Do Women Murder?

Just browsing. The murder rate for women vs. men is about 10 to 90%, of murders committed generally, or 15 to 85%, or some other ratio, depending on where you read. Let’s say 10% or better.

The interesting number (1995, FBI Uniform Crime Report): as a percentage of murders of spouses, the ratio is more like 499 to 976.

Do women kill? Yes they do. Spouses, most often. A feminist might look at that number and see women pushed to desperate measures by abusive husbands. Someone else might say that a few of the women that were murdered by their husbands might also have been abusive. But everyone knows, of course, that men are evil.

Jane and Henry

THAT said, in the 10 years I took to write her biography, I observed many Janes. I saw the Jane with the agenda; the girlish, self-effacing Jane when she’s with men; the armchair shrink Jane who spouts advice about sex and love and exercise as if by rote whenever she’s on TV; the ruthless, hard-as-nails Jane in business and self-promotion; the generous Jane with friends in need; the loving grandmother-matriarch Jane; the celebrity Jane who in May walked down the red carpet at Cannes in a glittery white gown and left all the young starlets in her dust. Patricia Bosworth, in the NY Times, September 25, 2011.

What is this? I mind it. All the young starlets “in her dust”? You mean, she can be smart and shrewd and giving and all that and, oh, just for the fun of it, let’s march down that red carpet at the age of 70 and prove that I am still more desirable than, say, Greta Gerwig, or Anne Hathaway, or Jessica Alba.

Poof! It’s not dust, Patricia, it’s dried up embalming fluid.

Is that what it takes to get access to Fonda, and to her friends and professional colleagues? To make sure that she understands that your biography will include lines like “and left all the young starlets in her dust”? After the Viet Nam War and Roger Vadim and Tom Hayden and “Klute” and Ted Turner– that’s ultimately what always really mattered, isn’t it?

To leave “all the young starlets in her dust”?

What’s the article really about? About how really amazing Patricia Bosworth is, really just as mysterious and alluring and deep and beautiful, as Jane Fonda, with whom she is ever so close. Because, after all, she and Jane share a deep, dark, secret, one that is so profound that all of your friends would want to know, if only they could be trusted to not spoil it.

What was on Henry Fonda’s mind the night he performed in “Mr. Roberts” after his wife slit her own throat? Jane thought he just didn’t know how to deal with grief. But it’s all a puzzle to Jane. Why didn’t she feel grief? Why didn’t she cry? Rather than acknowledge that much of what passes for grief nowadays is more like grief theatre anyways, she thinks there must have been something wrong with her, that she was trying too hard to please daddy.

Let’s all wonder about it.

The beautiful, dewy photo of Ms. Fonda on the book’s front cover is a miracle of photography, fitness and plastic surgery, probably all three. NY Times, Janet Maslin, 2011-08-18


Fullsome Employment

When the recession hit, this company, Marvin Windows and Doors, chose not to lay off workers. It cut back hours and production and bonuses and cut benefits, but it chose to not lay anyone off.

I can’t help but believe that if most American companies adopted the attitudes and policies of Marvin Windows and Doors, there would have been no recession, and unemployment would be below 5%, and all of us would be more prosperous.

And then you have idiots like Bradlee Dean. It is roundly depressing that we live in a world in which it might be necessary to explain to some people what is wrong with burning witches.

Michelle Bachmann, by the way, is on the record: “the separation of church and state is a myth.”

I Don’t Want the Government Telling Me What to Eat

This addiction to processed food is the result of decades of vision and hard work by the industry. For 50 years, says David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and author of “The End of Overeating,” companies strove to create food that was “energy-dense, highly stimulating, and went down easy. They put it on every street corner and made it mobile, and they made it socially acceptable to eat anytime and anyplace. They created a food carnival, and that’s where we live. And if you’re used to self-stimulation every 15 minutes, well, you can’t run into the kitchen to satisfy that urge. NY Times, 2011-09-25

The amazing thing is the way the fast food industry, heavily subsidized by the government, has succeeded in convincing so many Americans that being manipulated by a multi-billion dollar industry– at their own expense– is an expression of personal “freedom” while the very thought of the government doing anything to reduce obesity and diabetes and heart disease– like requiring fast food outlets to disclose just how many calories are in their foods– just makes them hysterical.


