Friday, March 27, 2015

The Bible Belt Is Also...

Hmmmm. I wonder if there's any connection here?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Welcome to the 21st Century

I just did what I said I would never do, and that was get a Smart Phone -- i.e., a phone that was smarter than me.

We are now the proud possessors of twin versions (only diff is the color) of the iPhone 5c (hey, I know it's not the latest and greatest, but I'm an elderly shut-in on a fixed income here...gimme a break).

Talk about a learning curve. It's like going from a rotary dial phone to a Star Trek communicator. Or it seems more like going from two tin cans on a string to telepathy.

I'm not a knuckledragging Neanderthal, nor am I a neo-Luddite. But I am forced to admit now that I am ... apparently ... a technological moron.

And after I criticized Ted Cruz for the same thing. Tsk-tsk.

It's actually a bit embarrassing. We were always "early adapters" to new technology. Our first cell phones, back twenty-some years ago, were the size and weight of bricks -- they reminded me of WWII walkie-talkies. Over the years we upgraded them, and upgraded them again, until we were satisfied with the LG "Rumour" phones that featured a slide-out keyboard for easy typing. We kept those for a long time. Too long it would appear, since advances in technology swept past us like a rip tide.

They actually were adequate for us, for the several years that we had them, and probably still would be. But when She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed saw another dealer at the antique mall, where we have a space selling "collectibles" and other junk, snapping photos on her iPhone and immediately posting them to Etsy and Ebay, she got "phonis envy" and suddenly we HAD to have iPhones...

So we got them. I can't say enough good about our provider, Credo Mobile (the woman at customer support literally spent over an hour on the phone with us); the main problem wasn't with them, it was with me, the putative "electronix expert, yup-yup" in the house.

Like I always say, it's a time of "agonizing reappraisal"... But not really, since we are stuck being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. At least I don't have to feel technologically all 19th Century when I deal with my grandchildren. Who at least know, intuitively, how this shit works.

Maybe they can give me some "training"...

What Is an American?

It would appear that Obama Derangement Syndrome not only applies to the president, but also his entire family.

There's an email circulating amongst the wingnuttery to the effect that "Harvard-educated" Michelle Obama, welcoming newly-sworn-in citizens at a naturalization ceremony, claimed that none of the so-called Founding Fathers, signers of the Declaration of Independence, were "born in America".

Smart people (i.e., readers of this blog) know that this is technically true, since if they were born in what later became the United States of America before July 4, 1776 (which they would have to be), they were not "born in America". They were born in various colonies of the crown, which made them British citizens.

And, yes, let's put aside the inconvenient fact that people from the other 34 countries in North and South America -- two whole continents! -- are also "Americans" and some of them are kind of resenty when we say we are "the Americans"...

But that hasn't stopped the wingnuttery from trying to make a Big Fucking Deal of it, trying to portray "Harvard-educated" Michelle as an idiot -- notice how that anti-intellectual-elite mindset only applies to Liberals? I can find absolutely no dismissive mention from the wingnuttery of the "Harvard-educated" Ted Cruz.

So what is an American? I'll let Bill Murray 'splain that, in this clip from Stripes (1981):

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Polygamy: It's God's Plan

Okay, let's talk about that whole "one man one woman" thing. Despite the history-denying hypocritical Mormons and their support of California Prop 8 with that very slogan, the entire Right Wing is up in arms over the "destruction of marriage" by Teh Gay.

