Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

I watch a fair amount of older films. Mainly because I am not impressed with the modern films that I do manage to see. With the vast wealth of older movies out there I could just watch those for decades and never miss not seeing any new cinema.

Last night I watched a film that has been on my to-see list for a very, very long time. It's a UK film called THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP. Now, some sources that I had researched refer to the movie as either the best or one of the best British movies of all time. Having now seen it and digested the experience it certainly is not the best British film I've ever seen (much less of all time). What I can say is that I enjoyed it immensely and it may actually rise in my estimation as time passes.

One thing that I came away with from watching the movie was that it is very strange. Almost a weird film. It begins as what I could only term as a farce--dialog and situation almost slapstick in some respects and with humor that spans from low-brow goofiness to almost Wilde-like.

At the end of this initial episode we are introduced to an old general (Clive Candy, portrayed by Roger Livesy) who is the principle character of the movie--and then are reintroduced to him in flashback as a young officer in London on leave from the Boer War some decades earlier.

COLONEL BLIMP was filmed in 1943 and was meant as a patriotic film for the public during the Battle of Britain when London was being regularly bombed by the German Luftwaffe. As a bit of gaudy nationalism is it effective and obvious without being terribly offensive in that respect.

On the other hand it is an excellent biography of a fictional character who could very well have been one of the old guard officers who has found himself made obsolete by a new form of warfare and against a modern opponent who is altogether more monstrous than anything previously encountered (the Nazis). The movie focuses on that career and on the strange happenstance of a friendship that arises between the British officer and a German officer--the friendship that carriers over for decades, though they mostly find themselves on opposing sides.

And then there is, of course, the love story. Deborah Kerr was--I think--only 22 or so when she made this film, and I was struck by her beauty. I don't recall seeing her act at this age since my exposure to her were in films made in the 1950s and 1960s. In this movie she was heart-stoppingly gorgeous. And another sub-text of the story is that Livesy's Clive Candy only realizes that he loves Edith Hunter (Kerr) after he has relinquished her to his German friend Theo before he understands that he has fallen in love with her. By that time it is too late, and so he ends up searching thereafter for a woman to match her.

For her part, Kerr plays three different roles in the movie--Edith Hunter and two other women that Candy sees as matching her in beauty and personality as the film progresses.

Livesy pretty much overwhelms the movie with his performance as Clive Candy. First as the headstrong young officer, and later as the career soldier moving up the ladder until he is a major-general. Although he was in his 30s when he made the film--and his youth and athleticism are evident in the sections in which Candy is young--he also makes you believe the parts of the film that portray him as first a mature, and then an aged general.

I don't recall ever seeing Livesy in any US films, but his voice stood out the second I heard it in the opening moments of COLONEL BLIMP. So I've obviously seen him in British movies I've watched when I was a kid, but I couldn't recall his face. However, that voice immediately reminded me that I'd seen at least some of his movies when I was much younger. Once you hear him speak you can't forget his voice.

I was impressed enough with the movie that I'll watch it again. But to my way of thinking it certainly is not the finest British movie I have ever seen. I don't know why anyone would tag any movie with that label. But it is a great feature with an effective script, clever direction, and wonderful performances.

Livesy as the young officer version of Clive Candy.

Livesy as the aged Major-General. The makeup was excellent, but even Livesy's speech patterns and body movements displayed those of an old man.

Deborah Kerr as Edith Hunter. I think she was 22 years old when she made this movie and was absolutely gorgeous. I had previously seen her in movies like From Here to Eternity and The Innocents and had not been so impressed with her beauty.

This is what passed as the trailer for the restored version of the film. It demonstrates two of the principle actors Roger Livesey and Anton Walbrook. One can also note the gorgeous color of the film, the striking camera work, and an overwhelmingly excellent soundtrack.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


In 2020 in the Presidential election it will be The Great Bolo versus Brute Bernard! Which way will you vote, America?! In whose beefy paws will you place the fate of the USA?!

