September 06, 2017

Obama Screwed the DACA Dreamers Before Trump Did — By TED RALL

Colesmithey.comAttorney General Jeff Sessions’ September 5th announcement that the Trump Administration is repealing Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program for children brought into the United States illegally marks another political low point for a president who stages his photos so he looks tough “like Churchill” but whose governance is so wobbly and noncommittal that he’s elevated waffling to an artform.

The 800,000 DREAMers, Trump said in November, “shouldn’t be very worried.”

“I love these kids,” Trump said. But the president loves his far-right nativist base more.

You better bet those kids are worried now.

As Barack Obama said after Sessions’ statement: “These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.”

Totally true words.

And, coming from the man who set the stage for Trump’s xenophobic and racist policies with plenty of his own, totally empty.

Obama promised comprehensive immigration reform, including legal protection for the DREAMers, during his 2008 campaign. As president, however, he never tried to make it happen — even in 2009 and 2010, when his Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Republicans went obstructionist on all things Obama after 2010, so a frustrated Obama farted out DACA as an unconstitutional executive order in 2012.

In a typically perverse Democratic attempt to out-Republican the Republicans, Obama became the “Deporter in Chief,” throwing more people out of the United States than all the presidents of the 20th century combined.

Obama’s deportees, he promised us, were criminals. “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” Sounded like a reasonable policy. Trouble was, one-size-fits-all legal strictures don’t account for the complexities of real life.

Hundreds of children of Cambodian war refugees were deported “back” to Cambodia — a country they had never seen, where they had no friends or relatives — due to the kind of screw-up privileged whites call “youthful indiscretions” — many under President Obama. “I had no luggage. I had about $150 in my pocket. No possessions at all,” remembers Sophea Phea. “Everything’s in Cambodian and you don’t even know how to write your name in Cambodian,” said Chandara Tep.

“Some don’t make it. We’ve had suicides,” said Bill Herod, who founded a charity in Phnom Penh for U.S. deportees.

They weren’t all angels. But is it really so shocking that the children of survivors of the brutal wars in Southeast Asia — wars whose carnage can in large part be blamed on the United States — might do stupid crap as teenagers? Phea used a stolen credit card; Tep shot a gun in the air during a gang fight. He was 15.

Phea’s son, 13, lives in California with his dad. Mom and son can’t see each other — and that’s because of Obama.

Can’t empathize? Show this article to a friend; he or she likely can. One-third of Americans of working age have a criminal record. Obama smoked pot and snorted cocaineGeorge W. Bushhad a DUI; Dick Cheney had two. Roughly 17% of all Americans (including children and other non-drivers) have a DUI conviction.

Let he who is without self-righteous BS Christian sanctimony cast the first deportation.

Trump and his fellow Republicans’ repugnant decision to expose DREAMers — who, by definition, have clean criminal records — to deportation is a classic example of the peril of the slippery slope. This is what happens when the Left goes to sleep because a Democrat is in the White House.

First Obama came to deport the children who knew no home other than the United States, but we said nothing because they had criminal records (even if they weren’t a big deal and/or referred to crimes that occurred ages ago). Then Trump came for the kids with no criminal record at all, but we said jack because they didn’t happen to have the right immigration documents.

By the time they come for U.S. citizens — you know the rest.

(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.)

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 22, 2017

BATES MOTEL — A&E TELEVISION SERIES

Colesmithey.com

If there’s a better executed television series that sustains its tension and narrative drive over 50 episodes, I have yet to discover it. Executive produced by Vera Farmiga, with the capable help of a top notch ensemble of producers, editors, and filmmakers, “Bates Motel” pays off big on its high concept of imagining of events leading up to Alfred Hitchcock’s groundbreaking 1960 horror film, albeit with an essential twist of being updated to our modern era.

Vera Farmiga proves herself one of the most talented and hardworking actresses in the business as Norma Bates, a deeply troubled woman with an all too close relationship to her post-pubescent son Norman (Freddie Highmore).

Colesmithey.com

Set in the fictional town of White Pine Bay, a community fueled by a marijuana industry that the town’s charismatic sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) oversees, the serpentine storyline follows a violent if satisfying path. After the recent [suspicious] death of her husband, Norma relocates with Norman when she buys the coastal Seafairer Motel, which becomes the iconic central location for Norman’s not so gradual decent into psychopathic insanity. 

Colesmithey

Max Thieriot is stellar as Norma’s bastard son Dylan whose trajectory takes its own series of revelatory twists. Nestor Carbonell’s resemblance to a young Anthony Perkins circa 1960 adds to the series’ necessary sense of bizarre simile to the Hitchcock classic.