Usually I consider it beneath me to comment on this (yeah, right), but I read something today, AFA Hopes To Save Marriage From The 'Forces Of Evil' on RightWing Watch, that kind of peckered up my interest, so to speak:

The American Family Association placed a full-page advertisement in today’s edition of the Washington Post, in which the group warns the Supreme Court not to “bend what God designed merely to suit the desires of man, knowing that you do so at the expense of children, perhaps even civilization itself.”
The AFA’s Fred Jackson, who was guest-hosting “Sandy Rios In The Morning,” hailed the ad’s “forceful message” to the court and claimed that gay marriage undermines what God established in the Garden of Eden about 6,000 years ago.
“So for at least 6,000 years, people have understood marriage as between a man and a woman and it is only fairly recent history and certainly in this country have the forces of evil attempted to change all of that,” Jackson said. “It is absolutely amazing — one of the saddest facts is how many denominations, church denominations in this country, have succumbed to this pressure.”
Yeah, I know, "Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve". I get that. But what I don't get is this: "for at least 6,000 years, people have understood marriage as between a man and a woman". [emphasis added]

There's obviously a typo in there, since it should read "a man and women". Even a casual reading of the so-called Word of God, the "Holy Bible", shows that polygamy was not only tolerated by God but accepted as no big deal, if not actively encouraged. See What the Bible says about Polygamy for a few of the references to multiple wives and "concubines" in The Book.

One of the main arguing points that the wingnuttery pops up with regularly is that legalizing so-called Gay Marriage (or, as we over here in the Reality-Based Community call it, "marriage") is that it will lead to any number of "icky" things -- like polygamy. For some reason polygamy is generally number one on their list, followed closely by Rick Santorum's celebrated "man-on-dog sex" and so on down the increasingly-disgusting line.

But we need to take a step back here and look at this. Despite it being given a bad rap by child-raping assholes like Warren Jeffs and others in Fundo-Mormon and other cults, is there really anything fundamentally wrong with it? I'm open to all the usual arguments -- it demeans women, it removes too many fecund pubescent girl-children from the breeding pool, etc. etc., but if three (or more, in any combination of genders) people want to set up a household together and have the legal and contractual advantages of "marriage", why shouldn't they?

Interestingly enough, ironically enough, if the agenda for so-called "religious freedom" gets through the state legislatures and through congress, the unintended-consequence backlash may be more than the Religious Right has bargained for. For example: "My particular religion demands that I must strictly follow the practices outlined in the Old Testament. I can't eat shellfish, I can't plant my field with different crops, I can't wear two kinds of cloth, but I can and do have multiple wives. You say I can't do that? Sorry, Charlie, but The Law says I can..."

As I said the other day, be careful what you ask for -- you just might get it.

The Whitest Nigerian Prince? Ted Cruz

Turns out that, for an alleged smart guy, Ted Cruz is Internet-ignorant/stupid (he's not even Master of His Domain -- see He also shares his campaign fundraiser donation page security certificate with something called "". Really.

This is probably not such a big deal. It's not like he's a real candidate anyway. He and the other putative Rethug "contenders" who showed up at the Kochsuckers Gala in Palm Springs are just astroturf meat puppets, running-dog lackeys of the über-rich capitalist pigs who want to give the rubes -- the god, guns and grits crowd of the Moron-American Voting Bloc -- the illusion of "choice" before the adults shove aside the goobers and anoint Jeb Bush (after all, he is "one of them") inheritor of the crown.

Come on, like you didn't already know that?

Anyone who gives money to Ted Cruz deserves to be 419-scammed by a Nigerian Prince.

Unless -- is it possible? -- Ted Cruz really is a Nigerian Prince, and he's been the one all along offering to share, with each and every of us who has an email account, a large chunk of his zillions of dollars, inexplicably tied up in some mysterious African bank, for only a small processing fee (aka "campaign donation")?


HT to BadTux the Snarky Penguin for the link to the Nigerian Prince story. And thank you god for giving us an unusually early start with the traditional Republican Clown Car

Must-See Cinema: Russian Ark 2002

Being a known -- and convicted -- cinephile, I'm a big fan of film technique. One of the techniques that I quite like is the "long take", wherein the camera keeps rolling through a lengthy shot, usually along with extensive camera movement. Think of the opening scene in Orson Welles' classic crime-noir Touch of Evil, where we start with a closeup of a bomb being planted in the trunk of a car, then follow that car with a crane shot as it drives a considerable distance through a Mexican border town, and finally explodes on the other side of the border.

