Monday, December 22, 2014

Passing "Wind"


Howard and de Havilland
I'm sorry. The title of this piece is a bit rude, isn't it. The fact of the matter is that I love Gone With the Wind and believe it to be a fine example of film making. When it fist came out on video cassette in the late 1980's, I was living in New York City, On the day it was released I rushed down the block and around the corner to the old Video Shack on Broadway and 49th to purchase a copy. Likewise when it came out on DVD a number of years later. There's no rational argument against the truth that it is a very entertaining movie. My only problem with Gone With the Wind is that, as historical fiction, it's pure bunk. But since this month is the seventy-fifth anniversary of its release, I can't help pausing for a bit of reflection.

Althoughlthough it's not the greatest film ever made, it has got to be one of the best examples of how to go about telling a good story on film. The characters within this  plot have got to be the most unappealing people one could contrive for fiction:

Thomas Mitchell
Scarlett is, from the beginning to the end, completely selfish, incapable of empathy or any real compassion; Rhett is an opportunistic rascal; Ashley is a simpering wimp. Even the little girl, Bonnie Blue Butler, is a spoiled brat. I mean, don't get me wrong, I thought it was terrible when she got thrown from that pony; but let's be honest: The kid was insufferable. The only two people in the entire film who posses any appeal (at least for my tastes) are Melanie and Mammy. 

And yet for almost four solid hours we are drawn into the drama in the lives of these horrifically flawed people. We just can't take our eyes off them! Three-quarters-of-a-century after the film's release, at a time when all but one of the principle cast members are long dead, the fact that we're still talking about Gone With the Wind is impressive in itself. 

Buster Keaton, in referring to his Civil War Comedy, The General, once remarked to an interviewer that the only way one could make a successful film dealing with that period of American history is to tell the story from the Southern point of view. What he left unsaid was the sad fact that - at least at during Hollywood's "golden" age - very few people in the South would bother to watch a film that depicted those nasty Yankees as anything less than blood-thirsty savages, This is, more-or-less, the idea put forward in Gone With the Wind. Margaret Mitchell may have been a competent writer but she was a lousy historian. The same could be said, I suppose, for Sidney Howard, who wrote the film's script.

Consider the film's opening scene. Slaves are depicted laboring away on the O'Hara family plantation. One of them decides that it's time to call it a day.

Slave: Quitin' time! Quitin' Time
Big Sam Who says it's quitin' time?
Slave: I's says it's quitin' time!
Big Sam: I's the foreman of Tara. I's says when it's quitin' time. QUITIN' TIME!!!

At the outset, the nation's worst, most unpardonable sin is treated as some sort of screwball comedy. The depiction of the old south as a paradise of "master and slave" is a screaming  flaw in an otherwise impressive production.

Hattie MacDaniel
Much controversy has been generated across the decades by Hattie McDaniel's work in the Hollywood of the thirties and forties. Personally, I always admired her image in film as the straight talking, "take-no-shit-from-these-honkies" kinda gal she usually portrayed. Ir real life, she and Clark Gable were close, devoted friends - years before Gone With the Wind. It is said that Clark never missed Hattie's annual Christmas party. They adored one another.

When Gable got word that the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce reused McDaniel an invitation to the premiere, he hit the roof. He adamantly refused to attend without his dear friend. No one could change his mind - no one, except, Hattie. She gently persuaded him that it was probably the best thing for the film's success that he attend. Only then did Clark Gable agree.

Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to receive the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She deserved it.

The last one standing
The irony of Gone with the Wind is that the best actor in the film gives the weakest performance. British-born Leslie Howard thought he was too old and too British for the part of Georgia- born Ashely Wilkes. He only agreed to do the film when producer David O. Selznick promised him he could produce "Intermezzo", co-starring Ingrid Bergman, which also went into production in 1939 and was completed by the end of that year. It is obvious throughout the film that poor old Les is less than comfortable in his role of Ashley.

Even Clark Gable did not want to do the film he is most remembered for. He was literally forced to play Rhett Butler. Under contract at the time to MGM, the head of the studio was Louis B. Mayer - Selznick's father-in-law. To the end of his life, Gable did not regard Gone With the Wind as one of his career's milestones. 

Could the people who had a hand in making this film have possibly known in 1939 that, seventy-five years later, it would it would still be as fresh on the public's mind as it was then? It's easy to imagine that - flawed history notwithstanding - they were onto something bigger than themselves. The passage of three-quarters of a century reaffirms what an outstanding technical achievement it was - and is.

One wonders if there was a curse on this film. So many of the cast would die young. 

Leslie Howard was killed in 1943 when the plane in which he was a passenger was shot down over the Bay of Biscay by the Nazis. His body was never recovered. 

