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A Real American Hero

14/04/2014

Hugh_Tompson_Jr

Hugh Thompson, Jr.
(April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006)

…Thompson then flew over an irrigation ditch filled with dozens of bodies. Shocked at the sight, he radioed his accompanying gunships, knowing his transmission would be monitored by many on the radio net: “It looks to me like there’s an awful lot of unnecessary killing going on down there. Something ain’t right about this. There’s bodies everywhere. There’s a ditch full of bodies that we saw. There’s something wrong here.”

Movement from the ditch indicated to Thompson that there were still people alive in there. Thompson landed his helicopter and dismounted. David Mitchell, a sergeant and squad leader in 1st Platoon, C Company, walked over to him. When asked by Thompson whether any help could be provided to the people in the ditch, the sergeant replied that the only way to help them was to put them out of their misery. Second Lieutenant William Calley (commanding officer of the 1st Platoon, C Company) then came up, and the two had the following conversation:

Thompson: What’s going on here, Lieutenant?
Calley: This is my business.
Thompson: What is this? Who are these people?
Calley: Just following orders.
Thompson: Orders? Whose orders?
Calley: Just following…
Thompson: But, these are human beings, unarmed civilians, sir.
Calley: Look Thompson, this is my show. I’m in charge here. It ain’t your concern.
Thompson: Yeah, great job.
Calley: You better get back in that chopper and mind your own business.
Thompson: You ain’t heard the last of this!

Thompson took off again, and Andreotta reported that Mitchell was now executing the people in the ditch. Furious, Thompson flew over the northeast corner of the village and spotted a group of about ten civilians, including children, running toward a homemade bomb shelter. Pursuing them were soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, C Company. Realizing that the soldiers intended to murder the Vietnamese, Thompson landed his aircraft between them and the villagers. Thompson turned to Colburn and Andreotta and told them that if the Americans began shooting at the villagers or him, they should fire their M60 machine guns at the Americans: ”Y’all cover me! If these bastards open up on me or these people, you open up on them. Promise me!”

VN course21

…Initially, commanders throughout the American chain of command were successful in covering up the My Lai Massacre. Thompson quickly received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions at My Lai. The citation for the award fabricated events, for example praising Thompson for taking to a hospital a Vietnamese child “caught in intense crossfire”. It also stated that his “sound judgment had greatly enhanced Vietnamese–American relations in the operational area.” Thompson threw away the citation.

above text and more on this
brave American found here

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Fictoid: one day at the circus

13/04/2014

One Day At The Circus

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Did PLANET OF THE APES Revive Creationism?

10/04/2014

Serious question:
Did the original Planet Of The Apes movie revive the fading creationist movement by unintentionally preying on the racial fears of rural and suburban white Christians?

SPLOWW indeed SNSPLOWW!! indeed

Planet Of The Apes was one of four major ground-breaking / trend-setting sci-fi media concepts that landed within an 18-month period of one another in 1967-68.[1]  It was the biggest popular hit of the quartet, launched a successful series of features, a not-so-successful live-action TV series, a somewhat more successful animated series, numerous novel spinoffs, comic books, and a host of imitators and rip offs.

Then as now the film was viewed (at least on one level) as a parable of American racial politics, with the apes implicitly understood to represent the downtrodden finally getting the upper hand over the previously dominant white culture.[2]

Michael Wilson and Rod Serling’s script followed the lead of Pierre Boulle’s original novel to show a satirical (albeit not particularly humorous) view of “normalcy” turned upside down.  In many cases it was done by showing humans used the way we use animals:  For taxidermy, research, and sport.  In others, it was an implicit criticism of dominant white culture with the promise / warning:  “You’ll get what’s coming to you.”

While the apes were presented as antagonists in the first two films of the series[3], African-American audiences tended to sympathize with them more than they did with stalwart Chuck Heston (even before his NRA days).

By the times Escape From… and Conquest Of… rolled around, the identification of African-Americans with the apes was clearly overt (albeit it in a sympathetic and not denigrating manner).  Conquest in particular hammers the apes / slavery issue home with a 12-lb sledge, and it’s pretty hard to whip up any sympathy with (predominantly white) humanity in either of those two films.

