Monday, May 31, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Remember My Forgotten Man”

Yes, I've posted this song from Gold Diggers of 1933 before but then again it is Memorial Day. Y yo amo Joan Blondell.

Here's hoping all my readers have had a pleasant Memorial Day weekend.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

R.I.P. Dennis Hopper

Actor Dennis Hopper, most famous for his starring role in Easy Rider, took his last ride yesterday at age 74. He will be missed.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “The Hungry Earth”

So does it still count as a cliffhanger if the climax occurs underground?

Somebody on the writing staff has obviously seen his or her share of Val Lewton films. And read a bit of Arthur Conan Doyle, to boot. And yes, I have apparently made my life's mission to try and guess the inspiration for each Doctor Who episode this season. Hopefully, this next episode will be too imaginative for me to do that.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “Amy's Choice”

So not only does the Doctor dance, the Doctor also -- well, you'll see.

And who knew Amy was such a closet polygamist?

And judging from the abundant bird noises during this episode, I suspect someone on the writing staff has seen The Innocents.

Poor Rory Williams. As much as I hate to admit it, I really felt for the dude during this episode.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “Vampires of Venice”

Oh my. I finally got my memory back.

Anyway, this episode was one of my favorites of this season despite a ton of goofy plot logic.

Somebody on this show's writing staff is definitely up on their Hammer movies. Paging Kate Bush! Paging Kate Bush!

I am starting to get sick of how every other alien tries to give the good Doctor a guilt trip. I know it is an easy way for them to get away with pulling his chain but it is also a hoary plot device.

Nor do I care too much for how the good Doctor humiliated Amy's friend and husband-to-be Rory Williams in the pre-credit sequence. Maybe I am just sentimental because a friend of mine has a grandson who habitually mispronounces the name “Roy” to sound like “Rory” -- and I have more than a few relatives named Roy -- but I always thought poor Rory got the short end of the stick in this episode -- and that the Doctor proved himself to be a twit.

Oh, well. It is not like they killed off poor Rory, right?

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trailer of the Week: Flashback (1990)

Kiefer Sutherland as a federal agent? I don't quite buy that.

And was the late Dennis Hopper's character psychic or what?

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Diff'rent Strokes

In honor of the late Gary Coleman.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

R.I.P. Gary Coleman

Former actor and child star Gary Coleman, most famous for his starring role on the TV series Diff'rent Strokes, went off-camera for the last time today at age 42. He will be missed.

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R.I.P. Art Linkletter

Former movie actor and television personality Art Linkletter went off the air for good Wednesday at age 97. He will be missed.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Angel Baby”

From 1995's My Family, it is Jeanette Jurado -- a former member of the group Exposé -- taking us to the point of no return with a cover version of the old Rosie & the Originals tune “Angel Baby.” I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

No, my darling, you’re wrong. Our day may possibly come and we may take back that which belongs to France or to America. But no one has ever taken back anything from England.
--Claudette Colbert, Tovarich (1937)

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TV Quote of the Week

I guess you’re right. We’re supposed to be fighting Mexicans... not each other!
--James Read (II), North and South

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “Flesh and Stone”

Wait a minute! Who's this Doctor fellow you mention?

Who's Amy?

What's this Internet?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That's Funny. She Doesn't Look Latina: Parte VI



Catherine Bach (1954 - ). Daughter of a German father and a Mexican mother. She is, of course, most famous for playing a non-Mexican character on The Dukes of Hazzard -- though given the wild, wicked ways of that show's characters, there is no telling what the ancestry of her character might have been.

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Latino Lycanthropy


What is it about werewolf movies that sends filmmakers scurrying back to the safety of good old Mother England? What is wrong with the good old U.S.A.?

Granted, Guy Endore managed to successfully get away with setting a werewolf novel (The Werewolf of Paris) in nineteenth-century France and the Hammer film based upon his book took it a step further and set its werewolf story in Spain. Plus more recently John Sayles set a werewolf story (The Howling) here in the States. Then, of course, there was the more recent werewolf movie An American Werewolf in Paris, but the less said about that one, the better. There was also the French movie The Brotherhood of the Wolf but I am not quite sure that it is fair to consider that a werewolf movie though it is considerably better than An American Werewolf in Paris.

Anyway, for the most part, when we Americans usually think of werewolves, we think of England. Thus we get titles like Werewolf of London, She-Wolf of London and An American Werewolf in London. Perhaps because we have gotten used to associating horror stories with the English or perhaps because we prefer the contrast between the traditional British stiff upper lip and a raging beast. Or perhaps we have got so used to having our best horror stories done by the English that we seem to forget that other people can do them too.

Perhaps it is just as well we do not see more attempts to import the werewolf legend into America given the number of people around the world who already like to associate the Yanks with barbarism. And as a Latino, I should find my obsession with werewolves especially ironic because so many of the characteristics associated with werewolves -- hairiness, thick eyebrows, violent tempers and funny hands -- are also associated with Latinos. Coincidence?

Who knows?

In any event, one would think that any werewolf movie that had a Hispanic actor like Benicio del Toro playing the lead character would be right up my alley. And it would be nice to say that 2010’s The Wolfman was the ideal werewolf movie. Indeed, it would be nice to say at the very least that The Wolfman was a memorable movie, but unlike many horror films I’ve seen, I doubt it will be remembered as fondly as the original 1941 Universal movie which bore a similar name. In fact, I suspect the producers will be lucky if the film is remembered at all within a decade or two.

Part of the problem is that this particular werewolf movie has nothing particularly interesting to say. It starts promisingly enough with the death of some poor English guy being stalked by what appears to be the second coming of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Then it is revealed that said victim is the brother of Del Toro’s Lawrence Talbot character. Why he does not look much like Del Toro is never adequately explained. We are shown a portrait of Lawrence’s Latin mother but it is never explained whether or not she was also the mother of Lawrence’s brother or whether they were half-brothers. Was Lawrence’s mother really just the mistress of Lawrence’s father or is there some other explanation? The film never explains and normally it would not matter if the actual story was half as interesting as such questions. But it is not.

The film does have some potentially interesting angles though. For example, Del Toro’s Talbot is a Shakespearean actor with obvious father issues. Since his father is played by a British actor (Anthony Hopkins), it’s tempting to predict more than a few obvious references to Hamlet and Macbeth but fortunately the movie does not go that route. However, the route it does travel is not much of an improvement.

Nor do Talbot’s acting skills play any crucial role in his investigation of his brother’s death. Since the movie is called The Wolfman, it’s not much of a surprise that the mystery culprit behind his brother’s death turns out to be a werewolf. Nor is it shocking that Talbot ends up being bitten by said werewolf.

I was surprised to find out that Emily Blunt played the would-be bride of Talbot’s late brother. Ms. Blunt looks very good in period dress and it would be nice to say that her character played a memorable role in this movie but unfortunately, she is more often an afterthought. The film flirts with the idea of a romance between her and Talbot but it never develops it too fully or convincingly -- which is a shame since such a development would have made the climax of the movie a lot more powerful.

The most memorable part of the movie is the brief view we get of Talbot’s late mother. In many ways, she seems symbolic of the film’s problems since apart from Ms. Blunt, she is very easily the most eye-catching part of the cast -- yet the movie has no idea what to do with her save to kill her off.

For that matter, it has no idea what to do with Del Toro or Hopkins save to use them in combination with elements from far better movies. Perhaps the true problem lies in the fact that such an expensive production with high-profile actors dares not say anything particularly new or original lest it lose its potential audience. And yet by playing it safe, it ensures that any repeat viewings this movie might gain would be few. Very few. So perhaps this production was indeed cursed. But not in a way that can be ended with a silver bullet.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Drive”

I once watched this video three times in a row and each time I came up with a different theory in regard to what was wrong with the girl. Of course, as the last scene indicates, the question I should have been asking myself is: what was wrong with the guy?

