39 posts categorized "Culture"

November 07, 2017

As We All Know By Ted Rall

As We All Know Ted RallMainstream media outlets like NPR and The New York Times keep saying that Russia hacked the 2016 presidential election. Now we're making policies and launching investigations based on those stories. Maybe it's true. But there's still no concrete evidence available to the public.

October 13, 2017

The Predator Option

Hollywood production mogul Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own company after being accused by numerous alleged victims of sexual harassment over the years. Now there are rape allegations as well. The media and online pile-on makes some people uncomfortable, and the bigger issue is the power dynamic inherent to capitalism and the treatment of employees like property by employers, but this is one of those issues where it shouldn’t be hard to find the right side.

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September 25, 2017

OCTOBER PROGRAMMING ON THE CRITERION CHANNEL ON FILMSTRUCK!

       
 
Includes a new edition of Meet the Filmmakers on Josh and Benny Safdie,
four films by Michael Haneke and Juraj Herz's The Cremator!
 
Sunday, October 1
On the Waterfront*: Criterion Collection Edition #647

Marlon Brando gives the performance of his career as the tough prizefighter-turned-longshoreman Terry Malloy in Elia Kazan's eight-time Oscar-winning masterpiece. A powerfully emotional tale of individual failure and social corruption, On the Waterfrontfollows Terry's deepening moral crisis as he must decide whether to remain loyal to a mob-connected union boss (Lee J. Cobb) and his right-hand man, Terry's brother (Rod Steiger), as the authorities close in on them. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an audio commentary by authors Richard Schickel and Jeff Young; a conversation between filmmaker Martin Scorsese and critic Kent Jones; Elia Kazan: Outsider (1982), an hour-long documentary; a documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with scholar Leo Braudy, critic David Thomson, and others; an interview with actor Eva Marie Saint; an interview with director Elia Kazan from 2001; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Sunday, October 1
Harold and Maude*: Criterion Collection Edition #608

Countercultural icon Hal Ashby's idiosyncratic American fable tells the story of the emotional and romantic bond between a death-obsessed young man (Bud Cort) from a wealthy family and a devil-may-care, bohemian octogenarian (Ruth Gordon). Equal parts gallows humor and romantic innocence, Harold and Maude dissolves the line between darkness and light along with the ones that separate people by class, gender, and age, and it features indelible performances and a remarkable soundtrack by Cat Stevens. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and producer Charles B. Mulvehill; illustrated audio excerpts from seminars by Ashby and writer-producer Colin Higgins; and an interview with songwriter Yusuf/Cat Stevens.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Tuesday, October 3
Tuesday's Short and Feature: The Extraordinary Life of Rocky* andHarold and Maude

In these two comedies, glimmers of macabre humor emerge amid the specter of death: Belgian director Kevin Meul's award-winning 2010 short The Extraordinary Life of Rockyfollows the story of a young boy whose very presence seems to lead his loved ones to die in freak accidents, while Hal Ashby's 1971 Harold and Maude observes the unlikely romantic relationship between a suicidal twentysomething and an eccentric elderly widow.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Thursday, October 5
Meet the Filmmakers: Josh and Benny Safdie

The Channel-exclusive series Meet the Filmmakers invites exciting contemporary directors to turn the camera on filmmakers who intrigue them, capturing their creative process through genuine, personal encounters, not filmographies or biographies. This latest entry goes behind the scenes with Josh and Benny Safdie, brothers who have made their name with a number of singularly chaotic features set in their native New York. In addition to candid footage from the set of their new thriller Good Time, director Michael Chaiken offers an intimate immersion in the Safdies' world, where family life and filmmaking flow together inseparably. Alongside the fifty-five-minute documentary, the Criterion Channel will present a sampling of the duo's key films, including The Pleasure of Being Robbed* (2008), Daddy Longlegs*(2009), their basketball documentary Lenny Cooke*(2013), and four of their shorts*.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, October 6
Friday Night Double Feature: The Arbor* and The Selfish Giant*

With Clio Barnard's new feature Dark River now making the festival rounds, catch up on two of the director's acclaimed films set in the industrial West Yorkshire city of Bradford. In her astonishing debut feature, The Arbor (2010), she turns documentary filmmaking on its head, investigating the brief, tragic life of playwright Andrea Dunbar through a cast of actors lip-synching to audio interviews with Dunbar's family members. In Barnard's first purely narrative work, the Oscar Wilde­-inspired The Selfish Giant (2013), two working-class teenagers become friends as they try to earn money by collecting scrap metal.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Tuesday, October 10
Tuesday's Short and Feature: Bridges-Go-Roundand The Connection

Different corners of New York City come alive in two works by iconoclastic filmmaker Shirley Clarke: in the playfully structured 1958 short Bridges-Go-Round, she evokes the sculptural beauty of the urban landscape through an assemblage of looped footage, while in her jazz-fueled 1961 feature debut, The Connection, she reimagines a Jack Gelber play about a group of heroin addicts anxiously awaiting their drug dealer in a seedy apartment.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, October 11
Carnival of Souls: Criterion Collection Edition #63

