Bad Movie of the Week

MurderMan-01

This is a low key item from MGM in 1935. It’s The Murder Man, starring Spencer Tracy and Virginia Bruce. It’s mainly a vehicle to showcase Tracy’s emerging talent, and there is not much more than that.

Opening scenes show two crooked business men named Halford (Theodore von Eltz) and Mander (Harvey Stephens) coming up short in a tangle with the law. They run a shady investment firm that makes money by bilking investors. Halford goes beyond that, screwing and ditching a married woman, who, in despair, dumps herself off a ferry boat. They are accumulating enemies. Somebody is going to have to pay.

Mander gets a phone call to pick up a message at a shooting gallery located in a nearby store front. When he gets there, there’s no message but a lot of shooting going on and distraction for the manager. Halford happens to be passing by in his chauffeured car. When he arrives at his destination he is dead. A bullet from the shooting gallery has killed him.

MurderMan-02

Word quickly spreads in the press pool at the police station. One of the reporters is Shorty, played by James Stewart. This is before Stewart appeared in The Shootist, before he starred in It’s a Wonderful Life and before he went off to war and flew 20 combat missions.

MurderMan-03

Ace reporter for The Star is Steve Grey (Tracy), and his assistant is Mary (Virginia Bruce). Steve is assigned to cover the story of the homicide and the subsequent trial of Mander for the murder of his philandering partner.

MurderMan-04

And that’s about it for the action in this movie. Mander is set to be executed for the murder, but Grey won’t allow that to happen, since he is the one who took advantage of the distraction at the shooting gallery and shot Halford. His was the ex-wife who dumped herself in the river, and his was the father who lost a family fortune with the crooked investment firm.

There’s a lot of implausibility going on here. The only case against Mander is his name as beneficiary of a life insurance policy on partner Halford. He was at the scene of the shooting, lured there by the mysterious phone call, but nobody witnessed him doing any shooting. And with everybody around, nobody noticed Grey pilfering a gun from the counter and returning it after the shooting.

The plot attempts to end on an up note as the police chief observes that juries often give consideration for extenuating circumstances. Gray may possibly get out of the slammer in time to make whoopee with sweet Mary before she’s tool old for that sort of thing.

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Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

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Dating Ads for Seniors found in a Florida Newspaper.

You can say what you want about Florida, but you never hear of anyone retiring and moving north. These are actual ads seen in ”The Villages” Florida newspaper.

(Who says seniors don’t have a sense of humor?)

FOXY LADY:
Sexy, fashion-conscious blue-haired beauty, 80’s, slim, 5’4′ (used to be 5’6′),
Searching for sharp-looking, sharp-dressing companion.
Matching white shoes and belt a plus.
—————————————————-

LONG-TERM COMMITMENT:

Recent widow who has just buried fourth husband. Looking for someone to round out a six-unit plot. Dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath not a problem.
—————————————————-

SERENITY NOW:

I am into solitude, long walks, sunrises, the ocean, yoga and meditation. If you are the silent type, let’s get together, take our hearing aids out and enjoy quiet times.
—————————————————-

WINNING SMILE:

Active grandmother with original teeth seeking a dedicated flosser to share rare steaks, corn on the cob and caramel candy.
—————————————————-

BEATLES OR STONES?

I still like to rock, still like to cruise in my Camaro on Saturday nights and still like to play the guitar.
If you were a groovy chick, or are now a groovy hen, let’s get together and listen to my eight-track tapes.
—————————————————-

MEMORIES:

I can usually remember Monday through Thursday.
If you can remember Friday, Saturday and Sunday, let’s put our two heads together.
—————————————————-
My favorite

MINT CONDITION:
Male, 1932 model, high mileage, good condition, some hair, many new parts including hip, knee, cornea, valves. Isn’t in running condition, but walks well.

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

ca. 1850 --- An illustration from a mid-19th century copy of Grand Catechisme des Familles (Christian Doctrine for Families). --- Image by © Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis

ca. 1850 — An illustration from a mid-19th century copy of Grand Catechisme des Familles (Christian Doctrine for Families). — Image by © Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis

Bryan Fischer again? Does he every run out of wacko pronouncements? We can only hope not:

Fischer has talked about resisting, and now he’s talking about prosecution and shutting down churches. If you’re like me by now you are starting to wonder how all of this would play out. First of all, how would Fischer suggest we “resist?”

Better news. He’s back:

On his radio program today, Bryan Fischer took a call from “Rebecca in College Station, Texas” who shared her theory that the massive flooding taking place in Texas is God’s punishment for “witchcraft and sodomy.”

As Rebecca explained, the only parts of Texas that are underwater are the parts “that are overrun with witchcraft and sodomy” like Austin and Houston, which has a “sodomite mayor.”

First, we see “Rebecca” making these statements, not Bryan Fischer. What Fischer said in response is equally fascinating:

“If you’re going to attribute the flooding in Texas to some kind of supernatural cause, you can make a geographical connection between the flooding and the practice of the occult and witchcraft and the embrace of homosexuality,” he said. “That’s where the disaster is being felt the worse.”

