Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Utah state gun

Hey man, don't mess with us Utah folks. We're armed and shoot to kill.

Excerpts from a January 29, 2011 column by Gail Collins.

Copyright © 2011 The New York Times
. . . in Salt Lake City, the state legislature is considering a bill to honor the Browning M1911 pistol by making it the official state firearm.

Yes, a committee in the Utah House of Representatives voted 9-2 this week to approve a bill that would add the Browning pistol to the pantheon of official state things, along with the bird (seagull), rock (coal) and dance (square).

"This firearm is Utah," Rep. Carl Wimmer, the Browning bill's sponsor, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Capitol observers say the Browning bill has an excellent chance of becoming law.

On Monday, the Utah State Capitol celebrated Browning Day, honoring John Moses Browning, native son and maker of the nominee for Official State Firearm. There were speeches, a proclamation, a flyover by a National Guard helicopter, and, of course, a rotunda full of guns. "We recognize his efforts to preserve the Constitution," Gov. Gary Herbert said, in keeping with what appears to be a new Republican regulation requiring all party members to mention the Constitution at least once in every three sentences.

It is generally not a good policy to dwell on the strange behavior of state legislators since it leads to bottomless despair. If I wanted to go down that road, I'd give you Mark Madsen, a Utah state senator who tried to improve upon the Browning Day celebrations by suggesting they be scheduled to coincide with Martin Luther King Day since "both made tremendous contributions to individual freedom and individual liberty."

But it's a symptom of a new streak of craziness abroad in the land, which has politicians scrambling to prove not just that they are against gun regulation, but also that they are proactively in favor of introducing guns into every conceivable part of American life. National parks. Schools. Bars. Airports.

"There is abundant research suggesting in cities where more people own guns, the crime rate, especially the murder rate, goes down," Utah's new U.S. senator, Mike Lee, told CNN.
Boys will be boys, and must have their toys. This ad appeared in a 1946 comic, appropriately titled Silly Tunes. Maybe Rep. Wimmer had one of these.

(Remember to click on it to make it big enough to read.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Very well proportioned..."

I watched Oprah yesterday, a show following up on stories done over several years by Oprah about strange or bad marriages. In the case of actress Fran Drescher, her story is that after she divorced her husband, Peter Marc Jacobson, in 1999, he confessed to her he was gay.

So...OK. They seem to have lived through the trauma of divorce and now they talk about this aspect of their lives. I thought, "Why do people confess such intimate secrets? Why would I want to know whether Fran Drescher's ex is gay?" If you haven't seen comic actress Drescher before, she is a very pretty woman who opens her mouth and talks in a nasally voice that is nails on a chalkboard. Her laugh is enough to chase me out of a room. Frankly, I'm not sure how he survived being married to her as long as he did, gay or not.

Drescher explained she and Peter met when they were 15. They had been together since they were kids, growing up together. She was faithful to him, and during their marriage hadn't had sex with other men. When they divorced she had other relationships. That's when she said to the audience and to him that until she was with other men she didn't realize her ex was "very well proportioned." That's a euphemistic way of saying he has a large penis.

She was grinning ear to ear when she said that. He looked at her with kind of a sick smile, like, "Woman, you've embarrassed me once again." How much information is too much information?

It reminded me, because one thing always leads to something else in my brain, of what I had heard about the late Frank Sinatra, that he was "very well proportioned." Sinatra called his penis "Little Frankie," and wore special underwear to accommodate it.

From 1946. Is Frank smiling because he's thinking about Little Frankie?

Guys can obsess about the size of their penises. I don't know why anyone would talk about it on a syndicated talk show, but Drescher seemed more than willing to share that information. I don't remember Sinatra coming out on stage and talking about Little Frankie. Or maybe he did and I missed it, thank god.

While we're on the topic, here's some hidden porn from Life magazine, 1967:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We're living in a text mess age

My cell phone jangled the other night, that particular tone that means a text message has been received. I don't send text messages and no one sends them to me unless they're some phone solicitation or a wrong number. When I looked at the message it said:
oh my god!!!!!! Y the fuk are u saying all that stupid shit to make me have a dumb ass tutor!?!?!
It came from a Virginia area code, so I was sure it was a wrong number. Not that I didn't already suspect it, because I don't know anyone who writes like that. Or I should say, no one writes like that to me. Texting has its own language, and although I don't use it, I can read it. I even agree with some of it. Economy, using one letter, "y" for why or "u" for you, makes sense. "Fuk" seems strange--how hard is that word to spell?--but it's readable.