The Un-War

I have said before that there is no “war” on terror. It’s not a war. It’s a series of random skirmishes. But, as I have also observed before, the Republicans would prefer to keep America in a perpetual state of war and they have now succeeded. The Republicans love to say, “sure, in normal times we could respect the constitution, but this is a time of war” or “sure, normally we don’t torture, but this is a time of war…” or ” sure, normally we try to have a fair tax system, but in a time of war, the rich should not have to pay taxes”.  Or how about, normally we don’t steal a nation’s oil reserves, but Iraq wasn’t using them for anything anyway.

There’s a brilliant mind at work here. If you can justify otherwise outrageous policies on the basis of war, why not have a perpetual war. But wouldn’t that be a bad thing? Only if it was a real war. But then how do you get people to believe we are war when we’re not? Simple. There are always terrorists and always criminals. Simply redefine “war” so it looks like something that is always going on. Bingo.

How does it serve their interests? Fear is the Republicans’ best friend. It is through fear that they can abrogate your civil rights, examine your book-borrowing records, scan you naked at airports. It is through fear that they can channel billions of dollars to their friends in the military and the defense industries. It is through fear that they can hide: our enemies cannot be permitted to know how much we spend on security– as if it would make any difference to them– and so, neither can you.

This “war” is not going to end. Obama can’t end it because the Republicans will roast him for being “soft” on terror if he does, and he doesn’t have the guts to take a chance on that. It will not end because there has never not been terrorists and there probably will never not be terrorists, and the Republicans know that perfectly well. They have their dream position. They know that they are sonsofbitches and as long as they can keep America afraid they are confident that Americans will trust them to wield the big stick and do to our enemies what we consider monstrous when they do it to us.

This war is forever. Patriotism, flag-waving, bigotry prevails for now. Trillions will be spent on fighting the phantom menace, ineffectually in the end, because the very definition of terrorism is random violence.

I don’t when or if Americans will ever realize how they have been conned.

Extraordinarily Lavish Survivor Benefits: Why?

The average family of a victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks received about $3 million from insurance companies and the federal government of the United States. Altogether, the governments kicked in about $16 billion in compensation. (Insurance Companies kicked in about the same amount.) The government enacted legislation limiting the liability of governments, airports, airlines, and other agencies or companies, in exchange for the settlements produced by the 9/11 fund.

[2011-09-26 I just reread that and I couldn’t believe it. So I double-checked. Yes, $16 billion. And I’m sure lots of people watching it all unfold on TV thought to themselves, boy, they can’t pay them enough.

Yes they can.

You just want the theatrical moment in your mind when you well up with tears and awesomeness at how

As the Rand Corporation pointed out, the government’s actions here establish some precedents for compensation for the victims of a terrorist attack. Politically, it was impossible to stand up to the families of the victims of 9/11: all they had to do was go on TV and complain about “unfair” treatment and politicians of all stripes would fall over themselves to grant their every wish. They even demanded the right to censor any entertainments eventually provided in facilities at the new World Trade Center.

There were concerns that litigation would go on forever, would cost far more than the roughly $30 billion offered by the government, and make everybody feel really, really bad.

The lawsuits would have been a grave thing– what jury could resist giving a huge award to someone who lost a loved one because the airlines and the airports didn’t check for box-cutters? But no one, of course, was going to be able to sue the people actually responsible for the disaster: Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.. Instead, you sue whoever happens to be nearby, with large wallets. The government is always handy, even if we say we don’t want them intruding on our lives. Then, when the Bush Administration couldn’t get Bin Laden, they followed a similar strategy of diffusion: let’s kill Saddam. You sue or kill the most convenient target or the target with deep pockets.

The victims of Hurricane Katrina, of course, were not so lavishly compensated for their losses. Of course, you couldn’t sue Katrina herself either. And for some reason, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and the remarkably inept government response, didn’t have nearly the political sway the victims of 9/11 had.

Does that have anything to with the economic status or colour of the victims?  You decide.

There was something about the hatred and bitterness and vindictiveness of the 9/11 Families that seemed to have nothing or little to do with perceived or real injustice. It was not pleasant to watch. It caused me personally to begin to lose sympathy for them thought they had suffered real losses.

