A Close Run Thing

When thinking on the American Revolution, it’s generally a matter of national pride to see that the outcome was inevitable. A plucky militia, with Right on its side, handily defeated an Evil Empire who couldn’t be bothered to listen to the concerns of the rebels.

It’s always nice to have a happy origin story – or at least one that couldn’t have gone any other way.

Too bad that’s nowhere close to the reality of the American Revolution. It was one close call after another.

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Book Review: Then Everything Changed

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan
Jeff Greenfield
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Copyright 2011 by the author

Greenfield, author and political analyst, adds his considerable knowledge and experience to the “alternate history” field with this surprising and insightful trio of lengthy essays. He takes great care to avoid creating words for historical personages, instead taking what they actually said (albeit in different contexts) and using that to bring his hypotheses to life.

His first essay deals with the prospects of a John Kennedy administration. The early 1960s are fertile ground for counterfactual history. Given the constitutional crisis resulting from Richard Pavlick’s assassination of Jack Kennedy before he had been confirmed as president by the Electoral College, it’s no wonder. We all know how Lyndon Johnson took the reins of power through the sheer force of his personality and guided us through that crisis. But without it, Greenfield suggests that the charisma of Kennedy would have blinded us to his utter lack of political experience and the many scandals waiting to happen just below the surface.

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Juneteenth

So we’re coming up on June 19th, which is in the process of becoming a major holiday. It’s supposed to mark the day that slavery ended in the US…..

HOWEVER, they’ve got the date VERY wrong. June 19th, 1865, was when Union Army general Gordon Granger announced “General Order Number 3” – that as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery had ended in Texas – in the city of Galveston.

That’s a pretty darned limited thing. First of all, as we should all know, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery. Secondly, it wasn’t until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865, that chattel slavery was finally made illegal in the United States.

If they really wanted to mark the day slavery ended, the celebration would be in December – right in the middle of the holiday season. That’s not going to happen. And people started celebrating June 19th almost immediately afterwards, so there’s enough of a tradition behind it.

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Movies I’d Like to See – I

As you can gather from my reviews here, I’ve watched a lot of movies. Not as many as some, though. I have different tastes than most. Very little of current cinema catches my interest. Nor do I consider myself a “scholar” of the art form. I’m just a person who has a bit more than a mere passing interest in movies.

And since I have this blog, I therefore have free rein to write about them.

Naturally, I imagine the sort of movie I would like to see. And that’s a topic for a post or three.

First, a reimagination.

The character of Fu Manchu was created by Sax Rohmer in 1913. An early archetype of the genius supervillain, he was everything the era was afraid of when it came to the Orient (“the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man.”). Yes, it was racist AF. But the novels – and the movies made from them – were incredibly popular in their day, and the character still haunts pop culture.

There’s actually been an origin story for him – The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929). Let’s do it again, but tinker with the point of view.

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Bowling in the Olympics

While at dinner tonight, I caught a bit of a news item on the upcoming Olympics. This set me thinking. They’re always looking to add more sports to the Olympics (which is one of the reasons they’re getting more expensive, but I’ve already written about that). Baseball and softball have been “demonstration” sports. Among those activities that are or have been seriously considered are ballroom dance (!) and chess (!!!).

Look, we’ve got to make something clear to stop such foolishness. Make a hard and fast definition that a Sport is a “competition primarily for physical skills where a winner can be determined objectively”. While competitive chess at the highest levels can give rise to serious physical stress in the players, it is almost entirely a mental game. You can play it with almost no bodily movement. And while ballroom dance requires great physical skill, it’s rarely obvious who “wins”.

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Watching the Grand Final

Thanks to the Peacock streaming service swinging the deal at the last minute, the Eurovision Song Contest is available for watching here in the US.

The events all happen in the afternoon on US time, and since they’re not going to let me watch the show at work, I can only see the Grand Final – held on a Saturday – live. I’ve been to a couple of “watch parties” before, but there’s none that I’m aware of this year. So I get to watch it at home – and comment on the show as I watch!

This will NOT be a “live blog” – I don’t think I can type and post that quickly. But it will be my impressions in order of the entire show. There are a bunch of “professional snarkers” like the legendary Graham Norton out there who can and will do a better job at this than I ever could. I’m not a professional music critic / pop culture expert, so….
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Unmasking

With the CDC issuing another set of de-masking guidelines, there are a few groups of people who are upset that they are being lifted too soon, in their opinion. Other places have tossed the “Masks Required” signs into the garbage – if they ever had them up in the first place. There’s ambiguity in the new guidelines, and each state is likely to be in a different situation where following those guidelines isn’t the best option.

Frankly, it seems to me like it ought to be easy to come up with a set that should work everywhere.

Health Care Facilities: REQUIRED. Duh. Hospitals, nursing homes, dentists, even eye doctors – you’re going to be around people who aren’t in the best of health. Do you want to catch whatever it is they’ve got? Why even walk in to a place with lots of sick people WITHOUT a mask?

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Eurovision 2021

I honestly didn’t think they were going to have it this year, so I didn’t bother checking weeks ago to see when the performers were finalized and the official music videos were released. Evidently, things have settled down enough in Europe for them to have the “battle of the bands” this year.

I hope I don’t have to explain what this is – just look for the posts with the “Eurovision” tag. This year’s event details are at the usual place – https://eurovision.tv/

The official “recap” of the music videos for the entries:

I haven’t had enough time to decide which ones I prefer.

Look, if you still think Verka Serduchka is the standard example of a Eurovision entrant, that’s like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger is the standard example of a state governor. Yes, they count as one, but in no way are they typical.

And we all know the real point of following the contest – making fun of the entries. Eurovision doesn’t take itself too seriously, so why should you?

I wish I could watch the actual competition here in the US (the semi-finals are May 18 and 20; the Grand Final on May 22). Even if it wasn’t happening during working hours here, I don’t think any cable network is carrying it. And for some reason, you can’t easily stream it online.

But if you can watch it, give it a look. There’s almost always going to be something fun, cool, goofy, or downright awesome.

(Yes, I know about the Will Ferrel movie on Netflix. No, I haven’t seen it. It’s a comedy spoof (at least it’s supposed to be), and should never be taken as a serious and accurate depiction of the contest.)

Movie Review: Primer (2004)

This film, created by Shane Carruth, has a reputation in the science fiction world for being one of the most complex and interesting movies about time travel in the entire genre. I’d wager that no other movie has had more “explainer” material written about it. Indeed, if you want to untangle all the loops and loops within loops, you pretty much do need a cheat sheet of some sort.

But those analyses have come to dominate all the reviews so much that people seem to have forgotten they’ve been watching a movie, and one should spend at least a little time going over its cinematic aspects.

Primer is the first of (to date) two films by Carruth, an indie (obviously) filmmaker from Texas. One usually wants to “be kind” with new works from aspiring artists and give them a large benefit of the doubt, but one also doesn’t want to be unfair to potential viewers.

So, with that in mind…..

 

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Movie Review – When Women Lost Their Tails (Italy, 1972)

It’s fairly common to turn any film genre into a comedy. Romantic comedies, horror comedies, action comedies…. Combining one specific type of comedy with another film genre isn’t that common. You can’t just shove jokes into the script; the comedic subtypes have their own rules that must be followed. A “sex farce” must have jokes about sex, and silly romantic situations. Combining it with another film genre isn’t going to be easy. Especially when you’re trying to combine it with something serious, like a satire of capitalism……… Continue reading