Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Revisit--Double Feature

I watched Double Indemnity a few years ago (I'd seen it at other times too, but my interest in films has grown a good deal in the last decade), and followed it up with James M. Cain's other masterpiece, The Postman Always Rings Twice. I think the cold, hard-boiled style of Indemnity had captured my sensibility at the time, and I found Postman to be nearly unwatchable--and in fact I didn't sit through it. This just goes to show you. TCM ran it the other night and I caught the whole thing, and it certainly caught me as well. Which is to say, Lana caught me just as she caught John Garfield.

Between Indemnity and Postman I've seen a lot of Fassbinder. To watch Fassbinder is to develop an appreciation for the melodramatic mode. Indemnity is essentially a cold movie. We watch it from the outside, so to speak: it is an experiment conducted, unsuccessfully as it turns out, by the MacMurray protagonist. What he's doing, fundamentally, is attempting to defeat his father-figure and boss, E.G. Robinson, after studying underwriting under Robinson for twenty years. MacMurray thinks he can pull of the perfect murder, because he's studied many failed attempts with Robinson. In a way, Stanwyck is MacMurray's victim in this contest, although she certainly is complicit in the murder.

Postman is quite another thing. Postman is emotionally ablaze, and its center is Lana Turner, who is mesmerizingly beautiful and whose emotions swerve and veer back and forth from anger to love to lust to envy to fear with the immediacy of a March day. Garfield, who has no anchor at all--he's the quintessential "drifter" archetype, as captured as Marlon Brando's guitar player in the Fugitive Kind. He is spell-bound by Lana Turner. He is always a step behind her latest emotion. The movie is at every turn driven by her emotions, which are unpredictable (except by Hume Cronyn's lawyer, who gets her far better than Garfield and just for a moment harnesses her inner maelstrom for a rational end). MacMurray is never captured by Stanwyck; he is captured by his quest to create a perfect murder.

Indemnity concludes with Stanwyck and MacMurray killing each other, their crime having destroyed their relationship such as it is. It ends with MacMurray confessing to his father figure, Robinson--the character he was contesting with all along. Postman ends with Garfield inadvertently killing Turner just as they are reconciling yet again, with the hope of somehow escaping their crime intact and creating the dream life they, and particularly she, was aiming for. Garfield is then sent to the executioner by the DA who suspected the crime from the start, but was never able to prove his suspicions. But he will die for a crime he didn't commit--killing Turner. It hardly matters to Garfield, since he has nothing left once Turner's light has been snuffed out.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Clmiate Change; or The Ruskies are a-Commin'

Let's start with a paste from the wonderful blog "I Blame the Patriarchy":

A propos of the globalization of hateriffic American family values, here’s an entertaining game we like to call “Spot The Russian Law.” Of the 3 following actual statutes, one is Russian and the others are Texan and Arizonian. If you can tell which is which I’ll eat a Cool Whip taco.

Law 1

No district shall include in its course of study instruction which:
1. Promotes a homosexual life-style.
2. Portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style.
3. Suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.

Law 2

Prohibits distribution of information that is aimed at:
1. The formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes
2. Attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations
3. Misconceptions of the social equivalence between traditional and non-traditional sexual relations
4. Enforcing information about non-traditional sexual relations that evokes interest in such relations

Law 3

The materials in the education programs intended for persons younger than 18 years of age must:
1. Emphasize sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage as the expected standard in terms of public health and the most effective ways to prevent HIV infection, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies
2. State that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code

Answer key:
Number 1 — Arizona. Number 2 — Russia. Number 3 —Texas. Note that in its item #2, the Texas statute references the illegal but still unrepealed law characterizing “homosexual conduct” as a criminal offense. The eyes of Texas are upon you.

Ok, now you also may have noticed that in Congress the GOP is pushing bills to ramp up the exportation of liquified natural gas as well as conventional petroleum, in order to somehow "wean" Europe off of its dependence on Russian energy. And you may also have noticed that in the chronicling of continuing global climate change we have passed new milestones, in particular CO2 is now at 400 ppm in the atmosphere, pretty much constantly. There is also continuing pressure from Congress to ok the Keystone Pipeline. And in many states (including North Carolina), legislatures are pushing to remove all barriers to the fracking process, no matter the consequences known and unknown.

But did you know that fracking releases huge quantities of methane, which is many times more potent as a green house gas than CO2? And did you know that the natural gas industry has been selling itself as a "bridge to a greener future" since the early 1980s. And have you noticed that the natural gas industry is a major sponsor of MSNBC.

I'm hoping to illustrate a larger point here. Do you see what it is? The lies are a flood, too numerous to even manage to counter, one by one. There aren't enough fingers to plug the dike.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Working People's Amnesia

Apropos the to my mind odd outcome of the union vote the other week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the Volkswagen plant, you might read this post:

Note that after winning to some extent, the workers at the Toledo factory did not pursue their victory. This must be something fairly basic in human psychology, as it recurs in various iterations. A breath-taking example is the failure of General Meade to pursue Lee's tattered forces as they staggered back into Virginia after the horrible three days at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. To be sure, the Union forces were also tattered, and the battle was not at the time, by either side, seen as a clear victory for one side or the other. Lee, however, was expecting to be attacked as they crossed the river into Virginia, and was surprised when such an attack never materialized. It's the Roman practice, salting the very earth after Hannibal's defeat that's the exception.

At any rate, how many high school, or even college kids know that events like the ones depicted in the labor history post above ever happened in the United States. Yet in fact, they happened all too frequently.

It'd be nice if working people at least knew about our history. But it is in the short term interest of the "makers" to keep the "takers" oblivious. Like the two little pigs said about the farmer, as he poured the tasty slops into their trough, "I don't know, he must just like us." Keep the beer cheap and the ESPN a-runnin'.