Fischer then explained that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was also a very localized natural disaster that “just wiped out those two cities where homosexuality had been embraced [so] if you’re going to make a case that there is some supernatural origin to this natural disaster, that would probably be the place to look.”

I have been accused before of being picky. Here’s what brings on those complaints.

  • Much death and destruction occurred in Wimberly. This is in the heart of a very religious and conservative region of the Texas Hill Country. In fact, the Texas Hill Country, where much of the death and destruction was observed, is a region noted for its religious and conservative values.
  • Additional destruction was observed recently in Garland, again a community noted for its religious and conservative values.
  • Beyond all all that, the sad news for Fischer is that rain and flooding are the result of well understood principles of geology and meteorology. Human activities can exacerbate nature’s affliction by building in flood-prone regions and by additional construction that contributes to the flooding.

In short, the mighty hand of God has been noticeably absent this week.

Do I appreciate Rebecca’s innocence regarding varied sex acts? I do, as do we all. “Sodomite mayor?” Does Rebecca know the definition of sodomy? Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker is an acknowledged lesbian. The sex acts that lesbians indulge do not involve sodomy.

Wacko right wing religious fanatics do say the darndest things.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Odd Ball Conservatives Say the Darndest Things

Gage Skidmore via Flickr. Phyllis Schlafly

Gage Skidmore via Flickr. Phyllis Schlafly

I’ve always suspected that they do. Still, you can never tell what might come out of their mouths next. Maybe you have a general sense, but the exact language tends to surprise even me:

“Women like to marry a man who makes more than she does,” she explained, “so then she can take time off and work fewer hours when she has something she’d rather do like have a kid and look after her children. So the pay gap, really, is something that women like.”

Of course the famous founder of the Eagle Forum is dead on in her observation that women really enjoy the pay gap. I’m retired now, but as an engineer I managed projects that sometimes had women engineers working on them, and they were telling me constantly not to put them in for a pay raise. Their attitude was so heart warming. It actually hurt me when they opened their pay envelopes and saw that extra money. Some, I’m sure, have never forgiven me.

But, seriously. Just what is it that odd ball conservative Phylis Schlafly said that catches our attention? For starters, there is a (fairly) recent column in WND:

A shocking 46 percent of recent college graduates work in jobs that do not require a college degree. Boys are more likely than girls to look at the cost-benefit tradeoff of going to college. The imbalance of far more women than men at colleges has been a factor in the various sex scandals that have made news in the last couple of years.

So, what’s the solution? One solution might be to impose the duty on admissions officers to arbitrarily admit only half women and half men. Another solution might be to stop granting college loans, thereby forcing students to take jobs to pay for their tuition and eliminate time for parties, perhaps even wiping out time for fraternities and sororities. I went through college while working a full-time manual-labor job, and I don’t regret a minute of it; it was a great learning experience.

Mrs. Schlafly is lamenting the fact that student populations are increasingly dominated by women, and all these sex-hungry women are competing for a dwindling penis base. In this competition, vulnerable young women are giving up not only their innocence but also their ability to say no to male predators. Is it too late for me to go back to college?

I grant all the foregoing may not be the darndest. There is more. A short check shows:

  • The atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God. [Quoted in Raymond Coffey (1982-07-08). “Women are the Best Warmakers“. The Day.]
  • The worst censors are those prohibiting criticism of the theory of evolution in the classroom. [Schlafly, Phyllis (2004-12-29). Time to End the Censorship. Phyllis Schlafly Columns. Retrieved on 2007-03-30.]
  • Every country that has experimented with women in actual combat has abandoned the idea, and the notion that Israel uses women in combat is a feminist myth. [Schlafly, Phyllis (2005-06-01). Women Don’t Belong In Ground Combat. Phyllis Schlafly Columns. Retrieved on 2007-03-30.]

Mrs. Schlafly has a problem with modern science, and the outcome has been additional remarks of note:

Liberals see the political value to teaching evolution in school, as it makes teachers and children think they are no more special than animals. Childhood joy and ambition can turn into depression as children learn to reject that they were created in the image of God.

For the record, modern theories of biological evolution are based on findings by sincere scientists gathering evidence from studies of the history of this planet and the manner in which modern organisms are related through a common ancestry. Mrs. Schlafly’s comments appear to be drawn from her belief in a 3000-year-old myth concerning a magical person who created everything and works to manage everybody’s lives to this day.

As an aside, Mrs. Schlafly’s output has not been limited to odd ball remarks. Her son Andrew is founder of Conservapedia:

It might be wiki, but it’s not Wikipedia. It may not even be a pedia. It’s Conservapedia.

Suppose you have a science book, and you can never work the problems at the end of the chapter. Suppose, again, that you are a book publisher. The temptation is great. You have power.

You can write your own book, and you can edit the solutions in the back of the book to match your own. You can be a contender!

