Sunday, July 20, 2014

He Made Acting Look Easy

In case you haven’t heard yet, acclaimed film and TV actor James Garner died last night at age 86. I posted a brief, initial obituary in The Rap Sheet early today. And later I uploaded a much longer post--complete with video clips of Garner’s work--in that same blog. Meanwhile, in my art-oriented Killer Covers blog, I recalled the two novels Stuart M. Kaminsky wrote in the 1990s featuring one of Garner’s best-loved protagonists, Los Angeles private investigator Jim Rockford.

Frankly, these are posts I wish I’d never had cause to write. As a longtime fan of Garner’s performances, this is a very sad day.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

If It Please the Court ...

California attorney-turned-novelist Erle Stanley Gardner was born on this date back in 1889. To celebrate the occasion, Jeffrey Marks--who is busy writing a biography of Gardner--has posted a list of his 10 favorite Perry Mason novels. I’m feeling pretty smug in the knowledge that I’ve read about half of them.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Tactical Terrors

A few days ago, I posted some extended quotes from political analyst Christopher Parker, talking about the misconceptions many Americans harbor as to what goals the Republican Party’s increasingly dominant wing, the Tea Party, has for its activism. Tying in with that is today’s Paul Waldman piece in The Washington Post, looking at why it’s not as important for every Tea Party candidate to win as it for that right-wing faction to keep up the election pressure on more traditional, less radicalized Republicans. Here’s part of his argument:
I’m not saying that everything is about appearances for the tea party and that they don’t have policy goals, because they do. But they understand that electing committed tea partiers is only one way to achieve those goals. Keeping ordinary Republicans terrified is another way, and almost as effective.

Before you accuse me of giving them too much credit, I also understand that the tea party’s policy goals almost never get accomplished, and failure doesn’t necessarily harm them. Each failure--a lost election, a government shutdown that ends, a budget that gets passed--can be cast as a betrayal, maintaining the urgency of the crusade. But part of the movement’s power comes from the fact that it isn’t dependent on any one leader or even a group of leaders. A politician whom tea partiers love today can easily be cast aside if he shows glimmers of reasonableness tomorrow, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was after he began working on immigration reform. (It may be hard to remember now, but when Rubio got elected in 2010, he was a tea party darling). There will always be more people to challenge the establishment, and more quisling Republicans who need to be taught a lesson.

So the tea party has a cycle it runs through: Get angry, find a Republican target of the anger, mount some sort of campaign against him and if you win, great, but if you don’t, just find the next traitor to go after.
You can read Waldman’s full piece here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

That About Sums It Up



And we can expect no more moderation in 2014.

Trying to Understand Tea Party Thinking

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran’s win in last week’s Republican runoff election against Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel in Mississippi was anything but expected, and was credited in large part to the grudging support of African-American voters--voters who seem to have won no favors through their actions. In the wake of that balloting, Salon’s Elias Isquith called University of Washington associate professor Christopher Parker, the author of Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America (Princeton University Press), “to discuss his research, his recent Brookings Institution paper on the Tea Party, and why he doesn’t think the kind of bickering and dysfunction we saw in Mississippi as of late is likely to go away any time soon.”

You can read their full exchange here.

I was particularly interested, though, in the section where Isquith and Parker talked about divergences between what the American public thinks about the right-wing Tea Party faction--a short-sighted bloc that’s already undermining the Republican brand--and how the movement’s members look at themselves. We begin here with an Isquith question:
What are some other popular conceptions about the Tea Party that you think are mistaken?

The bottom line is that a lot of people assume that the Tea Party people are just crazy … but that’s not the case. I mean, that’s really not the case, and I want to dismiss that misconception as soon as I can … Another misconception [is] that the Tea Party is really just a bunch of racist people and that their movement is about racism--and it’s really not … It’s bigger than racism. People who tend to support the Tea Party, they tend to be sexist, they tend to be homophobic, they tend to be xenophobic; so it’s not just about race. It’s about difference. It’s about anything that violates their phenotypical norm of what it’s supposed to mean to be an American: white, mainly male, middle-class, middle-aged or older, heterosexual, and native born. Anything that falls beyond that description is considered not to be a true American and therefore … these groups are encroaching on what they see as the “real” America, the America that they’ve come to know and love through their lifetime.