From its pitch-perfect production and costume designs to its well written arc of ebbing climaxes and violent episodes, “Bates Motel” cooks on all burners. There is no overstating the exquisite performances of the series' ensemble of actors, not the least of which are the impeccable portrayals from Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. This is one high-wire act you have to see to believe. Wow.  

Colesmithey.com

(March 18, 2013 – April 24, 2017) (A+) (Five stars — out of five/no halves)

50 episodes

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

August 07, 2017

Our Obsession with Trump Shows Authoritarianism Has Arrived

Rehost%2F2016%2F11%2F4%2Fb19cc29c-d231-48e9-9cc2-8f450b76b48dBernie Sanders has joined the chorus of politicians and pundits who warn that the U.S. is sliding into authoritarianism under Trump. But he’s kind of wrong about how.

There are indeed reasons to worry that civilian and constitutional rule are giving way to institutional post-democracy. Trump’s cabinet and top White House staff contain enough military generals to give Pakistan a run for its money. Trump’s party controls both the House and Senate yet the president prefers to dash off executive orders rather than making the necessary effort to shepherd legislation through Congress. And of course there’s his police-state rhetoric, like when he “joked” that cops should bash their suspects’ heads into the sides of their squad cars.

But the most reliable indicator of looming authoritarianism can be found in the media, specifically in its obsession with the president.

A study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that 41% of all news stories during the president’s first 100 days were about Trump. That’s three times higher than any other president. Six months in, news outlets still devote hundreds of broadcast hours and thousands of words dissecting 100-character tweets Trump dashed off in seconds at four o’clock in the morning.

Trump has a lot on his plate: healthcare, tax reform, the border wall, Venezuela for some reason. But one story towers above all others in news coverage: the Russia-Trump connection. Fifty-five percent of all stories about Trump on TV network news since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel have been about the Russia probe, according to the conservative Media Research Center.

(Count me among the guilty: as a political cartoonist, it’s hard not to notice that images of Trump garner more clicks than those about climate change. Here I go again, right here in this column.)

Americans are divided along party lines. But Trump has brought us together in one respect: he’s making everyone feel anxious by creating a constant atmosphere of crisis.

The president’s Republican supporters are worried sick that a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy will force Trump out before he can carry out his promises. “BREAKING NEWS! WATCH: Top Republican Issues Warning About ‘Taking Out’ Trump – This Is Terrifying…. ” warns an email blast from TeaParty.org. From the same email: “Establishment RINOs just teamed up with the bloodthirsty Democrats to betray their constituents and keep Obamacare – the DISASTER that is destroying he lives of millions of Americans.”

            These emails hit in boxes of Republican voters at an hourly rate. Here’s another: “Within the darkest, dankest bowels of our government, the Leftist Deep State has nursed its wounds and regathered its might. They’re preparing for another surprise attack. The highest Deep State archons have gone absolutely berserk with gnashing, fist-bleeding, spit-flinging rage.” Terrifying! Given how much effort goes into working them up, it’s amazing how few gun owners go on a shooting spree.

Liberals are going crazy too. “Get Organized to Drive Out the Fascist Trump/Pence Regime. In the Name of Humanity — We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America!” urges an email from RefuseFascism.org. “We’re in a crucial moment in history, when the danger of a full-out fascist regime, as we have analyzed, threatens the people all over the world and the planet itself as a viable place for humans and other species to thrive and survive.” Even the bugs are doomed!

No false equivalence here — I’m an unapologetic leftie. The point I’m making here is, everyone is obsessed with Trump, not just the media. And that obsession is a strong clue that the authoritarian era may already be underway.

For 15 years the global embodiment of authoritarian rule was Turkmenistan under former Soviet strongman Saparmurat Niyazov. Like Trump, Niyazov was a quirky megalomaniac who routinely issued executive orders on everything from grandiose construction projects (a vast manmade lake in the world’s hottest desert) to the mundane (a ban on chewing tobacco, ejecting dogs from the capital because of their “unappealing odor”).

Like other visitors to Turkmenistan, I was struck by the ubiquity of Niyazov’s image on currency stamps, statues and posters. But what really made an impression on me was how carefully the Turkmen people studied his every move, both literally and figuratively.

Whenever Niyazov’s motorcade left the presidential palace, the police shut down most streets in Ashkhabat. Motorists carefully tracked his schedule to avoid getting stuck in traffic — or arrested. Because college applicants knew that the president personally reviewed their applications, savvy students sprinkled their essays with quotes from the leader’s book, the Ruhnama. When the Father of All Turkmen let his hair go from dyed to white back to black again, countless thousands of his hapless subjects felt it wise to follow suit.

