Cinematic Entertainment of a High Order

Following a path of YouTube recommendations sometimes works out very well. I clicked on a disappointing little thing from The Criterion Collection this morning, but was then led to a series of videos called “Three Reasons”. Each one offers three reasons to watch a movie Criterion will sell you. I watched a bunch, although not all 81 of them (lunch beckoned and I do have some self-respect).

It’s my duty to share a few “Three Reasons” I especially liked.

Badlands (1973), directed by Terrence Malick, maker of distinctively beautiful, sometimes puzzling works of art.

Fellini Satryicon (1969), from the wonderful Federico Fellini, who unfortunately didn’t get better with age.

The Killing (1956), by my favorite director, Stanley Kubrick, who left us too soon.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959), the best movie Otto Preminger ever directed.

Ok, one more.

Something Wild (1986), directed by Jonathan Demme, whose varied credits include The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Stop Making Sense and three episodes of Saturday Night Live.

In addition to their DVD collection, Criterion has a streaming channel. It’s got hundreds of American and foreign films, but none of these five. They have their reasons ($$$) for not offering their entire DVD collection online, but it’s still worth checking out as an addition or alternative to Netflix, whether your taste runs to L’avventura, West Side Story or Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Now a public service message:

The American president is a disaster. He’s almost certainly doing something horrendous right now. That’s why we should vote him and every other Republican out of office in November. If you’re willing and able to support Democratic candidates in addition to voting for them, please do.

Changing Course

After talking with someone about the constant stream of bad news assaulting us every day, I decided to do something different with this blog. I’m going to try to post about more positive topics. Given how things are, this will probably mean I’ll have less to say.

The same phenomenon is visible in a political newsletter I get. The section called “Is That Hope?” — which features encouraging news — is always the smallest by far.

My posting less shouldn’t be much of a loss, however, since there is too much to read on the internet anyway (as well as in out of the way places like “books”).

But there’s one qualification: I intend to insert something like the following in every post, as a reminder and because silence might be seen as acquiescence:

The American president is a disaster. He is almost certainly doing something horrendous right now. That’s why we should vote him and every other Republican out of office in November. If you’re willing and able to support Democratic candidates in addition to voting for them, please do.

For example, I might point out that Gary Larson, the cartoonist responsible for The Far Side, has a site now. It features a few of his old cartoons every day (and it’s free). They had one of my favorites yesterday:


And by the way, the American president is a disaster. He is almost certainly doing something horrendous right now. That’s why we should vote him and every other Republican out of office in November. If you’re willing and able to support Democratic candidates in addition to voting for them, please do. 

You’ve Been Robbed

From Paul Waldman of The Washington Post on Twitter:

Even if you’re lucky enough not to have lost anyone or gotten sick in the pandemic, you are the victim of a robbery.

Because of Txxxx’s malignant incompetence and the stupidity of his followers, we’ve all been robbed of time we can’t get back – maybe a year or more.

We’ve been robbed of time with loved ones, education for our kids, contact with others, at least a little freedom from this constant anxiety, just the mundane but precious parts of normal life. It is a theft, and it didn’t have to happen this way.

In many countries with competent leadership and a sane populace, the pandemic is under control. Here are new cases yesterday:

Spain: 389
Germany: 361
Canada: 306
Japan: 227
Italy: 191
Netherlands: 64
S. Korea: 53

USA: 50,934

Robbery victims often speak of a sense of violation, one that turns into rage that has nowhere to go. You may be feeling that now. And you should. We all should. We’ve been robbed of so much, even if we’ve escaped the worst.

Maybe you’re not an immigrant or a racial minority or a trans person or someone else Txxxx has attacked directly. Maybe you still have your job and haven’t lost a loved one or gotten sick. But we are all his victims now.

And he should never be forgiven.

[Neither should his accomplices, especially the politicians.

You can use the Search Directory at ActBlue to find Democrats to support.]

A Comment, a Column, and Carnage

“There isn’t any iceberg. There was an iceberg but it’s in a totally different ocean. The iceberg is in this ocean but it will melt very soon. There is an iceberg but we didn’t hit the iceberg. We hit the iceberg, but the damage will be repaired very shortly. The iceberg is a Chinese iceberg. We are taking on water but every passenger who wants a lifeboat can get a lifeboat, and they are beautiful lifeboats. Look, passengers need to ask nicely for the lifeboats if they want them. We don’t have any lifeboats, we’re not lifeboat distributors. Passengers should have planned for icebergs and brought their own lifeboats. I really don’t think we need that many lifeboats and they’re supposed to be our lifeboats, not the passenger’s lifeboats. The lifeboats were left on shore by the last captain of this ship. Nobody could have foreseen this iceberg.”

Someone calling themselves “Citizen” submitted that comment after reading Paul Krugman’s latest column in The New York Times. Krugman wrote:

“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling more and more as if we’re all trapped on the Titanic — except that this time around the captain is a madman who insists on steering straight for the iceberg. And his crew is too cowardly to contradict him, let alone mutiny to save the passengers.