Hattie McDaniel died at the age of fifty-seven in 1952, a victim of breast cancer. Her final wish was to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery. She was refused that honor because of her skin color. Some forty years later, the owners of that establishment (in a fit of guilt probably) offered to pay to have her body exhumed and re-interred there. Her descendants politely declined.

Clark Gable died suddenly in November of 1960 of a massive heart attack. He was fifty-nine.

After decades of chronic alcoholism and declining mental health, Vivien Leigh died on July 8, 1967. She was fifty-three.

As of this writing, only Olivia deHavilland survives.

As for the producer, David O. Selznick's most famous movie would end up being a mixed blessing for him. Every subsequent film in his career would be judged by critics and film-goers alike as inferior to Gone With the Wind.

So rent it, buy it, and savor it as a high mark in the history of American film making. Just don't use it as a history lesson, okay? It falls dreadfully short.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGGESTED VIEWING:

The Making of Gone With the Wind

This two-hour documentary from 1989 on the film's making was narrated by Christopher Plummer. It is as riveting as Gone With the Wind itself, and only half as long. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

HELLOOOOO CUBA!

                                                                                

"We are recognizing the struggle and sacrifice of the Cuban people, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, and ending an outdated approach that has failed to advance U.S. interests for decades. In doing so, we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

President Barack Obama

FLASHBACK! Here's what I wrote on December 3:

"We all need to sit down and take a deep breath, folks. When John F. Kennedy signed the Cuban embargo into law on February 3, 1962, Our current president was one day shy of six months old. Think about that for a minute. After nearly fifty-three years it's safe to conclude that the embargo has done neither the United States nor Cuba a damned bit of good. In the long history of despotic tyrants, Fidel Castro is pretty low-rent if you ask me. Saddam Hussein he ain't

Please bear in mind that we had diplomatic relations with the Butcher of Baghdad for decades. To the best of my knowledge neither one of the Castro brothers ever hit an entire village of innocent people with poison gas. And when it comes to human rights, Cuba is a whole lot freer than Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan  (two long-time - and current - allies of ours). You don't believe that? Where would you rather your sister live? Argument over."

Two weeks later - to the day and out of the blue - the embargo placed into law by Jack Kennedy was ended by Barack Obama. The president is reading my blog; I just know it!....Okay, maybe not. 

When I imply that the embargo has "ended" I'm exaggerating a bit (Just a wee bit, mind you!). There are still many restrictions in place and it will probably be a bit of time before they're ironed out. This is merely a first step that should have been taken decades ago. Hats off to this president. The man is finally showing some serious moxie - and I like it! High time, too.

And now the clown car show begins. It's going to be oodles of fun watching the jackasses on the extreme right trying to mine this historic moment for political gold. Instead, all they'll come up with are rancid bricks. The interesting thing is that while they will scream bloody murder about it, and while you can count on them making this one of the main issues of the 2016 campaign, not one of them will make a serious effort to put the embargo back into place - even if the GOP takes back the White House in 2017 (which isn't going to happen by the way) normalized relations with Cuba are here to stay. Why? Because that's what the plutocracy wants. There's a shit load of cash to be made off of that island, and they have every intention of making it. To quote the legendary Zero Mostel from Mel Brooks' classic 1968 film, The Producers:

"AAAAAHHHHHH!! I WANT THAT MONEY!!!!"

Watch as the most highly connected Republican contributors start to make some serious financial investments in the nation of Cuba. Normalized relations with that country are the new reality, you'd better believe it.

So sit back and watch in glee as the right wing scream machine goes into perfect freakout mode. "Here is the proof", they'll whine, "that Barack HUSSEIN Obama ain't nothin' but a goddamn comm'nist!" 

"But", a rational person will argue, "Richard Nixon normalized relations with China in 1972 and that event is now viewed by most historians as one of the high marks of his presidency."

"YEAH?", they'll counter, "Well there's a BIG DIFFERENCE Between Richard M. Nixon and Barack Obama!!!"

"Indeed."

MEMO TO THE ANTI-CASTRO CROWD IN MIAMI:

You'll live. I'm not crazy about Fidel or his brother Raul either. But don't make such a deplorable stink as you did in 2000 when the Clinton administration did the correct thing by sending little Elian Gonzalez back to his father in Cuba - where he rightfully belonged. Your collective hissy fit in the wake of that affair cost Al Gore the state of Florida and, hence, the election. The result was eight years of George W. Bush. Do you remember how nicely that worked out for you? Simmer down.

Curiously, the always-unpredictable Rand Paul thinks that the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States is "probably a good idea". There's just about no political office in this country I would recommend Rand for, but you've got to admire his tendency to go against the flow of talking points put forward by the halfwits who control his party. Republican politicians with IQ's above room temperature are such a rarity nowadays. This guy should be treasured as an endangered species. Seriously.