Now you get the idea behind Conservapedia.

I don’t know when it first came about that conservative politics and a conservative outlook on life diverged from physical reality, but Conservapedia seems designed to meet this need. Some with a conservative bent find it more convenient to bend reality rather than to deflect their world view.

Read more of the writings of odd ball conservative Phyllis Schlafly to get a better understanding of this peculiar segment of American conservative politics. I will have more to say later.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Lamech and his Two Wives 1795 by William Blake 1757-1827

There may be a contest going on. We know that politicians say the darndest things, but are the wacko right wing religious fanatics going to beat them out:

For his part, The Reverend Franklin Graham, president of  Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is using all the tools at his disposal to manage the Court’s decision, unfortunately for Graham and his cause. While some of the best legal minds in this country have applied their method, which involves arguing the case before the Court, Graham is employing a method that has never been known to work:

That would be hard to beat. But what we have now is wacko right wing religious fanatic Bryan Fischer:

Bryan Fischer is the former Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association (AFA). He hosts the talk radio program Focal Point onAmerican Family Radio and posts on the AFA-run blog Instant Analysis (formerly Rightly Concerned).

Fischer opposes abortion, national health care, gay adoption, and same-sex marriage. Fischer’s comments about homosexuality caused the AFA to be designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in November 2010. To avoid being classified as a hate group, the AFA has officially repudiated Fischer’s views on Muslims, Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, The Holocaust being caused by homosexuals, the outlawing of homosexuality and that LGBT parenting is slavery, and that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian.

We get all of that, but what has Bryan Fischer said that is really outlandish? It could be this:

Christian conservative Bryan Fischer is calling for civil disobedience if the Supreme Court strikes down state bans on gay marriage.

The high court is expected to hand down a ruling next month in a case challenging bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

“This has got to be a non-negotiable red line for us,” Fischer told his radio listeners on Wednesday. “It is absolutely imperative that that we categorically, unambiguously, and publicly declare that we will NEVER … accept the normalization of homosexual marriage, and will NEVER capitulate to any Nazi-esque order from any government at any level to violate either conscience or biblical principle on this matter.”

A particularly curious point from this is the phrase “Nazi-esque.” It’s almost humorous, because normalizing homosexual marriage would have been one of the last things the Nazis of old did. I’m not saying Fischer’s language is incongruous, just humorous. Fischer goes on to say:

“They can’t arrest us all. They can’t prosecute us all. They can’t lock us all up. They can’t shut down every Christian-run business. They can’t shut down every Christian-run school. They can’t shut down every Bible-believing church. They can’t shut down every Christian ministry.”

Fischer has talked about resisting, and now he’s talking about prosecution and shutting down churches. If you’re like me by now you are starting to wonder how all of this would play out. First of all, how would Fischer suggest we “resist?”

So two men get married. We should resist. How? We can approach the happy couple and announce, “No, no. You are not really married.” Are we going to get arrested? Certainly not. The First Amendment is not going to be abrogated by any legalization of homosexual marriage. Nobody is going to be arrested for telling people those two men are not married.

How about the churches? What have churches to do with homosexual marriage? What have churches always had to do with marriage? According to the law, nothing. The law does not recognize a religious marriage ceremony. Excluding what is termed “common law marriage,” people are married when they obtain and execute a marriage license from a government agency. This certificate is then presented by a married couple when they want to take advantage of any of the legal advantages of marriage. Those advantages would include filing joint tax returns, inheritance rights, custody of children. Nothing churches do affects this aspect of marriage.

About this time some explanation is in order.

What changes in the law are about, what the court decisions are all about is what public officials do. What people in this country have to do to have their marriage legally recognized is to petition the government, in all cases a local government agency. The federal government does not perform this service. People wanting to have their marriage recognized ask a favor of a local government agency. “Please issue us a marriage license.” It is state agencies refusing to accept certain petitions for marriage licenses that is at issue. Notice in all of this no church is involved.

I was unable to reconcile Fischer’s reference to Christian-run schools with the matter at hand, so I’m going to let that slide. How about Christian-run businesses? Here is where the law comes into play, and it is not about homosexual marriage.

There is a federal law from 1964 that prohibits business that are open to the public from excluding customers based on their religious and racial backgrounds and such. Some courts have extended this to discrimination based on sexual preference. Put bluntly, legalizing homosexual marriage would likely have no effect on similar court rulings in the future. A notable case in New Mexico involved a photography studio, open for business to the public, refusing to provide photo services for a homosexual wedding. The rejected customers sued and won. The legality of the homosexual marriage would not have affected this case. What the business said in essence was that homosexuality is a sin, and the company did not want to do business with homosexuals.

Some digression here. I have been in that business. I have been in the business of photographing weddings. It’s one of the scariest businesses on this planet. It’s only a notch down from open heart surgery. The risks and consequences of failure are legion.

