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February 1999
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April 1999

Elia Kazan

You may recall I briefly mentioned the whole Elia Kazan dustup last week. As I have done so often in my life, I turned to my mother, Mari Schindler, for her take on the situation. She wrote:

Okay, let's look at it from some other cases in point -- Vanessa Redgrave, should I refuse on principle to go to any of her movies because she is anti- Israel, a full fledged active supporter of the PLO? Should I ask for Clinton's resignation because he is may be an amoral adulterer, a liar, and possibly ( although I truly doubt it ) a rapist?

What is the difference between what Nixon did and what Clinton did - one screwed the nation all at once, and the other is doing it one at a time !!!

No, seriously, the difference is that Nixon committed acts involving his power as president. There has been no hint that Clinton's sexual antics depended on the power of his office. Okay, maybe the old power is an aphrodisiac bit - but in fact, he did not use his position as president to commit crimes, only sins!

What Kazan did, he did to his own people, his own profession, his own friends -- he did it to save his own skin and not for any philosophical reasons as far as I can see.

And at the same time, remember that he isn't the one who chickened out, caved in and blacklisted people. That was left to the cowards who ran the studios -- none of them stood up to the HUAC and hired anyone who wasn't convicted of a crime and belonging to the communist party was not a crime when they belonged.

So, what happened to these producers, studio heads, and directors who refused to hire these people -- why, they went on to prosper, giving Kazan all the money he needed to have a brilliant career!

Gay Rights and My Daughter


My older daughter, Marlow, is a high school senior. For the last two years she's been involved with the Gay Straight Alliance at her school. The organization was not well received at first, but the administration has settled down. Now the only problem is the students.

Marlow was active in forming the group and has been active in its efforts to reduce anti-gay prejudice at her school. Last week she asked me to drop her at the corner of Telegraph and Bancroft in Berkeley at 6 in the morning. At first, I found this an odd request, until she explained to me that she and a dozen of her fellow GSA members were taking a bus to Sacramento to lobby on behalf of a two-word change in the state educational code, making it illegal to discriminate against students based on their "sexual orientation."

The Republic state senator for our district listened politely and then told the student lobbyists he could never vote for the change they wanted. Same with the GOP assemblywoman from the district next to ours. Naturally, when they lobbied Democrats, they did much better. (In case you didn't know it, the No. 2 person in the California State Assembly, Sheila Kuhl is a) the actress who played Zelda on the Dobie Gillis TV show and b) a lesbian.) No word on whether the change will be passed this year. Not a special privilege--just the same treatment as every other high school student.

[2021 ed. note: It was passed: AB537]

I am proud of Marlow for selecting this issue, on her own, as one in which she wishes to place her time and effort. She is also the web master for the Green Party of Contra Costa County. Atta girl!

Y2K: IBM Was Ready Years Ago

An old family friend worked for IBM for more than 20 years as a trainer. Since she didn't send me this message directly, I won't use her name. But here's what she said when my mother asked her about Y2K:

So far I haven't worried a lot about Y2k because ever since I started IBM they have talked about it in every programming class. Many of the insurance companies are already experiencing it when they sign someone up because it goes into 2000. Some of the insurance agents here have run into some problems but they corrected themselves in a couple months. I do worry about the other countries outside of ours because they are so far behind. We haven't really done a lot to prepare for it. Maybe we should.

Web Site of the Week: Gold Rush

Gold Rush 

[Ceased to exist in 2002]

Let's do another search engine. I got an email this week that described the "slowest search engine on the web." I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds fascinating. You try it and let me know if it gives you higher quality hits.

Gold Rush! is an artificial intelligence based meta search engine. Once it receives the top 100 hits from up to five engines, it actually visits the web pages on a real-time basis, scanning every word using its natural language processing engine. Gold Rush! then returns your results, ranked in relevance by both content and context -- i.e., how your search parameter is actually used in the web page. And since it's scanning pages on a real-time basis, you pick up much more information than is typically available from index-based search engines.

Monkeys and Copy Desks

First, some journalism humor:

Q: How many copy editors does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: I don't know whether you mean "change, as in replace" or "have sex in" a lightbulb. Can't we reword that to avoid ambiguity?

Second, a joke which I like, but which a few people I have told it to tell me isn't funny:

A police officer came upon a terrible wreck where the driver and passenger had been killed. As he looked upon the wreckage a little monkey came out of the brush and hopped around the crashed car.

The officer looked down at the monkey and said, "I wish you could talk."

The monkey looked up at the officer and shook his head up and down.