Choose wisely!

On one side, The Great Bolo!

On the other, Brute Bernard!

Remember...the US Presidential election, like rasslin', is REAL! Don't be fooled! Get out and cheer for the good guy! And recollect to vote, dammit!

Votin' is for reals, people.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Hey! Conspiracy Morons!

Those lines of water vapor you see high in the atmosphere are called contrails. They are not called "chemtrails". They are, however, made up of chemicals, mainly condensed water vapor. Yes, my moronic "chemtrail" fellow citizens, water is a chemical compound. It consists of two atoms of hydrogen bonded to one atom of oxygen. Life on Earth can't exist without it.

Water is an amazing substance. Here on Earth it exists at what we call the triple-point. That is, at the temperature ranges and atmospheric density on our planet, H2O can exist as a gas (water vapor), a solid (ice) and a liquid (water).

For you morons, here is what you see when you look up into the sky and perceive your stupid, fucking "chemtrails": you are seeing the contrails produced by cooler, moisture-laden air (that would be water vapor--please pay attention, you fucking morons) flowing over and through jet engines that produce heat and cause the water vapor to condense into first tiny droplets of liquid water and then ice crystals. Both the condensed droplets and the ice crystals are very tiny and very light and they tend to remain suspended in the atmosphere for extended periods of time at the extreme heights at which they are formed.

Eventually, winds will disperse these elongated contrails, and sometimes a weather front will emerge and engulf them. But they are not trails of poisonous chemicals created by dastardly super-villains sitting in subterranean lairs or in their billionaire penthouses in New York, Berlin, and Moscow.

Contrails have been around since the first meteors and asteroids began to pelt the surface after the atmosphere formed with high levels of water vapor. An incoming meteor will also create a contrail. No evil scientists needed. Humans began to create contrails with the invention of the first high-flying aircraft. There were contrails reported over the battlefields of Europe during the First World War. Fighter craft such as the Fokker DVII could climb to 20,000 feet (6100 meters) and they certainly left contrails under the right conditions. While military engineers were involved in creating the Fokker DVII (and other aircraft) they certainly were not trying to control the minds of human beings through the application of some wily chemical brew.

It's water vapor, you fucking morons.

"But there are so MANY of them, Mr. Smith! Explain that!! Gotcha!"

Alas, you stupid fuckheads, you again show your ignorance and display the fact that where your brains are supposed to be there is, instead, a vile wad of shit.

On most days in the USA there are close to 90,000 flights, a huge portion of them being aircraft with large and powerful jet engines flying at high altitude. Those warm surfaces on (and in) those engines encounter otherwise invisible water vapor (the gas I mentioned earlier) and transform it into airborne streams of liquid water droplets and then into tiny ice crystals which form the human-caused equivalent of skinny cirrus clouds. And keep in mind that even propeller driven aircraft create contrails. You don't have to fly to 30,000+ feet to create a contrail.

So, instead of poisoning your already weak minds with bullshit delivered via websites about comic book conspiracy theories, read some science tracts my dumbass "chemtrail" numbskull citizens. It's bad enough that I have to share the Earth with more than seven billion humans. I'm supposed to deal with fucking morons who don't understand basic chemistry and the simplest of physics?!

Contrails created by B17 Flying Fortresses during World War II. Multiple contrails for the bombers with four engines, and single contrails for their fighter escorts.

Contrails, you dumbass "chemtrail" shit-for-brains! Water! Look it up! Understand its properties. Read some basic science you fucking morons.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

My Rabbi of Rock (and Voice of Reason).

My pal Bill Gronroos died sometime over the past week. We're not sure of the exact date, but I suspect it happened last Saturday.

I normally hear from Bill every couple of days. So it was unusual for four days to pass without so much as a brief e-note from him. And—as with so many modern US citizens—this is how I stayed in touch with him. When I hadn’t heard from him I asked if any other people had spoken to or visited him and this cascaded into a request from a relative for the police to visit his house and they found that he had died.