  • If you have an equipment malfunction, and the photos are ruined you can be sued. The cost of the wedding might have been multiple thousands of dollars, and you have spoiled it completely by denying the happy couple their only photos of the event.
  • Once a bride posed incorrectly, the tiara was not at the correct angle. The photographer didn’t catch the mistake. The photographer did not even know there was a correct angle. There was a law suit.
  • One couple later changed their minds and wanted a different wedding. The photographer was sued for the cost of re-staging the wedding (photographer won the suit).

I can imagine a photographer, in business for decades, being approached for the first time to photograph a homosexual wedding. He might feel as though he were peering into his open grave.

Wedding cakes are a matter. “We want a homosexual wedding cake.” “I can do that.” “We want our cake to have figures of two men on top of the cake.” “We have some figures, they are only of of a man and a woman. We don’t have any with two men.” “We insist you make us a cake and put figures of two men on the cake.” You can see there are possibilities the law of 1964 will be abused.

And do you know what? None of these cases result from the legalization of homosexual marriage. Regardless of whether homosexual marriage is legally recognized in a locality, these cases can still come up. Remember, all the local government does is to issue a license, a certificate. The business owner requested to photograph a homosexual wedding and the bakery requested to supply a cake never ask to see the license. That never enters into the business transaction. A business may be required to serve all customers regardless of whether homosexual marriage is recognized by the government.

Finally, “shut down every Christian ministry?” Really? The government will be shutting down churches? The First Amendment is now history? If the government ever got into shutting down churches it would have started with the People’s Temple.

jimjones_jonestown

Nah, I don’t think it’s likely the government is going to be shutting down any churches.

Back to Bryan Fischer. What is he thinking? Is he thinking? I’m thinking he is not thinking. I’m thinking his revulsion for homosexuality needs some outlet, and he is allowing his voice to vent his frustration absent any working of his brain.

And that’s just fine, because this sort of thing provides amusement for the rest of us and employment for me.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Why Obama Won

This came up in an exchange recently. It went something like, “This explains how Obama got elected twice.” The actual reason given was an obvious joke, but I got to wondering about the real answer. How did Barack Obama get elected, and twice at that? I did a little research and came up with some answers.

In his first run for the office in 2008 Barack Obama exhibited an amazingly capable electioneering strategy. His team was in tune with the electorate that counted, knew how to organize popular support, and spent campaign resources wisely on the votes needed to win the election without wasting a lot of effort getting votes his campaign did not need. He received 68,498,516 of the popular vote, or 52.9% of the total against Senator McCain’s 59,948,323, or 45.7%. The remaining 1.4% voted for other people. Obama carried 28 states plus D.C. and 2 of Nebraska’s 4 electoral votes, for a total of 365 electoral votes. Senator McCain obtained 173 electoral votes.

That was the first round. In the 2012 election, then President Obama doubled down on his strategy of four years before, organizing the party loyals and working the critical voting mass. In 2012 the President obtained 332 electoral votes against Governor Romney’s 206. The President was re-elected with 51.1% of the popular vote against Romney’s 47.2%.

And that was how the President did it. But there was more. President Obama had help. He had help from an unlikely source. He had help from the Republicans. Here is what happened. Start with 2008. See the following photograph:

Photo from Google Images by The New York Times

Photo from Google Images by The New York Times

This photo was taken prior to the 2008 election, and it shows Senator McCain in Iraq. Specifically we see him telling viewers that the situation in Iraq is vastly improved and is quite safe. The problem is that people seeing this photo and video from the trip can’t miss noticing that the senator is wearing body armor and is protected by armed soldiers. His statements at the time were seen as naive at the least and duplicitous at the worst. My appreciation of the electoral process holds that voters can stand a duplicitous candidate but not a naive one. Strike one against Senator McCain going into the election.

Here is another photograph.

www.washingtonpost.com Former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin acknowledges the crowd during a campaign rally for John McCain at the Pima County ...

http://www.washingtonpost.com Former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin acknowledges the crowd during a campaign rally for John McCain at the Pima County …

That’s right. This is the image that sank the McCain campaign in 2008, and it was engineered entirely by Republicans. The moment I heard that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin had been selected as the Republican vice presidential candidate, I knew, and most others in this country knew, it was game over. At that moment I knew Senator Barack Obama would be the next President of the United States. My logic, and likely the thinking of others went like this. There had been much talk about the 3 a.m. phone call. Which person, Barack Obama or John McCain would be best to take the 3 a.m. phone call requiring immediate and decisive presidential action. The selection of a vice presidential candidate is one such critical decision, and by signing off on Governor Palin’s nomination, John McCain demonstrated that when the chips were down he could not be counted on to make the right decision.

In addition to the two major Republican gaffs just mentioned, the Republican Party had for the eight years prior to the 2008 election given the Democrats a sledge hammer with which to beat them. The Iraq war was seen by all as a major military, diplomatic and financial disaster. The Republican president at the time, former Texas Governor George W. Bush, followed up the Iraq disaster with continuing lapses of leadership, not the least of which was the government’s response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. By the time  the Bush presidency was over Americans were willing to elect:

  • A black man
  • A black man whose father was Muslim
  • A black man whose father was not an American citizen
  • A black man whose middle name was Hussein
  • A black man whose last name rhymes with Osama

Americans were that tired of President George W. Bush and the Republican party. And that’s how Barack Obama got elected the first time.