As in the U.S., where leftist opposition increasingly focuses against the person of Donald J. Trump (as opposed to the systemic oppressions of capitalism and militarism), political opposition in Turkmenistan was directed against Niyazov, the center of the nation’s personality cult. En route to my hotel, my taxi driver pulled over to toss his saved-up household trash over the fence surrounding the presidential palace. Judging from the lawn, he wasn’t the only one.

Prisoners will tell you that serving time safely requires a close watch on guards’ mood swings and shift changes. Survival is part of human nature; studying those with power of life or death over you is key to survival in situations where individual rights are slim to nonexistent.

The U.S government has become increasingly violent, intrusive and capricious since 9/11, brazenly listening to our calls and reading our emails and generally treating individual rights like quaint relics of the past. Obama announced his right to drone-kill Americans on American soil; he and now Trump are even deporting U.S. citizens. The erratic nature of Trump’s personality and policy prescriptions have amplified the sense that Americans, like the Turkmen, had better pay close attention to the man in charge if they want to survive.

(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 24, 2017

The Democrats Are a Lost Cause

By Ted Rall
July 24, 2017

Image result for kamala harris hillary clinton

There they go again.

Hillary was a two time loser. Weirdly, her people are still in charge of the Democratic Party. Clintonista militant moderates haven’t learned a thing from Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump — so they’re trying to sell Democratic voters on more of the same.

Remember what happened when Hillary ran on “never mind your crappy low wage job, vote for me because ‘first woman president'”? Now we’re supposed to get excited about center-right California Senator Kamala Harris because she ticks off two boxes on the identity politics hit parade.

Remember the ugly optics when Bill and Hillary took their excellent fundraising adventure to the Hamptons? Kamala 2020 is already doing the same thing.

Remember how well it worked out when Hillary snubbed Bernie and insulted his progressive supporters, then ran a tack-to-the-right general-election campaign that targeted Republicans who were never going to vote for her? Here comes Kamala with rhetoric that makes her sound like a Rand Paul Republican: “I agree we must be talking about wasteful spending in our country…we must be talking about tax reform.” Also lots o’ tasty “tough on crime” (since she’s black it can’t possible be the racist dog whistle it sounds like).

The DNC is still partying like it’s 1999: Third Way/DLC/center-right triangulation is king. Dick Morris, call Kamala.

Memo to the Dumocrats: Trump’s polls are in the toilet. Still, Trump (or, if Trump gets impeached, Pence) might beat the Dems again in 2020. “Double haters” — voters who hated Trump and Clinton — were a deciding factor in 2016, accounting for “3% to 5% of the 15 million voters across 17 battleground states,” according to political author Joshua Green. They broke for Trump.

They — and Bernie voters snubbed by Hillary who sat home on election day — cost Hillary the 2016 election.

To be fair, some establishment Democrats know how to count. “American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people,” Chuck Schumer wrote in The New York Times yesterday.

Sounds great. So what exactly is in Chuck’s stillborn (Republican president, Republican House, Republican Senate) Better Deal?

“Rules to stop prescription drug price gouging… allow regulators to break up big companies if they’re hurting consumers… giving employers, particularly small businesses, a large tax credit to train workers for unfilled jobs.”

These are good ideas.

But they’re so small.

If enacted, the Dems’ Better Deal wouldn’t do a thing about the problems that afflict most voters.

The #1 problem is the economy. There aren’t enough jobs. The jobs there are don’t pay enough. Bosses have too much power over workers.

A massive new WPA-like program, in which the federal government hires millions of Americans to rebuild our crumbled infrastructure, would create jobs. A $25/hour minimum wage — that’s about what it would be if raises had kept up with inflation — would guarantee that a full-time job yields full-time pay. Abolishing America’s inhuman, archaic “at-will” employment, which gives employers the right to fire you without a good reason, would restore balance to labor-management relations. The U.S. is the only nation with at-will.

The #2 problem is healthcare. Attempts by Republicans to repeal Obamacare have made the ACA more popular than ever. Most Democrats want single-payer, where the government pays for healthcare — why doesn’t the Democratic Party?

The answer, of course, is that the party leadership is owned by Wall Street, the Fortune 500 and big-monied special interests in general. Figures like Harris and Schumer and Clinton will never give the people what we want and need because their masters will never allow it. The question for us is, when do we stop giving them our votes — and start organizing outside the dead-end of the electoral duopoly?

(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 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.

July 12, 2017

THE 2016 DODGE CHALLENGER SXT V6 REVIEW

Cole With Challenger

The biggest drawback to driving the 2016 Dodge Challenger SXT automatic is the blind spots. Blind spot visibility is non-existent with this car. Not being able to check your blind spots in this powerful American muscle car just makes you use the accelerator more aggressively to be sure that you can clear whatever may be lurking nearby.