Recognizing this, and desiring the success of the series to continue, 20th Century Fox watered down the message in the fifth and final film of the original series, Battle For The Planet Of The Apes, which ends in a bright future where apes, humans, and mutants co-exist peacefully and happily.

That vision of the ape-ocalyptic future flopped miserably at the box office and the films series ended, tho it continued thriving on the small screen and in comics with the original potent message.

It’s hard for modern audiences to understand the impact of these films when first unleashed from 1968-73.  First off, nothing quite like this had ever been seen before.  The closest anyone might have come to it is The Wizard Of Oz with its myriad of bizarre cultures in an even more bizarre world, but that was a fairy tale and not meant to be taken seriously.  With the exception of a few post-apocalypse movies that featured mutants in cheesy make-up, nobody had ever tried to create not one but three entire species of realistic non-human characters for a film, complete with costumes, props, and buildings designed with apes in mind.[4]

And despite the nervousness of the studio, producer Arthur P. Jacobs & co. pulled it off with remarkable aplomb.  There had been serious sci-fi films before Planet Of The Apes, to be sure, but Apes was one of the first that easily crossed over into main stream audiences instead of relying primarily on the (admittedly growing) sci-fi fan base.[5]

But the cinematic / literary / pop culture impact was only a small fragment of what the world of 1968 – especially the United States of America – was going through at that time.

Consider: 
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was only four years old at the time Apes was released.

Had the nation not been in a period of shock and mourning in the aftermath of President Kenney’s assassination, conservative southern politicians would have probably blocked the act until the 1970s.

The nation was only four years away from segregated bathrooms, segregated diners, segregated water fountains.  Loving v Virginia was only one year old!

African-Americans were still pretty much invisible in their native land.  They were starting to make a few token appearances in TV shows and movies[6] but they were far from ubiquitous.

Planet Of The Apes, without directly referring to the apes as analogs for African-Americans, pretty much forced audiences to draw that unavoidable parallel.

And, yeah, there were some who sneered and hooted and derided contemporary blacks by likening them to the monkeys on the silver screen…

…but the inescapable conclusion was that
those damned monkeys were in charge!

…and things were not going to be
so rosy for Mr. Whitey in the future.

This was the first time a lot of white people were forced to realize that the times, they were a’changin’ and what they were changing into was not going to resemble the world they grew up in where everyone knew (and kept) their place.

Planet Of The Apes did not present its topsy-turvy world as one laid down by divine fiat, a wrathful God punishing sinners by letting apes rule over them.

Planet Of the Apes said pretty plainly that humans – white humans in particular – were not fit to survive, and that a more vigorous, more capable breed was going to take over.

That was classic evolution,
and there wasn’t a damned thing
white humanity could do about it.

Creationism was not unheard of or even unargued in the late 1960s, but it was pretty much losing its steam.  Evolution existed; there was no denying genetic changes in various species with common ancestors, and even prehistoric humanity had been guiding evolution along for their domestic plants and animals (“survival of the fittest” in this case meaning those most fit to serve humans).  Creationists were pretty much giving up on the new earth / six literal twenty-four hour days version of creation and instead arguing what is now referred to as Intelligent Design (only with God explicitly in control).

Their basic point was that God had a plan, and that everyone in the world was assigned a place in that plan, and if God ordained one race to be the masters leaders and another to be the slaves servants workers helpers then who are we to argue with God?

Planet Of The Apes pretty much says God is no respecter of species, much less persons, and in fact famously ends with Heston ranting and screaming that God has rightfully damned humanity for being a buncha murderous self-centered pricks.[7]  It was a pretty shocking ending for mainstream audiences at the time[8] and has been lampooned so often and so successfully that contemporary audiences have no idea just how chilling it was to Joe Six-Pack and Mrs. & Mrs. Suburbia.

…especially in light of the ongoing societal change / upheaval and
the rapid advancements in civil rights by African-Americans.

Mind you, the majority of white audiences seeing the film for the first time were not racists in the classic sense of the term:  They burned no crosses, lynched no victims.

But they kinda liked the fact that they got to live over here while those people had to live over there, and while many of them knew and genuinely liked black folks they encountered daily, few of them realized they held a protected and privileged position that was paid for by the sufferings of others.

