Laughter in Church
Movies are echoes of light that form a mirage, where light too is shadow, impressively reviving in these screwball comedies, The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels, tinged with Film Noir, the gothic lattices, the car rides, the femme fatales. Lit by slapstick antics, accented with subliminals, they announce a permanent facade of pre-war nostalgia. Preston Sturges, admirer of Howard Hughes, presents a happy-go-lucky digest of latter day America First from a prominent subculture of glitz, white power and influence riding high, despite their indiscretions. What they have to say is a campy parochial device and something of a cultural smear, full of aviation, big boating adventure, and reminders of Charles Lindbergh’s stand casually defending pre-war Germany. This isn’t just Hollywood burlesque. It is a bruising and dark vision of reality shadowing man’s quest for truth and replacing learning with the laughter of the entertainments. In its hilarity is the message of schaedenfreude, steamy with Veronica Lake’s beautiful kicking legs.
Sturges got clearance for some Disney promotion in Sullivan’s Travels and mention is made in passing of Cecil B. DeMille’s yacht, seemingly suitable to Sullivan’s film company as a setting for muse about the humanity of the ruined in hard times. At the train yard, full of vagabonds seeking to stow away, the sign booms: LIMIT.
The tales of two citizens and the arrival of love and rescue follow different trajectories on parallel Christian lines of mirth. The Lady Eve has a sly, parochial message: in a world of snakes, you can never be too careful and the winning hand is faith in one love no matter the misunderstandings or the disguises. You don’t want your name broadcast from the lap of a fluezy. For Sullivan’s Travels the Christianity is a little more vain. Women only marry for money. The winking of the portrait above the mantle gels with the Japanese moments of Veronica Lake as subtle jabs at the proclivity of the detecting eye. Yet in the end it is by confession that ironically he is saved, and finds his release from earthly bondage by a whoop it up in a distinguished Negro church with fellow prisoners.
One could argue that these two wartime films of Preston Sturges were presentations of an idiom to which America grew accustomed in seeking to outwit Depression Era disaster with merriment in theaters of cornpone, but there seems to be inflected, in these films from 1941 and 1942, an evasion of the war’s premises. While it is true that America went to baseball fields with the scrounge of their nickels and dimes, worshipped celebrity and found their faith in novels like Grapes of Wrath it took work to subvert our belief that the fighting man was rescuing us from the superficial talismans used to launch mass murder.
Mildred Pierce/Double Indemnity
Mildred Pierce, played by Joan Crawford, as a housewife is a woman of stature. The language of the script refers to her separation from Bert as a woman’s mistake. Bert’s partner is a business shark named Wally. The film’s cast of relationship is surprisingly mature compared with the current climate of affairs in the United States. Wally’s persistent effrontery is amiably rebuffed. The lover entanglements, and parade of financial triumphs and woes, the disappointments caused by mean children, are all taken in stride, despite the tears. It has moments of Film Noir kitsch as when the fop Wally, looking dismayed, climbs a spiral of steps decorated in Caligari shadows. His campy overtures to Mildred provide relief from the trapped man role played by Bert. There are semiotic moments of brilliance that are also shaded with intonations of a fulcrum in the plans of Hollywood for a world beyond 1945. It ends at the beginning and begins at the end.
The language speaks of having souls and autos on ice, perhaps meaning that the standard of living is a contract with a higher mystery, that God spins the wheels of Chevrolet. The resolution of the crime brings the darkest moment of the film. The edges of shadow at work are shifty, as though something that doesn’t quite belong in the film is at work folding its corners. The professional cast of a Freudian scold, like a cantankerous nun, forms in the folds, as though stalking the footage from the ancient name of the Vedas, for whom the nasty, little white precious and killer is named. Mildred is seen holding her stomach at the death of her younger daughter Kay, dying with the word, “mommy” on her lips, as though spoken from the womb.
Yet she is a success, a star of the working wonder woman, a Horatio Alger story of rising fame, Cinderella provider to Veda, the darling of civic light decadence, while mother emerges from her last daughter’s loss to prison before an image of Metropolis and two Russian charwomen on the floor. Mildred emerges as both working class hero and Ayn Rand, the prototype of the self-reliant fixture of maturity in a grim world.
Monte, the loverboy, isn’t at first Mephistopheles. He fits in too well, and can be nothing else but a whimsical dullard of smooches and parasitism, but there are moments, too, of dark poetry, as when he says he’d, “need a police siren,” to make the wolf whistle she evokes. Perhaps it is suspicious that her hands are free of her stomach at that moment, and the siren is not crying, “mommy” from her tummy. As the detective and script wades on they carry the suspicions of the audience, another thread sewn from the couch. Monte announces himself a tea leaves reader, intonating the future as a gypsy sybil. The checkerboard tights of an invisible imp can be imagined like a discrete cackle as Mildred’s face becomes virtually possessed on the phone of her tears, and Casanova twirls his mustache in the lead up to his demise; he watches from the dead, Veda cries, like the unsleeping eye of remorse and collector on broken contracts: God as the riddle of Hades. The darkest comment then of the film is when Veda is led to prison, assuring the mother she handsomely betrayed that she will cut it there. Is she meant to stand for our future as America?
The transformation of woman from stalwart into villainess as film culture progressed is seen in the comic edge of Double Indemnity as it paces like a cat around the safe of moral codes in America at the dark dawn of film noirs, but it’s haunting question is how could Keyes have missed the signs? Or did he? Perhaps the audience is gradually being asked to question American morality as disinteresting, as it looks back on a war with a strange taste of nostalgia for the conquering barbarians of the past. What is murder, after all, if not “mommy”?
Hollywood from the 1940’s is a canister of hidden messages where duplicity is elementary. In make-believe it is possible to have your cake and eat it thrice. Why not dress up as poor people, eat rice and have a go at understanding their woes, while tripping over your own shoelaces with merriment, splitting your sides with havoc’s fun? Serious matters are, after all, meant to be taken light!
Sullivan’s Travels takes the editorial page’s most poker-faced socialist screeds to the drawing board and acts them out as though on the funny page, to answer Upton Sinclair by pouting, “people would rather laugh at you!” It prescribes escapism as a Recovery Act, relief from the weary condition by leading an escape back into a slapstick version of the daily lives waiting outside the theater doors for the poor, pretending to share their cares and by this means save the day while building their empire of separate reality, not so secretly, a wonderful sale in the tug of war of dialectical materialism.
Although a much darker film and a historic contribution to America’s pride of place that eclipsed, in the books, Sullivan’s Travels, the film Casablanca, for all its fine romantic spirit and grit, also has a duplicity hidden in broad daylight as though giddy with the rapture of hidden drawers filled with notarized guarantees of contradictory alliances.
Rick’s Cafe is the scene of a showdown between the dark half of Rick’s withdrawal from the world into his casino of opulence and the practical awareness that the good life isn’t possible in a Nazi world. His decision to help Victor Laszlo escape comes over as the brutish better nature of America’s true heart even as he steps into the mist with Louis, the prefecture cop who virtually symbolizes Gen. Franco.
Rick’s casino doubles for a turnstile of fortune, a mad hatter’s palisade where the trapped just may go free, but is it a symbol of democracy? “These are but the wicked invention of a race of time-servers and money-lovers-children of Baal and worshippers of Mammon-Benthams, who, to spare thought and economize fantasy, first cruelly invented the kaleidoscope, and then establish joint-stock companies to twirl it by steam,” (Philosophy of Furniture, Edgar Allen Poe). Rick’s Cafe is the moral high ground of Hollywood itself.
The question both films engender: Are they friendly to the message they profess? Even when the answer comes back as yes, just as plausibly the answer no is perfectly visible, and hidden in the mirth of shadowplay.
Sullivan’s Travels isn’t schaedenfreude, the infamous gloating in malice that Germans perfected to an iconic idea in language expressing sadism and joy in the suffering and misfortune of others, but there is also no time in the film when a viewer is allowed, even for a moment, to feel any sort of genuine empathy for society’s rejected, barring, maybe, admiration for the gentile, distinguished young black men in suits who gather in the church at the end, hidden as extras and playing no significant role but to show that clean cut, stoic, admirable black gentlemen did occasionally appear in Hollywood films, despite its legendary adversity. Suffice it to say there is no special reason to assume they were there for such artistry. Slapstick in other words is not malicious gloating, but while providing an escape from the cares of the day, neither is it, rightly understood, inspirational. What overtones may exist of America First, a movement posed to keep us out of the war, are sufficiently disguised as to deter much pursuit, but there are a few, the boy scout with a helmet resembling a German one seems sufficiently boorish to mention, while letting the others pass. The silence about the war, from a film being made in 1941, speaks for itself. As a result the overarching theme of sympathy for the afflicted becomes a platform not for social causes, but for a caper. The primary thrust of this film is using talk of the day as a springboard from which to find entertainment value, and in this way manages to construct a slick, consistent wheel.
The wizards of Hollywood really did make a go of using their art for a time capsule that unfolds from the past with new meaning with each successive view. The laughter and enthrallment weave together with grounds for absolute revulsion, disgust over corruption, the status quo, the violence of the poor, and the dour purposes of the aristocracy. It is decidedly reaching to take their claims to meaning well at face value. The films could not very well have openly espoused fascist betrayal and been popular in America then in love with itself for the virtue of common law’s power as expressed in moral victory. Yet these films are both about the war and not about the war. At most in Rick’s Cafe and the surrounding streets there is small arms fire.
Casablanca harbors a man whose disappointment with life has made him a shell of his former self and laid him bare to a cynical wasteland so bereft that his moral code would allow him to let the Nazis pass, not out of spite, and certainly not out of fear, but out of resignation, sick at heart with the world, which no longer matters, helping the next couple seeking to pass the checkpoints anonymously on a whim as part of a day’s work. This allows Humphrey Bogart to deliver his time-honored conveyance that the brutish dignity of American valor would win out, which was the curtain call on public perceptions about the film and how it won a place in our heart, but just as easily, in context, that could be another magic deception from the wizards taking a walk on the wild side with America’s sense of honor.
Knowing what you want and how to get it, in Hollywood, doesn’t always come with a rulebook, especially when you are protected by the caveat, it’s only a movie. In this context the play of values, ethics and morality are paper thin, and even the sincerest message a potentially threadbare hoax by expert performers paid for the gesture of tears. Sincerity sells.
Instead of Marie Antoinette’s fatal comment, “Let them eat cake,” we have, “let them feast upon our sincerity.” The saccharine insincerity of Rick giving voice to our most virtuous sense of sincerity, a true desire to make the world safe, allowed Casablanca to be touchstone for wartime nostalgia even in the hearts of our most strident socialists, I would imagine and fear. It is nearly impossible to vie with the pulp of its saccharine tip of the hat to our patriotism.
There were no dogfaces on the silver screen of these movies, but the audience who saw them was full of woe for the wartime peril of the era and the conflicts of the heart that come with tragedy. They were fresh in mind in the year of the silver penny, but they didn’t sell martyrdom, high principles or none, one sold escape the other survival. In this way the studios who created entertainment for the masses made war heroes out of actors, and dressed up our imaginations for the future of plastic reality wearing the mask of, shall we say, accomodation? As the box office licked their chops.
Although the roles played by Henry Ford in 12 Angry Men and Gary Cooper in High Noon both found men standing alone seeking to persuade their community of fellows, the outcome in the two films were worlds apart in so far as the impact of their brave stands upon the community around them. Both films were made in America of the 1950’s, placing them in a significant age, a time of rebellious youth and a struggle against communism that often seems a fit of delirium. Fascist tendencies were being felt along with a summons to courage and high principles. These two films from Hollywood, a land where nothing is always just what it seems, appear to take heart in the leadership of the common man. Interpreting them as contributions to American thoughtfulness and character allows us a momentary pause between the era of Hitler and catastrophe of the Vietnam War, to reflect on what our potential was and perhaps remains to be seen.