As of this moment, only Americans with a constructive purpose can visit Cuba, but expect that to change within a year or so. A vacation in a communist country? For someone whose sense of humor is as warped as mine, the idea is positively irresistible.  

I can't wait to go!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED LISTENING

I'm on My Way to Cuba

Cuban Pete

Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo kickin' out the jams at the Club Babablu.

A meditation from 12/17/14:

at my side
barely out of reach
a snow angel is glistening
on this gentle december morn

We love you, Miss Meghan, and we miss you 

**********************

SUGGESTED READING:

 http://writerquake.blogspot.com/2013/12/friday-flash-55-little-bird.html

little bird
by Melladee Lydia Makelacy 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Love Loosies: The Eric Garner Story


Practicing the Golden Rule on Staten Island

I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!

The infamous last words of Eric Garner 

One night many years ago, in the autumn of 1975, I was a passenger in a '68 Chevrolet Impala that was being driven by a friend of mine named Al Maldonado (What ever became of you, Al?) Although not an African American, his dark skin and pronounced, seventies-style Afro made it quite possible for him to be mistaken for a black guy, particularly at night. Out of nowhere there were flashing red lights in the rear-view mirror and we were pulled over. Poor old Al went into a severe panic. 

"It's just a routine stop", I assured him, "It's nothing to freak out about, Al!"  

As it turns out, he had every reason to panic. He was not only handcuffed, he was bombarded with verbal abuse sprinkled with obscenities just for good measure. One of the cops kept referring to him as "Joe Shit". Being an upper middle class white kid I was fairly naive about the wicked ways of the real world almost forty years ago. I learned a dandy little lesson that night. 

By the way, Al's only "crime" was that he did not have any identification on him at the time. Isn't that lovely?

I was a bit hesitant to comment on the Michael Brown/Ferguson case. There were too many shades of grey to make me comfortable doing so. My major problem with the officer in question was why the hell he thought it essential to empty his gun into the kid. One shot, two at the most, would have sent him a very stern message. He should have been charged with manslaughter - at the very least. But since no video of the altercation exists - that we yet know of - I'm unable to get very worked up about it. That's not the case with respect to the death of the Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York.  His killing was captured on a cellphone video, and there should be not a shred of doubt in the mind of anyone who has seen it:

Eric Garner was murdered in cold blood. We are all eye-witnesses to that murder.   

Mr. Garner, 43, was cornered by police on July 17, 2014 not far from his home. According to them, he was suspected of having sold "loosies" on the street - although on the video he is not seen committing this capital offense. 

The Family Garner
And just what is a "loosie" you may well ask? Since the price of cigarettes have gone through the roof in recent years due to heavy taxation (a tax I support by the way) Some entrepreneurs have found a way to make a small profit by selling ciggies on the street, one at a time, usually for a buck a piece. For a person with a severe nicotine habit who can't afford a ten-dollar pack, it's a convenient way to grab a quick smoke. It's also quite inexpensive - assuming that the person purchasing them limits him or herself to four or five per day. I would imagine it's also a convenient way to ween oneself off of the habit if one is attempting to quit. No harm done, right? Think again.

A homicidal twit named Officer Daniel Pantaleo decided that justice called for Eric Garner to die.

"It is clear that the officer's intention is to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed and that he used the takedown technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused." 

Patrick Lynch, President of the PBA
As reported in the NY Daily News, 12/4/14

Dead men sell no "loosies"
Bullshit. the entire incident is captured in dying color on video and the crime committed by this nitwit is undeniable. When it is clear that Garner has been subdued, lying helpless on the sidewalk, Pantaleo stays on top of him, his elbow wrapped lethally around his neck. He stays in this position in spite of Eric's begging for air. It's as sociopathic as anything I think I've ever seen. That's what makes this guy's flight from justice all-the-more outrageous and disturbing. And please bear in mind that this tragedy occurred in a suburb of New York City - not in some shit-for-brains state like Missouri.

By the way: would someone please explain to me just what the hell the "takedown technique" is anyway?

We haven't heard the end of this. I'm sure that his survivors are going to bring this to civil court - as damned well they should. I would suggest that they sue the NYPD for as many millions as they can possibly squeeze out of them. By every account, Eric Garner was a much loved and respected family man with no criminal record that is discernible. There was no reason he had to die - not a single one.

This ain't merely about race, kids; there's a lot more to it than that. This is about decency and our common humanity. Eleven times Eric Garner begged to be allowed to breathe. Eleven times he was ignored by Daniel Pantaleo.

And how was your week?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED LISTENING/VIEWING:

Everybody Hurts
by The Corrs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x95w7GuaOiY

This is a song by an Irish band that I had never heard of before. Its meaning has an added significance to a few loved ones during this Christmas season. It is quite a thought provoking song and very beautiful.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

POST #566: Random Observations

With Kevin Swanwick and Jeanne Farley Warren, Summer '14
`
Summer 2014
`
For your reading pleasure: A hodgepodge of unrelated ramblings to amuse and disgust you. I have an awful lot of time on my hands as you no-doubt have figured out by now.

