Thursday, November 17, 2005

More great moments in library material reviews...

From Video Librarian, regarding the Italian dramatic film El Alamein:

"...British aircraft continually bomb their encampments, and German allies only give them the most demeaning tasks...one cannot help but see the parallels between this conflict and the current war in Iraq..."

Of course not!!

My week for being confused...

OK, that's every week. Still, as I was going through newspapers here at the library, I read this Sunday, Nov 6th Doonesbury strip:

Doonesbury Strip

It left me confused. (I must admit, not an unusual experience when reading that tired comic these days.) Does Fat Republican Guy say move on because Mark's rant is so embarrassingly stupid on a varity of points as to make it pointless (and rather mean) to bother engaging it? That was my first thought.

Then I thought, "No, wait, this is Doonesbury," and so had to consider the idea that Trudeau thought Mark's screed so impeccibly and unassailably TRUE that a chagrined Fat Republican Guy realized there was no logical response to it and so is shamefacedly conceding as much?

Rationally, that second suggestion is laughable and, really, kind of pathetic. However, we are talking Doonesbury here. So what do you guys think?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Why only super-scientific CSI labs can fight today's master criminal's...

From Oregon:

"MCMINNVILLE - Someone's trying to pass off bogus bills at local stores. Police say at least seven counterfeit 100-dollar bills showed up at stores in McMinnville last week.

But authorities say the counterfeiters did a crummy job. The Benjamins don't have Benjamin Franklin's face on them - they've got a President Lincoln's face. And they all have the same serial number.

Merchants are watching out for suspects."

A hopeful moment in the chaotic history of Mankind...

Per the IMDB:

"Catwalk icons Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks have successfully reconciled their long-running feud after the British beauty made a guest appearance Banks's chat show... Banks made no secret of the fact that the British beauty was the reason for her dramatic retirement from the industry [because Campbell was getting more modeling work]. She also reveals why the pair decided to bury their differences: "Sisterhood is so important to me. I feel like women hate each other - we're jealous, and it has to stop."

Wow, if two supermodels who I hardly know who they are can put aside their differences and come together like this, perhaps there's hope in the Middle East after all.

How smart people write...

Man of letters Sandy Petersen replies to my bewildered query regarding a book reviewer who conflated a Robert E. Lee fictionally being put on trial with a "Saddam Hussein in gray":

"Saddam Hussein resembles Lee in that he is a representative of a defeated force. The amnesty offered by the Union (it wasn't just Republicans, of course - and wasn't even all Northerners) simply said that you couldn't be held criminally accountable for being part of the Confederate government or military. You could still be prosecuted for war crimes, and one person was - the head of the notorious Andersonville camp. He was hanged, too.

The same applies to the Nuremberg trials. In theory at least, the defendants weren't there because they'd been Nazis, but because they'd performed internationally-recognized crimes. There is a big difference between the Confederacy and the Nazis, however. The Nazis were recognized as a legitimate government at the trials. The Confederates were never recognized as legitimate by anyone - everyone assisting it was technically in armed rebellion against their lawful government. Therefore, the amnesty was actually necessary, so that not everybody who'd rebelled would be considered to be traitors. In addition, people who'd worked or fought for the Confederacy had to sign a special loyalty paper to be allowed to vote. (Lee signed this, but somehow the copy of it was lost, so he never did get to vote again.)

Being a Nazi was insufficient to be considered a war criminal. You had to have taken part in criminal acts. The most controversial "criminal act" considered by the tribunal was that of "planning an aggressive war", since this had never been considered a crime before. In the main trials, 3 of the defendents were found not guilty and released.

Now - another issue was involved here. Though the Nazis were recognized as the rightful government of Germany, they had broken various internal laws en route to power, and while they were there. The victorious powers did not consider these worthy of prosecution as "war crimes", but all the guys released by the tribunal were then subjected to criminal trials by the new West German government for their internal German crimes.

Saddam Hussein is not being tried because he was the president of Iraq, but because of the criminal deeds he committed while he was president. So the comparison fits with the Nazis, but not with R.E. Lee. I doubt the reviewer objects to the Nuremberg trials, so presumably the only reason he's comparing Hussein to Lee is to make the trial seem unfair. Because presumably it would have been "unfair" to put R.E. Lee on trial. Despite the fact that he broke his oath of loyalty to the U.S. Government, was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of men, and prolonged the war past the point that even he knew it was lost for the Confederacy. Every day that the war lasted past November 1864, I hold Lee personally accountable for every death. He knew, better than anyone else in the entire nation except maybe U.S. Grant, that the war was lost once Lincoln got re-elected. Before that point, the Confederacy still had a chance to win, and so persevering in the war made some sense.

I assume the Dred Scott decision was made in order to invalidate states' rights as a whole. After all, if ANY bad decision was EVER made in favor of states' rights, then the whole concept is invalidated, right? Right?"


What he said. That Sandy do sure write purty.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

This week in "What the hell does that mean?"...

From the Kirkus review of the novel, The Secret Trial of Robert E. Lee by Thomas Fleming (the book, not the review):

"Suppose, just suppose, the Radical Republicans decided that the amnesty Ulysses S. Grant offered to Johnny Reb didn't have a sicificiently punitive sting. What might have happened had they put Robert E. Lee--Saddam Hussein in gray--on trial for treason."