Many films over the years have used this technique to great effect, arguably the most ambitious of which was Alfred Hitchcock's Rope from 1948, which tried to appear that it was all one long take. Because of the physical limitations of film, the longest take in the movie was about 10 minutes, before the camera ran out of film. Hitchcock "cheated" his way past this by having the camera blocked by a man's coat as it was about to run out of film, so the film looks as though it was just one long shot. It doesn't quite work, but it is interesting to watch.

Then came the advent of digital video equipment, which meant that you were not going to run out of film, and the length of an individual shot was limited only by the size of your hard drive.

Today's Must-See Cinema selection is Russian Ark, which is kind of the apotheosis of the long take: The whole movie, 96 minutes, is one long unedited shot.


An unnamed narrator wanders through the famed Winter Palace, one-time home of the czars and now the Hermitage Museum, in Leningrad St. Petersburg. As he passes through 33 rooms in the palace, he wanders into, in no particular order, set pieces of Russian history. They range from a homely view of Nicholas, the last czar, and his family enjoying a private meal, to Catherine-the-Great fancy dress balls with hundreds of participants. The whole movie had a cast of over 2,000 people, and pretty much all of them had to hit their marks and get it perfect. After all, it was one continuous shot.

I can't sing the praises of this filmmaker, Alexander Sokurov, enough. He had only three tries to get it right, since the Russian authorities gave him an extremely limited amount of time to complete filming. The sheer audacity of this attempt pays off big time in the end, a visually stunning and mesmerizing tableau of over 200 years of Russian history. Don't try to make a lot of sense of it while you are watching it. Just flow with it. You can -- and will -- think about it later, after it is over.

This is one of my favorite foreign films of all time.

You can watch it streaming from Netflix , or you can watch it streaming on YouTube. My personal preference on this is Netflix, since you get it in HD and the quality is better.

More reading:
  · Russian Ark on the IMDB.
  · Russian Ark on Rotten Tomatoes

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Does God Only Speak to Stupid People?

It sure looks that way. Each one of these people have said that God has spoken directly to them:

In a different time, they would have been locked away because they heard a "voice" that no one else could hear, a voice that directed them to do something.

I'm not a scientist, but that sounds a lot like schizophrenia to me...

Exploitation Movies: Gambling With Souls (1936)

The 1930s produced a cornucopia of grindhouse exploitation films (aka "sexploitation" movies), usually disguised as "educational" movies that were ostensible cautionary tales about one social problem or another.

This week's movie is Gambling With Souls from 1936.

Full movie:

This movie is all about the base degeneracy that inevitably comes from gambling, including a slide into prostitution and murder when a girl can't pay her gambling debts.

The story begins with a police raid on a gambling club/brothel, a bunch of scanty-girls scrabble around to try to keep from being busted, and finally we see Mae Miller with a pistol in her hand, standing over the dead body of "Lucky" Wilder, the club owner.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks at police headquarters -- we see Mae, happily married to a struggling doctor, who wants the high life, the good things. At first she's willing to wait until he "makes it", but a small gamble on a boxing match that takes place at a garden party(!) where the women in her circle play bridge (these movies don't really have to make any sense) leads her to the posh gambling club of "Lucky" Wilder, where her "friend" Molly Murdock steers her into a roulette game that is rigged. Yeah, big surprise, that. But, in the time-honored "first one is free" tradition, it is rigged in her favor. Until she gets hooked on gambling and racks up $10,000 in IOUs. (According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, that's over $168,000 in today's money.)

From there the only way she can hope to pay any of that back is by becoming one of Lucky's "working girls".  If you ask me, that's going to be a lot of "work". But she is apparently pretty skilled -- her first "date" nets her $1,000(!).

Finally, Lucky seduces and impregnates Mae's little sister Carolyn (who looks like she's about 16). She has an abortion -- which, naturally in these cautionary tales, kills her. After an over-the-top death scene at the hospital, Mae goes back to the club and shoots Lucky. Six times.