Apes kinda sunk home the message that there might not be a soft landing for their genteel lifestyle, that rude awakenings and abrupt changes may be the order of the day.

And yeah, Planet Of The Apes is at heart a big budget goofy Hollywood movie, with a whole bunch spectacle & action and a smattering of smarts, not really the sorta thing that can withstand close logical scrutiny for long…

…but that didn’t matter.

The message is what mattered.

And the message was:  Time’s up.  Things are changing.

A lot of people did not like that change.

They rendered lip service to it, but were willing to do so only so long as things didn’t change for them.

Now, when faced with major changes in one’s life, there are two basic approaches one can take:

You acknowledge the change even if you don’t willingly embrace it; life may get rough but at least you’ll be prepared for it and it won’t catch you by surprise.

The other is to double down on the old system, to bet the heart transplant money that the way things are is The Way Things Are Meant To Be, and that if you just hold fast this faddish craze of modernity will pass and things will once again be good and wholesome and sweet with you in the driver’s seat, just like when you were a child and your father was a child and your great-great-great grandfather was a child.

It’s no accident that the big push towards homeschooling – which originally began among hippy-dippy parents looking to raise their children outside the conforming standards of the dominant class public schools – took off among rural and/or white and/or conservative religious fundamentalists in the south and midwest during this period.[9]

And it’s no accident that creationism takes – nay, demands – a centerpiece of that movement.

Because creationism allows the believer in it to deny the humanity of others, to deny their rights, to deny their equality.

Creationism allows the believer to dismiss all claims for justice with a derisive “God doesn’t want that” and never examine the basics of the question.

Creationism, as has been pointed out, is the handmaiden of Mammon, the self-righteous belief that one’s personal enrichment is God’s master plan for the universe, that every sub-atomic particle in every atom in every molecule of every speck of dust and wisp of gas up to and including the hugest of stars exists solely for the purpose of making your life materially easier and more comfortable…

…and maybe the lives of your immediate family as well…

…and perhaps even a few of your closest friends…

…but certainly not the lives of them – and especially if making their lives any easier requires you to give up an hour of TV or some outrageous demand like that.

Planet Of The Apes is downright terrifying
to people with that mind set.[10]

Small wonder so many conservative whites willingly and eagerly embrace a disproven anti-intellectualism that denies the reality of the world around them, because embracing that fantasy makes it possible to deny the change going on around them.[11]

Like little children threatened by a big mean dog, they sincerely believe if they squinch their eyes closed reeeeeeeeal tight that it will go away.

No, one single silly movie does not a religious heresy make, and in a different time it’s doubtful that the film would have had much more impact than as a popcorn muncher (much like the recent remakes and sequels have landed with resounding thuds).

But one thing Planet Of The Apes sure did was to give millions of scared white people a very very frightening glimpse of a future where they would no longer be in charge, when the first would indeed be last, and the low would be risen high.

And rather than embrace that spiritual truth, they flock to a self-serving myth that not only will fail to protect them, but will make the eventual change that much more painful for them.

As for me,
like Mark Twain wrote: 
When it’s steam boat time,
you steam boat.

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[1]  It isn’t an exaggeration to say the shadows from these projects – both in film, TV, comics, and other media as well as literary and other pop culture influences – is still being cast today.  The other three were the original Star Trek TV series, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Barbarella.  Of the four, Barbarella received the worst response from the public, a critical drubbing, and a commercial flop…and yet each year a loyal cult grew and grew around this film.  Today it’s a fondly remembered classic of the era and has aged better than the other four.  Go figure…

[2]  I may be wrong, but I can’t remember any African-American actors among the primitive humans in the original film, not unless one counts the ill-fated astronaut who ended up lobotomized.

[3]  Tho who wasn’t an antagonist in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes?  It’s the only major studio Hollywood production ever to end with the hero thinking that blowing up the entire planet was A Real Good Idea.

[4]  The world of the final film was much different that the original concept and script.  Jacobs originally wanted a world like the one in Boulle’s novel with full size cities, cars, and helicopters designed for apes.  By scaling the size back to a few isolated middle-sized towns with low grade industrial age technology, the film actually became more convincing than a modern version.  An exact ape parallel to our own world would have only invited laughter, but changing it significantly enough while still leaving it basically recognizable helped sell the idea to audiences.