1. That Jolly Time of Year

I was just kidding. In fact, I've had it up-to-here with the entire Christmas racket. Isn't it strange and ironic how our very economic survival depends upon us supplying the entire planet with weapons of mass destruction and making a mockery of the birthday of the Prince of Peace every December? I have consigned myself to permanent Scroogedom. That's okay. My life experiences have made me what I am. I suppose I was a curmudgeon waiting to happen. It's been a long time since I've been able to get into the "Christmas Spirit". Barring a miracle, this year won't be any different. Bah, freakin' humbug.

One thing is certain, though: this Christmas - or any other Christmas I may live to see - won't be one/tenth as sad and mournful as last year. That's the only silver lining I'm able to conjure up at the moment. 

Happy Christmas, everybody.

2. Oh, and Speaking of Scrooge....

The Plutocracy's Bitch
The halfwits who now comprise "the party of Abraham Lincoln" have only become more vehement recently in their opposition to the food stamps program. Someone went so far as to proclaim that the whole idea was positively un-American. Their favorite talking point these days is that it kills the initiative of the "underclasses" to get back to work. The problem with the poor, or so their argument goes, is that they're seriously lacking in moral fiber. 

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

The other night on MSNBC's Now with Alex Wagner, there was a gut-wrenching story about a county in Kentucky with a median income level of under $23,000 per person per year. Nearly one/half of the population depends on food stamps to keep a roof over their heads and their children fed. Sadly, because the right wing's priorities are more sympathetic to the needs of a class of people who have more money than they know what to do with, the poverty-stricken all across the land are seeing what little benefits they receive slashed away by these heartless bastards and bitches. Most of the politicians doing the slashing are self-identified "Christians". Isn't that something?

My very-real sympathy for the people of Kentucky (a state from which my ancestors came) is tempered by the fact that most of them were probably foolish enough to vote for Mitch McConnell. I'm sorry to sound so cruel but the ones who did so deserve everything that is happening to them.

3. Stupidest Quote of the Week:

"The words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours."

Rick Santorum 

My suggestion would be that we savor Mr. Rick while he's here. The silly jackass won't be around forever to amuse us. Appreciate him while you can. He's priceless. Absolutely priceless.

4. Bush v Castro

George W. Bush's slightly brighter younger brother has been stomping about the country making interesting statements regarding foreign policy. If you doubt he's going to make a run for it in 2016 you ought to take a second look. In order to establish his image as a tough guy on international relations, Jeb this week reaffirmed his anti-Cuba credentials. Under his administration there will be no recognition of that country.

We all need to sit down and take a deep breath, folks. When John F. Kennedy signed the Cuban embargo into law on February 3, 1962, Our current president was one day shy of six months old. Think about that for a minute. After nearly fifty-three years it's safe to conclude that the embargo has done neither the United States nor Cuba a damned bit of good. In the long history of despotic tyrants, Fidel Castro is pretty low-rent if you ask me. Saddam Hussein he ain't

Please bear in mind that we had diplomatic relations with the Butcher of Baghdad for decades. To the best of my knowledge neither one of the Castro brothers ever hit an entire village of innocent people with poison gas. And when it comes to human rights, Cuba is a whole lot freer than Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan  (two long-time - and current - allies of ours). You don't believe that? Where would you rather your sister live? Argument over. 
As for Brother Jeb: Is this country going to be stupid enough to send another member of that disgusting family to the White House? Jeez, I hope so. I would never have writer's block again.

5. I Got Them Michael Brown Blues 


Tourism Note: Avoid Ferguson, Missouri. The police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown says he has no trouble sleeping at night and that his conscience is clear. I thought this was an incredible thing to say. If I had killed a fifteen-year-old kid, regardless of the circumstances, it would bother me just a wee bit; but I guess that's just another example of my warped constitution. If Michael's body had been found in an ally - six bullets pumped into him - the investigating officers would have deemed it as a classic case of "overkill".  Surely one shot (or two at the most) would have sent the kid a healthy message. Why was it necessary to shoot him six times?  Isn't it a scream to watch all of those highly paid, white commentators on Fox Noise condemning the rioters in Ferguson?

At best Officer Wilson should have been charged with manslaughter. Instead he's flying free as a birdie. Can you blame me if I'm not in the holiday spirit? Seriously

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

With the lovely Miss Farley, 1974
`
AFTERTHOUGHT:

The photograph at the top of this diatribe was taken last summer with two of my oldest friends on this troubled earth. Forty years ago last month, on November 3, 1974, Kevin Swanwick, Jeannie Farley and I attended our first rock concert together at Radio City Music Hall. It was a David Bowie show.