In a sense the stories of both films 12 Angry Men and High Noon can be told as one when you see them as a call to character. In 12 Angry Men a thoughtful, urbane architect, reminiscent of Ayn Rand’s character Howard Roark, (who Gary Cooper played in the film, The Fountainhead), played by Henry Fonda is a stoic and thoughtful rationalist seeking the answer to the question why, if there are holes in the prosecution’s case, are the jury so eager to find a verdict of Guilty. He faces 11 angry men alone. Cooper’s Sheriff in High Noon faces a gang of killers alone with just enough time to nearly collapse trying to convince a town he once saved from them to stand with him, and fails. The theme of persuading a consternated community of peers is about legitimate democratic processes, and the brave men, in that era of male dominance, are asked to take a stand in the words of Herbert Agar, one-time editor of The Southern Review, for “high principles or none.” It is to be noted that from the margins of power in Hollywood a fetid fury smouldered, particularly at High Noon.
In an effort to grasp the edge of madness unleashed upon High Noon by John Wayne, it is possible to observe Wayne’s place in the surrounding era of cinema, as henchman of profits when it came to the governing lunatics. Wayne got his start slogging it through quicksands and bad blood in the service promoting the Marines against the forces arrayed by Adolf Hitler, and later was the lead salesman in Hollywood for the sickness and insanity of General Westmoreland. Liebensraum, the program of Hitler’s quest for more and more land spread to the forests of Southeast Asia this time with American helicopters backing the former Vichy French who were allies of the Japanese there, restored by the doctrines of Harry Truman under the sway of Southern politicians on the make for the glories of war as hell.
The eye of suspicion fell on all cheap talk of peace and sneered with derision at the peep show of idealistic man in a showdown with the scarfaces of reality’s true nature. Ayn Rand describes in her novel the thought of “being left, unarmed, in a sealed cell with a drooling beast of prey or a maniac who’s had some disease that’s eaten his brain out. You’d have nothing then but your voice - your voice and your thought. You’d scream to that creature why it should not touch you, you’d have the most eloquent words, the unanswerable words, you’d become the vessel of absolute truth. And you’d see living eyes watching you and you’d know that the thing can’t hear you, that it can’t be reached, not reached, not in any way, yet it’s breathing and moving there before you with a purpose of its own.” This was the shadow that overlooked the fear that warped the era, and to which these films gave address, whatever else may have hidden in their closets.
To its credit 12 Angry Men showed men responding to the call of reason. It wasn’t that it was edifying in declaration of the bloodthirsty predisposition to convict a man whose guilt was not clear from the evidence, yet the style of their inclination, their pleasure in group majority, their angry and embarrassment at being questioned, did not win out. In High Noon the most eloquent appeal to side with high principles and courage was twisted in its closing to hang heads bowed in surrender to the melancholy of a hopeless, leaderless prayer for grace from criminals. Perhaps there were those identifying with Gary Cooper, a friend of Ernest Hemingway of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought fascism at its first spearhead in Spain, who saw in the hangdog flock of the town and image of the cur, the backbite turning in their neighbors to Nixon at the House Un-American Affairs Committee, or letting Gestapo peer into their closets where Anne Frank was hidden. In any event, the Sheriff in High Noon stood alone and persuasively, and no one was moved.
Standing alone in the 1950’s, of course, was a double-edge sword. On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando, used the theme to support, not denigrate, those who informed on their neighbors although they were “dubbed a Judas” (Horowitz). It is the tragedy of the Vietnam War that appeal to high principles were used to confuse, a costly reminder that thoughtful men need to hear each other out and that programs intended to create fear in the mind serve only the ends of killing the innocent.
Although some of the details in High Noon render cloudy the contention that it was free of devices serving the bullies in Hollywood in their quest for manipulation of the American public, one cannot fail to admire the use of an antique mise-en-scene, the cowboy town before the age of the automobile, for the playing out of American character from the creation of our rights in the shadow of the challenge from the Red Scare. One wants to believe in cinema verite, the use of film for the pursuit of truth, being displayed in a time when media clout was becoming a fixed role in the American home with the coming of the family television. It is to be noted that alongside the early years of color television came Westerns like Bonanza whose scripts consistently encouraged moralism, the joy of being in the right, patience under injustice and adversity, all while on the other end of the dial was The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Both High Noon and 12 Angry Men were free of the hate and obscenity that came to characterize films in America beginning in the 1960’s. There were but the barest allusions to glamorized rebels on wheels or the paranoid dreamscape where the carpet bombers in the delta and their hallucinations, “make LSD look like aspirin,” as Wayne’s bedfellow said in The Green Berets, but these were no less war savvy men speaking in pride, as Wayne should have known had his loyalties not lain elsewhere.
High Noon is a medieval Western about matrimony and the hidden honor code that is copulation conscriptive. The Marshall escaped this showdown through ordeal, and the idea of escape was so anathema to John Wayne that he termed its lesson un-American, even though when offered a chance to flee the hero rode back to face the music alone. The medievalry is not free of allusion to the war with Germany so recent to its making. Curiously, the high honor code conveyed is conscripted as a new Germanic union.
This thesis can be clarified effectively by a play on words: Marshall Law, martial law and marital law. One wishes they were joking. High Noon is no joke however, but the sword of Allah. The three musket men await their magnificent villain with vengeance from a secret about an unknown soldier who died at his hand; and now he has cheated the hangman. The plot line’s invisible foundation closes like a knot around the neck of the town’s Tin Star, seeking to escape the breath of the grave from the lips of his former lover who he shared at least with the vindictive rival arisen. Escape, that is, into the arms of a wife consecrated outside the church where the judge packed up and ran no sooner than the lawman laid down his badge.
What oath is this? The oath of the deserter? America will die first, clawed in the eyes by a champion team who fight like women.
I don’t see how the symbolism in the film can escape the concern of scholars. A shadow of a menorah occurs in the wall of the church when the strongest argument for common defense is twisted into a final capitulation and the screen soon shows train tracks leading into the beyond. It’s an ugly thing to portend no matter how you take it. The four musket men are framed by a wooden image resembling a chivalrous knight and his staff as they ride into town to fall as though God hath no dominion.
I see crocodile tears in the scorn of John Wayne. This film is his America, Germanic and embittered by defeat, while the trophy of the light, the Quaker bride, is intoned by the shadowplay as though little better than a November criminal. Never forget the two cigars in the pocket of the man who tried to saddle up the Marshall’s horse so he could himself stand tall in his boots, but who will save us from America’s disgraceful victory when the real villain is cheered by the virgin queen?
John Wayne might like 12 Angry Men better. Not only are the jury forced to confound their own biases, they are forced to accept where they might be wrong and that even if guilty the accused must not be allowed to suffer if they are uncertain about the sanctity of possible innocence. Yet though the guilty man may escape, the purification by law has retired the real devil: the willingness to cast your lot where there is doubt and must be none, but then, Wayne wasn’t much for self-review when it came to the good kind. What real man is?
Destruction of American cultural identity, a legacy that includes assassination of idealistic leaders to favor a past of genocide and mass deception, begins with negation of pride of place to people of diverse background committed to lawful conduct. A powerful force in America derides our faith in self-representation by ethics established through common law values. This mockery has been shown to include targeting of Asian media figures for a politics of exclusion and replacement with more typical mainstream imagery, almost as though Alden Ehrenreich has been asked to do a stand-in of Ichiro Suzuki so the folks in Topeka won’t be offended.
With prejudicial norms in the marketplace being used for commercial guidelines, the resistance described in these articles is walking into a trap. I understand that many of our lead university sociologists are Obama generation casino sharks who see the big time in Hollywood as the answer to our role model prayers. Hollywood however did not get rich by failure to think things through. They are prior meditated to conscript Asian-American representation into megastar cross-over Asian Cinema, blockbuster and cult, relegating Asian Americans to participants in the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon scene. Lucas Studios is heavily invested in China, marketing DVD’s of such things as the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Spike ole Lee is just about bound to use trophy Asian women for his next stud film about Jungle Fever, and hang the white boy who thinks that isn’t super-fly. Brother, a black gangster film, is the first Japanese films made entirely in the USA, from Beat Kitano in the Inaugural year of Obama. All of this speaks to conscription.
While Joy Luck Club was a very pretty, urbane motion picture with a lot to say about society life this side of decadence in a glamorous age for the young and rich, the Metropolitan bachelorette scene, for all its gentility, and gentleness, smiling with lovely tears, does not address the unsophisticated primary value of Asian American lives far from view by the jet set. This isn’t even about class struggle so much as cultural validity. Perseverance, unsung heroism, tragic martyrdom and beautiful contributions are found in alleyway bars, kitchens, broken homes, border patrol hate crimes, and the tears of washing away graffiti. The rising in Hollywood doesn’t need to get ahead, they need to get a life. Show business is phony baloney.
Grappling with agenda is like crossing a British street, you are liable to look the wrong way and get hit from years of doing things differently according to you own norm. Cultural misappropriation may exist, but not to the unpleasant degree that nursing, spoiled millennial babies construe. I recall describing how I hid like Anne Frank on the top shelf of a towel closet after being kidnapped and tortured by a gang hired by Jewish Holocaust Survivors to inflict special education and a Black Junior ROTC cadet shouted, “Don’t say like Anne Frank!”
The movers and shakers of these issues speak with two-tongues. Dating a Japanese girl in a peace shirt are fighting words infringing on John Lennon, and yet they put a Cross in a jar of piss. The girl who put on the Vietnamese dress would have been loved, offered blue, orange, carefully fit if she shopped in a Little Saigon store, and best of all she looked absolutely beautiful.
I remember sitting on the step of the Chinese-American Soldiers cenotaph in Hing Hay Pagoda, where the poor old black men snooze everyday and a hardcore from the desert wars told me it was disrespectful. No, it isn’t, I retorted. I don’t fail to see their point of view. I can understand a Vietnamese man getting blistery mad at the sight of a Capitol Hill transvestite stumbling drunk down the curb in a Vietnamese dress, but only because the Capitol Hill scene abandoned Little Saigon after the peace movement stopped the war. The fashion statement isn’t really a code.
Cultural misappropriation may well exist. Karl Marx didn’t stand for Soviet gulags, Martin Luther King didn’t stand for news suppression, and Roberto Clemente was worlds apart from Rosa Clemente, but the issues have two sides, and neither is entitled to a bludgeon.
This article addresses the matrix of possibilities to be considered in racially affected earnings among Asian-origin women with quality job skills in job pools similar to those white women apply. Filipina and Asian Indian women were studied in part because of their good language skills. The search for indexes that can be used to perfect these research areas admit to a complex world.
It was found that women who spoke English clearly fared better in earnings, and that women with children were paid less, despite the fact that working women were sometimes the economic center of their household, surrounded by growing dependents. Experience did not count for much, as aging women could expect lower pay.
Migration geography and age were considered in part because hiring prospects changed from decade to decade, being encouraged for a while and then later discouraged. Also, attempts were made to understand how full-time worker retention affected pay scales compared to temporary labor.
I believe strongly that the engagement of the women in volunteer community activities should be regarded to ascertain whether these were favorably considered by employers or if, depending on the type of volunteer work, it might even be kept secret.
In his book, Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, Salvador Dali, the Spanish monarchist and painter, rendered a critique of film being an inferior art, “All these films perish and are condemned beforehand to the most anonymous oblivion after a few years, often after a few weeks.” The question that Taxi Driver and Network raises is: What if someone took such a sentiment remiss? Would the answer be to guide life by drama? To become a hidden hand? What concerns me about Network and Taxi Driver is the way their content seems to purposefully intersect not only with one another, but other films like Going Places while designating specific themes directing the initiated cineaste to examination of reality through their jaded lens. In a social syndicate as corrupt as Hollywood, is the organized crime that Network portrays so far out that they are above suspicion when real violence occurs from their studios? What if I’m not wrong?
