From the DVD of the 1941 movie serial “The Green Hornet Strikes Again!” The reference is to the radio serial of 1936 to 1950:
Clint Eastwood should have done more with this aspect of Hoover in his biopic. Or maybe it could be its own movie? “J. Edgar in Hollywood.” OK, HBO movie.
LA Times Endorses Clinton
Not exactly shocking, but I like their lede:
American voters have a clear choice on Nov. 8. We can elect an experienced, thoughtful and deeply knowledgeable public servant or a thin-skinned demagogue who is unqualified and unsuited to be president.
I probably won't do many of these since most newspapers will surely endorse Clinton. Even The Dallas Morning News, which hadn't endorsed a Democrat for president since 1940, endorsed Clinton last month. Think of that. Think of who they chose, and didn't, over the years. They opted against FDR in the middle of WWII, against LBJ in the middle of civil rights reforms, never Bill Clinton, never Barack Obama, but Nixon three times. Oy. Unless they went Wallace in '68. Or McCloskey in '72.
Despite all that, they know. They know more than NPR, which has had some of the worst “false equvilance” election coverage this season, knows. #NeverTrump.
Why Felix is King
After today's game, in which Felix threw 2-hit ball and the M's won (finally!) in 12 innings, 2-1, in front of a mostly Toronto Blue Jays crowd at Safeco Field:
“I want to be there so bad. We still have a chance at the playoffs. I’m going to do my best to make sure we get there. My show of emotion (“It’s my house!”) has been building since two days ago when I saw all those (Toronto) fans in here (Safeco Field). You know what, it’s still my house!”
Cf., my post about the frustrations of Monday night's game. Love. This. Man.
Quote of the Day
“The bottom line is this: Donald Trump built his career on a racist lie because he is a racist and a liar.”
-- Seth Myers, giving us a closer look at Trump's Birtherism: the big fat lie of it, the big fat lie he's propagating now.
From Neil Gabler's book on Walt Disney, about the man's work at the 1964 New York World's Fair:
The basic idea of the attraction, appropriate to UNICEF, was a large boat that would float on a canal through a universe of small animated dolls representing all the countries of the world and demonstrating the fundamental unity of mankind—a platitude given the archetypal Disney treatment. Originally Walt had thought to have the dolls “sing” their national anthems, but the result was cacophony. Instead he asked the Sherman brothers, who had written songs for various films at the studio, to write a composition that could be sung by all the children. Harriet Burns, who worked on the exhibit, remembered Walt telling the Shermans offhandedly, “It's a small world after all,” which became the title of their song and of the attraction.
I was like: “Oh, so that was Walt Disney.” That song. It's something that I kept thinking throughout the book. Oh, so we might not know “Three Little Pigs” if it wasn't for Disney. We wouldn't have “Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.” The Davy Crockett coonskin cap craze in the '50s. EPCOT. All Disney.
I've never been to Disneyland or Disneyworld, but I still should've known about “Small World,” since it was so expertly parodied by “The Simpsons” when they went to Duff World and Lisa has that LSD-like experience during the knockoff “Small World” boat ride.
Duff World ... Hoo-rah!
Other great takes of latter Disney include the last chapter in E.L. Doctorow's “The Book of Daniel” (for Disneyland) and the last part of George W.S. Trow's epic essay “Within the Context of No Context” (for '64 World's Fair). Both are required reading.
Stuck Inside Safeco with the Toronto Blue Jays Fans
(With apologies to Bob Dylan.)
I went to the Mariners game last night to show some support for the local team. I had tons of reasons for not going: I hadn't felt well all day, I couldn't get anyone to go with me (although I hadn't tried that hard), and it was hardly “Boys of Summer” weather: low 60s dropping into the 50s. But the team had won 9 of 11, we were 2 games back in the wild card hunt, Taijuan Walker was pitching. Plus around 4:00 the sun came out. So why not? It was the last of my season-ticket tickets. C'mon! Use it. Send them off. Show you care.
Turned out to be one of the worst games I've been to.
It wasn't the M's fault—although, to be honest, they quickly fell behind 3-0 and didn't manage a hit until the 7th inning. No, it was the crowd at Safeco. It was loud, boistrous, involved. The stadium rang with cheers.