Mae's husband is one of those stick-by-your-woman guys and supports her throughout the "now" segments at the police station, complaining that the police ought to do something to shut down the evil that has enveloped the city. "I want my wife back," he says to the DA. "That's up to the judge and jury," the DA tells him. Fade to black.

The dead guy, racket boss Lucky Wilder, (his nickname is apparently meant ironically), may have been based on Charles "Lucky" Luciano, an American Mafia mob boss whose early career was featured in a major subplot in the terrific HBO series, Boardwalk Empire. Despite several brushes with death, a stretch in prison in the US and being deported to his native Italy, "Lucky" was lucky to the end, dying of natural causes (a heart attack) at the age of 64. Unlike most of his mob associates, most of whom checked out due to what was called with macabre humor "lead poisoning" -- like Lucky Wilder in this movie.

And get a load of this promotional poster:

[Note: Image from Wikipedia and is copyrighted;
it is used here under the "fair use" doctrine]

Jeez, who wouldn't want to see this movie?

The money shot: Right at the start of the movie, we see the "working girls" scampering around in their skivvies. No nudity, but the next best thing. Then there are a couple of "exotic dancers" at the club, and a hot black girl dancer at a "Negro" club in "the slums" who looks a bit like Josephine Baker in her prime.

Lessons learned: Don't bet money on anything, don't sign IOUs, stay away from all gambling, and don't trust a friend who wants to take you to a club.

Taglines: Rigorously Adults Only! Women of today sold into bondage! Actually adapted from authentic police records! See all (IMDB)

Directed by: Elmer Clifton, who also directed another exploitation film already featured in this series, Slaves in Bondage

Also known as The Vice Racket (reissue title)

More reading:
   · Gambling With Souls on the IMDB

Monday, March 23, 2015

Is This Okay? Really?

Today the Supreme Court heard the orals in a case out of Texas, wherein something called The Sons of Confederate Veterans sued the State of Texas over whether they could have a Confederate Battle Flag on it's vehicle license plates.

"Free speech!" was the rallying cry. "The state can't tell us what to put on our cars. Nyahh-nyahh-waaahh!"

A low point came after the plaintiffs' attorney was asked, What about a swastika? Does the state have the right to keep that off of the license plate?

Sadly, the lawyer said No, it did not.

So I guess this is what you will be able to get on your Texas plate in the near future, if this lawsuit suit is successful:

It's Different. Just Because...

OK, now that Amurrica's favorite Texican, Ted Cruz, has formally stepped up to the plate and accepted a few token slowpitches from the students at Still-Valiant-in-His-Fight-to-Stay-Dead Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and he is officially a candidate for Presidense of These Newnited Staytes, there's a question that ought to dog him for the rest of his candidacy.

Let's see the birth certificate.

At least he, unlike Obama, admits that he was born in a foreign country. To an American mother and a not-American father. Just like the Birthers claimed about Barack Obama, to the point of getting all mad-dog-frothy around the mouth in their Obama-Derangement-Syndrome madness.

Okay, where are the wrathful "proof" requesters this time? Where are the angry demands for the birth certificate? Where are the my-mind's-made-up-don't-confuse-me-with-facts Teabaggers on this issue? They are strangely silent.

Imaginary conversation with a representative Teabagger:

"Well, it's different this time."
"Okay, why is that?"
"It's because ... it's because ... it's just different!"
"Different how?"
"It's just different!"
"Different because Ted Cruz is a Republican? Different because Ted Cruz is more like 'one of us'? Different because Ted Cruz isn't an uppity 'Negro'? Yeah, it's 'different' this time, all right..."
"See! You agree with me!"
Fisticuffs follow...
Fortunately I don't have a lot of these imaginary conversations any more. Even though I do have Obamacare, I still can't take the medical bills from the resultant physical altercations.

Finally, Glenn Beck Says Something I Agree With! (???)

What the fuck, stop the presses! I can hardly believe it myself, but here it is:

Go to the whole story, Get Ready To RUMBLE: Glenn Beck And Karl Rove Throwdown Over The GOP, on NewsCorpse.