Bill was not a shut-in by any means, but he did live alone. He was a gregarious sort who enjoyed the company of other people, but he lived by himself as he had since his family had died one by one. He had an on-again off-again relationship with a girlfriend who finally left him some years ago and broke his heart. But that was a while back. Since then he had the company of various friends and cousins, an aunt, and a host of local pals. His adopted dog, Nicky, died not many weeks ago and I wonder if this small tragedy may have played a bit of havoc on his already precarious health.

My pal had all sorts of health problems, mainly resulting from his chronic obesity that had beset him as a kid and with which he dealt the rest of his life. At times he would shed a vast amount of fat, but of course it created a strain on his system. As a clerk for the United States Postal Service he got a viral infection which settled in his heart, thus ending his career there, after which he lived on disability.

There were many health scares over the years since that viral infection—some of them severe—but he always recovered. But apparently the weak ticker finally took him down.

I used to refer to Bill as “my rabbi of rock”. He had an almost supernatural knowledge of rock and pop music. Personalities, dates, writers, producers, agents, earnings, chart positions, tour dates—you name it. Whenever I had a question about any kind of 20th Century pop music, Bill could answer it. Last week I asked him the title of a Statler Brothers song giving him only vague hints and he reminded me that the tune was “This Haunted Old House”.

I met Bill through a shared love of comic books when I moved to Brunswick Georgia in 1975 after graduating high school. He came into my dad’s shop to sell some old comics that he had from his childhood. From there we struck up a friendship that lasted to his death.

When I met Bill he was a DJ on a local radio station in town. His love of rock music had dictated that he would be a musician and he was an exceptionally talented guitarist. I only saw him perform once at an oldies show in town and was amazed at his proficiency, nailing Bill Haley tunes perfectly. But his career as a musician could never earn him a living, even though he did have a regional comedy hit some years back that did make him some money for a while until the royalty checks dried up and people mainly forgot his song “You Don’t Steal Hogs in McIntosh County”. Bill thought that pigs were an exceptionally funny topic and from a local news item he turned the event into a humorous song that enough southerners liked to make it a small hit.

Never happy with the radio business, Bill also fell into another career path that dropped into his lap. Millions of people heard Bill’s golden voice and never knew his name. During the last ten years or so of the F.W. Woolworth Company’s existence, Bill was the official voice of Woolworth’s. If you walked into one of their stores and heard the recorded ad on their P.A. system, that was Bill. A Woolworth’s executive while driving down the Interstate had tuned in and heard Bill on the radio. Impressed with his vocals, he took the exit, found out where the radio station was and asked Bill if he’d be interested in the job as Woolworth’s voice. The company eventually even offered Bill an executive position in New York City, but after a visit to the offices there he decided against it, figuring he’d reached his high point as the in-store pitch man for the company.

Over the years, Bill had many opportunities to leave the horrible town of Brunswick, Georgia behind, but he never took any of them. For some reason that I could never fathom, he was hooked permanently into the polluted dust of that trash village and would not leave it, except for brief excursions. Now and again Carole and I would invite him to visit us, to join us on camping trips, or to take him canoeing and tubing down clear crystal rivers in Florida. We enjoyed his company. Easily, far and away, he was one of the funniest people I ever knew.

That’s the way it is with people like Bill. Life had not often been good to him, not even in his childhood. Battered, bruised, all but broken by the world, guys like Bill can turn one of two ways—bitter and angry, or sadly sweet and funny. Bill’s demeanor led him down the latter path. And I am glad for that, and happy for the company he provided over the years.

We’ll miss him terribly.

My pal, Bill Gronroos.

Ironically, this was the last pop tune Bill helped me recall. A bit of sad nostalgia for which the Statler Brothers are famous.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Tolerance Level Exceeded.

