Saturday, December 31, 2011

Interview With An Assassin

"You people!"

Her eyes were incredulous, shattered glass. Trembling lips searched the lone face before her in her drab, eastern bloc apartment. To find one's self so helpless, so vulnerable to a careening world, a leaf who suffers whims of the wind. Where is justice and order in that?

"I'm sorry." He hung his square head downward, struggling to face her firing squad of piercing questions. But it had come to him like a flash, as real as the burning sun, that he must do this to stay alive. In the nick of time it was, living on life support. Best just to spit it out.

"They were killed...I killed them...because they were going to reveal the truth of our operations. If it ever became known what we had done to betray your betray the democracy we claim to stand for...we'd lose our moral standing in the world."

The assassin was finding the words as he spoke them, groping his way blindly home, only seeing the way ahead as words of truth shown forth like headlights in the dark. The more he struggled to get home, the more he realized how lost he was. The man shivered in explanation.

"You people..."

She's right. They told me lies - lies I wanted to believe. What price will I pay? In no man's land I am.

"Your parents were - are - heroes. It may be only you and who I know this. But I have to feel in time..."

The emptiness finally swallowed him up.

"You people. You let yourself be used. You do things without feelings. And for what? What is it that justify that? What is "interest" that need take human lives? Monsters!"

Yes, vampires do exist

Sobriety had come to the assassin but his pushers wanted him back - dead. When he'd made his contract with the men of power they were all smiles and handshakes but having broken it their true faces revealed themselves like lighted masks in warped funhouse mirrors. Out of the grave a hand rises, the memory of his first steps into the graveyard: he'd been running. Running from himself and into the grip of grateful bastards.

Part of him wanted to let them catch him and duly shoot him down. After learning to destroy life, for what does an assassin live? The girl was right. Does a monster settle down to a home and family? He was on a different journey now, far different than his trips to the killing fields. This time, the bullet seeks him out.

The Slavic girl with black filled eyes and glossless blonde hair clenched her stomach in pain. She didn't want revenge - maybe that would come later. Or maybe her revenge was as simple as what she most wanted at this moment in time, more than anything in her life: for him to understand the damage he'd done. In this time of silence, boulders of dread assaulted the former assassin.

Listen, and understand

"Do you know who my father was?" Her accented English had calmed into stable clarity. Here it comes, he thought. "He was friend. Not freedom fighter, not bad man, not even political. You kill my mother and my father and part of me die, left in dark hole no one think about. I not understand that, do you?"

The mute assassin knew to say anything in reply was lethal. Part of him still clung to the idea he understood the why of his actions - or had pretended to - or...

"I understand killing to preserve life. This I thought much of. You see, if I kill you that night that would preserve life. But these men who give orders, their lives mean nothing without dogs like you, dogs who come running to the whistle. Of course, they tell you it for good cause, no?"

She baited the trap, waiting for him to fall into insincerity. His rejection of the past must be total and absolute. He ran away from who he was, letting souls without hope define him in their own image. His eyes looked up to hers accepting what judgement may come of his wasted time. No, there had been no good cause.

"Good! Now you live with it, assassin man. Man who tear apart families. How long it take me to make this right? But this of you I ask: today you tell me truth. You stand with mother and father. This you continue to do?"

At last, the assassin wept. How could she forgive him? To say he stood with her murdered parents to the man who staged a ghastly murder-suicide of "corrupt" Easterners. Yes, this was healing - but for what? Had he any future left? Or had he only the future he'd left his victims? He must find who he is.

"I don't know..." whispered the lost voice.

"Good answer!"

Wiping his eyes he saw her smiling face. Was she mocking him? Mocking the anguish she surely wanted him to endure? No, it was genuine. She was her parent's child.

In training they'd removed from his heart the fear of death. But what he'd once believed liberated him shackled him to his present chair. Fear. Questions. Confusion. Demons of self-loathing shouting him down. Dare he stand now? Dare he do the most courageous act of his life? Dare he do what he wanted for himself?

Ready to fall if not supported, the man stood up, reaching his arms out to her in supplication. He'd understand if his hope went unanswered. But she rushed to him in equal desire, hate so obviously pointless. Holding on for dear life, the two embraced in a hug more passionate than most kisses. Life! Let there be life!

And this is how governments fall and people stand tall.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Dream Is Over

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 10:13 Gwynne Dyer

The Durban climate summit that ended earlier this month was proclaimed a great success. The chairwoman told delegates: “We have concluded this meeting with [a plan] to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come. We have made history.”

Don’t be fooled. It was an almost total failure.

This time, the rapidly developing country that put up the greatest resistance to a binding global deal was India. (In 2009 and 2010, it was China.) The chief Indian delegate held out against any legally enforceable treaty through three long days of nonstop negotiations. In the end, she agreed that an eventual deal would have “legal force” — but it would not be “legally binding.”