A young woman (Candace Hilligoss) in a small Kansas town survives a drag race accident, then agrees to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she is haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her toward an abandoned lakeside pavilion. Made by industrial filmmakers on a small budget, this eerily effective B-movie classic was intended to have "the look of a Bergman and the feel of a Cocteau" - and with its strikingly used locations and spooky organ score, it has remained an influential cult classic decades later. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: selected-scene audio commentary featuring director Herk Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford; an interview with comedian and writer Dana Gould; a video essay by film critic David Cairns; The Movie That Wouldn't Die!, a documentary on the 1989 reunion of the film's cast and crew; The Carnival Tour, a 2000 update on the film's locations; and more.
 
Thursday, October 12
Ulrich Seidl's Paradise Trilogy* - Paradise: LoveParadise: Faith, and Paradise: Hope

Like Lars von Trier and Gaspar Noé, Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidel has long polarized audiences with his boundary-pushing explorations of transgressive desire and abject humiliation. Ranging from the exploits of a middle-aged sex tourist in Kenya to the tribulations of a teenage girl at a weight-loss camp, the stories in this ambitious triptych offer disturbing insights on morality and shame on the margins of contemporary European society. Watch the complete trilogy on the Channel alongside a new interview with cinematographer Ed Lachman.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, October 13
Friday Night Double Feature: Oslo, August 31st* and The Fire Within

Two European cityscapes serve as backdrops for dark nights of the soul in these adaptations of Pierre Drieu la Rochelle's 1931 novel Will o' the Wisp. In Joachim Trier's Oslo, August 31st (2011), a depressive writer on a furlough from drug rehab confronts his memories and temptations in the Norwegian capital; in Louis Malle's The Fire Within (1963), a recovering alcoholic, having resolved to commit suicide, wanders a forlorn Paris paying final visits to a scattering of old friends.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Monday, October 16
Life During Wartime*: Criterion Collection Edition #574

With his customary dry humor and queasy precision, independent filmmaker Todd Solondz explores contemporary American existence and the nature of forgiveness in this distorted mirror image of his 1998 dark comedy Happiness. That film's emotionally stunted characters are now groping for the possibility of change in a post-9/11 world and, in a daring twist, are embodied by a different ensemble cast, including Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, and Ciarán Hinds. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a documentary featuring interviews with the cast and on-set footage, an interview with cinematographer Ed Lachman, and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Tuesday, October 17
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Tord and Tord* and Persona

The psychology of self steps to the fore in these two existential Swedish films. Niki Lindroth von Bahr's clever animated fable Tord and Tord (2010) employs handsome stop motion and deadpan narration to tell the story of a fox who finds his individuality thrown into doubt by the arrival of a new rabbit neighbor with the same name. Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece Persona (1966) captures the porousness of identity through the turbulent relationship between a troubled actress (Liv Ullmann) and her nurse (Bibi Andersson) during their stay on a remote island.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, October 18
Four Jean-Pierre Melville Editions

Marrying elements of classic genre filmmaking with his own individualistic flair and do-it-yourself attitude, the great French director Jean-Pierre Melville produced a body of work suffused with a quiet existential brooding. In anticipation of his centennial this month, we're presenting the packed editions of four of his masterpieces: Le samouraï (Criterion Collection Edition #306), an elegant mix of 1940s American gangster cinema, 1960s French pop culture, and Japanese lone-warrior mythology, featuring Alain Delon in a career-defining performance; Le cercle rouge (#218), a heist film about the criminal schemes of a master thief, a notorious escapee, and an alcoholic ex-cop; Le deuxième souffle (#448), which follows the parallel tracks of a French underworld criminal escaped from prison and the suave inspector relentlessly pursuing him; and Les enfants terribles(#398), a collaboration with Jean Cocteau that delves into the wholly unholy relationship between a brother and sister.
 
Thursday, October 19
Adventures in Moviegoing with Philip Kaufman

In the latest episode of the Channel-exclusive series Adventures in Moviegoing, writer-director Philip Kaufman (The Right StuffThe Unbearable Lightness of Being), one of the most accomplished and eclectic of all American filmmakers, reveals a cinephilic appetite as wide-ranging as his filmography. Among the formative experiences he recounts: his childhood love for the eye-popping colors in Disney's Bambi and Fantasia, the origin of his interest in world cinema at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts (also the birthplace of Criterion and Janus Films), and his later encounters with the works of American mavericks like Don Siegel, John Cassavetes, and Shirley Clarke. Alongside the interview, check out a selection from Kaufman's personal canon, including John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle, Pietro Germi's Divorce Italian Style, and his ultimate favorite, François Truffaut's Jules and Jim.
 
