Monday, November 05, 2007

Gene Wilder

It's not as easy as it may seem to write about the filmography of Gene Wilder. The best anyone can do is rave about their favorite Gene Wilder movie, and even then with some trepidation about their own personal masculinity.

1975 he wrote, directed and starred in a little movie called "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter brother", which I remember with fondness and for which I have been searching for a couple of years. I finally found a DVD of the movie a few weeks ago, ordered it and saved it unopened until both SWMBO and I were sufficiently recovered from our various malaise until we could watch it together. I admit, I was a bit disappointed. It doesn't seem as fresh and spontaneous as it did in 1975, but that may have been because Wilder (Jerome Silberman) really needed the genius of Mel Brooks to teach him what comedy was all about.

Ignoring his 1963 Broadway rendition of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with Kirk Douglas", Wilder had a small but impressive movie part in "Bonnie and Clyde" in 1967 as " ... as a frightened young undertaker abducted by the duo".


But in his appearance as "Leo Bloom" in Brooks' "The Producers", opposite the brilliant but zany Zero Mostel, Wilder proved himself capable of making the most sublime characterization seem almost reasonable. (Note: now that Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick on Broadway have taken over the roles of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder as "The Producers", you can't find images of the original movie on the Internet!)

As the man who finds himself drawn into impossibly bizarre situations, most often through no fault of his own, the frizzy-haired, inadvertently felon Wilder lent credence to the most improbable plot twists.

Watching Wilder was usually much like watching a Donald Duck cartoon; when the Duck played a baseball pitcher and his wind-up was so vigorous that his pitching arm turned into an airplane propeller, causing him to rise up off the ground ... Wilder movies also called upon the viewer to 'suspend disbelief' in order to appreciate the situation.

Brooks brought Wilder through some of the zaniest social situations imaginable. And every picture he ever made was, to some extent, a 'con job'.

In The Producers, the con was to produce a play which was so outrageous that nobody would attend it past the first night. Then Mostel, who with his extreme comb-over would somehow romance elderly widows to invest in the play (until it was 1000% oversubscribed). Finally, when the show bombed, the huckster Mostel and the milquetoast accountant Wilder would abscond with the investments ... which had of course been used up by the newly found wild lifestyle. Of course, because of the unpredictably fickle Broadway audience, the most outrageous script, most disgusting musical lyrics of "Springtime for Hitler and Everyone" was judged to be "Camp" (shades of Televisions "Batman) and the dynamic duo of Mostel and Wilder were required to distribute profits instead of wiping the slate clean in the planned El Bombo.

Sure, it was both silly and stupid, but the combined brilliance of Brooks and Mostel (as well as the small but significant contribution of the vaguely effeminate Wilder) it seemed almost ... reasonable.


After Wilder's semi-failed attempt at independence with "Sherlock Holmes .." ("Sheer Luck!"), Wilder dallied in "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", and later went back to Brooks. In an improbable teaming with Cleavon Little (later to star in a short-lived but hilarious hospital-based comedy named "Temperature's Rising") found his forte' in 1974's "Blazing Saddles", a cowboy movie where he played the improbable gunslinger "The Waco Kid". ("Wanna see my fast draw? Wanna see it again?")


"Blazing Saddles" somehow managed to combine Wilder, Little, Brooks, Alex Karras, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn (remember these names, you'll see many of them again) in a movie which featured the famous line (with Little holding a pistol to his own head) declaiming: "Nobody Moves, or the nigger gets it!".

To everyone's surprise, this was among the most memorable ... and most laughable ... lines in the movie. One of the cast found it extremely difficult to deliver lines including "the 'N-word", but was convinced by, of all persons Mel Brooks. Cleavon Little reportedly laughed through the making of the movie because of the discomfort of "the white boys". Everybody laughed through the "Bean Fart Scene" which was bowlderized in the television version ... the sound track was 'suppressed' ane parts of other scenes were completely deleted in both the television and the first-run movie. You have to buy/rent the DVD to see the movie as it was originally intended.



Later in 1974 (they were on a roll), Brooks and Wilder combined with Kahn to create"Young Frankenstein", featuring Peter Boyle as "The Monster". Marty Feldman, Wilder's alter ego in "Sherlock Holmes" and Cloris Leachman as "Frau Blucher" and Terri Garr as "Inga" all contributed some of the most memorable 'straight lines' in comedic movie history. It may be that Wilder's frizzy hair made him a 'natural choice' to play Frankenstein's grandson ("That's Frahnensteen!), but Wilder managed to hold his own among the most notorious scene-stealers since Harvey Korman and Dom DeLuis (and Brooks himself) in "Blazing Saddles".