Scorcese depicts Jodie Foster as a prisoner of criminals. The basic gist of the film is that some nut from the Marines goes ballistic at her pimps, spaghetti Western style. It captured the drug-addled zeitgeist of the 70’s as well as the pent up hostility of the Reagan voter with his lust for arms. The source of the weapons is also a source of drugs, more 70’s. The politician in the film wants secret powers as President necessary to wash the filth away. The grand finale intersects with Pittsburgh, the city of choice on the letters in the film, where George Romero’s daughter Kyra used to tell my sister about her role eating an arm off in Night of the Living Dead, “It was a hoagie covered with chocolate sauce.” Like the brown puddle on the bed in Bonnie and Clyde the aesthetic pleasures a brown ooze dripping off the off-colored moments of the knight in shining mohawk and blazing gun’s fingers on the couch of his good riddance to child exploitation, or so we are led to believe.
I’m not gonna take it anymore say protagonists in both Taxi Driver and Network. Both films talk of studio complicity in violence, Network overtly contracting for bank robbery films, Taxi Driver surreptitiously alluding to newspapers blowing things up, but the intersecting doesn’t stop there, there is a reference to a brutal gun blast in the vagina of Going Places, in which DeNiro’s co-star in the film 1900 is featured. Going Place is another film about getting it in the end, maybe even in Pittsburgh with “just one bullet.”
There seems to be a clever web of themes and recurring lines, more than the mere coincidence of the thumb and index finger gesture of the heavy studio financer in Network (a gesture Donald Trump apes) announcing that international money is the fiend of telluric currents on which all humanity must ride. I went to a Pittsburgh Public School, never lived above the poverty line, these films wouldn’t be much more than a moment’s respite from the mundane if they didn’t seem to harbor 50 secrets.
Taxi Driver is a moonlight ride taken by the audience at the wave of the hand of an actor who claims he doesn’t know what that means. The taxi is Hollywood itself, and the redemption from couch-casting isn’t a blaze of glory, just a signal to the powerless not to cut in on their turf.
Easy Rider: The Fonda family are a peculiar enigma who outlived the Kennedy brothers. Easy Rider goes all the way with nihilism. “Death was inevitably the outcome of the journey taken by the film’s protagonists.” (Horowitz, p. 209) Preceded by Brando’s The Wild One by over a decade, Easy Rider continues to answer the question of Brando’s waitress, “What are you rebelling against?” (Horowitz p. 340) with “What do you got?” It introduced a new, hallucinogenic flight from reality into gunfire as a mainstream spiritual idea. Freedom and illegal behavior became a form of social protest in an era where the law itself was used for questionable mandates such as the Draft Laws. In a sense it can be analyzed alongside Sullivan’s Travels for an engagement of the new realities in consummate entertainment.
Brown vs. Board of Education: James Garfield was assassinated in 1881 (p. 8 Horowitz). His Inaugural Address pleaded equality for Black Americans over ten years before Plessy vs. Ferguson, a decision that was renounced six decades later by the Brown decision in Topeka. This victory by lawyers inaugurated a circumstance of a separate reality, a different sort of segregation, professional and based on class, within Black America itself, as the NAACP rested on law in NYC and D.C. by contrast with the church movement who battled white power up close when the laws were in favor of voting rights but the bigots refused to comply, which Southerners “saw as a front for communist expansion.” (Horowitz 484). In this sense, the Brown decision rendered the NAACP aloof while changing the framework of the movement from civil disobedience to heroic resistance on the law’s side against uncivil disobedience by bigots. The challenge to legal scruples ignited sophistries about Black lawlessness that Brown rendered obsolete. Plessy’s dissenter, Judge John Harlan, a colloquial koot lionized as the “last of the tobacco-spittin’ judges” (Judicial Enigma) was vindicated.
Counter-Culture: If you believe the war in Vietnam was wrong and sided with the leadership of Martin Luther King in 1967, the word counter-culture would sound like Orwellian doublespeak, just as calling the Civil Rights Movement’s insistence on the laws being obeyed allowing them to vote by the term “civil disobedience” is semantically false. However, the removal of the Kennedy Brothers and King gave an unscrupulous opening to lewd drug traffickers laying in wait that made the Penthouse pin up opening of Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde something of a strangler’s poster girl for a social era that seems to gain expression in acts of the Manson Family making, “Hell No We Won’t Go,” an anthem of junkies rather than those concerned for protecting global welfare. Even the protest candidate Shirley Chisholm admitted in Unbought and Unbossed that money, not ethics, was the basis of her dissent. With lewdness and drugs the movement’s norm, rather than education, courage and meaning, abortion became the voodoo child for the backlash.
Tonkin Gulf Resolution: Although the source, Horowitz, is limited with regard to the irregularities he concedes in the Tonkin Gulf Incident, he does record that it was a springboard for lies and escalation of the war without reasonable cause. I have seen the evidence that US was not really fired upon, but the source says they were at least once. The territory was being patrolled and under jurisdictional dispute. Response to the caper allowed Lyndon Johnson to rear up as a wartime leader. Horowitz characterizes Johnson as “notorious for bullying subordinates and ignoring political criticism,” (p. 384) the horrific launch into a brutal and deadly quagmire was sadly matched by deceit and grandstanding and without anyone seeming to care it capitulated the human rights movement of Dr. King to a civics of Conscientious Objection to a war in defense of the Vichy French hold out in Indochina who were allies of the Japanese, restored over the plans of FDR by the misguided Truman Doctrine.
The Great Society: Understanding The Great Society largely requires understanding its predecessor, The New Frontier program of JFK, which Horowitz characterizes as having, “extolled the virtues of scientific management and cold reason,” citing the Space Program. The can-do idealism of the Kennedy Brothers encouraged hope at home in social justice and foreign affairs missions looking for alternative to conflict. The Great Society took credit for JFK’s Civil Rights legislation and gave to it LBJ who pushed it through in remembrance of Kennedy. Then LBJ used Civil Rights advancement as the carrot when wielding the stick of patriotism to coerce the NAACP into support for the war over Martin Luther King’s mutiny. Always a quid-pro-quo, it depended more on the ability to pay for its programs than the inspiration of its dream, and this ability to pay was siphoned dishonestly as the war escalated and Johnson passed the buck to Nixon.
Apocalypse Now: Quart and Auster state, “The Vietnam War created a fourth army: one of filmmakers.” If Orwell made us wary of dissembling, the unspoken asserts itself: an army of filmmakers created the Vietnam War. Isn’t such a doublecross glaringly in evidence in the intersectionalities of myth and reality found casting a pretentious, pseudo-solemn, spiteful, part-time social worker (Martin Sheen) as the Zarathustra who straightforth into Dante’s seventh circle? Quart and Auster are at their best when dissembling. They describe the unrecognizable letdown of “portentious babbling” by the Karloffian mummy at the heart of darkness, his insipid vestige anecdotal to the horrific tears of an ancient people’s decimation so that some grabby jocks from a war jungle animal house can take the bimbos on the main stage by force. This film is the graphic carousel club of Disney World at the charnelhouse of head rush, mescaline, and too bad about Agent Orange, the aspirin opiate of the enlisted masses, courtesy Bayer, Inc.
HUAC: Before the atomic age America was arguably a lot less fearful. FDR had cautioned in a state address, “the only thing to fear is fear itself,” yet when after the war the worst form of fear set in with the Red Scare, in all its flim flam, the paranoid edge was real. A tyrannical figure emerged on the wings of the age, Joe McCarthy, “he hurled innumerable charges of communism at upstanding citizens and created a climate of persecution that his critics compared to a witch hunt.” (Carroll/Horowitz, p. 291) As though stellar cosmonauts in a science fiction yarn of high seriousness, demanding account for UFO’s from mere earthlings, a panel was created that announced their agency as an inquest for Un-Americans. Ignoring American affairs like the Ku Klux Klan, vigilantes and slander, they went after the weak with the lower jaw of piranha. The Committee announced a grave threat in our midst, the communist terror, hiding everywhere, maybe even your own home, staring at your with hidden red eyes at the supper table. HUAC swooped down like superman to carry them off.
Gangs pose a serious challenge to personhood, yet given the shortcomings in American society it is often impossible to avoid forming alliances, some of which may include unsavory people. Indeed, the liberal ideal constructs performance value in engagement of civic situations that need greater involvement and understanding from talented people who already are pressed for time. The dynamics of Our Commonwealth can of course profit from education in which shortcuts through simple truths can reduce conflict. False assumptions may be being promoted that can be undone for example between ethnic factions. Improvement through the hard work of peer support and counselors has lasting benefits. Despite their dedication it was interesting to hear Christopher Oliver, I believe it was, describe recidivism as a behavior of state, balking at progressive reforms shown to work and backsliding to old forms of oppression. It was also interesting to hear the panel describe pre-trial culture in our society where compromises are forged as a form of domestic terror by Dr. Experience and the Misanthropes, providing the free service of hypocrisy while manipulating the floorboards where the cracks are available to fall through. However, while I am sure professionals can lose credibility in the eyes of the community, I wasn’t that impressed with the defensiveness from hard-working individuals about losing the connection to the people and the street. It’s odd to be faced with heckling and ingratitude by people you have sought to help by being defamed with an imaginary pedestal on which you never stood, whitewashed as a quote/unquote by code-switching manipulators, from the mask of United Fruit, Inc. and the chains of commands in the streets behind the street. No one has all the strength needed against the toxic landscape of tactical, hidden attrition that those who are determined to destroy Our Commonwealth seem implacably to draw upon, but when faced with the cynical disappointment and malice of those trapped in debilitating dependencies of age, grief and demoralized lives, the wise bend to the burden in pursuit of hope’s regeneration, which is the best that anyone can do.
Bonnie and Clyde
The question of whether Bonnie and Clyde is an art statement about the 60’s and the idea that this explains the license taken by the film-maker can only be answered to the extent that a person has the faculties necessary to take collegiate education seriously, because the material required to review the film has not been allowed into circulation. Thus, making an informed comment is precariously restricted. To overlook the significance of the fact that De De Allen, who also worked on Serpico worked on this film is to remove a signature presence that autographs the cinematography with the hidden scripts of semiotic command and control which makes clear the political congress at work in many films of this Hollywood generation. Yet just as the Watergate tapes contained a running litany of “expletive deleted” imposed by secretarial censor, so too does any review come up against the barring of tributary work necessary to establish cause.
In light of this, and doing without hope therefore, it is still possible to point out that Warren Beatty’s film came out the year before the murders of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, a year in which John Lennon eloped to Yoko Ono over the riddler regurgitation of caustic gaggings on The White Album. 1968 left our most reputable leaders lying in a pool of blood while John and Yoko laughed about it all the way home. The bullies of drug traffic slogged through the streets like a high speed hot car, with scripts and greenbacks, filled with sound and mayhem, the extravagant bloodlust of dialects and the grooves of deviant banjos, banging away at the dizzying remorselessness of topsy turvy hooliganism. It was as though the KKK suddenly wanted a piece of the action from the waterhoses on a hot day.
The key word to all of this arguably is rebel. The rebels were confederate and their lust for fighting, quick to their fists, was fast action. Jesse James, who is named in the film, was during his lifetime sometimes extolled as a revenger of the Confederacy. When you look at the mystery script about De De Mancine, correlating the shooting of Martin Luther King to her birthday, and noting the word games tied to Hollywood: man cinema, the fact that her sister Neva is the name of giant Japanese pornography corporation, and that they gassed me in a Manson ordeal of kidnapping and pedophilia involving stolen cars as a child in place called Kings Estate, you begin to understand the ruthless purpose in the semiotic imagery that occurs through the scripts of De De Mancine and De De Allen. However, papers of this sort have already gotten me arrested and kicked out of school because the material is absolutely forbidden to discuss.
Bonnie and Clyde take up with the sort you find in films like Clockwork Orange who were known in Britain thug heritage by such names as the Teddy Boys, and the whole curve of bad boy rock that arrived with Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley cancels out on the suit and tie dignity of Kennedy and King as leaders for the youth in what many have seemed to think was the all-time youth generation, as a consequence, even though the film contains a moment of silent cinema with the caption of the song, We’re In the Money the double entendre is ruled inadmissible, even when the hotwired rebellion has certifiably robbed us blind.