We were the young Americans.

`
SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Bing Crosby: Rediscovered

Last evening PBS's American Masters series aired this well-researched, two-hour documentary about the life and career of the most influential (and successful) singer of the twentieth century. Bing Crosby changed everything. And yet today, thirty-seven years after his passing, my generation, now in our mid-fifties, remembers him merely as the nice old man who came into our living rooms every December to serenade our families with White Christmas. Der Bingle was so much more than that. Artie Shaw once described him as "the first hip white guy in history". Agreed; but that doesn't even come close to explaining the magic that was Bing. Here's a link to order it off of amazon.com:

Bing Crosby: Rediscovered

He is a historical figure and deserves to be recognized as such. He was also one of the best comic actors who ever lived. Did I mention that? Bing Crosby is in danger of being forgotten. That shouldn't be the case.

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

My Baby Said Yes
by Bing Crosby with Louis Jordan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ4QCm6NeNs 

Bing back in the summer of 1944 when he was the first King of All Media! Music like this makes me truly happy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bill Cosby: Finished


His new television special - which few of us, if any, will ever see - was to have been called "Far From Finished". Anyone paying attention for the last few days would beg to differ. Bill Cosby's remarkable, fifty-plus year career came to a spectacular, irrevocable halt this week. It's all over. The first paragraph of his obituary will not take note of the "beloved funnyman" who had ranked, in my estimation, right up there with Mark Twain, Robert Benchley and Will Rogers as one of the great humorists of the twentieth century. 

Instead we will be told the sordid tale of "history's most successful serial rapist" as he was referred to a couple of days ago by one of his alleged victims. I cannot recall in my lifetime a career crashing as completely and unexpectedly as this. As a longtime fan and admirer, this is indeed a sad and disturbing thing to behold.

Not all of the women who have come forward thus far with accusations of sexual assault should be taken seriously. One of them, who claims that her confrontation with Cosby took place in the year 1969, says she would jokingly call him, "Mr Jell-O". Cosby would not become the pitchman for that brand until 1974. As of this moment I seem to be the only one to have noticed this little discrepancy. What does that tell you about our media?

But where there's smoke....

Most of his accusers have the bitter ring of credibility. One woman, who appeared with Cosby in a series of educational videos, was a mere fifteen-years-old when she says she was drugged and raped by "America's dad". A few of the women seem to have nothing to gain by coming forward with their stories - and they're coming forward in droves. As of this morning, the number is at sixteen and counting. It's a safe bet that we'll hit seventeen by day's end. Fortunately for Bill, all of the accusations are beyond the statutes of limitations. That could change.

Bill Cosby may very well end up as the Joe Paterno of comedy. A brilliant, scandal free career and reputation that has endured for over half a century is in the process of immolation.

One of the first books I ever purchased to read - with my own money, for my own enjoyment - was called "Cool Cos". It was a biography of Bill written especially for kids. I sent away for it to a school book club.  I was around ten at the time. 

In a lifetime that has been devoted to comedy in general and comedians in particular, Bill Cosby was my first comedic hero. When I was a kid I thought that he was the smartest, coolest, funniest human being who ever walked this earth. As I write these words his second LP, "I Started out as a Child", is lying atop a small stack of records directly behind my right shoulder.

Like Chaplin, Bill appealed to both adults and children. When I was a very small child I couldn't understand the humor of Bob Newhart. I understood and appreciated Bill Cosby perfectly well. Anyone who grew up in the sixties and seventies has their own, personal Cosby memories:

In June of 1968 my father came up with the brilliant idea that it would be a wonderful thing to send my brother, Pete, and I to a summer camp in Lenox, Massachusetts, on the campus of Cranwell School. The place was inhabited by hundreds of spoiled-rotten, rich Catholic kids, and run by humorless Jesuit priests. Sound like fun? My only cherished memory of that utterly wasted summer was that every Monday night before we went to sleep, a seminarian named Jim Leroux would gather us in his room and play a Bill Cosby record. I can still hear the guy's voice forty-six years later:

"ATTENTION CAMPERS, EACH OF YOU WILL BE READY FOR BED IN EXACTLY TEN MINUTES OR THERE WILL BE NO - I REPEAT - NO BILL COSBY!!!"

That threat was enough to get us moving, believe me. Bill Cosby was, for me, one of the very few bright spots in a perfectly miserable childhood. That is what makes this spectacle all-the-more heartbreaking for me to have to witness.

The only time in my life I ever saw a comedian in concert was in the mid-eighties when I took a date to see Bill Cosby at Radio City Music Hall. I could not resist the opportunity to see my childhood hero in the flesh. One of my nagging regrets is that I'm too young to have ever seen Lenny Bruce in person, but at least I could say that I saw Bill. 

