Monday, February 28, 2011

Susie Brown takes a page from Bettie!

Yesterday I read about JaneDear, the country-rock act. Susie Brown, with the Bettie Page hair, is a local girl, and once was in a musical act with the rest of her family. I'm sure I've never seen her before, but even if I had, at the time she performed locally she was about 10, and not as noticeable as she is 15 years later.

I'm not up on today's music, but I'm sure in this instance it's not the music that attracts me.

The comparison with Bettie Page is inevitable, because she had the hairstyle. But Bettie also had other things worth looking at:

Bettie's bodacious booty!

Good golly, great gams!

Hot heels!

Miss Bettie Page...just your average exhibitionist girl next door!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"I cannot tell a lie" is a lie we cannot tell...

From the website, The Phrase Finder:
Q: Did George Washington chop down a cherry tree?
: A: Probably not. The story was likely invented by a man named Mason Weems shortly after Washington's death. Ironically, the story was intended to show how honest Washington was: George confesses to his father saying, "I cannot tell a lie."

: From More about the fable is at

Parson Weems was a man bent on the Moral Uplift of Children, so he wrote a fictionalized biography of America's first president, including a number of fanciful stories intended to polish George's reputation. He succeeded so well that the book was a staple of American education for much of the 19th century, and the legends took root. Today, in a more skeptical age, we tend to dismiss all legends and reduce all historical figures to their all-too-human ordinariness. The story is dying out, in other words. I think it's only older Americans who recall the "I cannot tell a lie" story. The ironic thing is, George doesn't need the help. Although some historians would disagree, he's a pretty admirable character in many ways. For example, in how many revolutions, before or since, has a leader won two elections, then at the peak of his popularity, refuse to run for a third term, voluntarily stepping aside?
Well, if Washington didn't tell a lie, then he was the only president who didn't. Presidents usually keep big secrets, and aren't above telling whoppers when the facts would compromise national security, cost them an election or even personal embarrassment. "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

The truth is we lie all the time. "How you doing?" "Great!" Actually, you may be not doing well at all, but this lie is so much a part of us we don't think of it as lying. We don't like to be lied to, but we don't think twice about lying our way out of a situation. "No, honey, that skirt does not make you look fat." "I only had one beer, officer."

So if George Washington, even in a fable like the cherry tree story, was that morally upright that he could not tell a lie, then he wasn't human. Show me someone who doesn't lie and I'll show you someone who can't be trusted!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

De Palma's Fury

According to the Internet Movie Database Brian De Palma (sometimes spelled "DePalma") has directed 37 movies and short films, going back to 1960. De Palma is a director whose work runs hot and cold for me. I love some of his work (Sisters, Carlito's Way, Wiseguys, parts of Scarface), hate some (Body Double, Carrie) or yawn my way through, like I did yesterday when I watched The Fury on DVD. I found myself fast forwarding way too often, because the story seems to drag in too many spots.

The screenplay was written by John Farris, based on his novel. The plot element of ESP in The Fury, and the ability to cause injury and death* via mind power is a very provocative theme, but hard to believe. Stephen King wrote Firestarter after The Fury, which repeated some of Farris' themes.

It's been 33 years since 1978 when The Fury was released, and the themes seem outdated. The occult, ESP, supernatural plots are still around, but seem old hat. The main thing I found interesting about The Fury is Kirk Douglas in a role as protective father, searching for his son, Robin, kidnapped by evil U.S. government black ops agents. Douglas is believable, even if the government as enemy is a cliché that has been played to death.

I also enjoyed John Cassavetes' performance. Some of the actors in The Fury are now deceased (Carrie Snodgress, Cassavetes), and some are now very old (Douglas and Charles Durning).

I won't go into the plot. Many reviews of the movie on IMdB complain of it being "boring," "long," "talky," and it is those things in spots. There is at least one WTF moment in the film, when one scene follows another and contradicts the preceding scene. Toward the end Kirk Douglas goes into a house where his son, Robin, played by Stevens, has been held in a sort of "honey trap," seduced by an older woman in order to keep him complacent. Robin catches on and kills the seductress, making a bloody mess of the room.

