the “Vietnam war draft dodgers” in 1977.  Other articles of interest include Was Trump a ‘draft dodger’? | PunditFact – PolitiFact, and How I Got Out of the Vietnam Draft – And Why That Still Matters.

 *   *   *   *

And finally, here’s a portion of the post where I started going off on a tangent

(Beginning with the sentence, “Unfortunately we haven’t ended war yet…”)

Unfortunately we haven’t ended war yet.  On the other hand, today’s young people no longer have to worry about the Draft.  (Which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your viewpoint.)  That “phasing out” started in 1969 with the Draft Lottery:

In the late 1960s, President Nixon established a commission to recommend the best ways to raise military manpower, to keep the draft or to institute a volunteer army.  After much debate … it was decided that an all-volunteer force was affordable, feasible, and would enhance the nation’s security…

And that’s what we’ve had ever since.  But Wikipedia also noted that the 1970s “were a time of turmoil in the United States, beginning with the Civil Rights Movement.”  Further, the draft lottery “only encouraged resentment of the Vietnam war” – and the draft – and “strengthened the anti-war movement.”  Which brings up a conversation I heard a summer or two ago.

I was flying out to Salt Lake City.  In the row right behind me, the older guy in the window seat was pontificating.  (Actually he was about my age.  The subject of his pontification – to the young man “captive audience” in the next seat – was how great things used to be – in the 1960s.

Bigmouth.jpgI forget exactly how this bigmouth put it, in his unchallenged opinion.

But what he said fit in precisely with the definition of massacree Arlo used in the full, original title of Alice’s Restaurant.  (Meaning “an event so wildly and improbably and baroquely messed up that the results are almost impossible to believe.”)  Or respond to in a timely manner.

It was only later – after the drive from the airport and the comfort of one Utah’s famed 3.2 beers – that I fully started to remember why the ’60s and ’70s weren’t so great.  Or more precisely, what exactly happened during those years of turmoil.

As Ethan Bronner noted, “In the 1960s much changed,” beginning with the U.S. Supreme Court. Court rulings began protecting the private possession of obscene materials (for example).  The Court did so under the theory that the right to receive information and ideas – “regardless of their social worth” – is fundamental to a free society.

But to many others, “the sixties were where America went wrong.”  To them, the government existed to make value choices.  To them, allowing such “free speech” as the 1978 March on Skokie (Ill.) led to feelings of “powerlessness and alienation of many Americans:”

Citizens’ efforts to take control of their lives and environments were further undercut by the growing power of courts and bureaucracies.  No wonder so many Americans dropped out of the political process…

Which could bring up the term Kafkaesque.  Illustrated by “Kafkaesque bureaucracies,” the term means something marked “by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity,” and/or “by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger…”

Like I said, that’s where I started going off on a tangent, last night, as I tried to finish this post in time to be relevant to Thanksgiving weekend, 2015.

Black-and-white photograph of Kafka as a young man with dark hair in a formal suitAnd one final note, Franz Kafka – who’s name gave rise to the term “Kafkaesque” – died in 1924, at the age of 41.  He was noted for writings that explored “themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity.”   (Perhaps in his way not unlike Arlo Guthrie.)  See Wikipedia.

The point being that alienation, anxiety, guilt and absurdity seem to have been with us – as Adams noted – now and forever, “world without end.”

On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part I

Amicalola Falls 01.jpg

 

 

Amicalola Falls:  You can see these Falls hiking up to Springer Mountain, “southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail,” as seen in the 2015 movie, A Walk in the Woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Sunday afternoon – last September 6 – I went to see A Walk in the Woods.

That’s the “American adventure comedy biopic film,” based on the “same name” 1998 memoir by Bill Bryson.  According to Wikipedia, Robert Redford plays Bryson, supposedlly “now in his late 50s or early 60s.”  In the movie, Bryson decides to hike the whole Appalachian Trail in one fell swoop.  (Some 2,200 miles, and after living in Britain the previous 20 years.)

That in itself requires a hefty suspension of disbelief.

Redford – born in 1936 – looks to be all of his 79 years of  age.  Beyond that, he now seems to be “paying the price for all that ultraviolet glare on the ski slopes,” as one reviewer said.  (And as noted below.)  The same critic said of Nick Nolte – Redford’s hiking buddy in the film – that the “handsomely rough-hewn star of North Dallas Forty looks more like a ruddy-faced Yeti.”

But another critic put this positive spin on the film (also on September 6):

With its odd-couple cast and appeal to grown-up audiences, “A Walk in the Woods” has performed solidly at the box office since its debut on Wednesday.  As of Saturday morning [September 5] it had grossed about $10 million.

See Fact-Checking “A Walk in the Woods.”   The reviewer – John Jurgensen – then noted his personal interest in the movie.

In college he’d spent two summers on the Trail as a ridgerunner. (Someone hired to hike various sections of the trail, and/or “tally hiker traffic, monitor trail and campsite conditions, and generally help visitors navigate and understand the A.T.”)

So I suppose I should note my own personal interest in the movie.

Back in 1967 – when I was 16 – my next-older brother and I hatched the idea of hiking the Trail from Springer Mountain to Gettysburg, where our aunt and uncle lived,   (Some 623 miles.  My brother was a year or two older.)  But for some reason my parents didn’t bust out laughing. (And they didn’t say are you serious?  Or  slap their knees while wiping away tears of laughter…)

Instead they thought it was a great idea.  (Apparently.)

So in the early summer of 1967 my brother and I found ourselves dropped off at Amicalola Falls State Park, gateway to Springer Mountain.  (Dropped off by our oldest brother, a student at Georgia Tech at the time.)  Which brings up one key difference.  (To me anyway…)

Back in 1967 we didn’t seen any “magic archway” at our Amicalola Falls entrance to the Approach Trail.  (Nor did we see a paved path of any kind.)  The park at the time was extremely primitive…  But first, a note about my brother and quitting.  (Not unlike Redford and Nolte.)

The thing is, metal-frame backpacks were all the rage back in 1967.  But as we found out, they had a tendency to chisel great gouges of flesh in one’s lower back.  See also Why Internal Frame Backpacks, on the “shift away from external frame backpacks.”  The article added:

The downsides to externals are that, because they carry the weight high and away from your back, they don’t have the best stability.  So, you run the risk of feeling tippy and off-balance … climbing or descending dicey terrain [and] you’ll likely get hung up on branches and brush…  I can’t remember the last time I saw a new or innovative external.

But it was the “flesh-gouging” that caused my brother and I to reconsider our plans after a single afternoon.   On the other hand, our oldest “Tech brother” couldn’t come back and pick us up until the following weekend.  So we were stranded, but what ended up happening was that we spent a quite pleasant – and isolated – week of tent camping, away from adult supervision.

I suppose there’s some kind of object lesson there.  (See also kismet.)

But we were talking about the “magic archway” featured in the movie, but not seen by us back in 1967.  Which is another way of saying that at least one entrance to the Approach Trail has become “all touristy.”  (Again, at least as seen in the film.)

AT Archway

 

The “magic arch,” seen from the Visitor’s Center at Amicalola Falls State Park…

 

 

 

On the other hand, the 8.8-mile hike from there up to Springer Mountain is all uphill, as Redford and Nolte noted in the film.  (See AT Approach Trail … to Springer Mountain:  “The AT Approach Trail climbs solidly uphill, departing Black Gap to hike the lower elevations of Springer Mountain’s southern slope.”)