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Song Quote of the Week

An unexamined life is not worth living.
--Madonna, “Now I’m Following You (Part 2)”

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Icon of the Week



Just in case you didn't recognize him, my official icon -- for now, at least -- is Juan Seguín, the Tejano hero who fought on the winning side of the Texas Revolution. Later on, he would also fight for equal rights for Texans of Mexican descent -- but it would be a fight that he would lose.

I will admit that he is not as recognizable as Zorro but he is still worth knowing about. And unlike Zorro, he actually did exist in real life.

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Let the Chips Fall Where They May

For some reason, I never see this at the grocery store. Even when I go to Fiesta Mart.


I am guessing Latino singer El Vez created this image as his way of hinting that revolutions are like potato chips: you just can't be satisfied with one -- which says a lot about his experience with revolutions.

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Comic Book Image of the Week

Suzanne Padilla of the Ex Machina series used to be one of my favorite comic book characters -- and not just because she was one of the few with a Spanish surname.

However, as much as I like how she expresses this sentiment...



...I have to disagree with this sentiment. For obvious reasons.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Trailer of the Week: El Mariachi (1992)

So whatever happened to Robert Rodriguez? And why do I get the feeling that he was a lot more acceptable to American conservatives when all the bad guys who got killed in his movies were Mexican?

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Pushing Daisies

Boy, do I miss not seeing Kristin Chenoweth on a weekly basis.

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Quote of the Week

I am obviously not arguing that discrimination against the Irish or the Italians or the Poles is or was anything like that which our black brothers have had to endure, but I am suggesting that bigotry is by no means a lower-class phenomenon and that compassion among the elites is by no means universal. And yet, an attitude of compassion towards one group mixed with bigotry towards another group is, in the final analysis, intolerable -- intolerable on moral grounds because it is hypocritical and intolerable on political grounds because it is self-defeating. The intellectual who “loves” the blacks and the “poor” but has contempt for the Irish or the Italians or the “middle class” is in the final analysis every bit as much a bigot as the blue-collar worker who “hates niggers,” for both are asking, “Why Can’t They Be Like Us?” And to this titular question in this book there can be but one satisfactory answer: “Because they don’t want to be and in the United States of America, they don’t have to be.”
--Andrew M. Greeley, Why Can’t They Be Like Us?: America’s White Ethnic Groups

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “America”

From 1980's The Jazz Singer, it's Neil “You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet” Diamond singing one of his most famous songs. And who's that sitting in the audience next to Sir Laurence Olivier? Could it be Lucie Arnaz? It's about time she was represented on this site.



As a bonus, this week I also post the classic song of the same name from 1961's West Side Story. It's one of the few American tunes I've heard that best illustrate the other side of the immigration story. Of course, this isn't the first time I posted it so if you care to see what I've said about this song in the past, please go here.

I hope you all enjoy both tunes.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges.
--Alfonso Bedoya, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

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TV Quote of the Week

They were both infected with that infantile disorder known as Republicanism.
--Siân Phillips, I, Claudius, “Queen of Heaven”

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: My Living Doll

So this is what actress Julie Newmar was doing before she played Catwoman on Batman. Apparently her character didn't even get a name in the credits for this show. She was just "The Doll." When you consider that the show was named after her character and not Bob Cummings', that doesn't quite seem right. However, she did get a name during the show itself. So that's good.

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Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte X

Apparently I'm still depending on the kindness of strangers.

Though I must admit that my family and friends have been more supportive than I expected.

Then again one of my friends lost her job just last week so her adventures with the world of unemployment are just beginning.

Pleased stay tuned.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Random Thoughts


Cool! Miss Michigan aka Rima Fakih won the Miss U.S.A. contest. I guess our national image of beauty is changing. Plus it doesn't hurt that she hails from my home state.

I guess it's a good thing I don't have a burning desire to see the Grand Canyon this year because even if I could afford to travel, there would be no way short of a dire family emergency I would be caught dead going to Arizona. And it's not like I have relatives in Arizona anyway.

I used to find it frustrating enough that so many liberals are ignoring the drug-related violence occurring in Mexico right now but at least they're not using it as an excuse to tell anti-Mexican jokes like the good folks at Big Hollywood. And no, I don't really care whether or not site editor John Nolte has a Mexican wife, a Mexican niece, a posse of Mexican friends or a long-standing relationship with the President of Mexico. The minute he started allowing anti-Mexican jokes on his site, I stopped taking his political arguments seriously.

Where's Red Adair now that we need him? I'm quite sure he would have found a way to cap that oil leak even if he was more a specialist in oil fires.

If BP's handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil leak is supposed to be an example of the superior way the British handle things, it's not working.

Oh no. Parks and Recreation is going on hiatus. That means I'll have to rely on old Office reruns and bad Hollywood movies to get my weekly Rashida Jones fix.

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Reality Fanfic: Parte III

Somewhere on the other side of town, there is a woman glancing through the classified section of the newspaper for the umpteenth time.

She’s wondering if she is brave enough to answer a certain ad.

And wondering if she has a choice.

In another part of town, another woman is wondering how she’s going to pay her rent money next weekend.

Should she listen to the friend who told her about this new job she just got at a local club?

Or should she just tough it out another week and try to get a more respectable job?

In yet another part of town, a woman is wondering if she’ll make enough money that day to pay her house fee.

And her day care.

And her electric bill.

And still have money left over to buy groceries.

She wonders what she has to do to elicit a tip from the gentleman in the corner.

And what she would have to do to convince him to buy a dance.

And what she’d have to do to make sure he’s willing to pay for another.

Of course, it’s not just one woman in Dallas who has such problems.

Not do such things just happen in Dallas.

Nor are such women unusual.

You probably walk by such women in the supermarket all the time and never realize it.

And if you’re asking yourself why I’m so sure of this, all I have to say is: you’re asking the wrong question.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Promises, Promises”

Wait! They made a Broadway musical with the same title as this song? What kind of sick bastards do they have up there in New York?

Okay, seriously, the musical obviously predated this song. And if nothing else, the video deserves credit for making me see the original song in a darker context than I would have ever got from just the lyrics. It is a little surprising, though, to read people's reactions to this video on YouTube. I mean they do know there's more to this video than just some woman drying her hair on a diving board, right? Or should I consider their refusal to see more than that a good thing?

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Cuento de Mi Id

“A Scream Within a Scream”

(It would be nice to pretend this tale was inspired by a recent Doctor Who episode but actually I wrote it back in 1991. I will admit that a certain Ray Bradbury short story inspired one part, but aside from that, I'm not saying...)

“Hey, Monica,” said Tad. “It looks just like you.”

Monica snapped out of her brief daze in time to respond to her husband. “It does not!”

“It does too," he said, pointing to the mummy. “Note the highly pronounced jaw structure. The full arch of the Castilian nose. The all-too-wide-and-yet-still-stylish hips -- ”

“That’s enough, wise guy,” she said. “I don’t go making fun of your ancestors.”

“That’s because I have no ancestors to make fun of,” he said. “I’m an orphan.”

“Gimme a break,” said Monica. She laughed. “This is supposed to be our honeymoon, remember? Not Anthropology 101.”

“I thought you wanted to see the Tombs of Guanajuato,” said Tad. “That’s why we came down here.”

“We came down here because staying at my Aunt Eva’s house was cheaper than Niagara Falls. Anyway, Guanajuato is a more romantic place any day of the week.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” said Tad. “Niagara Falls still has a little spice to it. And where can you find a decent waterfall in this place?”

