Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

This Is Why We Teach History In Schools

The Warren, Pennsylvania Times-Observer has apologized for running a classified ad calling for the assassination of President Obama.

They said the mistake was made when the idiot who approved the ad "didn't recognize the signifigance of the names."

Um, your copy editors don't know these presidents were assassinated? And we wonder why newspapers are going down dinosaur road.

In The Interest Of Public Service...



Gillette has posted a number of "instructional shaving videos" on youtube to help out their male customers.

One of them is about shaving the groin.

You have to love the line: "When there's no underbrush, the tree looks taller."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Because Anything Is Game

Yes - it is a Titanic bouncy house.

And yes, it is so very wrong.

And yes, I want it for the next birthday party here.

Via JMG, via Slog

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Walk In The Sun

Rivera: Nobody dies

Just in time for Memorial Day. Last night I indulged my recent World War II obsession with a little TCM festival. Most war movies, particularly from the 40's, are little more than propoganda pieces or pathos-laden drivel. They are cliched, inane, and smirk-worthy. Occasionally, there are a few that pass muster as intelligent or interesting - Wellman's, The Story of GI Joe, comes to mind, but those are rare indeed. That said, I will still watch them of late. I can't explain it - even to myself.

So for last night's viewing I curled up with some watemelon chunks and my Tivo remote to sink into the morass that I can't escape, but something wonderful happened. I was sucked into the best World War II movie from that period that I have ever seen - I mean ever.

A Walk in The Sun was shot in 1945 and released the following year. It took a special effort on the part of Burgess Meredith (who also dryly narrates the picture) to get it made and was shot on a small budget. Though the Army helped in its production it is so unlike other films of the time that you doubt that it could have been made at the beginning of the war rather than at its end.

Based on the novel of the same name by Harry Brown, it follows a platoon of soldiers as they land on the coast of Salerno, Italy and make their way inland to a farmhouse. Their vaguely described (to us and to them) objective is to take the farmhouse and hold it - a pretty simple plot. The brilliance of the film lies not in its plot or its climax, but in its examination of the mental anatomy of men at war - through the long, sometimes tense, but usually mundane, trek they make to get to their destination. They walk and talk, sit and talk, eat and talk, they talk endlessly - but oh, what talk. Screenwriter Richard Rossen's dialog rivets you with wit, intelligence and honesty:

Rivera: Good thing they invented trains for travelling salesmen.
Friedman: OK, kill me: what's the gag?
Rivera: No gag. But if they didn't have trains, all the travelling salesmen would have to walk.
Friedman: "You're" a travelling salesman; you ain't been taking any trains lately.
Rivera: Whaddaya mean, "I'm" a travelling salesman? I'm a murderer!
Friedman: You're a travelling salesmen. You're selling democracy to the natives.
Rivera: So that's what I am, huh? Whaddaya know. Where'd you get that malarkey, Jake?
Friedman: Out of a book.
Rivera: A book!
Friedman: You're a decadent democrat, Rivera.

And...

Sgt. Ward: Apples.
Windy: What'd you say, Sergeant?
Sgt. Ward: [surprised] Guess I said 'apples.'
Windy: Why?
Sgt. Ward: Just thinkin' of 'em.
Windy: Oh.
Riddle: What kind of apples, sergeant?
Sgt. Ward: All kinds. Baldwins, McIntosh, Reds, Pippins, Russets... I was thinkin' I'd like to be cuttin' one open, right now. And lickin' that juice off the knife.
Riddle: Cut it out, willya, Sarge?
[grinning]
Riddle: Now ya got me thinking about something juicy.


Or...

Friedman: You ever think you'll live to make corporal?
Rivera: Baby, I just want to live long enough to make civilian


And...

Rivera: It could've been something else. It could've been the engineers or the tanks. It could even have been the Navy. They looked at me and said, "Here's a guy that can walk." They finished me, all right.
Friedman: Everybody walks. Even monkeys. Where are we going, Rivera?
Rivera: I am going someplace where I can set up this weapon. Then I am going to shoot this weapon. I am not gonna walk any more!

And the dark...

Sergeant Tyne: Wonder what it'll be like when we hit France, Mac.
McWilliams: I don't know. I never seen France.
Sergeant Tyne: I bet its just a long concrete wall with a gun every yard. Maybe they'll set the water on fire with oil, too. Boy, when that day comes I wanna be somewhere else.


These are not heroes. These men can think of nothing but where else they would rather be.

The performances of the ensemble are amazing. Norman Lloyd, Richard Conte, Lloyd Bridges, Huntz Hall (yes, of the Bowery Boys), George Tyne, Dana Andrews, John Ireland, Sterling Holloway and a host of others. There are no real starring roles; just a brilliant group of actors working at their peaks with a script that is rich beyond imagination.

