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Only Guaranteeing The Problem Remains Unchanged

28/08/2015

Someone did not like my previous Duggar post:

“like them or not you are commanded by Christ to love them – your words do not exemplify that – no matter how loathsome you may find their words or deeds you are called to love them – you do not have to accept them or approve of them – but you do have to love them – call them to task for what you see as their faults or failures but you have to do it in a spirit of love – not in a snarky sarcastic way – THAT is how others will know you are a disciple of Christ”

As my late aunt was wont to say, I am bumfuzzled.

First off, I don’t see any snark in what I posted previously.

Josh Duggar is a sexual predator.

The Duggar clan are sexual deviants.

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches, the Bill Gothard led faction of same, and the whole Purity Movement have perverted the gospel of Christ.

These are inarguable facts.

Pretending these facts are not true by refusing to call them what they are is not going to help anybody.

Josh Duggar has checked in to “rehab” for treatment of his “sexual addiction.”

I use quotes because addicts can’t self-diagnose themselves; they may indeed have that particular problem, but it takes trained professionals to recognize all the symptoms and help locate the root of the problem.

I use quotes because the “rehab” facility is is attending has no medically or legitimately trained personnel; it is yet another extension of the same basic mind-warping / soul-killing / child-abusing IFB cult that both directly and indirectly made Josh Duggar what he is today!

Sending him to that facility
is like trying to conduct an
AA meeting at a bar
during happy hour.

They will do nothing to fix his problem, because they are the problem: Their grossly distorted, domineering, sexually deviant, soul crippling theology that attracts the spiritually and intellectually fearful.

It would be bad enough if their toxic nonsense was just confined to their own group, but that’s not the case: They crowd themselves in front of microphones and cameras, determined to shout down all attempts to try and present the genuine gospel of Christ at work.

They are modern day Pharisees, concocting an ever widening network of laws and rules and regulations and rituals and practices that are guaranteed to make worse the lives of anyone who tries to follow them.

They are precisely what Christ champion against in his brief ministry on earth.

And it’s not just the IFB;
they’re merely the particular flavor
of the Duggar clan sickness.

People are leaving Christianity, and they’re leaving it because we are letting the moral imbeciles and the con men and the slickee boiz get away with their crimes and perversions.

The Duggars, at least Jim-Bob and Michelle, are not victims but perpetrators. He’s a hack politician who couldn’t even please the undemanding electorate of Arkansas. She’s his enabler. Together they milk the system to enrich themselves without regard to any havoc they wreak.

Wanna see the Duggar true colors?

After their “we’re a wonderful family and you’re not” show was canceled (because they hid the fact their son had molested his kid sisters while they were away pressing political flesh), they tried to crawl back on TV by pitching a show where they would “counsel” victims of sexual abuse.

animated little-girl-crouch-stomp

This after Jim-Bob blithely asserted child molesting by older teen sons goes on all the time in fundamentalist families.

Good lord — these people have no shame!*

Do not try to protect these people. They cannot be forgiven and loved until they stop harming others, and by that I mean shutting the fnck up and getting out of the public conscious and acknowledging the system they embrace causes far more problems than it purportedly solves.

You wanna love and forgive ‘em, fine; just don’t let them keep spewing their nonsense out to the world at large.

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* I don’t, either, but then I’m quick to point that out to people. They don’t; in fact, they hide behind a false mask of pious humility.

 

 

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Video Podcasts From TFExpo 2015

26/08/2015

animated bender seeks applause

Not one but two video podcasts I recorded at TFExpo in Wichita.

First, a half hour interview with Duron Land for TransFormers For Your Listening Pleasure (also available on iTunes).

Then a lengthy interview with co-guest Matt Frank conducted by Chris Ho of Vengelus Central.

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Calling A Digging Implement A Digging Implement

24/08/2015

I had a post all set to go on the latest Josh Duggar fiasco called The 21st Century Badger Game but then I received a couple of messages accusing me of being unfair and unforgiving to Josh in particular and the Duggars in general.

As the incestuous orthopedist once said:
Give me a mother-fucking break.[1]

First off, let us start with the cold hard brutal facts:
Josh Duggar is a sexual predator.

He molested his sisters as a teen, confessed, then went back and molested them again.[2]

He then had his offense covered up by local authorities, his church, and his parents.

He received a fat cushy job as a professional scold at the Family Research Council thanks to his parents “reality” show fame.[3]

He then paid nearly a thousand dollars to “guarantee” an affair from the infamous Ashley Madison website, signed up for an online dating service using another man’s photo, and friended several strippers and exotic dancers on Facebook.

All while telling us how we are supposed to live.

I’m counting a minimum of three strikes here:
This is a man who has forever lost any expectation of ever being taken seriously in matters of ethics / morality / family / fidelity / love.

But he is not to be hated,
he is to be pitied.

He is the product of a deviant sex cult, and just because the cult’s focus is on “purity” doesn’t mean they aren’t any more sexually obsessed than those they have delighted in attacking over the years.

Indeed, I think a very strong case can be made that they are more sexually obsessed than any other group.[4]

Just because they focus their obsession on sexual purity doesn’t mean they aren’t deviant.