[5]  And basically, because of all the projects of that era, Planet Of The Apes offered the one concept that every body in the audience, including the dullest witted, got right away:  The five-fingered shoe is now on the other foot.

[6]  And more importantly, cast in commercials as users of the product being sold, not servants making white folks’ lives easier, thus tacitly acknowledging them as part of the American fabric and not just an accessory after the fact.

[7]  …or words to that effect…

[8]  No matter than we fan boys saw it marching down the avenue from the moment the film started talking about archeological digs involving humans.

[9]  No, I am not saying Planet Of The Apes was responsible for that; it was the general societal upheaval of the late 60s and early 70s that scared much of the mostly white religious right into fleeing society with the hopes of one day leading a counter-rebellion against it.

[10]  And mind you, screenwriters Michael Wilson and Rod Serling managed to have their Darwinian cake and theologically eat it as well:  A strong argument could be made for the film as the mene mene tekel uparsin of mainstream American values, a judgment handed down from on high and executed with our own hands around our own throats – but holding to that argument requires denying human supremacy in general and American exceptionalism in particular and recognizing both our personal and national sins and shortcomings and, hey, who wants to believe that becuz America!  Right?  Right?!?!?

[11]  And embracing it not in a little way but going all out:  None of this namby-pamby “God created the universe billions of years ago and guides the natural processes in it” but “Bang! Done!  Full and complete in six twenty-four hour days and you can’t change it – ever!”

 

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I Luvz Me Some NOAH

28/03/2014

Noah_poster946While not a great movie, Noah is certainly a good one, and it is certainly the hands down front runner for the title of weirdest Biblical picture ever made.[1]  You can’t drag the Nephilim into your story and hope to stay within the bounds of normalcy.

Kudos to director Darren Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel for moral complexity, unexpected plot twists, good restrained acting, and top notch production values.  It follows the Biblical story closer than either the 1928 version or the 1966 version but it does add stuff that is not specifically excluded in the Bible story (such as how they kept all the animals quiet on the ark) and ends with a positive statement that we are most like God when we show mercy and love.

The middle portion is much stronger than the beginning and end, Anthony Hopkins steals the show as Methuselah, and the fallen angels vs. human army slugfest has gotta be the wildest scene ever filmed for a Biblical movie.

So why do so many people hate it, sight unseen?

A great many people objecting to it are doing so mostly because it says rapacious greed and treating humans like commodities are evil (there are hints of cannibalism in the film as Tubal-Cain’s army prepares to assault the ark).  As servants of Mammon and not God, these critics are appalled at the mirror-like reflection Noah shows of contemporary culture, and as such they feel duty bound to condemn it.

Noah gets more into the why & wherefore of the flood than previous versions of the story, and in doing so casts it in a light that doesn’t make God seem to be a petty spoiled child who kicks over the sand castle when things don’t go His way but rather a just and loving creator who realizes that humanity is far from perfect but if there is to be any hope of saving us from ourselves it is to save those who desire to serve Him and His creation (including other humans) rather than those willing to consume the planet with their own greed, gluttony, and lust for power.  That is what is driving the prejudice against this film.

God (referred to thru out as The Creator) is depicted as just and righteous, yet loving and merciful.  The destruction of the world is a human process, the flood is a cleansing one from God.

Noah is willing to serve God, but in the process makes an erroneous but not wholly illogical assumption; he does not act on that assumption but shows love and mercy instead.  This leads to his famous post-flood drinking binge because he feels he has failed God.  In the end of the film Noah and his family realize the flood was not to punish the wicked but to save the just from the unjust, and that we are closest to the image of God when we show mercy and love.

So far all the objections I’ve seen have either been from false-flag extremists or nit-pickers who regard any deviation from what they believe to be true and factual as blasphemy.

Does Noah take liberties with details in the Genesis story?
Yes, but without undermining the moral & theological core of that story.

Does the film state there is a Creator God who has the moral right to judge humanity?
Sure does.