The Challenger got better than expected gas mileage on the highway — close to the promised 30 mpg. Most importantly this baby hugs the road even when going over big California highway bumps at 75 or 80. Its wide wheelbase makes for very little body roll. Weighing in at a hefty 3,834 lbs, no amount of windy conditions on the Grapevine could make you feel like might be blown over, as is the case with so many lighter cars. This thing is a BEAST. The car is so comfortable that you feel like you're only going 30 when you're doing 60. The base issue SXT has a V6 that contributes to the vehicle's respectable gas mileage with 305 horsepower.

It might not have the 0 to 60 giddy up of its R/T brother (with 372 horsepower), much less the SRT Hellcat (with its scary 707 horsepower), but this car is a blast to drive and looks especially sweet hanging out a a Southern California beach. The trunk is enormous, and the back seats are plenty spacious. Mainly, other drivers take you seriously when you're driving this car; you don't have as many tailgaters in their monster trucks when you're tooling down the highway in the fast lane. The design muscle on display earns respect. 

Cole Charger Original

June 24, 2017

KEN TAYLOR'S 10 FAVORITE MOVIES

My generous longtime pal Ken Taylor pledged his support on Patreon at the MIDNIGHT MOVIES level of $35 per month. In signature Royal fashion, the overachieving Ken went way above and beyond in describing his favorite 10 films. I would argue if I disagreed with any of his picks but I couldn't have done better myself. So here, just in time for Gay Pride Day, are Ken's 10 favorite movies! All bow, or kneel if you will!

Fog-Over-Frisco

Ken says, Fog Over Frisco is a 1934 American Pre-Code Drama film. The screenplay was written by Robert N. Lee and Eugene Solow and was based on the short story "The Five Fragments" by George Dyer. William Dieterle directs. It stars Bette Davis as Arlene Bradford and Donald Woods as Tony Sterling. Part of the Warner Brothers release was filmed on location in San Francisco.

Arlene Bradford is a spoiled, bored, wealthy socialite who lives in a stunning Art Deco Manse on the craggy shores of Seacliff. She finances her extravagant lifestyle by exploiting her fiancée Spencer Carlton's (Lyle Talbot) access to her stepfather's brokerage firm, and using that connection to steal security bonds for underworld crime boss Jake Bellows (Irving Pichel). 

When Arlene disappears, her stepsister Valley (Margaret Lindsay) steps in to investigate with the assistance of society reporter Tony Sterling (Donald) and photojournalist Izzy Wright (Hugh Harbert).

Adolph Spreckels’ Manse — of the C & H Sugar fortune (currently Danielle Steele's home in Pacific Heights on Washington Street directly across the street from the north side of Lafayette Park between Octavia & Gough) was used in scenes that highlighted the comings and goings of automobiles from the manse’s garage through its Octavia Street egress. Eventually that egress was covered over, and the present day garage is accessed at the bottom of the manse’s grounds on Jackson Street, between Octavia & Gough.

Cole says, I can see why this is at the bottom of Ken's list; it wouldn't make its way into my best 1000 films. While I appreciate this film's pre-code application of high-rolling female characters — Bette Davis is the best the movie has going for it, but gets killed off half way through — 'Fog Over Frisco' doesn't come anywhere near 'Baby Face,' a pre-code classic that puts this movie to shame. 

One of the first rules of thumb I learned when I moved to San Francisco in 1986 was that you didn't dare call it 'Frisco.' That's still a big no-no for good reason; it sounds too much like Crisco, a once-popular lubricating substance used in the '70s at 'Crisco Oil Orgies.'

Anyway, give me Delmer Daves's 'Dark Passage' with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall any day of the week over this movie if you're looking for a cool noir set in San Francisco. Clocking in at 68 minutes, I don't think 'Fog Over Frisco' even qualifies as a feature-length movie. Sorry Ken; I calls it like I sees it. 

The-Postman-Always-Rings-Twice

Ken says, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1946 film noir based on the 1934 novel of the same title by James M. Cain. This movie adaptation stars Lana Turner as Cora Smith and John Garfield as Frank Chambers. The film is directed by Tay Garnett.

A hobo, Frank Chambers stops at a rural roadside diner for something to eat, and is mesmerized by Cora Smith’s beauty. He dines along with her much older husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway). Frank ends up working there and senses that Cora is not happy with her current situatio being married to her much older, unattractive alcoholic husband.

Frank and Cora start a mad passionate love affair and scheme a way to murder Nick so Cora will inherit the diner and be able to turn the ramshackle dump into a business of her dreams for the adulterous lovers to live happily ever after.

After their first attempt to murder Nick fails, they plan a second attempt which they succeed in, but not before catching the attention of a local prosecutor named Sackett (played by Leon Ames). Sackett deduces what took place but does not have enough evidence to prove any wrong doing. Sexual attraction is a muthafucker.