The next year, Wilder co-starred with Richard Pryor in the improbable "Silver Streak", with Jill Clayburgh, Ned Beatty and Patrick McGoohan (Secret Agent Man) 'as Deveraux'. This was a patent contest between Pryor and Wilder to steal scenes; the score is tied, as it was in 1989's "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" (Wilder was blind, Pryor was deaf: or was it the other way around? Event they sometimes seemed to lose track but it didn't matter) and the earlier 1980 "Stir Crazy".



Somewhere in the middle of all that, Wilder marries Gilda Radner and, after she contracts Cancer, they star together in a comedically poignant (if that's possible) "Haunted Honeymoon".


Someday, someone will write the life story of Gene Wilder and it will prominently include the love story between Wilder and Radner. It won't be Carol Lombard and Cary Grant; it won't be Bogart and Becall; it won't be Tracy and Hepburn. But it will be no less important to the people who were involved, and The One Who Was Left Behind.

Why was this written?

Because if you haven't watched Wilder with some appreciation for his life's work, you've missed something that isn't important to anyone but you.

The 2007 Weblog Awards

I am, of course, desolate that once again I am not among the Top Ten finalists for "Best Gun Blog" this year.

The sole redeeming factor is that there is once again no category for "Best Gun Blog". So, I'll probably survive my Annual Disappointment.

For those of you whose tastes run parallel to mine, though, you still have the opportunity to vote for "The 2007 Weblog Awards" in 'other categories'.

For "Best Comic Strip" you can vote for Day By Day Cartoons here.

And for "Best of the Best 250 - 500", you can vote for Sondra K. here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Miami Vice


I bought the First and Second Seasons of Miami Vice (the television show) a couple of weeks ago. I've spent much time which might more profitably be spent 'blogging', watching the First Season.

Other than the Jim Zibiena show, Season One is a disappointment. Until they decided to lose the comedy routines, replacing the theme with a more serious mien, the show was was a little lame.

Although I am inclined to recommend the video discs, I have to admit that there is only so much of Don Johnson that mortal man can abide in a limited time period.

Ann Coulter and "Automatic vs Semi-Automatic Firearms"

I've also been reading the books which Ann Coulter has 'recently' published. Like most people, I've found some minor inconsistencies, but nothing important ... until I got to Page 263 in "How To Talk to a Liberal (If You Must), published in 2004.

In this book she reprints previous columns which either have or have not been published (you have to read the whole thing, which implies "buy the book", to get the sense of which columns have not been published. Personally ... I can't tell the difference.) But each chapter is carefully prefaced by her own comments.

In Chapter 13" "Elian Gonzalez: The Only Immigrant Liberals Ever Wanted to Deport" (pp: 257 - 272) she discusses the obvious subject. Rather than quoting her articles, she presents an 'overview' and some background information demonstrating how ...
"[w]hen it came to Elian, liberals abandoned every seditious cause they had once held dear -- disfunctional familes, judicial activism, illegal immigrants, their opposition to the use of military force, their fear and hatred of "assault-type weapons," the Constitution as a living document, Fourth Amendment rights, and a weak executive branch."
On pp 261-262, she discusses the pre-dawn "Commando raid" which was conducted for the specific purpose of " ... seizing the terrified little boy ..." (Elian Gonzalez) "... who was hiding in a closet":
"Relying on the media's complete, abject ignorance of firearms, the administration and its lackeys insisted on calling the MP-5 submachine guns carried by the Delta Force Gang "automatic rifles." That sounds so much more gentle than "machine gun" -- which is what an "automatic rifle" is. (By contrast, those "assault weapons": liberals are so terrified of are semi-automatic rifles, considerably less lethal than the gun pointed at Elias's head.) ...
[Emphasis added by Editor]

I realize that Ms. Coulter is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment. She makes that perfectly clear in Chapter 15: "Hello, Room Service? Sent Up a Bottle, a Blonde, and a Gun" (pp: 304 - 319; July 1999 thru July 22, 1999.)

But the point her is ...I do SO wish that Conservative writers, who intend to support Second Amendment causes, would at least get their facts right!

I refer, of course, to the parenthetical statement:
(By contrast, those "assault weapons": liberals are so terrified of are semi-automatic rifles, considerably less lethal than the gun pointed at Elias's head.)
Although it may be too late to be pertinent in the quoted context, I call upon Michael Bane (who knows Ms. Coulter much better than do I) to impress upon her the following pertinent facts:

Semi-automatic weapons are not necessarily " ... considerably less lethal ..." than full-automatic weapons. Lethality is a characteristic determined by many factors, not least are caliber and velocity.