Does the film state mercy and love are the most God-like traits humans can hope to aspire to?
Once again, affirmative.

Does the film have the Nephilim in it (referred to as The Watchers in the movie)?
Yes, and I think a lot of people are bugged that somebody dared to depict them other than the way they had personally imagined them.[2]

Has any movie ever followed the true Biblical account?
Movies are works of fiction using actors performing off scripts that are written and edited to form a dramatic whole; that’s why even with historical films we see events and characters dropped or melded together so that the underlying truth of the story can come through even if the actual facts can’t be emulated.

There have been hundreds of films based on various stories in the Bible.  This is one of three big budget Hollywood productions based in whole or in part on the story of Noah.[3]

What this movie does state clearly again and again is:

  • There is a Creator responsible for everything
  • This Creator has the moral right to judge His creation
  • Even those who believe the Creator has abandoned them believe He exists
  • A just God is more interested in saving the just (i.e., those willing to serve Him and His creation including the humans He has created) than in punishing the wicked
  • We are never more God-like than when we shown mercy and love

Sounds like Biblical truth to me…

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[1a]  Some would argue Godspell deserves that title and I would not oppose anyone who chose to argue that point.  But ultimately Godspell is a pretty straightforward adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew set in Manhattan with a troupe of circus performers adding song and dance to the otherwise intact text; it’s odd in appearance, not content.  Noah is like the James Tissot of Biblical movies.

[1b]  The question also arises as to just what is a Biblical movie?  Godspell, despite its odd style, is clearly meant to be the actual story found in Matthew; Jesus Of Montreal, despite being one of the finest religious allegories ever made, is not the gospel story per se but a story about the gospel story; a fine distinction but a real one.  And The Sign Of The Cross, the only religious based movie to give Noah a serious run for the title IMO, is technically not a Biblical movie even though it occurs during Paul’s time in Rome.

[2]  That’s one of the things that makes this movie so weird for a Biblical film: It actually shows stuff that no other Biblical movie has shown before.  I think the style of the presentation is what is bothering some folks, not the actual content.

[3]  It’s certainly closer to the text than the 1925 version (which was forgiven its egregious departures because it was presented in a pious manner)or 1966 version (which was just an all around bad movie, no matter how sincere the film makers were).  We shall not speak of the Disney adaptation with Donald Duck as Noah (admittedly a more even keeled Hollywood personality than Russell Crowe).

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Jack Nicholson Orders A Wedding Cake

14/03/2014

I’d like to order a wedding cake
with two grooms on the top.

We don’t do wedding cakes
for same sex marriages.

What do you mean? 

Only what’s on the menu. 
You can have a standard
heterosexual wedding cake. 
It comes with a bride and a groom.

Yeah, I know what it comes with,
but it’s not what I want.

Come back when you make up your mind.

Wait a minute.  I have made up my mind.  
I’d like a plain wedding cake with flowers on the top.

No substitutions.

You don’t have flower wedding cake toppers?

Not for same sex marriages.

Okay, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can.  
I’d like to order two heterosexual wedding cakes. 
When you deliver them, we’ll remove the bride
from the first cake and substitute the groom
from the second cake.  Then you bill me for two
heterosexual cakes, go deliver the second one,
and you haven’t broken any rules.

Where do you want me
to deliver the second cake?

I want you to deliver it in your ear.

i know the voices arent real

thanx to Bob Rafelson and Carole Eastman (as Adrien Joyce)
for writing the original scene this was based on

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Beauty Is Where You Find It

25/02/2014

yuanyang_airglow

Looks nice, doesn’t it?  This long exposure photo was taken by Cui Yongjiang in rural Yunnan Province in southwest China.  Look at the soft glow of the village lights…the way the stars reflect off the terraces of water…

Wanna see what the area looks like in daylight?

Xijiang_Miao_Village_Guizhou_china-Nature_rivers_Landscape_Wallpaper_1200x900

Quite a difference, huh?

So, is beauty an illusion,
an artificial construct of the mind?

Or is it always there, and
we just have to have the wisdom
to know where to look for it and
the patience for it to present itself…

found via Astronomy Picture Of The Day

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Hamster Diddlers: Can You Trust Them?