Sackett devises a plan to turn Cora and Frank against one another by filing murder charges against Cora only. The couple do indeed turn on one another, however Cora's attorney Arthur Keats (Hume Cronyn) develops a clever ploy by having Cora not fully confess, a tactic that prevents the prosecution from obtaining any new evidence. Cora plea bargains by pleading guilty to manslaughter and receives probation.

Frank and Cora eventually reconcile their relationship, but Cora ends up in a fatal car crash with Frank behind the wheel. Frank escapes unscathed as Cora is pummeled over and over again as the car ends up at the bottom of a steep ravine. Although it was truly an accident, Frank ends up on death row for the murder of Cora Smith.

With Frank's last reprieve from being executed denied, Frank is incredulous at his cruel fate. However, when the authorities inform him of the irrefutable evidence that they have of his crime, Frank feels that this is his overdue punishment. 

The postman will always ring a second time, and the second ring will invariably be heard. After he and Cora escape legal punishment for Nick's murder; and now with Cora dead, Frank realizes that the postman has rung a second time for both Cora and himself. https://youtu.be/UKhQbwCsqtM

Cole says, John Garfield is at the height of his powers in this beautifully executed noir opposite the incredibly sexy Lana Turner. Rugged handsome meets divine beauty. This film’s seething eroticism always makes me squirm; so wrong and yet so right. You seldom hear director Tay Garnett’s name mentioned but he was a master craftsman. The proof is on the screen.

Sunsetblvd

Ken says, Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 noir co-written by directed by Billy Wilder and produced by co-writer Charles Brackett. It stars Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond and William Holden as Joe Gillis. https://youtu.be/l77KLoHn6kk

This truly classic movie has faded Silent movie star Norma Desmond hire down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis. Norma draws our Los Angeles everyman into her fantasy world of making a triumphant return to the screen by having him write a movie script for her. Gillis ends up serving as a kept man in Norma's neo-Gothic Sunset Boulevard mansion.

Norma falls for the writer who never writes her comeback script. Still, she lavishes Joe with expensive clothing and gifts. When Joe’s younger girlfriend shows up at Norma's house, Joe ends up floating face down in her swimming pool.

Norma's delusional fantasies are kept alive by her faithful Butler Max,(Eric Von Stroheim) to the very end. Even when the police arrive to arrest Norma to book her for murder; Max leads her to believe that all of the reporters with cameras are actually a film crew there to film her comeback. Gloria Swanson makes her entrance down a grand staircase while uttering the famous line, "Alright Mr. De Mille, I'm ready for my close up." https://youtu.be/jMTT0LW0M_Y

Cole says, I wouldn’t dare argue with a single film on Ken’s list. This Gothic gem is a film you could take with you on a desert island if you could only watch one movie over and over until your dying day. The tone of Sunset Boulevard is so diabolically fascinating that you get lost in it regardless of how many times you’ve seen it. It is high camp and murder mystery done in a Gothic style with noir trappings. I especially love Eric Von Stroheim’s performance, which clearly informed Richard O'Brien’s inspired role in another movie on Ken’s great list, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Women On The Verge

Ken says, Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown is a 1988 Spanish black comedy-drama film written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, starring Carmen Maura as Pepa Marcos and Antonio Banderas as Carlos. This film brought Almodovar to widespread international attention, and rightfully so!

This is a hysterically funny, convoluted script about a jilted lover Pepa, a TV actress in Madrid who starts taking sleeping pills to, you know, mask her pain. Pepa also makes gazpacho with pills as a key ingredient. The setting is mostly Pepa's penthouse overlooking a faux backdrop of Madrid. Pepa’s friend Candela (Maria Barranco) is frantically trying to escape Shiite terrorists that were holding her hostage. She had a mad, passionate love affair with an Arab.

There is an iconic red phone of desire with an answering machine that Pepa rips from the wall and throws off of the balcony, twice. 

There’s a crazy mad chase scene around Madrid involving various modes of transport that has to be seen to be believed.

Be sure to watch this one for the ending.

Musical productions of Women Under The Influence have been performed on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre under direction by Lincoln Center's resident director Bartlett Sher. The show also played at the Playhouse Theatre, in London's West End, also directed by Bartlett Sher. http://top1-movies.com/movie/4203/mujeres-al-borde-de-un-ataque-de-nervios.html

Bitch Slap

Ken says, Bitch Slap is a 2009 Crime film/drama/comedy which serves up some pretty sick, twisted, humorous moments throughout a movie that had me howling!

It’s directed by Rick Jacobson and set out in the middle of the New Mexico desert. It stars Julia Voth as Trixie, Erin Cummings as Hel, and America Olivo as Camero.