Rate-of-Fire is not really a measure of lethaltity.

I note that the danger of fatal wounds from a 9mm MP-5 is probably less than that of a 7.62 M-60 (full-auto machine guns) and the MP-5 is probably less 'lethal' than a .30-30 .30-40 Krag.

Ms. Coulter is much smarter than I am, and a much better writer of political essays without doubt.

But she should leave the question of firearms lethality to the people who know what they're talking about. Or she should research the subject at least as much as Lexis/Nexis will support, or no further.

Or she should not make comments which are not supported by her research.

She does the RKBA folks a disservice when she offers opinions in the guise of fact ... a situation for which she (rightly) castigates Liberals without mercy.

Look For The Union Label ... Measure 50 in Oregon

I probably could have titled this article "Why I Am Not A Union Member", but the other was more to the point.

I work on a University campus in Oregon, and when I was hired in 1996 I was given a choice. I could either join the union, or I could become a "Fair-Share" employee. Essentially, the difference was that (a) I was a Union Member and could vote on issues, or (b) I paid union dues, but had no voice.

Of course, there was always (c) - if I was a Union Member and the Union called a strike, I was bound to respect their picket lines. Or face 'penalties'.

I chose (b). I don't agree with the liberal politics of the union, so I don't care to be associated with them more than is required by the (unfair) requirements of "Fair-Share" ... which takes $x out of my paycheck every month.

This month there is a state-wide Issue on the November ballot called Measure 50. Friday, I received a flyer from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) encouraging all Union members and "Fair-Share" employees to vote YES on the measure.

Here's what the (local 503) Union website (supported by the World Socialist Web Site) had to say about Measure 50:



Health Insurance for all Oregon Children
117,000 Oregon children don't have health coverage. They don't get necessary health care services, and are more likely to end up in emergency rooms or require more expensive treatments. Measure 50 is a fair and accountable way to provide our kids the health coverage they need.

Measure 50 Funds Health Care. Over 70% of the new cigarette tax revenue will fund the Healthy Kids Program. The rest goes to other health programs, including health clinics, tobacco prevention, and health coverage for 10,000 low-income adults.

As Employers Reduce Health Coverage, Oregon's Working Families Pay the Price:

  • More than 80,000 Oregonians have lost their employer provided health insurance int he past four years
  • As health care costs rise, more employers are either reducing coverage or shifting the costs to employees and their famililes
Kids can't wait! Kids should be at the front of the line when it come sto helth care. Let's protect the most important resource Oregon has ... our kids!
What they barely touch upon:
This measure would result in an increased tax on tobacco products to pay for this program. Not all Oregonians would pay for it ... only tobacco users. The flyer states that "70% .. would fund the ... program". The rest would go for 'other uses', including "tobacco prevention".

It doesn't mention that, as a result of a federal suit some years ago, Oregon has been receiving MILLIONS of dollars from the Tobacco industry ... supposedly to pay for "tobacco prevention" programs as well as to compensate for health-care costs which are directly imposed on the state as a result of uninsured tobacco users who incur medical costs which they cannot pay and which are absorbed by 'the state'. (More likely, picked up by health-care providers which are already required to pay for the medical care of 'indigent' patients ... such as Illegal Aliens.)

The State has not reserved these funds for the expressed purposes. Instead, it has included the funds in the "general fund", which could well be used (and has been) for 'any' purpose.

Now they want to impose a new tax to provide medical care for 'the children', who are generally supposed NOT to be 'tobacco users'.

A twenty-five cent pack of cigarettes now costs $4.40, because of the "Sin Taxes" added at the unilateral behest of Federal and State taxes.

Unanswered is the question: "What does Child Health Care have to do with adult Tobacco Users? If the concern is Child Health Care is at such a critical state, why should tobacco users foot the bill?"

What they aren't mentioning AT ALL:
The purpose of the bill isn't just another attempt to add another tax in Oregon. The State has attempted to add new tax revenue (including both Tobacco Taxes and a State Sales Tax ... Oregon is one of only TWO states which does not impose a Sales Tax on its citizens, and every time the legislature attempts to impose a Sales Tax it is voted down, and The State fulfills its threats by cutting back on Essential Services such as Police staffing).

No, Measure 50 doesn't JUST impose another tax. Instead, it proposes a constitutional amendment which would allow The State to impose a "Special Tax" on a consumer product.


Imagine, for comparison, a measure to enact a Constitutional Amendment to establish a tax on Mascara. This is a consumer product which is used only by a narrowly defined subset of the citizenry. Presumably, those who use excess mascara (harlots, professional models, actresses, Katherine Harris if she should move to Oregon) would only be affected and would be obliged to sacrifice for the benefit of another, unrelated minority.