Huey Long: Senator Long of Louisiana was a man of the people who used the stump almost to self-caricature a demagogue. He took on the 1% long before it was in vogue, and was cheered by the poor for standing up to FDR over his government and tycoon management approach to economic healing from the Great Depression. Significant not only for being a colorful personality in real life, but he also became a fabled persona of cinema after Robert Penn Warren penned a novel All the King’s Men based on his life that was made into a film.starring Broderick Crawford, winner of 3 Academy Awards in 1949, a fact I simply know, having looked into Long. He is commended for his role in helping to inspire, “insight and intelligence about political and social themes.” (American Film, Quart, p. 35)
Hoovervilles: The era leading up to the Wall Street Crash was peculiar in the appearance simultaneously of jazz and the resurgent racism of the Ku Klux Klan. Herbert Hoover was identified with a traditionalist movement that included Henry Ford, an anti-semite. “Like Henry Ford, Hoover bridged the gap between big business and traditional values.” (On the Edge, Horowitz and Carroll, p. 146) His Administration worked closely with the doomed Weimar Republic, hoping to restructure war debt and avoid further friction from the fascist direction, but Black Tuesday and the days following destroyed that hope. The bread lines in America were long and bitter. People sleeping homeless in paper tent cities got tagged as occupants of “Hoovervilles” named for the unfortunate man in office when stock market speculation eviscerated the economy and left our society in ruins.
Neutrality Acts: It was never clear that pre-war and wartime efforts to maintain strict neutrality by the U.S. Government were not pushed by profiteers in the weapons racket. A great deal of love exists to this day for President Roosevelt because of his hatred for fascism. One of the members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Martha Gellhorn, wrote me a long letter towards the end of her life. She lived in his White House for a time. For her, neutrality was an impossibility. She joined up with the Abraham Lincoln Bridge and “captured the idealistic spirit of a struggle in which one-third of the Brigade died.” (On the Edge, Horowitz and Carroll, p. 202) Roosevelt settled on persuasion, trying to keep American combat troops out of the war while putting the moralism of his office on the side of the British in the struggle against Hitler, and by extending trade credits to China. His view was not complicated nor dissembling. He did his best to remain firm in a complicated political situation. A series of Neutrality Acts failed to hide deepening divisions that were rooted in the fascist tendencies of some powerful lobbies in the United States that remain a ghost to be reckoned with. When Japan went into Vietnam, later with allies from the Vichy French, Roosevelt embargoed critical materials which were decisive in Gen. Tojo’s murderous decision to surprise us at Pearl Harbor, putting an end to Neutrality.
Manhattan Project: Two particularly influential films emerged from the testing of the Atomic Bomb, or Manhattan Project; they were Dr. Strangelove and On the Beach. “Built around the notion that the world is on the verge of extinction by nuclear war,” the On the Beach, “ends on curious notion of hope.” (American Film, Quart, p. 67) Not so the novel by Nevil Shute. Informed by books like John Hersey’s interviews with survivors of Hiroshima, people were scared. Einstein, who reluctantly agreed to endorse the development of the atom bomb shared the admonition of J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the development team that the destructiveness was possibly out of control.
National Labor Relations Act: Early Labor Unions, despite the grave consequences for working class families caused by the Depression, and support by some conservatives, have been accepted only grudgingly in the United States. FDR “created the National Recovery Administration (NRA) to supervise the enforcement of self-regulating industrial codes” and to “introduce industry-wide planning,” in opposition to powerful corporations and trusts. When it collapsed, it “left labor unions with no collective bargaining rights.” (On the Edge pp. 168-169). The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 was created to remedy this weakening of unions.
Serviceman’s Readjustment Act: The SRA or GI Bill was supportive of war veterans and their re-entry to American society, granting them opportunities in job, education and housing. GI’s returned as heroes from WW2, but not without difficulties ahead. This fact was immortalized in “John Huston’s almost legendary World War II documentary about psychologically crippled veterans, Let There Be Light” (American Film, Quart, p.1).
Marcus Garvey: Marcus Garvey, an immigrant from Jamaica, was the first man to effectively create a nationwide organization for Black advancement, called UNIA or the United Negro Improvement Association. “He organized a Black Star Steamship Line to establish commercial links between the United States, West Indies and Africa,” (On the Edge, Horowitz and Carroll, p. 130) the western coast of which was in reach. Although derided for mismanagement and deported, his rival the White Star Line are best remembered for what Quart refers to as “the sinking of the supposedly unsinkable luxury ship,” (American Film, p. 192) the Titanic.
Best Years of Our Lives: is a touching Midwestern soap opera about white, Midwestern families, familial loyalty, estrangement caused by war, and the search to be re-united with the American community. It was a classic film and although Quart demotes it by saying “the film tended to take few intellectual risks and be somewhat sentimental,” (American Film, p. 20) I disagree. By showing the limited opportunities awaiting veterans as well as having a fight scene against an American voicing support for the Axis and accusing us of fighting on the wrong side, Goldwyn and Wyler set the stage for one of the most important struggles of our people, to defend FDR’s anti-fascist after he was gone and replaced by the Cold War machine. There was nothing pulp about this classic, they were the best years of our lives.
It’s a Wonderful Life: Frank Capra’s film also is a homecoming masterpiece. It contains a low-key moral conflict far more representative of the labor vs. trust era of the transition between Hoover and Roosevelt than the sort of ethical nightmare that erupted in Germany after the economic disaster of the 1930’s. The struggle within the protagonist which is described as a “nightmare sequence” (American Film, Quart, p. 24) nevertheless is about a hometown hero and a precipitous madman on the brink of destruction. The degree of tension is restricted by American honor. It deals with frustration towards American women that harks back to the Temperance Movement of the century’s dawn and raising questions about the emotional stability possible in contraception, as the protagonist seems to be running from his duties as a father. Gorgeously scripted, with a happy ending, it is a mirror of the times.
Women’s Film: The meaning of women’s film has complicated with changes in American society. Films from the era in which Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton were influential would have to include American cinema’s ruthless and misguided approach to such issues as AIDS. However, Quart states on p. 114 that Hollywood “had no journalistic function” when it came to women’s issues. For a while the issue seemed to be ignored or treated gingerly. Women however have always struggled to be politically active even when kept down, and strained for roles in Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe was popular and is characterized by Quart as “a male fantasy figure” (p. 57) illustrating the tendency in film to exploit women for their busts and powers of seduction, whether bimbos or femme fatales, there is a counter to what Horowitz refers to as a “purity crusade” from the dawn of feminism associated with Margaret Singer. Such debates carry over into the legitimacy of pornography or lack thereof that aggravates questions of legitimate degradation and unjust stigma in the era of AIDS that have never been properly addressed in politics or film
In Memory of Benjamin Linder
Crisis of Confidence: The election of James Earl Carter, Democratic Presidential Candidate, came after the Pardon of Richard Milhous Nixon by his Vice President Gerald Ford, after he resigned in disgrace from the Watergate fiasco. On page 105 Quart and Auster describe this as a time when, “For the first time in American history, public opinion polls reported that the American people were no longer optimistic about the nation’s future.” Although Carter’s moralism, which led Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy to compare him to the “Easter bunny,” and at times resembled MisterRogers, restored some feeling of dignity to the Presidency, the problems continued as Jimmy Carter’s Presidency came to be associated with naivete, loss of spirit, and weakness in office.
E.T.: To put it as cagey as is warranted, E.T. is an Arnie Sacnusum supposedly representing the term “Extra-Terrestrial.” Quart and Auster make the peculiar remark, “both E.T. and Ronald Reagan were eminently lovable.” (142) Released in 1982, in the build up to a strange new world shaken by AIDS, E.T. could arguably be more a retreat into infantilism of the sort that allows the way Reagan used state terror towards sexual liberties in hounding the victims of the sudden death situation to be regarded as the embodiment of innocence, even though throughout his long career of persecuting people who disagreed with him, his antennas were never visible; nor was E.T. known to ride shotgun on a Texas oil ranch. Maybe the idea he did would explain a little more about his indexicality to Elizabeth Taylor.
Star Wars: The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a concept from the Weinberger/Carlucci Defense Department team envisioning an adjunct of their trillion dollar defense waste a promise for a powerful “deterrent” against nuclear weapons from Russia, at a time when short-range weapons were being deployed in Germany over large civil protests. A conjob often seemed like Joe McCarthy’s boy from Berlin, Patrick Buchanan, swagged for it while, “director of communications,” (Horowitz 518). In my region, Carnegie Mellon vied with Stanford and MIT for the largest on-campus, semi-autonomous, DOD expenditure in American history, the Israeli-dominant Software Engineering Institute, which President Richard Cyert denied (to quiet the Pittsburgh public) was SDI related. When I asked him directly on the day it was unveiled, he smiled and admitted it was. After Chernobyl, Russia appears to have feared it was dealing with Darth Vader, and allowed Reagan to bray he had muscled them into dismantling the Trump Wall, I mean the Berlin Wall, excuse me.
CREEP: With a Vice President like Spiro Agnew, it’s small wonder the acronym for Committee to Re-Elect the President was greeted with glee by yippies and strewn in the fliers at Flagstaff Hill with bumperstickers like: Nixon Pull Out Like Your Father Should Have! Who could be scornful of the man who launched “the most intensive air attack in military history,” (Horowitz 447) on a Christmas Day? The men behind the President were a whodunit case of steal Kissinger’s chair (before Richard falls over it). Capable of being downright mean, loathsome as ashes tapped in a beer, Committee to Re-Elect the President turned Sam Ervin into a household name by wiretapping the Watergate Hotel hoping to get credible for Mr. Nixon.
Deer Hunter: DeNiro digs Pittsburgh, it turns up in Taxi Driver and Deer Hunter like a hidden plague. Deer Hunter was an existential tribute to the gall of Hollywood concerning the skin crawling nightmares P.O.W.’s were put through. “Despite its intellectual limitations and distortions,” (Quart 127) it has astonishing tales of escape, cages of rats, moral breakdown, comatonic suicide, and disgruntled soldiers being held in contempt by yinzer townies. It all comes down to just one bullet, that’s the nature of reality, gotta unnerstan, Go Steelers!
Reaganomics: I remember old Mr. Reagan mumbling something about the value of money these days as he tinkled a fistful of loose change onto the talking table before him, growling that this was all due to them liberals. It was too easy to laugh. At least he didn’t promise a Great Society while looting the budget for his war. He foreclosed on greatness and focused on mania. Reaganomics was based on a zero-sum game. He spoke of charity only for the truly needy, while from the equally dour left wing of the aisle we were told to imagine widows hocking their deceased husband’s medals and their wedding ring. As Death Squad activity mounted in El Salvador we learned of a Houdini gesture of Reaganomics selling Exocet missiles to a corner of the Tripartite in the Axis of Evil, fundamentalists like themselves, waiting for Jesus to come back in a room of a Jew, two cripples and a black with James Watts, so that Oliver North could imagine himself the new Thoreau of civil disobedience, bombing harbors on Walden Pond. Whatever else Reaganomics may have been, it surely goodness to mercy proved us, “the blessed land” of a “chosen people.” (Horowitz 478)
Moral Majority: The sound and fury that came out of the Religious Right in 1984 when I was a Medical Library Clerk at the University of Pittsburgh was so shocking and disabling to me psychologically that I am sure I will never entirely recover from the trauma. To hear them ranting against the sexual revolution, making fall guys of musicians, braying about morality and scruples while I filed away the blistering and monstrous cadaver photos of the gay plague left me whoozy and spoiling for a holy row. It is something I try not to study. I find Phyllis Schafly’s fear of civilization leading to a nation of eunuchs as she was righteously lobbying “furiously against” the ERA, “by claiming it would “neuterize” society,” (Horowitz, p. 472) such an attack on commonsense I don’t think I want an answer to it in my memoirs at all. These evangelicals were genuinely awful people. Martha Gellhorn said to me in a private letter soothingly, “If there are people there in the United States who think that AIDS was the wrath of God, my advice is just to forget it, as one has to forget a lot of evil idiocy in this world.” It was easier for her, who didn’t understand my testimony. To my credit I didn’t fall for the polarization the way many people did who remain entrapped in an Us versus Them dialogue which leads to extremes and empowers the spite. In a war of words between the derangements of perversion antagonized by what Gellhorn called, “a death sentence, worse than cancer,” and the high ground of moralism, people who want to be left alone will be silent rather than be aligned.
