Worried About the New Dylan Biopic

“It’s such an amazing time in American culture and the story of a young, 19-year-old Bob Dylan coming to New York with like two dollars in his pocket and becoming a worldwide sensation within three years — first being embraced into the family of folk music in New York and then, of course, kind of outrunning them at a certain point as his star rises so beyond belief,” Mangold said. “It’s such an interesting true story and about such an interesting moment in the American scene.”  Indiewire

And becoming “a worldwide sensation”?  Like, a star?  A celebrity?

That’s a pretty disturbing comment to hear from a director preparing to make a movie about the most provocative, original, and compelling singer-songwriter of his era.

It’s a great story because he became rich and famous?  That’s the American dream!  Soon, he is wearing the clothes that stars wear and eating in restaurants frequented by Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger!

I am not a fan of Timothy Chalamet.  I just can’t find gay actors romancing young women in a movie convincing.  In the back of my mind a little voice keeps telling me “he’s not interested in a girl.”   Worse, Chalamet is one of those actors who, like Leonardo Di Carpio, calibrates his performance to other actors’ performances, to what they think a real actor would do– what has received critical opprobrium and public esteem– rather than to the psychological reality of the character they are playing.

Christian Bale is a great example of an actor who does dig deep into the character and brings out unexpected nuance and subtlety.  His performance in films like “American Psycho” and “Shame” are brilliant.

I wish he had been chosen for this role.

But, my wife says, he doesn’t look like Bob Dylan.

C’est la vie.





Joan Baez’s Vanity

Joan Baez: I am Noise was showing at the Princess Theatre this week so my wife and I went to see it.  Up until about half way through, it was not too annoying.  It was narcissistic and self-serving, of course, and Baez always sings as if the audience has an obligation to express convincing and polite approbation or else, but I found it tolerable until she began to relate how broken down she was for a period in her life.  It’s hard to describe what she meant because the whole thing was amorphous and, I think, purposely vague, but it emerged that her sister Mimi, who also experienced these disorders, claimed that her father had French-kissed her once in the back yard by the clothesline.  Then Joan Baez– also, of course, in therapy– began to recover her own memories of abuse about which she was decidedly vague.

Aside from the obvious controversies, one must immediately acknowledge that she admitted to being desperately addicted to quaaludes at the time.  One must also sadly note that her career was in decline and she was no longer as important or celebrated as she once had been and that can be, for someone admittedly addicted to public adoration, a tough pill to swallow.

Think about it:  she was massively doped up on quaaludes (so badly so that she approved the stupidest album cover photo of her career–in a space suit– during this period for the stupidest album of her career — a desperate attempt to maintain her relevance by embracing rap), depressed about the loss of her prominence on the activism circuit (the Viet Nam War had ended) and possibly even more depressed about her own failures as a mother (she continued to tour leaving Gabriel in the care of others).  The cover of Time Magazine (an awful, ugly graphic) must have seemed so long ago by then.  And David Harris didn’t turn out to be that great of a husband after all.

There was a reference to hypnosis in there but I’ll say no more about that because I can’t recover a memory of the details of context.  But some of the content of the tapes she played in the film reminded me of the suggestive tactics of the “therapists” involved in recovering memories of abuse by the victims of the Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax.

I remained puzzled by several things.  As is often the case, one allegation begets another and, sure enough, the zombie “recovered memories” reared it’s ugly, festering head and Joan claimed that she also had been abused.  Of course, there is no specific date or time or location, and of course her father is deceased and unable to defend himself.  Of course, she had been heavily into quaaludes for eight years– which, I suppose, offers an explanation of just how many layers of shit covered those hidden memories.  Of course.  What astonished me is that no editor or producer thought fit to either excise the questionable allegations or at least do a little more to acknowledge that recovered memories are “controversial”.  Because they are not “controversial” at all.   They are the product of junk psychology and have been thoroughly discredited and debunked.  They were promulgated by books like “Sybil” and “Satan Remembers” which have been convincingly shown to be hoaxes.

But then again, this is a vanity project, not a documentary.  We saw nothing that was not approved of for us by Joan Baez herself.

Add to that the issue of hypnosis, which was also part of her therapy…  look, it’s 2023.  Wake up.

Things come to a crux when Mimi tells of being French kissed by her father, a recollection that leads Joan to pursue her own path of thrice-weekly therapy, including hypnotism, which has her remembering her own inappropriate experiences with her dad — which the film does not go into great detail on. The doc includes letters and voice messages from her father in which he accuses Joan of having fallen prey to false memory syndrome, but Baez tells the filmmakers today that if even 20% of what she remembers is true, that’s damning enough.

Twenty percent of nothing is still nothing.  This is throwing mud onto the wall and believing that some of it must stick.

I will not be polite about this issue under any circumstance.  A good deal of damage has been done by credulous individuals who don’t care about science or evidence or facts and are willing to believe something because they just “feel” it must be true– as Joan Baez suggests in this vanity piece.  She even suggests that her father might have “felt” that it wasn’t true.  And that both feelings are valid.



The Price of Hostages

Of course, our sages were aware that ransoming prisoners can also lead to other dangers. If a community is too quick to pay ransom, then it risks incentivizing kidnappers. One therefore needs to calculate the dangers of overpaying. But this stipulation does not negate the ethos, only contextualizes it.  NYTimes

I was surprised to find this in the New York Times.

A history of Israel’s Negotiations with Hostage Takers

“Does not negate the ethos” is a piece of rogue logic that doesn’t follow anything previously stated.  In fact, it directly negates the ethos: your action (paying hostage-takers) may cause other people to be taken hostage and  cause other families to experience the grief you experienced.   The writer, Mikhael Manekin, is telling you: I can make the illogical logical with my magic word “contextualize”.