Should we blithely accept this measure ... this constitutional amendment ... because the cost would only be borne by the 'unsavory element' of the voters?

This is the "Tyranny of the Majority", as John Stuart Mills defines it, at its worst.

More important, acceptance of this approach would impose a burden on a minority which is acceptable only because they are a minority.

Most important, it would lay the groundwork for other, even more egregious impositions on minority populations for the benefit of measures which are not generally accepted, and which have failed all other tests of the popular vote.

Fatuous, pernicious pusillanimous politicians. I detest them politically, and I detest their tactics both as a matter of personal and political preference.

Within the next week I will write to the local chapter of SEIU and require that they return all funds of my "Fair-Share" which are earmarked for political activism.

I have been acquiescent long enough.

What a bunch of Maroons!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

USPSA survey: Win a Shotgun!

USPSA recently emailed this survey to members:


In 2005 USPSA conducted a member survey that helped the organization present an accurate profile of the practical shooter to the media, the firearms industry and USPSA partners and sponsors. The data gathered in 2005 was extremely valuable and response from the industry was excellent.


We are once again conducting a survey to measure the impact our members have on the firearms industry. This 2007 survey will allow us to track any trends and provide an updated profile of the USPSA member to dealers and manufacturers at the 2008 SHOT Show.


Please take a moment to complete this survey. The information you provide will be vital in our efforts to expand our sponsor base and build the sport. As a thank you for completing the survey, you will be entered in a drawing to win a brand new Mossberg shotgun. Although the survey will continue, the eligibility deadline for the Mossberg shotgun is 11/09/2007.


As with the last survey this online polling system gives USPSA the ability to collect data through a protected, anonymous online system. This system also ensures the integrity of the information by preventing individual members from filling it out more than once. It won’t tell us what you said on the questionnaire, only that you completed it. Your personal information will be protected, but USPSA will benefit from knowing more about our members.


We appreciate your participation and encourage you to act quickly to complete the survey in order to be eligible to win a brand new Mossberg shotgun.

Pretty cool, eh?

The only problem is, the survey requires you to register by submitting your USPSA member number and your PIN.

PIN?

What the heck is my PIN?

Do you know what your USPSA PIN is? I don't. I've never had to enter my PIN for USPSA access before.

I know what my USPSA number is, and I know what the UID and password is to enter the MEMBERS area. (Come to think of it, I don't know this: it's in my PASSWORD area for Microsoft XP. But that doesn't work, either.)

Come on, USPSA. I guess you know what my PIN is, but I don't. Is it one of the magic numbers published in the Front Sight magazine? I can't even find the magazine, and you expect me to know my PIN?

I'm thinking, this is one survey that isn't going to get a lot of responses.

Dave, email me. Okay?

(What, you can't find my personal email address Dave? Okay, I feel your pain.)


UPDATE: November 4, 2007
Comment from Evil Bill:
Jerry---It's on your Front Sight mailing label.

Look for PIN: followed by a string of seven numbers. Probably just to the right of your name.
Once again, Evil Bill is right.

I used the PIN I found on my Front Sight mailing label and was able to take and complete the survey.

I'll let you know how much I enjoy my new MOSSBERG shotgun as soon as they ship it to me. It may be a companion piece to the new MOSSBERG shotgun I bought in April.

Thanks, Evil Bill!

Meaningful Blogging Hiatus

I've had the flu for the past 4 weeks, SWMBO is recovering from major surgery, and neither of us have been to an IPSC match for over a month.

In the meantime, I'm running BlogMeat, Ugly Betty and "Plastic Greaves".

Can you see it's time for us to get back on the range?

I thought you could.

Armor All!

An excellent case for Shovel Control!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ugly Betty


I never thought I would find myself linking to STYLE.COM ...

.. but here we are. Must be a slow news day, eh?


The thing is, I have from time to time found myself at SWMBO's house watching television, and actually enjoying Ugly Betty. I don't like their politics, don't like most of the people, but like millions of Americans I am totally charmed by Ugly Betty.


Imagine, then, my chagrin at learning that she 'cleans up good'.

(Click! Wait for it!)

TAS: "Ambush In Samarra"

The Longest Morning


From The American Spectator (h/t Donovan at Castle of Arghhh!)

Yes. This is what Combat is like. No "End Plan", no politics. Just hours and hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of terror and Doing The Jobs Only Americans Will Do.

This is "The Elephant" in its most terrifying aspect. If your admiration for America's warriors has grown tepid ... prepare yourself to be convinced all over again.