By the time it was over a whole lotta expletives had been deleted.
The Second Death of Huey Long
I. Introduction: The man who laughed at red-baiting
A. The World that Huey Long did not live to see
The Age of the Great Dictators
Mencken’s dispute with Henry Wallace and the Brain Trust
Harry Truman and Jimmy Byrnes
The Red Scare
II. The Road to Huey Long
A. The Model T
B. The Great Depression
III. Who was Huey Long?
1. A cautionary word about primary sources
C. Was Huey Long a primary source about Huey Long?
A. Jesse James
B. The Loco Focos
C. Federal Reserve
E. The Occupy
Populist resentment in Louisiana
A. A Fast Law Education
B. Riding high
D. The Song: Every Man a King (no man wears a crown)
A. James Michael Curley
B. A widely admired man
C. The character of Huey Long
D. The scandal of Sam Irby
5. The death of Huey Long
A. The shoot out and medical error
B. “Don’t let me die, I have so much to do!”
IV. The Second Death of Huey Long
1. The Warren Report (Robert Penn Warren)
2. Dialect in a sly novel
3. A newspaper entanglement
A. Brass Check/Upton Sinclar
B. Yellow Journalism
Back rooms, sex access
5. The suicide of a Judge
A. In the Novel
B. In the Film
6. Inventing Demise
B. Yellow Journalism
C. The Ethics of History Fiction
D. The subdrama that kills
V. All the Kings Men (film)
A. Gloria Swanson
B. Swanson’s affair with Joe Kennedy
C. Burlesque Shows and the Carousel Club
Sanitized literature, ironic footnote
A. How a challenger lost by quoting Huey Long
The hypocrisy of sensibilities
A. Dolph’s place
V. The return of the Huey Long’s Second Death
1. Sean Penn’s Huey
2. A New, Saltier Scandal
3. The Press Attache
A. How Corruption is Represented
4. The Suicide of a Judge
5. Escalation of terms in Post-Modern Semiotics
6. The Politics of Hollywood
Conclusion: A disservice to a terrible loss
VI. Had Huey Long lived what he might have said about the world he didn’t live to see.
Epilogue: A Ship called the Saint Louis
Warren, Robert Penn. All the King’s Men. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, c 1946. Pulitzer
winning novel by Warren describes a Louisiana Senator from the hillbilly boondocks who expresses the hopes of the industrial age as a benefactor to the people against the tycoons of industry in his state, resorting to arm-twisting, back room deals, influence peddling, sexual access and ultimately provoking the suicide of judge who turns unfriendly. It is accepted as a statement about the life of Huey Long, and the basis for two films of the same title.
Rossen, Robert, Director. All the King’s Men, film, 1949. Columbia Pictures. Academy
Award winning film, based on the book by Robert Penn Warren, this black and white film portrays a rabble-rouser in the small towns of Louisiana, fighting his way through the disappointment of being manipulated for a puppet candidate, to rise into a voice of resentments for the poor, and their aspirations before meeting an untimely death. It colors the tone of Warren’s novel enough to hide the racism and humanize the main character into more recognizable representation of a man they called the Kingfish, without effectively challenging questions about the historical accuracy of these celebrated misrepresentations.
Zaillian, Steven. All the King’s Men. Columbia Pictures, 2006.
An increasingly disturbing example of Hollywood’s license to do disservice to a major
historical figure by way of Robert Penn Warren’s questionable so-called, “masterpiece.” This rendering becomes a vehicle for the underhanded nature of Hollywood’s political machine, carrying Huey Long off deceptively, at turns sugar-coated, at other times diabolically perverse. In the remake there is no attempt to make amends for Warren’s historic license. On the contrary, the film uses Long to become an alter-ego for contemporary Hollywood’s own malicious purposes.
Sinclair, Upton. The Brass Check, Board of Trustees, University of Illinois, 1928. 2003.
Sinclair was a journalist renown for forcing the government to create the Food and Drug Administration for showing that the Oliver Stones of his time in the food packing industry were violating and endangering consumer health. Less well known, but equally important, was his battle to force fact-checking and end patronage in the Fourth Estate. The Brass Check follows this story through his early disappointments, his campaign on behalf of accuracy in reporting striking miners in Colorado, behind the scenes discovery about publisher and robber baron patronage, through his idealistic campaigns for a socialist society more true to the cause of checks and balances in a Commonwealth of public safety and mutual self-interest.
Capra, Franz, The Name Above the Title, The MacMillan Company, c1971. The face behind the
face of Hollywood is politics as usual. This is the first hand testimony of life among the swank and achieving, the petty tyrants, and the crowned of lore. Franz Capra brushed elbows with everybody, in an industry that evolved from silent to sound, living through two World Wars, the rat race and the rat packs, a story of achievement and survival, by a man who made or broke lives and careers.
Huey Long Newsreels on Youtube
Beauchamp, Cari, The Mogul in Mr. Kennedy, Vanity Fair, April 2002. Cari Beauchamp
examines the decisions and behavior of capital-intensive savvy brought by Massachusetts tycoon, Joe Kennedy, to Hollywood, his inquisitive mind, his foresight, his charades, and finally his callous actions towards Gloria Swanson to reveal a major intrigue in the history of the Kennedy Family and their tragedy.
Williams, Harry T. Huey Long, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1969. Williams investigates the life and
times of Huey Long, the Governor of Louisiana who became Senator on a tidal wave of populist resentment towards the rich, charting the career, the impeachment, the slanders, the corruption of his inside circle, his challenge to Franklin Roosevelt, his capacity for friendship, his restlessness and tragedy, redeeming from legend the true character of a courageous statesman we lost. He rescues Long from fiction and folklore.
Beatty, Jack. The Rascal King: An Epic of Urban Politics and Irish America: The Life and
Times of James Michael Curley (1874-1958), Wm. Patrick publications, c1992 Jack Beatty. Beatty tells the tale of another legendary political hustler from the Depression Era dogged by allegations of the sort that his acquaintance Huey Long endured. His career parallels the struggle to work with Franklin Roosevelt while remaining an enigma, as well as the charisma and compromises needed to be successful in American politics of the wartime era. By surviving Huey Long he gives some basis of comparison in attempting to imagine what might have been had Long survived to challenge Harry Truman and Jimmy Byrnes.
Friedrich, Johannes, Extinct Languages, The Philosophical Library, c1957. Extinct languages is
a linguistic and anthropological text that testifies to the need to understand sign and symbols. It attempts to define and rescue from oblivion, misrepresentation and misunderstanding, languages of the distant past, and put into relief the reasons why such excavation should be done not merely for the propertizing interests of museum inquiry, but for the philosophical survival of knowledge in the Western tradition.
German Essays on Film, edited by Richard McCormick and Alison Guenther-Pal, The German
Library, Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc., 2004. This critical collection of essays covering the era of German cinema from the Weimar Republic through the war and exile of such men as Thomas Mann to Hollywood brings depth and breadth to the entire roster of issues pertaining to cinema internationally and provides the intellectual heritage of Axis Cinema that informed Hollywood for a century and counting.
Schumach, Murray. The Face on the Cutting Room Floor, Wm. Murrow and Company, 1964.
Explains the history of movie and television censorship and the political wrangling, legerdemain and trickery by which studios circumvented and ultimately defeated both reasonable proprietary goals and unreasonable restrictions. It charts the path to the Hollywood blacklist, and offers insight into how the trauma of persecution created an idea of acceptable cinema in an age without restraints.
Higham, Charles. Cecil B. DeMille: A Biography of the Most Successful Film Maker of Them
All, Charles Scribner and Sons, N.Y., c1973. The politics of films like The Ten Commandments and stars like John Wayne telltale the heart of madness in the creep show known as modern Hollywood. It is an indispensible key to understanding how falsification becomes myth and myth gets inflated to a power and deemed greater than reality (larger than life).
With thanks to Cineaste Film Quarterly, Asian Cult Cinema Magazine, Dr. Ralph Proctor of Community College of Allegheny County, Charity Kheshgi of Sign Language Interpreting Program, Carly Fielding of Tacoma Community College Special Services, the Film Studies Department of Tacoma Community College and most especially Jeannie Tamburro who voluntarily surrendered her personal time to teach me sign language so I could enter Film Studies at college for the purpose of semiotic intelligence work.
The Picture on the Wall
To understand what Spike ole Lee was doing in his famous motion picture Do the Right Thing means foremost understanding who he was working with. It means understanding both exactly what they did and then understanding the misleading direction it takes the audience because of the way it is presented. Spike Lee was an ally of forces in Hollywood. Once you see what they really did it is possible to understand what they were doing by slight adjustments of how it is presented on the level of mass consumption. Semiotics and gaming in cinema by this fraternity contains its own honor code. Simply put, the hidden transcript of the film is about a fight over a woman.
It is a very significant act to pair Do the Right Thing with David Mamet’s Homicide and the film Miller’s Crossing because what underwrites the text and imaginary elements of both films implacably lends credibility to Spike Lee’s charades. The issue is one of fictitious allusions. After the success of Hollywood in going beyond yellow journalism in a film like All the King’s Men the slaughterhouse of an enigma becomes a lucrative possibility. Special studios have been set up, like Real Worlds in Bath, United Kingdom, to commit crimes for franchise, drama for exploitation, child trafficking covered as kinship ties through museum mafias.
While the particular crimes at work in cinema stewardship are somewhat unique, the power and ability as well as the first tactical method, propaganda of war, is fairly clearly written into the script of hegemony built into and implicit by studio mogul position. In a historic attempt to discredit Huey Long, one of his foes quoted him in public, exhibiting some of his nastiest off the books commentary, but the language was so foul it backfired on his rival and he was blamed for saying things in public that Long never would. The case of Huey Long is also important in understanding Spike Lee and David Mamet for another good reason than simply having reporting them backfire, Long knew how to play his own folk legend and would carefully cultivate rumors about, for example, his speed and proficiency at law school (which weren’t true) or exaggerate his hillbilly status. A character of Dostoevsky, given the name, Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky said, “My friend, real truth is never true-to-life you really have to stir a bit of falsehood into it.” How this can be taken by contrast to what it really means, is essential to working the tumblers of how Spike Lee has put a lock on his game plan.
Although German propaganda minister J.G. under Adolf Hitler is well-known for saying that people will swallow lies more effortlessly when fed them with a little truth, and Graham Greene once opined, “Lies and kindness are worth a thousand truths,” Dostoevsky comes much closer to a dignified spiritual embrace of meaning in his idea of stirring falsehood into realism in order to get to the truth. Dostoevsky was deeply concerned with the inner man, with people who lie to themselves, or see the world translucently through self-deception. This can be taken for the blurb of a Hollywood attorney, Miles Kirshner, “there is no such thing as objective reality only what the jury believes,” and Mamet has need of attorney Kirshner, as does Spike ole Lee, serving up public misinformation about their cowardly plans, but that’s not what Dostoevsky means and one should not, technically, get in more trouble than they do for reporting them
To understand Mamet, you do need to look at Miller’s Crossing, because while what happens in the film at the scene of Miller’s Crossing is child’s play for this rat pack, it is also profoundly revealing as the state of affairs with respect to execution of their game plan. Cinema magic has created a parallel set of scenes in Miller’s Crossing where a man with a price on his head pleads for his life, using the same words twice, the first with crying pathos. It evokes a Jew being killed by Gestapo in the Forest of Fontainebleau. Later, after using his escape to kill a man himself as a stand in for his body in the woods, faced with the same situation as before, he walks through the drill of his pleas and loses his life in the offing. Both scenes are important, but only one can be disseminated without the hidden transcript.