Friday, October 20
Friday Night Double Feature: Le samouraï and The Usual Suspects

Enigmatic outlaws take the spotlight in these crafty crime films, both of which feature iconic police-lineup scenes: a knockout sequence in Jean-Pierre Melville's taut minimalist thriller Le samouraï (1967) follows Alain Delon's contract killer as he attempts to elude identification; Bryan Singer's tricky The Usual Suspects (1995), a neonoir featuring an Oscar-winning performance for the ages by Kevin Spacey, revolves around a team of criminals who meet when they're all hauled into the same New York precinct.
 
Monday, October 23
Le Corbeau: Criterion Collection Edition #227

A mysterious writer of poison-pen letters, known only as Le Corbeau (the Raven), plagues a French provincial town, unwittingly exposing the collective suspicion and rancor seething beneath the community's calm surface. Made during the Nazi Occupation of France, Henri-Georges Clouzot's exploration of mass paranoia was attacked by the right-wing Vichy regime, the left-wing Resistance press, and the Catholic Church, and was banned after the Liberation. But in time the film reemerged as high-profile admirers like Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre championed its powerful subtext and worked to rehabilitate Clouzot's reputation after the war. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an interview with Bertrand Tavernier and excerpts from The Story of French Cinema by Those Who Made It: Grand Illusions 1939-1942, a 1975 documentary featuring Clouzot.
 
Tuesday, October 24
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Doodlebug and Following

In the wake of Christopher Nolan's war film Dunkirk, one of the most widely celebrated and commercially successful films of the summer, this week's Short + Feature takes a look back at the filmmaker's no-less-inventive low-budget beginnings. In the space of just three minutes, Nolan's black-and-white short Doodlebug (1997), about a man hunting a bug in his apartment that may or may not be a figment of his imagination, develops into a compellingly Kafkaesque portrait of madness, while his first feature, the psychological mystery Following (1999), also shot on 16 mm, cunningly scrambles its chronology to tell the story of a writer drawn unexpectedly into a life of crime.
 
Thursday, October 26
Observations on Film Art No. 12: Brute Force - The Actor's Toolkit

What do film actors do when they act? Few aspects of moviemaking craft are more discussed and less understood. In this month's episode of our Channel-exclusive series Observations on Film Art, Professor David Bordwell takes a close look at Jules Dassin's Brute Force (1947) to show how a performance is built from gesture, body language, and speech. Dassin's prison-escape film noir relies on economical acting from performers like Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, and Charles Bickford to create richly nuanced characterizations that resonate beyond the content of the script's hard-boiled dialogue. ACCOMPANIED BY: the Criterion edition of Brute Force.
 
Friday, October 27
Friday Night Double Feature: The Haunted Strangler and Fiend Without a Face

Terror comes from within in these chilling tales, produced by horror impresario Richard Gordon and originally released in 1958 as a double bill. A late-career showcase for monster-movie legend Boris Karloff, The Haunted Strangler follows a muckraking author (Karloff) as he attempts to uncover the real story behind a twenty-year-old series of killings, only to reveal a gruesome side of himself. And in Arthur Crabtree's sci-fi/horror hybrid Fiend Without a Face, a scientist's thoughts come to grisly life in the form of invisible monsters with an unquenchable thirst for human brains.
 
Saturday, October 28
Split Screen Season 8

Two decades after it premiered on IFC, the pioneering television series Split Screen has a streaming home on the Channel, with batches of episodes from the show's four-year run going up every month. In this priceless time capsule, host John Pierson takes viewers on an irreverent trip through filmmaking communities and movie-loving culture at the turn of the millennium. This season features a trip to South Korea to meet the animators behind The Simpsons, an investigation of Billy Graham's insanely prolific evangelical film production unit, and an appearance by Haruo Nakajima, a.k.a. the man in the Godzilla suit.
 
Monday, October 30
Hunger: Criterion Collection Edition #504

Oscar-winning British filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) turns one of history's most controversial acts of political defiance into a jarring, unforgettable cinematic experience. In Northern Ireland's Maze prison in 1981, twenty-seven-year-old Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike to protest the British government's refusal to recognize him and his fellow IRA inmates as political prisoners. McQueen dramatizes prison existence and Sands's final days in a way that is purely experiential, even abstract, a succession of images full of both beauty and horror. Featuring an intense performance by Michael Fassbender, Hunger is an unflinching, transcendent depiction of what a human being is willing to endure to be heard. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: interviews with McQueen and Fassbender, a short documentary on the making of the film, and more.
 