“Gimme a break, you goofball,” Monica said.

She laughed again as the two of them left the tombs and re-entered the sunshine. Then she frowned.

“That mummy back there didn’t really look like me, did it?” she asked.

“Who ever said it was an 'it'?” said Tad. He did a quick John Hurt imitation. “I am not an animal. I... am a human being!”

“You’re something, all right,” Monica said. Tad laughed as she punched his shoulder.

“How about making for the Street of the Kiss?” she asked.

“I’ve got a better idea. How close is the nearest motel?”

***********************************************************

Monica lay back upon the bed and stared at the white ceiling. Moonlight flooded in through the tall, thin Spanish windows and she could see the pattern of their iron bars reflected upon the opposite wall.

This was much better than Niagara Falls would have been, she decided. Even if it did mean spending her honeymoon at her aunt’s house. And Tad had proved to be a more loving husband than she had ever thought he’d be.

Oh, he had been amusing enough when they were still single. But there had always been that nagging question about what their parents would think about a Mexican like her dating an Anglo like him and vice versa. Things like that were not supposed to matter anymore. But they did. And then there was that weight problem she had struggled with all through high school. God knows that did not exactly build up her self-confidence even after she got over it.

Yet, in the end, things had clicked for her and Tad. Tad Arian didn’t have to choose her -- yet he did. God knows he could have found a more attractive wife among all the women he had dated, but then maybe he had not been looking for a pretty spouse. Or maybe Monica had been just attractive enough to suit his needs.

It did not really matter, did it? Monica had won and the others had lost. Now she and Tad were here in Guanajuato, enjoying the afterglow of a beautiful session of lovemaking. Which had been another thing Monica had worried about. But why bother?

Monica had always had a bad habit of worrying too much about the wrong things. Half the disasters she had predicted never occurred. So why be so uptight?

She sighed and turned toward her sleeping husband. Funny how he always fell asleep so quickly. Must be a male trait.

She gently burrowed her way into his arms, taking care not to wake him. His bristly chest hairs felt deliciously rough against her own smooth skin. Playfully she explored them with her fingers. His skin felt so warm and smooth beneath her fingertips. Then she encountered a small, circular depression in his skin. A chest scar. A childhood reminder of chicken pox, no doubt.

Or else an early symptom of AIDS.

She froze. She felt her own face grow pale. She drew back from her husband, all the while trying to remember how many times they had made love. Many times. After all, it was the third night of their honeymoon. And they had used no protection.

Monica touched her own chest and screamed --

***********************************************************

-- only to find herself once more staring at a white ceiling.

She was in bed again in Aunt Eva‘s guest bedroom. The moon still shone in through the tall, thin Spanish windows, and she could still see the pattern of their iron bars reflected upon the opposite wall.

It had only been a dream, she realized. Yet it had seemed so real.

The oldest cliché in the world, she thought as she reached for Tad. And encountered in his place a noseless Guanajuatan mummy…

***********************************************************

She awoke with a start. The sun was shining. She and Tad were standing outside the entrance to the tombs.

“What’s the matter?” said Tad. “For a moment there, you looked kind of distant.”

“Oh, nothing,” she said. “I guess I was just daydreaming.”

“About yours truly, I suppose.”

“No, actually -- er, yes, you’re right.” She clutched his arm. “Let’s go back to the house.”

“But we just got here.”

“I know,” she said, nuzzling him in the chest. “That’s why I want to go back.”

“Women,” he said.

They started to walk back.

A thought occurred to Monica. “That mummy back there. It didn’t really look like me, did it?”

She waited for his inevitable comeback, but he merely shrugged and said,” You saw it yourself.”

“I know. And it didn’t look a thing like me.”

“Then why all the curiosity?”

“I don’t know,” said Monica. “I just have this strange feeling.”

“Comes from reading too many Ray Bradbury stories.”

“No, seriously,” she said, picking at his chest hairs. To her relief, his skin was unscarred. “I’ve been having the strangest daydreams.”

“You have?” he said.

“Yes,” she said. She looked him in the face. “I have.”

“Well, too bad you can’t go back there and check that mummy again. You’d have to pay all over again just to look at it again.”

“Yes, I know. But still -- you have no nose.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You have no nose,” she said.

It was true. He did have no nose.

“I didn’t notice it until now but you have no nose,” she said.

“Well, you know what they say about the size of a man‘s nose, hey, querida?” he said with a leer.

He reached for her.

Monica screamed...

***********************************************************

“Never seen you that excited before,” a voice in the darkness said.

She blinked. She was naked now. So was Tad, the man above her. They were both in Aunt Eva‘s guest bedroom again.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “ I must have blacked out.”

“Never had that effect on women before,” he said. “Must have been my new technique.”

“I’m sorry,” she said again. “It won’t happen again. It’s just that everything today has been like a dream.”

“It has, hasn’t it?”

She ignored the question. “And this is real,” she said. It was more a question than a statement.

“Indubitably,” he said, caressing her breasts. “By the way, you have the cutest little scar on your right breast.”

“Oh, no,” she said. Her hand flew up to check her breasts. It was true. There was a scar on her right breast. Just like the one she had seen on Tad in one of her dreams. But how --

“Had any chicken pox lately?” Tad asked.

Monica pushed him away --

***********************************************************

-- and found herself facing an open grave. They were burying someone here; she didn‘t know who. The sun had been obscured by clouds, and there was a young man in a black suit standing by her side. It wasn‘t Tad. He was way too young to be Tad. Yet he held her hand as if he knew her.

She turned to look into his face and saw that he had no nose.

Then she screamed --

***********************************************************

-- in ecstasy as her left hand found once more the secret spot that only she knew about. She did not want to do this. After all, she was a good Catholic girl. But it was dark and she was lonely and she was all alone in the room she shared with her sister Magda. Besides, Tad was out with another girl and it was either do this or eat like a pig. She did not want to eat like a pig. She had done so all throughout high school in order to escape her problems, and it had only made her problems worse. But she could not help it. It was one of the few things besides masturbation which relieved her loneliness and made it bearable. One of the few things that made up for all the times boys like Tad Arian had walked right by her without saying a word, only to fall all over a cheerleader or somebody else right down the hall.

But it was no good. The pleasure was fading. The fear was returning. She still wanted to eat -- not just little portions but whole banquets. Her hand withdrew from her underpants and she stared up at the ceiling --

***********************************************************

-- which was now gray sky. It was a gloomy day and she was looking out the window of her little private room, waiting for company. But no one -- not even her little grandniece Letitia -- had come to visit her today. No one ever saw her here at the nursing home, it seemed, save the head nurse and the nurse’s aides, and she wished quite dearly that it did not have to be that way.

If only she had married someone like her sister Magda and her brother Narciso did. Someone like that cute Tad Arian she had known back in college and high school. Then she would not have to die alone like this.

But Tad had had to drop out of college and marry that other girl he had been seeing. Monica never did find another man as kind and gentle as Tad, and now Tad was dead and she was alone and not even her own family came to visit her.

But wait.

Someone was entering her room now.

A tall man.

With no nose...

***********************************************************

She nearly fainted into Tad’s arms in the bright sunshine outside the entrance in the tombs.

“What’s the matter, honey?” he said. This time he had a nose.

Monica did not want to answer. By now, she was wise to the tricks reality was playing upon her. The only question was: “Why?” What had she done to deserve all this?

“I’m sorry, Tad,” she said -- and she sounded just like an actress in a play, she realized. “I guess I must have just fainted.”

“That’s all right,” said Tad -- and this time she watched his nose to make sure it did not disappear again. But it was staying put this time. She smiled. Back to reality, she thought.

