Movie Review: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (UK, 1943)

“Colonel Blimp” was a comic character created by David Low in 1934 as a satirical depiction of the Old Fogey who, while sitting in his chair drinking brandy and puffing on a cigar, expounded on all the News of the Day, giving his considered opinion that he knew how to solve everything. Generally simplistic and often self-contradictory, his comments earned derision and the contemporary equivalent of a snarky “OK, Boomer” response. The great moviemaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger took the idea of the character, and turned it into the “Most British” of films, and, by humanizing him, one of the greatest character studies of all time.

We open with Major-General Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey), an officer in the Home Guard (England’s “last ditch” defense force of retirees and the like), relaxing at a Turkish bath the evening before a set of war games / training exercise with another unit comprised of actual military troops representing the Germans. His bath is interrupted when the “German” forces “attack”. Complaining that the games aren’t supposed to start until midnight, Candy is told by the “German” officer that the real German forces don’t follow rules, so they need to be prepared at all times. After an angry exchange, Candy loudly gripes that they make fun of his appearance, but know nothing of how he got that way. He throws a punch at the officer, and they both fall into a pool. The camera slowly pans to the far end, as Candy’s voice slowly repeats the phrase “Forty years ago….” At the far end, the magic of film has brought us to 1902, and a younger Lieut. Candy emerges from the pool.

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Nobody

So the results of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame election have been announced, and we do not have a winner.

The leading candidates were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, each of whom has problems when it comes to the “Character Clause” that voters are asked to consider. They all fell short by a handful of votes; for obvious reasons.

I do not have a problem with the clause itself; what does irk me is how much people publicly agonize over their decision. “Oh, we can’t allow people who cheated in the Hall! What about players who, when they were active, were known to have or at least were widely suspected to have cheated and are already enshrined? What about the known racists in the Hall? What about the players who will appear on the next ballot?” I can understand why one might ask these questions, but do we really need to read about all your hair-pulling and kvetching?

Then there are those few who have said they aren’t going to vote in any future elections, because the Hall hasn’t given them any guidance on how to deal with this matter. Why are you telling us? If you have a problem, take it up with the BBWAA. You know, that organization of which you are a member and sends you a ballot every year? By the way, can you not trust your own judgment?

The “electorate” consists of nearly three hundred people. And an election does not have to be unanimous. One individual vote is rarely going to make a difference. We’re going for a consensus here.

So you can’t bring yourself to vote for someone who, on the basis of their record, clearly belongs, but has been a real schmuck off the field. OK, that’s fine. Don’t vote for them.

And by the way, it is also fine to change your mind about someone. Every year, once the results are announced, we read about players who increased or decreased their vote totals. You know what that means? People changed their minds! If no one ever did, no one would ever go “up” or “down” in the polling, and we’d only have to have people on the ballot once when they became eligible – instead of keeping them on for up to ten years.

I get that you want to treat the matter – and your vote – with seriousness. Good, you’re supposed to take it seriously (and not consult a Magic 8 Ball to help you decide). But this isn’t like partitioning India. Fill out your ballot, and don’t lose any sleep over it.

Book Review: The World Beneath Their Feet

The World Beneath Their Feet:
Mountaineering, Madness, and the Deadly Race to Summit the Himalayas
Scott Ellsworth
Little, Brown, and Company
2020

While the English language steals words from other languages, the German language makes its own words when it needs something new. As a result, it pretty much has a word for everything. The one we’re interested in here is “achttausender”, which literally translates as “eight thousander”. It refers to those fourteen mountains that are over eight thousand meters in height. All of them happen to be in the Himalayas, and pretty much all of them were the targets of European climbing expeditions in the 1930s.

As Ellsworth recounts them here, it became a race between nations. The major contestants were the Germans (with the Alps in their backyard, mountaineering was pretty much in their blood) and the English (they controlled India, and therefore essentially controlled access to the Himalayas). Individual derring-do got combined with national pride as teams risked lives to set altitude records in a strange version of King of the Hill.

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After Impeachment

Let’s face it; it’s going to take more than a basic impeachment hearing to properly clean up after the insurrection attempt earlier this month. Punishing El Presidente by permanently barring him from holding federal office ever again won’t be enough. We’re going to need hearings on a scale we’ve never seen before.

We need something like the 9/11 Commission to identify the security failures that let the mob get as far into the Capitol as they did – and propose valid fixes to those failures.

We’ll need something on the order of the Kefauver Crime Committee that will treat the Q-Anon people, “Proud Boys”, and other such groups as organized crime so we can find them and root them out. Political disagreements are fine – but not turning to violence to get your way.

And, given that there are still people in Congress who still refuse to acknowledge reality, and that there are reports that the mob had help on the inside, we need a version of the Watergate hearings to clear the rot out of the federal government. If members of Congress need to be censured or even expelled for their role in the insurrection, so be it. They broke their oath of office; they should suffer the consequences.

Censure and the Insurrection

I just sent this off to my senators (both Democrats, naturally). While I cannot expect them to personally read it, someone in their offices might….

Dear Senator:

Like you and all decent people, I was appalled at what happened yesterday (January 6). I am relieved to know that neither you nor any of your colleagues or staff were harmed in the insurrection.

However, I have a feeling of dismay that the entire disgraceful and shameful day may be passed over without any action being taken to punish those who, if they did not incite the events, at least aided and abetted them.