"Stupid shit" as used in this sense, doesn't mean unintelligent defecation, but is an overall term which means saying "things which can be used against me," the texter, so that it becomes the cause of the writer having to have special help from a "dumb ass tutor." "Dumb ass" in this context would mean someone you wouldn't want in your life, not that the tutor him/herself is dumb.

So the short note has phonetic spelling, colloquialisms, and is designed for impact. It's written as a accusation in the form of a question to which the asker already knows the answer. Reading between the lines, I believe someone said something to someone in authority, a school official, a parent, which caused them to determine that a tutor is necessary, based on the texter's academic needs. But the texter is not happy, which he/she declares immediately with the the exclamatory, "oh my god!!!!!!" The multiple exclamation points makes that clear to the receiver of this text. Attention is being shouted out for the message that follows.

What makes sense to the receiver, the texter and even me, wouldn't make any sense at all to someone who was trying to learn the English language.

One off the municipalities within our county decided to declare that everyone in their city should speak English. So they have a resolution that English will be spoken. Even the local daily newspaper picked it up and ran with it in an editorial, which decided that, in America where English is the official language, all people coming from other countries should speak it. It's the arrogance of Americans, even those whose ancestors came to this country speaking another language, who have decided that they shouldn't have to be bothered by non-English speakers. They will just wave a magic wand and make it so. My daughter-in-law, who came from Vietnam, has learned English by immersion over a period of several years. She's had to learn to read it and write it, because she's had to for the sake of her jobs. She also spends her day in a business setting where she speaks to Americans. But it all took time, and frankly, I've never asked her if she would understand a text message like the one I reproduced for you above. Do people waving those magic wands know how difficult it is to learn another language? Especially English?

Even English speakers have trouble with English. I've spoken English all my life, but when I was in the Army I stumbled when I read that if I lost any equipment issued to me I would be "pecuniarily liable." Eh? Say what? Pecuniarily? Going to the dictionary I found out that "pecuniary" means relating to money. Why not just say that? Well, because the writer thought it sounded smarter or more legal-sounding to say "pecuniary" than to say, "If you lose equipment issued to you, you will be required to replace it by paying for it."

oh my god!!!!! y do u need a dumb ass tutor to read that stupid shit!?!?


This clever list is from an e-mail I received this morning:


To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.

The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.

The batteries were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

A will is a dead giveaway.

If you don't pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat miner.

You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.

Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

If you take a laptop computer for a run you could jog your memory.

A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.

He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.

Acupuncture: a jab well done.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Do you feel lucky...well, do you, punk?"

There's an old saying: Better to be lucky than good.

These folks must've cornered the market on four-leaf clovers, horseshoes and lucky rabbits' feet.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

From the ocean, from the stars*

I'm fascinated by these underwater scenes by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. He has placed hundreds of life size statues under water. There natural processes begin and the statuary becomes a reef. The artist's vision extends beyond placing his work in a gallery or museum, but where it can do some good.

Visit his website for more information and lots more pictures of his work.

When I was younger, during the late '60s, we used the word "cosmic" to indicate something was cool. Images from the Hubble telescope are truly cosmic, in the original sense of the word and in our usage.

A telescope like the Hubble is a time machine, reaching back as far as the beginnings of the universe, as light makes it way at 180,000 miles per second to us. It's as close as we'll ever get to looking into the past, and that's just...well, cosmic.

*I borrowed this from the title of an anthology of stories by Arthur C. Clarke. It seems appropriate here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I wanted to believe...