All of the sudden that's not too big a deal any longer, you know? A few nights ago I was driving home with the radio on when it was announced on CBS News that the TV Land network would no longer be airing reruns of the classic Cosby Show. In an era of hideously mediocre comedy, that particular program was one of television's depressingly few high marks. I won't even bother trying to explain to you how sad it made me to hear this. 

I loved Bill Cosby.

His meteoric career is over. We shall not hear from him again except as a figure of shame, ridicule or dark satire. There will be no second act in this American life. As tragic as Lenny's end was, death and posterity would ultimately vindicate him. There will be no such vindication for Bill Cosby. The show is over; the curtain has closed. 2014 has been a horribly unfunny year for comedy, have you noticed that?

Don't be heartbroken when your heroes let you down. They always will, you know. They always will. They're just too damned human.


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Here's a YouTube link to watch a twenty-five-year-old Bill Cosby way back in 1963, at the very beginning of his career as a standup comedian, performing his classic skit, Noah:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPTml2fa1mM

We'll never look at him the same way again.

UPDATE, 11/27/14, 10:10 AM:

The number of Bill Cosby's accusers has risen to nineteen. What a pathetic end to a brilliant career. Ashes. This is too sad for words.

I hope you're all having a grand Thanksgiving.

finis.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Worst President Ever???


"You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control."

Dr. Ben Carson
Trained GOP House Negro

Here's a novel approach for your reading pleasure and amusement. I'm going to do something I don't do too often - or at least, not as much as I used to. I'm going to come to the defense of the president of the United States. For a hopeless lefty such as I, Barack Obama has been a huge disappointment. But I refuse today to dwell on the negatives. Today I want to take a good look at the positives and reiterate as best I can why I have never for a minute regretted casting my ballot for him.

It's a funny thing. When Obama was elected six years ago this month, I was completely beside myself with joy: The first African American elected to the presidency? This was indeed a corner turned! But as the weeks leading up to the inauguration came and went, my excitement slowly began to dissipate. By January 20, 2009, it was gone. That's when it hit me!

What's Obama gonna be doing for the next eight years?" I asked aloud, "The same thing black people have been doing in this country for the last four centuries: Cleaning up the mess left behind by lazy and ignorant white people - WHAT'S THE BIG FREAKIN' DEAL???"

I am certain, in spite of the obstacles and obstruction that have been placed in his path by the disloyal opposition in the House and Senate, that Barack Obama will be remembered as a decent chief executive. Most of the failures of his two terms will be saddled on the legacies of the men and women who vindictively sought to trip him for no other reason than petty, partisan politics. 

To the habitual Obama haters out there I would only ask that you all take a deep breath and try to look at things as objectively as is possible. Is your memory so pathetically short that you are unable to recall things as they were when he first took the oath of office? At that moment in time the United States economy was losing three-quarters of a million jobs per month! That's a lot of jobs, baby - any way you look at it. The prez was able to put a stop to that trend and reverse it. By the looks of things, December will be the fifty-fifth month of consecutive job growth. And while it's true that many of those jobs pay relatively low wages, that's not entirely his fault. He's been desperately trying to get the minimum wage raised to a level that would make those wages a tad more palatable to working men and women - but the Republicans in congress (and too many Blue Dog Democrats to count) refuse to give them a cent more. 

Obama's stimulus plan worked. The only fault in it was the fact that, as Paul Krugman noted at the time, it wasn't nearly as large as it should have been. As I've been suggesting since the beginning of this administration, the president ought to make Mr. Paul his chief economic adviser.

The worst president in American history?

Franklin Pierce
Say geniuses, do the names Tyler or Fillmore or Pierce or Buchanan or Andrew Johnson or Grant or Benjamin Harrison or Taft or Harding or Hoover ring a bell perchance? And while we're on the subject, how 'bout George W. Bush? Remember how sweetly that worked out? Or is it possible that you've elected to erase his eight year reign of error and corruption from your memory? The kindest thing historians will say about Bush's legacy will be that he'll be tied with James Buchanan at the very bottom rung of the ladder.

Obama is the worst president ever? It's not even close. The lack of even a remedial knowledge of the history of this country exhibited by so many Americans never ceases to amuse and delight.  

FUN FACT: Dubya is distantly related to Franklin Pierce on his mother's side. You see? Incompetence runs in that family! Ain't that a scream? 

Here's something else to meditate on: There are ten million people today with health insurance who could not afford it a year ago. Who do you think is responsible for that - John McCain? Mitt Romney? For every month that Affordable Care is the law of the land, it will make it that much more politically tenuous for the GOP to repeal it. That is the reason they're trying to make it impossible for the traditional progressive constituency to vote. It's days like this that I wish I were a writer of fiction. 