Lawyers get rich arguing over phrases like these, but that is for the future. The question now is, given what the Indian government already knows, how could it possibly have taken that position?

Three years ago, while I was interviewing the director of a New Delhi think tank, she dropped a bomb into the conversation. Her institute had been asked by the World Bank to figure out how much food production India would lose when the average global temperature had increased by two degrees Centigrade, she said — and the answer was 25 percent.

This study, like similar ones that the bank commissioned in other major countries, has never been published, presumably because the governments of those countries pressured the bank to keep the numbers secret. But the Indian government undoubtedly knows the truth.

A 25 percent loss of food production would be an almost measureless calamity for India, which now produces just enough food to feed its 1.1 billion people. If the population rises by the forecast quarter-billion in the next 20 years, while its food production falls by 25 percent due to global warming, half a billion Indians will starve. The country will not be able to buy its way out of the crisis by importing food, because many other nations will be experiencing similar falls in production, and grain prices will go through the roof. So India should be moving heaven and earth to stop the average global temperature from rising by two degrees. But it isn’t.

Like almost every other country, India has signed a declaration that the warming must never exceed two degrees, but in practice the government acts as though it has all the time in the world. Maybe it just can’t visualize that grim future. Or maybe it is just too attached to the principle that the “old rich” countries must pay for the damage they have done.

That would be just, since the old rich countries emitted around 80 percent of the human-made greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere. But if only those countries act, then the average global temperature still soars and Indians still starve.

Most developed countries do not face similar losses in food production at that temperature threshold, for they are farther from the equator. Their position is merely selfish and short-sighted; India’s is suicidal.

Over the past 15 years of climate negotiations, there has been a steady decline in the seriousness of the response. The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 committed the developed countries to stabilize their emissions and then cut them by an average of six percent by 2012. Developing countries were exempt from any controls, because they were not then emitting very much. Deeper emission cuts were to come in a second phase of Kyoto, beginning in 2012.

Based on what we knew then, it was a cautious but rational response. In the meantime, however, developing countries’ emissions have grown so fast that China now produces much more greenhouse gas than the United States. Global emissions are not in decline — last year, they grew by six percent.

So what was the response at Durban? The 1997 Kyoto targets for developed countries will be maintained for another five years (with no further cuts), and developing countries will still not accept any legal restraints on their emissions. Then everyone will sign some more ambitious deal by 2015 — and the new targets will acquire “legal force” by 2020.

By that time, annual global emissions will probably be at least twice what they were in 1997 — and the two-degree barrier will be visible only in the rearview mirror. The outcome at Durban could have been even worse — a complete abandonment of the concept of legal obligations to restrict emissions — but it was very, very bad.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

It didn't surprise me to see that the author of this article is foreign. In America - on both the left and the right - facts are fitted to make "our guy" look good. The real deadlock is in people seeking political power, not just political office. Thus as we are busy pointing fingers on who is to blame and who gets to steer the ship, no one stops it from sinking. The supporters of whichever captain is at the helm won't allow any talk of an unfavorable reality.

Wallow in whatever rationalization suits you, bottom line is watching our children die from decisions we have made is a fate that is far, far worse than mere death. That truly is eternal hell. Not only will we have made our own lives empty but those who depend on us as well. I just don't understand how any parent plans to endure that.

People who speak the truth aren't out to "destroy" anyone, they are out to preserve life. Those who have made their bed with lies destroy themselves: the truth will out in all cases. Attack the motives of the truthtellers all you want, you'll be no less dead in the end - and look like a moron to boot. Only where there is love is there hope. Thank God.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The "New Normal" Ain't So Normal!

A message from one of the "greatest generation":

[The Nazis were at the height of their power, the furnaces burning night and day in godless savagery. Never in history had the phrase "Hell on earth" more aptly described such a hopeless, hideous horror than time in the death camps. No soul who passed through left unmarked after hearing the silent screams filling the night air in deafening shrills.]

"They do this right out in the open, in the middle of the vast gravel pits where thousands labored in slavery. They shoot, they kill, they massacre, they destroy. They marched us fresh prisoners directly by a group of Jewish schoolgirls they had standing at attention as if it were some sort of school function. I don't think the girls realized what was about to happen nor could even imagine such pointless evil in the world. It's as much about the holy state betraying their trust as anything else. In an instant of gunfire it was over.

"I couldn't stop the feeling of helpless outrage. But that's what they wanted. I ran through my options but my only choice was to join the dead. I considered lunging for a guard's gun to get myself shot and out of this hell but I feared a fate worse than death if I failed. What gall! I thought. The Germans want everyone to see the new world order and desensitize us to the massacre of the Jews, that if any man had a heart left it would bleed to death.