There are two specific things I can no longer tolerate on any level or for any reason.

The first is racism. That shit is insane, and anyone who obsesses over the differences in skin color or ethnicity is beyond crazy. I don't put up with that crap anymore, no matter who they are. I no longer tolerate it when it comes from former friends or from relatives, or from acquaintances. 

The second thing is from a relatively new type of loony toon and they identify themselves with an obsession they have with something they call "chemtrails". If you bring it up, I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that you are a complete and total idiot. I have two words for you if you start talking about your belief in "chemtrails" and those two words are "FUCK YOU"!

That is all for today.

Those morons said "chemtrails", Gort! Disintegrate them now!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Park

We live in a neighborhood that the residents call "The Park". Most of the houses here date from the very late 50s through the early 70s. Occasionally there is new construction as some of the residents split their two-acre lots and sell off the excess. For some reason one two-acre lot remained vacant for over sixty years, but a new house is going up there now.

The Park started as a decent amount of wooded land. Three main streets with some bridging roads that connect them were graded and thus it began as a neighborhood. The lots here vary from half an acre to two acres in size. The lot where we live (my wife's father built this house in 1961) is two acres, as he was an avid gardener and wanted a full half acre to farm vegetables.

It's a very pleasant place to live. It's no longer the rural retreat it was when the lots were first offered to prospective builders, but it still is very nice, very peaceful, and relatively quiet. The cities of Charlotte and Huntersville have--as with all cities--expanded their urban tentacles to surround it, but it still has a rural feel to it. Rabbits live in the shrubs, whitetail deer wander out of the forests that still surround the Park, foxes are here, along with coyotes, hawks, falcons, and a host of other bird species.

The past couple of days have been a lot of fun for me. This part of North Carolina rarely gets snowfall as it did decades back. In fact, it has been about six or seven years since we have witnessed any decent snowfall. But we got a very good storm that lasted most of a day and ended up dropping around eight inches of snow in our yard.

Last night when I got home from my part-time job I bundled up and went for my regular hike. I do a loop that's a bit over a mile in length, but it was especially nice to hike it in the night during a light snowfall. The road was frozen and I had the loop to myself. It was nice. And when I woke this morning I bundled up again (it was in the low teens) and hiked it once more before the sun and higher temperatures made off with the wonderful coating of white.

Winter rarely arrives here, and when it does I enjoy the season and the weather and the experience of it. I am fully aware of how tedious cold weather can be for those who live in places where winter hangs on and will not release its grip. But it's not like there here and I treasure the moments when cold and snow visit the landscape.

Where we live.

Part of the back yard with an azalea bed coated in snow, my travel trailer in our vast parking lot beside the old garden area.

The road in front of our house as I carefully walked the icy route.

A Walk Through the Park.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Evolution of Ideas in Mythology

I know a woman who is mildly obsessed with the concept of "angels". She believes that such actually exist. To her, angels are sweet, mild, good creatures. Some of them are beautiful women. Some are beautiful men. Some are beautiful children. They wear robes, and dresses, and they have wings, and they have wonderful smiling, Aryan features and are Nordic in appearance. God sends them to help people, apparently.

Recently I had to tell someone how to pronounce "cherub", which is a word they had never encountered. Then I had to explain what a cherub was, including both its modern definition and its older, Biblical and mythological definition, which are far removed from one another. (I long ago learned that my tendency to expound on such subjects often makes me a target, but I have a short temper and the added tendency to kick ass which protects me from the worst effects, so I continue to do it.)

And as I explained this definition it occurred to me how such a change could take place over the course of human civilization to become something completely different from its origin. How are concepts altered in this weird type of evolution?

For instance, here is one actual quote from a version of the Old Testament describing the appearance of the cherubim:

"...and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME."