The movie involves three REALLY HOT Bad Girls — a stripper, a drug runner, and a power broker. These ULTRA HOT Dominatrix gals arrive in the desert to extort $200 million worth of diamonds from an underworld drug kingpin, but things quickly spin out of control as allegiances change. One chic wields a Samurai sword, another a powerful automatic weapon, and the other carries a thick chain whip in one hand and in the other one a long club with a HUGE knob at the end that could knock someone's head off (and does!).

A sheriff in his patrol car arrives at the trailer hideaway where the three women are holed up. One of the hottest women comes out of the trailer, walks up to the sheriff's car, and comes on to him; he just can't resist. The hottie and the sheriff start making out. A second hottie emerges from the trailer, tells her girlfriend to step aside, and unloads her automatic weapon at the sheriff's head, blowing it off in all directions. Then she unloads on the sheriff's car, blowing it up. The two go back into the trailer and have sex, then when finished, exit the trailer and blow it up sky high as well. I was in sidesplitting laughter!

Talk about twisted Trailer Trash! At least they burned theirs by blowing it up!!

This is a BLAST of a movie!!

Cole says, while I enjoyed the overall tone of the movie, and especially the super committed performances of its three female stars (Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, and America Olivo), "Bitch Slap" is a mess. Rick Jacobson ("Ash vs Evil Dead" series) is a very skilled director, and his ability to rev up action sequences is impressive, but his screenwriting skills leave much to be desired. Jacobson steals liberally from Quentin Tarantino for this over-the-top sexploitation romp but isn't much for creating a story that sticks. Jacobson's time flipping device of constantly showing what happened six months ago, wears out its welcome quick.

For all of its ostensibly 3D-appropriate use of flying objects and big boobies, "Bitch Slap" doesn't hold a candle to Russ Meyer's truly transgressive "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" — an obvious inspiration for this film. "Bitch Slap" is nonetheless ideally suited for a 3D treatment that would make it even more of a guilty pleasure. I would suggest Ken compare "Faster, Pussycat!" to "Bitch Slap." I think you'll find that Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams create a lot more sexy heat and psycho bitch drama in Russ Meyer's classic sexploitation flick.

Caligula

Ken says, Caligula is an 1979 Italian American erotica historical drama film produced by Bob Guccione (the founder of "Penthouse Magazine"). He hired hired Gore Vidal as the film's screenwriter and softcore maestro Tinto Brass to direct the film.

The movie focuses on the rise and fall of the Roman Emperor (Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus) "Caligula." His father was Germanicus Julius Caesar. It is the only feature film produced by Penthouse Magazine. Guccione's intention was to produce an explicit pornographic film with a feature film narrative and high production values. He also cast Penthouse Pets as extras in unsimulated sex scenes filmed during post-production by himself and Giancarlo Lui. 

Caligula's release was controversial and met with legal issues over its violent and sexual content. It's uncut form (the ONLY one to see!!) still remains banned in several countries. Reviews were overwhelming negative (although Malcom McDowell's performance as the lead character was praised). Caligula is a cult classic and its political content is considered to have historic merit.

Other stars include Teresa Ann Savoy as Drusilla, Helen Mirren as Caesonia, Guido Mannari as Marco, John Gielgud as Nerva, Peter O'Toole as Tiberius, and Giancarlo Badessi as Claudius.

The film's unbridled debaucheries occur between combinations of people of the same sex, as with several men and a few women thrown into a mix of group sex. Huge clustered orgies occur throughout the film that make it difficult to discern between who is doing whatever to whoever as long as there was only another naked body involved. Everyone seemed perfectly content to start having sex with whomever they happened to be next to. 

At the pinnacle of sexual depravity was none other than Caligula himself. When he learns that a young couple are engaged to be married he takes them into a room and convinces them that they are to be honored with a personal wedding gift from their leader. Caligula rams his right fist with a HUGE dome ring on one finger (you know where) defiling the young man as his fiancée is forced to stand and watch in utter horror!

I thought I had witnessed the highest possible type of debauchery, by the goings-ons at various venues in NYC (the Mineshaft and the Anvil to name two of the most notorious) starting somewhere around the mid 70s and into the early 80s. Not even that era of anything goes came close to Caligula's reign of sexual depravity!

Be sure to look for the stationery unicycle bike (in the main orgy room) with "certain attachments" that cover the entire circumference of the bike's wheels that go around at whatever speed a woman (or a man) chooses for pedaling on that particular 'exercise' machine!!! Why didn't we have those back in the 70s?