"What sort of horror under the sun is this? Does not even God weep? One girl was left alive. I came to realize she was the betrayer, the pied piper who drew them in. The distant sniper shot meant for her missed and came close to a male prisoner. Boiling over, grasping at anything, I pointed out the missed shot to the little German runt leading us, convincing myself the stray shot was meant for the worker. He halted the column in anger. It wasn't much, but in this small action I found some satisfaction; something, anything to prove they weren't so mighty and invincible."

"The runt that guided us on those first steps into the inferno took an instant dislike to me - and I to him. I wanted to throttle the bastard, his life secrets obvious to me. Recognizing me as an instinctive threat, he too raged in his heart to see me dead. But because I had recognized him like no one else he bonded with me in forced relief of his own killing torment.

"In an oblique way as possible, I intimated the doom to come, that their German ways had a shelf life due to expire. The dedicated dwarf had mulled over this question before - as I had hoped. But he was living in a dreamland, where death can be chosen but Life received. Never had I seen anyone so proud as when he gave this answer to me:

""The truth? The truth is merely a toy for philosophers and children. Muse on it all you want, it means nothing. Torture yourself as you please. But it is we who control the truth, who deem what color the sky. If tomorrow we declare the sky green then everyone shall agree and labor as if that were true. Do you understand now? Your 'objective' truth has no meaning. It's our truth that counts.""

"And that's how these strange characters such as the mealy midget came to power. The longer the charade the more bizarre the creatures who come to light. In normal times these men scurry and hide in shame, not daring to show the face of their decay. But in the day of the pervert they glory in their rot and commitment to ruin. These were men needing help and healing, walking wounded warped into freak shows as the "new normal". But their future was gone."


It's been decades since I've felt that feeling, and now that shock and awe has returned in dark echoes of piercing despair. That same sick, sinking feeling as the world turns upside down, where liars and perverts rule the day.

I heard the phrase again - "the new normal" - and that triggered these experiences I had long hoped buried forever. A female newscaster was blathering on about our world as it is as the new normal: out of work, out of homes, out of luck. Endless war profiteering, predatory commodity profiteering, and slave trading of the masses. The ship is sinking, no one is fixing the hole and the dead souls who rule the day say everything but the hole is causing our problems. Good to see Jew baiting still works.

But tomorrow is eaten up by today's perfidy. At some point no tomorrows will be left and both the guilty and the innocent will be trapped in a global concentration camp. Many in power know this is happening and what is to come of continuing our ways. But they have found their lies go unchallenged, that they may poach like vampires blood money from those without voice - just like in the camps all those years ago; beasts walking proud as Nazi terrorists back in the day.

It's all part of the "new normal".

Corporate killers live in luxury unearned, chewing on the carcasses of their victims like camp guards robbing the dead. Their only concern is to keep the free ride going. They justify the killing passionately and authoritatively, eschewing all reason, claiming their victims are the ones looking for a free ride and if they had been allowed to live it would mean the destruction of us all. It is, of course, of themselves of which they so knowingly speak. They deceive openly and publicly without fear each and every day.

It's all part of the "new normal".

It's the same look I saw in the camp: eyes drained of hope as they were forced to live out the inner lives of the Nazi losers. Today no soldier can free us from this hell of hells. I did not fight for this to happen! We won the war but lost the peace, giving away freedom on a fool's hope. Entire families tossed into the street, assassinated in broad daylight all over again. The desensitization campaign is working, quelling outrage with fear and dissent. We step over the dying and the homeless just as Germans stepped over the dead Jews. And still the greedy way is praised in the face of massive and growing suffering.

It's all part of the "new normal".

There are some who consider it magmanimous and open-minded to speak well of evil. There are those who are two-faced, chastising the evildoers in word but are complicit in deed. But the longer a truth goes unfaced, the more absurd life becomes. By your absurdity they shall know ye. Is it life that we serve? What if it's true that this death we mandate is in no way necessary? Once we believed just as strongly we must burn witches to stay alive. One day, the madness of serving illusion, enslaving the poor, destroying dreams and casting lives into pits without pity will be seen as just as mad.

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth."
Abraham Lincoln

Right and wrong do not come in half measures. Fixing only part of the hole in a ship is the same as doing nothing at all. There is nothing normal about what is going on. In this world war, who are the freedom fighters? It is the meek, who seek to become neither master nor slave. It is the noble, who let no lie pass from their lips though they be cast out. It is the faithful, who create bonds of love in a world hellbent on shredding them. No one "needs" to be denied a living. No one "needs" to be removed from their home and family. And no one "needs" to call this normal.

What this truly is, is INSANE!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Silver Bells In Downtown Dallas (Photo/Video)

Intersection Street

My fourth grade teacher was in a festive mood as we neared the Christmas holidays so she put on a record of Christmas carols for us. I'm not sure if such things are allowed nowadays since everyone is so sensitive to every word said, sung, thought or implied - no matter how innocent. Those without innocence cannot see it in others. But thank God times were not so complicated back then.