21/02/2014

hamster diddiler drew friedman dwight frye

You’re stepping out for a night on the town with your beloved and just as you’re about to enter the very very tres ritze’ restaurant where you’ve booked reservations months in advance…

…you encounter the town’s most notorious hamster diddler.

And there’s no doubt this person diddles hamsters: 
Not only have they been convicted of hamster diddling in the first, second, and third degrees but they also have a website where they’ve uploaded selfies of themselves diddling hamsters.

And as you’re entering and the hamster diddler is leaving, they lean over to you and say:

“Don’t go in there,
the kitchen is on fire!”

Now, do you:

(a)  Ignore whatever that damned hamster diddler has to say because =feh!= they’re a hamster diddler, f’r cryin’ out loud! and proudly march into the restaurant.
………………… …or…
(b)  Do you look inside to ascertain if you can see smoke and/or cooks running around screaming with flames billowing off of their chef’s hats?

Because if — if! — the hamster diddler is telling the truth that’s valuable information to know!

Got into an interesting
online discussion with
someone regarding
the previous post.

Essentially the person I was discussing the topic with wanted no part of Bertrand Russell on the grounds he was an atheist[1] who favored big government.[2]

Okay, be that as it may,
does any of that negate
the validity of what he said?

The truth, as Agent Mulder frequently reminded us, is out there.
And it doesn’t matter from whose lips or depraved fingers it may fall.
It’s either true or it’s not.

The ancient church had no problem accepting the findings of pagans, polytheists, Mithrans, Muslims, Hindus, diests, Gnostics, and agnostics in matters pertaining to things outside the theological realm.

Their findings in science & math & metallurgy & medicine & engineering either worked…

…or it didn’t work.

And if it didn’t work it didn’t matter how bona fide their bona fides were:  It didn’t work!

And if it did work — It worked! — no matter how how suspect their philosophical and/or theological roots.

You are not betraying your faith — whatever it may be — to look at something a person of another faith[3] did and say, “Yeah, in that particular area they’re right”.

It doesn’t touch your theological underpinnings,
it doesn’t crumple up your church.
You just acknowledge it

Accept it

And move on.

We have far too often allowed ourselves to be divided[4] and have far too often followed blindly when some pundit tells us “We are always right, they are always wrong; ignore everything they have to say and especially don’t listen to anything that contradicts what you’ve been told by us!”

First off, anybody who is confident they speak / write the truth has no bashfulness re confronting contrarian opinions:  They will either expose weaknesses in their own thinking, or at the very least give us an opportunity to understand why those with opposing points of view possess those views.

Second, no mortal human being, not even yrs trly is always 100% right all the time[5], and even a sincere person who is absolutely right re a particular situation today may be wrong on that same situation tomorrow as new evidence comes in or conditions change.

‘Twas ever thus…

Bottom line:
Don’t automatically dismiss something a hamster diddler has to say.

Not unless you want to have your after dinner mints in the burn ward.

art by Drew Friedman

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[1]  Yes.

[2]  Arguable.

[3]  Or non-faith. 

[4]  And, truth be told, too willingly — nay, eagerly! — participate in the divisiveness.

[5]  Although some folks have some pretty decent batting averages.

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The Living Dead vs The Vampire Kingdom

13/02/2014

vampirevszombiescaldwelleasley

Stan Lee Media is at it again…

art by Caldwell Easley

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Would You Rather Be Happy Or $uccessful?

10/02/2014

david lockhart 52 mar

Contrary to what some might have you believe, the two terms are not interchangeable.

And contrary to what some others might think,
it’s possible — even desirable — to find happiness
and meaning in one’s work.  I know I do…

Truth be told, no matter how much money you have in the bank,
you won’t be happy unless you can live by certain basic guidelines.

…and if you can live by those guidelines,
then it really doesn’t matter how much
money you have in the bank.

About half of happiness is genetically determined.  Up to an additional 40 percent comes from the things that have occurred in our recent past — but that won’t last very long.

That leaves just about 12 percent.  That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control.  It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way.

The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking.  Few dying patients regret overinvesting in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys.

