Two Movies You Probably Missed

By , July 17, 2013 10:41 pm

My wife, step-son Joe, and I were talking movies tonight, and I mentioned two that neither had seen. You probably haven’t either: Trent Harris’s Reuben and Ed and John Candy and Eugene Levy’s little mocumentary gem, The Last Polka.

A spoof of The Band’s rock documentary, The Last Waltz, The Last Polka tells the tale of the Schmenges, Polish brothers who become famous for their polka music. Told with a very straight face, the film includes interviews with 60 and 70-something fans camped out on city sidewalks, hoping to score tickets to the Schmenges’ last polka performance. Catherine and Mary Margaret O’Hara also star, along with Rick Moranis.

Reuben and Ed is harder to describe. The cast includes Howard Hesseman, Karen Black, and Crispin Glover at his weirdest. In an effort to save his marriage to Black, Hesseman has signed up in a multi-level sales company and is desperate to find people for his down line. Crispin Glover agrees to become his first, but only after they bury his dead cat that has laid frozen in his freezer since its death. Once you’ve watched the movie, you’ll never forget the multi-level’s mantra: Power through Positive Real Estate. And you’ll laugh every time you think of the scene in the desert with Hesseman, Glover, the dead cat, and a cooler.

And I’ll leave it at that.

Playing Cops and Robbers–Then and Now

By , July 17, 2013 4:22 pm

When I was a kid, my neighbor friends and I formed a kind of mounted police to patrol our little domain on the west side of little Powell, Wyoming. We set up a medium-sized canvass tent on my lawn next to the street to act the part of the police station. It had a window on the side facing the street. Our dispatcher sat in the tent and, speaking through the window, gave us assignments when we drove up on our bicycles to ask for instructions.

We had attached long dowels to the back axels on our bikes–think antenna. I can’t remember for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we wore some sort of uniform or badge, or something besides the dowels that would tell the people of our neighborhood to be careful because we were watching.

I remember driving down Carey Street on my bike that day and noticing some branches lying in the street. A man was walking on the sidewalk nearby. I must have assumed that he had left the branches there because I ordered him to pick them up. No, he didn’t obey my command. Being a good cop, I picked them up and reported my good deed–and he man’s disobedience–to the dispatcher.

I thought of this experience as I read this story today.

Kids do and say the darndest things all too often. And then there are the times they do great things. This story is about one of those times. The two 15 year olds deserve a medal and then some–though the hugs Temar Boggs (and I assume Chris Garcia) received for his efforts are worth quite a bit.

Update: Another video on the incident.

The Associated Press Stylebook and Race

By , July 15, 2013 1:42 pm

I was proof reading my most recent post and began to wonder if I was using and capitalizing race and ethnic terminology appropriately. For example, I had written the term “black” in lowercase but the term “White-Hispanic” in uppercase. Hey, I thought, I should check The Associated Press Stylebookto see what’s appropriate in the world of journalism. Unfortunately, I only have the 2004 edition, so things may have changed, but here’s what I found (all bolding, italics, and capitalization is original).

African-American The preferred term is black. Use African-American only in quotations or the names of organizations or if individuals describe themselves so. See black.

Arab [No entry.]

Asian, Asiatic Use Asian or Asians when referring to people. Some Asians regard Asiatic as offensive when applied to people.

black Preferred usage for those of the Negroid or black race. Use Negro only in names of organizations or in quotations. Do not use colored as a synonym. See colored entry.

Caucasian [This is the entire entry for this term.]

Hispanic The preferred term for those whose ethnic origin is in a Spanish-speaking. Latino is acceptable for Hispanics who prefer that term. (The feminine form is Latina.) Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican or Mexican-American or the name of an indigenous group in a Latin American country. Avoid Chicano as a synonym for Mexican-American. Refer to people of Brazilian and Portuguese origin as such, not as Hispanic.

Indians American Indian is the preferred term for those in the United States. Where possible, be precise and use the name of the tribe: He is a Navajo commissioner. Native American is acceptable in quotations and names of organizations. In news stories about American Indians, such words as wampum, warpath, powwow, tepee, brave, squaw, etc., can be disparaging and offensive. Be careful and certain of their usage.

Jew Use for men and women. Do not use Jewess.

Muslims The preferred term to describe adherents of Islam. A Black Muslim is a member of a predominately black Islamic sect in the United States. However,the term is considered derogatory by members of the sect, who call themselves Muslims.

Polynesian [No entry.]

White [No entry.]

White-Hispanic [No entry.]

If I’ve excluded any race, ethnicity, or religion, I mean no ill will. The terms I covered seem to be the ones I and (I assume) most others have difficulty with. And I stress again: this is from the 2004 edition of the stylebook. Things may have changed.

Update: I’ve seen the links to the following story floating around the Internet, but until now, I had not followed them. What is apparent, however, is that this TV station in San Francisco did not have a copy of The Associated Press Stylebook handy, nor had they played Clue lately.

What if?

By , July 15, 2013 11:09 am

What if NBC had not doctored the recording of George Zimmerman’s telephone conversation with the police, you know, to make it sound like Zimmerman had told the police–unsolicited–that Trayvon Martin was black, which gave the impression that he was racially profiling Martin?

What if the media had referred to Zimmerman as Hispanic rather than White-Hispanic from the get go.?

What if the public had known early on that Zimmerman was 1/8 black, that he mentored black children?

What if the media had looked behind the gates of the gated community Zimmerman lived in?

What if some talking heads hadn’t speculated about a supposed “racial slur” uttered by Zimmerman, a slur that actually wasn’t?

What if the public had understood that the police initially had, in fact, arrested Zimmerman, handcuffed him, and taken him to the police station?