Allusion and evocation of the sort that momentarily turns a threat to execute in the woods into the dark and permanent hoarfrost of Hades that evokes Nazi Germany without satire, at its level worst, is child’s play for Hollywood. It is on the level of subconscious manipulation that they go undetected and that is where the government has lost out in any respectable sense that government over Hollywood could be said to exist. Moving to Homicide we find the elixir of character type in the female representative of the Israeli Secret Service. Survival against the world’s Jew haters is meant to be felt with reverence and awe at their skill and bravura, yet not only is there precious little evidence of them actually fighting the good fight, the aesthetic comes from the post-war film of Wolfgang Staudte The Enemy are Among Us where this former ally of Goebbels goes over to the odd rapture that skillfully captures a plain of tears palpable with the zeitgeist of a love of war. Love of war seems to be the real aesthetic of the Israelis. Certainly the Nazi standard next to Old Glory, the bizarre act of bombing a train toy store by an F.B.I. agent and the use of an image in America, Miller’s Crossing, to communicate the nightmare of the Gestapo, is manufacture of a quote/unquote (ie. inside slur).
I saw an interview with David Mamet. He is like David Horowitz who authored one of the course’s texts on history in that he presents himself as having been a liberal who turned conservative when he realized the truth, and one of the truths he announces is that liberals think that Jews are subhuman. Interesting. First, not true, not even to the micro-aggressive level. Not one liberal I have ever known in Seattle or Pittsburgh is anything less than a studied sycophant of apologetics for Israel. Second, beside the point, because he knows it isn’t true, the real point is to deny debate and void the dignity of meaning, allowing for him to castigate the innocent with a distasteful ruse painted on the quotes/unquotes he is thinking of knowingly.
Mirroring then, between the films, in the presentation, unaffected critically by the hidden realms of their game plan, Homicide makes the interesting gesture not only of having two black children state up front what is going on and it being missed until the end, but also of casting aspersions on the attitude of inner-city blacks towards Jews, and giving tragic reckoning to the way that myth can play out in a dreadful act of juvenile predators. Similarly, Spike Lee has a moment in front of a graffiti board with words of death and the name of the Jewish Mayor Ed Koch. This serves to disabuse the viewer of the idea that an alliance exists between the film-makers, an alliance of common cause, focusing the learned and thoughtful instead upon the genius of tragic form that makes us debate reconciliation between Jews and Blacks on the basis of deeper understanding, scaring us with tragic ideas and promoting the consciousness that we need to accept that Jews are human beings and not fundamentally a different species than? Read his lips: Anything but liberals, after the Jade.
The hidden transcript, the game plan, the unifying factor between Mamet and Spike ole Lee, is undercoded, like the confession of the two juveniles, sort of snickering in the end, why are you blaming us, we told you right out?
“It won’t kill us all!”
The Asian/American Identity Complex
“With recognition comes an obligation to those with whom we identify … In a world of abandonment, bodies that do not fit into the regimes of life are written out of the discourses of mourning.” Writing Neoliberal Values ~ Rachel C. Riedner
In the January 1964 LIFE Magazine issue purporting to show the Russian Diary of Lee Harvey Oswald, a curious juxtaposition is visible on one of the pages. There are several stories on the page. One is about a Texas pig show, another is about an Asian princess. The caption from the show sits close upon the photograph of the princess reading, “Imagine this little porker wriggling and squealing in your arms”. The semiotic gives a curious spin to the slogan, “All the way with LBJ.”
The women of the Orient have long brought a gleam to the eye of the West. Marco Polo was an early admirer setting his thoughts before history. “Polo wrote of the Chinese that “their ladies and wives are also most delicate and angelique things, and raised gently, and with great delicacy, and they clothe themselves with so many ornaments and of silk and of jewels that the value of them cannot be estimated.” (1) Speaking of one of their assets during the war in Vietnam, “The CIA’s Colonel Lansdale later reported that: The Binh Xuyen were participating in one of the world’s major arteries of the dope traffic,” but also, “the final Binh Xuyen asset was prostitution. They owned and operated a wide variety of brothels, all the way from small, intimate villas staffed with attractive young women for general and diplomats down to the Hall of Mirrors whose twelve hundred inmates and assembly line techniques made it one of the largest and most profitable in Asia.” (2) Is it rational to ignore that the war in Vietnam had such ulterior, black market ventures as its motivation? “Militarism is symptomatic of a male dominated society that uses violence and power to control others. One form of its enslavement of women is the demand for bodies to cater to men’s “rest and recreation” needs.” (3) Despite participating in commodification of Asian women, and creating conditions that have led such Asian allies as the Hmong in Cambodia to come to the United States for safety, Asians can find themselves here in an unwelcoming society. One of my classmates calls this, “the special pressures on Asian/Americans in times of war and how they came to immigrate in the first place.”
Despite this, Asians such as the Cambodian refugees who find their way to the United States have strong minds with powerful ideas of dignity. Some of these came from efforts at advanced education and others from traditional values of service to the community. “Even after independence, when great strides had been made by Prince Sihanouk to expand the number of schools of all levels as well as to improve the adult literacy rate, government schools in both towns and villages continued to guide students in the awareness of their civic duties, because it was personal conduct and service to the community that gained people social recognition.” (4) Bun Thab, a Khmer Rouge escapee, liked America. “I think America is a good country to live in. I have the freedom to work, keep my own money, buy whatever I want, and say whatever I want. If you have money you can have anything you want. I also feel safe over here because there are laws to protect people.” (5)
At this point we begin to understand that a concept of American identity is at work. “The principle of man’s individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system - as a limitation on the power of the state, as man’s protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of might to right. The United States was the first moral society in history.” (6) This idealization of the United States may create part of an identity recognized as a promotional device and in some cases true in spirit, this has not always been true for everybody. “There were both citizens and aliens in the antebellum period, but at that time citizenship and alienage played only a marginal role in defining a person’s rights and status within society. This was due, in part, to the fragmentary nature of citizenship in the early nineteenth century and, even more so, to the many competing forms of social membership available … With these many forms of membership came many forms of exclusion.” (7) The result can be approaches to survival in America that do not operate on the assumptions of the ideal expressed as American identity.
One such alternative approaches to survival takes root in the culture of poverty found in immigrant Chinese culture. It depends on community spirit, cultural trust and solidarity. “Bounded solidarity refers to the process whereby immigrants, realizing that they are phenotypically and culturally different, develop a greater sense of solidarity with coethnics within the U.S. nation-state.” This may involve accepting grueling hours and terrible pay in substandard working conditions as “part of the time-honored path towards family advancement and economic independence.” (8) This does not always mean that cultural compromises working the other way around, catering to the notions of stereotype about the Chinese in order to get ahead professionally are accepted in the same spirit. Anna May Wong, the celebrated cinema star, had terrible problems within her own family for taking dragon lady roles in motion pictures.
How then do Asians face American identity when American Identity itself ends up a shattered mirror? It may seem like an occupying Narcissus asking that a newcomer play the role of Echo, imitating and fawning, but the truth is that American Identity is an American Identity Complex, and the war in Vietnam is very significant in how this situation evolved. It was during the 60’s and 70’s that Americans lost faith with the good war mentality of the old breed in WW2 so that while media doubts, terrible satires, and street protests evolved, Hollywood also unleashed images that glorified crime, as in Bonnie and Clyde, outsiders as in Easy Rider and dealt with the shadows of the demonic in films like Rosemary’s Baby. Crimes like the Manson Family challenged the idea that America was a land of normality, morals and safety. Huge riots tore major cities. “Would it be possible to achieve human fellowship in a society that is characterized by such complex plurality?” (9)
One of the theoretical problems that develops is counter-attack against the demons of the mind, the lashing out at symbols of oppression who may also only be bystanders helpless and innocent whether properly engaged in spirit or aloof. “Ironically, while the concept of community is premised on the gesture of inclusion, whereby individuals who share something in common are invited together, the very lines that are drawn around a community compel an exclusion of others. Between exclusion and inclusion, it seems to me, is precisely where community emerges - not as a place but as a spacing of finite figures crossing, shattering the mirror that grounds community as an experience that is shared .. a thinking of community obliges us to consider the stranger at the borders of our delimited spaces of belonging … a community of the shared name, “Asian American” for example … may reveal that our identity is indebted to the one we are not, to someone other than who we think we are.” (10) The result of absolute necessities for definition of a community singling out an other can result in the search for an identifiable other to serve as a sacrificial object needed to define the community.
Returning to the experience of Cambodian refugees in America, Bun Thab complains that Americans presume they understand Cambodians when they don’t know anything about them. “The other thing I don’t like about America,” he continues, “is that girls and boys date. They have too much freedom, and if they don’t like one partner they find another. I don’t think that’s good.” (11) The issue of behavioral morals collided with attacks on the safety net during the Reagan years. Reagan was informed by a particular branch of poverty theory that states, “The very same safety net that protects currently poor parents then reduces their incentive to invest in the ability of their children to escape poverty, a perverse welfare dependency effect.” (12) Eric Tang in his article Collateral Damage seems to be the only scholar who can summon the bravura to scorn speaking of “the welfare dependency syndrome as if it were some kind of virus,” (13) but he fails to explain where this insight is leading the drama school of community definition.
Even before the arrival of AIDS flood lighted the dramatic definitions of community and exclusion that call down judgment based on the values in office during attacks on sexual freedoms and the safety net, “In Chinese society a high degree of shame and embarrassment accompanies familial mental illness, and the burden of the illness tarnishes family honor and the ancestral lineage.” (14) Shame works.
The resulting situation was scripted as an ethnic identity hang out among peers of Ming Na Wen in Hollywood attending Carnegie Mellon, an Ivy League school in Pittsburgh, severely injuring an innocent person who was white and liberal for sport in a deranged masterpiece of hate crime. This allowed the academic community to restore a feeling of definition by cooperating in crimes of terrible cruelty that provided a new community of rage through Hollywood deployment of scapegoat theory. Although this masqueraded as a celebration of community and a tribute to mourning, it was planned by the authors of the attack and widely viewed as failsafe.
The American Identity complex, with respect to Asian/American, has unfolded in a history of exclusion and periods of foreign invasion. There has been exploitation of women and caricature, as well as attempts to justify immoral foreign wars. As American Identity itself suffered the convulsions of internal review of its claims to morality, morality itself became a weapon to justify one of the worst crimes ever authored, the AIDS attack, which in turn allowed a maniacal gyration by the attackers themselves who authored a polemic of sacrificialism as a right to community by the afflicted, drama school Hollywood in fulfillment of its level worst. This underscores the fact that while Asian/Americans are firmly entitled to self-representation and the presumption of innocence and celebration of ability, their judgment is not inherently flawless, nor are them entirely free from perpetrating crime in our midst.
To see the Asian American condition as something other than an integral to the American condition and human condition would be impossible. It is not a selective supra-difference. Instead it is a challenging integral. However when we speak of American identity it is more accurate to describe an American Identity Complex, one burned by internal conflicts. In seeking to define the American condition by way of an Identity Complex this should not lose sight of facts in Our Commonwealth binding us to loyalty by democratic argument for common values and rule of law and this in turn should illuminate how Asian/Americans envision their Identity within the American Identity Complex. Nevertheless the civics of Asian American experience do not always illuminate the struggles of American cultural identity. They bring to the table witness for our war crimes in some cases, in others heritage differences that are unique, while tragedies visited upon them here, jeopardizing the legacy of the United States, have also been exclusively their own.
This paper shows that Asian Americax Sociology is a very complex and interesting field of study, well worth pursuing, but unfortunately, for one sad spirit, Hollywood got there first.
Asian American Studies Now, edited by Jean Yu-Wen Shen Wu and Thos. C. Chen, Rutgers University Press, 2012; When and Where I Enter by Gary Okihiro, p. 9.
