MIDEAST CRISIS (Part One)

As some of you know who follow this column on a regular basis, I am not particularly religious in any formal sense and certainly not Jewish. But I have always had great sympathy for the Jewish people, having been exposed, unlike Mel Gibson, to the horrors of the holocaust in my study of history.

For that reason, I also admire Israel, the Jewish state. Since their beginnings, Israel has been what statesmen might call “a ray of hope” for democracy in the middle east.

Since my daughter had the good sense to marry a Jewish man whom I am honored to call “son” and even more honored when he calls me “dad,” and they have given me the loves of my life, three wonderful grandchildren, my exposure to the Jewish religion has of course grown as I have insisted, though without opposition from my children, that my grandchildren be exposed to all things Jewish as it will be part of their heritage, a heritage, like the heritage from their mother’s side of the family, they should always be proud of.

Recently, visiting the fam in La La land, I had the pleasure of going to my granddaughter’s pre-school to witness a special Jewish celebration in which she was singled out as the school celebrated her fourth birthday. As I stood watching the teachers dancing with their charges, I was reminded that the last time I had been in a church setting where people joyously sang and danced was when I attended a Black Southern Baptist church many years ago.  It brought home to me that while we worship in our own way, we have much in common in how we celebrate what we believe.

As we exited the celebration, returning to our cars, I was also reminded, however, at how religion also divides us as I saw the armed security guards patrolling the parking lot, looking around like secret service men for an antisemitic threat. It brought back my constant fear that my grandchildren being half Jewish will have to spend the rest of their lives recognizing that part of their heritage will also include even the threat to their lives simply because they are Jewish.

We live as human beings with a dark side, George Lucas had it right,  which infests so many with reasons to hate based on nothing more than tribal differences. I’m sure there is a sociological basis, a psychological basis for this but what is important is that it exists and no contestant in a beauty contest who wishes for “world peace” will change that dynamic.

Politicians and pundits talk today of “existential threats.” The overriding such threat is the threat posed by our own self destructiveness in the name of this religion or that religion.  It seems axiomatic that as humans, we have the unending ability to pervert even the most well intentioned ideas embodied in religions initiated with the best aims in mind.

And therein lies the problem we face today with radical Islam.

Angelina Jolie

Although I have two children in the entertainment industry, I am not a fan of Hollywood celebrities. As with journalists, they are overwhelmingly biased on the political left, their unflagging support for the liberal/progressive agenda revealing a head shaking hypocrisy ranging from Al Gore showing up for a rally on global warming in a big gas guzzling SUV to Sean Penn’s support for a dictator guilty of killing thousands. In many respects, they remind me of the worst on the right, like skinheads and the KKK. As with any group, however, there are exceptions. While I have no doubt Ms. Jolie supports her peers politically, we must remember that politics alone, no matter how badly they may affect our daily lives do not define the persons we may be. One of the nice aspects to liberals is their charity. In a recent appearance, Ms. Jolie took time to sit down on the sidewalk with one of her fans who was having a panic attack. In the video of the incident, she comforted the young woman and even took a selfie with her. The wags may say it was just another publicity stunt but I don’t think so. As with her other charitable work, Ms. Jolie uses her status as a “star” to do some good. For this, she should be congratulated and we should all be grateful. Bravo, Ms. Jolie!