Which in turn could be a metaphor for the uphill battle the film faces at the hands of critics.

At best the film has gotten mixed reviews.  One site called it “amiable yet less compelling” than a movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte should be.  (Also, “ultimately a bit too pedestrian,” possible pun intended.)  And critic Susan Wloszczyna asked this musical question:

There is only one question that you need to ask yourself before deciding to see “A Walk in the Woods:”  Can you justify sitting through an utterly predictable and rather tame man vs. nature ramble in order to enjoy the affable odd-couple chemistry shared by Robert Redfordand Nick Nolte?

See A Walk in the Woods Movie Review (2015), at Roger Ebert.com.  (Ebert himself died in 2013, of complications from his earlier papillary thyroid cancer.  See Wikipedia.)

Wild Movie PosterOne possible answer is that Ms. Wloszczyna is more into chick flicks. She compared the film negatively with “Reese Witherspoon in last year’s ‘Wild.’”  (As shown in the movie poster at left):

Witherspoon in her Oscar-nominated role struggled with her inner demons as much as she did the elements, [but] “A Walk in the Woods” is more about two unlikely acquaintances…

Redford’s wry Bryson … tired of resting on his considerable laurels … is in a funk after attending a funeral.  That is when he spies a marker for the Georgia-to-Maine trail…   Against the wishes of his sensible British wife … Emma Thompson … he decides on a whim to attempt this marathon test of endurance and picks Katz to join him – primarily because none of his other friends are crazy enough to say yes.

“Tired of resting on his considerable laurels?”  (A metaphor perhaps?)  “Against the wishes of his sensible wife?”  “Decides on a whim?”  Ms. Wloszczyna could as easily have come out and said plainly – to Bryson and every other potential geezer over 65 – “Slow down.  Pack your manhood in cotton wool.  Smother your impulses.  Why don’t you just [expletive deleted] give up?

To be continued…

 

 

The upper image is courtesy of Amicalola Falls State Park – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re:  accentuating the positive.  See also curveball, defined in part as a “particularly difficult issue, obstacle, or problem.”  The point being that life seems to have a habit of “throwing us curveballs.”  (And that it does little if any good to “moan and groan” about the change inherent in life.)  See also the alternate definition of dinosaur, assomeone who resists change or is old-fashioned.”

Re:  “at the hands of the critics.”  Wikipedia noted:  “Walk in the Woods has received mixed reviews from critics.  On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 46%, based on 104 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10.  The site’s critical consensus reads, “Amiable yet less compelling than any road trip movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte should be, A Walk in the Woods is ultimately a bit too pedestrian.”  On Metacritic, the film has a score of 51 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews.”  On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of ‘B’ on an A+ to F scale.”

Re: Roger Ebert.   Wikipedia noted that Ebert himself “described his critical approach to films as “relative, not absolute”; he reviewed a film for what he felt it would be to its prospective audience, yet always with at least some consideration as to its value as a whole.”

The “magic archway” image is courtesy of virtualtourist.com/travel/North_America/United_States.

The “give up” image is courtesy of sumanth-j.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-giving-up-syndrome.

On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part II

Kristen Schaal in A Walk in the Woods Kristen Schaal Talks A Walk in the Woods, Last Man on Earth & More

A lighter moment in “Walk in the Woods,” featuring Kristen Schaal

 

In Part I we were talking about film critic Susan Wloszczyna‘s take on Walk in the Woods.

She noted that Robert Redford’s “wry Bryson” decided to walk the entire Appalachian Trail on a whim.  And because he was “in a funk after attending a funeral.”  She added that this was at a time when he was “tired of resting on his considerable laurels.”  (Which I thought was probably a metaphoric zing!)  She thought the whole idea was crazy.  (“Against the wishes of his sensible British wife.”)  Finally, she said the only reason that “Bryson” got “Katz” to come along was that “none of his other friends are crazy enough to say yes.”

The unspoken message of her rant?  “Why don’t you old geezers just give up?

She could have just as easily asked the same question of two other old geezers – aged 63 and 69 – who planned a canoe trip some 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, off the Mississippi coast. (And well into the realm of sharks, drownings, and other potential catastrophes.)  This was last November, involving eight days of primitive camping on isolated offshore islands and the occasional salt marsh.  (And against the advice of the older geezer’s sensible daughter…)

For one answer we can turn to John Steinbeck.  He began Part Two of his book Travels with Charley by noting that most men his age get told – constantly – to “slow down.”  (The object being to “trade their violence for a small increase in life span.”)   But that wasn’t his way:

I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage…  If this projected journey should prove too much then it was time to go anyway.  I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage.  It’s bad theater as well as bad living.

November 10, 2014 photo IMG_4329_zps7f7b5ddb.jpgFor the full answer see On canoeing 12 miles offshore, posted last May 23.  (Featuring the image at right, with the possible answer, “For moments like this!“)

That post noted that what Steinbeck said in Travels with Charley was pretty much the same thing Robert Louis Stevenson already said in his 1879 book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.  The point being – to Ms. Wloszczyna and others of her ilk – that both the problem has been around a long, long time, and is not likely to go away any time soon.

On the other hand, it is true – as she notes – that “Nolte’s wheezy scalawag can barely stumble out of a small plane.”  (Which made me wonder as well:  How could his character really hike as far as the movie said he did.)  It’s also true that there’s “an R-rated abundance of salty language, what with Bryson prone to expressing what a bear does in the woods and Katz’s committed embrace of the F-word.”  But her comment about the “lack of deep revelations or bouts of philosophizing along the way” suggested that she doesn’t know men very well.

(We do have our flaws, but we are good for one or two good things around the house…)

On the other hand, she did get the connection with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

Oddly enough, there is a scene that briefly summons memories of Butch and Sundance when the guys [Redford and Nolte] are trapped on a ledge and peer over a harrowing incline to see a body of water below. I kept hoping they would jump in together.  But it was not to be.

The Gift 2015 Film Poster1.pngWhich brings us back to Wloszczyna‘s question:  “Can you justify sitting through an utterly predictable and rather tame man vs. nature ramble?”

The answer for me anyway – and for many others as well – is a hearty “Yes!”  (And for me this was especially true after having watched the definitely-creepy movie “The Gift” just the day before.)

There’s no denying that A Walk in the Woods has flaws.  I found myself asking – throughout the film – “Why in the world would he do that?”  (Or the variation, “Why would he do it that way?”) Why would the Redford character pick the Nolte character to tag along, when he would clearly be better off hiking alone?  (Having hiked portions of the Trail myself by now, I can say it’s definitely not “lonely.”)  And why would he commit to hiking the whole length of the Trail, without even considering a preliminary or test* overnight-hike or two?

Which is pretty much the same mistake my brother and I made back in 1967.

But then we were stupid teenagers.  (Or is that redundant?)  Plus, we had “sensible” parents who should have known better.  One answer is that life is fraught with flaws, so sometimes it’s “good theater” to show life as it really is, or will be if and when you make stupid mistakes.

And Fact-Checking “A Walk” offered some positive things about the film.