Main Park Buildings

"Silver Bells" was my teacher's favorite song, one that literally moved her to tears, causing her to leave the room in emotion. I thought that was both funny and ridiculous - and it set my evil mind to work. When I saw her trying to re-enter the room, I set the record back to "Silver Bells" to run her out once again. I've never had any use for useless authority figures.


But since that time I too have cried over "Silver Bells" and Christmas time in the city. I can't put my finger on it, but somewhere in the song's simple joy the music bespeaks an innocent heart and I can almost see the smile with which it was written. Beauty in its purest form. I never liked my fourth grade teacher, but I don't hold her in so much contempt now.

Neiman Tubes2
Famous Neiman Marcus tubes for children to crawl through.

I was hoping for a white Christmas, but looking at the forecast I had to settle for a wet Christmas if anything. I was not alone in photographing the city lights that night. Cameras were flashing all around me and I was even asked a couple of times to take pictures of smiles with scenic backgrounds. In between that I was also accosted a few times from some folks needing a helping hand. (But at no time of the year do I bring my wallet out into the open. Liberal guilt is for yuppies. Donate to a shelter if you want to help.)

Icicle Park

I wish I had gotten more of a Christmas vibe walking the streets of downtown Dallas. The few I did meet were cool but there just wasn't the hustle and bustle needed to make things come alive. It was sort of like putting a Christmas tree up in the basement. To keep myself in the spirit I kept humming "Silver Bells", imagining times now lost of carefree shoppers and wide-eyed children filled with anticipation. Christmas spirit is on life support, choked by the ugly reality we've made.

Bus Seats
Wet seats await bus passengers across from the ritzy Adolphus hotel.

Aching to hear the song once more, I set it to video. Sadly, no version I came across lives up to the version in my head. The singers keep getting in the way! But I hope I can give a couple of extra heartbeats to the shredded fabric of Christmas spirit in this the 21st century of war, famine and greed.

[Insert generic holiday greeting here]!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Yes! You CAN Fly!

Sorry, Mr Bond. The world found a way to live
without you kicking the shit out of people.

"We're saved! We're saved!"

"What? What's that you're saying?"

"Oh, we're saved at last! I knew it would happen. I just knew it!"

"Saved how?

"Haven't you heard? We can fly!"

"Fly?? No way!"

"Way! It's a new technology!"

"I always said technology would bail us out!"

"Right, but no one would listen. Some people just have no faith! And no more stupid talk about the environment!"

"All those people thought the world was going to end. Bet they feel silly now!"

"I can't wait to start flying!"

"Me neither!"

"So what do we have to do to get started?"

"Just go over to the government flying station and give them all the money you got. It's easy to find, it's sponsored by Exxon with a giant electric sign. Do that and you're ready to go!"

The lines were long and the crowd buzzing with happy excitement. It was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from their shoulders.

"Oh, thank God they figured this out. I never wanted to say anything but all the pollution we were causing was going to kill us for sure!"

"Yes, I feel like I can talk about it too now. We must have been insane! What were we thinking?"

"But how you know this even gonna work?"

"The President said so! He said it's our patriotic duty to start flying everywhere we go!"

"The President! Oh, my! Well, I don't know about you but I'm ready to serve my country and jump right off that cliff!"

"Me too! I'll show you what a good person I am!"

But on a hill beyond the cliff stood a prophet without profit. He warned of the doom brought by lies and the conceit of man. The crowd was irritated by his words.

"Damn liberal lies! They always want to ruin everything, that's what it is."

"You know, I always try to keep an open mind but I'm sick and tired of all this talk about so-called responsibility. Finally, something good has happened and these losers just can't accept it!"

"It's because he hates the President! That's why he's saying it! I hate political people!"

When news of the prophet's words hit the President's ears, he was livid. "He's upsetting the people! It's my job to make the people happy and we cannot have this one man destroy our country. He must be stopped! Call Terrorist Team Six to take him out. I'm one bad ass ninja!"

In due course, the men with guns accomplished their mission, gloating over their bullets' deed.

"Haha! There you go!" spat one terrorist. "Now he's a good American!"

The crowd rejoiced at the news of the prophet's death. "Truth, justice and liberty win in the end! Our way of life shall endure!"

One by one, young and old, man, woman and child lined up at the flying station to get their Super High Tech wings to "free them from the bondage of oil". Unreleased anger vented from long sealed mouths deriding the "old ways" and "old days" before love's technology finally saved their souls. Who needs a heart when one can have a chip? And one by one a smiling jokester heaved the patriots off the cliff.

But flapping though they may be, they seemed just to keep falling towards their doom in spite of all the governmental promise and common wisdom to the contrary.

"We must not be doing something right," queried one falling body to another.

"Don't worry, if this many people are doing it, it can't be wrong! Flap harder!"

