Odds and Ends Vol 3

Odds and EndsI will be out for most of the day. So this is it until the evening. Savor it. Luckily, this edition of Odds and Ends at least has a couple of fun items. And the Walmart story is especially great. We live in a really screwed up nation.

One of the things I will be doing today is going to see Escape Plan with my brother. I have an open mind about. But what are the odds? It is a Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. I expect that tomorrow night I will write another apoplectic review. So fun times ahead!

  1. Heritage Action has a “scorecard” websites where they rank all the current members of Congress. It’s actually a fairly good resource for liberal voters. If the score is low, the politician is good. But beware! Heritage Action is so conservative that Darrell Issa only got a 65% rating. Paul Ryan got a 69%. Even crazy and stupid Louie Gohmert only got a 90%. What could he have done to displease Heritage Action?! My “blue dog” Democratic representative Mike Thompson got 9%. Senator Dianne Feinstein got 4%. And my hero, Senator Barbara Boxer got 0%.

    Heritage Action: when nothing less than pure evil will do!

  2. JMF sent me to this amazing creation from Banksy. I like the symbolism of something beautiful growing out of the 9/11 attacks. Of course, this is America and so we did exactly the opposite. You mean terrorists killed a bunch of innocent American civilians? Well we should kill a bunch of innocent foreign civilians! It’s so terrible. But the image is beautiful:
    Banksy Twin Towers
  3. If you’re like me, you’ve learned to stop worrying and love our corporate overlords. But if you aren’t quite there, then you should really enjoy this story. Last week, Will alerted me to an article on Huffington Post, Walmart Worker Says He Was Fired After Helping Woman Fend Off Attacker. According to the article, Kristopher Oswald, a 30-year-old worker at a Michigan Walmart store was fired for helping a customer who was being attacked. “Oswald says he was on break about 2:30 am Sunday when he saw a man grabbing a woman. He says he asked her if she needed help and the man started attacking him.” But apparently, this broke company rules and so he was gone.

    I’ll admit it: I was skeptical. I figured there might be more to the story than the guy was letting on. So I let the story sit. But today I saw a new story from CBS News, Wal-Mart says Kristopher Oswald Can Have Job Back, After Firing Him for Trying to Help Assault Victim:

    Brooke Buchanan, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, told CBS News’ Crimesider that after reviewing all the facts of the case, the company has determined Oswald had good intentions when he wound up fighting with the woman’s alleged attacker at around 2:30 am Sunday outside the Hartland Township store.

    I’m sure that’s true; it certainly can’t have anything to do with all the bad publicity. Thus far, Walmart hasn’t been able to find Oswald. But they’ve left messages on his machine.

    What I find interesting here is how quickly, and apparently without thought, Walmart fired this young man. This is indicative of a economy with a high unemployment rate. This is the other reason why the power elites in this country want the Federal Reserve to concentrate on inflation and let unemployment get high. When unemployment is high, businesses have their pick of employees and don’t even think twice about firing good employees. It is despicable. Sadly, it is also common.

  4. Jane Mayer wrote a very important article over at The New Yorker, Top CIA Lawyer Sides With Senate Torture Report. It involves the confirmation of Stephen W Preston to become the top lawyer at the Pentagon. His appointment has held up by hero Senator Mark Udall. Apparently, he only allowed confirmation after Preston admitted that he agreed with the classified 6,000 page report. Mayer explains:
    At its core is a bitter disagreement over an apparently devastating, and still secret, report by the Senate Intelligence Committee documenting in detail how the CIA’s brutalization of terror suspects during the Bush years was unnecessary, ineffective, and deceptively sold to Congress, the White House, the Justice Department, and the public. The report threatens to definitively refute former CIA personnel who have defended the program’s integrity. But so far, to the consternation of several members of the Intelligence Committee, the Obama Administration, like Bush’s before it, is keeping the damning details from public view.