Tuesday, October 31
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Swallowed* and The Brood

While the kids are out trick-or-treating, sneak in two unnerving films that milk horror from the physical and emotional trials of motherhood. A young mom finds herself possessed by eerie trances and uncontrollable impulses in dancer-filmmaker Lily Baldwin's Swallowed, made as part of the dream-inspired omnibus Collective: Unconscious (2016). And David Cronenberg's The Brood (1979) sets a mother's rage loose on her daughter, taking the director's obsession with bodily and psychological carnage to bloodcurdling extremes.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
---

Complete list of films premiering on the Criterion Channel this month:

October 1
Harold and Maude, Hal Ashby, 1971
On the Waterfront, Elia Kazan, 1954
 
October 2
The Extraordinary Life of Rocky, Kevin Meul, 2010
 
October 5
Lenny Cooke, Josh and Benny Safdie, 2013
The Black Balloon, Josh and Benny Safdie, 2012
John's Gone, Josh and Benny Safdie, 2010
Daddy Longlegs, Josh and Benny Safdie, 2009
The Pleasure of Being Robbed, Josh Safdie, 2008
The Acquaintances of a Lonely John, Benny Safdie, 2008
We're Going to the Zoo, Josh Safdie, 2006
 
October 6
The Arbor, Clio Barnard, 2010
The Selfish Giant, Clio Barnard, 2013
The Junk Shop, Juraj Herz, 1965
The Cremator, Juraj Herz, 1968
Golden Demon, Koji Shima, 1954
La chambre, Chantal Akerman, 1972
A Taxing Woman's Return, Juzo Itami, 1988
 
October 12
Paradise: Love, Ulrich Seidl, 2012
Paradise: Faith, Ulrich Seidl, 2013
Paradise: Hope, Ulrich Seidl, 2013
 
October 13
Oslo, August 31st, Joachim Trier, 2011
June Night, Per Lindberg, 1940
Blindfolded Eyes, Carlos Saura, 1978
History Is Made at Night, Frank Borzage, 1937
Gap-Toothed Women, Les Blank, 1987
The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists, Les Blank, 1995
Ciao Federico, Gideon Bachmann, 1970
The Seventh Continent, Michael Haneke, 1989
Benny's Video, Michael Haneke, 1992
71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, Michael Haneke, 1994
The Piano Teacher, Michael Haneke, 2001
 
October 16
Life During Wartime, Todd Solondz, 2009
 
October 17
Tord and Tord, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, 2010
 
October 20
Madonna of the Seven Moons, Arthur Crabtree, 1945
I Am Curious - Blue, Vilgot Sjöman, 1968
Café au lait, Mathieu Kassovitz, 1993
My Home Is Copacabana, Arne Sucksdorff, 1965
 
October 25
The Edge of the World, Michael Powell, 1937
 
October 27
L'enfance nue, Maurice Pialat, 1968
A Man There Was, Victor Sjöström, 1917
Until the End of the World, Wim Wenders, 1991
More, Barbet Schroeder, 1969
Intimate Relations, Philip Goodhew, 1996
 
October 31
Swallowed, Lily Baldwin, 2016
 
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ABOUT THE CRITERION CHANNEL
 
The Criterion Channel offers the largest streaming collection of Criterion films available, including classic and contemporary films from around the world, interviews and conversations with filmmakers and never-before-seen programming. The channel's weekly calendar features complete Criterion editions, thematic retrospectives, live events, short films, and select contemporary features, along with exclusive original programming that aims to enhance the Criterion experience for the brand's dedicated fans as well as expanding its reach to new audiences. Other recent additions to the programming include MEET THE FILMMAKER: ATHINA RACHEL TSANGARI and ADVENTURES IN MOVIEGOING WITH BILL HADER.

ABOUT FILMSTRUCK

FilmStruck is a new subscription on-demand service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films. Developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in collaboration with the Criterion Collection, FilmStruck will be the new exclusive streaming home for the critically acclaimed and award-winning Criterion Collection, including the Criterion Channel, a new premium service programmed and curated by the Criterion team.  FilmStruck is Turner's first domestic direct-to-consumer offering launched in November 2016.

ABOUT THE CRITERION COLLECTION

Since 1984, the Criterion Collection has been dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary films from around the world in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. No matter the medium-from laserdisc to DVD and Blu-ray to FilmStruck, the streaming service developed in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies - Criterion has maintained its pioneering commitment to presenting each film as its maker would want it seen, in state-of-the-art restorations with special features designed to encourage repeated watching and deepen the viewer's appreciation of the art of film.

September 19, 2017

YouTube Stepped Wrong Again

Axial Cut

In latest YouTube related news, I posted my Axial Cut video on YouTube and got hit with a claim before I even hit the publish key. You'd think they'd get the idea that I don't play. I wasn't having it this time. I let YouTube know in no uncertain terms where I stand on the issue. I'm still waiting for YouTube's response to my brief reply to their bullying. Look for an update to my unending war with these shysters. Don't forget that YouTube has only paid me $10 for over one million views. It is hardly worth the hassle to deal with these thieves. Should I continue to bother? Perhaps not.

As always I'm covered by Vimeo where I never get hassled over such obvious stuff. Where is that class-action lawsuit against YouTube? It's going to be a whopper when it finally happens. 

UPDATE: Here's the result — SEE SCREENSHOT BELOW.

This is why you should only put your videos on Vimeo. Notice how "Epic Elite" arbitrarily "decides" that U.S. copyright law does not apply to my video. 