THE OBAMA CARE FRAUD

In the original Die Hard film, the chief bad guy was named “Hans Gruber.” Now, it seems he has an evil twin operating in the real world. It seems that John or Jon, however he spells it, Gruber, an MIT prof and the principal architect of the Affordable Health Care Act, has been making lectures over the last several years admitting that the AHCA was drafted to be incomprehensible so its aim of redistributing wealth through a massive tax could be hidden from the voters. Oh and Mr. G. is caught on tape, not once but three times (so far) calling the voters too stupid to catch on to the deception. That is because, he readily admits, if the American people knew it was a tax, they would have never accepted it and not even the Donkeys would have voted for it. At some 2500 pages, not even the Prexy read it. Now infamously said by none other than that wise and intelligent then leader of the House, “We’ll have to pass it so we can know what is in it,” or words to that effect. It is so repugnant to hear that quote I have since tried to forget it. Finally, someone revealed the first tape and Gruber appeared on MSNBC (where else) and tried to pass off what he had said as an unintended gaff, spoken “off the cuff.” The problem with that excuse is that he said it many times. Perhaps, as some wags on the right have suggested, we should salute, not condemn Mr. Gruber for telling the truth. Sorry, I am not in that camp. Contrary to the lies perpetrated by Mr. Gruber and his president, millions lost their health insurance, got inferior health insurance at higher rates, lost their preferred doctors and face higher deductibles they can’t afford. And despite admitting the lies and deceptions, Gruber still maintains that the end justified the means. It reminds me of those who criticize those who conclude that it is okay to spy on our citizens because in the interest of security, the ends justify the means. Or water boarding prisoners because the ends justify the means. In the interest of pursuing evil aims, dictators, commies, fascists and others who kill, maim and mutilate have always justified their actions on the same argument: the ends justify the means. And never mind that the American people oppose the AHCA. In the elite circles in which Mr. Gruber obviously travels, he has embraced the “nanny state” in which he and his intellectual equals have to tell the “stupid” people in our country what is right for them. After all, we are too “stupid” to figure out what form of health care might be best for us. Finally, I take the time to share this story with you because the main stream media has said nothing about it. That is, of course, because it doesn’t fit their liberal agenda. God forbid they get caught criticizing their pet prexy.

REWRITING HISTORY

 

I’ll begin with a disclaimer: I haven’t seen best picture Oscar nominee, Lincoln. Fortunately, for this column, that doesn’t matter. Maureen Dowd, op ed writer for The New York Times, that bastion of liberal pap, is joining what is rapidly developing into, if not, a tsunami, at least a growing chorus calling for Steven Spielberg to correct, at least to its critics, an important error in the film. It seems that the film falsely portrays two Connecticut reps voting against the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. The film’s screenwriter, in response, doesn’t deny the inaccuracy but maintains that the film is, after all, just a movie. Or in other words, since it’s fiction, any inaccuracies don’t matter. As a writer of fiction (and I’m not referring to this column ), I find that explanation from a fellow writer a betrayal of proper writing etiquette and principles. Even a writer of fiction knows that credibility is at the heart of writing good fiction, whether a novel or screenplay. And any seasoned writer knows that violating this principle will not only lead to embarrassment for the writer but a flood of critics who are ready to pounce on the slightest inaccuracy. And this is as it should be, since the writer owes it to his or her readers to hold up his end of the contract which is to allow the suspension of belief, sometimes even stretching belief, while not shortchanging readers with lapses in credibility so grotesque they remind the reader that what they’re reading is fiction. It is very often a fine line, this adherence to credibility in fiction, but as any good writer will tell you, an important line. Having properly criticized a screen writer whose explanation was even worse, as he said he included the inaccuracy to make a political point (stressing the closeness of the vote) by intentionally distorting history, that might put an end to the inquiry. Unfortunately, there is a larger issue here, as well, since Spielberg has made it known that he will gleefully release the film for showing at middle and high schools who request a viewing. At a time when a large numbers of our young people can’t identify even one of our “founding fathers,” and have at best a tenuous grasp of our nation’s history, it is more important than ever that we not only teach history but as has been the norm in the past, teach it accurately and completely. While the motivation of Dowd and other liberal critics of the film undoubtedly lies in their chagrin that the inaccuracy they complain of suggests that Northerners from a current “Blue State” would have voted against ending slavery, they are right to complain and Spielberg should heed their calls to re-edit the film before it is released on DVD or to our schools. And I would suggest that screenwriter Tony Kushner go back to writing school. He obviously missed some of the fundamentals in writing credible fiction. 