There is nothing that human beings can’t turn into either a weapon or a sexual fetish, if not both.

Let’s rack back the focus and look at the roots of the cult the Duggars belong to:
The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement and its close association with Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles and Advanced Training Institute home schooling efforts that have proved to be the backbone of the Quiverful movement.

For simplicity’s sake,
we shall refer to this as
The Purity Movement.

I know a little bit about human desire and sexuality from having worked both sides of the pornographer’s desk; I make no bones about my employment as an editor for Penthouse back in the mid-1990s.

I encountered a lot of kink in my job, and saw things that would make a Mormon’s head explode. I learned a few absolute truths along the way, the first and foremost being that there is nothing — repeat, NOTHING – that doesn’t get somebody’s motor running, and the second being that those most critical of other people’s sexuality are those with the greatest anxiety about their own.

To paraphrase The Joker:

“I know a
sexual deviant
when I see one, and…”

animated Joker I know the squealers c

animated duggar interview 1

Now, before delving further into that topic, I need to ratchet things back a bit further still by comparing American Protestantism with European Catholicism.

American Protestants like to believe all moral and ethical choices are simple black and white decisions: Always either one thing or the other.

Catholics are more comfortable with what computer programmers refer to as “fuzzy logic”:  Any given issue does not have a single yea or nay question but in reality contains dozens if not scores if not hundreds of smaller questions in them, and in the end a big picture decision invariably involves making what seems like some bad decisions at the micro level in order to secure a more optimum outcome at the macro level.

Back to The Purity Movement.
As stated, they have sexually fetishized “purity”, a perversion of Christian doctrine that places virginity worship at its apex.

They possess an all too typical American Protestant viewpoint that the only possible alternative to absolute rigid unyielding sexual morality in the form of draconian enforced chastity is an equally absolute libertine lifestyle of mandatory free sex between / among all genders.

Oh, do I ever call shenanigans on that!

Look, sexual ethics start with one key irrefutable point:
No person is ever required to engage in any intimacy unless they are doing so of their own fully informed consent.

Period.
Full stop.

That’s a far, far cry from the ultra-permissive parody that exists in the minds of most followers of The Purity Movement. One can still advocate moral restraint in sexual matters without requiring the destruction of the human psyche in the process.

In The Purity Movement, all sexual thoughts / interests / ideas / desires prior to or outside of marriage are verboten.

Not something to be controlled,
not something to be dealt with,
but verboten.

Even healthy natural curiosity is squelched and slut-shamed to make people feel more worthless and more depraved.

Look, I get it; I’ve had ample exposure to various kinks that derive their sexual gratification through masochism and humiliation. You wanna get your rocks off by dwelling on what a worthless sac of human excrement you are because you acknowledge another human being’s attractiveness, hey, go right ahead.

Fly your freak flag high.

But don’t drag little kids into it.

I’ve been tracking The Purity Movement for several years now, and eventually want to do a more fully researched in-depth piece on them, but suffice it to say, they are no different from any other sexual fetish group out there: They have perverted not just natural and normal human desire but also the gospel of Christ, turning it from a life of love and compassion and forgiveness into a horrendous mash-up of KJV and 1984, designed and engineered by a leadership that uses their teachings not to introduce followers to the life of joy and fellowship that Christ has in store for them but to weaken them and control them and make them more compliant victims.

It is a movement with a long documented — and one might add, wholly expected — history of horrific child & spousal abuse, sexual / psychological / emotional / spiritual.

It espouses a series of character values that at first glance seem admirable, but on closer examination prove to be full of paradoxical self-contradicting pronouncements of the Arbeit Macht Frei / Ignorance Is Strength / Shit Is Shinola variety.

It’s part of their long standing effort to crush every hint of “rebellion” and “original sin” in a child by destroying their unique individual personalities and stamping them out in cookie cutter molds of their parents, who in turn are cookie cutter molds of the movement’s founders and leaders.

I don’t have the time / space / inclination to go into great detail on The Purity Movement here & now, but here’s a quote from the Duggars themselves on how they deal with sexual temptation whenever they encounter a female in public who isn’t dressed as modestly as a Duggar girl:

“’Nike’ [is] a signal to the boys, and even to Dad, that they should nonchalantly drop their eyes and look down at their shoes as we walk past her… It’s meant to help keep the guys’ eyes from seeing things they shouldn’t be seeing. By using the single-word signal, the warning can be given quietly and discreetly.” — from Growing Up Duggar

Seriously?

Seriously?!?!?

Yeah, Christ taught one should cut off one’s hand or gouge out one’s eye rather than let it lead one into sin, but y’know, he was probably using hyperbole when he said that[5] and didn’t literally intend for people to go around maiming themselves in order to better serve God.[6]

Instead of recognizing human sexuality is a part of human nature, and that almost all people — young kids especially — are curious about matters sexual and / or find other people physically attractive, The Purity Movement seeks to terrorize them into blind mindless fearful obedience — which of course makes it sooooo much easier to take advantage of and victimize people who have no coping mechanisms, no ability to independently report a wrong done to them, no assurance whatsoever that their family and friends won’t turn against them and expel them from the community if they should ever dare report their abuse to anyone.