There's no pathos, no heroics, almost no action. Men die suddenly and without histrionics. That tone is set at the beginning of the film as they await the invasion in their landing barge. The men banter and chat as they try to distract themselves. Their new Lieutenant stands with binoculars looking out across the sea at the night. Enemy shells occasionally splash nearby. Suddenly a shell goes off and the Lieutenant crumples to the deck moaning. Another man feels for his wound in the dark before announcing that the man's face is gone. The men are reluctant to help - no one wants to see someone with their face blown off and he's going to die anyway. They aren't so much heartless as resigned. As some finally try to tend to him the others' chat resumes just as before but with a sense of doomed resignation. It is horrifying, sadly touching, and unlike anything I have ever seen in a war movie of the time.

Lewis Milestone directed the picture with the same resolve with which he directed All Quiet On The Western Front 16 years earlier. Both films pointedly see war as lacking glory or any semblance of heroism other than simply doing your job and living through it. Neither film ever demonizes the enemy - they are just other guys stuck in this mess too, as in this one when a dead German soldier is revealed only by his hand hanging limply, a wedding band glittering on his finger.

Though the men in A Walk are not heroes in the classic mythical sense and would rather be anywhere than there, they still do their tasks with workman-like efficiency. The deaths and wounds that surround them must be ignored if they are to escape with their minds intact. But when a sergeant succumbs finally to the mental onslaught and breaks down completely, he is treated in a more understanding way than he would have been in any other film of the period. As the platoon looks on sympathetically, another sergeant speaks to him:

Windy: [looking at Sergeant Porter, sobbing face down on the ground] Keep crying, Porter. You're crying because you're wounded. You don't have to be bleeding to be wounded; you just had one battle too many. Yeah, you're out of it now. No more guesswork, waiting and wondering, for you. You've built yourself a foxhole
[taps his own helmet]
Windy: - up there. Nothing in the world that can make you come out of it. Go ahead, Porter; keep crying - we understand


This is a stunning portrait of men in conditions they neither control nor desire. By turns tense, confusing, funny, wry, and uncomfortable it stands above not just the films of its own time but most contemporary pictures as well. Clifford McCarty called it "the most lyrical war movie ever made," and he's right (though The Thin Red Line surpasses it in many respects), but it's also one of the finest pictures I have seen in a long time and can not recommend it enough.

Windy: A man's hands never seem to get clean, even if he don't touch nothing. They just stay dirty. Sort of a special kind of dirt. G.I. dirt. I bet one of those criminologists could take a sample out of a guy's fingernail, put it under a microscope, and say, "That's G.I. dirt." The dirt's always the same color, no matter what country you're fighting in.

Fortunately for you, it can be watched gratis at Free Movies Online. The quality is a little subpar, but it's the entire picture and it's free. How often do you get a masterpiece like this with no strings attached? Find the time.

Windy: Dear Frances, we just blew a bridge and took a farmhouse. It was so easy... so terribly easy.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What It Was...

Me during the the summer of '85, half my lifetime (and 40lbs) ago

It's the traditional start of summer this weekend. Happy heat to all. It gets me thinking.

My best summer - in all respects - was 1985. Poverty stricken, meaningless soul-sucking employment, car-less, rent paid late every month - it didn't matter. It ranks above all others. Despite my relatively advanced age at the time (24), it felt like the last full blown summer of my youth. It was a grand one and I remember it fondly. It was magnificent precisely because it lacked substance - material or otherwise - and so it had a pure, zen-like, in-the-moment, perfection. In the interest of full disclosure, there was, as I remember, a lot of beer as well.

There were other good ones: '93 (the first summer I knew Curry), '91 (three months and 10,000 miles of driving with the Padre), and '90 which, despite (or perhaps, because of) its proximity to my brother's death, was similar to that live-each-moment ideal. I spent a good portion of that lost summer of grief with GE on a secluded NoCal beach contemplating waves, fog and cold - testical-retracting - water. Though all three remain special, they still dim in comparison to that last boyish season of the mid 1980's.

Perhaps, like all memories, I merely glean the best and gloss the rest, but every year about this time I get nostalgiac for that summer of bliss (and the poverty-shrugging, thin, young, man who inhabited it) half a lifetime ago.

What was your best summer?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

......

The wife returns to work today.
The hostiles now outnumber me completely.
Prayers would be welcomed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Tattler

Lately the Boy has felt duty-bound to inform us of all possible infractions of house rules by his sister. Anytime she has grabbed something that she should not have, or is in an area she should not enter he races to us, barely able to contain himself as he describes her offense. As we go off to correct her he follows, chattering incessantly about the details of her actions. It has become annoying.

We are, of course, to blame for it. For a time he felt responsible for correcting her himself, which in turn led to battles and generally a condemnation of her on his part all out of proportion with the original offense. And of course it's not his right or responsibility to discipline his sister. So we encouraged him to notify us when she was out of line and allow us to deal with it.

Now he does. A lot. He has become a tattler.

A tattler is, according to American Heritage Dictionary, an informer. Simple enough, but the word is almost never used in anything other than a perjorative sense. We do not like tattletales. We shun them as annoyances or as rats. No one likes a tattler.