Proactive_Protection_IconFor one thing, it’s a film about “novice hikers who attempt to complete the trail.” (In itself a recipe for disaster.)  For another thing it’s “a movie about nature’s majesty.”  (Not about “philosophizing.”)  And third:

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has said that additional ridgerunners will be hired in anticipation of an influx of hikers motivated by “A Walk in the Woods” to check out the famous footpath.

Fourth, the reviewer noted many of the “greenhorns” he met as a ridgerunner “were dangerously unprepared or ridiculously over-packed.”  Also, “the most common source of trail stress I encountered were people with blisters and other foot ailments caused by brand new boots or excessive mileage.”  Then too the director himself noted, “In our story it was important that Redford’s character doesn’t really know why he’s doing it.”

Which I suppose is an viable comment on men in general, and especially older men, on the verge or past the verge of “Geezer-dom.”  Sometimes we do things just for the hell of it.

(“Oh, and women never do things ‘they know not why?'”)

But the best part of the Fact-Checking review?  The part where the director – Ken Kwapis – said that he doesn’t pay any attention to – or even read – those negative reviews:

Didn’t read a one of those reviews.  As people say, if you’re going to believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones, so I ignore all of them…

Which provides another valuable lesson.  “Sometimes you should just ignore the critics.”

For all these reasons and more, A Walk in the Woods is definitely a film worth seeing.  If you’re into that sort of thing.  And even if – or perhaps because – “every female [in the film] exists to simply serve the needs of the central male characters.”  (As Ms. Wloszczyna alleged.)

But don’t just take my word for it.  Mi Dulce liked the film almost as much as I did…

 November 10, 2014 photo IMG_4332_zps47e076b9.jpg“Siesta at sea,” 12 miles offshore.  (An experience a “stay-at-home” will never have…)

 

The upper image is courtesy of Kristen Schaal Talks A Walk in the Woods: “Kristen Schaal is one of those trusted comedic talents who, whenever she pops up in a TV show or film, you know she’ll leave an impression…  [In “Woods” she] plays a fellow trail hiker who is also a know-it-all annoyance.”

And speaking of “every female [in the film] exists to simply serve the needs of the central male characters…”   It’s hard to see how the Kristen Schaal character fit into that stereotype

Re: director Ken Kwapis and what he learned.  He added that after “reading the book and making this movie, I came home and realized I could barely identify any of the trees in my own backyard.  So it has encouraged me to better see what’s right in front of my face.”

The lower image is courtesy of On canoeing 12 miles offshore.  Yours truly took the picture just after the dawn of a morning when we two geezer-canoeists got up at 3:00 a.m.  (The object was to negotiate the Gulf of Mexico before the wind stirred up the waves.)  We paddled 17 miles in 11 hours, in two separate canoes .  And aside from the occasional “siesta at sea,” the only break we took was a one-hour stopover on Cat Island, some seven miles off the Mississippi coast.

*   *   *   *

 Which brings up the wisdom of doing “a preliminary or test* overnight-hike or two.”   (Something the Redford character failed to even consider in the film.)

Which is being interpreted:  My “failure” back in 1967 has always stuck in my craw.  But at this late stage of my life I know I’ll probably never hike the whole Trail, or even the 623-mile segment from Springer Mountain to Gettysburg.  On the other hand I am determined to hike segments of the Trail, one in each state it passes through, and preferably in three- or four-day segments.

To that end, I’ve done two three-hour hikes, one north and south of where U.S. 64 intersects the Trail near Franklin, North Carolina.  The second test-hike was “to” Springer Mountain, but from the other end.  (So to speak.)  That is, from the trailhead in Google Maps as “Three Forks USFS 58 4.3, Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge, GA.” (That would be “U.S. Forest Service Road.”)  And for both test-hikes I wore a 22-pound weight vest, for training purposes.

My next project is a 27-mile hike from where U.S. 64 intersects the Trail, up to Wesser NC.  The question is whether it’ll take two or three days.  

And a BTW:  My “canoe buddy” from 12 miles offshore is now proposing a 16-day canoe trip down the Yukon River, from White Horse to Dawson City.  (That‘ll be worth a blog-post!)

The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes

Lesley Howard – middle – played Professor Henry Higgins in the 1938 film Pygmalion.

(A note:  He probably didn’t get shot down by the Luftwaffe for making that movie…)

 

 

Now about that “getting shot down by the Luftwaffe.”  (And whether Lesley Howard was shot down by the Germans in World War II, either because of mistaken identity or because he was a dangerous British spy.)  We may not know the answer, but the question itself is intriguing.

Mostly because that question itself is largely unknown.

Leslie Howard was best known for playing Ashley Wilkes in 1939’s Gone with the Wind.  (He was the man “with whom Scarlett O’Hara is obsessed.”)  At that point Howard was a mere 46 years old.  And – while no one could know it at the time – he had only four more years to live.

His airliner was shot down some nine months after the release of his 1942 movie Spitfire.  (A poster for the movie is shown at left.)  As also noted, his death came about under suspicious circumstances…  

There’s more on that later, but first:

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m back in the saddle after three weeks out of town.  (Part of that time was spent on the Columbia River, near Astoriaon unfinished canoe-trip business.  See On rectal thermometers, posted August 7.)

And it was only during that three-week hiatus – from home and daily routine – that I found out there were mysterious circumstances around Leslie Howard’s death.  (Aboard an airliner like the one below right.)  That happened because my brother is more delightfully retro than I am.

BOAC Flt 777.jpgWhich means that the night before I took my own commercial flight back home to God’s Country – the outskirts of Atlanta – we watched an old black-and-white movie:  1942’s Spitfire, starring Leslie Howard.

(On VHS no less, while enjoying some of Utah’s famed “3.2″ beers…)

Spitfire was originally called The First of the Few in Britain.  (The name was changed to “Spitfire” for American audiences.)  Howard played “R.J. Mitchell, who designed the Supermarine Spitfire.”

The British title alluded to Winston Churchill‘s memorable speech, attributing victory in the Battle of Britain to “the few.”  (That is, the few men who piloted British fighters in the battle, and especially those who flew the Spitfire.)  As Churchill put it, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-363-2258-11, Flugzeug Junkers Ju 88.jpgThe film came out in Britain on September 12, 1942.  Less than nine months later – “on or about” June 1, 1943 – Howard’s airliner was attacked by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft.  The airliner – with 16 other passengers and crew – was attacked some 500 miles west of Bordeaux, France. The plane – or parts of it – came down in the Bay of Biscay, some 200 miles north of La Coruña, on the far northwestern tip of Spain.

As to why the Luftwaffe shot down the airliner, here’s what Wikipedia said of Howard:

He was active in anti-German propaganda and reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence, which may have led to his death in 1943[.  He] was shot down over the Bay of Biscay, sparking conspiracy theories regarding his death.

There was an alternate theory:  That the Germans were really after Winston Churchill.

During the early years of World War II, Churchill routinely flew over the Bay of Biscay.  By June, 1943, he was just finishing up a month-long trip to North Africa, including an inter-Allied conference in Algiers.  The North Africa Campaign was just ending, and Allied leaders were planning the invasion of Sicily and Italy.  The normal stop-over for such trips from North Africa to London was Lisbon, in ostensibly-neutral Portugal.  (Often via Gibraltar.)