The second time around, now-President Obama continued to get tremendous lift from Republicans. In particular, Republican candidate Governor Mitt Romney showed disdain for the American electorate by mentioning  that “47%” of voters would vote for the president, because they were dependent on the government and could not be convinced to take personal responsibility. Governor Romney made these remarks at a private fund-raising event, and the remarks were directed toward people he expected to support and to fund his campaign. Many voters interpreted this episode as meaning Governor Romney would owe allegiance to these donors and not to them. Supposing the governor were right with his 47% remark. That would mean he would lose all of those 47% and would have to obtain over 90% of the remaining votes to get elected. President Obama surely said a quiet thank you to Governor Romney.

Additional help came from the other prominent Republicans. People in the news media caught on to a trick question and brought it up in interviews. “What are your thoughts on biological evolution? How about global warming?” With few exceptions, the remaining Republican candidates were unable to correctly answer these questions from basic science. A large section of the American electorate will vote for a candidate who demonstrates little benefit from a 20th century education, but the Republican Party’s nearly solid stance against science was enough to put off a significant block of others. Governor Romney, though not sharing these odd views on science, nonetheless saw a lot of his luster rub off due to his association with the Republican Party.

Additionally during this period the Republican Party was becoming to be known as “the party of God.” The First Amendment notwithstanding, a big part of the Republican agenda seemed inclined to make the United States Government the agent of a narrow religious sect. It possibly came as a surprise to Republican candidates at election time, but even deeply devout Christians, Jews and Muslims do not hold to having the government become an arm of the church.

During this time, as well, the Republican Party increasingly exhibited disdain for segments of society deemed unworthy. This particularly included members of the LGBT community. Republican candidates were reluctant to endorse legislation that specifically protected the rights of homosexuals and others. The religious arm of the Party was part and parcel to this slant. Republican positions opposing consideration for homosexuals were reinforced by the Republicans’ religious agenda. Religious fundamentalists interpreted biblical scripture as condemning homosexuality, and Republicans defended maligning homosexuals on religious grounds. Voters watching from the side perceived that these people found homosexuality repulsive and were using religion as a moral backstop. Otherwise conservative voters abandoned Governor Romney and voted for the candidate who advocated an inclusive government.

In 2010 President Obama managed to push his promised Affordable Care Act through Congress, and it became law. It is a mandate laid on the insurance industry, and its goal is to make affordable medical insurance available to many who were previously unable to obtain it. Republicans threatened to repeal the ACA at the first opportunity, and Governor Romney lost votes of those who would benefit from the law.

In 2011 President Obama signed off on a special operation that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The President was beginning to look like a person who could get things done.

Come election night on 6 November 2012 President Obama must have again acknowledged the special contribution the Republican Party made to his re-election.

And I thank you, as well. Every last one of you.

This Gun for Hire

It’s a classic from Graham Greene. I don’t have a dust jacket image, so I’m just going to post an image from the movie.

ThisGun-02

It’s This Gun for Hire, originally titled A Gun for Sale in 1936. The movie from Paramount came out in 1942 and featured Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake and Robert Preston. My involvement comes by a circuitous path.

I wanted to review the film noir spoof Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, which features Steve Martin and a number of Hollywood classics by way of clips worked into the narrative. But first I needed to review some of the classic films noir that get sucked into the plot. I obtained a copy of the Alan Ladd movie for review and decided I needed to review the Greene novel, as well. Here we are.

The movie is set in California. The novel starts out in London. The plots are parallel, but distinct, with one observation. Greene has taken what should have been a Mickey Spillane plot and written Sons and Lovers. Locale and character development are helpful for a crime novel, but Greene at times buries the plot in sparkling prose. Additionally, the treatment is uneven.

Much is made of the formation of the evil that is Raven, the assassin. There is considerable breadth but not much depth. His father was a criminal, ending life at the end of a rope. His mother cut her own throat, leaving her young son to find the body. English “homes” were properly Dickensonian, cruel and uncaring—factories for criminals. But Raven, still in his twenties and already an accomplished killer, views the world with a comic strip mentality. He has executed an assignment to kill a Czech minister and is revolted at the injustice of being double crossed by the people who hired him. He perceives that people working on the same side of the legal divide should play fair. Greene would have done better to give Raven a more cynical outlook.

Anne is the young and attractive show girl who is engaged to the detective assigned to track down Raven. Considering how her character is so essential to unfolding the plot, she remains a cardboard cutout compared to Raven. Anne meets Raven on the train to Nottwich, where she has an assignment in a musical review. Raven is going there to take vengeance on the industrialist who hired him and then exposed him to the police. Raven kidnaps Anne on the train and uses her as cover to elude the police at the Nottwich station. He plans to murder her to keep her silent, but this plan (as in the movie) is foiled when others barge in, and Anne escapes. In the mean time Anne has learned from Raven about the plot to murder the Czech minister in order to start a war. She decides to throw in her lot with Raven, with the idea of stopping the war. A better view of Anne’s background would have helped readers appreciate what is driving Anne.