Why?

Why am I so put out by the very thing I have asked him to do? If his sister had retrieved a knife from the kitchen and was busy racing around the yard with it, I would be grateful for my son's desire to share the details. If she was working a magic marker into the upholstery I would praise the Boy for his whistleblowing. He would not be a tattler in my eyes, but a responsible brother and son. Yet when he eagerly spills to me that the Girl has a pad of postit notes she is freely distributing about the family room, making a minor mess, why do I feel he is somehow narcing her out? Why is he then a tattler?

At what point does he, or anyone else, cross the line from responsible citizen to rat? And how do I convey that to him?

As a culture we urge that wrong-doing be reported. We have laws to protect whistleblowers. We pay police informants or offer criminals special deals to "sing" about their partners in crime. Hell, we give Mob informants whole new identities for turning on their colleagues.

Yet, we don't like the guy who's always telling the boss who slipped out the door with a box of pens from the supply room or showed up five minutes late. Even the boss thinks he's a pest.

Where is the line? How much information is too much? When do we say "when"?

And how do I keep my son from becoming a rat?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pictures Of G

It's been a while since I posted any pics of the G-thang. She's getting bigger, more settled, and is definitely more charming.

We are tired, but adapting.

I said it before and I will repeat it now: Two's a family; three's a rodeo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day



In case you missed it or haven't seen it yet today...

Timberlake and Samberg follow up "Dick In A Box" with an ode to moms. Priceless.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Crazy Kids

I did a little net wandering today. Found some old Life images from 1944 depicting teen fads of the age.

Captions are from Life Magazine.

Closeup of teenage girl's wrist covered with six different identification bracelets which are as popular as the milk shake she is enjoying at a soda fountain.

Teenage girl using clear nail polish to hold up her socks.

Teenage girl wearing tight sweater that is considered a breech of etiquette.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lekker Ding

As long as I'm on a Dutch kick today...

Dutch Cabinet members all received Audi A6s as their official vehicles at a cost of around $66,000 per. At least five of those cabinet officials got their doctors to right them notes stating that the ride of the A6 was bad for their delicate backs and joints and were subsequently given Audi A8s ($119,000 a pop) to relieve their suffering.

Um, a long way back from 460 calories per day, huh?

Lekker Ding!!

Weighting For The Bus

After a post on starving Dutch, we now have this.

As a marketing gimmick for a weight loss center, bus patrons in Rotterdam seat themselves at a bustop and their weight is proudly displayed for all to see.

From starvation to humiliating obesity in 60 years.

Re: Hard Times

Since the rest of our natural lives will be spent in an economic morass of desperate privation I thought I'd offer up some real hard times for comparison, courtesy of Max Hastings', Armageddon, which surveys the last year of World War II.

The Dutch, in the last year of the war under German occupation, lived on a ration allotment of 460 calories per person per day.

The average weight of a 14 year old Dutch boy in 1945 was 71lbs.

In a desperate search for fuel for heat, the Dutch were forced to dig up graveyards for the coffin wood.

One survivor remembers seeing a man stop his bicycle next to a pile of fresh droppings from a sickly workhorse. The man dug with his bare hands through the dung to find the undigested corn within and then ate the morsels while squatting by the curb.

Immediately post-war, in occupied Germany, the going rate for an American GI to get laid by a nice German girl (not a hooker - just an ordinary girl he might meet in a park or cafe) was 3 Lucky Strikes.

We aren't there yet.


Get Hungry

Hey, get ready to starve. Government economists have revised their predictions for economic growth over the next two decades in the US to an average of 2 - 2.5%. Doesn't sound that bad to you? Well chew on this (since you won't have much to eat), that growth rate is the lowest average since 1875!

Mmm, good times.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Lonely Pig

Afghanistan has gone and made its only known pig stand in a corner away from anyone - anyone at all - just cause it might give somebody the sniffles.

The poor thing doesn't even have a real name - it's just called "pig". To make matters worse, it used to have a mate and offspring, but they were killed in a bear attack at the zoo where they were housed (note to Afghan zookeepers: bears and pigs should not share cages).

This is the saddest pig in the world.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow

Van Gogh didn't cut off his own ear - Gaugin did it!

No depression; just a couple of guys fighting over a hooker - you know, boy stuff.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Congratulations!!

A big mazeltov to our old pal Jolie for her weekend nuptials to her partner, Shonda. The two of them hopped on a bus in Missouri and rode it to Iowa City to tie the knot. They look elated.

I was there way back when, JJ, but I'm sorry I couldn't make it to this one. Congratulations, girl, and my best wishes to you and Shonda.

Oh, and JJ, seeing as how you're a Senator in Missouri, maybe it's time you convinced your electorate to fix it so others don't have to take the same bus ride.

National Star Wars Day

Yeah, some punny geeks have turned today into National Star Wars Day.
May the 4th be with you.