It’s a lot of money. I think you should only be able to sue for that kind of money if you could clearly demonstrate that there was reckless disregard for the safety of the individuals working in the towers. How reckless were they, compared to all the other towers in Manhattan, most of which are equally vulnerable to this kind of attack?

Not the Empire State Building: it was designed differently. A plane did crash into it once — it met an immovable object. The Empire State Building is far, far safer than the World Trade Center because the builders spent enough money to make sure it was safe. That’s all there is to it.

It is a known fact that no fire above the 37th floor of building in New York City can be fought by fire-fighters.  Nobody cares– not when a billion dollars of office space is just sitting there to be cashed in on.  Buildings are required to have a water tank on the top floor: the World Trade Centre safety equipment did not work.  The door to the roof was locked and could not be opened.

It probably would have cost a lot less than $30 billion to have built the World Trace Center to the standards.

On the 9/11 compensation fund.

9/11 was a genuine act of savagery and a genuine tragedy. One is tempted to forget that, in the face of the relentless, incessant, over-bearing monumentalism going on in the U.S. right now.

U.S. payback was overwhelming, disproportionate, and wildly misguided. And it was payback. Will there be a moment at which the U.S. finally announces that they are even?

On 3/20 will the Iraqis hold a memorial to the 100,000 innocent people who died in the American invasion? (We’re talking about women and children and non-combatants here). Will they solemnly read off the names of the 100,000 at the site of the one of the bombed out neighborhoods? Will the families of the 100,000 sue whoever is nearby with a fat wallet for “compensation”?

We know they won’t get a penny. They just happened to be in the way.

About $3 billion was given to the 9/11 fund from charities.



On January 29, 1948, the New York Times ran a story about a plane crash in California in which 32 people died, 28 Mexicans, and four Americans. The four Americans were identified by names and professions. The Mexicans were merely identified as “deportees”.

Woody Guthrie read the article and thought about those Mexicans. He thought about their wives and children and girlfriends, and about the way they risked their lives at times to cross over into the U.S. illegally to try to make some money to send home to their families. He thought about how they were often exploited and cheated by their “coyotes” (guides), and sometimes abandoned to die in the dessert. He thought that they deserved to have names.

He wrote the lyrics for “Deportee (Plane Crash at Los Gatos Canyon)” and recited the piece at some performances. Ten years later, a school teacher named Martin Hoffman took Guthrie’s poem and wrote a melody for it. Pete Seeger covered it and it became a hit.

It’s a beautiful song. It’s flawed (that last didactic verse isn’t necessary)– like the faces of many great beauties– but it has a zen-like clarity to it that entrances. It builds slowly, laying out the scene, literally and metaphorically, and then hammering home it’s point with

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

“Both sides of the river, we died just the same” may the most eloquent summation of a liberal, progressive attitude that I have ever seen. This is not about war between illegals and native sons, or Mexicans and Americans, or the owners and the dispossessed. It’s about how we treat each other as human beings. It’s about the dignity of the laborer, and the hypocrisy of a culture that openly hates illegal immigrants but depends on them to harvest their crops, look after their children, and wash their cars.

One measure of the greatness of a song is its enduring appeal. Is there another song that has retained such a high degree of relevance? Up to 500 Mexicans die every year trying to cross the border illegally to do work that Americans won’t do, for willing employers. In return, they are treated like “outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves”.

How do I acknowledge 9/11? With this tribute to “Deportees”.

In 2005, more than 500 Mexicans died trying to cross over into the U.S. illegally.

Deportee on Wiki

Best version? I have an ensemble version that I adore that is attributed to “Woody Guthrie”– obviously, the song-writer– with no further information about the performers. Sounds like early Weavers, but it’s not them. Lists of songs performed and recorded by the Weavers do not list “Deportee”.

Dolly Parton did a version, on her album “9 to 5”. I will remind you that she was quite a good singer before the industry got their fangs into her style.

The only “tribute” to 9/11 I could really stomach to watch was the curious performance of Paul Simon, at Ground Zero, of “The Sounds of Silence”. As he sang,

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.

the camera cut to a shot of the American flag draped on a nearby office tower. Very curious. Simon didn’t change a word– good man!– so we were left with an image of the “words of the prophets” written on the subway walls and tenement halls.

We know from another Paul Simon’s songs (“A Poem on the Underground Wall”) what one of those words was.