But also during the war, Lisbon was a hotbed of “trade, conspiracy, and subterfuge.”  (Note that Lisbon was the destination of refugees and reprobates alike in the movie Casablanca.)

Alfred Chenhalls, the look a like of Winston Churchill / Alfred Chenhalls de man die op Churchill leek - Herrmann / Tepas Web SiteWhen Churchill took such flights – to and from London and/or North Africa via Lisbon – he was accompanied by a single bodyguard, Detective Inspector Walter H. Thompson.  Thompson was tall and slender, and looked much like Howard.

But in a strange twist, when Howard took his flight from Lisbon, he was accompanied by a close friend and business manager, Alfred Chenhalls (seen at right, without his usual cigar).   To some people, Chenhalls looked “Churchillesque.”  Which brings up this:

A long-standing hypothesis states that the Germans believed that Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was on board the flight.  Churchill, in his autobiography, expressed sorrow that a mistake about his activities might have cost Howard his life.

See also “Churchill’s Bodyguard,” the BBC television series that suggested German intelligence agents knew of Churchill’s comings and goings from the area.  On that note, Detective Thompson later wrote that Churchill often seemed clairvoyant about threats to his safety.  And according to Thompson, Churchill had a premonition about his proposed flight over the Bay of Biscay on June 1, 1943, and so changed his departure to the following day.

Thus because of a perceived threat to his safety, Churchill changed his planned flight home:

Full of confidence, the Prime Minister flies home.  And unwittingly causes a tragedy.  Aware of his presence in North Africa, the Germans have prepared a trap.  Their watchful agents in Lisbon report the departure of a thickset gentleman smoking a big cigar aboard a commercial aircraft leaving on a scheduled flight.  Shortly after take-off it is pounced on by a German fighter [sic] and shot down with ridiculous ease.  Among its fourteen passengers is film star Leslie Howard.  The innocent cause of their death is a brilliant accountant and amateur musician called Alfred Chenhalls, whose resemblance to Churchill is superficial merely.

Boeing 314 Clipper-cropped.jpg(TVY 186)  William Manchester‘s book The Last Lion added some telling details.  He indicated that on June 4, 1943, Churchill boarded an Avro York for the flight to Gibraltar, from Algiers.  He said Churchill planned to transfer at Gibraltar to a more-comfortable “Boeing flying boat [seen at left] for the final leg of the trip,” to London.  But bad weather forced him to transfer to a B-24 Liberator instead.  And there was some other confusion:

That day, a German spy at the Lisbon airport reported to his superiors that a thickset man smoking a cigar had been seen boarding a commercial flight, another flying boat, destination London.  Phone calls were made, German fighter aircraft scrambled.  The hapless aircraft was shot down over the sea, killing all fourteen passengers, including the popular screen actor Leslie Howard.

According to Manchester, when Churchill got back to London he noted the brutality of the Germans, as exemplified by the attack on Howard’s airliner.  But – he said – their brutality “was matched only by the stupidity of their agents.”

(Just as an aside, Manchester said this latest incident “unsettled Britons,” who “felt ill at ease” about Churchill’s being away from the country for a full month.  They were equally ill at ease about his taking such unprotected flights so close to enemy territory.)

Roy Jenkins made a similar point in his biography of Churchill.  He wrote that Churchill flew back to London “on the night of 4-5 June (1943),” and that the journey was without incident, except for bad weather.  That in turn meant that Churchill couldn’t transfer to a “more comfortable flying boat,” but had to continue by uncomfortable bomber.  (The B-24.)

Later that same day however another Pan American flying boat did take off from Lisbon for Plymouth and was shot down with the deaths of a full load of passengers, including Leslie Howard of Scarlet Pimpernel fame.  In the same month a Liberator bomber (a companion to Churchill’s plane) flying from Gibraltar to England was also shot down, with the death of General Sikorski, the head of the Polish forces, and two accompanying British MPs.

The point being that Churchill appeared to be taking unnecessary risks.  (Note also that the two “MPs” in this case were Members of Parliament.)

But there were other theories as well.  According to the “Churchill” theory, the German intelligence agents in and around Lisbon were really stupid.  But according to some alternate theories, those agents knew exactly what they were doing.

One such theory had it that Howard was on a top-secret mission – for Churchill – to persuade Spain’s Francisco Franco not to join the Axis powers, Germany and Italy.  (Spain was officially neutral at the time.) Howard’s go-between was said to be Conchita Montenegro (at right), with whom he’d ostensibly had a torrid love affair.

(Not to mention Tallulah Bankhead and Merle Oberon, two of his other leading ladies.   While he was said to be something of a ladies’ man at the time, Howard once quipped that he “didn’t chase women but … couldn’t always be bothered to run away” from them either.)

Other sources indicate that Howard’s successful anti-Nazi activities in the early years of World War Two “enraged Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who called Howard ‘Britain’s most dangerous propagandist,’” and that Howard also worked for British Intelligence.

Still other sources note another passenger on Howard’s airliner, “leading anti-Nazi activist Wilfrid Israel, who had helped Jewish refugees escape from the Holocaust.”

(Israel was a “friend of Albert Einstein, the philosopher Martin Buber, and Chaim Weizmann, later the first president of the state of Israel.”  Wikipedia also indicated that in the wake of Kristallnacht – the 1938 pogrom or “night of broken glass” in Germany – Wilfrid Israel took an active role, contacting among others “the Council for German Jewry in London, informing them that extraordinary measures must now be taken to save at least the children.”)

Regardless of such theories why this particular airliner was shot down, this fact remains:  The tragedy made Howard “the first cast member from Gone With The Wind to die.”

Misfits3423.jpgOther cast members lived long and productive lives.

For example, Vivien Leigh – who played Scarlett O’Hara) – lived on until 1967.  Olivia de Havilland – who played Melanie Hamilton, Scarlett’s rival and the cousin Ashley married – is still alive and has been living in Paris since 1960.  And it was only in 1960 that Clark Gable died.

He played Rhett Butler in GWTW, but went on to numerous other movie roles including The Misfits, his final screen appearance.  That movie also starred Marilyn Monroe.  (At the time she was going through a “breakdown” of her marriage to writer Arthur Miller.  Miller wrote the Misfits screenplay, and “revised the script throughout the shoot as the concepts of the film developed.”)

Monroe herself died on August 5, 1962 – at age 36 – a little over a year after the release of Misfits on February 1, 1961.  The coroner listed the cause of death as “acute barbiturate poisoning” and/or “probable suicide,” but there were other theories here too:

Many theories, including murder, circulated about the circumstances of her death and the timeline after the body was found.  Some conspiracy theories involved John and Robert Kennedy, while other theories suggested CIA or Mafia complicity.  It was reported that President Kennedy was the last person Monroe called.

And some people think those were better and simpler times…

 Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind trailer cropped.jpg“Ashley Wilkes,” anti-Nazi agitator

 

The upper image is courtesy of Leslie Howard (actor) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  I changed to this image on January 5, 2016, after reviewing the post for a New Year’s “retrospective.”  That look-back showed a foul-up in the image-transfer, originally from The First of the Few – Wikipedia.  That’s where the image to the left of the paragraph beginning “His airliner was shot down” came from.