By supporting and even promoting the baseless claims of a fraudulent election, these Senators can be legitimately accused of seditious conspiracy (18 U.S. Code § 2384):

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)
Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)
Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA)
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN)
Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS)
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN)
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)

I understand that it requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate to expel a member. I am too pragmatic to expect that to happen.

A Resolution of Censure, however, only requires a simple majority. I STRONGLY encourage you to pursue that option.

At the very least, the senators listed above should be stripped of all their committee assignments. I don’t think you need a vote to do that.

2020 in Review

Well….

That was….a year…..

And as usual, it’s time to review the past year at Pure Blather.

I managed 55 posts. Fewer than previous years, but not as few as I thought. The Olympics were postponed; the baseball season was cut short; I didn’t find as much inspiration to talk politics as I thought I would (I had very little to add to what the mainstream sources were saying); I didn’t have the handful of posts about vacations and travel…. I probably just wrote about some of the “filler” topics I keep in reserve. I do need to refill that reserve – it’s pretty empty right now….

Even though I had my fewest posts, I still had the largest number of visitors (3,339) and page views (4,464) ever. A big surge since last year, too. Maybe I’m just promoting this place a bit more – at places where people are going to read my comments and stop by here for a visit.

That self-promotion must have affected the Top Five Post for 2020:

5. Baseball is Killing Itself (June 5) – 23 views
4. Those Election Maps (November 6) – 27 views
3. Movie Review: The Gamera Trilogy (May 8) – 50 views
2. Scrooge & Marley (December 8) – 68 views
1. The Gallifrey Conundrum (January 29) – 109 views

How else can one explain one of my last posts of the year getting so many views? I did brag about “Scrooge & Marley” quite a bit – I’d say it’s my favorite post of the year.

“Indiana Jones and the Top Men” is still my most viewed post all time. No other one is even close.

I’ve had visitors from all over the world. I’d like to have a “per capita” number, but that’s a bit much to ask from WordPress when you’re too lazy to figure it out yourself. But it is kind of odd to find that you’ve had 31 visitors from tiny Singapore, and only 3 from all of Russia…. Eh, I shouldn’t spend too much time on that. Who knows how many of those are actual humans and not bots….

As far as 2021, we’ll see. I’m hoping the libraries will open up so I can have access to real books and not just e-book versions of things in the public domain. It would be nice to talk more about baseball – and the Olympics. I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep up the one post per week rate, but if not….blame it on my trying to learn this new and annoying “Block Editor” here at WordPress.

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

There’s a lot to like about this time of year. But one thing that always annoys me is that people start publishing their “Best of the Year” lists well before the year is over. I understand that they need to get their articles out there, and that when we put up our new calendars, everyone is looking forward rather than backward. But with two or even three weeks left in the year? That’s plenty of time for things to happen. I get that you may want to give your writers the holidays off. But that’s no reason you can’t write up the articles and then publish them in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

Anyway, for me this will be my last post of 2020. I haven’t posted as frequently as I have in previous years; I can only note that I almost always get five or six posts out of reporting on my vacation – and this year, well, travel was out of the question. The baseball season was drastically shortened, so that took care of one source of inspiration. Libraries have been closed for most of the year, so my reading has dropped off (you’ll note that most of the books I reviewed were public domain works that are available for free online).

I also found I didn’t really have much to say about the presidential campaign and election that wasn’t already said in the real media – and better than I could have done, anyway.

So I’m going to take it easy for the next two weeks. Watch some movies online, read some more free e-books, and figure out how to use this new editor at WordPress. Typing text is easy; it’s going to be formatting and adding media that’ll be the hard part.

Enjoy whatever holiday you’re celebrating, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Movie Review: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (UK, 1965)

Spy flicks (i.e. international intrigue movies) generally fall into one of two major categories. There’s the big budget action adventure type, with gadgets galore, eye-popping stunts, and exotic locations. Then you’ve got the low-key types that rely more on mood and the personal challenges and drama of the characters. The former are the James Bond and Mission: Impossible movies; the latter are the lesser known relics of the Cold War era that are generally treated as more like mysteries than tales of international espionage.

John le Carré is a master of the second type. Like Ian Fleming, he worked for British Intelligence, but rather than write what are little more than glorified “Mary Sue” stories, he got down and dirty in all the more boring and unpleasant aspects of the game.

Spy” is one of his best works, and was turned into one of the best movies of the genre.

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Scrooge and Marley

“A Christmas Carol in Prose” by Charles Dickens has got to be one of the most popular short novels of all time. It’s been adapted hundreds of times; the story is a simple one of personal growth and redemption – and there’s extremely little religion in it.

It also helps that it’s old enough to be in the public domain, so anyone can do whatever they want with it.

Most adaptations neglect to expand on one part of the story. True, it’s not really that important, but let’s take a look at it anyway.

What sort of business is Ebenezer Scrooge in, and can we discover anything new about the character by examining that aspect?
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A Krampus Mix For You

It’s that time of year again.

This year, I thought I’d do something different – and make a playlist of songs about people who aren’t that keen on the holiday, for whatever reason. Or songs to that effect.

There’s nothing gross. Aside from being overplayed, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is pretty sick, when you get right down to it. Nothing depressing here, either. They may be great songs, but Stan Rogers’ “First Christmas” and Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” are rather bleak….

I also note that animated TV shows have been doing some fun things in this vein; I’ve included three songs from that medium.

Oh, and to heck with Festivus, and Krampus is already tired. If you want to do something different for the holiday season, there are plenty of other non-standard Christmas traditions out there – like Wassail – that are available for you to try.

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