This is nothing like the tiny, pudgy, harmless, childlike winged beings that the modern word 'cherub' brings to mind. When you compare the images from original to modern you have a genuine WTF? moment. How could it evolve from something terrible and awe-inspiring into something comical and benign?

Then there's the original term I mentioned: angel. Technically speaking, cherubim are consdidered angels, but are monstrous and fearsome. But the other angels are called seraphim and there are, according to Biblical scripture, at least one million of them. They are, in fact, God's soldiers. Yes, sometimes they are described as protecting people, but the implication is that they are doing so in an almost military way. Apparently, they are not described as necessarily having wings, or as being sweet, benefactors whose jobs it is to watch over every person on Earth. But that's the way they are perceived today. Angels are referred to as God's supernatural soldiers and obeying his commands as such. If they watch over any mortal, it was because of an order to do so and not from a sense of independent good will. Mainly, they are sent to give warnings and hand out punishment.

"He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility— a band of destroying angels."

People are strange. They choose to ignore or alter things as they see fit. Whatever sells is the constant.

From this:

To this.

And from this armored destroyer...

To this saccharine guardian.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

One of My Favorites

My family and I took two vacations that stand out above all of the others. The best we ever had was our two-week trip to Yellowstone National Park. But our second favorite was a long excursion in our travel trailer down the length of Florida for about an eight-day exploration of the Florida Keys.

And the most fun of any single day was our trip out to the Dry Tortugas National Park many miles off the coast of Key West. The Dry Tortugas NP is one of the least visited of our National Parks. It consists mainly of water and reefs with only a few islands where you can walk around. But the main reason it is so lightly visited is that you can only get there via boat or floatplane. Being working class folk, we chose the less expensive method of getting there by taking a fast catamaran from Key West to Fort Jefferson on the main island.

I didn't really tell Carole and Andy what to expect, only that they would love the trip and that they would see something they'd enjoy immensely. So I stopped at the office and bought three tickets for the catamaran trip out to the Tortugas. As I recall, they ran $70 each, but this included a very nice lunch that was served on the big catamaran.

Carole and Andy thought that they were in for a boring day out to see yet another fort out in the middle of nowhere. Neither of them was very happy as we waited on the waterfront in Key West very early in the morning to board the ship.

But once we got there they were amazed. As with most people, they did not realize that you needn't leave the States to see thriving coral reefs. The main island where one disembarks is surrounded by one of the finest living reef environments in the USA. The ocean is crystal clear and thriving with life. We spent most of the day swimming, snorkeling, and walking around the island (the pre-Civil War fort occupies almost all of the dry land), and bird-watching. When it was time to go they were sad to leave.

Following here are a number of photos I took, most of which I think I have never posted online. This was back in the days before underwater digital cameras. So what I did was stop at a shop where I bought an disposable underwater film camera. Surprisingly, it took fairly good images. Not the best quality, but better than I had expected before I snorkeled out into the ocean, eventually swimming out about 1/3 of a mile before turning back.

I swam through a number of schools of these small fry. It was fun.

This was a section of brick wall that had tumbled off of the fort no telling how long ago. Long since coated in coral accretions.

Another curious fish. Note the coral-covered bricks behind him.

This is the critter that made me turn around and swim back to the island. It's a Nurse shark. I knew at the time it was a Nurse shark and that it was basically harmless, but just the idea of being in the water with fish that big scared me. So I chickened out and went back to Fort Jefferson. This fish was six-feet long, but he was actually afraid of me. I got the impression it was trying to bury its head in that outcropping of coral in an attempt to hide from me.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Robbed of Our Dreams.

When I was a kid I was fascinated by our space missions. I have to admit up front that I didn't start following our various space missions earnestly until the Gemini program. I was just a tad too young when the Mercury Project was going on. Or perhaps I was more interested in dinosaurs than in rockets. But when I was eight years old everything changed. The Gemini Project fascinated me and of course I had to get up to speed on the Mercury Program. My closest friends and I all knew the "Original Seven" astronauts. They--and the astronauts who followed them--were heroes to us.