"I don't know about you, but I trust the President and I KNOW he's a good man who wouldn't let us down. If anyone dies it's their own fault!"

But of course, they all died. Back in the Exxon corporate offices, the laughter was loud and hard. "What fools! I love it! We don't even have to kill them ourselves - they volunteer for it!"

"And thank God for that useful idiot of a President. All he cares about is if they die happy! What a glorious Pied Piper he turned out to be."

"Yup, one of our own people could have never fooled so many sheeple. Now we can keep everything for ourselves. It's profit over prophets, baby!"

CODA: In the end, there was no honor among thieves as the survivors consumed their lives in a stubborn refusal to change. Ten thousand years later a space archeologist discovered the dead planet and wondered why a people who had everything could die off without a trace.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Two Birds
Once, we flew together

The minute I saw the oversized, blazingly white new pickup in her driveway my heart sank into the sidewalk. "No, no, no..." Involuntarily, I kept walking into the propeller blades of doom. But I dare not cry in the Saturday morn sun, not on the day when rejoicing masses embrace their two day parole. I dare not crumple and die. Who drives this mechanical monster so boldly parked in hers the most precious real estate of all?

The kind who can step up to her plate.

Sky Tree

My feet refused to move further. I stuck my hands inside my jacket on this brisk Autumn day. But the real cold came from inside. End of the road at last, discarded like an outgrown toy. Suddenly I had nowhere to go. I don't belong in this neck of the woods anymore; from invited visitor to trespasser.

But I knew this day was coming.

She'd been hurt - grasping and clawing at the universe in confusion. The bloody divorce flipped her world upside down, dumping her into a dark hole, questioning who she really was. How shattering the sky when the universe grants your wish and your wish brings heartache for the ages.

Bridge Distorted

We were both left on the scrap heap of countless souls wandering aimlessly in the forest of endless trees of sameness. For me, this is my final destination, a place long known. For her, a new and unnerving ordeal. Emotional injuries engender shivering shock too. She'd rebooted into safe mode, the spice of life gone. She clung to me to tell her it would be alright. I clung to her to carry me out of the woods.

Our communication link was the game of Othello. "A minute to learn a lifetime to master." Being such an easy distraction, we forgot our troubles as I taught her basic strategy and rules. I am an expert in the game and she enjoyed relying on me to carry the load for a while. I was most happy to do it!

Trick is to end up with more of your color than your opponent.
Black has actually won this game using a "stoner" move.

In real life she was far outside my social circle, she of ultimate class without even trying. The game was my ticket into her world. During her time as a prisoner of doubt, the camaraderie was a vital support beam to give her shelter until she could rebuild her house. Each day I saw in her the acceptance of lessons to be learned. Maybe our Othello games were a metaphor for that.

Sometimes I'd back off on my game a bit - subtly so she wouldn't notice. That gave her a fighting chance, her mind fully concentrating on the board, her unadmitted pride dying to beat the "superior" player. This focusing of energies allowed life to slip in the back door without her noticing. Life truly is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

God, was I proud of that.


I couldn't do the "other things" with her. Some took her out to eat, to dance and drink, to local socials and other small kisses of life. I imagined what it might be like for myself to take her to a movie but we just did not fit together like that. Maybe neither of us wanted to face the other was not as we dreamed. But I knew I wanted far more than just a board game - but exactly what?

Yes, I noticed the fine shape of her brown legs stemming from below her robe she sometimes wore answering the door. I just wanted to fall into her. Her warm brown eyes were like fireplaces on a winter night, a wholly delectable woman! No, her charms were too much to be unattended for long. But again, I couldn't picture me as the man for the job. Not that I didn't want to apply.

Bridge Too Far

Time was running out in great panic for me to make my move to stay in her life. Dreams of separation assaulted me, the Day of Revelation nigh. She'd be moving on and I left behind. What card had I left to play? The endless forest would come to claim me once more. God truly is a jealous God, ruthless in the need for love.

Nowhere Trees

Now that day had come. A carload of screaming girls drives passed me as I scream inside my head. Inside her inner sanctum the white truck driver be, no doubt enjoying her irresistible charms, her golden smile and dancing laughter. Fruits forbidden to me. I wanted to believe I was imagining it all, just to march across the street and knock on her doors as always. But something told me that truck had been there long before I got there - like all night before.

At last she stepped back into the saddle.

Condom Trail

What a frightful feeling to be sentenced to walk back to the scrap heap. No lawyerly tricks could save me from this judgement. Back I go! Back to where the birds pluck at your eyes if you dare fall asleep. Back to where when you die only contempt is shown for your carcass. I looked down at the now meaningless board game tucked under my arm and laughed in mirthless mockery. May as well throw it on the scrap heap too.