Caligula's Circus took place on top of "Ager Vaticanos" (The Vatican), and some believe it is where St. Peter was martyred by Nero Augustus Caesar on a cross turned upside down while on public display. St. Peter's remains lie within the Basilica’s catacombs. It makes one wonder if any of Caligula's chambers (catacombs) underneath and throughout Vatican City have ever been used for any of the church's modern day sexual scandals? https://youtu.be/-qB3El5K_Pk

Cole says, Nasty, nasty. I can’t believe you can watch ‘Caligula’ on YouTube these days. When I first saw it at the Ken Cinema in San Diego with my girlfriend Lori, I remember being shocked to my core. Fisting!? What the hell was that? The scene were the soldiers jerk off in a big gold bowl before applying the communal jizz as lotion to the female object of their affection was a revelation of infinite proportions. I love that critic such as Roger Ebert were disgusted and revolted. I recognized the artistry of this instant classic when I was 19. ‘Caligula’ is one badass piece of erotic historic cinema. Yep.

History-of-the-world-part-i

Ken says, History of the World Part 1 — Despite being titled 'Part 1,' there is no sequel; the title is a play on ‘The History of the World, Volume 1’ by Sir Walter Raleigh. Mel Brooks wrote, produced, and directed this 1981 parody. Brooks also stars in the film, playing five different roles no less. The large ensemble cast includes Sid Caesar, Shecky Green, Gregory Hines (in his feature film debut), Charlie Callas, and Brooks regulars Ron Carey, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Andreas Voutsinas, and Spike Milligan. Royce D. Applegate, Beatrice Arthur, Hugh Hefner, John Hurt, Phil Leeds, Phil Levinson, Jackie Mason, Paul Mazursky, Andrew Sachs, and Henny Youngman all make cameo appearances. Orson Wells narrates.

The four main segments consist of stories set in the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition, and the French Revolution. Other intermediate skits include reenactments of Moses delivering the Ten Commandments, and The Last Super. 

Madeline Kahn is at her best as Queen Nympho; she’s one of the most hysterically funny comedians in the entire movie! My favorite scene is when her personal handmaiden brings her to the lineup of frontally nude soldiers for her to pick her numerous escorts for the midnight orgy. https://youtu.be/Gt7U0XycEJE

Cole says, I’m especially glad that Ken put this Mel Brooks classic on his list. I remember watching this hilarious movie at the Campus Drive-In where I got my first job in San Diego (a block from my first apartment there) when I moved there to attend SDSU. I remember watching scenes from ‘History of the World Part 1’ over and over on the gigantic drive-in movie screen like it was last week. What fun!

RHPS-CharlesAtlas

Ken says, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy horror film directed by Jim Sharman. The screenplay was written by Sharman and Richard O'Brien, based on the 1973 musical stage production of the same title. (O'Brien stared as Riff Raff, a ‘handyman,’ in both productions). 

The movie is a parody tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the 1930s through the early 1970s, with special inspiration taken from a little-known comedy entitled ‘Kiss Me Quick.’ It stars Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N Furter (a scientist from Transsexual, Transylvania), Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss, Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors, along with cast members from the Original Royal Court Theatre, Roxy Theatre, and Belasco Theatre Productions. It was filmed at Bray Studios and on location at Oakley Court Country Estate, United Kingdom.

Initially, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was critically panned, although it gained popularity as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film at the Waverly Theatre in New York City in 1976. Smaller cities across the country followed suit. 

Nothing much more needs to be said except, "Time is fleeting," "so come up to the lab and see what's on the slab! "I see you SHIVER with “antici………PATION." https://youtu.be/jinU-iDxLSk

Cole says, Yes indeedy! I’m thrilled that Ken put this amazing movie on his list. I went for months in high school where I constantly switched between the Rocky Horror soundtrack with Elvis Costello’s first album (‘My Aim Is True’) and the soundtrack from ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.’ The great Lou Adler produced the record, and it is one of the all-time great soundtrack albums ever recorded.

As for the movie, I’ll never forget when I was 14, living at 1124 West Grace Street #7, and my high school pals Anne Kinneman and Jimmy Giddings came over on a Friday night to raid my kitchen for the supplies we needed to take to the movie. I knew nothing about the audience participation aspect of the film, so it came as a big surprise when Anne and Jimmy ran down the list: rice — check, newspaper — check, a spray bottle filled with water — check, a lighter — check, toilet paper — check, playing cards — check. Anne and Jimmy were boyfriend/girlfriend at the time and had been to see it a couple of times before so they were old hands. I had more fun that night than I’d ever had at the movies before or since. Needless to say we returned to the old Biograph Cinema many more times to participate in the fun. ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ probably did more to help people get over queer discrimination than any laws ever written. So there.

Nosferatu

Ken says, Bram Stoker's Nosferatu is a 1922, German Silent movie starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok. Eerily enough, Schreck in German translates to terror.