A month ago it was still possible to hope that the push by Dxxxx Txxxx and the Txxxxist governors of Sunbelt states to relax social distancing and reopen businesses like restaurants and bars — even though we met none of the criteria for doing so safely — wouldn’t have completely catastrophic results.

At this point, however, it’s clear that everything the experts warned was likely to happen, is happening. Daily new cases of Covid-19 are running two and a half times as high as in early June, and rising fast. Hospitals in early-reopening states are under terrible pressure. National death totals are still declining thanks to falling fatalities in the Northeast, but they’re rising in the Sunbelt, and the worst is surely yet to come.

A normal president and a normal political party would be horrified by this turn of events. They would realize that they made a bad call and that it was time for a major course correction; they would start taking warnings from health experts seriously.

But Txxxx, who began his presidency with a lurid, fact-challenged rant about “American carnage,” [is] doubling down on his rejection of expertise, this week demanding full reopening of schools in defiance of existing guidelines……

Until early 2020, Txxxx led a charmed political life. All his recent predecessors had to deal with some kind of external challenge during their first three years…..But Trump inherited a nation at peace and in the middle of a long economic expansion that continued, with no visible change in the trend, after he took office.

Then came Covid-19. Another president might have seen the pandemic as a crisis to be dealt with. But that thought never seems to have crossed Txxxx’s mind. Instead, he has spent the past five months trying to will us back to where we were in February, when he was sitting on top of a moving train and pretending that he was driving it.”


After hearing Txxxx speak at his inauguration, former president George W. Bush remarked, “Well, that was some weird shit”. When — not if — Joe Biden becomes president in January, Txxxx’s story about American carnage will have come true.

Students, Teachers, the CDC, We’re All Means, Not Ends

A quote from presidential niece Mary Txxxx’s new book:

“While thousands of Americans die alone, Donald touts stock market gains,” Mary Txxxx writes. “As my father lay dying alone, Donald went to the movies. If he can in any way profit from your death, he’ll facilitate it, and then he’ll ignore the fact that you died. … The fact is that Donald is fundamentally incapable of acknowledging the suffering of others. Telling the stories of those we’ve lost would bore him.”

A quote from Immanuel Kant’s old book:

Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.

From Crooked Media’s “What a Day” excellent newsletter:

The Txxxx administration is ramping up its efforts to force the country’s schools to open prematurely, through a wholesome combination of tampering with scientific health guidelines and some good, old-fashioned extortion.

— President Txxxx and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have each threatened to cut funding from schools that don’t resume in-person classes this fall. The president doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally withhold federal funding, and most education funding comes from states anyway, but Vice President Mike Pence helpfully clarified that the White House plans to use the next coronavirus relief bill to pressure states into compliance.

— In a world-class feat of projection, Txxxx has repeatedly claimed that Democratic state and local officials are keeping schools closed for political reasons, dangerously casting another public-health issue in partisan terms. In Txxxx’s framing of the argument over schools, the coronavirus doesn’t exist: This morning he tweeted, “In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS.” There’s something different about those countries, but we can’t quite put our finger on it; if only Americans weren’t banned from entering them, we could go sleuth it out [Hint: Germany had 390 new cases Tuesday; the US had almost 51,000].

— The goal of that framing becomes clear just one tweet later. In the alternate reality where the pandemic is no longer raging, who needs all these public-health recommendations? A few hours after Txxxx complained that the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines to safely reopen schools are too cumbersome, Pence announced that the CDC will simply issue new guidelines. “We don’t want the guidance from CDC to be a reason why schools don’t open,” said the vice president, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed three million.

Betsy Devos, who’s currently being sued for trying to divert coronavirus relief funds from public schools to private schools, has happily taken a lead role in the administration’s efforts to force those public schools to reopen.

— DeVos told governors on a Tuesday conference call, “Ultimately, it’s not a matter of if schools need to open, it’s a matter of how. School must reopen, they must be fully operational. And how that happens is best left to education and community leaders.” 

— Education and community leaders see their roles differently. The country’s largest teachers’ union has slammed Txxxx’s push to reopen schools without guaranteeing the safety of students and staff, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced today that the nation’s largest public school system will only partially reopen in the fall, with classroom attendance limited to one to three days a week, and Harvard and MIT have sued the Txxxx administration over ICE’s order that international students leave the country unless enrolled in a school offering in-person classes.

— The U.S. just confirmed a record 60,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. At least 56 ICUs in Florida hospitals reached capacity on Tuesday, Texas alone reported 10,000 new cases, and Arizona has an astronomically high test-positivity rate, at more than 25 percent. The country is in a state of crisis as extreme as at any point during the pandemic, and the Txxxx administration hopes only to hide it behind a facade of normalcy.


It’s a word that hasn’t been used much lately. “Kakistocracy”. Rule by the worst. It deserves to be used more often.