Path Divide

No, I don't belong in this neck of the woods anymore. I walk in foreign country. Making the stilted, bitter march back my small, desolate pad, I tried to be happy for her. But I could not. That's how I knew I was not a real man - and only a real man would do for her. I couldn't get passed thinking of my own needs and how I wasn't nearly done getting what I wanted from her - or what I wanted to give to her. Shit! All over now! Shutting the door to the castle wall the tears let fly at last.

Trees Light

My old friend suicide came swooping back in, delighted to see my return to ill health as it gripped my heart with its barren, lifeless claws. I ripped the phone out of the wall and buried my face in failure's sobbing pillow. How many more times? Why is it I always keep missing the answer? Why does success seem as far as the stars? I think too much of me when I should think less and I think less of me when I should think more.

Trees Dark

Ah, well, too late now anyway, right?

I could hear the accusing voices awaiting me. "You're just feeling sorry for yourself." "Get up and do something! Make something of your life!" "Grow up and stop having so many feelings. The world is a dark and abandoned place." I moved nary an inch, covering my head with a blanket to protect me from invisible wasps.

Solo Bird
Flying solo again, naturally

Later, I dared to check the Caller ID. She had called three times wondering where I was! But wait, she was gracious like that, don't take it personally. I don't want to intrude on her flowering life. Fucking beats Othello any day of the week. I know which one I would choose! Best take it on the chin and go down for the count. Then I saw this email:

Harry, where were you today? You didn't call or leave a message. Please respond the minute you read this so I know you're OK. It may be just as well you didn't make it. I had a pipe break in the middle of the night and had to call a plumber who took hours fixing it. Spent all day getting the house back in shape. Your not showing up made it even worse!

Please, please clue me in when you get this. I can't let anything happen to you before I beat you straight up! (You thought I didn't notice when you take it easy on me). Hope all is well.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Socialism For Dummies

Lots of people like to get all fancy-ass intellectual about definitions of words and phrases. Those people are always wrong. Remember, intellectual spelled backwards is lautcelletni - don't sound so smart now, do it!? Bottom line is instead of putting words in people's mouths listen to what they be saying.

Socialism to the widest swath of good people means this: "Taking hard earned money out of my pocket and giving it to someone who ain't deserving of it."

No wonder it's such a hot button word! This definition is then naturally compared to our pure religion of capitalism where "everyone pulls his weight". It's all about people being responsible you see. Yessir, there's nothing capitalists love more than responsibility! Right?

For the sake of argument, let's say all these things are TRUE! We can't let loafers and thieves take all our money, can we? Why, anyone caught doing that would be strung up and hung out to dry in a heartbeat in this honest, hard-working country of ours. You socialists better not show your face in these parts, no sir!

Easy to tell who the good guys are in an
honest society: they got all the money!

Then I got all confused by my God-fearing, capitalism-loving, advocates of personal responsibility when I read this headline right on the front page of the morning paper:

Rise of commodity speculators helps fuel soaring cotton prices

Now, every good capitalist I know swears up and down and six times to Sunday that the free market is the only way to go! The free market is God talking, they says. Hell, who am I to doubt God?? See, when people want stuff real bad in the free markets prices go up and when folks don't want it so bad no more prices go down. That's what all them smart folks call natural fairness.

But this here article says something different going on!

Pension funds and Wall Street banks are pouring money into futures for cotton, oil, natural gas, wheat, coffee and other commodities. Such financial speculation, weather and demand helped drive the price of cotton to a record $2.17 a pound March 7.

Before peaking, cotton prices rose by more than 140 percent in less than 18 months.

Some analysts say this speculative money from investors who will never take delivery of cotton is distorting the futures market, driving up cotton prices and thus raising prices for apparel retailers and consumers.

My capitalist friends say, "Give them food now
and they'll be wanting handouts for life!"

Don't know about you but that sounds like socialism to me! Them lazy-ass investors taking money right out of the wallets of every decent man, woman and child in this country! You can't just make prices be what you want them to be just to suit your own selfish interests, no sir! You gotta think of the greater good!

Just how did these deadbeats and parasites get a foothold in the Greatest System On The Face Of The Earth? I don't understand it! How could anyone even dare when they just got to know the minute a righteous American hears about this their sorry ass is toast!

A McClatchy investigation found that an increase in cotton prices has corresponded with the changing composition of the futures market, where speculators hold more contracts than do growers, producers, buyers and users of commodities.

"What happens is the markets become unreliable and therefore unusable" for growers and buyers, said Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner Bart Chilton, whose agency regulates commodity futures. "It's the same thing with cotton, same in energy. If you look at the volatility in the markets, there are not many of them that have sort of been stable."

Sifting through commission data, McClatchy found that total outstanding futures contracts grew by about 80 percent from 1990 to 2010. That's big growth in such markets.