Irony upon irony tumbles without end the remainder of the narrative. I don’t dislike irony. Irony makes for interesting stories. Irony can work for plot development. A good story should not be all about irony. This one practically is:

  • Anne is engaged to the detective who is tracking Raven.
  • Of all the people on the train to Nottwich, Raven picks Anne to kidnap.
  • Once Anne has escaped from Raven, keeping their escapade to herself, the very person she meets at the show rehearsal is Davis, the man who hired and double-crossed Raven.

The plot flows from there, already carrying an overload of irony. Anne, for reasons unknown to a thinking person, decides to play detective and to probe the man Davis. She gets herself invited to a luncheon date with Davis, who shortly sniffs her acquaintance with Raven. Davis makes a play at murdering Anne in a rented bedroom but decides instead to merely truss her up and stuff her into the fireplace. Raven, tracking Davis, rescues Anne.

Next comes the need for Raven to penetrate the security of Midland Steel, where the evil Sir Marcus manages his schemes. Marcus has ordered the murder of the Czech minister to get a war going to save Midland Steel from financial ruin. Fortunately, with war approaching, a gas attack drill is scheduled for the day. Raven filches a gas mask to use as a disguise. He filches it from medical student Buddy Fergusson, out on the street during the drill to catch people not wearing their masks. Greene dives fathoms into the Guy Fawkes pranks that lead up to Buddy’s rendezvous with Raven along a deserted street. A different writer would just have Raven waiting in a dark alley to catch the first chump to come along with a gas mask.

The climatic scene is in the office of Sir Marcus, where Greene draws out the final moments of Raven. Spillane could have accomplished this in three sentences or fewer:

Raven watched him with bemused eyes, trying to take aim. It wasn’t a difficult shot, but it was almost as if he had lost interest in killing. He was only aware of a pain and despair which was more like a complete weariness than anything else. He couldn’t work up any sourness, any bitterness, at his betrayal. The dark Weevil under the storm of frozen rain flowed between him and any human enemy. “Ah, Christ that it were possible,” but he had been marked from his birth for this end, to be betrayed in turn by everyone until every avenue into life was safely closed: by his mother. bleeding in the basement, by the chaplain at the home, by the soft kids who had left it with him, by the shady doctor off Charlotte Street. How could he have expected to escape the commonest betrayal of all, to go-soft on a skirt? Even Kite would have been alive now if it hadn’t been for a skirt. They all went soft at some time or another: Penrith and Carter, Jossy and Ballard, Barker and the Great Dane. He took aim slowly, absent-mindedly, with a curious humility, with almost a sense of companionship in his loneliness: the trooper and Mayhew. They had all thought at one time or another that their skirt was better than other men’s skirts, that there was something exalted in their relation. The only problem when you were once born was to get out of life more neatly and expeditiously than you had entered it For the first time the idea of his mother’s suicide came to him without bitterness, as he fixed his aim at the long reluctant last and Saunders shot him in the back through the opening door. Death came to him in the form of unbearable pain. It was as if he had to deliver this pain as a woman delivers a child, and he sobbed and moaned in the effort. At last it came out of him, and he followed his only child into a vast desolation.

[This Gun for Hire, pp. 146-147]

Then comes the denouement. Anne has wrecked her life, to say the least her plans for the future with Detective Mather. She is on the train back to London and likely jail. She has not stopped the war. Three people, including Raven, are dead. And she is complicit.

Then the train compartment door opens. It’s her lover, Detective Mather. He tells her they need to get married when the train reaches London. He’s getting a promotion. She’s to receive a grant. She has averted the war. (For the time being. The war started three years after this was published.) By this means Greene brings his convoluted narrative to a crashing conclusion. And I’m not going to dive into the enormous side issue of the crotchety old woman who ran the rent-a-bed joint and her addled husband Acky. That would be too much.

Recapping from a previous post:

Greene is an author I have long overlooked:

Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH (2 October 1904 – 3 April 1991) was an English novelist and author regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Combining literary acclaim with widespread popularity, Greene had acquired a reputation early in his own lifetime as a great writer, both of serious Catholic novels and of thrillers (or “entertainments” as he termed them); however, even though shortlisted in 1967, he was never awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Through 67 years of writings which included over 25 novels, he explored the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world, often through a Catholic perspective.

He also wrote The Third Man, which, along with the movie, I will hold for review until the 70th anniversary. Add to this  The Quiet American and Our Man in Havana, and you have quite a contribution to 20th century Hollywood. I have not seen Our Man in Havana, but I have seen The Quiet American. No review is planned.

