Saturday, March 30, 2024

An Officer and a Gentle Man



Lou Gossett Jr was a film and T actor who I usually felt was better, sometimes a lot better, than the film or TV productions themselves. For instance, take the movie that won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, from which this post derives its title. Gossett was great in that, but I didn't really care for the thing as a whole. Or even understand it. Like, I never got what the climatic fight between Gossett's character, a drill instructor, and Richard Gere's Navy Aviation Officer Candidate was all about. When I asked people who also had seen the movie if they knew, the reply was usually something along the lines of "Richard Gere was immature and needed to be taught a lesson." Oh, so it's a basic training version of a spanking (though this time the misbehaving child gets a few good licks in himself.) Really, Gere's character comes across most of the time as nothing more than a smart ass, of which there's a great many in this world, but because it's the military, that smart assness becomes a potential threat to national security. Whatever. Besides, I think the steamy sex scenes between him and Debra Winger (proof at least of Gere's physical maturity) had as much to do with the film's great success as did anything it had to say about honor or duty.

Enough of Gere. We're here to talk about Louis Gossett Jr. Here he is alongside Eddie Murphy:

What's ironic about the above clip is that Gossett indeed would become stereotyped, but not the way the Saturday Night Live skit suggests. Remember, he didn't win that Oscar playing a ghetto father but a military man, and for a while there...

...he continued playing military men.

Praise the Lord (after all, tomorrow's Easter) and pass the ammunition. I actually prefer this kind of nonsense to the supposedly more profound An Officer and a Gentleman. Or maybe I should say I preferred, past tense. Watching this clip this time, I find the nonsense tries my patience more than it used to. A war movie can be very exciting, but now with the real-life war (or horror) movies going on in the Ukraine and the Middle East, and here in the United States the undeclared wars against innocent bystanders that break out every time somebody walks into a shopping mall, school yard, or Super Bowl celebration armed to the gills, that excitement quickly turns into nausea. None of this is meant as a dig against Louis Gossett Jr. Like most of us, he just went where the work was. And there were times when that work worked toward peaceful ends.

Gossett started on the stage and appeared on Broadway alongside Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in A Raisin in the Sun (a work that was equal to his talent) and was in the film version as well. Did you know Gossett could sing? He was in the Broadway musical The Zulu & the Zayda with Ossie Davis and a Yiddish theatre actor by the name of Menasha Skulnik. Former MGM mogul Dore Schary directed. I confess to never having heard of this production until now, but it must have been good as it ran for 179 performances. In addition to singing on the stage, Gossett for a time had a side career in folk music. In 1967 (when a war movie titled Vietnam looked as it might never get to the closing credits) Gossett covered the oft recorded "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", and his somewhat soulful rendition holds its own nicely to the better-known versions by The Kingston Trio and Johnny Rivers. Listen:

May your Easter be a happy and thoroughly unexciting one. 



Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Quips and Quotations (Imagine There's No Heaven Edition)


He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason.

--Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Royal Reservations


For the past few weeks I've been considering doing a post satirizing the media frenzy over the former Kate Middleton's prolonged absence from the public eye. In particular when she took a brief break from that absence and released a photo of herself and her children that we now know to have been digitally altered, but then I thought to myself, suppose it's something serious? Well, it's turned out it is something serious, so I'm glad I didn't give in to my satirical impulse. Not that I regret having that impulse in the first place. I'm a great believer in satire, and a media frenzy is always fair game. Also, satire speaks truth to power, and power, historically at least, has been pretty much the point of monarchy. However, this media frenzy is over somebody who may not be feeling all that powerful at the moment. Long live the Princess, and anyone else in similar straits. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Smart Art (Faux Foliage Edition UPDATED!!!!!!!!)


Banksy strikes again!
Environmental politics is about densely populated urban areas like this, just as much as it is about farmland and woodland and hedges.