Moreover, the number of contracts doubled between 2004 and 2010. This parallels the time when institutional investors began to play seriously in commodity markets, aided by popular commodity indexes developed by the Goldman Sachs investment bank and the disgraced financial giant American International Group.

Lord-a-mighty! They been doing it for years! Those scoundrels! Good thing those McClatchy folks dug up these cockroaches so we all can bring them to justice. We'll execute them Texas style! Hard labor for life - that'll show 'em for trying to get out of work! Let's see how they like them apples!

I know this stuff may sound harsh to you folks, but trust me, it's the only thing these kind of people can understand! People getting hurt out there and us God-fearing Americans are gonna do something about it!

The huge increase in the price of cotton is also hurting manufacturers. Ralph Lauren and Levi Strauss say profits have dropped because they can't pass along cotton prices to consumers in this economy.

Speculators are resisting change.

Late Friday, two huge financial industry groups sued the commodity commission to halt proposed limits on how many futures contracts speculators can hold.

What are them boys thinking? They gonna sue to stay on their lazy asses doing nothing 'cept taking other people's money? Oh boy, they got an education coming their way! This is the land of hard work and pulling yourself up by the boot straps! No free rides here, sonny boy.

I almost feel sorry for those fools when they find out we's honest folk in this country, not a nation of selfish crooks and thieves thinking only about themselves where bad people can get away with anything.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

French Films I Love

From the classic A Man And A Woman

It's amazing I still have this reaction after all the great French films I've seen, but every time I hear the phrase "French film" I still cringe as I equate that notion as being like French food: too runny, snobby and effete for my tastes.

But people often forget the darker, Jacobin side of France and her at times wholly ruthless nature. French prisons have long been a deep stain on the French character with the sort of sanctioned psychotic barbarity too repulsive to repeat here. And I'm not talking the distant past either. So don't go around thinking the French are all wine and fluffy soufflés. They can be some nasty characters!

It may surprise some people then that the French can be masters at the hard boiled crime drama, a genre to which I am partial. 2004's District B13 is a prime example of French cinema flying off the screen, with its electric use of free running Parkour to a cynical look at both policeman and politicians. The police are usually portrayed as methodical and plodding but effective in this genre. Sometimes we see the romantic ending, sometimes we don't.

Jean-Pierre Melville was the master of French crime drama. He explored the underworld with a keen eye and let the chips fall where they may. If you're like me and you love Paris in the 50's and 60's with her seemingly always wet streets, smoky bars and ever-present trench coats then Melville is right up your alley. The sheer atmosphere of his films is enough to draw me in.

Un Flic (Dirty Money, 1972) has one of the most unforgettable openings to a film ever conceived. The coastal bank robbery staged during ultra-high winds that surely must be emanating from hell itself lends an eerie, edgy tone of madness to the event that causes the viewer to squirm and wonder just what one has gotten himself into.

The film also stars two great French mainstays of crime and action: the handsome, dashing Alain Delon and the suave and savvy Yves Montad. If you see one of those guy in a film, be sure to look it over. If they are both in it, just go watch!

Ladies man, action star, cop or criminal - Alain could do it all

Yves Montand always played
a man to be reckoned with

In Le Samouraï (1967), Alain plays a cop who slowly tightens the net on a professional assassin in a long, slow spiral downward for the hit man. As we explore the life of the hunter and hunted, we're conflicted on who to root for as we get to know each man. That's what I love about Melville, things are rarely black and white.

Le Doulos (The Finger Man, 1962) involves a film with a recently released convict, his illegal plans, and a police informer in their midst. It is as Melville describes a film where "all characters are two-faced, all characters are false". Yet another film where as the plot unfolds so do the characters' true natures.

Le Deuxieme Souffle (1966) tells the tale of an escaped criminal as he tries to reach final freedom by returning to a normal life but his true struggle to be free is from within more than from without.

But Bob le Flambeur (Bob the gambler, 1956) is easily my favorite among all of Melville's films. Bob is a man married to Lady Luck and the fortunes and famines that brings to his life is to him simply the price of doing business. But we all know the odds are against him in the end as he uses his criminal endeavors to support his cherished hobby. Watch the film for an ending only Lady Luck could engineer!

But Melville wasn't the only one to master the art of crime film and seedy underworlds. Rififi (1955) is a hoot and a half! The great 20 minute heist scene is done without speaking a word - but I bet you don't realize that until you think about it later! Again, the atmosphere of the night clubs and the ingenuity of the thieves is just marvelous to behold. I dare you not to root for them!

Le Trou (1960) - a film Melville called one of the greatest French films ever made - involves a complex prison break detailed after a real life event. Three of the members of the break were used as consultants on the film to provide meticulous realism. The tension is palpable all the way through.

Pépé le Moko (1937) is a rollicking film about a gangster hiding in Algiers' casbah. Starring the great Jean Gabin - who could play a gangster as well as anyone - it's an early film-noir before the genre became formalized. He's a clever fugitive on the run eluding police, but he finds love and for that he needs true freedom. Will his past prevent that?