Would you include Christian among those things a Tea Partyer is likely to think an American is supposed to be?

Christian, writ large, yeah. I would definitely say that.

To that point, though, what would you say to Tea Party folks who would point to the popularity of women like Sarah Palin--or people of color like Ben Carson--as proof that charges of bigotry are unfounded?

They would say people like Ben Carson and Herman Cain [are] these sort of “silver-minded Negroes.” They’re the exceptions. Now if we want to talk about looking at black folks as a whole, no--they’re racist. There are some exceptional people that agree with their views whom they like and whom they want to hold out there to blunt any claims that they’re racist; they’re going to pick a couple token people. But that doesn’t absolve them of racism.

OK. So what was your other point about Tea Party misconceptions?

My other point was that [Tea Partyers are] not crazy. People want to say that they’re crazy, and they’re really not. They want to maintain their social position, their social prestige; and as Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” So it’s rational to want to hold onto your position; it’s completely rational. It’s about the means through which [Tea Partyers] do that--that’s what the problem is.

One could say, “Maybe they need to be more educated!” But that’s another fallacy as it pertains to the Tea Party: People think they’re dumb. They’re not dumb. Twenty-six percent of all strong Tea Party identifiers have at least a bachelor’s degree. People think they’re poor, or that they’re working-class. No, they’re not. Twenty percent of all Tea Party households have at least a $100,000 of income. So they’re not dumb, and they’re not working-class or poor--and this has been the case with Birchers, this was the case with the 1920s Ku Klux Klan, this was the case with the Know-Nothing Party in the 1850s. Same demographic group, every time.

Another problem is just the double-talk that they use. They claim they’re about small government; they’re really not. They claim that they don’t like Barack Obama cause he’s a progressive; have they really looked at his legislative record? He governs as a centrist, regardless of what they believe his beliefs to be. On that, if you look at what happened on George Bush’s watch--I mean, let’s be for real: the deficit on George Bush’s … expanded 104 percent … If you look at [Bill] Clinton’s tenure, it only expanded about 14 percent. If you look at the national debt, how much that expanded on George Bush’s watch; if you look at the extent to which discretionary spending in George Bush’s first term expanded--I think it expanded by like 48-49 percent. I mean, come on! We didn’t see any Tea Partyers out there at the time. We saw nothing when George Bush was doing all this stuff. George W. Bush got TARP passed. We saw nothing. Now we get Obama in, and now the world is going to shit …
READ MORE:The Right’s Absurd World Culp Paranoia Explained,” by Andrew Leonard (Salon).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bang Bang, They Shot Them Down

It was 80 years ago today that notorious Depression-era outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were assassinated by members of a posse on a backcountry road in northern Louisiana. Read my notes on this anniversary in The Rap Sheet.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

This Is My Idea of Heaven!

The photo below shows a man browsing through the cavernous stacks at Cincinnati, Ohio’s “Old Main” Public Library. “Completed in 1874,” explains the historical site Ohio Memory, “and designed by architect J.W. McLaughlin, the building was considered ‘the most magnificent public library in the country.’ The heads of Shakespeare, Milton and Franklin stood guard over the Main Entrance.” Unfortunately, by the 1950s this structure at 629 Vine Street was terribly overcrowded and was finally torn down in favor of a far less beautiful replacement. You’ll find many more pictures of the library here and here.



READ MORE:Gallery: American Library” (The Morning News); “The Public Library: A Photographic Love Letter to Humanity’s Greatest Sanctuary of Knowledge, Freedom, and Democracy,” by Maria Popova (Brain Pickings).

Monday, April 07, 2014

Certainly Not the Best Advisors

Following reports that the would-be Republican’t candidates for president in 2016 have been looking to members of George W. Bush’s failed administration for advice on foreign policy, Steve Benen of The Maddow Blog had this to say:
House Republicans sought out Dick Cheney for guidance on foreign policy, as if he has some credibility on the issue. Condoleezza Rice is lecturing Americans on why she wants us to get over our war “weariness.” And 2016 candidates are making a concerted effort to “court” Donald Rumsfeld, as if associating with him will bolster their national aspirations.

Perhaps now would be a good time to point out some inconvenient details:
these folks were wrong about everything. Their decisions brought deadly, catastrophic consequences. To pretend that these people have something worthwhile to offer in the areas of foreign policy and/or global leadership is to pretend reality simply has no meaning.