 

Remembering Summers

Remembering summers…. No school, fishing and hiking, mowing lawns for money, sandlot baseball. And movies. Lots of movies. I guess my love of movies is in the genes. One of my late mom’s favorite memories was walking from the ranch into Deer Lodge with her grandma Emma to see the silent films, complete with a piano player, at the Rialto theater. One of my fondest memories is taking mom back to the Rialto many year’s ago when we made a trip to DL. In the 90’s most of the Rialto was gutted by a fire. Thanks to the perseverance of our little community, millions were raised from all over the world and the Rialto has been restored. Mrs. B and I attended the grand reopening and over 300 hundred people from all over the country came to pay tribute to those who had led the effort to restore the theater. And last night, I walked down town and sat in the newly restored theater and enjoyed a summer blockbuster ( see accompanying column). The theater was fairly full but with 300 seats, I sat in the middle with an unobstructed view and enjoyed the latest sound system and digital projection. And then I walked back to the Manse in cool, crisp air, scented with pine. Ah, summer in the mountains!

Battleship

It’s pretty hard not to take advantage of seeing the latest films on the big screen in our newly renovated theater here in DL when the ticket price is $5.00 or about the same as what you’d pay to rent or downstream a movie on your home “big screen.” The film I watched last night was one of the big blockbusters for this summer, Battleship. It seems that all the big films are either based on comic books or video games and this one was based on the Hasbro game of the same name. Apparently thinking he’s Hitchcock, former actor turned director Peter Berg appears in all his films but excusing this burst of egotism, managed to hit all the usual elements for a successful action pic, including a big name cast, over the top special effects and even a little humor as the U.S. Navy, getting their turn in the limelight, turns away another alien invasion. With barely a nod to ET, it seems we no longer even bother to ask why any right thinking alien race would want to take over this planet or why we’re always out gunned and out manned by beings with superior technology but always prevail anyway, particularly when we’re led by anti-authoritarian protagonist rebels who suddenly come up with incredible solutions to save the day. Ah, Hollywood. And speaking of Hollywood, Berg managed to put in a couple of politically correct ( for Hollywood) little zingers showing our current President about to explain to the public what was going on and showing MSNBC as one of the networks covering the story. It would have been refreshing to have also shown Mitt Romney being interviewed saying something like “Don’t these aliens understand that it’s the economy stupid” and Bill O’Reilly from Fox News, shaking his fist at the sky saying, “The spin stops here!” But since Ben Hur died, there aren’t any conservatives left in Hollywood, so I suppose Berg can be forgiven for not wanting to buck the Hollywood establishment. Up next at the Rialto, Johnny Deep in a remake of Dark Shadows. I think I’ll have to skip that one.

Two-Headed Shark Attack


You try hard not to do it. You fight it. But inevitably over time it builds and then you finally have to do it. You just have to watch a really horrible movie. So, the other evening, I slunk off to the video room, closed the drapes, locked the door and shamefully took the plunge ( no pun intended ) and watched Two-Headed Shark Attack. It’s interesting that in the old days, you would have [insert name of big studio] doing a film by [insert name of famous director] starring [insert name of famous actor]. Now, you spend the first five minutes or more of a film watching a litany of strange organizations sponsoring a film in the apparent hope that by throwing a minimal amount of money in the pot, they’ll make a return on their investment. Of course, when the only “name” among the cast is Carmen Electra (who?), you know you’re headed for the deep six. Carmen’s best scene is where she lies squirming on the deck of the sinking yacht rubbing oil on her bikini clad body. She does get to deliver some telling dialogue when she yells at the usual bevy of teenie victims to “Get out of the water!” When the survivors make it to a small atoll, realizing that even two-headed sharks have difficulty attacking scantily clad women on land, the writers of this epic conveniently have the atoll sinking into the sea. We even polish off a couple with a Tsunami that suddenly appears with no explanation. The nice thing about having a shark with two heads is that even after you destroy one of the heads, the shark still has one left to finish off all but the final babe survivor. Bon appetite! Or is that “Bomb appetite?”