For the Blue Jays. The stands were packed with Canucks down from Vancouver, et al.
Walking to the park, I'd seen a lot of Blue Jays unis but hadn't thought much of it. You always have opposition fans. Besides, I didn't mind the BJs. I'd rooted for them vs. Texas in the ALDS last year, then rooted against them vs. Kansas City in the ALCS, and they were nice enough—Canadian enough, you might say—to grant both my wishes.
But this? This was awful. The fans were everywhere. They took over our house. They made it their stadium:
“MVP! MVP” they chanted when Josh Donaldson came to the plate.
“Ho-ZAY oh ZAY-oh ZAY-oh ZAY...” they chanted when Jose Bautista followed.
“Let's go, Blue Jays! [clap clap clapclapclap]” they chanted throughout.
All the time. It was awful. It felt like a home invasion by a Glee Club.
Afterwards I figured it out. Before last season, the BJs hadn't been to the postseason since '93, and winning seasons always create new fans. A lot of these were that. They had that kind of enthusiasm and cluelessness.
I tried to make noise against them. I kept cheering on Taijuan, as I do; I cheered on Robby, and Nellie, and Kyle; but I felt drown out.
Before the game even started I had a confrontation with the row of people behind me. One guy in particular. He yelled something against Robinson Cano and I shot him a look. He immediately backed off, which is funny since I'm about 100 miles from tough, but I think I already looked pissed off. I came to the game pissed off and none of this was helping. And the chants continued.
I tried to ignore it. I tried to just be in my head. Between innings, I got out of the iPhone. I tweeted:
These Blue Jays fans have WAAAAYYY too much enthusiasm. It's like a high school pep rally. #GoMariners
Two innings later, I tweeted:
Wow, who knew Canadians were such assholes? #GoMariners
But my rage kept building. It was *I* who was the asshole. I shouted at odd times. I flipped off high-fiving Jays fans. You know the scene in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” where Steve Martin shouts impotently at the sky, “You're messing with the wrong guy!!!”? Like that, but at the ballpark. Finally, to prevent anything worse happening, I left after 5 innings. I left during a no-hitter (broken up by Robinson Cano in the 7th). I felt bad about leaving, about not sticking around for the team, but I was worried I would do real damage. To myself.
Some part of me wonders if the M's had trouble hitting because their stadium was filled with opposition fans, or if that's just water off their backs. Either way, we got our first extra-base hit with two outs in the bottom of the 9th: a 2-run homer by Leonys Martin to make it 3-2. But then Ben Gamel struck out. Right: Ben Gamel.
It's been a fun year. The M's power the ball, they hit walk-off homeruns, they are strong up in the middle. But that was not a fun game.
ADDENDUM: After 7 scoreless innings on Wednesday afternoon, leaving with a 1-0, Felix shouted at the Blue Jays and/or their fans, “It's my house!” Damn right. Could've used that spirit on Monday. Shut them up.
Next year, we build a wall.
Coming Soon: 'Wilmington on Fire'
From last week's “Talk of the Town” section in The New Yorker:
On November 10, 1898, a coup d’état took place on United States soil. It was perpetrated by a gang of white-supremacist Democrats in Wilmington, N.C., who were intent on reclaiming power from the recently elected, biracial Republican government, even if, as one of the leaders vowed, “we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.” They had a Colt machine gun capable of firing 420 .23-calibre bullets a minute. They had the local élite and the press on their side. By the end of the day, they had killed somewhere between 14 and 60 black men and banished 20 more, meanwhile forcing the mayor, the police chief, and the members of the board of aldermen to resign.
The new government remained in control, of both the town and the story. Subsequent generations of white residents knew about the events of 1898 as a “revolution” or a “race riot,” if they knew about them at all. In the black community, the episode remained a suppressed trauma.
A new documentary about the masscare will be available (on Amazon) on its anniversary, Nov. 10, two days after the presidential election.
Movie Review: Snowden (2016)
I’ll give Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” this: It made me paranoid in a way that Laura Poitras’ documentary about Edward Snowden, “CitizenFour,” did not. Afterwards, I wanted to go home and cover up my computer camera.
A few things I learned from this biopic:
- Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was initially conservative. He was a gungho Bush-era patriot who dismissed the press as “the liberal media” as late as 2006.