RUFKM? Glenn Beck and Karl Rove? Cage match? Bring it on!!!

Monday Music Break: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Here's Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole with the old Judy Garland classic as you've never heard it. This guy's voice is incredible:

"IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole was a noted Hawaiian singer/musician who died in 1997 at the early age of 38. He was a native Hawaiian (a rarity on the islands these days), and as you can see in this video, morbidly -- tragically -- obese. He was also a supporter of Hawaiian sovereignity.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Want Prayer in School?

There are only two bad outcomes in life. One is not getting what you want, the other is getting it...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

For All of My Australian Friends...

Yeah, okay, I know it's "stupid" but come on, it's funny too!

Whew! Glad That's Over

Well, it is now Saturday morning and we're still here! Escaped god's eclispical judgment, again! I'm beginning to think He's not all that serious about this shit.

Anyway, since we are still alive and in one piece, how about a little humor to enliven your weekend:

A duck goes into a pharmacy and says, "Gimme a tube of chapstick and put it on my bill."
The next day the duck goes back into the pharmacy and says, "Gimme a condom."
"Certainly," the pharmacist says. "Do you want me to put it on your bill?"
"No!" the duck says. "Whattaya think I am, some kinda pervert?"

Friday, March 20, 2015

Basic Language Skills for International Travelers

I am an international traveler. I have visited some 22 different countries, and I can verify that there are just three phrases that the average person will need to get by in a foreign environment. The rest of your communication can be achieved by the "charades" method, or by the simple point-and-nod method.

These are the essential phrases that you need to know when you go to: 

  • Germany: Ein bier bitte. Danke. Wo ist die Toilette?
  • Italy: Una birra, per favore. Grazie. Dov'è il bagno?
  • France: Une bière se il vous plaît. Merci. Où sont les toilettes?
  • Spain & Latin America: Una cerveza por favor. Gracias. ¿Dónde está el baño?
  • Kenya: Bia moja tafadhali. Asante. Ambapo ni choo?
  • Vietnam: Xin cho một ly bia. Cảm ơn bạn. Nơi là nhà vệ sinh?
  • Czech Republic: Jedno pivo, prosím. Děkuji. Kde jezáchod?
  • Union of South Africa: 'N bier asseblief. Baie dankie. Waar is die toilet?
  • Hungary: Egy sört kérek. Köszönöm. Hol van a WC?
  • Amsterdam: Een biertje neem. Dankjewel. Waar is het toilet?
  • Turkey: Bir bira lütfen. Teşekkür ederim. Tuvalet nerede?
  • Poland: Jedno piwo proszę. Dziękuję. Gdzie jest toaleta ?
  • United States, Britain, Australia, etc: One beer please. Thank you. Where is the toilet? 
This is the Rosetta Stone of Beer. As I say, this is all that is required if you need to get that beer, drink it down, and then piss it out in the bathroom. And you will. Travel is tiring, it is draining and it makes you super thirsty. Make sure you get the local beer. Chances are it will be far superior to your American favorite and it won't make you look like a Beer Imperialist demanding Budweiser.

Once you interact with the locals in their own language, you create an aura of good will surrounding you, and then you'll be able to request anything else you want just by pointing at it on the menu. You will find that most all of the native speakers do pretty much all speak a variety of English, and they will be glad to help you. Once you have shown them that modicum of respect by at least trying to speak their language.

Naturally it's a good idea to arm yourself with a Berlitz Phrasebook of the country you are going to, and then you will have very little difficulty at all.

If everyone did this, traveling abroad as an American would be a great pleasure. What are you waiting for? Grab that passport and take off! Make your getaway!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More Advice to Obama: Don't Be Seen With an Umbrella!

One of the most common "lost" items in this household is the ordinary umbrella. For the record, it is not me who loses them -- it is She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. For as long as I've known her she has had a variety of umbrellas, and almost all of them have been lost, mislaid, stolen, forgotten, left behind, disappeared, beamed up by aliens, etc.