When Kirk Douglas, as his dad, enters the darkened room with a flashlight, Robin is shown levitating near the ceiling.

However, in the very next scene his dad is holding his arm lest he fall to his death off a roof. If he can levitate why did he fall to his death?

In the final scene Irving, as Gillian, uses her mind to blind and then blow up the evil Childress, played by Cassavetes.

Obviously they used a dummy, designed by Rick Baker. They blew it to pieces, but included 13 (and yes, I counted) clips of the dummy blowing up, shot from every conceivable angle. It was done, probably less for impact on the audience who wanted some good gore, but probably also because this was an expensive effect, and having many cameras cover it was a hedge against one camera failing while the one-time effect was filmed. It was, in the literal sense of the word, overkill. The goriest part is Childress's head blowing off his body, which, because I know you like this sort of thing, I've got on screen capture.

*This reminds me of the question on the psychology test: "If you could kill someone with the power of your mind and no one would know, would you do it?" According to what I read on this, most people answer "yes," which means more people would kill if they didn't fear punishment.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Billy Ray Cyrus has a duh moment

I just want to know, Billy Ray, who signed those contracts for your minor daughter that put her on this path to stardom and the attendant problems thereof?


Monday, February 14, 2011

I spy with my little eye...

I watched a couple of spy movies, very different from each other, over the weekend. RED, starring Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and Karl Urban, is a loud, in-your-face, illogical thrill-ride of a movie. I hadn't realized until the I saw the DC Comics logo in the opening credits that it was based on a comic book. Oh, excuse me. I mean graphic novel. No, forget that. The plot is strictly out of a comic book.

It has what I call the A-Team effect. Remember that old TV Show? Bullets flew everywhere, but none struck our heroes. RED has a hero who is able to physically disarm a whole platoon of trained commandos who have descended on his house in a suburban neighborhood, shooting it to pieces with thousands of rounds of machine-gun fire. As my wife asked while the gunfire roared, "Didn't his neighbors hear that?"

Bruce Willis, who is getting on in years, might be toward the end of his comic book hero roles, like Die Hard, of which RED is a lineal descendant. Willis is a known quantity as an action hero, so the audience has some character shorthand built into his part. We know he'll kick ass.

Malkovich is a quirky actor, and true to form he's quirky in this movie. Morgan Freeman is in so many movies he's like Michael Caine was for decades, in every other movie released. You wouldn't guess it by seeing him in this costume for this scene, but Freeman brings dignity and calmness to his parts.

The only actor who plays a surprising character is Helen Mirren, because she doesn't have a movie persona like the other actors. She can play any part. It looks like she took this part because a) it was fun; she got to shoot a .50 caliber machine gun and a sniper rifle and b) she got paid copious amounts of money.

Another surprise was the inclusion of Ernest Borgnine in a small part. Not a cameo, but a character part, which shows that Borgnine might be old--born in 1917--but he still has all his faculties about him.

New Zealand native Karl Urban plays an American CIA agent. I like Urban, but honestly, what is it about actors from Down Under playing Americans? Urban, Eric Bana, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe...the list goes on.

RED is silly, but it knows it, and plays much of the story for laughs while dolloping on the action scenes. I quite liked the movie, in that way I sometimes like goofy movies if they entertain me from start to finish.

One final note: the title is an acronym: Retired Extremely Dangerous.

On the other hand, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, starring Richard Burton and Claire Bloom, from the novel by John Le Carré, was made in gritty black and white in 1965, and showed a more realistic type of spy, the Cold Warrior who carried out his business in secret. It was released during the Sean Connery years of the James Bond franchise. Richard Burton was no Sean Connery, nor did he try to be. He is shown as worn and dissolute, the character of Alec Leamas probably more like the real-life Burton than Sean Connery was like James Bond.

The plot of Spy is complex, somewhat simplified for the movie. Le Carré, real name Peter Cornwell, was a diplomat and had worked in British intelligence. His novel, while not giving away any official secrets, caused his superiors problems and the release of the book was held up while they worked it out amongst themselves. They ultimately allowed its release as written.