Politics of Drugs in Southeast Asia, by Alfred McCoy, Harper and Row, c1972, p. 118.
Networking Against Female Sexual Slavery, edited by K. Barry, C. Bunch and S. Castley; Report of the Global Feminist Workshop to Organize Against Traffic in Women, Rotterdam, Netherlands, April 6-15, 1983, p. 58.
Beyond the Killing Fields by Usha Welaratna, Stanford University Press, 1993, p. 31.
Ibid, p. 133.
The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand, Signet Books, c1961, p. 93.
The Chinese Must Go by Beth Lew-Williams, Harvard University Press, 2018, p. 236.
Asian American Studies Now, edited by Jean Yu-Wen Shen Wu and Thos. C. Chen, Rutgers University Press, 2012. Collateral Damage by Eric Tang, p. 460.
The Quest for Truth and Human Fellowship in a Pluralist Society by Henk E.S. Woldring, p. 1.
Asian North American Identities: Beyond the Hyphen, Edited by Eleanor Ty and Donald Goellnicht. Indiana University Press, p. 150.
Beyond the Killing Fields by Usha Welaratna, Stanford University Press, 1993, p. 133.
Understanding Poverty edited by A.V. Banerjee, Roland Benabou, Dalip Moookherjee, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 238.
Asian American Studies Now, edited by Jean Yu-Wen Shen Wu and Thos. C. Chen, Rutgers University Press, 2012. Collateral Damage by Eric Tang, p. 463.
The Mark of Shame by Stephen P. Hinshaw, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 109
The Asian American Identity Complex
The purpose of this note is to show what I learned in this course about Asian American Identity as participants in and part of the American Identity Complex. I will ask what American Identity is and whether there is a distinctively Asian Identity in America, and if so how does it imagine itself with the American Identity Complex.
“With recognition comes an obligation to those with whom we identify … In a world of abandonment, bodies that do not fit into the regimes of life are written out of the discourses of mourning.”
Writing Neoliberal Values ~ Rachel C. Riedner
I. Old Worlds for New
c. The Human Condition
e. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
III. American Identity as an Identity Complex
c. Demons of the Mind
IV. Asian American Identity in the American Identity Complex
a. Common Values of Democratic Participation
b. Minority Rights
1. The Vietnam War
2. Special Pressures on Asian Americans
a. Caricatures and Stereotypes
b. Recovery and Asylum
a. The human spirit
b. The American way
c. Minority leadership in the USA
d. International Law
e. Human Rights
VIII. The Tragedy of Exclusion
a. Exclusion Laws
c. Fomented Divisions
d. AIDS as a pirate act of International Violence
IX. Asian Americans in Law Enforcement
a. Historic awareness
b. Drug traffic during the Vietnam War
c. The Opium Wars in China
a. Human trafficking
b. Marriage fraud
d. Honor killings
XI. Role Diversity
a. Hollywood in the American Identity Complex
b. Exceptionalism in achievement as a film star
c. Flawed reasoning concerning the class struggle
d. Beneficial potentials of role diversity and cinema change
e. Anna May Wong
f. The dark side of cinema
d. Combat with cynicism
e. The future of human rights and global welfare
The Asian American Identity Complex
“With recognition comes an obligation to those with whom we identify … In a world of abandonment, bodies that do not fit into the regimes of life are written out of the discourses of mourning.” ~ Writing Neoliberal Values ~ Rachel C. Riedner
Man is born lost and yet at home so that (in wandering) the myth of the lost home can grown more proud or the light of a new destiny shine bright with expectancy, capturing idealistic hopes for the future. There is poetry in this inborn estrangement, and lust for travel, but discrimination by a commonwealth, announcing invasion against welcome, abuses the prospect of civilization. Somehow philosophy and politics are at loggerheads, like an image reflecting in a distorting pool. Is the answer for an occupying Narcissus to ask of newcomers that they play the role of Echo? Fawning and allegiant by curse? Man may be born in separation but not to be made so unhappy. How tragic to turn a condition that really is one’s own into a weapon to use on completely innocent others. Yet without saying so the immigrants from Cambodia are being asked by the government to accept self-representation by the United States that may gloss over how it created conditions that forced them to come. They are asked to sign aboard cultural norms some of which they have only heard about, and asked to attain self-sufficiency in a world that is very different from the one they grew up in. According to Usha Welaranta, “The Refugee Act of 1980 has continued this policy of Americanization.”
This problem affects migrants from Latin America, minorities born here, refugees and partners in war. In a society that can, at times, turn friend on friend in the name of country, identifying oneself as American also means identifying oneself with an American identity complex. My purpose in this article is to show what I learned in this course about Asian American Identity as participants in and part of the American Identity Complex.
Although the essence of the human condition does not change from bureaucratic birth right under the nation states of the planet, where there is a myriad of hard won cultural achievement, social conditions do change and demand the attentions of the participants where reform is needed, particularly when the nuances of special status yield remorseless crimes against the innocent newcomer.
Nativists believe that old families take precedence and preferential ethnic alliances come next. In our society, majority values shared between minorities do not always give rise to a democratic consensus. Arguments for self-preservation and the tools of bribery can be used to obstruct common cause. Laws are made to restrain the intolerable, but in the wrong hands law becomes brute power and divisive politics ensue. The Vietnam War burdened one generation not only with issues of guilt, with memories of a catastrophe that added a special note of consideration to Asian American values advocating for fair representation in the America social fabric and historic relief because they were faced with questions about the motives behind the war reflecting their own experience of discrimination.
Asian Americans come to, and are born in, the United States of America gifted and willing to be conscripted into our national debate about right and wrong. They work hard and served honorably. They are not, however, free from the pressures authority and administration bring to the table. Nor is their judgement guaranteed against error.
The search for authenticity in perceptions about Asian Americans faces us with notorious prior representation concerning the Asian American condition informed by bigotry that authored grave tragedies past. At some point the ideological battlefield melts into illusion and for the flickering of old wounds, you can see through the curtain of a biased, distorting lens into the dignity and rightful pride of place both deserved and earned by our peers. In the process of identifying the civilized goals shared by a functioning democracy, we must be wary of new alliances in hypocrisy. The particularities of academic obscurity cannot hide what has happened for example in the AIDS attack nor be allowed to deride as pretense the foundation of a functioning ideal: the right to public outreach. The situation may be strange, but the criminal fantasies at work prey hard and furiously on existing lines of command. Participation in the school of public life is an open door policy to dialogue, not a conscription into a majority rule concerning unrighteous silence, and the gloom of surrender to atrocity.
To see the Asian American condition as something other than an integral to the American condition and human condition would be impossible. It is not a selective supra-difference, Instead it is a challenging integral. “Spontaneous gestures of humanity,” writes the Dalai Lama of Tibet, “represent the only hope for the future of mankind.” (1) Despite this, even among those of us with the highest hopes for the future, we are dealing with perceptions of a conflict of interest. When Martin Luther King, “promised “a radical reconstruction of society,” it was American society he proposed to reconstruct. When King criticized the Vietnam War, he was denouncing a war in which American soldiers had lost their lives. Europeans could safely embrace King’s cause from afar, comforted by the belief that he did not mean to upend their lives. Indeed, foreign support for King only rarely amounted to support for a global movement for human rights and economic equality.”(2) Even if Dr. King quietly and firmly supported human rights globally, he was not usually read outside of the construct of seeking Black advancement. Despite this duality to his vision, Dr. King does provide the most powerful logical reminder of American ideals and commitment to advance of all Americans equally before the law. His commitment to human rights was well known if not shared by all who supported his Civil Rights objectives.
In attempting to address and reconcile the stresses of being American in a world that does not always share our values, Richard Sonnenfeldt, a translator for the Allies at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials writes, that we are “a country with ideals and values that enshrined human rights; they are not always practiced perfectly, but I could devote my life to attaining them, and I had already braved death to ensure their survival.”(3) It is easy to see why Asians would come here for freedom, bear children here in love and hope, and easy to believe they would gravitate with all they had to offer towards the best interests of Our Commonwealth, seeking personal enlightenment and fulfillment without doing harm, but it is impossible to hope that they would be free from the sort of pain and mischief that brutality can cause through fear, and from that brutality they have endured no end of suffering.
The civics of Asian American experience do not always illuminate the struggles of American cultural identity. Some of their tragedies have been exclusively their own, and jeopardize the legacy of the United States. In 1882, Congress passed a Chinese Exclusion Act which they also used to torture, kill and virtually enslave immigrant labor. This action causes lasting harm to the enterprise of civilization by undermining the American legacy, leaving us open to jeers by far worse. Entire communities of treasure and folklore were wiped out in ghastly riots announcing themselves for the good of the people. The United States has grave difficulty outgrowing the childish urge to cartoon the special features of biological adaptation which allow characterization of Asian as yellow. In a society where freedom of religion is enshrined, American exceptionalism too often leans on the moralism of the Christian right wing. It is hard enough to prove yourself a conscientious objector to an immoral rampage like the war in Vietnam without already having to struggle against the preferences of a bigoted and entrenched old money class, practiced in the science of provoking ethnic divisions, and forging alliances of convenience.
Where Asians are involved in American Law Enforcement, historic competency may bring with it to the table a gravity of understanding that is sometimes lost on rookie contemporaries, already born well beyond the so-called Vietnam Complex. To understand the Vietnam Complex requires a multifaceted study of politics, film, history and sociology that circumscribes a large fraction of the American Identity Complex with which Asian Americans are saddled by issues some of which are common to us all, and others specific to themselves. It can never be ignored that body counts in the Vietnam War do not include on our side those who fought alongside us, nor that Filipino War Veterans seldom reunited with their families because of laws restricting their rights to bring their closest kin here. These are bitter instances of the hell America offers some of our own, too often in the darkness.
There are cases where the safety of Our Commonwealth is not being served by failure to draw upon the experiences of those from Asia. Law Enforcement cannot afford to ignore their insights and historic social experiences. Vice is an obvious example.
Outside the purview of corruption, Law Enforcement in American society involves discretionary calls based on judgment about the character of the situation and changing social norms. Accordingly, the absence of important digest can confuse police. Even judges can lack understanding of our immediate political condition, as the immigrant and refugee situation has made clear. Drug trafficking is a notorious ideological hot button in the United States, resulting in biased treatment of the poor, the black, and favoritism for the well to do, in circumstances where administrative corruption is well known, leading to failed legislation, back-sliding and occasional assent to yield on so-called liberalization laws, but the problem goes much, much deeper into our social history.
In the book Politics of Drugs in Southeast Asia, Alfred McCoy describes the marketing of heroin in America by the German Bayer chemical corporation and a number of secret societies in Asia who assisted American veterans in using the war as a cover for drug trafficking. Firepower in Asia has been needed not only to stop illegal drug trafficking, but to protect society from deliberate attempts to enslave by government colonizers. The Qing Empire and the Opium War by Mao Haijian describes at length the struggle in China to repulse mandatory opium addiction sought by the British powers, just as British attaches launched a drug craze in America after the murders of Martin Luther and the Kennedy Brothers, so disturbing to the future of rational liberalism. In a society where the authorities author such nightmares, the success of Asian figures may just be a new alliance of common cause in draconian crimes of state. This gives a frightening tone to a term like “model minority”.