She leaned forward and kissed him --

***********************************************************

-- and then someone slapped her face --

***********************************************************

-- then she kissed him again --

***********************************************************

-- then someone slapped her face again.

***********************************************************

She kissed him again.

And he murmured sweet nothings in her ear.

“That mummy back there didn’t really look like me, did it?” she asked.

“Why do you ask?”

***********************************************************

The slap came again. This time Monica opened her eyes. Her own mother was slapping her on the face. But why?

Her father was on the phone in the other room, an empty pill bottle in his hand. He appeared to be talking frantically to someone, but she really could not tell because she was so woozy and her brother Narciso kept holding her up and dragging her around the room.

“C’mon, sis,” he kept saying. “You can make it.”

Make what? She was so tired that she just wanted to sit down and rest, but every time she did so, Narciso pulled her to her feet again and started dragging her around the room. And every time she started to close her eyes, her mother would slap her on the face again.

Then she glanced again at her father and recognized the bottle he was holding. It looked just like the one that contained her sleeping pills. The same sleeping pills she had taken when she realized that Tad Arian was going to marry another girl. A girl he had already gotten pregnant. Her best friend, in fact.

“Tell them to hurry, Papa,” said Narciso. “She’s starting to slip back.”

That’s why they were doing all this. They were trying to revive her. But she did not want to be revived. Not if it meant spending the rest of her life without Tad. Not if it meant abandoning all the hopes and dreams she had had about their future life together. Not if --

Her mother slapped her again. But it did no good. She still felt woozy. Let me sleep, she wanted to tell them. Sleeping never hurt anyone…

***********************************************************

“Hey, Monica,“ said Tad. “It looks just like you.”

***********************************************************

Her mother slapped her face again.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fantasy Quote of the Week

I got enough to worry about without getting into who sleeps with who.
--Stu Redman in Stephen King's The Stand

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Science Fiction Quote of the Week

When we travel to other planets we won’t find much that we can’t see or guess at from here, but there are things so strange we can hardly get the fingers of our mind around them that are closer to us than our own skin.
--Ray Nelson, “Time Travel for Pedestrians”

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Niemöller Update

First they came for the illegals and I didn’t speak up because I was a citizen.

Then they came for the Muslims and I didn’t speak up because I was a Christian.

Then they came for the gun-owners and I didn’t speak up because I didn’t own a gun.

Then they came for the gays and I didn’t speak up because I was a heterosexual.

Then they came for the Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I was pro-choice.

Then they came for me, and would you believe it? Not one of my friends or neighbors spoke up for me. Not one damn person. Geez, some people can be so blind...

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She’s Not Bad, She’s Just Written That Way




Is it not the way of the world that men like me who see themselves as being a lot like Dana Andrews inevitably fall for women who think we’re more like Percy Kilbride*?

Granted, it would be nice to pretend that a self-proclaimed nice guy would have nothing to do with a woman like the Stella character Linda Darnell plays in 1945’s Fallen Angel. But that would mean lying to myself about the attractiveness of Ms. Darnell, who was quite beautiful at the time she starred in Fallen Angel. And pretending I have not been attracted by women like Stella in the past. And also pretending that I am not a bit intrigued by that flower Darnell wore in her hair which seems reminiscent of the flowers sometimes worn in old movies by Latin or Polynesian women. Was director Otto Preminger hinting that Stella came not just from the other side of the tracks but also from the other side of the color line? We will never know but then some mysteries are more fun when you do not get definite answers.

It might be argued that the scene in which Stella first entered the diner where she worked and automatically attracted the attention of every straight guy in the place -- including Pop the diner owner (played by Percy Kilbride), who enjoyed a relationship with Stella that seemed more like that of a husband and wife than one of boss and employee** -- was a wee bit exaggerated. But not by much. After all, I have known women from backgrounds every bit as humble as Stella’s who nevertheless managed to attract a ton of boyfriends, both would-be and otherwise, while working in environments that were just as humble as the diner in which Stella worked. And anyway, realism was not really the point.



Fallen Angel can be said to be a reverse version of Preminger’s 1944 hit Laura, the movie in which a police detective (played by Dana Andrews) fell in love with a woman he believed to be dead. In this movie, Dana Andrews played Eric Stanton, a drifter who had little use for the police -- or any moral code, for that matter. Though he was quick to characterize himself as more sinned against than sinning, he had no scruples about playing advance man for a con man who liked to pose as a spiritualist. And equally little scruples about using his research skills to dig up dirt that would embarrass a potential opponent of said con man.

While waiting for his employer, Stanton stopped in at the diner mentioned above and met Stella. Instantly, he was smitten. However, Stella was not so quick to requite his affection. The lady not only demanded that he first put a ring on her finger but that he also provide her with a permanent residence as well. Though Stanton was quick to sneer at Stella’s dream of the traditional house with a white picket fence, he was also quick to realize that he would never win Stella over without having enough money to fulfill her wishes. Unfortunately, the fastest way for him to get said money was to marry wealthy spinster June Mills (played by Alice Faye) -- who just happened to be the same woman he just humiliated on behalf of his con man employer. And said spinster had a sister named Clara (played by Anne Revere), who was suspicious of Stanton's intentions toward her sibling. So Stanton’s work was cut out for him.

And once he did seem to be on the verge of getting everything he wanted, tragedy struck. And suddenly Stanton was left wondering why he ever wanted what he wanted in the first place.

But wait! There’s more.

Stanton was suspected of a major crime. The police detective investigating said crime was not above beating up suspects and Stanton obviously did not cotton to getting beat up. But if he did not commit said crime, who did? A romantic rival? Pop? Clara? June?

As usual in this kind of film, the posing of the mystery was a lot more interesting than its solution. But the film is still watchable even if Ms. Faye does not quite seem cut out to play a good film noir role.

As for Stella, I cannot help observing that for a so-called bad girl, she was very principled. She did not cheat on her dates. She did not go back on a deal. She did not kiss and tell. When Stanton told her his plans to get rich by marrying another woman, she rightly sneered at him. And though she never discouraged Stanton from going through with his scheme -- indeed, she sneered at him when he talked about calling it off -- I got the feeling that her prime motivation throughout the movie was not so much selfishness -- if she were truly selfish, she would be a lot more supportive of Stanton’s plan to marry into wealth -- as much as it was fear of abandonment. After all, Stella’s looks would not have lasted forever and since her lovers had a history of dropping her the minute she demanded a commitment, she had little reason to assume Stanton would not abandon her too once he got what he wanted. Hence her insistence on a wedding ring. Hence her insistence on a house. Hence her insistence on Stanton's proving his love in a way that would not vanish the moment he stopped being nuts about her.

Believe it or not, I have met women like Stella who have no trouble finding guys who want to go to bed with them but who have considerable more problems finding someone who is willing to stay with them afterward. And though I know the Hays Code would prefer that I feel differently, I must confess I feel more sympathy for Stella than I do for almost any other character in Fallen Angel apart from Clara and Pop. Even Stanton was not all that sympathetic compared to Stella. He made it evident early on that his original intention was for an one-night affair with Stella and that he only “settled” for something more permanent when Stella resisted.

Granted, Stella was a hard girl to like. Then again guys like me like a challenge.

* For those of you who can't tell, Percy Kilbride is the guy in the above photo who is standing next to the girl and he is most famous for playing Pa Kettle in the Pa and Ma Kettle movies. Dana Andrews is the guy standing outside the door. Linda Darnell, of course, is the girl.