- Far from being a low-level, temp tech, he was a boy genius, coveted in the halls of the NSA and CIA, who helped create entire backup programs in our cyber-security apparatus, even as he was questioning the morality and legality of that apparatus.
- The programs our intelligence agencies use to spy on us have really good interfaces.
We know 3) is bullshit. An anonymous Snowden colleague confirms 2) in this 2015 Forbes article. As for 1)? I haven’t found much on Snowden’s early political leanings, but aligns the character with classic Stone heroes: Charlie Sheen in “Platoon,” Tom Cruise in “Born on the Fourth of July” and Kevin Costner in “JFK.” Each is a patriot who believes he’s protecting his country; each discovers the immorality of that country and winds up believing the exact opposite of what he believed at the outset. Each is a true believer, but for both sides of the equation.
Stone isn’t big on the gray areas. His Snowden is such an innocent he’s nicknamed “Snow White” by a fellow cyber geek in Geneva, while Snowden’s CIA mentor, Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans), is so obviously sinister he comes off at times like a “Scooby-Doo” villain—all but rubbing his hands together. At one point, he and Snowden walk through a DC park: Snowden in casual gray hoodie, O’Brian in dark overcoat and dark fedora pulled low. At another point, in the NSA facilities in Hawaii, O’Brian chastises Snowden via video feed; but the feed is the entire wall, and O’Brian is in close-up, making him appear like Big Brother in George Orwell’s “1984.” (Apparently it’s no accident that O’Brian is named after Winston Smith’s antagonist.)
The movie is structured in flashback. As in “CitizenFour,” we’re once again stuck in the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong with Snowden, Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), and Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto), as they try to tell Snowden’s story before it’s snuffed out by U.S. intelligence. The room is claustrophobic, the atmosphere paranoid. Once again, Snowden’s clothes go from white to gray to dark.
So how did Snowden reach a point where he decides to blow the whistle? Several steps.
First he witnesses the spy apparatus in Geneva—the way we’re able to see into almost anyone’s home and watch pretty girls undress. Then there’s the mess with the Swiss banker—the CIA besmirching him to turn him informant. Then there’s Stone’s realization in Tokyo that the CIA and NSA are actually more interested in promoting American business interests abroad. “Terrorism is just an excuse,” Snowden says.
But the final straw may be that “1984” moment with O’Brian. Snowden is having troubles again with his girlfriend, Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), and so O’Brian assures him, in a way that feels both paternal and sleazy, that he doesn’t have to worry; that she’s not sleeping around on him. The assuredness with which he says this makes the other shoe drop. The scales fall from Snowden’s eyes.
In other words, the final straw is less the collection of meta-data than the fact that he and his girlfriend are being watched. Does this do a disservice to Snowden? Personalizing it this way? In “CitizenFour,” he feared the way the modern media would make it all about the personalities. “I’m not the story here,” he said.
Despite a 134-minute runtime, “Snowden” moves quickly. We also get a stand-out performance from Gordon-Levitt. It just didn’t quite work for me. There’s too much on the girlfriend—he can’t tell her what he does, so he can’t explain what’s bothering him, so she gets upset, etc.—and not enough on the “Terrorism is just an excuse” angle. I wanted a more nuanced portrait of Snowden or a stronger argument for what he did.
Then there’s the end. Snowden, of course, winds up in Russia, where he’s giving a talk via web about privacy rights and civil liberties. And as we pan around his laptop, it’s suddenly him, the real Edward Snowden, not the actor Gordon-Levitt. And at the end of his talk, the audience stands and applauds. To thank him for his sacrifice.
And as signal to us? If so, we missed our cue.
I was at the opening night show at the SIFF Egyptian theater in Seattle, which is Liberal Central, and yet the crowd was sparse, and there was no applause. I may have heard one clap but that was it. More, I juxtaposed Stone’s ending with something that happened outside the theater before the movie started—something that to me feels more indicative of the American people for whom Edward Snowden sacrificed so much. I was standing there, waiting for Patricia, when two couples, 20s-ish, white, walked by, and one guy noticed what was playing. “The dude that revealed all those secrets?” he said in a sardonic voice. “Yeah, let’s make a movie of that.” Everyone laughed.