In a lengthy interview on a second disk of this Criterion Collection DVD, Cornwell/Le Carré said he worked on the movie as it was being filmed. Burton, in one of his I-am-the-star tantrums, had insisted that only LeCarré write the dialogue for his character, Leamas. Le Carré admitted that he liked the script by Paul Dehn, and just jiggered Dehn's dialogue a bit, removing some commas and rearranging some sentences, to satisfy Burton. Burton and producer/director Martin Ritt had a personality clash. Burton was there for star power, but was not Ritt's first choice for the part.

Burton was in the midst of a turbulent time in his life and his career. He and his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, were the most famous movie stars of the era. They were splashed all over the tabloids every day. Burton, a hard drinker, not only drank in real life, but the character drank. It perfectly matched Burton's real-life looks, which was of a man whose bad habits show on his face. LeCarré called those looks "pocked beauty."

It's hard to believe Burton, born in 1925, was only forty when Spy was made in 1965.

Both movies, despite their more obvious differences, have something in common, which is a mistrust of government and intelligence programs. There is a paranoia about spying: do you know if the government is coming after you? I enjoy this sort of plot even if it makes me feel a bit creepy, and look around myself to see if anyone is watching.

Happy Valentine's Day

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Idiot lapse in judgment

When it comes to sex scandals, it's become so common amongst politicians that maybe we should re-categorize it. Rather than "adultery" or "fooling around" we should file it under "idiot lapse in judgment." The latest to be filed under that heading is Rep. Chris Lee, Republican of New York, who was outed with a bare-chested self-pic he sent a woman he met on craigslist. As pictures go it wasn't that bad; at least he wasn't exposing his private parts. The picture looks like a guy showing off his sleek physique. His more serious lapse came when he told the woman he was a divorced lobbyist.

Faces match. That's a problem.

"Lie-face! Lie-face!" as the kids would chant when we'd get caught in a lie. Within a couple of hours holier-than-thou House Leader John Boehner leaned on Lee to resign and he did. Lee is married with a small child. I guess we'll see how much longer he'll be married.

An editorial on about Lee aims at the hypocrisy angle: "Yet another case of 'family values' expert caught for naughtiness. When will the GOP stop the blatant hypocrisy?" I'm a Democrat, but think that's a disingenuous characterization, considering a lot of Democrats have been caught in the idiot lapse of judgment trap. I don't think sex recognizes one political party over another.

It's not that the public doesn't send risqué, even pornographic, images of themselves over the Internet or via their phones. It just takes a couple of clicks on the Internet to find hundreds or thousands of images of people who have taken naughty pics of themselves in the mirror. It's just that those everyday folks, lapses in judgment notwithstanding, aren't charged with writing the country's laws, as was Congressman Chris Lee.

If you're going to engage in this sort of thing, I have some advice for would-be self-picture takers: don't show your face.

See, now no problem!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Do genitals resemble their owners?

I admit to being intrigued by a book of poetry with scratch 'n' sniff pictures of vaginas. I read this interview with the poet who created the book. She even worked with a company to provide the scratch 'n' sniff stickers.

It's audacious, but it's also a great gimmick, you've got to agree.

Click on the image to enlarge it, and read the interview for yourself.

I'm also intrigued by her statement that she could identify her friends from pictures of their vaginas. "It's a resemblance, like a mother-to-child resemblance," she claims. Huh! Who'd have thought that? If a vagina resembles its owner, then does a man's penis resemble him? Women, when you call your husband/boyfriend a "dickhead" is it because his little guy looks like him? If he in turn calls you a "c*nt," is it for the same reason? Perhaps someone could come up with one of those matching games. They could post eight pictures of genitalia, then have eight faces, and the player would have to match them by drawing a line from the genitals to the face.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Wayne is locked out again

The other day I reported that when I turned on my cell phone I had a text message from an area code in Virginia, obviously a wrong number.