    It seems that the CIA has been doing everything it can to suppress the report and claim that it isn’t true. But the CIA’s work has been well and long documented. Early on in the War on Terror, the CIA took over from the FBI, who actually knew how to conduct interrogations. It is a travesty that Obama continues to hide our wrong doing from the American people. It’s stuff like this that makes me question all my fairly positive views about him. If he can be this corrupt and, frankly, evil about drones and torture, maybe he’s the same way about healthcare and stimulus. Maybe he is playing 11-dimensional chess. It’s just he isn’t playing it with the Republicans; he’s playing it with us.

  5. Regular readers of this site know about the greatest work of satire in the 21st century, Billy Bob Neck. And if you’ve been paying attention, you know that he is the creation of the comedian Paul Day. Well, Day does a whole lot more than just BBN. An example is the following bit of “Gun and God” humor from his Facebook page:
    Good Savior With a Gun - Pay Day
  6. If you are on Facebook, you should definitely check him out; he puts out a lot of good stuff.

  7. Here is a late addition. Last night’s The Daily Show had a great opening segment on all the nonsense about the business media’s outrage about JP Morgan’s lawsuit. And then Aasif Mandvi did a great segment of voter ID. And then Jon Stewart interviewed Charles Krauthammer and it all fell apart. As usual, Stewart allows conservatives to come on and spout nonsense. Kruthammer said that life expectancies in America are now 80 years. That’s not true, but even the increases we have actually seen are among the more wealthy. Stewart just let it pass. Kruthammer said that Europe was going bankrupt because of welfare. That’s a totally false conservative canard. Stewart said nothing. Kruthammer said the Tea Party came about as a reaction to Obama’s excesses. That’s remarkable since it started just a month after he entered office. Stewart said nothing. In fact, the only thing Stewart did say was that Kruthammer’s conservatism seemed so reasonable but that it didn’t sound like that of other Republicans. Kruthammer is not reasonable. It’s the same thing that I always talk about: the difference between Kruthammer and Ted Cruz is tactics. Kruthammer said he was against shutting down the government, but only because it was bad tactics, not because he was against the reasons. Kruthammer compares the loons in the Republican Party to Alan Grayson. Stewart just lets him. Unbelievable. Stewart just doesn’t understand that soft spoken conservatives are the same as the ranters. Kruthammer said a lot more that was wrong. He said all kinds of things that were total distortions about Obamacare. I just couldn’t keep up with it. Once again folks: Speaking softly does not make you reasonable!

See you all this evening.

0 thoughts on “Odds and Ends Vol 3

  1. Thanks for the ref.

    In an unrelated, totally pointless aside, I saw Joss Whedon’s "Much Ado" last night. It made the same mistake as Branaugh’s; featuring prominently the "Sigh No More" song, which made me sigh a lot. And it has a lot of (done quick, on-the-fly) decisions which don’t come across as well as they must have in everyone’s minds.

    One thing I really liked, though. The reading is quite good. Too often Americans seem intimidated by Shakespeare, as though his lines were baby necks you could damage if you picked them up wrong. Like relatives of new parents asking "do you want to hold the baby," they get nervous and defer to their more experienced brethren, in this case, the English.

    Whedon’s "all my buddies will hang out at my fabulous house" thing is tiresome at times, but it really works in terms of letting American actors just read the lines without fear. Guess what? Most of them can do it just fine. (Amy Acker shines especially.) If babies were that breakable by other people besides parents holding them, the species wouldn’t have survived this long, and if Shakes’ dense dialogue didn’t provide a joy in hearing it read aloud, nobody would care about him today.

    Nationality and accent don’t matter. What matters is A) can you act and B) are you cast well in this adaptation? Nathan Fillion, so good as "Captain Hammer" in the sing-along-blog and so good as Han Solo in "Firefly," looks lost here. He plays one of Shakes’s negligible oafs. And he’s not cast correctly.