Bram Stoker's wife Florence sued the German movie production company (Prana Film) for copyright infringement due to film director F.W. Murnau's adapting Stoker's Dracula even after he had been denied permission. Although Murnau told his screenwriter Henrik Galeen to make some location modifications, eliminate several characters, and change Count Dracula's name to Count Orlok, Stoker's heirs proceeded with the suit, which in turn bankrupted the Prana Film Company. "Nosferatu" was the only movie the production company ever made.

Nosferatu was filmed on location in Northern Slovakia, in the High Tatra Mountain Range bordering Poland, and around Transylvania. Indoor scenes were filmed in Berlin studios.

Even though the production of Nosferatu has a complicated legacy due to Murnau’s shameless plagiarizing of Bram's novel; it was received as a seminal movie. Even by modern special effects standards, Nosferatu's 'stop motion technique' (to make it appear that Count Orlok's coffin lid was levitating along with his body) is pure movie magic.

Schreck's makeup was so convincing that many people of that era thought that he was a vampire in real life. 

The only other Dracula movie to precede Nosferatu was titled "Dracula's Death," which was filmed in Hungary in 1921. The now-lost film, was loosely based on Bram Stoker's "Dracula."

Silent Film, with English subtitles:  https://youtu.be/FC6jFoYm3xs

Cole says, I’ll never forget seeing Nosferatu at Saint John the Divine on Halloween with my wife and our friends Ray and Heather to live accompaniment on the Cathedral’s pipe organ (with its 8,514 pipes). This incredibly spooky film was made all the more eerie in this amazing church, where Nosferatu is shown every Halloween. If you’re ever in NYC on Halloween, this is the event to catch.

Swept-Away-1974

Ken says, Swept Away is a 1974 Italian comedy-drama film written and directed by Lina Wertmuller. (Translated Full English Title: Swept Away... by an Unusual Destiny, in the Blue Sea of August).

It stars Mariangela Melato as Raffaella and Giancarlo Giannini as Gennarino.

The story is about a role reversal of the classes. Snooty Raffaella vacations with her husband on their yacht in the Mediterranean with their upper class friends.

Raffaella savors bossing around her underclass deckhand Gennarino.

She chides him for his dedication to Communism while the two are swept far out into the sea in a dingy after she oversleeps.

Naturally Raffaella refuses to listen to Gennarino's advice about how they could be carried out to sea. 

Gennarino slaps Raffaella into submission. A hot steamy, forbidden romance develops with Gennarino as Raffaella’s new master. Forbidden love blossoms on an uninhabited isle. Needless to say I always get hot and bothered throughout most of the movie, whenever I watch it. This is my favorite movie ever! In Italian with English subtitles: https://youtu.be/OzAEF5g35uw

Cole says, Lina Wertmüller’s inspired social satire is wrapped up in political titles, however false, that people identify with or use to paint others with as friend or foe. Italian dogma of communist, fascist, and capitalist ideologies figure prominently into the upper and lower class characters that Wertmüller presents with a take-no-prisoners sense of irreverence and sexual frankness.

Four upper class couples are out for a day’s adventure on a yacht served by a macho crew whose pique of discontent about their disrespectful overlords comes through Giancarlo Giannini’s hangdog deck hand Gennarino Carunchio. Gennarino is equal parts caricature and flesh. Giancarlo Giannini’s virtuosic performance borders on farce without ever crossing the line into exaggerated pantomime. It’s no wonder that Wertmüller relied on the gifted actor as a muse for other films such as “Seven Beauties” and “Love & Anarchy.”

Mariangela Melato’s rich snot Raffaella cares too much about the environment to be the capitalist devil that Gennarino pins her as. Still, she wears her entitlement on her sleeve. Mariangela slings insults and complaints at the boat crew she considers less than human. When the pasta isn’t cooked al dente she throws a fit befitting a three-year-old with a toothache. Sweaty t-shirts are also a bone of contention for Mariangela whose piercing green eyes closely resemble those of her sworn rival Gennarino.

Tensions between Raffaella and Gennarino reach a primal equanimity after the two become stranded on a remote island where Gennarino proves his ability to provide food and shelter. Wertmüller’s satire pitches and peaks in Gennarino’s demanding process of taming Raffaella into his love slave. The roles of master and slave get reversed. Wertmüller’s forceful transfer of power between man and woman is as truthful and cunning as anything in the films of Catherine Breillat or Luis Buñuel. The scene where Raffaella demurely requests anal penetration is especially hilarious. Gennarino’s purposefully proletariat response speaks volumes.  

“Swept Away” is as relevant today as it was when it was made. The power that lovers wield is as psychologically transient as any political ideology of the day, and just as predictable. It could well be the ultimate date movie for the intellectually and sensuously adventurous.  


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