So, back to those who posted messages to me about Josh Duggar:
No, I don’t hate him.

I think it’s a great academic question to ask if he would have been this messed up had he not been raised as part of The Purity Movement, but that point’s moot now:
They made it possible for him to climb and fall and climb higher and fall deeper and then deeper still.

But they will never hold him accountable, much less themselves.

Yeah, blame the wife — that joke always works!

If people wonder why the Christian church is imploding in America, why people raised in it since childhood are leaving it in record numbers, the answer is that we have failed our duties and we have let perverts and deviants and ravenous wolves loose among the flock, and when they lay waste to the brethren, at best we tsk-tsk it and at worse we make excuses and apologies for it.

This shit has gotta stop.

We cannot afford to let self-centered intellectual and moral imbeciles be the face of Christ in this world.

We need to call bullshit on bullshit when it happens, and we need to see that wrong doers who cloak themselves in the robes of the church are held accountable for the havoc they wreak.

That’s not hatred.

That’s not contempt.

That’s not vengeance.

That’s justice.

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[1]  Normally I play it coy on my blog and Facebook pages, substituting grawlixes or crucial letters in the spelling of my profanities, but not today, folks. Today we are going to be discussing human morality, human ethics, human sexuality, human desire, and human corruption, so if you can’t stand the fucking heat, I suggest you get out of the fucking bedroom.

[2]  As well as a teen baby sitter who was spending the night at the Duggar house while Jim-Bob and Michelle were off pressing the flesh at some political function.

[3]  Which at no time mentioned his predatory sexual behavior as a teen. Look, this wasn’t two toddlers playing doctor, it wasn’t a mutually agreed upon make-out session between two junior high students, it was an adolescent boy sneaking into the rooms of his sleeping sisters and a non-family member and by his own admission fondling them over and under their clothes. That’s as creepy as hell and needs to be corrected immediately. If the Duggars had been upfront about this from day 1 of their TV show, if they had included this information into their presentation, then maybe they could cling to a shred of dignity and integrity. But they didn’t; they hid it fearing it would undermine their perfect family image and negatively impact their ratings. Which it did.

[4]  David Gerrold has observed the anti-gay crowd spends far more time obsessing over gay sex than gay men ever do. This may explain why so many of them get arrested in airport men’s rooms.

[5]  Like he did with his remarks about beams of wood being in people’s eyes or camels crawling through the eye of a needle, etc.

[6]  ‘Cuz we sure haven’t had waves of Purity Movement followers gouging out their eyes or whacking off their weinnies to make Him happy…

 

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The 21st Century Badger Game

24/08/2015

Ashley Madison new Christian mingle

Rule #1 of the 21st Century:
If it exists in digital form, it has already been shared and is beyond your control.

Corollaries to Rule #1:
Live your life with the expectation anything and everything about you will eventually be made public and either –

  • (A) live to the highest moral and ethical standards
  • (B) possess neither shame nor pride
  • (C) all of the above.

Common sense — which admittedly is in short supply where guys’ peckers are involved — should have tipped everyone that the Ashley Madison site was not for arranging affairs but extracting money from ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray horney guys with low moral and ethical standards. They were being strung along and data mined for marketing and possibly extortion purposes. What is happening to the site’s members is what was always intended to happen to the site’s members, just at an accelerated pace and possibly not by those who originally intended to do it.

I have no sympathy for a person who pays money to betray a spouse or significant other in a committed relationship having that knowledge made public. That’s plain old crappy behavior (the betrayal, that is, not the actual physical intimacy). A single person playing the field, or a swinger couple who engage in outside activities with mutual consent and knowledge are foolish to expect such knowledge will never come to light, but they cannot be accused of betraying a partner by sneaking around behind their backs.

My guess is Josh Duggar is being doxxed because he is the perfect bad example, a lot of guys who can’t afford a lifetime of extortion payments are being doxxed in order to prove it can be done, but the choicest stooges, maybe a couple of hundred, maybe a couple of thousand guys who can afford paying appreciable extortion fees will be doing so until they die or their wives’ wise up and divorce them.

Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if many wives who value their husbands’ status haven’t been approached and told hubby either pays up or they pull him down…

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Thinkage

20/08/2015

“Billion dollar corporations paying to organize people so they’ll complain about taxes also isn’t a revolution.  It’s what billion dollar corporations do.  They only pray they’ll find customers gullible enough to not realize they’re being used as pawns.  But then, that’s why God created marketing departments…” — Robert J. Elisberg, The “Tea Party” Is Not Revolting

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What’s The Difference?

4/08/2015

We’re going to discuss some hot topics, but we are not going to be discussing the hot topics themselves but rather the reasons why certain tactics succeed and other tactics fail. Anyone attempting to steer the debate into discussion of yea-or-nay / pro-or-con ethics / morality will be ignored.

Go post your own blog.

It has been asked, “Why does the dentist who killed a lion receive more outrage than a video showing Planned Parenthood discussing what they do with aborted fetuses?”

The short answer is that in the case of the lion killer, we have not one but two names: Cecil, the grandfather patriarch of his pride, and Dr. X, the guy who thinks it’s big fun to use his human intellectual and technological advantage to track and kill animals for sport.