Today I was sad to learn of the death of one of those astronauts who followed the original seven. John Young left us at the age of 87. He was obviously one hell of a good pilot because he was the only astronaut to command Gemini, an Apollo Command Module, a Lunar Excursion Module, and (our awful and excessively flawed and dangerous) Space Shuttle. That alone is an almost unbelievable achievement.

From my days in the third grade all the way through the various Moon missions and the followup Skylab missions I had no doubt at all that someday soon my country would have outposts on the Moon, vast wagon-wheel space stations in orbit around Earth and the Moon, and manned missions to Mars. The dresser in my room was awash in models of all kinds of rockets. My walls had posters of the lunar surface and of our spacecraft, and my bookshelves were full of biographies of our astronauts, simply physics books on rocketry, and pamphlets of various NASA missions.

I had no doubt whatsoever that someday I'd be able to take a vacation into space. Maybe not to the Moon, but at least to a space station in orbit. And if you'd asked me in those days, I'd have repeated the NASA propaganda that we would surely be sending a manned mission to land on Mars some time in the 1970s. Wernher von Braun had said so (even if he was a reformed Nazi, he was the leader of the US space program).

By the time the Skylab mission was winding down around 1974 I was in my teens and I realized that space was not for us. I knew that something had happened at the all of the stories of what we were going to accomplish in space was--if not hot air--then at least the destruction of our possible future as a space-faring nation. After that, if someone mentioned space exploration I would ignore them.

I've heard all of the many reasons why the USA largely abandoned the exploration of space and the colonization of gravitational Lagrangian points or the manned villages on the lunar surface. And, of course, we were not going to Mars. Not then. Not now. Not ever. When this nation gave up those dreams it gave up the ghost, I like to think. The bottom line is that you can't have corporations and the ultra-rich not paying taxes and things like manned space exploration, too. You can have one, or the other. And the US chose to eliminate taxes for those most able to pay them and to abandon our vigorous manned exploration of space and the planets.

But none of that detracts from the amazing accomplishments of John Young, perhaps the finest astronaut the space program of the USA ever had, or ever saw. So, here's to Capt. John Watts Young, USN. He was among the best the nation had.

John Watts Young. The only man to command a Gemini capsule, an Apollo Command capsule, a Lunar Excursion Module, and a Space Shuttle. I mean...damn.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

All Day.

Carole and I spent all day at the hospital. She had out-patient surgery to have her gall bladder removed. That was the source of the problem in November that was causing her to be unable to eat or to hold down any food.

Once again I was reminded that my wife and I are lucky to have insurance. When I try to explain the situation in the US concerning our medical care to my European or Australian or New Zealand friends they are horrified. They cannot imagine a situation in which your life can be at the mercy of a death panel run by a private insurance company. Or that you can lose your home because--even with insurance--physicians and hospitals can attach your property to pay debts owed on health care even if you have insurance. The very idea that access to health care is doled out by one's ability to find and afford private insurance disgusts them. Or that you can find yourself homeless if you cannot pay the balance of your bill after insurance pays out.

It disgusts me, too. But there you are.

But our hospital waiting rooms shore are purty.

Monday, January 01, 2018

The Internet is Strange

Today I was looking at homes for sale in Montana. Why? From time to time I'll try to talk my wife into moving there someday. So far, she is adamantly against such a move. But I don't stop mentioning it now and again.

So...I'm looking at a house there. And going through the photos of the various rooms featured in the ad. I come to a picture of the laundry room with a big sink in it. Above the sink is an amateur painting of a man who looks vaguely familiar. I had to look closer. The painting is of Michael Richards who played Cosmo Kramer on the SEINFELD television show.

Why is it there? Who painted it? All of these years later he still has a fan who planted his portrait in the laundry room?

The world is a very strange place.

The laundry room.

Michael Richards, big as life.