Yesterday I turned on my cell phone and got the jangle telling me I had a message, a voicemail. When I listened it was a man's voice, in an exasperated tone:

"Look, Wayne's locked out again. I'm really sorry to bother you, but could you run over there and let him in?"

I don't know anyone named Wayne, so it was another wrong number. It was a call from the local area code. I don't know where Wayne was, but at least the caller was in my part of the state. The message was also from the preceding night, about 12 hours before I turned on my phone and listened to it. I pictured Wayne by a locked door, shivering through the freezing night, waiting for someone to unlock the door.

Wayne, in the one-in-ten-zillion chance you read this, have you learned something? Can you pass it along to the person who called me for help? I've left a very clear message on my phone. It gives my name. I just listened to it and it sounds good to me, so whoever it was that called for help on whatever you were locked out of, your car, your apartment or house, just ignored my message and went ahead and left his own.

I also have to say he sounded pissed off. He's tired of you being locked out, Wayne. Next time put on your thinking cap. "What do I need before I leave the house? Oops! Better take my house key." Of if it was your car, get in the habit of taking the keys out and putting them in your pocket as you exit your vehicle. You don't know me, but you'll silently thank me if you just take elementary precautions to avoid lockouts.

Believe me, Wayne. I've been there.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Barack for Martin Beck

          "Barack?" said the waiter.
"What's that?" said Martin Beck, first in German, then in English.

"Very gut apéritif," said the waiter.

Martin Beck drank the apéritif called barack. Barack palinka, explained the waiter, was Hungarian apricot brandy.
The things you learn in books. I read the above in a Swedish police procedural by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, The Man Who Went Up In Smoke, a novel starring Stockholm detective Martin Beck. The authors wrote ten novels featuring Martin Beck before Wahlöö died in 1975.

One of the novels, The Laughing Policeman, was made into a 1973 movie with Walter Matthau as "Jake Martin," the location changed from Stockholm to San Francisco. The authors used as their inspiration the 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain. Before McBain there just weren't too many detective novels that utilized real police techniques. Crimes aren't solved in 60 minutes, Despite the perception left by popular TV shows and movies. Most of detective work is legwork, talking to people. In 1969's The Man Who Went Up In Smoke, there is a certain plodding quality, replete with details. In both of the books in this omnibus from Mystery Guild, Martin Beck Mysteries, Martin is meticulous with details. The first novel, Roseanna, from 1967, is a step-by-step story of the process of finding out the identity of a murder victim, and then tracking down her murderer. Martin Beck is also a keen observer, as witnessed by this description of a witness he attempts to interview in The Man Who Went Up In Smoke:
The woman seemed surprised. Very likely, she had been expecting someone. She was wearing a dark-blue, two-piece bathing suit and in her right hand she was carrying a green rubber diving mask and a snorkel. She was standing with her feet wide apart and her left hand still on the lock, quite still, as if paralyzed in the middle of a movement. Her hair was dark and short, and her features were strong. She had thick black eyebrows, a broad straight nose and full lips. Her teeth were good but somewhat uneven. Her mouth was half-open and the tip of her tongue was resting against her lower teeth, as if she was just about to say omething. She was barely taller than five foot one, but strongly and hamoniously built, with well-developed shoulders, broad hips and quite a narrow waist. Her legs were muscular and her feet short and broad, with straight toes. she had a very deep suntan and her skin appeared soft and elastic, especially across her diaphragm and stomach. Shaved armpits. Large breasts and curved stomach with thick down that seemed very light against her tanned skin. Here and there, long and curly black hairs had made their way out from the elastic at her loins. She might have been twenty-two or twenty-three years old, at the most. Not beautiful in the conventional sense of the word, but a highly functional specimen of the human race.
"Highly functional specimen of the human race." I love that. You might also say that Martin Beck is a highly functional specimen of a police detective, going about his job methodically. So much so that his work interferes with his family life and later in the series he divorces. Martin also strikes me as depressed and obsessive-compulsive; not necessarily bad traits for a detective.

Vintage Crime/Black Lizard has reprinted all ten novels in paperback, and they are available through