Note also that while some sources said Howard’s airliner was shot down on June 1, others give the date as June 4, 1943.  Thus the phrase “on or about” June 1, 1943.

The “airliner… at right” image is courtesy of BOAC Flight 777 – Wikipedia, noted further below.

Re:  “The film was released … 1942.”  See First of the Few (1942) | Inafferrabile [sic] Leslie Howard. The site said in the U.S., Spitfire was released on June 12, 1943, “a few days after Leslie’s death.”

Re:  3.2 beer.  See The Legacy of 3.2% Beer | The Society of Wine and Jurisprudence.  The site said such beer is a “relic” of Prohibition.  “In an attempt to limit the availability of higher-octane beverages, 3.2% is currently the only beverage allowed for sale at grocery stores in Colorado, Utah, and several other states.” (E.A.)

Re: “German fighters,” as applied to the Junkers Ju 88C6.  As Wikipedia noted, a fighter aircraft is a “military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft.”  The Ju 88C6 was a “twin-engined multirole combat aircraft,” designed to be “too fast for any of the fighters of its era to intercept.”  It was used in roles including but not limited to “night fighterheavy fighter and even, during the closing stages of the conflict in Europe, as a flying bomb.”

That there were eight Ju 88C6s came from the article, List of airliner shootdown incidents – Wikipedia.

“Full of confidence … TVY.”  See Winston Churchill:  The Valiant Years, Jack Le Vien and John Lord, Bernard Geis and Associates (1962), at page 186.  Note also:

     1)   Manchester’s “Last Lion…”  See The Last Lion[:]  Winston Churchill Defender of the Realm 1940-1965, William Manchester and Paul Reid, Little, Brown and Company (2012), pages 688-89.

     2)  William Manchester – noted American author, biographer and historian – died in 2004, while still at work on Last Lion.  He chose his friend Paul Reid to finish the work.  As Reid himself noted, Manchester began this “third and final volume of his biography of Winston Churchill” in 1988.  Reid indicated that Manchester’s research on the book was complete but that he’d written only some 100 pages between 1988 and 1998, due to increasingly poor health.  After Manchester died, Reid began the process of completing the book.  See also Wikipedia:

Following the death of his wife in 1998, Manchester suffered from two strokes.  He announced that he would not be able to complete his planned third volume of his three part-biography of Churchill, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.  He was also initially reluctant to collaborate with anyone to finish to work.  In October 2003, Manchester asked Paul Reid, a friend and writer for The Palm Beach Post, to complete the Churchill biography.

Re: Roy Jenkins.  See Churchill[:]  A Biography, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (2001), at pages 712-13. For what it’s worth, Jenkins put the “cumulative risk to which Churchill’s manifold journeys exposed him” at some 30 per cent.  

Re: “flying boat.”  The airliner in question was built by Boeing, flown by Pan American Airways and called the Clipper:  “Twelve Clippers were built; nine were brought into service for Pan Am and later transferred to the U.S. military.  The remaining three were sold to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) by Pan Am and delivered in early 1941.  (BOAC‘s 3 Short S.26 transoceanic flying-boats had been requisitioned by the RAF).” See Boeing 314 Clipper – Wikipedia.

Re: General Sikorski, “head of the Polish forces.”  See Władysław Sikorski – Wikipedia.  The Wikipedia article indicated that Sikorski’s plane had not been shot down, as Jenkins had written:

On 4 July 1943, while Sikorski was returning from an inspection of Polish forces deployed in the Middle East, he was killed, together with his daughter [and others] when his plane, a Liberator II, serial AL523, crashed into the sea 16 seconds after takeoff from Gibraltar Airport at 23:07 hours.  The crash was attributed to cargo on the plane shifting to the back upon takeoff.

This discrepancy – as well as that regarding the exact date when Howard’s plane was shot down – indicates the need for detailed “further review” by historians and lay-persons alike…

The “Conchita” image is courtesy of www.flickriver.com/photos.  Wikipedia added this:

Following a rare interview with Montenegro shortly before her death, Spanish author José Rey-Ximena claims that British actor Leslie Howard used her to get close to Spanish dictator Franco after being given the special mission by Winston Churchill.  She claimed that she used her husband’s influence to secure a meeting between the British actor and the Spanish dictator.  “Thanks to him … Spain was persuaded to stay out of the war.”  (E.A.)

Re:  Franco and Spain’s neutrality. See Francisco Franco – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediawhich noted that on “23 October 1940 Hitler and Franco met in Hendaye, France, to discuss the possibility of Spain’s entry on the side of the Axis.  However, Franco’s demands, which included food, military equipment, and Spanish control of Gibraltar and French North Africa proved too much for Hitler.”

Note that an agitator is someone who “actively supports some ideology or movement with speeches and especially actions.”  The term originally referred to elected soldier-representatives of “the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell, during the English Civil War.  They were also known as adjutators.”  See Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 *   *   *   *

Other sources for this post include Leslie Howard (actor), Ashley Wilkes, and Gone with the Wind (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, as well as the following:

See Clarecolvin.com/ian-colvin/flight-777-the-mystery-of-leslie-howard:

He was travelling with his tax adviser, cigar-smoking Alfred Chenhalls, who bore a resemblance to Winston Churchill – Churchill was at that time about to fly back from an Allied conference in North Africa.  Also on board was leading anti-Nazi activist Wilfrid Israel, who had helped Jewish refugees escape from the Holocaust.

See also BOAC Flight 777 – Wikipedia, which noted thatthe Douglas DC-3 lost in this attack had twice survived attacks by Luftwaffe fighters in November 1942 and April 1943.”

The Shootdown of Leslie Howard | Defense Media Network listed the date as June 1, and added:

Never entirely comfortable with Hollywood life, when war broke out, Howard, a Jew, decided to return to England and apply his fame and talent to a higher calling – helping his country fight the Axis.  Howard starred, directed, and produced anti-German war films [like Spitfire] and radio broadcasts, and conducted lecture tours.  His success enraged Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who called Howard “Britain’s most dangerous propagandist…”  What the public didn’t know, though the Nazis did, was that Howard also worked for British Intelligence.

Note also the critical British base at Gibraltar, which played a key role in Churchill’s travels to and from North Africa.  The base guarded the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, where the Strait of Gibraltar is a mere eight miles wide or less.  The base was “used primarily as a training area … and as a stopover for aircraft and ships en route to and from deployments East of Suez or Africa.” 

And finally see The actor, the Jew and Churchill’s double. – Eye on Spain, and also Churchill  A Photographic Portrait, by Martin Gilbert, Houghton Mifflin (1974):  

     1)  Photograph 292 in Portrait shows Churchill standing between U.S. General George Marshall and Field Marshal Montgomery, with the caption:  “While in Algiers, Churchill finalized the plans for the invasion of Sicily and Italy with the British and American leaders.  This photograph, taken on 3 June 1943, was annotated by General Montgomery.”  Montgomery later recalled, “Winston wanted me to say the Sicilian invasion would be all right.  But I wouldn’t.”  Despite Montgomery’s doubts, the Allied invasion liberated Sicily in some six weeks.  (July 10-August 17, 1943.)  

 

On “Entourage,” the movie

 

 

The “characters of Entourage…”

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

The name of the blog alludes to the Carolina Israelite.  (Get it?)