Put it this way: in 1940, were Republican presidential hopefuls courting Hoover’s economic team? I rather doubt it. So why is Rumsfeld in demand now?
You can read all of Benen’s piece here.

It Sounds Like an Occasion for Cake

Rockford Files fan Jim Suva reminds me that today is actor James Garner’s birthday. The legendary star not only of The Rockford Files, but also of Maverick, Nichols, Support Your Local Gunfighter, and so many other TV shows and films turns 86 years old today. I was fortunate enough to interview Garner, via e-mail, in 2011, and I count that as one of my life’s high points. Happy birthday, Jim!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Separated at Birth?



Pope Francis certainly deserves respect for his antipathy toward rising income inequality and his support of the disadvantaged. But this side-by-side comparison is still funny!

Making a Federal Case of It

It doesn’t look as if Chris Christie will put Bridgegate behind him at anytime soon. This report comes from Talking Points Memo:
Federal prosecutors in New Jersey have convened a grand jury to investigate the George Washington Bridge lane closures, ABC News reported on Friday.

Twenty-three grand jurors on Friday heard testimony from Michael Drewniak, press secretary to Gov. Chris Christie (R). Drewniak’s attorney, Anthony Iacullo, told ABC News his client was not a target of the investigation.

“I’m not going to get into the specifics as to what would be discussed in the grand jury,” Iacullo said. “I would say though that Mike is a witness and we have been assured that he continues to be a witness throughout these proceedings and Mike has continued to cooperate as requested by the government into this inquiry."

In January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey confirmed that it was looking into the lane closures, which caused a multi-day traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J., in September. But as ABC News reports, the existence of the grand jury confirms that the matter has evolved into a criminal investigation. Last week, a legal team representing Christie’s office released a report claiming the governor had no role in the closures, and pinning blame for the plot on two former Christie allies: former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive David Wildstein and former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly.
The full TPM piece is here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Shame on Texas!



This comes from the MSNBC news site:
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that two provisions of a Texas abortion law are constitutional, including one that has closed a third of the state’s clinics. The unanimous panel, made up of three women appointed by Republicans, had already allowed the full brunt of the law--the same one now-gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis tried to block--to go into effect.

Women’s health advocates who sued on behalf of abortion providers to block the law condemned the decision. “This is a terrible court ruling that will severely limit a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion in Texas,” said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics, said, “Right now, the state of Texas is gutting the constitutional protections afforded by
Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago, leaving large swaths of Texas left without a provider.”
You can read the remainder of the article here.

(Hat tip to PoliticsUSA.)

READ MORE:The Coat Hanger Around My Neck Is a Symbol of History,” by Colleen Crinion (Talking Points Memo).

Unforgivable

The anonymously written but always interesting blog Mysterious Matters recently offered a list of the “Seven Deadly Sins of Books.” All of them resonate with me, but particularly this knock on poorly edited works:
7. UNEDITED. This is another publishing-industry Deadly Sin that we should be ashamed of. I just finished a book published by a much-heralded new imprint of Penguin. The thing was full of typos and grammatical errors--I found at least 25 of these. For shame. Listen, nobody’s perfect, and I think readers can forgive a typo every now and again. Even the best editors and proofreaders are going to miss something. But this level of unprofessional editing and publishing? I’m sorry--this is a Deadly Sin I cannot forgive.
I come across typos and other mistakes all the time in books these days. Publishers would do better to cut the salaries of their chief executives and put more money into hiring copy editors and proofreaders. No matter what those execs might think, readers are not too stupid to notice when corners like this are being cut.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A “Rockford” Anniversary

Fan and blogger Jim Suva reminds us that today marks 40 years since the debut, on March 27, 1974, of the pilot film that launched The Rockford Files. Also known by the title “Backlash of the Hunter,” that 90-minute NBC teleflick found perennially broke ex-con private eye Jim Rockford (James Garner) being approached by a young bikini-shop proprietor (played so delightfully by Lindsey Wagner), who is convinced her wino father was murdered, rather than having committed suicide. She wants Rockford to prove that she’s right.

The Rockford pilot ranks as one of my all-time favorites of the breed, and it spawned what I believe is the best gumshoe series ever broadcast on the American small screen. If you haven’t seen the film before, or would enjoy watching it again, you’ll find it here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How’s This for Forgotten TV?