What if the media had made it clear from the outset that the evidence indicates that Zimmerman had, in fact, obeyed the police 911 dispatcher and stopped following Martin? If there had been evidence to the contrary, you’d think the state would have introduced it at trial, right?

What if the public had been made aware from the beginning that the forensic evidence supported Zimmerman’s story that Martin attacked him, that Martin was on top of him, that Martin was pounding him MMA-style, that Martin bashed his head against concrete many times, and that the only evidence of injury to Martin–other than the fatal gun shot, of course–was Martin’s bloody knuckles?

What if the media had done a better job of helping the public understand that this case was not about “stand your ground,” but was instead a case about simple self defense?

What if the prosecutor’s office had been–to put it charitably–more forthcoming about evidence in the Martin/Zimmerman case?

What if more in the media had followed Reuters’ lead in attempting to humanize a man that Florida State Attorney General Angela Corey, in full out CYA mode, continues to maintain is a “murderer” even after the not guilty verdict in a case that she never should have filed?

What if the public the media is supposed to serve, particularly that part of the public that is so outraged by the Zimmerman verdict, had actually followed the case in detail and actually had some idea of what the real case was really about?

Was Zimmerman justified in shooting Martin? The actual evidence seems to back up his version of events, but in the end, I don’t know, and neither do you.

Would the outcome have been different had their roles been reversed? Assuming Martin had had similar legal counsel working with the same evidence, I’d say yes. But I don’t know, and neither do you. If, in my hypothetical, Martin had been saddled with an overworked and underfunded public defender, then the outcome very well could have been different. But again, I don’t know, and neither do you.

Would this case have attracted the attention it has, had the media done its job, had the race hustlers remained stage right (or left, I don’t care), I think the answer would be no.

Look, the African-American community is justifiably outraged about the short straw it too often draws in our justice system. And I can understand the outpouring of sympathy and concern for Trayvon Martin’s family. His death was a tragedy. But to use George Zimmerman as a tool to root out injustice, to destroy his life in a different, but very real way in order to advance that cause is another unnecessary tragedy–or a travesty, as Zimmerman’s attorney characterizes it.

Finally, I don’t want to make this about guns. Yes, a gun was involved. A legally acquired, legally carried gun. But for a moment, let’s forget that. Let’s suppose that Zimmerman’s version of events is accurate. Let’s suppose that Trayvon was the aggressor, that he sucker punched Zimmerman, that the punch laid Zimmerman out on the ground, that Martin straddled Zimmerman’s body, pummeled him MMA style, bashed his head against solid concrete. (All this, by the way, is a reasonable inference from the actual evidence rather than from speculation.) Let’s assume that Zimmerman did indeed think his life was in danger. And let’s assume that Martin didn’t stop, and Zimmerman couldn’t stop him. Under those assumptions, Zimmerman likely could have died an equally violent death.

In other words, assuming Zimmerman’s version of events is accurate, because he had a gun, someone died. It just wasn’t him.

This sad case was not about guns. It was about self defense.

Update: I just discovered TalkLeft, a blog written, in part, by a Denver criminal defense attorney. Her post on this case is worth reading.

Saul Alinsky Hell, Someone’s Been Reading Robert Caro

By , July 9, 2013 12:53 pm

Another two thumbs up for Robert Caro’s book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. It easily ranks among the top 5 books I’ve ever read, a mesmerizing study of power in the hands of one man, the New York state and City parks commissioner. A parks commissioner!

This passage caught my attention today:

If a commissioner [of another department resisted his attempts to circumvent the law], Moses used the public rather than the private smear. “Mr. Moses told me . . . that he was able to control the press of New York City, so as to hold me up to such obloquy that I would not be able to stand it,” W. Kingsland Macy had testified a decade before. The smear technique that had been used then was used now–frequently.

In the hands of a man for whom the press acted as a gigantic sounding board, repeating and amplifying his words, the smear was a terrible weapon–particularly when those words were as caustic and cutting as Moses’. . . . (469)

How bad was it? How deep in Moses’ pocket were the press? This deep:

Mrs. Sulzberger [daughter of the founder of the New York Times, wife of the publisher in the 1930s] believed that Moses came “close to our ideal of what a Park Commissioner should be”; the Times evidently believed so, too. Its reporters and editors may never have been directly ordered to give Moses special treatment but, during the Thirties as during the Twenties, they were not so insensitive as not to know what was expected of them. Moses’ press releases were treated with respect, being given prominent treatment and often being printed in full. There were no investigating of the “facts” presented in those press releases, no attempt at detailed analysis of his theories of recreation and transportation, no probing of the assumption on which the city was building and maintaining recreational facilities and roads. The Times ran more than one hundred editorials on Moses and his programs during the twelve-year La Guardia administration–overwhelmingly favorable editorials. (461)

Just imagine what it would be like if a president of the United States had so much power and such a compliant press?

Silent Cal Speaks Up about The Declaration of Independence

By , July 4, 2013 7:24 pm

The more I read about Calvin Coolidge, the more I like him. Next on my reading list is Amity Shlaes’s biography, Coolidge. But for good reading on this special day, his speech commemorating the 150th anniversary of The Declaration of Independence is worthy of your time and thought, especially this paragraph.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Happy 4th of July!

“. . . beyond next year’s midterm elections.”

By , July 2, 2013 6:10 pm

What would a cynical person think about this?

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it would delay for a year, until 2015, the Affordable Care Act mandate that employers provide coverage for their workers or pay penalties, responding to business complaints and postponing the effective date beyond next year’s midterm elections.

I had not been to Drudge when I linked to The New York Times above. I’ll save you the trip:


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