** Of course, poor Pop seemed a tad more henpecked than most husbands and Stella, of course, was a bit more headstrong than most wives. But then I never said their relationship resembled that of a perfect marriage.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Trailer of the Week: The Libertine (2004)

Methinks the laddie doth protest too much.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Tobor the 8th Man

I was beginning to think I had imagined this series. It was the closest thing to Iron Man that I can remember watching as a kid. Please don't ask me to explain the "8th man" part but I can tell you that "tobor" spelled backwards means "robot." This was one of the first anime shows to be broadcast in the U.S. and apparently it started a trend.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “Stormy Weather”

In honor of the late Lena Horne, it's the title song from the 1943 film Stormy Weather.

I know I'm not the first one on the Net to post this, but it's still a great song.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, and why we died. All that matters is that today, two stood against many. Valor pleases you, so grant me this one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, the HELL with you!
--Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Barbarian (1982)

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TV Quote of the Week

I believe in parenthood as an institution but I’m not ready to be institutionalized.
--Kelly Rutherford, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., “And Baby Makes Three”

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Movie Quotes That Don’t Mean What You May Think They Mean

What is that man doing in my drawers!?
--Myrna Loy, The Thin Man (1934)

There’s more than one way of love.
--Robert Morley, Marie Antoinette (1938)

Gee, I -- I -- I don’t know whether I can keep it up for two and a half hours.
--Frank Albertson, Room Service (1938)

I’ll give you the best performance you ever saw in a hotel bedroom.
--Frank Albertson, Room Service (1938)

I want you to have a party and be gay. Very, very gay!
--Bette Davis, Dark Victory (1939)

I should hate to see our country endangered by my underwear.
--Greta Garbo, Ninotchka (1939)

Of course, people do go both ways.
--Ray Bolger, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

You should’ve licked that girl where she licked you.
--Paulette Goddard, The Women (1939)

Well, I can’t see anything, but... how do I know you can’t?
--Virginia Bruce, The Invisible Woman (1940)

Isn’t it wonderful what you can find these days in drugstores?
--Mickey Rooney, Babes on Broadway (1941)

I expected to be frightened on my wedding night, but nothing like this.
--Gloria Castillo, Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)

In America, nothing is impossible.
--George Chakiris, West Side Story (1961)

Out. What a nice word.
--Paula Kelly, Sweet Charity (1969)

Well, okay... but I get to be on top!
--Tom Hanks, Big (1988)

In the 40s, they were all Madonnas. So womanly, so feminine.
--James Timmons, Kissed (1996)

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: Iron Man

Apparently this is one of the few animated shows from the mid-1960s that I either never watched or else forgot altogether. Come to think of it, I was never much of a fan of the actual comic book character until after the first movie came out. Perhaps it's because Spiderman was more memorable.

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Real Men and Real Girls


It's tempting to describe 2007's Lars and the Real Girl as the flip side of May. Instead of a mentally disturbed woman whose only friend is a real doll, it gives us a mentally unsettled man whose only friend is a real doll. (Actually the official name for the title character's inanimate companion is Real Girl but let's not get into that.)

The story could have gone into several different directions including the same dark way May went but instead it chooses to go in a lighter, more comic way. Though the doll of the title is anatomically correct, there is only one reference -- a subtle one, fortunately -- to this fact. Indeed, for a movie with so many perverse possibilities, Lars and the Real Girl is surprisingly conventional. Like May, it does have dark elements, but unlike May, the story concerns the title character's triumph over potential darkness, not his surrender to it.

Anyway, the movie concerns a shy young man named Lars who lives in a small town but never gets emotionally involved with anyone apart from his brother -- on whose property he lives -- and his sister-in-law. Shortly after his sister-in-law gets pregnant, Lars starts going crazy and orders a Real Girl through the mail. He calls his recent acquisition Bianca and starts treating it like a real person. He never uses the Real Girl for its intended purpose but he does talk about it as if it was real and as if it was an actual girlfriend.

His brother and sister-in-law are not sure how to respond to this so they consult the family doctor who advises them to go along with Lars' delusion. Eventually they talk the whole town into going along with Lars' delusion and Bianca starts to get a bit of a social life. Along the way, Lars get obsessed with what it takes to be a real man and then something happens and Lars is forced to confront something he has not wanted to confront...

It would be easy for me to wax cynical about this movie. After all, I spent several months in a small town in Michigan very similar to the town depicted in this movie and during that time, I was very lonely except for the weekends when I visited my relatives in Detroit. By all rights, I should be condemning this movie for its lack of realism. After all, people do not always rally around the well-deserving shy young person in real life and small town life is not always as friendly and heartwarming as it appears in movies like this.

But it says something about the subtlety of the script, the acting and the direction that I actually found myself won over by the movie despite all the myriad opportunities for me to go, “But that would never happen in real life.” And this from someone who usually rolls his eyes at feel-cute movies like Little Miss Sunshine.

Perhaps I gave Lars and the Real Girl a break because after seeing my share of cynical new movies, it felt good to finally see a modern movie which said, “Yes, I know it's a harsh world out there. But sometimes people can be a whole lot better than you give them credit for. Maybe not the people you know right now but the people you might someday meet in the future.”

In short, this flick is basically a modern-day Frank Capra movies for people who normally hate modern-day Frank Capra movies. And that is not a bad thing to be. Mind you, if they bring Bianca back for a sequel like Son of Lars and the Real Girl, I will not quite be so charitable.

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Buscando Trabajo de Nuevo: Parte IX

I may actually get a job this week.

Then again I may not.

I passed the first three steps of the interview with a certain company and I'm signed up with at least three temp agencies in case that fails.

And my tax refund check is officially on its way. It's just a question of when it will get here. I guess that's what I get for not filing online this year.

In other news, my sister is participating in a medical experiment to earn extra money and a former co-worker has a side job making buttons for a local Tea Party organization. Ironically, he's not doing it because he supports the cause; he's doing it because he needs the money.

A friend of mine was flirting with the idea of applying for food stamps a while back but she hasn't talked about doing so lately. Then again she hasn't asked me to help her buy groceries either. I'm hoping that that's a good thing.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

R.I.P. Lena Horne

Apparently there was no sun up in the sky Sunday. Famous singer and actress Lena Horne passed away that day at age 92. She will be missed.

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R.I.P. Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta, Conan's favorite artist, went to Valhalla yesterday at age 82. He will be missed.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Holding Out for a Hero”

Oh my! It's like a musical excerpt from “Vampires of Venice.” Especially if it was directed by someone under the influence of L.S.D. I guess it's a good thing it's not officially kitsch.

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Cuento de Mi Id

“After the Apocalypse”

(Obviously this is one of the most dated stories I have ever written and there is one image towards the end that makes no sense whatsoever. I do not remember how much of this story might have been based on a dream and how much of it was based on things I witnessed when I was visiting Michigan back in 1987. I will admit that I wrote the first draft while Reagan was still in office and I will also admit that the story was obviously meant to have a sequel. However, I have yet to write it. Maybe someday I will.)

Route 75 from Midland to Detroit is almost a straight shot once you get off Highway 10. There being no exits or detour signs to look out for, this route is perhaps the closest thing to a straight road in this twisty, curvy country. You enter Route 75 just north of Saginaw and you can take it all the way into downtown Detroit if you wish. But you best not.

The whole thing started on one of those bright summer days we’re not supposed to have up here in Michigan. The four of us -- Paul, Lee, Billy and myself -- had risen before dawn that morning in order to pack and we were already suppressing yawns by the time we finally got on the road.

Billy, the driver, had an in with the local camp commander who agreed to let us go down to Detroit on a “fact-finding mission” provided we return before dark. As it was summer and the trip normally took about four hours in either direction, we saw no problems.