I never thought I’d see this happen: RLJ Entertainment is planning to release a DVD set of Barbary Coast, the long-unavailable 1975-1976 ABC-TV series starring William Shatner as a disguise-obsessed government agent working to fight crime in 19th-century San Francisco. The series also starred Doug McClure as his reluctant, saloon-owning partner. TV Shows on DVD says this four-disc set will go on sale June 3, priced at $59.99, and offers this prĂ©cis of the show:
Golden Globe winner William Shatner (Star Trek, Boston Legal) is Jeff Cable, an undercover agent patrolling the wild streets of 1880s San Francisco. Filled with casinos and saloons, this bustling slice of post-Gold Rush California runs on corruption, greed, and violence. And it’s Agent Cable’s job to crack down on the numerous criminals who have made a home there. Even top public officials can’t be trusted, so Cable weaves elaborate ruses to uncover the Barbary Coast’s many plots.

He also relies on the slick but beleaguered Cash Conover (Doug McClure,
The Virginian), proprietor of the Golden Gate Casino. Conover reluctantly puts his business and well-being on the line for Cable time and again. The charismatic pair often find the cards stacked against them, but that doesnt stop them from having a rollicking good time as they police a town mired in vigilante justice. Also starring Richard Kiel (The Spy Who Loved Me), this Emmy-nominated series is a playful take on traditional Westerns with a terrific cast.
TV Shows on DVD doesn’t specifically address the matter, but this forthcoming set may well contain the 1975 Barbary Coast pilot film, which was written by Douglas Heyes and starred Dennis Cole as a more laconic Cash. How else would this be a 14-episode offering? There were only 13 hour-long episodes shot, following the success of that pilot.

Meanwhile, Warner Archive has just released a DVD of the 1972 pilot for The Delphi Bureau, starring Laurence Luckinbill as Glenn Garth Gregory, a government agent possessed of a handy photographic memory. In the pilot, explains IMDb, Gregory “is assigned to solve the disappearance of an entire fleet of old Air Force planes.” Only eight episodes of the subsequent ABC series were produced, all shown as part of a Thursday night “wheel series” titled The Men. (The other two “spokes” of that wheel were Robert Conrad’s Assignment: Vienna and James Wainwright’s Jigsaw.)

A few years back, Mystery*File’s Michael Shonk reviewed the Delphi Bureau pilot, which was subtitled “The Merchant of Death Assignment” (even though almost all of the series’ later episodes ended in “Project,” not “Assignment”); you can read his remarks here. The new DVD is priced at $18.95 and can be purchased here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just My Type



In case you didn’t know (and I’m confident you are surprised, as I was), February is International Typewriter Appreciation Month. There are still occasions when I miss the clack-clack and vigorously tossed-back carriages of typewriters. But then I remember how much paper I used to go through, trying to create clean copies of my articles, and I am glad to be working before the glow of a computer screen.

Journalist-blogger Bob Sassone has put together a list of “great typewriter-related sites you should check out” this month.

READ MORE:A Brief History of the Typewriter,” by Bryan Dugan (Mental Floss).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Those Malingering Republicans

This is a shocking headline from Salon: “GOP Leaders Hope to Maintain Party Unity by Doing Nothing for the Rest of the Year.” This means no help on job creation or assistance for Americans out of work, and no possibility of passing sensible immigration reform. Why should we bother to give congressional Republicans our tax dollars if they intend to sit on their asses? Right-wingers are always harping on about wasteful government spending. This is waste on steroids!

READ MORE:Lacking the Will, Not the Votes,” by Steve Benen
(The Maddow Blog).

Monday, February 17, 2014

Writing Wrongs

It’s a shame that newspapers and other publications these days have decided to cut costs by reducing the size of their proofreading staffs or do away with them altogether. That’s the reason you now see so many typographical errors plaguing the print media. I am pleased to see this woman stepping up to fix the problem, at least for Florida’s St. Augustine Record, but it’s damn shame she has to do it on a volunteer basis. Why must intelligent readers accept poorly copy-edited and proofread material, so corporate owners can pocket bigger profits?

READ MORE: Copy Editors’ Association Advises Vice to Hire a Copy Editor,” by Andrew Beaujon (Poynter).