Le Quai des Brumes (Port of Shadows, 1938) finds Gabin drifting through a seaside town as a lost and lonely soul. As atmospheric as it sounds, there's not much romance in this smoke as we watch him scrap his way along.

Gabin also starred in Touchez Pas au Grisbi (Don't Touch the Loot, 1954). He's a criminal trying to retire after a massively successful robbery but like a gunfighter whose reputation everyone wants to steal, so does a crime boss want to squeeze the money Gabin lifted. A delightful battle of wits ensues.

For more in the gritty, smoky world of French crime, I also loved:

Melodie en Sous-Sol (Any Number Can Win, 1963) Gabin as the veteran and Delon as the young turk, as Gabin's character looks to pull one last job to set up his retirement.

Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle, 1970) In French writer-director Jean-Pierre Melville's crime noir classic, a brooding thief named Corey (Alain Delon) and a fearless career criminal named Vogel (Gian Maria Volonte) team up with cop-turned-goon Jansen (Yves Montand) for a hot heist while a straight cop (André Bourvil) stalks them.

Pickpocket (1959) Acclaimed French director Robert Bresson helms this stylized black-and-white drama following the trials of a Paris pickpocket named Michel (Martin LaSalle), a thief who grows so successful at his craft that he worries his luck will run out.

I also recommend Bressons's films Mouchette (1967), the tragic life of a teenage girl. Diary of a Country Priest of a young priest in over his head trying to lead his flock. And A Man Escaped (1951), of a WWII prisoner determined to escape the Nazis.

WWII also inspired Melville's L'Armée des Ombres (Army of Shadows, 1969), a story of the French Resistance during Nazi occupied France. Would you rat on your fellow conspirators if your daughter's life hung in the balance if you did not? Those were the sort of situations faced by the French Underground. It's nerve wracking to the end.

What many people don't know is that the son of Auguste Renoir, Jean, became a filmmaker in his own right and Renoir's Grand Illusion (1937) is one for the ages. Two men (Gabin as one) who outside of war would be close and respected friends find themselves forced to do their "duty" inside of war to destroy the other. Why? Because there is no reason why. It's all a grand illusion. In war, the true enemy is the war. No one dares explore these themes anymore.

Remade by Akira Kurosawa, Les Bas-fonds (The Lower Depths, 1938), another Renior film, explores life in French slums with a various cast of characters struggling in their daily lives to survive. Compare both films to see the difference in attitude between the two filmmakers' takes on the Gorky play.

No mention of French films can be done without mentioning Gérard Depardieu. Yes, I've called him Gérard Diaper-doo before with his lack of American success but don't let that take away from the powerhouse performances he is able to command. One viewing of Jean de Florette (1986) should be enough to convince anyone of Depardieu's greatness. The plot reads as a simple one but is deceptive as to how much the films draws you in to feel its pain. Its sequel, Manon of the Spring, is also a must-see event.

Although remade by Richard Gere, The Return of Martin Guerre is made far better with Depardieu's engaging personality. The fact that it's based on a true story only adds to the haunting nature of the mystery of just who is Martin Guerre.

As Danton, Depardieu brought the historical character to life in a way no book ever could, a living breathing man making a stand during turbulent times only to be washed away by the wave of insanity of the first French Revolution. From comedy to history, Depardieu's legacy in French film is hard to match.

Blue (1993). White (1994). Red (1994). "Three Colors: Blue is the first part of Kieslowski's trilogy on France's national motto: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity". When I stumbled across the Three Colors trilogy I had no idea what I was in for. It's personal, it's French, it's modern, it's universal. Immerse yourself in this deep, fine wine of films and come out feeling both exhausted and refreshed.

My affection for the 400 Blows knows no bounds and is easily one of the best films - of any country - ever made as a soaring Truffaut instilled every ounce of his heart and soul into his first feature film, highlighting the spiritual struggles of his life to find his place in a world most unkind and distrusting of artistic beings such as he. Volumes have been said of this and rightly so. But Truffaut also wrote a female version of this film, not made until after his death.

The Little Thief (1988) is the story of a lively teenage girl in constant trouble and is seemingly on a path towards self-destruction as her yearning for life does not mesh with the rules and order of the world around her. The ending is uplifting and magical and restores faith in the universe, the perfect bookend to the 400 Blows.


OK, so my list was pretty gangster heavy but there's nothing else like the black and white Paris of yesteryear and I'd give anything to roam those streets and immerse myself in a romantic time that could not last. France is very proud and protective of its film industry, reluctant to let Hollywood overrun her with its big budgets and copious output. In 1989 a directive was implemented to institute quotas to limit the number of America films shown in French theaters and TV. I think that's silly. The films of France can stand on their own!