In short, we have a story with two characters in it, and it’s pretty easy for the average person to grasp the principles involved: Lion, minding own business, killed for fun by guy with money who has to cross an ocean to do it.

The story would gain no traction if
Cecil didn’t have a name and a backstory.

There have been dozens of photos posted on the Internet of people proudly smiling over their trophy kills (and we define a trophy kill as a kill where the prey will not be eaten by the hunter’s family, or a demonstrably dangerous animal stopped to keep it from harming others, but simply an animal death used as bragging rights). There have been attempts to gin up outrage against them, often identifying the hunters by name and in some cases causing no small amount of discomfort to them (there have been the occasional apologies and one or two examples of C-list celebrities losing a gig because of it).

But in those cases the animals were anonymous and therefore generic; there was no identity that people could glom onto.

Cecil, by mere fact of having a name,
immediately became a character.

That’s the short answer, but the longer answer builds off that: The case against Dr. X worked because it was possible to bring direct pressure to bear against a specific individual, and only because that individual depended on public good will to be able to afford his lethal hobby.

Consider:
If Dr. X wasn’t a dentist but instead was a safari outfitter / hunting guide, no amount of public outrage would affect him directly for the simple reason that his business is based on customers who have already demonstrated a desire for his services.

Saying “shamey-shamey-shamey”
to a professional hunting guide
does them no harm;
their client base will
keep coming back
regardless of your
scolding.

Convincing the client base that there’s no honor
in big game trophy hunting, however…

There is where you have your leverage.

The case of Dr. X is going to impact big game trophy hunting to this degree: It’s going to dissuade more people who are on the fence regarding this issue than it will persuade.

Yeah, there will be some contrarians who had never given serious thought to big game trophy hunting before who will now support / participate in the sport, but they will be small in number to the group that thinks, “Y’know, it is kind of a punk thing to do…”

And again, let us draw a sharp distinction between those who hunt and fish to provide food for their family and those who do so just to brag they’ve done it.

Eventually, the anti-big game trophy hunting sentiment will succeed: As trophy hunting becomes less and less of a publicly admirable activity, fewer and fewer people will take up the sport. The fewer people who take it up, the less resources will be available to support it. The less resources available to support it, the fewer people will be able to enjoy it, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

Why then does the anti-big game trophy hunting sentiment gain traction while the anti-police brutality and anti-abortion sentiments apparently fail to do so?

In both cases the main factor is that it is extremely difficult to bring direct pressure to bear on those police who brutalize civilians and those people who provide abortions for the simple reason that they are providing a service to a client base that wants exactly those things.

Despite their motto, the police are not there to protect and serve citizens as a whole:  They are there to protect and serve property owners.

When the property owners perceive
a particular group or individual to be
a threat to them and their property,
they have the police act against them.

Look at the history of unionization in this country, the brutal suppression of freedom of speech and assembly, the blatant murder of many and legal lynchings of others, the destruction of workers’ homes and families for the heinous crime of demanding fair working conditions.

Rarely are police held accountable for brutality today, and when they are it’s almost always the result of them being caught on video in a blatant misuse of authority, and even then the system that permits such things is protected while the individual officer is thrown to the wolves.

Look how the narratives are acted out: If it is at all possible for the brutalized citizen to be presented as in the wrong, they are. When it becomes impossible to hide the officer’s illegal brutality, their personnel records are leaked with emphasis drawn to all previous infractions.

Basically, it’s a race to see which story gains traction first: The “they were a thug so they deserved it” story or the “he was a rogue cop” story, and generally the thug story is given a lengthy head start.

If anything is to be done about police brutality, it has to be through indirect pressure: The property owners must become aware there are far greater risks to authorizing excessive force than in reducing use of excessive force.

Same thing with the failed coup
against Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is in the business of providing health services to women; abortion procedures accounts for only 3% of their case load. They don’t promote the procedure, but they do make it available to a client base that is actively seeking it.

Now, the great irony is that Planned Parenthood and other providers of comprehensive sex education have done far more to reduce the number of abortions that the anti-abortionists.

By providing comprehensive sex education and making safe and reliable forms of birth control easily available, they have greatly reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies and as a result have greatly reduced the number of abortions.

They’ve also greatly reduced STD rates, infant mortality rates, domestic and child abuse rates, and divorce in those states where comprehensive sex education and family planning are available, all of which also contribute to the overall drop in abortions by removing or lessening the factors that contribute to people seeing abortion as a viable alternative.

Trying to bring direct pressure to bear
on Planned Parenthood is futile.

First off, there is no narrative involving “characters” as we used the term above re Cecil the lion and Dr. X.

Without names, without specific backstories, it becomes extremely difficult for people to identify with either the fetuses or the mothers seeking to terminate their pregnancies.

It’s like outrage over photos of anonymous big game hunters posing over dead zebras and giraffes: Yeah, the majority of people aren’t impressed by that and may even find it petty and distasteful, but they’re not going to be moved to action because of it.

Attach a name and the narrative now becomes a story about a character, and the unfortunate truth for the anti-abortionists is that while their opponents can point to real living / breathing / thinking / feeling women with names who have made a desperate choice, the anti-abortion side cannot do the same regarding fetuses without their narrative looking ridiculous.

