Monday, September 19, 2016

President Trump’s First Term - The New Yorker

On rare occasions, a President’s nuclear orders have been too unsettling for his staff to accept. In October, 1969, Richard Nixon told Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird to put nuclear forces on high alert. According to Sagan, the Stanford nuclear-arms specialist, Nixon hoped that the Soviets would suspect that he was willing to attack North Vietnam. Laird was appalled, and he tried an excuse: the alert would conflict with a scheduled military exercise. Sagan recalls, “He understood that Richard Nixon believed in the so-called ‘madman theory’”—deterring aggression by encouraging America’s rivals to suspect that Nixon was irrational. “But Mel Laird believed that the madman theory was pretty crazy, and that threatening to use nuclear weapons over something like Vietnam was not going to be effective, and might actually be dangerous. He tried to delay implementing the President’s orders, in the hopes that Nixon would calm down. Nixon did that a lot; he would make an angry comment, and if you ignored it he wouldn’t come back to it.” In this instance, Nixon did not forget, and Laird eventually complied. The operation, hastily organized, went poorly: eighteen B-52s, loaded with nuclear weapons, flew toward the Soviet Union. Some came dangerously close to other aircraft, an incident that an after-action report ruled “unsafe.”

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Wind in the Willows - Chapter 7

As they stared blankly. in dumb misery deepening as they slowly realised all they had seen and all they had lost, a capricious little breeze, dancing up from the surface of the water, tossed the aspens, shook the dewy roses and blew lightly and caressingly in their faces; and with its soft touch came instant oblivion. For this is the last best gift that the kindly demi- god is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself in their helping: the gift of forgetfulness. Lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and pleasure, and the great haunting memory should spoil all the after-lives of little animals helped out of difficulties, in order that they should be happy and lighthearted as before.

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years (2016) ***

I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'.
Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake, 1997

The film is a welcome reminder of the joy and hope The Beatles brought at a time when we needed it most. In the long run, it didn't matter. (Does anything? CAN anything?) But lives are lived in the short run and Vonnegut is absolutely correct.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lost in America (1985) ****

Albert Brooks' best film. His character is still the total schmuck but at least he gets his just desserts throughout the picture instead of just once at the end so he's easier to take. But did everybody really wear so many sweaters in the '80's?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) ****

One of Woody's best blends of comedy and drama with a fine group of actors and his usual directorial flair.

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) **

Not played broadly enough to compensate for major casting errors, it still has a plethora of good one-liners some gorgeous art direction and cinematography to recommend.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

1966 interview with William Shatner - Framework - Photos and Video - Visual Storytelling from the Los Angeles Times

The high point of his career, however, remains “The Intruder,” which is the original title of “I Hate Your Guts!” (it was also known for a while as “The Stranger”). Made on location under the direction of Roger Corman, best known for his stylish adaptions of Edgar Allan Poe, it is the boldest, most realistic depiction of racial injustice ever shown in American films and is based on an actual incident.

“It’s the best I’ve ever done,” says Shatner, who superbly portrays a satanic rabble-rouser who quickly reduces a small town on the eve of integration to a state of chaos.

“Our setting was the boot heel of Missouri. Discrimination was worse than in the Deep South because there the white southerners have taken a position – the lines of war were clearly marked. But here it was a fringe area and therefore more explosive.

“Literally, this movie was made at the risk of our lives. We even has escape plans. The state militia had to be called in when we shot scenes depicting the Ku Klux Klan bombing a Negro church.