Unlike YouTube, Vimeo upholds the law. YouTube lets companies "decide" they are above the law so that only they reap rewards from a video essay such as the object of this discussion.

"The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."

YouTube

September 06, 2017

OPERATION SNOWBALL: MY FIRST CAREER IN SHOW BUSINESS

By Cole Smithey

You’d be hard-pressed to track down any information on Google about Jerry Harmon’s Operation Snowball. Sometime in December of 1967, when I was just three-years-old, my stepdad Jerry Harmon launched a touring magic act project called Operation Snowball. Under its auspices, “King Karnak, Barbie, and Cole” would become a ten-year annual touring magic show across the state of Virginia. The purpose of the act was to provide Christmastime entertainment for the patients at all of the mental institutions in Virginia; there were a lot mental hospitals in those days. Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia was on the list.

Western_state_hospital_virginia

Every year we’d kick off the tour with a show at the Towne Theater on Broad Street in Richmond before heading over to the Governor’s office for a photo op with the Governor, who would give his blessing for our two-week tour that followed. I distinctly remember meeting Govenor Mills Godwin on several occasions. A government limo would drive us to a nearby airport where a government appointed pilot from Civil Air Patrol would fly us, with our gear, in a Cesna twin-engine plane to our shows. Sometimes we had to land in cow pastures. Sometimes we hit severe turbulence that would make the most hardened pilots lose their lunch.  

Jerry had been a medic in the Korean war before being switched to intelligence where he trained soldiers in specialized combat techniques, such as decapitation using piano wire. He flew fighter pilot missions, during one of which he had to crash-land his plane. The plane’s windshield exploded into his face, leaving scars from where tiny pieces of glass had to be extracted. The story goes that he killed one of his own men for being a traitor. When he started Operation Snowball, Jerry was riding ambulance duty in a volunteer rescue squad in Richmond, Virginia when he wasn’t doing television news broadcasts for a local station. He’d later become a radio announcer for WEZS (Easy Listening), while teaching Standard First Aid to police recruits every Tuesday night. I spent more Tuesday nights at the Richmond Police Station than I can remember.

Jerry cared about the Mental Health movement in Virginia. He worked for a Mental Health agency headquartered in one of the most beautiful buildings on Monument Avenue. So it was that we’d pull into the parking lot of Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg in the early afternoon, rush in to a cafeteria area with a stage, and perform for a half hour to war vets and mentally ravaged patients whose suffering was only being exacerbated by abuses they were suffering at the hands of their guards.

Jerry Harmon was a consummate performer. He had a line of patter that was so shiny you could eat off it. “Ice, the only thing in the world that is what it is cracked up to be.” My mom and I were the assistants. I had my “Twiggy and Stumpy” bit that I did where I pulled faces. I wore a Philip Morris-styled outfit with a pill box hat with an elastic cord that wrapped under my chin. It was uncomfortable as hell but this was show business after all.

I don’t have much memory of specific years; they all just blend together. But I have a strong memory of the first time I became aware of just who our audience was. I looked out from the stage at the grinning faces of people who would return to an abyss of sadness the moment we left their facility. I saw a Viet Nam war vet in a wheelchair. The man had no arms or legs. I was probably five or six at the time but I didn’t need anyone to explain to me how or why this poor man had arrived at this sad fate. War. War had robbed this human being of his humanity. Long before I hit puberty, I had an ingrained hatred of war that I carry to this day.

Jerry used a clothes hamper that he had dressed into a snazzy rolling lectern from which he would take out rope, Chinese Linking Rings, and a host of other tricks. KING KARNAK was emblazoned across the front. Jerry was a master at sleight of hand. Billiard Balls were a favorite. The show would climax with Jerry chopping my mom’s head off with a guillotine. Some members of the audience would have to be escorted out of the room before the trick could be completed. The patients would frequently mob us as we made our way to our waiting limo. It was frightening sometimes, but we were already on our way to our next show. We did two or three shows a day for our two-week run.

I’ve since gone down to Richmond looking through microfiche files of the Richmond Times Dispatch and the Richmond News Leader for articles or photos from the Operation Snowball years (1967 to 1976), but I couldn’t find anything. It’s funny to think that I had my introduction to show business at such a young age, but I learned the same fundamental lesson that anyone who dares set foot on the boards does; the show must go on.

I took special pride in bringing a fleeting moment of pleasure to people who had no hope in their lives. Jerry treated Operation Snowball like a military mission that had to be prepared for, executed, and completed. He never got paid a dime for his efforts. He might not have been the best dad, but Jerry was a humanitarian, as evidenced by his actions. Jerry had a huge ego, and was quite the braggart, but I never once heard him brag about Operation Snowball. That was something special. Perhaps someday you'll be able to see and read evidence of it on the internet.

September 04, 2017

Today’s Outrage Is Tomorrow’s Memory By TED RALL

This cartoon came about when I was thinking of ideas related to things Trump has done and said. I thought to myself, why bother? Anything I draw about will be forgotten about in a day or two because of whatever Trump will say or do between now and then. Whether the frenetic pace of activity and outrage is Trump’s personality or the result of a clever stratagem, it seems to be working for now. Who can keep up with this guy?