The only way to reduce the number of abortions
is to convince those people who are on the fence
about the issue not to do it.

But the big difference between women seeking to terminate their pregnancies and big game trophy hunters who spend a lot of time and money engaging in their lethal hobby as often as possible, is that it’s the rare case where a woman seeks multiple abortions.

And most multiple abortion cases are the result of medical complications that threaten the life of both mother and fetus unless the pregnancy is terminated to save the mother.

So Planned Parenthood’s client base for abortion is not a group of people who think it’s a really cool thing to do and are happy to brag about it, but desperate once-in-a-lifetime cases who would just as soon not have their decision broadcast to the world.

You see the difference in motivations? You see why the big game hunters, many of who need public approval in order to fund their hobby, are much more susceptible to shaming than women who are in a desperate personal situation?

Do you see why pressure against Planned Parenthood directly will always fail, and attempts to shame women seeking abortions will ultimately backfire?

As stated above, this post is not to debate the right or wrong of any particular situation but rather to examine what strategies and tactics work (i.e., produce the desired stated result) and which do not work (i.e., either fail to produce the desired result or create blowback).

Choose your path accordingly.

 Calvin And Hobbes deer hunters Bill Watterson

Calvin And Hobbes © Bill Watterson 

 

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I Luvz Me Some T.H.E. CAT

22/07/2015

THE Cat title color

This is the greatest TV series you’ve never seen.

A one season wonder, a critical hit that never made an appreciable dent in the ratings, and as such was soon lost and forgotten.

“Out of the night comes a man who saves lives at the risk of his own. Once a circus performer – an aerialist who refused the net. Once a cat burglar – a master among jewel thieves. Now a professional bodyguard: Primitive – savage – in love with danger – T.H.E. Cat!”

THE Cat Robert Loggia

At age 12 ½, T.H.E. Cat was exactly what the doctor ordered for young Buzz Dixon. While I’d absorbed a certain amount of knowledge on cool jazz and the beat generation through sheer osmosis, T.H.E. Cat was my first prolonged exposure to those intertwining currents of American pop culture.

My immediate response was
(a) how long has this been going on? and
(b) where can I find more?

Half-hour standalone dramas are extremely rare to come by on TV nowadays (home grown DIY YouTube webseries not withstanding) but back in the day they were common and popular.

Their advantage over hour long episodes was that they tended to be streamlined bits of efficiency, little wasted time and effort, characterization boiled down to sharp, vivid dialog, and scripts that crammed a lot into that thirty minute slot.

Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat (Robert Loggia) was different from most of the other TV show heroes of the era. They were creatures of light, even when their occupations as policemen and private eyes took them into darker corners of human nature.

T.H.E. Cat was a creature of the night; indeed, with only one memorable exception, I can’t recall an episode that didn’t take place almost entirely at night and almost entirely in the narrow streets / tiny alleys / dizzying architecture of The City.[1]

He was not a “good” man,
not in the moral sense,

but he was ethical and dependable,
 always faithful to his own code.

That code did not automatically include always informing the authorities of what he knew or had witnessed, or to adhering to the strict letter of the law depending on the circumstances (my first introduction to the concept of situational ethics).

One episode had him waiting patiently across the street with a sniper’s rifle, waiting for the one moment when somebody would open a window and he’d get one clean shot at the hostage taking killer.

Combat! and a few other military oriented shows might do a story about a sniper, but I can’t recall one pre-S.W.A.T. show where the police ever laid in ambush, much less deliberately killed their target instead of at least offering the chance to surrender first.

TV censors of the day wouldn’t permit it and only T.H.E. Cat’s spotty personal background enable him to be the only non-military character who could do it.

And that may explain why the show, despite being a critical success and a long time cult favorite, never picked up much of an audience when it was on.

Running at 9:30 on Friday nights, the audience that would be most likely to be entertained by it (i.e., older teens and young adults) were more likely out of the house and socializing with friends than at home watching TV.

At 12 ½ I was at the perfect age to appreciate the show while still being too young to go out alone on evenings.[2]

The ambiguous morality of T.H.E. Cat resonated with my own coming of age questioning and introspection, and the questionable (albeit always heroic) ethics of the hero (or rather, the anti-hero) fit in easily with a lot of wondering I was doing about the world around me.

It proved to be a rather sharp and decisive break from the glorious Technicolor yet still morally black and white cop and PI shows found elsewhere.

The jazz ambiance was infectious, and seeing the musicians in their after dark shades and sharp suits — playing music that evoked emotions and feelings impossible to articulate otherwise — pretty much nailed the coffin shut in ever enjoying Lawrence Welk or Dean Martin without irony again.

I didn’t know what it was that the jazz musicians were doing,
but I did know whatever it was I wanted to be part of it,
and whatever it was that Welk and Martin were doing,
that wasn’t it.

T.H.E. Cat was created by Harry Julian Fink (who went on to create another epically morally ambiguous character: Dirty Harry) and produced by the grossly under appreciated Boris Sagal; Fink also wrote and Sagal directed several episodes.