"Saddam Hussein in gray"? WTF does that mean? Is it a slam against the current "Radical Republicans" who have indeed put Hussien on trial? Or...no. There's no sense to be had from it. One was a general fighting for a flawed by understandable cause (the right of succession, not slavery). Hussein was purely an evil thug. No matter how seriously you remain about the Civil War, comparing Lee to Hussein is insane. Hell, even comparing Sherman, a far more controversial figure than Lee, to Hussein is well beyond the mark.

So...what? Did the reviewer just think that commment somehow sounded clever? Seriously, I am quite bewildered.

Hmm, I was trying to give the reviewer the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps he is just a jackass rather and a partisan jackass, but then dig this: " And whether intentional or not, it's all quite timely, as latter-day politicos debate states' rights and the legality of the Dredd Scott decision."

Yes, well, Federalism is a big constitutional issue, no doubt, although casting it as 'states' rights' is an attempt to make it sound all ominous, since that term has been tarished since the Civil Rights movement. But who the hell is 'debating' the Dredd Scott decision?! I mean, what the hell does that even mean?

Now that's good DVD news...

Finally...per the good folks at DVDdrive-in.com:

"Arkoff Titles Finally Coming to Region 1 DVD!

Lion’s Gate Films will finally start releasing a string of classic AIP titles from “The Arkoff Film Library” on Region 1 DVD. On January 10, they will release a double feature disc of EARTH VS. THE SPIDER/WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST as well as HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER/BLOOD OF DRACULA. Each double disc will retail for $14.98. More information to follow."

About friggin' time. Hopefully there will be a lot more where that came from.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weekend at Sandy's...

This weekend I went down to Dallas and stayed at the home of RPG author/demi-god and Jabootu philanthropist Sandy Petersen. Chris Holland drove in from Austin. Aside from a small amount of time firming up tentative plans for next year’s T-Fest (our own little B-movie fest), we basically just sat around and watched movies.

I arrived at the airport around four in the afternoon on Friday, and immediately got lost, giving Sandy (who had come to pick me up) his first indication of what a wonderful guest I’d be. By the time he finally managed to locate me and we drove back to his house, Chris had arrived. We set out for dinner, and Sandy went far above and beyond his hosting duties by treating us to an extremely good steak dinner. If you’re in Dallas and want such, the T-Bone at Culpepper’s won't do you wrong.

Thus fortified, we returned to Casa Petersen. Sandy scanned his voluminous DVD collection (larger even than mine, and don’t even get me started on his zillions of books, computer games, etc., nor his original oil painting of Cthulu hanging in his living room). Sandy’s entertainment center is extremely impressive, the centerpiece being a huge widescreen TV set.

Knowing that I was benighted in terms of a knowledge of foreign horror (mostly due to the fact that I’m famously squeamish about gore), Sandy elected the first of the Brazilian ‘Coffin Joe’ movies, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, to kick things off. I don’t know if the latter ones get more grisly, but this fell easily into my comfort level, and was frankly a hoot.

The series’ protagonist is Xe, the undertaker in a small town. Xe—which I assume roughly translates to our Joe—is a purposely evil man who basically controls the town via a reign of terror. He wears a highly theatrical black cape and top hat who basically commits vile acts to prove that neither God nor Satan exist. These acts rage from eating meat on Good Friday (a big no-no in a community wholly Catholic) to numerous acts of murder, which he barely even bothers to deny.

Xe kills in a highly baroque manner, including knocking off his mistress with a poisonous spider. His only real drive, other than to flaunt the idea of anything higher than himself, is to propagate. Although utterly nihilistic, Xe fears dying without leaving behind a son, the only manner of achieving immortality that he recognizes.

In the end, Xe reaps the torments of hell, and quite evidently is dead. Whether his subsequent return is explained, or instead his death is ignored, I don’t know.

Next up was Scipio Africanus, an Italian fascist film made during Mussolini’s reign and basically a propoganda film meant to shore up the purported historical justification for Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, which occurred soon after.

The film is fairly turgid, and watching huge masses of Roman citizens all stand around and constantly throw Roman general Scipio (the film’s stand-in for Il Duce) the fascist raised arm salute is pretty revolting. Still, the incredible scale of the film is noteworthy (as with Goebble’s production of Kohlberg—when fascist governments make a movie, no expense is spared), with the legion of the real Italian army playing their historical equivalents.

Best of all was Sandy’s running commentary. The man knows his ancient Rome, and was able to keep us apprised of the various players in the drama and helped cut through some of the film’s less reliable plot elements. Not a great movie, perhaps, but I can’t say it didn’t make for fascinating viewing.

Given the late hour and travel fatigue, not to mention all the steak we’d eaten, the next movie had to be lively. Sandy came through again, pulling a classic Shaw Brothers film from his extensive collection of Chinese martial arts movies. This one was Invincible Pole Fighters, which counterintuitively began with seven pole-fighting brothers being slaughtered by specially-trained anti-pole fighters. Two brothers escape; one has been driven mad, and the other retreats to a Buddhist monastary, hoping to leave his past behind. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen, and several zillions of corpses later, the bad guys have all been violently served. Great stuff.

After that it was bedtime. More to follow.