Shirley MacLaine in “The Apartment”

Did Shirley MacLaine understand why her performance in “The Apartment” was so good?

I don’t know. How do you know what you look like to the people outside your own head? She radiates joy when she finally begins to realize that C.C. Baxter cares more about her than Sheldrake. But then, she radiated joy when Sheldrake paid attention to her too. She is believably unaware of what is readily apparent to the viewer: Sheldrake is using her– he’s never going to leave his wife, whereas C.C. is Jack Lemmon, for God’s sake.

The 1954 movie “Some Came Running” was based on a book by James Jones. At the end of the book. the hero, Dave Hirsh, is killed by a mobster trying to take down his former girlfriend, Ginnie.

Frank Sinatra, that literary genius, insisted that his character could not be killed at the end– no, no– it would be better if Ginnie was killed. Better yet– Ginnie is killed while trying to save Dave. She jumps in front of the bullets. Yeah, yeah, that’s it. He famously quipped– “Let the girl take the shot — it’ll probably win her an Oscar.”

It did.

Geez, Frank, did you ever win a Pulitzer? You should have. You had all of one idea, and it was a bad one, but it made the final cut. My question is: did they deduct money from James Jones’ check– why did they even need him? Give Frank a typewriter and have him write the entire movie– he can do it. He’s a  fucking literary genius.

Andie, Ducky, Blaine

At the end of “Pretty in Pink”, Andie (Molly Ringwald) forsakes the rich kid, Blane, and finally reciprocates Duckie’s long, anguished crush.

No she didn’t. That is what John Hughes wanted originally. The alternative was, according to IMDB: “forced upon him by the studio…”. Andie goes with Blane. This was complicated and required the actors to be flown back to location and re-filmed.

In this excruciating scene– “I always believed in you. You just didn’t believe in me…” (Blane) gratifies the ambiguous feelings Americans have towards wealth. They want to hate the rich. Then they want to be the rich. Then they want to hate the rich. That whacky Ron “Duckie” Paul had a crush on her but in the end, she’s got to go with Mitt Romney. And Duckie must be forced to be party to his own emasculation. But then, Kristy Swanson smiles that intoxicating, unnerving, mesmerizing smile and it’s almost worth it.

Another trivia item contradicts the claim that the studio was the culprit: it says that director/writer John Hughes didn’t want to imply that poor kids couldn’t make it with rich kids. He didn’t want to leave you with the idea the class matters. As if it didn’t.

Another note mentions that test audiences wanted Andie to end up with Blane.

Test audiences?

I have a solution for that problem. Let’s round up a test audience, give them a notebook, a camera and a microphone and a recorder and some lights and make-up, and tell them to go make a film. They can make the exact film they want. Then they can watch it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. See how they like it.

It doesn’t make any sense. If movie producers need a test audience to tell them how to end a movie, why not have them create the story as well? Well, I guess they kind of do.

Test audiences would never have approved of the ending of “The Graduate”, the most original and compelling minute of the movie. They would have had Ben and Elaine laugh, kiss, and “Feelin’ Groovy” would have played in the background.

The Long Lost NHL Code of Humble Celebrations

Are there people who think it’s really cool when a batter like David Ortiz stands in the batter’s box and admires his own hit? Even when it doesn’t go out. And it hits the wall in left-center field and stays in, and the delay cost Boston a base, as it did tonight against the Jays?

It’s repulsive. I hope I never see a Blue Jay do it.

I once copied a bunch of old video tapes of NHL hockey from the 1970’s to DVD for a friend at work. These were tapes of games from 30-40 years ago. The most striking thing about hockey then compared to now? When a player scored a goal, he modestly skated back to his bench, or to center ice, and his team-mates practically had to chase him down to be able to pat him on the back and congratulate him.

It was considered unseemly back then for a player to open celebrate his own achievements.

Who likes this showmanship, this preening, arrogant posturing? Are there fans out there who thrill to Ortiz’s snarling self-satisfaction? There was a near-brawl in Anaheim in late July when Jared Weaver reacted to some show-boating by Carlos Guillen by nearly beaning Alex Avila. In the head. With a fast ball.

He shouldn’t have done it. But why is there so little comment about the showboating?

I freely admit it: I hold a minority position here.  Most people I know love the showboating.  They are wrong.