Sagal provides a link to an earlier show that served as a template to this and to John Cassavettes’ Johnny Staccato series: Blake Edwards’ Peter Gunn (Sagal directed several episodes).

It helps to understand the relationship of the three shows,
comparing and contrasting their specific points.

THE Cat title

T.H.E. Cat opening

THE Cat peter_gunn_slate

Peter Gunn opening

THE Cat Staccato 3

Johnny Staccato opening

All three were about lone wolf (or in Loggia’s case, lone cat) operatives who had an uneasy alliance with the authorities and a base of operations in an after hours jazz club (“Mother’s” in Peter Gunn’s case, “Waldo’s” in Johnny Staccato, and “Casa Del Gato” in T.H.E. Cat[3]).

Past that, they were pretty different. Peter Gunn was essentially an old school private eye, just with snazzier threads and better music. His episodes, particularly in the second and third seasons which were filmed at MGM and had full access to their prop / set / wardrobe / stock footage departments, look lush and opulent compared to the other two.

Despite this, even as a kid I always found Peter Gunn bland and talky, with the action beats delivered pretty perfunctorily and not as a truly organic part of the story (Johnny Staccato and T.H.E. Cat, on the other hand, could have violence suddenly flare up yet still seem logical and motivated).

Johnny Staccato seemed poverty row in comparison, and that worked to its advantage. Though filmed in Hollywood, Johnny Staccato took place in NYC, and the production company sent Cassavetes there to film various connecting shots of him going into / out of various buildings / cabs / subway stations / etc. As a result this gave Cassavetes’ more of a lonely, isolated feel than either Peter Gunn or T.H.E. Cat.

And as the character name implies, Johnny Staccato has a jagged, driving edge to him. Though described as a jazz musician who supplemented his income by serving as a sleuth or a bodyguard or a bag man, seen in modern light Staccato is clearly a drug user if not a full fledged junkie. His nervous, anxious energy simply cannot be contained, and I’m sure more than a few viewers of the era wondered what was wrong with him.

In the end, it’s probably just as well that Cassavetes enjoyed only a single season on TV and didn’t become a TV star; it would have probably ruined his unique talent as an actor and film maker in later years.

Still, the lineage is quite clear, and while Peter Gunn only imperfectly broke away from the old PI mode and Johnny Staccato was just too twitchy for its own good, T.H.E. Cat found that perfect sweet spot and became the epitome of cool.

The episodes still bear up to this day, though unlike Peter Gunn and Johnny Staccato, you can only find them on YouTube.[4]

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[1]  The exception was an episode that involved a car vs helicopter chase across the desert.

[2]  The lead ins were Tarzan and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at 7:30 and 8:30, followed by Laredo, a well made but by-the-numbers standard grade Western. There was a large audience segment that could enjoy those three shows but would find T.H.E. Cat to be a big bitter pill hidden in their bag of popcorn.

[3]  Yes, Fink and Sagal had their hero operating out of a cat house. Apparently nobody at NBC Standards & Practices spoke Spanish.

[4]  The image quality is only so-so, with blurry soundtrack and multi-generation VHS tape video, far too often in black and white instead of the original color, but ya know what?  It actually works and enhances the raw, desperate feel of the original. 

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Compare & Contrast #1

15/07/2015

IAMx4W vs TGR1

Back in 1963 Stanley Kramer unleashed It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (hence IAMx4W ‘cuz I’m not typing that out every single time) on an unsuspecting movie going public and we haven’t been the same since.

A knockout success at the box office, IAMx4W inspired four direct imitations and a host of smaller “race for the prize” movies, not to mention cartoons such as Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races.

Europe turned out Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, its indirect semi-sequel Those Daring Young Men In Their Jaunty Jalopies a.k.a Monte Carlo Or Bust, and Those Fantastic Flying Fools a.k.a. Jules Verne’s Rocket To The Moon a.k.a. Blast-Off!

The US offered The Great Race.

All five films are large scale vehicular mayhem comedies with lavishly depicted chases and crashes, employing large overlapping casts.

While all have their merits, I’m focusing on the top two of this epic road race movie sub-genre: IAMx4W and The Great Race.

Mi amigo Mark Evanier will disagree with me, but I prefer The Great Race over IAMx4W for a variety of reasons.

IAMx4W is hilarious but it is a one note comedy. Greed corrupts all who encounter it so thoroughly that there is no point in trying to differentiate the characters by any but the most stereotypical tropes. The chase is the thing, and all the carnage (pun intended) it creates.

But while the title race is its centerpiece, The Great Race is actually about something else entirely. The prize is one of honor in completing a ridiculously impossible feat, and the movie quickly eliminates all competition except for the impossibly virtuous Great Leslie (played with sly self parody by Tony Curtis) and the equally impossibly diabolic Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon chewing the scenery with manic handlebar-twirling intensity).

The grit in the gears of this story is Maggie Dubois (the impossibly effervescent Natalie Wood), whose goal is less about the race itself than in proving herself the equal of any man.

Oh, yes, it’s a feminist comedy, written and directed by Blake Edwards back before most of the key texts of the feminist movement were written. Edwards drew less inspiration from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and more from Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex And The Single Girl.[1]

The Great Race is broad farce, arguably the broadest of the five race comedies, but farce does not mean simplistic nor stupid.