Bad Movie Wednesday

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I wasn’t able to record this one from Turner Classic Movies, so I ordered a copy from Amazon. It’s This Gun For Hire from Paramount in 1942. The story is by Graham Greene, who also wrote the screen play for The Third Man. I will do a review later.

Alan Ladd is Phillip Raven, a hired gun, and his day is off to a bad start. He’s going to be wearing the same suit until the final scenes. His alarm clock gets him up in time for his appointment with a chemist, who has stolen the formula for a poison gas. Raven is supposed to pay for the stolen formula, then kill the chemist. He goes to the mans apartment. The man’s sexy girlfriend is there. Raven accepts the offer of cookies off a platter while waiting to complete the exchange and the killing.

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When Raven shoots the chemist his girlfriend takes refuge in the kitchen. He shoots her through the door. These are famous scenes that will later show up in Steve Martin’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. That’s for another review.

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What Raven does not do is to kill the little girl sitting on the stairs as he enters and leaves. He discovers she is blind.

Later Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) pays Raven off with hot money, the idea being the police will exterminate Raven, leaving Gates and his own employer in the clear. That’s not going to work.

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It doesn’t take long for Raven to pass one of the hot bills and get the police on his trail. Gates is headed for Los Angeles, where Nitro Chemical Company is located. Also one of Gates’ night clubs, where Gates has engaged Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) to perform her singing and magic act. By coincidence Raven seats himself on the Los Angeles train beside Ellen, and Gates sees this. He thinks she is in cahoots with Raven. Actually, she has just volunteered to spy on Gates for a Senate committee investigating treasonous Americans (this is during World War Two). Also, by coincidence, Ellen’s fiancée is police detective Michael Crane (Robert Preston), who is assigned the case of tracking down Raven, for the time being wanted only for the murderous heist.

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It gets complicated, and I’m not going to diagnose the plot.

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Raven saves Ellen after Gates and his henchman arrange to have her dumped into a large body of water. In gratitude, Ellen assists Raven to elude a police dragnet, and Raven penetrates Gates’ secure office wearing  the henchman’s uniform and gas mask (there is a poison gas drill going on at the company).

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Raven forces Gates and his employer, the treasonous head of Nitro Chemical Alvin Brewster (Tully Marshall), to sign a confession. It’s all for naught. Brewster immediately dies of a heart attack, and a bullet dispenses with Gates. Additional bullets dispense with Raven. He dies as Ellen Graham assures him he did the right thing.

What’s mainly wrong with this is it’s disjoint with the original plot. The book, A Gun for Sale, was published in 1936, when the United States was not even thinking about getting involved in World War Two, which was due to start three years.

Character motivation in this movie is at odds with good sense. Gates apparently engineered a heist at Nitro Chemical, including killing a guard, to obtain the hot money to pay off Raven. Talk about unnecessarily complicating your life! Once Raven gets wise to the hot money, there is not much to keep him from dropping a dime (and the hot money) on Raven. Of course the police will still be looking for him in the chemist killings, but that secret is soon out anyhow.

Raven tends to kill people who can expose him, and he makes plans to kill Ellen, which plans are interrupted by pesky workmen arriving in the nick of time. However, when Raven gets the drop on Gates’ henchman (while rescuing Ellen) he merely shoves him down the stairs and takes his gun.

A lot of it doesn’t make sense.

However, it’s a good story. The Third Man came out in 1949 and boasts an even more perforated plot. I will get into that in the next few weeks.

Graham Green wrote A Gun for Sale in 1936, and the plot has been dramatized multiple times. The acrobatics that transformed the original story into this movie are something to behold. It’s as though the producers said, “That’s a good story line, but the details are all wrong.” My take (could be mistaken) is that plot lines are cheap. I can come up with ten good ones on a rainy afternoon. It’s the details that make the story. Dore Schary wrote the movie script. The plot skeleton seems to be the only thing preserved from Greene to Hollywood:

  • Greene’s story starts in London and moves to the fictional town of Nottwich. The movie starts in San Francisco and moves to Los Angeles.
  • Greene’s Raven has a deformed lip that makes him identifiable. Schary’s Raven has a broken wrist.
  • Greene’s Raven kills a disaffected Czech minister and his secretary. Schary’s Raven kills a traitorous chemist.
  • Greene’s murder case threatens to start a war. Schary’s murder case uncovers a Japanese espionage plot.
  • In both stories Raven is paid off in hot bills from a contrived heist.
  • In both stories an attractive show girl has a fiancée who is a police detective involved in hunting for Raven. In both stories the girl travels on the same train Raven takes to track down the man who set him up with the hot cash. Both stories have Raven kidnapping the girl on the train and taking her to a secluded place to kill her. In both cases his plan is thwarted by unexpected intruders.
  • In both stories the girl runs afoul of Raven’s betrayer and is imprisoned—left trussed up in a fireplace (closet in the movie). Raven rescues her, and they team up and spend the night, holed up together in an empty shed (railway car in the movie) while the police surround their hideout.
  • In both cases the girl helps raven escape by wearing his hat and coat and decoying the police. Raven shots a cop and escapes.
  • There is a gas drill, and Raven cops a gas mask and uses it as a disguise to infiltrate the office of the aging and wretched industrialist who masterminded the original murder for hire. Raven kills both the king pin and the middle man, to the delight of the top guy’s long-suffering valet. The police kill Raven.
  • Green’s tale has the girl’s actions averting a war. In the movie the Japanese espionage plot is foiled.