Note that I’ll do mostly film reviews, and also good reads, good music, and – from time to time – politics and politicians.  (For a recent post of musical interest see “On Pink Floyd….”)

In the meantime:

Mi Dulce and I went to see the new film Entourage.  (Mostly because she wanted to.)

Let’s put it this way:  If we’d gone to the Carmike and paid the $6.75-apiece matinee price, it might have been worth the price of admission.  Instead we went to the more-expensive AMC mall theater, and paid their more-expensive $10.75 apiece.  (Mostly because she wanted to.)

With that in mind, I’d say the film wasn’t worth the price of that admission.  (Let alone the added $13 for popcorn and soda.)  On the other hand, when reviewing a film I’ve always tried to say something nice, even if I didn’t like it.  That started back in the 1970s when I did reviews for my college newspaper.  Back then I followed a “one-third, two-thirds” rule.  A good film got good words for two-thirds of the review, “not so good” for the remaining one-third, and vice versa.

So here’s the positive third:  Entourage is to Hollywood what A Few Good Men was to the world of the Marine Corps and Birdman was to Broadway actors:

Birdman is to Broadway actors what A Few Good Men was to the Marine Corps and the military justice system.  It gives a fascinating, inside view of the world of [those] Broadway actors.  (Which alone makes it well worth the $10.68 that “we” paid to get the tickets, but not worth the extra $13.29 for the one large soda and large popcorn…)

See On “Birdman,” the movie.  (Which could be another way of saying that theater “treats” – like popcorn and soda – are just way over-priced.)  But the strange this was that by the time the  movie ended, we almost felt like we’d gotten our money’s worth.

Which is another way of saying the first half-hour of the film challenges your intelligence.

Note first that according to Wikipedia, “Entourage is a 2015 American comedy-drama,” a sequel to the “HBO TV series of the same name,” featuring the same stars:

The series … chronicles the acting career of Vincent Chase, a young A-list movie star, and his childhood friends from Queens … as they navigate the unfamiliar terrain of Los Angeles…  Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson served as the show’s executive producers, and its premise is loosely based on Wahlberg’s experiences as an up-and-coming film star.  The series deals with themes of male friendship and real-life situations in modern-day Hollywood.

So like I said, Entourage was to Hollywood what Birdman was to Broadway actors.

The plot turns on Vince and his “former agent-turned-studio head Ari Gold” working together on a new film, a “risky project that will serve as Vince’s directorial debut.”

You should know that according to Rotten Tomatoes, only 30% of the critics liked the movie, while 80% of the audience liked it.  (Wikipedia said the movie “received generally negative reviews from critics, and has grossed over $17 million,” since it’s release on June 3.)  The “RT” consensus was that the film “retains many elements of the HBO series, but feels less like a film than a particularly shallow, cameo-studded extended episode of the show.”

Which brings up one big thing that was enjoyable.

Remember the old Alfred Hitchcock movies where he appeared in a cameo?   (See List of Alfred Hitchcock cameo appearances – Wikipedia, including the image at left.)  The fun part was watching the beginning of his movies, to see when he “popped-up.”

There’s a lot of that in Entourage as well.  Wikipedia listed some 50 such cameos, including but not limited to Tom Brady, Warren Buffett, Gary Busey, David Spade, George Takei, Russell Wilson,  and Mark Wahlberg.  The cameos alone were enough to keep you from falling asleep.  (Which I did when we saw the movie Aloha the week before last.  But I woke up in time to mumble, “He’s gonna blow it up.”  That was right before the scene where “Brian and Ng hold hands as the rocket is ruined and explodes.”)

Did I mention that I was a film minor in college?  (See About than “Wasp” name.)

So anyway, the Mark Wahlburg cameo brings up ‘Entourage’ Star Mark Wahlberg Reveals His Own Real-life Entourage.  Basically, his entourage kept him grounded, he said:

The former rapper and model credits his own real-life entourage for his success in Hollywood, saying “I wanted people around me whom I could trust.”  He says: “We’ve enjoyed this great friendship and camaraderie over the years.  It’s good to be faithful to your roots.  It keeps you grounded and reminds you that even though you may have more money and a certain stature, your friends will always know who you really are.”

Of course it must be added that this was after a “chequered history, including drug addiction, crime and emprisonment.”  On a positive note, Wahlburg doesn’t try to hide that history…

But we digress.   The point is that an entourage is defined as agroup of attendants or associates, as of a person of rank or importance.”  Synonyms include retinue, following, cortege, escort.  And the point of the movie is that an entourage is a good thing to have.  

So, borrowing from Rotten Tomatoes, the thing to remember is that the film is rated R for “pervasive language, strong sexual content, nudity and some drug use.”  (As an artist, I must say that I personally enjoyed the “celebration of feminine pulchritude.”)  Or as one reviewer said:

There’s precious little effort made to adapt a Hollywood that is evolving away from the era when bros would be bros and women existed mainly to stand around in tiny bikinis.

Which is another way of saying:  Sure it’s fluff, but it’s enjoyable fluff.

And one final word.  The movie starts slow and pretty much insults your intelligence.  Then too, the film’s denouement was pretty lame.  Vince and his buddies spent most of the movie worrying about getting financed by the Billy Bob Thornton character and his idiot son.  But as it turned out, when Billy Bob pulled the plug, they had enough money on their own to finance the “risky project that will serve as Vince’s directorial debut.”

But by the end of the movie – in an exercise of pure American stick-to-itiveness – both my partner and I found that we liked it.  (We’re both saps for happy endings.)  Somehow, some way – maybe it was the cameos – the plot held together enough to make it all work.

I just wished that I’d paid the Carmike matinee price…

 

 A former badass who turned his life around…

 

The upper image is courtesy of the TV series of the same name link in the Wikipedia article on the film The caption:  “The main characters of Entourage. From left to right: Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), Eric ‘E’ Murphy (Kevin Connolly), Vincent ‘Vince’ Chase (Adrian Grenier), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Johnny ‘Drama’ Chase (Kevin Dillon).

Re: price of admission.  See also pay to play.

Re: Hitchcock cameos.  The full caption in the Wikipedia article was:  “In To Catch a Thief (1955), Hitchcock appears as the bus passenger on the right.”  See also Watch Alfred Hitchcock Make Cameo Appearances in 37 of His Films.

For other views, see Entourage (2015) – IMDb and “Entourage” the Movie – Who Cares?

Re:  Mark Wahlburg’s “chequered history.”  See Mark Wahlberg – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted that he is an American actor, producer, former model and rapper, to wit:  “frontman with the band Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.”

Wahlberg was addicted to cocaine and other drugs by age 13.  He was later charged with attempted murder, for separate assaults on African-American children and two Vietnamese men.  He pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to two years in Suffolk County Deer Island House of Correction, but ultimately served only 45 days.  There were other incidents as well, but after “going to prison for assault, he decided to improve his behavior.”

“I was there, locked up … and I realized it wasn’t what I wanted at all.  I’d ended up in the worst place I could possibly imagine and I never wanted to go back.  First of all, I had to learn to stay on the straight and narrow.”