August 14, 2017

Trouble Boys: The True Adventures of The Replacements — BOOK REVIEW

By Bob Mehr

Colesmithey.comI’ll give it to you straight. If you’re a die-hard Replacements fan, don’t read this book; it will make you hate the band you thought you loved. If, on the other hand, you’re a rubber-necking reader who loves one good car crash after another then strap yourself in for a rough ride with some of the worst people, and unprofessional musicians, you’ll never have to spend any imaginary facetime with. Paul Westerberg comes off as the biggest asshole you’ve never met. That’s saying something considering all the notorious assholes out there. Sure, I suppose G.G. Allen was worse but he had to good graces to die young.

When the book gets around to the Mats meeting Dave Edmunds, one of the band’s heroes from day-one (yes the book’s title comes from a Dave Edmunds song), the British rocker can barely contain himself from kicking all of their asses because he hates them freaking so much. Heavens knows he had good reason. I just wish he had done; someone needed to do it. Far too many people suffered these fools quietly, even if never gladly. Considering Westerberg’s proclivity for religiously fucking up every personal relationship and business opportunity ever put before him, Edmunds should have put this incorrigible fucker out of his misery. Dave Edmunds only gets a couple of sentences in the book, but he’s by far my favorite person in it.

Colesmithey.com

Westerberg comes across as such a consciously uncultured idiot that you’ll want to throw the book across the room. He was famous for saying, “We’re not tourists, we’re touring” as an excuse to never do cultural things like go to the Louvre Museum when the band was in Paris.

There are anecdotes a plenty. When a fan approached Westerberg to gush about how his music changed his life, Westerberg stuck his straw in his coke, filled it, and blew the sticky liquid all over the fan’s face. Classy.

When a fan gave a beautiful handmade bass guitar that he slaved over for months creating to Tommy Stinson, the band’s bass player smashed it to smithereens on stage during their performance and threw the remaining scraps into its creator’s face in the audience. Just wow.     

Author Bob Mehr drank plenty of the Replacements Kool-Aid to be able to describe Paul Westerberg as the “preeminent post-punk songsmith of the ‘80s.” Sure “16 Blue” is a respectable song, and “Alex Chilton” is a catchy pop tune, but nothing in The Replacements’ cannon of Westerberg-penned songs holds a candle to (here we go) Warren Zevon, Iggy Pop, Jonathan Richman, The Damned, Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, Johnny Thunders, Jim Carroll, Stiv Bators, The Buzzcocks, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, or Robyn Hitchcock. “Preeminent post-punk songsmith” indeed. Sit down and shut up.

I’ll go one better and say that the Replacements never had a lick of style to begin with. Wearing overalls isn’t just bad taste, it’s imbecilic. It was always one of the reasons I was never impressed by the band. Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers looked incredible onstage because the band dressed great and dripped with attitude. Take a look at the cover for D.T.K. and you’ll see what I mean. The Replacements were rarely ever even in tune.

Colesmithey.com

Listen to The Replacements’ “Talent Show” to hear what arrested development sounds like. There’s a huge difference between a brilliant 1983 Jonathan Richman song like “That Summer Feeling” as compared with “Talent Show” from 1989. The Replacements were too busy getting shit-faced drunk and tearing up tour busses and nice rooms to begin to mature as people or as musicians. Even Johnny Thunders, who Westerberg slagged off in his crappy little ditty “Johnny’s Gonna Die” (with a line about Thunders “knows a few chords”) had to suffer an earful from Tommy Stinson about Thunders’ cabaret act with a horn section and a busty backup singer. I saw that Johnny Thunders tour, and it put any show the Mats ever performed to shame. Johnny was a hopeless junkie, but he was 1000 times the entertainer than Westerberg ever was. 

“Trouble Boys: The True Adventures of The Replacements” is well researched if redundant; it could have used another editorial once-over. The band was doomed from the start due to elements of mental illness and Paul Westerberg’s fascination with failure that he imposed on those around him. I’m still happy to hear a Mats song come on my Pandora, but I’m not impressed by their songs anymore. They weren’t merely terminal professional amateurs; the Replacements were just failure-infatuated assholes.

Colesmithey.com

July 17, 2017

How I Found Out That the Courts Are Off-Limits to the 99% By Ted Rall

24_main_new.1483632584I’m suing the Los Angeles Times. I’m the plaintiff. I’m the one who was wronged. The Times should be defending themselves from my accusations that they fired and libeled me as a favor to a police chief.

But this is America.

Deep-pocketed defendants like the Times — owned by a corporation with the weird name Tronc and a market capitalization in excess of $400 million — are taking advantage of America’s collapsing court system to turn justice on its head. In worn-out Trump-era America, the corruption and confusion that used to be associated with the developing world has been normalized.