Even when vice isn’t a consideration, American society can be profane. The tendency towards premarital sex can lead to false promises of wedlock. Images of Dragon Ladies and Lotus Girls fill the dreams of heavy petting and auto-erotic nightmares online. In an article from International Feminist: Networking Against Female Sexual Slavery the authors have an entire section on “the love game.” “Love seems to hold so many possibilities. They come alive in the infatuation with feelings of happiness, expansion and freedom.” The masquerader, meanwhile, “distances himself and makes himself inaccessible,” leading to the trauma of dependency and finally slavery. Love was just being used as bait. From there it is a short distance to blackmail in a world of honor killings. Suitably enough it is a book about Japanese women in resistance to the rise of the Axis titled, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows where we find a universal sentiment of longing, “My object was to teach women to become independent and self-sufficient so that they would cease being slaves to men, and to make it possible for us to fulfill our natural functions as women without hindrance. I also hoped to to influence men so that they would cease behaving in a tyrannical and vulgar fashion.” (Fukuda Hideko) In such a world the hand of benevolence is too often the masquerade of the whip. In an article explaining the arrest in Russia of the all-female rock band Pussy Riot, Masha Gessen states, (5) “passion, openness and naivete exist on a higher ground than do hypocrisy, lying and false piety used to mask crimes.” It is a clearly stated warning to those who hope for improvement on the silver screens of Hollywood.
It may seem very rational to seek remedy for cruel caricatures by putting forwards a push for better media representation, just as blacks cheered Joe Louis, however the rewards of exceptionalism are not always in the interest of those paying the actors and actresses who court attention and crowd worship. Such films over-simplify and underwrite a system of oppression, simply changing faces and shades in alternating the new season’s drama queens. Blacks have been faced with this problem when cheering a film with a very special black man. “There is no attempt in the film to depict or even suggest the complex economic, political, and cultural dimensions of the race problem. Of course, integration is made easy for whites because the black character is Sidney Poitier, a charismatic, seductive, and superior presence.” This notion of alternative celebrities to worship may effectively challenge the myth of the yellow peril while leaving un-noted the crimes and dishonesty of the celebrity superstate and its service to the ruling class. Exceptionalism and its rewards leave culture over-dependent on money, class and power in formulating our lasting theory of shared ethical values. Nor is it quite clear what may be going on behind the scenes in advance of Asian women. An article about Harvey Weinstein in Life Site online headlines: Hollywood has a long, dark history of sexual abuse and forced abortion. Couch casting in Hollywood isn’t wide of the mark in the standard established by Joseph Goebbels, one-time insider to Hollywood review.
It is very fortunate that we live in a time when the desire to eliminate prejudicial constructs and seek out methods to advocate for American minorities, to change the legacy of our society from abuse to inclusion, and the future of our philosophy from social control to liberation, working together for mandatory health care, an end to hunger, redress for injury and comfort for the afflicted. It is proper and redeeming that Asian American minorities should be involved as leaders in higher education, and strident in their demand for attention to the details they bring to the table. The case for inclusion needs no cautionary comment. Nevertheless, I feel strongly that consumer and resident participation in places like the International District, who very recently noted in their Public Safety Survey of 2018 that many non-violent crimes go unreported, that part of the Asian-American Identity Complex may be isolation as an unintended consequence of self-definition and that involvement in the human condition can not only bring us closer to common cause in Our Commonwealth, but also repair some of the damage done to the human rights movement due to the death of Martin Luther King and hijacking of his social philosophy for use exclusively behind the border wall.
Freedom in Exile: the Autobiography of the Dalai Lama, Rupa and Company, 1990,
The Heavens Might Crack, Jason Sokol. Basic Books, 2018, p. 159.
Witness to Nuremberg, Richard W. Sonnenfeldt, Arcade Publishing, 2006.
American Film and Society Since 1945, Leonard Quart and Albert Auster, Praeger, 2011, p. 63.
1.) What is the general manager's name and which country was he born in? Rich Cho, he was born in Myanmar.
2.) How did his career in the NBA begin? That is, what did he do to get his foot in the door in the NBA?
He wrote a fabulous letter to the Sonics.
3.) What is his specific connection to somebody in this sociology class?
This dude is your brother?
4.) What happened to him in Portland?
He became the first Asian American general manager in the history of the NBA.
5.) How long after Portland happened did it take for Michael Jordan to get him in Charlotte?
Mr. Cho made good arrangements for Portland who fired him mysteriously but three weeks later he was picked up by Charlotte.
6.) When did the Cho family come to America?
7.) Why did the Chos leave Burma?
They were apparently being persecuted as part of the Saffron Revolution or something very similar.
8.) What were they allowed by the Burmese government to bring to the U.S.?
$200 and a suitcase of clothes.
9.) In Federal Way, what job did Alan Cho have?
He worked night shift at 711.
Part B (5 Points):
1.) In terms of race and the NBA, what is significant about Coach Canales?
His is the NBA’s first Mexican American coach.
2.) What was Kaleb's first job in the NBA and how did he get his foot in the door to get that job?
He was a video intern for the Blazers. His letters were also good.
Part C (10 Points):
1.) What did Thong Moua do when he was 13 years old?
He was evidently hustled into the CIA organized anti-Communist Army over the wishes of Prince Sihanouk.
2.) How many Hmong soldiers died in the "American War"? What would that toll be comparable to in terms of the numbers of Americans being killed in combat? 35,000 Hmong soldiers died a percentage of the population that would compare to 16.5 million Americans.
3.) How many Americans actually died in the "Vietnam War"? This isn't in the article so cite the full http address that you looked at.
4.) Currently, what types of jobs do Hmong work in Arkansas?
They were given plots of land and farms for livestock and self-sufficiency of a sort they were accustomed to.
5.) Use your critical thinking and analysis skills and information from the article to explain 2-3 paragraphs (10-15 sentences) why sports are so important for Hmong kids to "become an American"?
It is clear the Hmong like to hold their heads up, be active and are not afraid of rivalry, and competition. It seems to come very naturally to them despite the fact that their families, at first, were shy of attendance. I don’t think it is any sort of attempt to prove their patriotism, because, in contrast to many Asian groups, the Hmong served an ignoble American military syndicate that would be the type to commend them automatically. They are shielded by that sort of Honor Code.
It is clear that they enjoy self-definition, pride of place and want to be alive, free and courageous, so, while there may be some vindictiveness in the Hmong Community for those in American scholarship who do not credit their Armed Forces activity, the challenge of surviving and escape is to be commended and America are indeed Honor bound to help them because they did what they could to help what they took for our hopes and interests. I have never heard of anyone experiencing bullying from them, so I assume the healthy, collegiate aspirations of young men in society is sincere and the talent just looking for an avenue and channel.
.Yoko Ono’s Insurance Policy
Written as a Letter to Phi Theta Kappa
By James MacRyland Crary
On my birthday 30 years ago John Stockwell of the CIA by all appearances followed me to Allentown. The day before had been the short-lived stock market crash of 1987 and two days before a teacher from Oxford and contact for Sir Paul McCartney had introduced herself and clued me in on the film The Day the Earth Stood Still, as yet not remade. The AIDS war game on Mt. Desert Island was still in the works. At his talk one of his comments was very revealing about his partnership with Peter Gabriel who that year wrote to me very regularly. He said, after describing the MK-Ultra project in which the CIA had distributed and pushed hallucinogens on campuses to create a climate of confusion the 60’s, that they weren’t going to open the books and allow millions of lawsuits from damaged victims of a secret war. Through this comment a little bit of light goes on concerning the Al Capone style of Ringo Starr I have lived with and suffered from as a person he regards as a hate object. The Beatles (like the CIA) had gunned the accelerator of drug confusion and were not about to be held to account. By disappearing, John Lennon, leader of the mission, became the victim of a circular play, giving Starr and Stockwell the insurance angle they needed in engineering the AIDS attack game plan, shown by events on Mt. Desert Island the following year. They simply told the wild and crazy gangs who got infected that a sheltered white person was betraying the spirit of Lennon by snitching on them, and that if they kept secret the noble cause they might win at the Hollywood casino by making up a story about me, all while they knew I was in the dark.
After many years of this crime machine, I lay in bed last night cold and hollow, emotionless, as an unaccountable tear leaked out of my eye, crying from deep within, beyond the numbness, it was both incomprehensible and yet easy to understand, the tear of the truly betrayed and gave me some insight into what I think I am doing going back to school.
People who are celebrities picking on some small should be more careful about how severely the humiliate a total stranger about whom they have been complicit in misrepresenting and lying to. This is not about threats, it is about how they have contributed to a climate of danger and the creation of public perceptions about misunderstandings they make actionable somehow. It is no longer surprising when suspicious feedback loops my way. The mere fact that an agent named Dia called me for Lennon to tell me he had gone away in a puff of smoke and then they went on to position another Dia, in namesake, with stiletto outside the World Trade Center, a promotional photograph for its coming demolition, to deceive AIDS victims and control their loyalty shows you the Life Insurance Policy they came up with and worked out by blaming a targeted individual in the dark.
This leads to what sort of questions can be answered to appropriately advise our school. A number of facts can be easily introduced to support the idea that terrible misunderstanding is being knowingly adopted by a large group of people who do not want to know anything about it. Even though Stockwell and his partner announced and admitted a program of evasion of responsibility when the cold truth surfaces, acknowledgement is scarce. For example, I was a shy, faint-hearted, eager to please, trusting child in an elementary school Honors Program when attacked blindside, surviving with serious disability, neurological injuries of endless, untreatable torment, blind spots from severe beatings and deafness. Even though I would never fight anyone, the bank investigation working for Yoko Ono have insisted these terrifying injuries are self inflict and that my testimony is a lie, a kind of whiplash. They are allowing violent criminals to interrogate prey. A nerve agent, in other words, was used on a child of some political importance, in America, and it was ignored. How hard is it to see that something is wrong?
James W. Child was sent to the arena while I was in the dark from Reagan’s nuclear debate team, come to get me at Pitt where I was in shock as a Medical Library Clerk in 1984 faced with the hard problem of AIDS and witnessed the pre-treatment era cadavers. Child liked the idea of playing by the victim’s understanding of the rules in our society. This allowed a sort of cloak and dagger kabbala to get started with the help of gaslighters from British acid rock who were writing to me a lot. They really should be careful. The horrendous details of what was done to me when I was kidnapped and held in sexual bondage as a child by mutilationists were also the people who called to announce the disappearance of Roberto Clemente. When the girl, Jeannie Tamburro, who taught me sign language, was attacked and punished by rape for her good work, Yoko Ono’s crowd used Clemente’s name in the Green Party to communicate their notion of justice in the affair. I don’t think they really want people who loved Clemente to ponder long and hard on what how I was treated like in secret may mean for what might have happened to him. The ruthless idea that he would support what was done is all myth.
It is as if our society no longer has a soul. Casino sharks prowl our schools. They targeted me in an impacted neuroplastic head trauma they knew was there and knew that didn’t know was there and then they called ghastly seizures I suffered evidence of genetic schizophrenia and nobody, nobody cared.
Compassionat gangsta ~ draft comments on Gook, final significant revision missing, planning to consult the library computer to determine if it was saved in word
Hollywood creates reality in the image of what the power structure seeks to sell. It underwrites trafficking in extreme edge ideas about our society. This isn’t to say there aren’t good reasons to bring to light the way that violence and poverty create a macho society in which alarming and chronic problems of money and black markets are not real, only that Hollywood is not the way to address them.
Granted an industry like Hollywood should do more to investigate our society fairly and bring relief to people in ways that make sense concerning the problems of the minority classes. I see the glamorization of ghettos however as feeding the prison-industrial complex however, and continuing the circle of subordination. There is little in Gook to provide relief from the framework, no liberation. Hollywood’s idea of education is to create slavery and give it mystique.
The tragedy in the film is a very bitter one, an accident of circumstances that never should have been possible. It is drama and the drama is part of a cultural norm created by the machine that created the film, the representational fiction machine that never seems to care, despite glowering with the power to give angst, danger and fascination.
Children are at risk to the world they never made. Adults, despite the danger posed by juveniles, should try to reach them and make them feel like they are appreciated. It’s sad to see the creative child in the film killed to serve a dramatic effect.
In Pittsburgh, I met a woman who was born deaf, a Korean orphan. She was a fine person. She also had Downs Syndrome and epilepsy. Despite many, many reasons to love her, some of the more Roman Catholic deaf boys could be seen in the Deaf Club when we visited calling her a GOOK behind her back. She was surrounded by enough decency and respect to shrug it off, but the problem is real.