Nevertheless, the guard at the city gate could not resist the opportunity to reinforce this point.

“Please get back here before sundown,” he said, stroking his gun with a smile. “We don’t want to have to come looking for you.”

The trip went okay until we hit Flint, the last major city on the route before Detroit. The authorities there insisted on taking the car in for inspection and since we were dependent upon them for approval of our travel permits, we really could not put up much of a fuss. Billy said that because of his National Guard background, the inspection was little more than a formality that would take at most an half-hour; he recommended that we all grab a delayed breakfast while we were waiting. I was not so confident -- I had seen troops being driven up and down Route 75 all my life and yet I was still not used to seeing them carry out civilian activities. However, I was content to trust Billy’s judgment.

That, of course, was a mistake.

The authorities shunted us over to the corner of a large reception area designed primarily for refugees awaiting the latest bus consignment. It seemed terribly gauche to put four of us rich kids there with a crowd of people who may never again see their homes or families, but Billy just shrugged when I mentioned this and muttered something about the infallibility of authority.

Paul smiled. Of the four of us, he had brought the smallest meal, a legacy from his anorexic days which had taken place at a time when self-starvation was still an abnormality and not yet a way of life. He ended up sharing part of his meal -- rather involuntarily, I noticed -- with a couple of refugees who had drifted up to our table. One of them was a young black man who kept inquiring about relatives in Saginaw. The other was a white girl interested in our chances of reaching Detroit. She said she had a sister in Taylor from whom she had not heard since the war began and there were rumors that the way to the city had been blocked.

A radio was blaring somewhere during all this and no one seemed to mind that it was on an all-oldies station. That was all that was left nowadays -- even the Top 40 stations had turned oldie due to lack of new material -- yet it seemed funny to be sitting there, listening to Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” just months after we had proved that this country could take the worst the Russians could dish out and still survive. However, when I pointed this out, one of the refugees just muttered something about it’s not being over till it’s over, which sounded suspiciously like a song quote.

It was at this time that an acne-scarred lieutenant came up to our table and asked Billy to come with him. There was no problem, he said. Just a little confusion concerning our travel permits.

Billy just smiled his old boyish smile and stood up. “This place,” he said. “They can’t do a thing without me.”

The lieutenant escorted him off to the main building and the three of us sat there waiting for his return. A WAC came by and asked us if we wanted a little something extra to go with our meal but we just shook our heads. There was no sense in becoming obliged to people when it was unnecessary and besides, it seemed vaguely obscene to offer aid to strangers who obviously needed no aid when so many around us looked as if they had not had a full meal for weeks.

It’s the old banking theory in action, I thought. Look as if you do not really need money and you are sure to get a loan; look as if you do not really need a date and your social life will be nonstop. The same principle apparently applied to emergency aid.

What a pity.

I pictured myself as one of those poor souls queued up for the next bus consignment and then I shuddered. At least we still had our own vehicle. It was not much, but it did permit us independence of travel and that was fast becoming a luxury in the post-war United States.

Another WAC came by our table.

“Staying with us long?” she asked.

“Only ‘til our permits come through,” we answered.

“Oh, you’re thinking of traveling?” she asked. “In what direction?”

“South! Towards Detroit.”

“Oh.” Something in her face died.

“Very well,” she said and then she left, leaving a trio of puzzled stares behind her. At least we were not being solicited to register as citizens, I thought.

I was wrong.

A couple of hours later, Billy finally made it back to our table, grinning and unaccompanied. “They’re rerouting all southbound traffic through Ann Arbor,” he said. “However, they did offer to let us register as citizens if we wish.”

“Billy,” I said. “That’s not our intention. I thought we were going to Detroit.”

“In time. In time. They’re still checking out the car for radiation damage. They should be through in an half-hour.”

“You said that two hours ago.”

“Well, this time they sounded sincere,” he said.

I frowned. There was something just a little too glib about Billy’s expression -- as if there was something he was not telling us. Paul felt it, too. I could tell by the way his shoulders were hunched.

“Very well,” I said, deciding to give Billy the benefit of a doubt. “We’ll wait.”

They came for Lee after lunch.

“Just a slight formality,” they said. “It’s required of all female travelers.”

The fact that they apparently did not consider me female rankled a bit but I consoled myself with the thought that perhaps I would be next. An half-hour later, I was not so sure.

“What’s taking Lee so long?” I asked.

“Health inspection,” replied Billy.

“What?”

“All women have to get them. Can’t have the next generation being born with two heads.”

“You sound like a bigot.”

Billy shrugged. “Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t.”

When Lee did not show up an half-hour after that, I began to get worried.

“Perhaps you should go check on her, Billy,” I said.

“Why?” he answered.

“It’s nearly two. We need to leave soon.”

“We can’t leave. The paperwork is still being processed.”

“We have to leave,” I said. “We have to be back in Midland by sundown.”

“That’s okay. They offered us residency here.”

“Here?”

“Sure. Along with free citizenship. No registration fee required.” Billy smiled. “I persuaded them of that.”

“But what about our travel permits?” I asked.

“I told you. They’re not done yet.”

“Why not? They’ve had all morning to work on them.”

Billy gestured at the crowd around us. “Busy place.”

“Busy place...” I started to repeat sarcastically when I caught sight of Paul’s gesture. He was looking at Billy’s face and he was gesturing for me to look at it as well. When I did, I noticed for the first time that although Billy was sitting on the side of the table facing the sun, he was not blinking.

“I think Billy’s right,” Paul said. “I think Lee will be okay.”

“You really think s -- ” I started to say. Then I shifted. “Oh, yeah. Sure. She’s in good hands.”

“I told you,” said Billy. His face seemed oddly smug in the summer sunlight. It reminded me of the way my old tomcat had looked after it had caught a mouse. Or worse, the way it had looked after it had been fixed.

“Right,” I said.

The three of us sat there, waiting for about twenty minutes.

Then I excused myself to go to the ladies’ room and Paul excused himself to go to the men’s room. We met behind one of the portable buildings next to the camps’ temporary apartments.

“Paul,” I said. “I think we need to discuss Billy.”

“Not here,” he answered.

“What?”

“Not here.”

We found an unoccupied apartment. The sign on the door said it had been assigned to us.

“Kismet,” said Paul.

“What?” I asked.

“Never mind.”

As we entered the room, I turned on the radio. I turned it up just loud enough to drown out the sound of our voices to outsiders but not to ourselves.

Paul looked at me with a puzzled expression.

“What if the room’s bugged?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Just talk low.”

“Okay. What’s your conclusion?”

“Something happened to Billy. He’s not the same.”

“I know that. What about Lee?”

“I don’t know. I hesitate to think about it.”

“What about our travel permits?”

“I don’t think they’re going to give them to us. They’re planning on keeping us here.”

“Any reason why?”

“To separate us from the car, maybe. I saw no one being banned from the bus consignments. However, if we take that route…”

“Right...”

“There’s no telling where we’d end up.”

“And we’d be right where they want us,” I said.

“Which is where we are now,” Paul answered.

The two of us were silent for a long while.

“Any conclusions on your end?” Paul asked.

“Just two. One: we have to make a break for it before sundown.”

“And risk becoming outlaws?”

“If we don’t make it back to Midland by sundown, we’ll lose our citizenship there.”

“We have no guarantee that things won’t worsen there the same way they did here.”

“No, we don’t,” I said. “But it’s worth a chance.”

“Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t, huh?” Paul said.

My face reddened. “Not exactly. But at least conditions are still slightly better in Midland.”

“For now,” Paul said.

“Let’s not worry about that,” I said. “What about my second conclusion? Two: Something’s happened to Lee.”

“What?”