The lower image is courtesy of Mark Wahlberg: ‘My faith in God makes me a better man’, an article in Christian Today.  (Not to be confused with “Christianity Today.”)  Christian Today is a non-denominational Christian news company, with its international headquarters in London, England.”  See Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaRecent articles of possible interest include Why the Duggars serve as a warning against fundamentalist Christianity, and  Is it OK to be angry with God?

On Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies”

Oscar Wilde Sarony.jpg Oscar Wilde in 1882, before he was sentenced to prison for “gross indecency…”

 

April 9, 2015  –  I saw the movie, The Imitation Game, last January.  It’s a “2014 historical thriller film about Britishmathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing who was a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany‘s naval Enigma code which helped the Allies win the Second World War, only to later be criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality.”

I noted that this all this occurred in another country – England – and before the year 2003.  That’s when the U.S. Supreme Court issued Lawrence v. Texas, thus ending such sentences:

[T]he Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws in 13 other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory.  The Court overturned its previous ruling on the same issue in the 1986 case Bowers v. Hardwick…   The Court held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the 14th Amendment. (E.A.)

Which leads to the general rule that it pays to remember our past history.

That’s good advice even when – and perhaps especially when – that history isn’t all that glorious.  As Harry Truman once said, “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”  (See for example Harry Truman and his History Lessons.)

Which brings us back to Alan Turing and Oscar Wilde.

Wikipedia said this:  “The film’s closing titles tell of Turing’s suicide in 1954, the royal pardon granted to him in 2013, and how his [code-breaking] machine inspired the invention and design of modern computers.”  Turing’s suicide followed – and may well have been caused by – his court-ordered chemical castration.  (Turing had been given the “choice” of spending some two years in prison or taking the court-ordered drug treatment…)

Wilde on the other hand got two years of hard labor, without a choice of “castration.”  And when he tried to speak, his voice was drowned out by cries of “‘Shame’ in the courtroom.”

Wilde was imprisoned first in Pentonville Prison and then Wandsworth Prison in London.  Inmates followed a regimen of “hard labour, hard fare and a hard bed,” which wore very harshly on Wilde…   His health declined sharply, and in November he collapsed during chapel from illness and hunger…    He spent two months in the infirmary…   Richard B. Haldane, the Liberal MP and reformer, visited him and had him transferred in November to Reading Prison…  The transfer itself was the lowest point of his incarceration, as a crowd jeered and spat at him on the railway platform.

See Oscar Wilde – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.   Which brings up the popular notion that some of the world’s best writing has been done in prison.  See 12 Famous Writers Who Did Time | Robert Rotstein – Huffington Post, and 10 Great Works of Literature Written in Prison:

When we imagine the places where our favorite authors penned their greatest masterpieces, a jail cell usually doesn’t come to mind.  But, whether their writers were prisoners of war or victims of bigotry, the solitude and lack of distractions have produced many a great book.  From Oscar Wilde’s apologia on spiritual awakening to Thoreau’s thoughts on civil disobedience, we survey authors whose great mental escapes from incarceration resulted in some of their most insightful and profound works…

Whether that solitude and “lack of distraction” still applies in today’s prisons is a matter of debate.  But a more recent example does come to mind, Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.  Written on April 16, 1963, this open letter defended the “strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism, arguing that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws.”  the letter “became an important text for the American civil rights movement of the early 1960s.”

That brings up the big difference between King’s letter and perhaps the best-known letter that Wilde wrote in prison.  Near the end of his sentence – between January and March 1897 – Wilde wrote a letter.  It was was sent from “Reading Gaol to Lord Alfred Douglas.”  The title of the letter was De Profundus, and it was based on the opening line – in Latin – of Psalm 130.

In English, Psalm 130 begins:  “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!”  The Latin for “out of the depths” is De ProfundusSee De Profundis (letter) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

All of which marked a drastic change in Oscar Wilde, the person.

Throughout the 1880’s Wilde had been a popular London playwright.  He was noted for his epigrams – his “witty, ingenious or pointed sayings” – and a novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Then there were the plays, including a “masterpiece,” The Importance of Being Earnest.  Also:

He wrote Salome (1891) in French in Paris but it was refused a licence for England due to the absolute prohibition of Biblical subjects on the English stage.  Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London…

But Wilde’s world came crashing down when he filed the ill-advised lawsuit that led to his own arrest, trial and conviction for gross indecency.  In brief, he went from the heights of fame and pleasure, literally to “the depths.”  And there, for whatever reason, he found a measure of serenity.  Wikipedia noted that in the long letter Wilde “discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure.”   Thereafter:

Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain.  There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.  He died destitute in Paris at the age of 46.

Incidentally, Wilde had to publish “Reading Gaol” under an assumed name:

The finished poem was published by Leonard Smithers in 1898 under the name C.3.3., which stood for cell block C, landing 3, cell 3.  This ensured that Wilde’s name – by then notorious – did not appear on the poem’s front cover…   It was a commercial success, going through seven editions in less than two years…

So, in a few short years Oscar Wilde went from the highest acclaim to cries of “shame” in the courtroom.  When he was transferred to Reading Prison, a crowd gathered to jeer and spit at him.  During his exile in France he had to publish his last work under an assumed name.

And now he brings tourists to Dublin, the city of his birth…

Aside from his statue in Dublin’s Merrion Square, there’s also an Oscar Wilde Centre, at Trinity College in Dublin.  Which brings to mind what John Steinbeck wrote about another writer…

In his book Travels with Charley, Steinbeck wrote of wanting to see Sauk Centre, where Sinclair Lewis was born.  It was also the metaphoric setting of Lewis’ satirical novel, Main Street.

As Wikipedia noted, the novel was set in Gopher Prairie, “a town modeled on Sauk Centre.”  The heroine, Carol Milford, is a free-spirited liberal who disdains “the town’s physical ugliness and smug conservatism.”  The novel itself portrayed “petty back-stabbers and hypocrites in a small town.”  It mocked the prevalent desire to live in such “‘wholesome’ small towns,” with its “vicious realism and biting humor.”  Small wonder then that some “small-town residents resented their portrayal and the book was banned in Alexandria, Minnesota.”

Small wonder too that when Steinbeck met him in his later years, Lewis was shrunken, shriveled and constantly cold.  So he too took a voluntary exile – he died in Rome, of advanced alcoholism – prompted in part by the violent hatred his novel “aroused in the country of his nativity.” But now, as Steinbeck noted, “There’s a sign in Sauk Centre all right:  ‘Birthplace of Sinclair Lewis:’”

The only good writer was a dead writer.   Then he couldn’t surprise anyone any more, couldn’t hurt anyone any more….   I’ve heard he died alone.  And now he’s good for the town.  Brings in some tourists.  He’s a good writer now.

There’s probably some kind of lesson there, for writers and for bloggers.

 

 

The upper image is courtesy of Oscar Wilde – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption:  “Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony.”  The lower image comes from the same article, with the caption: “Statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square, Dublin:”

[Merrion Square] is a Georgian garden square on the southside of Dublin [and is] considered one of the city’s finest surviving squares.  Three sides are lined with Georgian redbrick townhouses; the West side abuts the grounds of Leinster House (seat of the Oireachtas),Government Buildings, the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery. The central railed-off garden is now a public park.