    Shouldn’t we discard, at this point, the class condescension in Shakes? Sure, if the plays didn’t have fart jokes that made the elite feel superior, they wouldn’t have been produced. Maybe Shakes meant them or not. WHO CARES? We don’t know anything about the guy. He was skilled at expressing different points of view, in often beautifully circuitous form. Since he’s been adapted a zillion different ways and we know nothing of what he actually was or thought, what harm would there be in changing the tone of how his "comic" characters are played? (If you reinterpreted "A Doll’s House" to suggest Nora was a bitch for leaving her man, I’d have a problem with that.)

    There are dumb jokes in Shakes’s comedies and tragedies. The difference in the plays are the plots; some have happy endings, some don’t. They all have dumb jokes. Orson Welles and others have reframed the "comic" characters in Shakes’s tragedies to good effect. Why not do the same for "low-born" characters in the comedies?

    People who laugh at live performances of Shakespeare (ahh, I’m educated enough to get the jokes) make me want to dump popcorn on their heads. (Only unbuttered popcorn, though. That greasy goo which gets squirted disgustingly into one’s popcorn tin at a movie is my precious, my precious, and I’m not giving it up.)

  2. @JMF – I very much want to see the film and I appreciate your thoughts on it. Of course, Shakespeare was hopeless as a comedy writer. It’s clear that he wasn’t that into it. It was just another paying gig. Of course, to a large extent, you could say that about all of his work. The only thing that is good about the play is the Benedick and Beatrice story and dialog, and frankly I don’t see how anyone could ever outdo Branagh and Thompson.

    The class issues are huge and I don’t see how you get past them (eg the bastard Don John is evil, of course). It is in the very structure of the plays (e.g. there is no play without Don John–typical of Shakespeare; see, eg, Othello). Just as big a problem is the girl/hag problem. In general, you don’t see much in terms of regular women in the plays because they were all played by boys. (Common misconception. Women were always played by boys, never men.)

    It is possible to get fine performances out of Shakespeare’s dialog. But it does take work. Natural, it ain’t.

    It does bother me that most people who really like Shakespeare don’t much get it. The puns and jokes are overwhelming. To a large extent, that’s what makes the plays great. But they don’t really work for the modern viewer. So why do we so value the plays? It’s mostly just academics who can really appreciate it.

    I think the reason we keep doing Shakespeare is that it’s great fun [i]for the actors[/i]. I love doing it, not that I consider myself an actor. But the public will only put up with Shakespeare. It is even more fun to do Marlowe. I recommend watching the filmed version of [i]Edward II[/i]. It is so much more clear that the dialog is poetry. As time went on, the playwrights got more and more naturalistic.

    In fact, that brings up a constant annoyance to me. Shakespeare is always given the Three Bears treatment. Marlowe is too structured. Middleton and Webster are too naturalistic. But Shakespeare is [i]just right[/i]. Give me a break! I’m no expert but I [i]hear[/i] the iambic pentameter with Marlowe. It is much harder with Shakespeare–especially the later stuff. It begs the question: why write in verse at all?!

    This is all very typically of me. I hate Shakespeare and yet I love Shakespeare. But this is the way it should be. There is lots to love in Shakespeare and lots to hate. But people go crazy about him. The man never wrote a perfect play. None of those Elizabethan playwrights did. A lot of interesting things were written but the last 400 years have greatly improved the art form.

  3. Whedon skips Don John’s bastard lineage, and makes him the subject of what appears to be a financial crimes investigation. So that works just fine.

    I’m utterly ignorant of other Elizabethan writers, save some Johnson poems. My middle-ages education consists of "Canterbury Tales," "Quixote," and that’s it. No rational person would dream of immortality; but I could swing for a few thousand more lifetimes or so, just to learn everything and read everything from every culture. Then I’d retire.