If you’re a big business like Tronc, you may be the defendant on paper but you have all the advantages in court. Your money allows you to put the plaintiff on the defense. You’re equal in the eyes of the law — theoretically. But it doesn’t feel like justice when the victim has to defend himself from the criminal. It’s like that song “Lola,” in which the Kinks sang “girls will be boys and girls will be boys”; the courts system is a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world.

States like California passed anti-SLAPP laws to defend individuals with modest incomes (like me) against deep-pocked plaintiffs (like the Times) that file frivolous lawsuits to intimidate and harass their critics. After an anti-SLAPP motion is filed, the case freezes until a judge decides whether the case is meritorious. If the judge says it’s frivolous, it’s dismissed and the poor individual defendant gets his or her attorney’s fees paid by the deep-pocked corporation plaintiff.

After I sued them for defamation and wrongful termination, the Times filed three “anti-SLAPP” motions against me. So if the judge decides I don’t have a good case, this middle-class individual plaintiff will have to pay deep-pocketed defendant Tronc’s legal fees. The Troncies want at least $300,000.

Talk about topsy-turvy! The legislature should fix this law but they won’t because there’s zero political movement in that direction. I may be the only journalist to have criticized anti-SLAPP laws in a public forum. Articles about anti-SLAPP feature nothing but praise.

There were three motions. I lost one on June 21st, against the individual Times employees and executives involved in libeling me. (I plan to appeal.) That loss prompted a parting of ways with my attorneys. What followed was a month of representing myself pro se (in California they call it in pro per).

I now have new lawyers, and we’re waiting to hear how I did arguing against ace lawyer Kelli Sager’s anti-SLAPP motions for the Times and Tronc in LA Superior Court on July 14th. It sucked. But representing myself gave me a full-immersion crash course in just how messed up the courts really are.

The big thing I learned was that poor people have zero access to justice.

Nor do the middle class.

After the June 21st debacle, a semi-retired lawyer friend advised me to file a Motion for Reconsideration, a request to the judge to take another look and perhaps realize that he made some mistakes. The law gives you 10 days to file.

My Motion for Reconsideration was one of numerous motions I would have to draft and file myself while pro se. It was incredibly expensive, wildly burdensome and so daunting I bet 99% of people without a lawyer would throw up their hands and give up.

I’m the 1%.

I’m a writer. I went to an Ivy League school; I was a history major so I’m good at research. I used to work at a bank, where I worked on legal documents so I’m familiar with legalese. So I researched what works and doesn’t work in a Motion for Reconsideration. I crafted an argument. I deployed the proper tone using the right words and phrases.

Most people, not having the necessary skills or educational attainment, wouldn’t stand a prayer of writing a legal brief like this motion. Mine may fail — but the judge might read it and take it seriously because it’s written correctly.

I called the court clerk to ask how to file my motion. She was incredibly curt and mean. I’m a New Yorker so I persisted, but I could imagine other callers being put off and forgetting the whole thing.

Schedule a date for your hearing on the court’s website, the clerk told me. Good luck! The site had an outdated interface, was loaded with arcane bureaucratic jargon and a design that’s byzantine and hard to navigate. If English is your second language, forget it.

Eventually I found the place to reserve a hearing date — where I learned about the $540 filing fee.

Payable only by credit card.

No debit cards.

No Amex.

Protracted litigation against a well-funded adversary like the Times/Tronc could easily require dozens of $540 filing fees. The poor need not apply. Most Americans don’t have that kind of money. And what about people who scrape up the dough but don’t have plastic?

$10 would be too much. $540 is frigging obscene.

I paid the fee, printed out the receipt as required, stapled it to the back of my multiple required copies of the motion and went to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse to file it. As I waited in Room 102 to have my motions stamped by a clerk, I studied the many working-class people waiting in the same line.

Here too, there is no consideration for the people. The clerk’s office is open Monday to Friday 8:30 to 4:30. Most people work during those hours. Gotta file something? You have to take time off. Parking? Expensive and far away.

I have a dream.

I dream of a court system dedicated to equal justice before the law — where anyone can file a motion, where there are no filing fees, where the courthouse is open on weekends, where you can file motions by uploading them online and there’s free parking for citizens conducting business in the people’s house.

But Tronc wouldn’t like that system.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

July 16, 2017

HOW YOUTUBE SCAMS CREATORS WITH COLE SMITHEY

Needless to say, I've given up on YouTube. I stopped putting videos up on YouTube a couple of years ago after they insisted on stealing all of the ad revenue from my video coverage of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. By then I was so worn down from YouTube's constant bullying and harassment every single time I uploaded a video that I had no patience to put any more work into my YouTube channel. After more than a year of abstinence from YouTube I went through my channel and deleted 95% of my videos whose revenue was going entirely to someone else. 

After working with Forbes I decided to do an experiment and return to putting videos up on YouTube that had already passed muster with one of the biggest corporate websites in the world. Once again YouTube came at me like strung-out heroin junkie with a switchblade and a bad attitude. YouTube's practices are at best ethically and morally corrupt, and at worst fraudulent. Color me disgusted. 