Following up on my last posting about my science fiction double feature weekend:

In the mid-1950s the world envisioned by futurists was a technological promise on the verge of happening. In our future there were cars that would drive themselves or transform into helicopters, taking us above the traffic. In time there would be video telephones, robots to do our work, rocket ships with atomic motors that would take us to the moon for a vacation. As a young boy my head was full of these marvels. I was very anxious for all of it to finally happen, even asking my mother at one point, "So when is the future going to be here?" as if there was an actual date we'd all be transformed into a brand-new space age world.*

So when I saw Forbidden Planet, with its (then) futuristic sets, the flying saucer-style spaceship and especially Robby the Robot, I was very taken. I knew the rest of the high tech-looking sets were fake, but I believed that Robby was a real, functioning robot. Dad had a good laugh when I told him that. A year later we saw Robby in The Invisible Boy, but by then I wasn't so easily duped by the need of my imagination to make my fantasies reality.

This 1979 issue of Cinefantastique, with its special coverage of the making of Forbidden Planet, is fun to read, to see how they did behind the camera what later turned up on the movie screen.

The centerfold is the artwork for the Forbidden Planet movie poster. I don't know what advertising would have done if they didn't show such a cliché, a monster, a robot, an alien, etc., carrying a limp girl. Just once they couldn't carry a guy...?

The behind-the-scenes photo is of special effects technicians with the robot, and the tech who operated it. The inset is of actress Gale "My Little Margie" Storm with tech Eddie Fisher, who was Robby the Robot.

*In all of those predictions the futurists missed predicting cellular phones and the Internet.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Science fiction double feature

This weekend I watched a couple of classic 1950's science fiction movies, Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers and Forbidden Planet. I've seen them many times over the years, but the first time I saw them was during their individual theatrical releases in 1956.

Dr. and Mrs. Marvin first see a flying saucer. "Hey, honey, is the collision insurance on our car paid up?"
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers is probably best known for the stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen. The version I saw on DVD was colorized. Both the original black and white and colorized versions are available on the DVD, and the viewer can switch between them.

Special effects in both movies would be viewed by today's audiences as old-fashioned. The flying saucers in Earth are nicely done, but the way scenes are set up is crude by today's standards. Harryhausen would move a model flying saucer a quarter-inch or so for each frame, against a frame of an already filmed background, then re-photograph both. The second generation rear screen projection gives many of the backgrounds a grainy look.

Forbidden Planet makes extensive use of painted mattes for backgrounds, was filmed on a sound stage at MGM, and looks it. As a nine-year-old I wasn't very discriminating. All the special fx in both movies looked fine to me. But today's movie audience, spoiled by CGI wizardry, would laugh at most of the special effects techniques used.

Earth--which should probably be called America Vs. The Flying Saucers--has a typical alien invasion plot, even though it credits the book Flying Saucers From Outer Space by Donald E. Keyhoe, for its origin. Keyhoe's book describes UFO sightings, and is not a novel about an invasion from space (unless you count weird lights and unidentified things in the skies as an invasion).

The aliens in Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers are close to the descriptions people give of alien "grays", with huge, black-colored eyes.

The creature shown above has been killed by good ol' American weapons technology, invented by Dr. Marvin. The alien's outer suits are "solidified electricity," which is a howler, a comic book-like technological description.

Forbidden Planet has Robby the Robot, a flying saucer to bring the crew to the "forbidden planet", Altair 4, the remnants of a long dead civilization technologically well advanced from us. It's a science fiction version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, with Freudian psychology thrown in.

Robby is shown to obey the first of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics: "A robot shall not injure a human being, nor by inaction cause a human being to come to harm." He's also a reminder of the days when we were assured that in the future we'd have robot servants to do all the work. He was also an "actor" who appeared in other films, like The Invisible Boy with Richard Eyer.
Dr. Morbius, played by Walter Pidgeon, is alone on the planet with his daughter, Altaira (also called Alta), whom he has kept innocent. She is so pure and virginal, not unlike Snow White from the Disney movie, that she can even play with wild animals like a tiger. It's when men, the spaceship crew led by Captain J. J. Adams, played by Leslie Nielsen, are introduced into her world that things start to fall apart. When Altair 4 was first colonized, Morbius found the alien technology and began to explore its uses. All of the colonists but Morbius and Alta were killed by a local invisible monster, which has been dormant. But when the crew arrives in their starship the monster reappears. [SPOILER ALERT: Don't read past this point if you don't want to know what makes Altair 4 a "forbidden planet."]

"Surely you're taking me to Earth, Captain!" "Yes I am, and don't call me Shirley."

Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen died within weeks of each other: Nielsen, 84, in November 2010, Francis, 80, in January of this year.
It's sex. When the earthmen arrive Alta has seen no man but her father. A crewman, played by Jack Kelly, teaches Alta how to kiss, which is followed up by Alta kissing the captain. Although not shown we can figure, reading between the lines, that at some point the captain and Alta have sex (this was the '50s, and the days of movie censorship). Alta's loss of innocence causes the monster to reappear in the form of Morbius's id, a manifestation of murderous jealousy amplified by the aliens' technology. The animation of the Id attacking the spaceship is by the Walt Disney studio. [End of spoiler.]

Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers has some very good scenes of flying saucers knocking over monuments and buildings in Washington, D.C., and that makes up for the hackneyed plot. Although Hugh Marlowe as Dr. Marvin doesn't really seem all that bright, he must be hiding his light under a bushel. He invents a weapon to knock the saucers out of the sky, and given his deadline to make it he comes up with a very sophisticated device. Joan Taylor as Mrs. Marvin is just there to lend support to her husband, as good wives did in '50s movies. All of the characters are stereotypes, right out of central casting.

I always have this question at the end of this type of movie: the earthmen beat back the alien invasion, and act like nothing more will come of it. So what if the aliens learn from the failed attack and come back with a new approach? So that's the movie I'd like to make, one where the evil aliens come back, a lot wiser, for a second try at kicking our earthly butts.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Let's tie one on

Ladies, how irresistible would a man be wearing a tie that glowed "Will you kiss me in the dark, baby?" at you?

Pretty darn irresistible, I'd say. I sure wish the ad for this tie was more current than 1948, which is where I found it online in an old comic book. I want this tie. "By day, a lovely swank night, a call to love in glowing words!" It's a good way to woo a woman, letting the tie do the calling to love in glowing words a bashful fellow may be too tongue-tied to say to her. (Of course the trick would be to get the woman into a dark room so the tie could glow at her. I'd imagine that if a guy could pull that off, the question posed by the tie would be pretty much already answered.)

Ditto another tie from the same company, the striptease tie, very impressive to females. It tells them by wearing such a thing he's a real man of the world and a great catch. I can see the ladies clustered around a guy at the cocktail party, exclaiming over his striptease tie, "Why, Harvey, you have such wonderful taste in manly neckwear!" one of them might say, her eyes taking in the tie, her mind taking in Harvey's availability as a future lover. You'd know then the ad copy was true: "Brings gasps of sheer wonder, thrilling admiration the first time you wear it! By day, smart, handsome tie that is unrivalled for sheer beauty and good looks, by night a glorious goddess of light revealed for all to see! She loses her clothes as she glows in the dark!" How many fantasies did I have in my life about a woman shedding her clothes whilst glowing in the dark?

And I could have it for only $1.49. In anticipation of an accident, where I may spill gravy on it, I can buy three for only $4.22. That is a bargain of bargains. I wonder if could mix and match? Could I get, say, two "Will you kiss me in the dark, baby" ties and one striptease tie? I would be the smartest dressed man, supremely confident, walking down the street, nodding, tipping the brim of my fedora at the folks passing by, watching them as they admire, even envy me.

For maximum effectiveness I also have to know how to tie my necktie, but luckily I have this handy diagram I copied off years ago. The Half-Windsor is the knot I prefer.

Women, if you click on this to open it up, then print it off, you'll be a heroine to your man on those mornings when he's frustrated in front of a mirror. "Doggone it! I wish I knew how to tie a Windsor Knot!" Give him this, and a tie that glows in the dark, and he'll love you forever.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Skeptical Bella

Granddaughter Bella, who just turned six a couple of weeks ago, is just about to lose her first baby tooth. My son told her when she does she will get some money from the Tooth Fairy. But Bella just isn't buying any old Tooth Fairy story.

Bella seems to have been born with my cynical skepticism, but she's much better at putting two and two together than I was at her age. On Christmas morning when opening her presents she told Grandma, my wife, Sally, "This is just like the paper Daddy had under his bed." Aha. Little Sherlocka Holmes! If Daddy has the same paper as Santa, mustn't it follow that Daddy is Santa?