One wonders what the national situation would be at this moment had the president had a loyal opposition during the last six years who were capable of compromise. Wishful thinking I know. Their only goal - long or short term - was to sabotage the president at every turn. Remember what Mitch McConnell said way the hell back in 2009? He said that the top priority of the Republicans in in congress for the next four years would be to see to it that Obama be a one-term president. The welfare of the American people? That didn't even register as half-a-blip on their radar screen. And to think it was those same people who put McConnell's party back in power. They deserve everything that going to happen to them. 

And think how things might have worked out for the better if the Democrats had embraced their progressive political heritage instead of hiding from it like frightened little mice. I'm ashamed and embarrassed that I uded to be registered with that worthless party...."Used to be"....I came to my senses eighteen years ago.

Yeah, for true progressives Obama has been a drag, and many of us aren't necessarily jumping for joy over the fact that, at this writing anyway, Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democratic nominee in 2016. That in itself is enough to want to make me want to pack it all in and start a blog about classic film comedy. The news is bleak all along the American landscape. Obama has made some dandy missteps but at least his heart has been in the right place....I think. I'm not too sure about Hillary

A year ago I was under the illusion that the left in this doomed country was awakening from a long slumber. Lord knows what I was thinking. They (we) appear to have gone back to Dreamland. Fine. Dream away.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 
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SUGGESTED VIEWING: 
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Gail Russell
A little bit off topic I'll admit. This video is haunting. It's a tribute to the actress, Gail Russell. The song is called "Stella by Starlight". It was written for her for a film she made in 1944 called "The Uninvited". Her character was named Stella. I always thought that she was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen. Tragically, she passed away in August of 1961, age 36, of acute alcoholism.




That's Stella by starlight, and not a dream....

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Run, Jebbie, Run!


"One does not envy the people in charge of developing the exhibits for the [George W. Bush Presidential] Library. Whoever the poor bastards are I hope they're paid quite handsomely for their efforts. It takes real talent to turn a mountain of chickenshit into a tasty plate of chicken salad."

From The Rant 
30 April 2013 

It was kind of a disconcerting thing to bare witness to on an otherwise peaceful Sunday morn. The occasion was the sixtieth anniversary broadcast of CBS's Face the Nation, a program which was that network's blatant rip off of NBC's Meet the Press when it premiered in the Autumn of 1954 - a fact that no one even remembers anymore. The moderator, the affable Bob Shieffer, decided to play host to two presidents in separate interviews - the current and the former. The interview with Obama was nothing really earth-shattering; truth be told, in light of what happened next I've practically put it out of my mind. It was the appearance of George W. Bush that captured my attention.

What is it about Dubya? What world is he living in? The man needs to get off the meds he's obviously on and get on something that's going to help him break free of the delusional little world which he is currently inhabiting. He told Bob that as far as Iraq is concerned (you know, the stupidest military blunder in history?) there are no regrets. Isn't that wonderful? A posting on Facebook on October 29 showed a photograph of the hideous twit aboard a plane embracing a serviceman. Here's the photo and caption. The idiocy is spell binding:


  My response was instantaneous and without a shred of mercy:

"Yeah, Dubya 'cared about' the troops alright. The half-witted little bastard 'cared about' them so much that he sent them off to fight an illegal, un-winnable war in which over five thousand of them sacrificed their lives. Now he lives in cushy retirement while the vets that he 'cared about' so much are committing suicide at record numbers. Yeah, George W. Bush 'cared about' our troops.  Ain't that a fucking hoot?"

Honestly, you'd be hard-pressed to concoct this stuff in fiction. But as far as the Schieffer broadcast was concerned, the best was yet to come. When asked if his slightly smarter younger brother, Jeb, was going to run in 2016, Bush neither confirmed nor denied. What I thought was interesting was the way he put forward the idea of what a grand president Jeb would be ("He's not afraid to fail"). It's almost as if he was letting the clueless American people get used to the idea. He then said that if Jeb decided to run he would do anything asked of him. If I were Jeb Bush I would call George on the telephone right this minute and order the little thug to leave the country for the next two years. Seriously.

I'd like to be able to tell you that the chances of a another member of that disgusting family occupying the Executive Mansion - for the third time in a generation - are less than zero; honestly I would - but I can't. Since the GOP will have control of both houses of Congress for the next two years you can count on them passing even more restrictive voter suppression laws between now and Election Day 2016. And you can take to the bank the certainty that the right-wing-dominated Supreme Court will declare those blatantly unconstitutional laws perfectly constitutional. Isn't that lovely?

The prospect of two Clintons occupying the White House is weird enough on its own - but three Bushes??? I would need a daily dose of LSD just to get through it.