As has been noted else where[2] IAMx4W is a perfect distillation of the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. “There is none righteous, no, not one” could be the log line for this movie. There are no redeeming characters whatsoever: Those who are not consumed with greed are otherwise weak of character and intellect and suitable only for victimization, and even Mike Mazurki’s mission of mercy miner[3] is more than willing to threaten violence to get what he wants.[4]

Even the police are all corrupt in their own little (or not so little) ways, and the police force as a whole supports the larger corruption of the city fathers above them.

It is a very cynical world view and its morality is strictly black and white. Any of the principle characters could bring the story to a screeching halt with a single phone call to the authorities, but that would take an act of selfless moral integrity that none of them are willing to make.

The Great Race does not project so bleak a world. Despite the cartoonish dichotomy between the Great Leslie and Professor Fate, they do not inhabit a world of moral absolutes.

Leslie is generous and forgiving, and while he is skeptical of Maggie Dubois at first, he is nonetheless capable of changing his mind and first accepting her as an equal and then falling in love with her.[5]

And the world they encounter on the road from New York to Paris is morally much richer and more complex than the one in IAMx4W.

All of the subplots in The Great Race reflect some sort of moral choice or ambiguity. Vivian Vance organizes a sit-in strike at her husband’s own office, but at the same time she and her fellow protestors are blocking his door she’s also reminding him of a dinner obligation. Ross Martin and George MacReady may be scheming warmongers, but they sure have the number of drunken Prince Frederick Hoepnick’s (Jack Lemmon again in a double role) and realize he’s woefully incapable of running his kingdom. The Great Leslie is stalled in a Texas town by cowboys determined to show him a good time, and when conditions force cooperation, even Professor Fate and his minion Max (Peter Falk) are capable of at least temporarily burying the hatchet and helping their rivals, a far cry from the naked selfish greed of IAMx4W.

Another key difference is how they use their huge casts. [6] IAMx4W frequently wastes great talent in a trivial manner: I’m sure Edward Everett Horton and his agent didn’t object to prominent billing and a pay check for a role that could literally have been played just as easily by anybody picked at random from Central Casting. Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, and the Three Stooges all get fleeting but funny cameos that depend on audience knowledge of their onscreen personas, while Carl Reiner and Jesse White get barely anything to do and Stan Freberg’s role consists solely of just sitting in the background and listening to Andy Devine talk.

But in The Great Race, oh my! What wonderful scenes and bits of business and dialog do they get! The Great Race was cast to fill roles, not add star power to the marque, and as a result the supporting cast shines as unique and funny characters.

I know it sounds funny to describe a screwball comedy this way, but The Great Race is actually quite a subtle and complex film, passing judgment on no one and holding out hope for the decency of human beings.

This is not to say IAMx4W isn’t an excellent film; it most certainly is and it delivers the gags steadily and with great skill and gusto. Nothing like it on that scale had ever been seen before[7] and it deserves major props for being first out of the gate and setting the bar so high.

But The Great Race is even better.

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[1] Which the year before The Great Race was gutted and desexualized as a movie, ironically starring Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis as well as featuring Larry Storch (Texas Jack in The Great Race) in a supporting role.

[2] By me, if nobody else.

[3] Boy, that was fun to write!

[4] Delivery of much needed medicine for his sick wife. And he’s threatening Phil Silvers, so it’s kind of a disappointment he doesn’t clobber him. Silver’s character lacks even the flimsiest shreds of characterization afforded the other actors and is nothing but naked greed and selfishness personified. If he was any more perfect an embodiment of the id, he would be coming out of a Krell machine and trying to kill Leslie Nielsen.

[5] The argument could be made that he falls in love with her because she is his equal; none before her have been worthy.

[6] It’s especially telling when one compares the characters played by three performers who were in both films. Dorothy Provine is a wishy-washy milquetoast in IAMx4W but a vivacious fireball in The Great Race, Peter Falk is reduced to a stereotypical Brooklyn cabbie (in Southern California!) but serves as one of the key comedic lynchpins in Blake Edward’s film, and even Marvin Kaplan, playing his patented put upon poor soul, has much more to do as Arthur Kennedy’s copy editor than Jonathan Winter’s punching bag.

[7] Chaplin and Keaton made physically large scale comedies (The Gold Rush and The General being two examples among many) built around smaller, more personal stories. W.C. Fields and Alison Skipworth took great delight in leading a battalion of kamikaze model-Ts on a mission of vengeance against road hogs in 1932’s If I Had A Million, but they were only one segment in a series of filmed vignettes which typically focused on much smaller stories. Around The World In 80 Days is often pointed to as the precursor of IAMx4W and other prize race comedies using large numbers of cameo stars, but it lacks the insane / intense direct competition of the later films and comes nowhere close to the same level on onscreen motor mayhem.

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MEH MAX: FURY ROAD

8/07/2015

o-MAD-MAX-FURY-ROAD-facebook

somewhere in there is a movie

I finally got around to seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, a film that achieved the rare accomplishment of obtaining perfect neutral cinematic buoyancy.