--Jeremy Corbyn

So says the former leader of Britain's Labor Party and now-independent Member of Parliament, delighted that the dismal-looking wall behind the dismal-looking sawed-off tree in Islington North, the lower-income neighborhood of London that he represents, serves as the canvas for the mysterious graffiti artist's latest project, which made its mysterious debut sometimes Sunday morning. Nearby residents also are said to be delighted, as well as flattered. They didn't think Banksy even knew their little slice of urban blight existed (as for Banksy's own existence, he admitted on his Instagram account Monday, a day after the mural appeared, that he indeed his handiwork.) As to why the tree was so radically pruned in the first place, supposedly it was a safety hazard, and even more supposedly needed to be done to prolong the life of the fifty-year-old tree, which was said to have a fungus problem. Whatever. I'm neither an expert on trees or fungi (other than liking an edible form of the latter on my pizza.) I can only hope that Banksy's spray painted greenery remains until that day in some future spring the tree sprouts green on its own.



(All this is in red so you can better differentiate the original from the revised. Even in the midst of damage control, my readers come first.)  

Some people predicted this, but in my naivety, I thought I could get a good, one-day posting out of it before it...


Yes, the painting was defaced, either late last night (3/19/2024, London time...I think) or early this morning (3/20/2024 London time...ditto). Now, this gets kind of existential. It can be argued that graffiti, no matter how well done, is technically a form of defacement. So is this really an example of defaced defacement? Vandalized vandalism? Such questions may be philosophically beyond me. All I can say is that I preferred the original defacement to the revised defacement, just as I preferred my original post to this screwy update, but this isn't about me, so back to the matter at hand. As you can see, a fence has gone up. I've read conflicting reports as to when or how exactly this happened. Some news stories say the fence was already in place and the vandal climbed over it to do his misdeed. Others stories state the fence went up only after the splash of white paint was discovered. In whatever order it happened, it seems a good bet it was put there per the Islington Council, who in the past few days saw their usually overlooked London suburb suddenly become a tourist attraction, though I've read speculation that it was put there by Banksy himself! None of this, Banksy's original artwork, the white defacement, and maybe even the installation of the fence, happened in broad daylight, but in the cover of night.

Take it away, Patti:

(I had to salvage this post somehow. I'm sure Banksy would understand.)

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Photo Finish (Repatriation Redux Edition)


As has been observed and commented upon often, those who fought in Vietnam, unlike their World War II counterparts, returned to civilian life with very little fanfare, which can happen when the enemy forgoes an unconditional (or any kind of) surrender. Yet there was a notable exception to this lack of enthusiasm: Operation Homecoming, the 1973 Paris Peace Accords-negotiated return of 591 prisoners-of-war that began on February 12 and ended about two months later. Whether it was because of so many men in uniform coming back to the U.S. in such a relatively short amount of time (unlike non-POW servicemen, whose return from 'Nam was spread out over several years), or because it was a more agreed-upon hellish experience that better fit the requirements of a pro-America morality tale (unlike, say, My Lai); the POWs' repatriation was a major media event, best exemplified by the above Pulitzer Prize-winning picture, titled Burst of Joy, snapped by Associated Press photographer Slava "Sal" Veder on March 17, 1973 at Travis Air Force Base in Salano County, California. 

On the left is USAF Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Stirm, whose plane was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, upon which he was taken prisoner and not released until three days before this picture was taken. Running toward him with arms stretched is Stirm's 15-year-old daughter Lorrie. I haven't been able to track down ages of his other children but suffice to say I think they're all minors and were even more so minors when their father was shot down. That's son Bo Stirm (Robert L Stirm Jr) right behind Lorrie; daughter Cindy, wife Loretta (soon-to-be Stirm's ex as the absence failed to make her heart grow fonder), and lastly son Roger. Upon winning his Pulitzer, Veder made sure that everyone depicted received a copy of the photo.