The full reference to the movie-lead reference is Imitation Game – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full reference to the Lawrence case is Lawrence v. Texas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full reference to Turing’s “rehabilitation” is Chemical castration – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re: Steinbeck on Sinclair Lewis.  See Travels with Charley, Penguin Books (1980), pages 133-34.   See also Sinclair Lewis Biography – CliffsNotes:  “Although the reaction of Sauk Centre toward the book was at first unfavorable, there is no evidence that it was ever banned from the local library.”  And see Main Street (novel) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

You can see the original post on which this column was based at On Oscar Wilde and Psalm 130.

On “Gone Girl” and today’s lynch-mobs

An example of “media frenzy” and vigilante justice – from the 19th-century

 

 

The 2014 movie Gone Girl explores the modern-day phenomenon of media frenzies, and how such frenzies can be manipulated by those who are apparently being manipulated.   (As a metaphor for the movie, picture a shark-attack victim turning the tables on the sharks…)

Which brings up Harry Truman, who didn’t have much use for the reporters of his day and age:

“Newspapermen, and they’re all a bunch of lazy cusses, once one of them writes something, the others rewrite it and rewrite it, and they keep right on doing it without ever stopping to find out if the first fellow was telling the truth or not.”

Truman also told of plowing a field with a mule, and how that was the “most peaceful thing in the world.”  It was something that gave old-time farmers plenty of time for thought, and made them such good voters and citizens.

But there was a danger, Truman added.  He said “there’s some danger that you may, like the fella said, get kicked in the head by a mule and end up believing everything you read in the papers.”  As updated for today, that could read, “believing all the news you see on TV.”

Some 20 years later – after President Truman had vented his feelings about the press – a brash young “AFL” quarterback named Joe Namath said pretty much the same thing.

Shortly after Namath signed with the Jets – for a then-record salary of $427,000 – a wise-guy New York reporter asked what he had majored in, down at the University of Alabama.  “Basket-weaving?”   Joe answered, “No man, I majored in journalism.  It was easier.”

Then in 2014 came the movie Gone Girl.  It’s a film that expresses pretty much the same feelings about “media frenzies” as Harry Truman and Joe Namath, only more so.

*   *   *   *

I reviewed Gone Girl back in October, for another blog.  I started with Wikipedia, which said the film “examines dishonesty, the media, the economy’s effects on marriage, and appearances:”

On the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Affleck) returns home to find that his wife Amy (Pike), is missing.  In the ensuing media frenzy, suspicions arise that Nick murdered her, and his awkward behavior is interpreted as characteristic of a sociopath.  (E.A.)

See Gone Girl (film) – Wikipedia.  In other words, the character Nick Dunne – played by Ben Affleck – ended up being tried in and by the media.  That media found him guilty, as so often happens these days.  But as it turned out, the process by which he was tried and convicted was “infected by the politicized, media-enabled ‘cult of victimhood.’”  (See the Rothman note below.)

As for the ending…  Like I noted above: “picture a shark-attack victim turning the tables on the sharks.”  And just as sharks have their feeding frenzies, so too do today’s reporters; tabloid, TV or otherwise.  As for the subtle difference between a media frenzy and a media circus, see Media Frenzy Global, a company that specializes in “frenzy manipulation:”

Whether you’re trying to pique interest, incite sales, stir the market, or fan the flames of controversy, one thing is certain – you need to cause a commotion.  Of course, you want to remain cool and composed in the midst of the excitement…   In other words, you want to harness the media frenzy…    We harness the media frenzy by controlling, managing and exploiting the media platforms…

All of which provides an interesting commentary on modern life…

Then too there’s the court of public opinion.   As an example, the Wikipedia article cited the media frenzy – or “circus“ – surrounding the Duke lacrosse case.  “It has been said that the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case attempted to try the case in the court of public opinion by making unsupported allegations to the media..

The article also noted that in “the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, it was alleged that parties were using court pleadings as press releases.”

Which brings up the fact that there is a genuine cause for concern these days, as explored by the movie Gone Girl.   (And yes – in case I’m being too subtle – I am saying that such media frenzies and/or circuses are indeed a form of modern-day vigilantism…)

Which is being interpreted:  There’s a reason we have things like the Sixth Amendment.

That constitutional provision is supposed to guarantee that a person accused of a crime can only be convicted after a public trial “by an impartial jury … and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”  See Bill of Rights Institute.

And by the way, these aren’t “new-fangled pointy-headed liberal” legal protections.  They go back to Bible times and the Apostle Paul and beyond.  And there’s a good reason for this Biblical protection:  In way too many cases “the crowd” – or today’s media – just gets it all wrong.

On the other hand, some people in that “crowd” might have their own agenda, hidden or otherwise.  (And they might even be using things like Media Frenzy Global, noted above.)

In Paul’s case, that came in the form of certain “rabble rousers,” starting at Acts 21:28.  Then in Acts 23:12, these same rabble-rousers wanted to take the law into their own hands.  (They didn’t trust “Roman justice.”)  There followed a dramatic midnight ride to Caesarea, where the authorities took Paul to save him from a potential lynching.  Finally came a trial before the Roman governor Festus, after the former governor Felix had passed the buck:

Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king.  He said: “There is a man here whom [former Roman governor] Felix left as a prisoner.  When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.   I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges.”

See Acts 25:14-16, emphasis added.  All of which is another way of saying Gone Girl is a thought-provoking movie well worth seeing.  That is, provided that you are in the mood to explore some deep and unsettling questions about “coupledom,” as well as the potential underlying suspicion that such being-a-couple “necessarily entails victimization.”

 

 

A still from Gone Girl.   (Note the “askew” angle…)

 

The upper image is courtesy of Vigilante – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption, “A lynching carried out by the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856.”  The article added:

“Vigilante justice” is rationalized by the idea that adequate legal mechanisms for criminal punishment are either nonexistent or insufficient.  Vigilantes typically see the government as ineffective in enforcing the law; such individuals often claim to justify their actions as a fulfillment of the wishes of the community…   In a number of cases, vigilantism has involved targets with mistaken identities.

The lower image is courtesy of What “Gone Girl” Is Really About, a review in The New Yorker, dated October 8, by Joshua Rothman, which includes this telling tidbit:

[W]e’re fascinated with stories of victimhood – and … especially in tabloid, cable-news culture, we endow victims with specialness, sanctity, and celebrity.   “Gone Girl” asks whether genuine expressions of sympathy or solidarity with victims can ever happen without being infected by the politicized, media-enabled “cult of victimhood.”

Rothman’s review compared the movie with “what I heard” about the book version, and concluded that what’s best about the movie is that it “gets at what is unsettling about coupledom [i.e., marriage or “serious relationships”] : our suspicion that, in some fundamental sense, it necessarily entails victimization.”  See also Gone Girl (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  

As for the “askew”camera angle, that seems to symbolize the them of “media frenzy.”

The Harry Truman quote on reporters is courtesy of Plain Speaking[:]  An oral biography of Harry S. Truman, by Merle Miller, Berkley Publishing NY (1973), at page 251.   The “field-mule” quote is at page 258.

The Namath quote is courtesy of famous alabama football quotes – Angelfire.  See also Joe Namath – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted that when Namath signed with the Jets, the NFL and AFL were separate leagues, engaged in a “bidding war” for college players.

Re:  “I reviewed Gone Girl back in October…”  See “Gone Girl” movie review and Media Frenzy.