Work, though, seems less intuitive…

This shouldn’t shock us.  Vocation is central to the American ideal, the root of the aphorism that we “live to work” while others “work to live.”  Throughout our history, America’s flexible labor markets and dynamic society have given its citizens a unique say over our work — and made our work uniquely relevant to our happiness.  When Frederick Douglass rhapsodized about “patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work, into which the whole heart is put,” he struck the bedrock of our culture and character.

…rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money.  That’s what research suggests as well.  Economists find that money makes truly poor people happier insofar as it relieves pressure from everyday life — getting enough to eat, having a place to live, taking your kid to the doctor.  But scholars like the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman have found that once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness.

So relieving poverty brings big happiness, but income, per se, does not.  Even after accounting for government transfers that support personal finances, unemployment proves catastrophic for happiness.  Abstracted from money, joblessness seems to increase the rates of divorce and suicide, and the severity of disease.

And according to the General Social Survey, nearly three-quarters of Americans wouldn’t quit their jobs even if a financial windfall enabled them to live in luxury for the rest of their lives.  Those with the least education, the lowest incomes and the least prestigious jobs were actually most likely to say they would keep working, while elites were more likely to say they would take the money and run.  We would do well to remember this before scoffing at “dead-end jobs.”

…Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others. .Franklin D. Roosevelt had it right: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

In other words,
the secret to happiness through work
is earned success.

– Arthur C. Brooks,
“A Formula For Happiness”
NY Times Dec. 14, 2013

 art by David Lockhart

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I Luvz Me Some NOTHING LASTS FOREVER

4/02/2014

NLF nothing-lasts-forever-1

For a movie that I didn’t even know existed until about 2pm yesterday afternoon, Nothing Lasts Forever has quickly won a place in my heart.  The only feature film to date by Tom Schiller, an Emmy-award winning writer who made numerous short comic films for Saturday Night Live and documentaries on a variety of subjects, Nothing Lasts Forever is one strange / quirky little movie that manages to pull off one of the most difficult challenges for a film maker:  Shoot a contemporary film that looks like a classic Hollywood production.[1]

I’m not saying Nothing Lasts Forever is a perfect film; far from it.  But when it works it works oh-so-well and its loopy story of a musical fraud turned wannabe artist who gets recruited by an empire of hobos who secretly run New York City to fly to the moon on a bus and bring love to the lunar colony dominated by colonialist consumers just ain’t the kinda thing you see every day at the mega-plex.[2]

NLF Nothing-Lasts-Forever-ears

The film near seamlessly mixes contemporary footage with stock shots from classic Hollywood films[3] .  The story never quite jells, shifting gears abruptly and jumping from premise to premise, but Zach Galligan and an astonishing supporting cast — includes Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, Imogene Coca, and Calvert DeForest (Larry “Bud” Melman on David Letterman’s old show) among others — keep the story rolling with fresh, funny characterizations.

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Add to that a never ending stream of often subtle sight gags and Nothing Lasts Forever should easily keep any old and / or oddball film lover interested.

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And just where can you see this jem?

As the Vick’s people would say:
Aye, there’s the rub…

For reasons not entirely clear, the original distributor never made much of an effort to show the film in the US:  Apparently just a handful of test screenings then the film was yanked and seemingly forgotten.

It has fared better in Europe, but even there is is considered a cult item.

Part of the problem may be legal (entanglements with various rights holder re stock footage in the film) but more likely it’s just that this film is so far afield of anything done by mainstream Hollywood that one can’t feign surprise to learn no major distributor in the US wants to handle it.

Luckily, however, there is YouTube, and if you hie thyself over there,
you can catch Nothing Lasts Forever in all its delirious black + white glory.

How long it’ll stay up, I dunno.  But currently it’s your only chance to see one of the quirkiest film made in the last 30 years.

(Big tip of the bloggin’ editor’s eyeshade to The Austin Chronicle, Musing Of A Cinematic Obsessive, Midnight Only, and Popblerd for supply back into & screen caps of the film.)

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[1]  Among the very, very few that have pulled it off have been Man Of The Century and The Artist, both highly recommended.

[2]  Oh, that old story…

[3]  Since most of the exteriors were shot in Manhattan, and since much of Manhattan hasn’t changed in the last century, the melding is quite good.

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