Speaking of dollar gains, it's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but is it worth a thousand $$$$$$$? We now go to that bastion of capitalism, PBS, for an answer to that question: 

Watching that, I get the distinct impression Lorrie Stirm Kitching never had any attention of selling either the photo or her father's POW mementos. She just wanted to share with us some of that picture's thousand words.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

I.D. Please


There's been several posts going back to last summer in which I described the year 2023 as being, or having been, a MAGA-induced horrific one for LGBTQ folks in these United States. Perhaps I should have struck a more positive note and written instead about the resiliency of those same folks in the face of such Proud Boys-Oath Keepers-Trump-DeSantis-Boebert-Greene-Musk-Gaetz-Rowling (yes, she's British but read by Americans)-Putin (yes, he's Russian but a source of inspiration for Republicans)-Hannity-Carlson-Justice Thomas horrors, if the above poll put out by the Gallup Organization is any indication. As you can see, the percentage of Americans who now identify as LGBTQ has risen slightly over the past few years, and now hovers at 7.6% of the population. And "now" does not necessarily mean forever. According to Gallup, If current trends continue, it is likely that the proportion of LGBTQ+ identifiers will exceed 10% of U.S. adults at some point within the next three decades.” Why this increase? Are microplastics in the water supply turning people queer? Or is this the 21st century psychosexual equivalent of the Tennessee Valley Authority, gay power now having reached even the most rural parts of the country? Nobody is saying, but keep in mind this is just people willing to state their sexual orientation or gender identity over the phone to a Gallup pollster. At least as far as sexual orientation is concerned, some people won't admit anything to a pollster, or...

...anybody else.

Whatever the final tally ends up being, whether its 7.6%, 10%, some number in between, or--dare I hope? --some number greater, I suspect it will be the number that it's always been, even if we didn't know it at the time, and not just for America but the world at large.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Nothing from Nothing Leaves Something


There's been much in the entertainment news of late about this being the 12th and final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm (which due to a monetary reluctance to become too entangled with the more elite forms of television viewing, I probably won't see until a couple of years from now) but it's hardly Curb auteur Larry David's first experience in television. Waaay back in 1989--when the above photo was said to have been taken--the standup comedian and a standup comedian friend of his named Jerry Seinfeld got together and dreamed up Seinfeld, the now-legendary "show about nothing," which aired on free TV throughout much of the 1990s. Other than occasionally lending his voice to an only-seen-from-the-back-of-his-head Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, David didn't act on the show but was its producer and head writer for most of its run. Also, Jason Alexander has stated that he basically patterned his George Costanza character after him (David once got back on Curb by playing David playing Alexander playing David.) Just look at the smiles on those two guys in that photo. They know they're about to revolutionize that boob tube mainstay, the sitcom, and can barely curb their enthusiasm.


Friday, March 8, 2024

Air Biden


Well, I watched the State of the Union address, and can now...

...breathe a little easier.

That said, I think it's best I keep this at hand:

November is still a long way away, and one needn't get complacent.



Sunday, March 3, 2024

Vital Viewing (Great Depression Stimulus Package Edition)


Actress Jean Harlow was born on this day in 1911 (prone to bouts of influenza at a time when penicillin was not yet widely available, she died of kidney failure at age 26 in 1937.) Let's start out with a few home movies:

Watching the above you might get the impression Harlow was a silent film star. In fact, she was a major star of early talkies, as well as a major sex symbol of early talkies. In this scene from 1932's Red Dust, she tries her best to break the ice by talking up dairy products with a major male sex symbol of early (as well as later) talkies, Clark Gable (speaking of which, Gable's behavior at one point probably wouldn't pass a present-day #MeToo test, but keep in mind it's not the present day but 92 years ago):

Red Dust was a drama, though the above scene was obviously one of the film's lighter moments. Now, while I won't pretend it was the first and foremost reason she or later blond bombshells as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were such box office draws, Jean Harlow was in fact very good at comedy. Here's a comic scene from another movie that was otherwise dramatic, 1933's Dinner at Eight. I've shown it before (in a post about Marie Dressler, who also appears) and it never fails to make me chuckle:

 Take that, Sam Altman!