“I’m not sure but the way Billy talked... I’m not entirely confident she’s in good health.”

“Surely they would not hurt an innocent girl?” Paul asked.

“In the position we’re in right now, they could do anything,” I answered.

“Right.”

“What about your conclusions?” I asked.

“I have only two as well, “ Paul said.

“Let’s hear them.”

“Number one: I don’t think they’re going to let us go voluntarily.”

“Why not?”

“Too much at stake keeping us here.”

“For Chrissakes, we’re not the United Nations.”

“But we are potential contributors to the local community. But that is not the worst part.”

“Which is?”

“My second conclusion,” Paul said.

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” I said involuntarily, then silently cursed myself.

A black woman in a maid’s uniform came in. In her arms was an unconscious figure. She laid the figure on the room’s only bed. It was Lee.

“Lee,” I said after the maid had left.

“She’s unconscious,” said Paul.

“I can see that.”

I checked her pulse. It was still there. Her pupils did not seem to be dilated. They did not use drugs. So why was she unconscious?

“You shouldn’t display your nursing skills too much, Annie,” said Paul. “If they find out your true profession, we may never get out of here.”

“Shut up,” I said. “You just said we may have to break out.”

“True. If we plan to go south. The consignments will be going east, west and north.”

“I thought we already discussed that, Paul. You said yourself that we can’t trust the consignments.”

“Right,” he said. “Especially since the one for Midland doesn’t leave until tomorrow morning.”

I glanced up at Paul. “You mean you checked?”

“Only in a casual way. But I have worse news than that.”

“About Billy?”

“No.” Paul turned toward the window. His voice was so low I could barely hear it over the radio.

I asked him to repeat himself. He turned.

“My second conclusion, Annie,” he said. “The reason all travelers are being kept from going south along this road. The Russians bombed Detroit.”

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day


Here's hoping that all my readers out there who either have mothers or are mothers have had a happy Mother's Day. I would have posted sooner but I was visiting my own mother.

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Mother's Day Movie Quote of the Year

What do you mean “illiterate”? My father and mother were married right here in the City Hall.
--Penny Singleton, After the Thin Man (1936)

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Thousand-Yard Stare of Desire and Other Expressions



He was looking at her; she wished she could see his face. “You couldn’t have done this if you loved him, Natalie. You couldn’t have locked him up like an animal. It isn’t love you feel for him. It may be almost as strong, but it isn’t love. It’s something else. Something bad.”
--Robert Rodi, Fag Hag

Writing about movies you like is relatively easy. You think of your favorite parts, you try to describe in a way that does not give away all the fun for future viewers and then you try to describe all the emotions you felt throughout the movie.

For that matter, writing about movies you hate is easy. You think of your least favorite parts, you try to describe them in a way that would discourage would-be viewers without giving away too much to those who will probably go ahead and see it anyway and then you try to describe the emotions you felt throughout the movie.

What is hard to write about are the movies that produce mixed reactions. On one hand, you cannot really pretend you hated the flick. On the other hand, if you write too knowingly about the film, you might give away a part of yourself that you might not want to give away.

Take 1952’s Angel Face, for example. Like most movies in its genre, it is tempting to take the movie less than seriously and say, “Oh, yes, I would never act that way. Only idiots would act that way.”

But to take that route, one would have to believe that no one would ever act that way. That no one you know or care to know or used to know ever fell for someone who was all wrong for them, someone who was bad for them or someone who would eventually prove quite harmful to them. And I cannot do that.

I have known too many women who were beaten by spouses or boyfriends with whom they were once in love. Hell, I know too many people of both sexes who have gotten emotionally involved with people who brought them nothing but problems.

Moreover, while I am vain enough to pretend I would have made a different choice than ambulance drive Frank Jessup (played by Robert Mitchum) did in this movie, it is hard for me to take one look at Jean Simmons’s dark pupils and pretend there is not a part of me that would fall for her too.

Am I blind to the fact her character (Diane Tremayne) was a bit crazy? No.

But I am also not blind to the fact that men often like crazy. Blame on self-destructive tendencies, a mixture of the eros and thanatos instincts or even lives of quiet desperation, but people in the real world don’t always make the sanest choices -- especially if they believe there are no ideal choices to be made.

Thus, while part of me identifies with the character who did his damnedest to stay away from Ms. Tremayne and found himself a relatively sane girlfriend, part of me also identifies with Jessup, who, of course, made the opposite choice.

Then there was the whole murder question. Jessup suspected early on that Tremayne had it in for her stepmother and that she had even made an unsuccessful attempt on said step-mom’s life. Yet he was still drawn to her. He often insisted throughout the movie that he was still attracted to his old girlfriend Mary, who worked at a nearby hospital. But when it came to the temptation offered by a young and beautiful rich girl like Ms. Tremayne, Jessup did not put up much of a fight. Nor did he once consider alerting the local police about his suspicions -- even when they were proved right.

I will be the first to admit that I have never been attracted to a murderer. But I have known people who have been involved with either murderers or would-be murderers. Indeed, for a time, I even envied a cousin who had done jail time for murder -- not because I wanted to be a criminal -- I did not -- but because at the time, he seemed to be more successful at attracting women than I was. In the end, the cousin proved to be a person who was not worth envying, and I like to think that my life is a lot happier today because I did not even try to follow in his footsteps. Like the ghost in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, I have tried to leave all my girlfriends happier than I found them and while I am not conceited enough to pretend I was always successful, I am prideful enough to admit that I at least tried.

And yet there was something about the thousand-yard stare of desire Ms. Tremayne displayed in one scene when she played the piano while thinking of Jessup that lured me like some nocturnal winged insect to a lit candle. Or a clear-eared sailor to a Siren’s shoreline.

Yes, it would be nice if men like Jessup went only for the nice women. The women who had nothing wrong with them. The ladies who were not crazy. But people are not always attracted to that which is good for them.

I will admit though that I was attracted to Mary as much as I was attracted to Diane and I envied the guy who ended up with her far more than I envied Jessup. But then, given what happened to Jessup as a result of his choice, that would be a no-brainer.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Trailer of the Week: The Godfather (1972)

It's Mother's Day Weekend. What better time can you think of to go out and see a "family" movie?

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Hey, I Remember This Show: Veronica Mars

Hey, it's Mother's Day weekend, my mother liked this show and like Veronica Mars star Kristen Bell, she's Polish-American. That's probably not the most convincing rationale for posting this but it works for me.

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Bordering on Romance--or Just Crossing Over?


Here’s a thought next time you are tempted to go on a rant about those damn Hollywood liberals: How likely is it that today’s Hollywood liberals would green-light a motion picture in which an entire police department comes to the aid of an illegal alien? Not likely, you say?

True, there has been more than a few movies produced during the last three decades in which individual various members of the law enforcement community -- especially members of the Border Patrol -- went to bat for undocumented individuals -- but most of these were generally characterized as mavericks suffering from a crisis of conscience. Even in the 2009 movie Crossing Over, it was generally understood that the immigration agent who bucked procedure on behalf on such an individual was not likely to expect a whole lot of support from his fellow agents. Indeed, the one agent in that movie who was most successful at “aiding” such an individual was doing so for obviously selfish reasons: the individual in question was a cute young Australian woman and by “helping” her, the agent in question managed to “rent” himself a mistress. (If that sounds like a disgusting plot development to you, rest assured that the screenwriter agreed with you and was not shy about having his characters point that out.)