Bella and Gabby (4 1/2) both are dubious about people dressed up like Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or even a big mouse like Chuck E. Cheese, of the pizza restaurant chain. While in that restaurant when Bella was much younger, she was frightened by the character, Chuck E. Cheese, when he approached their table. Both she and Gabby shrieked and clung to their dad and grandmother. The costumed Chuck E retreated across the floor, but Bella and Gabby kept their eyes on him. He saw them watching and waved at them, which started them shrieking again.

(A week or so later Sally asked if they wanted to go to dinner, and Gabby said, "Don't want to go to Chucker Cheese.")

Last year they had an encounter in a store with the Easter Bunny. I don't believe they did any shrieking, but didn't want to go near him, either. On Easter eve their dad told them that the Easter Bunny would come that night and leave baskets of candy and Easter eggs for them.

"He's not coming in the house, is he?" asked Bella.

"No, he'll knock on the door and give me the baskets."

Whew. Good. No six-foot-tall rabbits with glowing pink eyes prowling the house in the dark while we're sleeping. I'm with you on that one, Bella. I don't want him coming in my house, either.

Santa was a bit more problematic for the girls, especially Bella, who just wasn't accepting explanations of how he got from house to house ("I've never seen a reindeer fly") or how he gets into the house.

"He comes down the chimney," said Dad. But there are logs in the fireplace. Guess he has to move them to come in. But how does he get back up the chimney? "It's magic," said Daddy again, but she was skeptical. "It's magic," she said just before going to sleep that night, apparently not convinced.

At the mall sometime before Christmas their dad had asked them if they wanted to sit on Santa's lap. "Why would I want to do that?" asked Bella.

Those are just people dressed up like Santa, she told her grandma.

Even after telling my son, Bella and Gabby's dad, the same lies when he was Bella's age, he turned out all right. But I think it has to be a watershed event in a child's life to find out there is no Santa Claus. I'm pretty sure, even if you've been bad, you're going to get presents, so those threats of "Santa will see you if you're naughty" don't really mean anything, do they? Bella, who is in kindergarten, goes to a Catholic school. Will she be a doubter as she gets older? Will the story of Jesus, or ideas of God, an invisible, omnipotent being (pictured with a long white beard), come off to her like the stories of Santa Claus? Maybe she won't put the two together at all, but knowing Bella, I'm sure she'll have some questions to ask of her teachers and parents.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From the files

The other day I showed you some post cards I had in my desk drawer and told you that my house is a paper museum. It's not only my house. My computer files are stuffed with images that over the years have caught my eye. It's a sort of digital ephemera. Some I've just picked up on the Internet, and some I've scanned myself, like the first two pages:

From the December 2010 issue of Bazaar, pictures of Barbra Streisand in her sumptuous home. Any home with a John Singer Sargent painting over the stairs is sumptuous. For being 69-years-old Streisand looks pretty good, especially in those hot $995 shoes. I added up what the cost is of the clothes she's wearing in this photo, and it comes to $4485.

On the second page, Streisand in her sitting room, sitting.

From the famous to the unknown...I found this picture posted on the photo-hosting site, Photobucket, and her costume got my attention. The file name is Copia de Copia de Imagen.

Back to stars. This innocently subversive picture of Jeanette MacDonald from 1938 shows that when you eat something sexy, make sure someone is watching.

Here's some real Hollywood glam with Anne Hathaway.

From glam to anti-glam, also from W. This model looks shockingly bad. The whole layout was like this, as if the pictures were taken in the aftermath of a model's long drunken night.

French actress Charlotte Gainsbourgh stars in the Balenciaga ads. I first saw her in the 2005 film Lemming, which I reviewed in April, 2008 here.

"Hey, honey, since you're up would you get me a Coke? Thanks, babe! Don't freeze your thingies while the fridge door is open!"

Lili St. Cyr is immortalized in a song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in "Don't Dream It, Be It": "God bless Lili St. Cyr..." Striptease artiste Lili was the Victoria's Secret of her day, specializing in sexy lingerie.

Reform School Girl was a notorious paperback book from 1948 that became a notorious comic book with the same cover. I'm not able to find a reference to who the model is, but I recall once reading she was an ice skating star from the late '40s.