Greene is an author I have long overlooked:

Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH (2 October 1904 – 3 April 1991) was an English novelist and author regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Combining literary acclaim with widespread popularity, Greene had acquired a reputation early in his own lifetime as a great writer, both of serious Catholic novels and of thrillers (or “entertainments” as he termed them); however, even though shortlisted in 1967, he was never awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Through 67 years of writings which included over 25 novels, he explored the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world, often through a Catholic perspective.

Besides the two works already mentioned, Greene is responsible for The Quiet American and Our Man in Havana. I obtained the retitled This Gun for Hire from Amazon in the form of a trilogy 3 by Graham Greene. It’s no longer in print, and mine is a second hand copy, just a few dollars plus shipping. No Kindle copies, which is a shame. E-books are becoming such a convenience, particularly for me and especially for every reader running out of shelf space.

Keep reading.

Politicians Say The Darndest Things

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I think I’m beginning to find my stride. Not only am I never going to run out of the darndest things politicians say, I’m never going to run out of politicians. They must be breeding somewhere off in the dark:

It may be only a sad fact for Governor Huckabee, but it’s another side of this that bears attention. That other side would be the Governor’s fact-deficient statements regarding archeology and the Bible. Contrary to what Governor Huckabee believes, contrary to what Governor Huckabee wants us to believe, archeology does not support the Bible. Nor does history. Where to start?

But that was only former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. What about the other presidential contenders? What about Senator Marco Rubio of Florida?

“We are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech, because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater,” the Florida senator said. “So what’s the next step after that? After they’re done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech. And that’s a real and present danger.”

I grant this is a strong statement. How about a little Skeptical Analysis? How about starting with “[I]f you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.” Let’s refine that. Translating it I get “If you don’t carry an LGBT banner down the street, then you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.” I hope that’s not what the senator meant to say, because I don’t carry the flag, and you would be hard put to label me as such. How about this translation: “If you denounce homosexuals as sinners and second class citizens, undeserving of equal treatment, then you are a homophobe and a hater.” That’s closer to reality. But it’s not exactly what the senator said. What’s next?

How about, “[T]he next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech.” There could be some truth there, depending on how you define the teachings of mainstream Christianity. If you define the teachings of mainstream Christianity as something like, “Jesus teaches us that we are all God’s children, equally deserving of our kindness and consideration,” then you would be hard put to argue “[T]he teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech.” On the other hand, if you define the teachings of mainstream Christianity to be, “God hates fags,” then you’re going to be dead on concluding this would be considered hate speech.

Finally, regarding “a real and present danger,” Senator Rubio should look to the decadence within. The Bible recounts the tale of a temple that needed to be brought down:

Judges 16:25-30 King James Version (KJV)

25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.

26 And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.

27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.

28 And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Odd Moments

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In college I didn’t go for a degree in electrical engineering, because I considered the EE equations to be very messy, dealing with various harmonics and such. But I did take one EE course and obtained a degree in Engineering Science. Eventually I got a job as a mechanical engineer for a company that made optical character recognition equipment and document processing systems.

This was about 40 years ago, and we hired this guy Bill. Bill was an ex-Air Force electronics technician, and he was a sharp guy. He didn’t have a college degree, but he knew how all that stuff worked. I talked to Bill a lot and picked up some good knowledge from him.

I had this team of engineers, and we were designing a system to go in banks and process checks that people brought to the counter. And there was this other guy, Bob, and he wasn’t in our group, but he was an EE, and he was really sharp. He worked on some of the cutting edge stuff the company was developing, and one of the things he was working on was ASICs. ASIC is just a short term for Application Specific Integrated Circuit, and the idea was that companies that made them had a set of prepared designs, and you told them what you wanted your circuit to do, and they would produce a photo mask for the die. They would then produce short production runs of the die. A die is the proper term for an integrated circuit chip, and these could be quite large and complex.

Anyhow, Bob was a real whiz, and he got a lot of respect wherever he went. When he walked through the area people tended to just step back and let him pass.

Anyhow, Bob was working on a new concept, and he stopped by my desk and asked me about the problem he was having. I listened to him for about a minute, and it dawned on me what the problem was. I explained it to Bob, and he said something like, “Oh, yeah.” And he went away happy.

Then I looked up, and some of the guys on my team were looking at me, and it was a kind of strange look. I got back to working on what I was supposed to be doing, but I thought I could feel eyes on my back. For a few minutes it was a weird situation, and I thought about it again earlier this week. It was one of those odd moments.