    I like Shakes for the jigsaw puzzle aspect of figuring out the language. Unless you’ve been buried in his stuff lately, it takes a while to get back into the rhythm of the dialogue. Once you get back into it, deciphering what people are saying is fun. (Reading Victorian novels is similar, and my favorite is James; he’s like a jigsaw puzzle encrypted in Esperanto.)

    To me, not an academic by any lights, I dig the sound of Shakes’s language once I’m re-accustomed to it. But only in the best scenes. When the scene is dumb, it bugs me.

    Watching "Much Ado," the SO fell asleep. Apologized upon waking up, "I just couldn’t follow it." So I explained the plot. And, explaining it, we both realized it was a dumb plot hinging on preserved virginity (not much Whedon can do with that) and the SO went back to sleep. Having missed the best Benedick/Beatrice exchanges in the beginning. (Although the "oh that I were I man" speech later on is fabulous, and Acker does well by it.)

    Pretty language, the music of words, is cool no matter who does it and why. If Ayn Rand had written well, I’d respect her despite her political views. (James’s political views were positively elitist, doesn’t hurt my appreciation of his art.)

    Oh, I could ramble on for miles. The most "perfect" Shakes plays are the dullest for me; "Macbeth," for example. I like moral ambiguity, which is why I love Branagh’s Henry and Olivier’s Richard. Maybe those characters were "meant" to be very direct, and only the beauty of their dialogue makes latter-day adaptors attribute complexities to them that weren’t originally intended. I’m sure you’re familiar with the line of thought that says only later readers found pathos in "Quixote," and it’s possible Cervantes just meant him to be a fool.

    "To dream the impossible dream . . ." Hah, I’ll stop now. Sigh no more . . .

  4. @JMF – I do think Macbeth is the best thing that Shakespeare wrote. Check out the Patrick Stewart version. It is beautifully done.

    It’s true that comedy of that period is far more harsh than it has become. I think it is more likely that readers saw Quixote as just a fool more than Cervantes. How he saw the character is unclear. Quixote isn’t a very pleasant character. He is quick to rage, controlling, and pedantic. Sancho is where the pathos comes in. It just occurred to me, one could give the book a political reading. Quixote cannot see the world as it is because he has been blinded by this wealth. (He’s been allowed to get lost in his books.) Sancho can’t see reality because he’s been blinded by his poverty. Of course, the concrete world he sees. It is in his dreams that he is ignorant. But he is a decent guy. In the battle of heart and brain, brain does poorly in DQ.

  5. I will definitely check out the Patrick Stewart "Macbeth." Just in case you haven’t seen this famous clip, here’s Stewart on "Extras:"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fg_cwI1Xj4M

    Ricky Gervais’s "Netflix Original Series" "Derek" isn’t really worth checking out; it has moments, and the episodes go by quickly, but for a show set in a nursing home (a juicy idea) it makes almost no use of old actors and keeps harping on how derided social service work is. Rather depressing to those of us who work in that field.

    The other "Netflix Originals" are also watchable, but problematic. "House Of Cards" is entertaining fluff that tries too hard to seem serious. "Orange Is The New Black" has some terrific, serious stuff in it, but tries too hard to be entertaining fluff.

    It’ll be fun to look at "Macbeth" again. I haven’t read a Shakes play in about 20 years, so it’s time to revisit some of them. Odd that I remembered the bad song from Branagh’s version, and how terrifically beautiful Emma Thompson was (probably still is), but I’d utterly forgotten the silly lost-virginity-ruse subplot.

    That political way of looking at Quixote/Panza is terrific. I wish somebody would do a film version that way. Orwell referenced Quixote/Panza along with Jeeves/Wooster and Holmes/Watson in his essay, "The Art Of Donald McGill." As, he put it, variants on the old mind/body separation. (One could add Spock/Kirk!) Mind is brilliant, body foolish, yet mind is cut off from life and emotion while body has a capacity for enjoying life. (In whom are these things entirely distinct, really?) Viewing Quixote/Panza in a political way makes that mind/body tropism less simplistic. I dig it!

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