What does this mean:  “Contextualizes it”?  Other than, let’s introduce some really fuzzy logic here– the context is my emotions.  I feel devastatingly awful for the families of hostages so lets compel the government to do everything it can to get them back, even if the success of the hostage-taking leads to more hostages.

That is what the writer has admitted in the article.  “It risks incentivizing kidnappers” stated as if, oh well, it might not happen.  It absolutely happens.  She gives us the glories of compassion and capitulation: pay them, pay them, pay them!

Paying the kidnappers provides one with cheap virtue.  You congratulate yourself for your act of kindness and disregard the consequences for others.

In 2011, it [Israel] released more than 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a soldier who was kidnapped in 2006 by Hamas.

Wow.  And does anyone publicly ask whether any of those 1,000 prisoners were involved in the slaughter in Israel last weekend, or in the hostage-taking?  Would anyone be surprised if they were?  [In fact, the current leader of Hamas was one of the 1,000!]

The PBS News Hour, which I normally am very fond of, did a series a while ago in which Amna Nawaz interviewed families of hostages held in Iran or Russia.  The stories were given extraordinary length for a situation that only involves one person each, and I think Amna had tears in her eyes.  The story screamed at the viewer:  do something!  Anything!  [This continued for several episodes with further interviews with relatives of hostages, again, with extraordinary length for a national news story.]

[Update, yesterday (2023-11-21), Amna again interviewed a pair of American women whose children or grand-children are being held as hostages.  Again, the interview was granted a large chunk of national news time and space.  How many viewers consider the fact that there are dozens of other stories, equally compelling, involving as much or more suffering, that are selectively not covered most media outlets because the Israel story is, for the moment, the world’s rage.

The one question she did not ask: is it possible that paying the ransom of a prisoner held previously led to your loved one being held for ransom?

I thought I had heard once that Israel’s stated policy was to never pay ransoms.  Obviously, either my memory is mistaken or their policy has changed.  I thought then, as I think now, that that policy was the right one, as heart-breaking as it may seem to the families of hostages.   You won’t share my view unless reporters like Amna Nawaz ask the question: did negotiating with the last hostage-takers cause this hostage-taking?  Are your children (or husband or father etc.) at risk because the tears of the last families of the hostages persuaded the government to give in and negotiate even though it was bad policy to do so.  For obvious reasons.

I suspect it may have changed for the same wrong reason the stated policy of the U.S. (also to not pay ransoms) is frequently ignored: families of the hostages take to the TV screens, sometimes complaining bitterly that the President won’t meet with them, soaking up the tears of compassionate viewers and the outrage: why don’t they do something?  It’s bullying, really.   I resent them.  I resent them because they don’t seem to care that the government action they want will endanger the lives of others.  They implicitly insist that others can suffer as long as their loved ones are saved.  But that doesn’t sound nice, does it?  That’s why reporters like Amna Nawaz don’t bring it.

No family is going to go on TV and complain about the family of a former hostage forcing the government to negotiate that ransom thereby incentivizing the kidnappers who hold their son or daughter or husband.

I know some people will think I’m heartless.  Heartless to who?  The current victim or the next one?  I believe those who readily pay ransoms are the heartless ones: they know– they surely know– that they have just confirmed to the world the value of taking hostages.  They have insisted on rewarding a criminal.  They threaten to smear any politician who resists their entreaties as callous, heartless, and monstrous,  and politicians know that the general public will buy it.  Why don’t they pay the ransom this one time?  How can they be so cruel?  Even the reporter is crying.

I believe the U.S. and Canada should make it clear –as they generally do– to people who visit Iran and Russia and other nations that are not ruled by law that they risk being taken hostage, arbitrarily imprisoned, or kidnapped, and that the government– having warned them not to go there– will not pay any ransom for their release.

Brittney Yevette Griner chose to play for a professional basketball team in Russian and was caught bringing hash oil into the country in February, 2022.  She was sentenced to 9 years labor in one of Russia’s brutal prisons.  Yes, that is absolutely awful, and Russia has a repugnant lawless regime.  That’s why you don’t go there if you have any sense.  That’s why you don’t put your government and families in a terrible position in the selfish pursuit of your own interests.

And that’s why, as heartless as it seems, the U.S. should have refused to offer anything in exchange for her release.

And if you are an American in Russia right now– are you kidding me?

But of course they did pay the ransom.

“On December 8, Griner was released in a prisoner exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.”  (Wiki)  

Bout was charged and convicted of supplying weapons to terrorists that could or would be used against American soldiers.  After release, he returned to Russia and entered politics.

The people who were or will be victimized by Viktor Bout will remain anonymous, faceless, invisible.  They won’t be on PBS News Hour pleading for the lives of their loved ones who died in a conflagration somewhere fueled by weapons sold to insurgents or terrorists by Viktor Bout.  It’s not as personal as Brittney’s mom pleading with President Biden on TV.  And Amna Nawaz won’t be tearing up as she reports on the deaths of civilians in a terrorist attack that was enabled by Viktor Bout.

For any individual case, a non-negotiation policy is heart-breaking.  In the long-term, if  potential hostage-takers know that the government they wish to blackmail has a strictly-observed policy of not negotiating, it seems reasonable to believe that they would be less likely to take a hostage.  Even better, follow your own government’s advice and don’t go there.

The next time America captures, tries, and convicts a Russian criminal, if I were an America, I would stay as far away from Russia as possible.

Because Russia knows that a TV interview with the family of a hostage will be enough to push the government into bad policy.