By this I mean the good stuff and the not-good stuff were so perfectly balanced as to neutralize each other. I neither loved not hated the experience, it neither delighted nor angered me.

It was as if it never really existed at all.

First off, the good stuff:

  1. Charlize Theron makes a great action star and was easily the most entertaining part of the film. We forgive you, Charlize, for not having enough sense to run perpendicular from a crashing starship in Prometheus.[1]
  2. Visually, a very pure cinematic experience, though it did get tiresome and boring by the last half hour (see below). It told the story and cleverly used toss away lines and little bits of business to convey a great deal of background information (or more properly, prompted audiences to fill in a lot of background information; see that below as well). A big part of that self-supplied background was presenting a feminist heroine pitted against corrupt, diseased, dying old white men and the pasty white war boys who blindly followed them, believing a false gospel of blood and power.[2] Subtle Mad Max: Fury Road ain’t. Nor complex.
  3. Great comic book characters, but next time they should get on-screen titles that introduce them since their names are rarely mentioned in a discernable way.
  4. Action stuff was really well staged. For the first hour it was all great fun crashing and bashing and banging and ka-wanging.
  5. Despite claims to the contrary, there’s a lot of CGI effects in this movie, but for the most part they were used to enhance practical effects and stunts, not create an ersatz reality: Replacing Charlize Theron’s arm with a see-thru prosthetic device, populating real crashing cars with half-naked war boys who go flying through the air, enhancing the accuracy and effects of various hurled devices and bombs, etc. This is the way to go with CGI: Whenever possible use practical or miniature effects and resort to CGI only to supply little touches and flourishes, not the whole scene.

All of which is countered by the not-good:

  1. Not a single fresh idea or plot element in this story: We know exactly how it’s going to turn out from the moment it starts. Nothing new or original or insightful.
  2. Ye gods, how do you make a movie that’s nothing but non-stop motor vehicle chases & crashes boring? By not giving the characters anything to do except chase and crash. Look at the great action pictures of the past: They all spent a significant amount of screen time showing who their characters were, getting us to feel compelled to follow them through to their destiny.   The Seven Samurai, A Fistfull Of Dollars, The Dirty Dozen, The Godfather, Lethal Weapon, all these took time to let us crawl into the heads of their characters.
  3. And speaking of Lethal Weapon, the lack of Mel Gibson is sorely felt. No snark, and we certainly wish his career well, but Tom Hardy is a walking hole on the screen.[3] I don’t know if Mel was offered the role but if he was and he didn’t take it, or if he wasn’t offered it in the first place, well, it robbed the movie of much needed emotional / character continuity and Mel of a chance to redeem his self-torpedoed career.
  4. The characters are no better developed than action figures; it would have been a great idea to introduce them by having them rip their way out of a blister pack. They are all clichés and stereotypes and in the context of this particular film that works well enough, but they are all flash and no substance. Anybody who hasn’t already seen a hundred and one mindless action movies isn’t going to be able to figure out what they want or why.
  5. It’s been reported that the film had no actual script but rather just a series of storyboards that the cast and crew referred to. Now, that certainly works insofar as you can track the story plot chain of events in Mad Max: Fury Road well enough, but the characters are reduced to walking clichés and pastiches. There was nothing really there for the actors to work with.

Summary:

The good parts are really good, but the not-good parts are really…empty. There are lots of movies where the good parts are counterbalanced by bad parts that lead one to ask, “WTF were they thinking?!?!?” but in Mad Max: Fury Road we don’t ask what the creators were thinking as it’s abundantly clear they weren’t thinking anything at all but rather taking the simplest / easiest paint-by-numbers approach to story telling.

The Mad Max franchise is better served as a series of video games than movies at this point. Have fun; I begrudge no one their pleasure.

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[1] Hey, Fox, want some free advice? Now that you’ve lost the Star Wars franchise to Disney and Ridley Scott is mucking things up with the Prometheus series, why not cast Charlize Theron as a grown up Newt kicking Alien ass all around the cosmos? Just explain away Alien 3 and Alien: Regurgitation as nightmares Ripley had in hypersleep and that Newt never died but made it home safe and sound.

[2] A large number of so called Men’s Rights Activists had the vapors over girl cooties being found in their all boys adventure. The glorious schadenfreude of their collective impotent hissy fit alone makes Mad Max: Fury Road worth the effort.

[3] Not that he’s ever given anything to actually do. Yeah, he comes up with The Really Cool Idea that turns everything around at the end of the movie but by then it’s as arbitrary a plot point as anything else in the movie.

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“40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags”

1/07/2015

The Gospel Coalition website has posted the following questionnaire and commentary from Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan:

“[P]erhaps what’s been most difficult is seeing some of our friends, some of our family members, and some of the folks we’ve sat next to in church giving their hearty ‘Amen’ to a practice we still think is a sin and a decision we think is bad for our country. It’s one thing for the whole nation to throw a party we can’t in good conscience attend. It’s quite another to look around for friendly faces to remind us we’re not alone and then find that they are out there jamming on the dance floor…

“If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.”

Fair enough, Kevin. After the jump I will take you at your word that you are sincere in your desire to understand why we believe what we believe.

For the rest of you, here are the Beatles going to work…

animated abbey lane

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