I am looking to sign on to every single class-action lawsuit brewing against these thieves that go by the name of YouTube. If you are an attorney working on such a case, please get in touch with me. Thanks.

May 27, 2017

What Do the Democrats Want? No One Knows. By Ted Rall

RedBlueIn the 1970s, when I was a kid, I asked my mother to explain the difference between the two major parties. “Democrats,” she explained, “are the party of the working man. Republicans represent big business.”

She was a Democrat, obviously. Still, I’m sure Republican families had their version of my mom’s binary, perhaps something along the lines of: “Republicans believe in less government and more hard work. Democrats want high taxes and welfare.”

The two-party system was easy to understand.

Now it’s a muddled mess — especially if you’re a Democrat.

Today’s Democratic Party relies on big corporations, especially big Wall Street investment banks, for campaign donations. The old alliance between the party and labor unions is dead. Democrats support trade deals that hurt American workers. When the economy tanked at the end of the last decade, President Obama left laid-off workers and foreclosed-upon homeowners twisting in the wind; he bailed out the banks instead. Hillary Clinton, who supported the TPP trade deal before she was against it, promised bankers she’d their friend if she won. Whatever the Democrats are now, they’re not the party of working Americans.

So what is the Democratic Party now? What does it stand for and against?

I honestly don’t know. I’m obsessed with politics. So if I don’t know what Democrats want, it’s a safe bet no one else does, either.

“It’s all well and good — and really very satisfying — to harp constantly about the terribleness of Donald Trump,” observes New York Times columnist Gail Collins. “But people need to see the Democratic line on the ballot and think of something more than Not as Dreadful.”

Yes they do.

Failure to articulate an affirmative vision of what she was for, not just against, was largely to blame for Hillary Clinton’s devastating defeat. Trump Is Evil and Dangerous wasn’t enough to win in 2016. It probably won’t be enough for 2018 either. Yet party leaders still haven’t begin to say how they would address the problems voters care about.

Like healthcare. The Clintonistas, still in charge of the Democrats despite their incompetent stewardship, believe that Obamacare will survive because the Republicans’ Trumpcare alternative is unpopular even with Republicans. But they’re wrong. In one out of three counties, there is only one insurance company in the local healthcare “exchange.” Zero competition guarantees skyrocketing premiums and shrinking benefits. The collapse of Obamacare makes healthcare the #1 concern for American voters.

What would Democrats do about healthcare if they were in charge?

As far as I can tell, nada.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s website brags about Obamacare and its achievements. “House Democrats,” it says, “continually work to implement and improve health care reform to ensure that the best healthcare system in the world only gets better.” Newsflash to Ms. Pelosi: Actually, the U.S. has the worst healthcare system in the developed world.

When it comes to healthcare, Democrats are just like the Republicans on global warming. They won’t admit there’s a problem. So how can they offer a solution?

They don’t. Even though 58% of American voters want a European-style taxpayer-subsidized single-payer system, the Democratic Party platform does not propose significant reforms to Obamacare.

The wreckage of deindustrialization in the nation’s heartland is widely viewed as key to Trump’s surprise win. So what is the Democrats’ plan to create jobs, increase wages and help victims of the opioid epidemic?

Aside from “Trump sucks,” Democrats don’t much to say.

“We will create jobs that stay in America and restore opportunity for all Americans, starting with raising the minimum wage, expanding Pell grants and making college tuition tax deductible,” the party said in a statement a few days before Election Day 2016. Sounds great! But details are hard to come by.

Last year when it mattered, $225,000-a-speech Hillary asked workers to settle for a $12/hour minimum wage. Now, finally, Democrats are officially endorsing Bernie Sanders’ $15/hour. But it really should be at least $22/hour. And anyway, how would a minimum wage increase, or Pell grants, or tax-deductible tuition, “create jobs”? They wouldn’t. We need a big WPA-style federal hiring program. A law mandating that evil outsourcing companies like Facebook start hiring Americans wouldn’t hurt. But the Dems won’t get behind either.

When Democrats do have something to say, it’s trivial and small-bore, like making college tuition tax deductible. Why not go big? Did you know that the U.S. could make four-year college tuition free for the price of the ongoing war against Iraq?

Why are the Dems so lame? Suspect #1 is the lingering rift between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party. “There is this grassroots movement voters’ arm of the party, and the more corporate, institutional part of the party. And the movement arm is tired of the institutional part telling us the only place for us is in the streets,” says Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb, a Sanders supporter. A party split by a civil war between a populist left and a corporatist right can’t articulate an inspiring platform of exciting solutions to American’s big problems. A purge, or a schism, would fix this.

Trump is already one of the most unpopular presidents in history. Going against him ought to be easy. But Democrats are about to find out — again — that people won’t vote for you unless you give them a good reason to get off their couches and drive to the polls.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


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