"You can understand what I'm saying?" asked the officer.

Again, the monkey shook his head up and down.

"Well, did you see this?"

"Yes," motioned the monkey.

"What happened?"

The monkey pretended to have a can in his hand and turned it up by his mouth.

"They were drinking?" asked the officer.

"Yes," nodded the Monkey.

"What else?" asked the officer.

The monkey pinched his fingers together and held them to his mouth, sucking inward quickly.

"They were smoking marijuana too?" said the officer.

"Yes," nodded the Monkey.

"What else?" queried the officer.

The monkey made a sexual sign with his fingers.

"So they were playing around too!?" asked the astounded officer.

"Yes," nodded the monkey.

"Now wait, you're saying your owners were drinking, smoking and playing>around before they wrecked the car?"

"Yes," the Monkey nodded.

"What were you doing during all this?" asked the Officer.

"Driving," motioned the monkey.

Fun With Amazon.Com allows readers to post their own reviews of books. There must be someone in charge of weeding out inappropriate ones. There must be someone else in charge of posting them.

You may not be aware of a huge subculture in America that believes Bil Keane is the anti-Christ and that the Family Circus is America's most disgusting daily comic strip. Maybe I'll go into it in more detail some other time. For now, some of the funniest writing on the web gets posted as "reviews" of Daddy's Hat's On Backwards, an out-of-print collection of Keane's work. As of tonight, there's a long post about Keane working to bring down the Freemason movement. Who knows what will be there when you go and look.

True Crimes


Clint Eastwood won't need to use any of his Oscar polish next year, if this is his only film. An entertaining diversion that he wrote and directed, True Crimes won't go down in cinematic history as much of anything. Clint plays a reformed alcoholic newspaperman who is sleeping with the city editor's wife. In a single day, he ruins his marriage, loses his job, and saves a man from the death penalty--20 seconds after the last minute. Believe me, you have to see it to believe it.

I'm not suggesting you don't go. I am suggesting you go only if you are a big Clint Eastwood fan, or, like me, an aficionado of journalism movies. I have a very strict definition of journalism movies, but to summarize it: it must be mostly about the journalist and the practice of journalism. Thus, for example, Clark Gable in It Happened One Night doesn't qualify, in my book, because his being a journalist is essentially incidental to the plot. True Crimes qualifies; as soon as it is out on tape, I'll add it to my collection.

If you like James Woods at all, he does a priceless turn as the editor-in-chief. There has never been, and never will be, and editor like Woods in real life. He leaves no scenery unchewed in his few brief scenes. But once again, he has proven himself adept at playing a lunatic.

The movie is set at the Oakland Tribune, which is kind of a joke since that paper basically ceased to exist after it was sold to a low-rent chain.

Not a bad film to see if you're not attracted to anything else that's on.

Forces of Nature


If there is any justice in this world, screenwriters all over Hollywood are preparing lightweight comedy vehicles for Sandra Bullock at this very moment. After some unfortunate stabs at drama, she seems to have accepted her strengths and weakness and turned in a top-notch performance in Forces of Nature. Ben Affleck shows a surprising aptitude for the role of straight man. In fact, if there is any cleverness or creativity in Hollywood, there could be a whole series of movies featuring these two, as different characters each time, ala Rock Hudson and Doris Day.

A bit long at 130 minutes, but it didn't feel like it was dragging. It would have better at 120 minutes, better still at 110. The trailer, for a change, is not deceptive. It is exactly the movie you think it is going to be if you've seen the trailer. Just the right mix of humor, pathos and romance.

There are some terrific director-show-off touches in this film, including the slow-motion rainstorms and the very private conversation between Affleck and his fiance' during a hurricane in Savannah.

I'll not give the ending away, but if you write me and tell me you saw it coming, I will be shocked. It was, in my opinion, very un-Hollywood.

All four of us went to see it, and everyone liked it (although Marlow, 18, didn't like it much).

Bulworth: An Alternative View


Ross Snyder didn't care for Bulworth, a movie much praised by critics and nominated for best screenplay:

Just returned a DVD of "Bullworth" to Netpix (excellent source of DVD rentals, by the way). Couldn't finish it. To me it was revolting, disgusting, nauseating and the plot was puerile. Have we come to a time when we relish entertainments in which every other word is f... or m....f.., or (believe it!) worse? Are we to enjoy picturing black society as consisting entirely of armed, murderous, foul-mouthed thugs? Beatty is said to have virtually extorted the studio into letting him make the thing. I think they should have paid off to forestall it.