So imagine my surprise when toward the end of 1935’s Romance in Manhattan, a movie made at a time when sympathy toward undocumented immigrants was hardly greater than it is today, a key plot twist involved an illegal alien getting aid from the local police department. Not just one conscience-stricken maverick helped out; the whole force did. And though it could be argued that their efforts went to a worthy end -- aiding a well-meaning immigrant in his quest to do the right thing and gain U.S. citizenship -- it still seemed like such an unlikely development as to seem like something out of a fairy tale.

Nevertheless, Romance in Manhattan seems more watchable than most entries in the “Lo! The Poor Illegal Immigrant!” school of filmmaking because it does not seem to be concerned with establishing political talking points as much as it is telling a story. In this case, the story involved a pretty young princess named Sylvia Dennis (played by Ginger Rogers) “masquerading” as a chorus girl who one day stumbled upon Czech immigrant Karel Novak (played by Francis Lederer), a hungry beggar who proved to be a handsome prince from across the sea. Okay, in actuality, he was more a pauper than a prince and Dennis really was a chorus girl but he was still handsome and kind-hearted and she was friendly and beautiful and it was no surprise to the movie audience that Novak and Dennis soon became romantically involved.

But, alas, there were obstacles to this couple’s happiness. Novak dared not express serious interest in Dennis because he feared she would be unwilling to marry a non-citizen. But when the landlady discovered that he had been staying at her apartment -- with her kid brother, Frank, around as chaperone, natch -- and local authorities threatened to take custody of Frank away from Sylvia unless she got married, Novak‘s hand was forced. Novak approached a local lawyer in hopes of gaining American citizenship so that he could marry Dennis only to find himself betrayed by the lawyer and slated for deportation. Could anyone prevent such a revolting development?

It could be argued that Novak was a lot more idealistic about America than most real-life immigrants and indeed, some of the funniest scenes in the movie involve the contrast between his immigrant idealism and Dennis’s native-born cynicism. For a change, it was the European newcomer who played the idealist and the American citizen who played the snarky cynic. But in this film, such a turnabout worked because both characters were portrayed as essentially decent types who wanted to do the right thing and who only ended up in trouble due to circumstances beyond their control.


Of course, it is hard to imagine this same scenario working nowadays. Too many American movies and TV shows depicting the darker side of American life are shown to foreign audiences for today’s immigrants to be as believably naïve as Novak. And indeed, one of the few virtues of 2009‘s Crossing Over is its willingness to realistically depict illegal aliens as both victims and victimizers.

One Jewish illegal, for example, attempted to scam the immigration authorities by posing as a Rabbinical student while, ironically, his Australian girlfriend became a victim of the unscrupulous immigration agent mentioned above. Moreover, another subplot involved a family of Iranian immigrants and their children which may or may not have been involved in an honor killing. Unfortunately, these three storylines are forced to interact with other storylines: one involving the adoption of an African refugee by the wife of the unscrupulous immigration agent, another involving the involuntary deportation of an assertive Bangali teenager who made the mistake of defending the 9/11 hijackers to the wrong audience, one involving a Korean-American cholo wanna-be who engaged in one last crime the day before his naturalization ceremony and one involving a dead Hispanic woman. Not all these subplots worked and while I admired the ambition of the filmmaker’s attempt to deal with subjects most Hollywood filmmakers would not touch with a ten-foot green card, I could not help but feel that the individual stories deserved better.

The young Australian immigrant’s story seemed especially underdeveloped. While Ray Liotta managed to be very convincing as the agent who exploited her, there was something about the way the camera focused on almost every square inch of the Aussie that could be legally uncovered in a mainstream Hollywood movie that made it seem as if the filmmaker was sending a mixed message: one that read not so much “oh, look how awful it is for such a nice young woman to be at the mercy of such a scoundrel” as “oh, look how awful such a nice young woman has it -- and how cute she looks without her clothes on.” Let us hope that that message was unintentional. And be glad that such scenes were not possible in 1935.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Movie Song of the Week: “He Shouldn't-A, Oughtn't-A Swang on Me!”

In honor of the late Dorothy Provine, it's a Johnny Mercer tune from 1965's The Great Race which Toby Keith probably would have given his right arm to have written.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Oh, stop being so... so Spanish!
--Helen Westcott, Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

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TV Quote of the Week

I’m sorry, ma’am, illegals only.
--Italia Ricci, House M.D., “House Divided”

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!


Ms. Dolores del Río has been requesting that I stop fooling around with dolls and write some more film reviews.


She has also requested that I wish you all a Happy Cinco de Mayo. And, of course, I have never been one to say "no" to a lady.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

R.I.P. Lynn Redgrave

Actress Lynn Redgrave, best known for her role in the movie Georgy Girl, took her last bow late Sunday night at age 67.

She will be missed.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Pop Song of the Week: “Send Me an Angel”

I'm guessing the angel to which the song refers to is not a Weeping Angel. Nor is it likely that it looks like Tilda Swinton. At least I hope it doesn't.

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Song Quote of the Week

Jacob wrestled the angel
And the angel was overcome.
--Bono, “Bullet the Blue Sky”

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Cuento de Mi Id

“The Dark Angels”

He was an old man, far too old to be a hero. He wore bifocals and a hearing aid to supplement his failing senses; he used a cane to get around and wore a long coat on the sunniest of days. His diet consisted mainly of old cigars and assorted medicines, and a well-worn fedora hid his vanishing gray hair from the noonday sun. All in all, he was a pathetic specimen of aged manhood, shrunk to almost half his natural size and more wrinkled than a bagful of raisins. But, in the end, all that mattered not.

The day he eventually saved began like any normal day. Distressed by his daughter-in-law’s fruitless efforts to quiet his restless grandchildren, Juan Rodriguez had embarked on his daily pilgrimage to the local drugstore, in search of peace and quiet and, hopefully, a few fresh cigars. The trip there was uneventful -- the neighborhood kids did not stop and jeer at his awkward gait and the store clerks proved quite nice by gringo standards. It was on the way back that the trouble began.

He had just stopped to light a fresh cigar when he happened to look over his left shoulder and notice two dark figures following him. They were not dark in the same sense that Negroes were dark, but there was an aura about them made them appear to be dark. Juan had never experienced it before, and was at a loss to explain this phenomenon until he noticed that both figures cast no shadows Now he was really frightened.

Instinctively, he headed for home. The dark figures followed. When Juan noticed this, he began to panic. Suppose they followed him into the house?

As it turned out, he had more to worry about than just that. As he approached his house, he noticed a crowd gathered in the street in front of it. An ambulance was parked nearby, and judging from the excited murmur of the crowd, it was apparent that a serious accident had taken place.

Madre de Dios, he thought, I hope one of the kids is not hurt.

As he pushed his way through the crowd, he learned that the accident in question did indeed involve a child. She had been playing in the street when she was hit by a careless driver. When Juan got close enough to see the body, it was all too familiar.

Oh no, he cried. Not Josefina. She had been his favorite.

“The child needn’t die,” said a voice behind him.

Juan turned to see one of the dark figures smiling at him. Even up close, his face still looked shadowed, and no one else in the crowd seemed to notice him.

“What do you want?” asked Juan.

“Simply a sacrifice,” said the dark man.

“Why?”

“Really, Señor Rodriguez. Now is not the time to question why. After all, your granddaughter’s life is the most important thing here.”

Juan did not question how the dark man knew his name, and how he spoke such fluent Spanish. He simply nodded and said, “Then take your sacrifice.”

“Muchas gracias,” said the dark man. “Your sacrifice will be appreciated.”

There was a pain in his chest, and then the old man collapsed. As darkness descended, he heard someone in the crowd exclaim that the little girl who had been given up for dead had had a miraculous recovery.

It occurred to him as he sank into darkness that in a strange way he was a hero. Only one question bothered him. If the dark men represented what he thought they represented, why were there two?

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