And me? Of course I can't lose one because I don't carry one. For people of my age and older, the umbrella is the very symbol of "appeasement".

For those who were homeschooled, that's the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain being greeted by Adolph Hitler at the 1938 Munich Conference that led to Hitler invading the Sudetenland, sealed the fate of Czechoslovakia and led to charges of "appeasement" against Neville Chamberlain, who gave in to Hitler's demands for "liebensraum" and secured, in Chamberlain's own words when he arrived back in the UK, clutching that umbrella firmly in hand, "peace in our time".

We all know how that turned out.

Note the umbrella in the picture. BTW, also note the physical placement of the two world leaders. Chamberlain is two steps below Hitler in that photograph, so it appears that he is trying to supplicate to Der Führer. I don't even have to be told to be sure that it was taken by a photographer from the Third Reich. Hitler and his Nazis were nothing if not cognizant of the propaganda value of ... well, everything.

And this, in short, is why people of a certain generation and older see the umbrella as the symbol of appeasement.

And Neville Chamberlain, meanwhile, has recently become, long after his death, a ridiculous obsession of the Right Wing in this country, because of that umbrella ... appeasement! 

Even if they don't always know what appeasement means:

"Appeasement" has become become a dirty word, rightfully so, and no red-blooded Amurrican would be seen dead with its symbol, the umbrella. And that's why Obama needs to just stop it with the umbrellas already!
Sidebar: There is a school of thought which holds that Chamberlain's actions, while they did result in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, bought some valuable time for England (and England Jr., aka the United States) to build up her forces and prepare for the war that everyone knew was inevitable.
The after-the-action analysis indicated that Hitler was all bluff and if, at any time during his initial blusters -- marching into the demilitarized-after-WWI Rhineland, for example -- he had met any resistance he would have backed off.
But that's all Monday-morning quarterbacking. Without that time machine, there's really no way to know.
And, even though I live in one of the wettest corners of the country, I still won't carry an umbrella...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Must-See Cinema: Beat the Devil 1954

By now you know that I am a fan of the oddball, the quirky, the offbeat, in films. Today's must-see-cinema choice is Beat the Devil from 1954 (Wikipedia mistakes it at 1953), and it has all of that and more.


The movie stars Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley (playing the role that Sydney Greenstreet would have played had he still been acting), Peter Lorre, and Bernard Lee (who would go on to widespread recognition with his appearances as "M" in the earlier James Bond movies), and was directed by the great John Huston. It was "scripted" by Truman Capote -- if you can call it that: Each day's filming was done more or less by the seat of the pants and a lot of the actors made up their own in-character dialog as they were shooting.

The plot centers on a rag-tag group of small-time swindlers and shady ne'er-do-wells in a small Italian port who hatch some big plans to go to "British East" -- aka Kenya -- allegedly to sell vacuum cleaners(!) but instead to strike it rich some shady uranium mine deal.

Eventually they take passage on a questionable tramp steamer bound for Mombasa, but are forced to abandon ship off the coast of Africa and have to straggle ashore, where they are immediately taken into custody. The scene in the office of the local police/immigration official in North Africa is totally hilarious.

The Italian scenes were filmed along the spectacular Amalfi Coast.  Watch for the classic Hispano-Suiza car (photographs) being allowed to run over the cliff and the ensuing dialog. Priceless.

I've referenced this movie before in this blog; longtime readers will know already that this movie supplied as a recurring line my pirated phrase, "a chill on my liver". I still say it all the time, when I am feeling a bit under the weather.

You can rent Beat the Devil from Netflix or, better yet, buy it from Amazon, because I have the feeling you are going to want to watch it more than once. For copyright reasons, it is not available on YouTube.

BTW, Bogart is on record as saying he never liked the movie: "Only phonies like it." Probably because he spent a lot of his own money bankrolling it. But, unless I am a "phony" (and I am not), he is wrong -- it is a terrific movie and an outstanding example of a box-office bomb that became a cult classic.

More reading:
   · Beat the Devil on the IMDB.
   · Roger Ebert's Review