Every day in every way the situation keeps getting stranger and stranger. The utter ideological implosion of the United States of America is indeed a sad thing to witness. It's going to happen weather we like it or not so we might as well make the best of it. That's the direction we've decided to take and there's no denying the obvious. The good news is that there will be oceans of unintentional comedy to keep us amused throughout the descent into oblivion. At least we have that to look forward to, ay?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED READING:

Coolidge
by Amity Shlaes 

This book is obviously written with a bit of a conservative  bias. The author's attempt to portray Silent Cal as a great president doesn't even come close to passing the giggle test in my opinion. Still, Calvin Coolidge was not quite as bad as some of us on the left have made him out to be. In fact he was an interesting guy to read about. My favorite Coolidge story involves a woman sitting next to him at a luncheon. She says to the notoriously reticent president, "Sir, I made a bet with someone that I could get you to say at least three words during our meal. "You lose", he replied without missing a beat. The guy was a laugh riot - in his own quiet way. Thanks to my doctor-in-law, Jack Dermigny, for lending me this one. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Morning After


"With or without control of the Senate, the GOP power surge burdens Mitch McConnell, John Borhner, GOP White House hopefuls and the Tea Partiers with the duty to chart the nation's course for the next two years. Heaven help us all."

New York Daily News editorial, 11/5/04 

On Sunday evening the American people set their clocks back one hour. Last night they set them back two centuries. Ain't politics oodles of fun?

Rick Scott - reelected
I was tempted to call this piece "Stupid Fucking Americans", then thought better of the idea. The sad truth of the matter is that I know quite a few people - a heck of a lot smarter than I - who voted the straight GOP line yesterday. While it would be grossly inaccurate for me to imply that all Republicans are idiots, it is beyond dispute that most idiots are Republicans. You don't believe that? I'll tell you what: The next time someone in your general proximity says something rib-ticklingly stupid, ask him or her what political party they're registered with. Get back to me. 

No, in many cases it has a lot less to do with stupidity and a whole lot to do with a deplorable lack of information. If the electorate had so-much-as a remedial knowledge of American history, they wouldn't be casting their lots with that disgusting party. Consider these unconscionable facts: There were more Republicans elected yesterday than any Election Day since 1946. Come January, there will be more Republican representatives in Washington than at any time since 1928! Is that a kicker or what?

Early in the evening when the trending was pitifully obvious, I had a couple of very strong drinks and went to bed. What would be the use of waiting up to view the political carnage? When I woke up at 2:30 and got the official word from broadcast news, I went outside for a smoke. Noticing the little flag that I fly to the left of my doorway, I quietly and unceremoniously took it down. Even at that late hour, in the dark of night, I was embarrassed having it there. I'm not kidding.

There were pockets of good news here and there. My representative, Sean Maloney, barely squeaked by in a close race against former congresswoman and Tea Party robot, Nan Hayworth. For the last month my mailbox has been bombarded with flyers from Nan's positively juvenile campaign. Her taunts of "Maloney Baloney" were, to put it as mildly as possible, amusing. As of this hour poor old Nan has yet to concede. She wants to wait until all of the absentee ballots are counted. Fine, let her wait. But other than that and a handful of other little oases in the national desert, most of the news this morning was devastatingly bad. One Republican congressman - under felony indictment - was able to keep his seat. What does that tell you?

Hideous Mitch
Most depressing of all was in my ancestral homeland, Kentucky. I've written before how proud-as-a-freaking-peacock I was to be connected with the place. Those days are over. A people moronic enough to send a corrupt, hideous gasbag like Mitch McConnell back to Washington as their representative deserve everything that happens to them. For thirty years Mitch has been nothing more than a handmaiden to corporate wealth and plutocratic greed. You would think - you would hope and pray - that his utterly clueless constituency would have caught on by now, wouldn't you? They haven't. It really is kinda funny when you think about it - a dark comedy.

I'm not going to lose any sleep over what transpired yesterday. In fact, I have been handed - on a silver platter - at least two years worth of dynamite material - possibly as many as six years! I'll be fine. As I've mentioned too many times to count, for people who blog about politics and politicians, these extremist freaks are the gift that won't stop giving. There is most definitely a silver lining behind this horrifically dark cloud. To tell you the awful truth, I can't believe my luck.

Hunter
"There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment."

-Hunter Thompson

It sure is sad. Any possibility of Barack Obama having a successful administration went into the toilet evening last. My prediction of a Democratic victory in two years being inevitable is now (as Nixon's press secretary would have said) "inoperative". Between January and the election of 2016 you can count on them passing more-and-more restrictive voter suppression laws that will seal their power for decades. Kiss this country goodbye....and get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Mah! Mah! The ol' plantation sho' has changed!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT:

A major milestone has occurred in my family: Mary Rose Cullen, the sister of my late uncle Tom, passed away yesterday at the family homestead in Chester, NY. She was the last surviving member of that extraordinary family.

The Cullen house, Route 94, Chester, NY, 11/5/14