Rad note » This page is PART TWO of two .. for the July, 2015 monthly entry archive. Because it became so big. Because I have been feeling so good after my doctors declared me cancer-free. Inspired.

This is the first and only time I have ever broken a monthly entry archive into two parts. At the end o f this page (that you're reading now) I have included a link that will return you to part one.

» Netflix Mania (DVD Style)

I signed up for Netflix. All the real good movies that I want to see are available only on DVD. No streaming. So I signed up for a DVD account, and have been watching movies like crazy.

This is not the best way to watch movies .. one every night or so. You really need a few days between movies in order to properly cleanse your cinematic palatte.

Butterfly emerging from a cocoonBut I feel like I have been so out-of-touch .. spending the winter & the spring tucked inside a (very limiting) cocoon of treatment.

Actually, my treatment began last autumn. And the (positive) biopsy was done in September. Which is where the cocoon of existential trauma really began.

And it was all the way back in late Spring when the lymph swelled and I started shaving over a lump that kept growing larger and larger.

And even before then, I could tell something wasnt right, physically. I didnt know what .. but it felt like I was standing on a very long escalator .. that was angled slightly downward.

And I could feel where it was taking me. If I couldnt get off. "Maybe I need some iron," I thought.

So it has been a while.

So now that I'm out, I want to flitter-flutter around the cultural neighborhood and catch up on what I missed.

And now is a good time to do this because I physically cannot do very much more.

» The Movies

My favorite movie so far was definitely » Imitation Game. About Alan Turing, the father of computer science, cracking the German Enigma code.

Who nearly single-handedly saved millions of lives and cut short the war by two years.

A gay guy. A super smart gay guy who liked to solve puzzles. Difficult puzzles. The more challenging the better.

Who the government "chemically castrated" .. after they had from him what they needed.

At the end, I thought of what I wrote in my Dec 9, 2013 update of » Big Brother vs the First Amendment.

Pause for a moment to reflect on how governments have treated the Father of Computer Science ..

.. and then see if this next sentence resonates [ ladies, close youe ears, please ] » "If you dont fuck who we want you to fuck, we will drop your nads into a pot of boiling water and make you wish you were dead."

Lovely cinematography of the old-world streets. Downright lucious. I paused and backed it up more than once. Incredibly well-crafted. I would be proud to have that film as part of my portfolio. Speaking of well-crafted films ...

» Gone Girl Left Me Weirded Out for a Few Days

I was actually disturbed a little by Gone Girl. I mean, it's about a guy who meets a very cool girl who is really a crazy psycho genius and is going to give him the mind-fucking of his life. So yeah, it brought back memories.

I mean, it totally ruined Begin Again for me .. which I watched the next day.

Some people are better at fucking with you .. than nurturing or loving you. And I dont think it's entirely their fault .. almost as tho they cant help themselves ..

.. because they never developed their muscles of compassion. For reasons that are beyond the scope of today's entry. (Well beyond.)

Hey, or maybe the 'thing' that empathizes (or the verb that goes with the word » compassion) .. maybe theirs is broken.

I really liked the credit intro's at the beginning .. which seemed precisely timed. I remember thinking » "I have never seen a sequence of credit titles like this before." And I have seen many.

I remember the Film school girl spent a lot of time with her titles. She had a special program just to do the titling. She was pretty technically competent .. for a girl.

You are more or less unlimited with the titling these days. Limited only by your imagination. I wonder if they contract a separate group to do the intro credit titling.

You want it to somehow play off of the theme of your story. In some cleverly artistic way.

And you are putting your name up on screen. So you want it to look good. No?

I always watch for what is on screen at the time you see the director of cinematography credit. Because an editor is going to look for a really nice shot that displays the cinematographer's skills.

I am a visual kind of guy. Which makes me appreciate beautiful aesthetics. A well designed shot. With an artistic bent. Very satisfying.

Even while watching those introductory credits I could tell » "Ooh, this is gonna be good." Cuz I could see the care that had gone into even the little things. The details. The minutia.

I bet you could watch that movie again and find things that you didnt see the first time.

Speaking of memories, I saw Black Sea with Jude Law. Brought back memories.

Perhaps I will search YouTube later, but there is a helicopter fly-by shot not very far in to the movie .. when the old Russian submarine is surfaced and heading out to sea .. to look for Hitler's gold.

Beautiful shot. Downright gorgeous.

Viceroy butterfly fresh from his winter cocoonTonight I will be watching » Boyhood. Strong reviews. Very strong.

» Boyhood is Something Truly New

Update » Saw Boyhood last night. This is a wow movie. I mean, you get to watch this family grow up right before your eyes ..

.. and this boy, who starts so young and cute .. but who grows up rough and with an edge. Tho not unlike what it is like for many kids growing up today.

As I watch my own son grow up before my eyes. So the movie seems to activate all that in me. Carrying me along on its roller coaster of life.

I used to say to my son, "Please dont grow so fast." And I would push down on his head, as if to try to suspend any growth.

And he said, "I'm still growing dad .. even when you push down on my head."

So the movie really does a head-torque on you. A lasting head-torque.

He reminded me of the of the kid in Sean Penn's » Into the Wild. Which is a big compliment.

The scenes with the alcoholic step-dad bothered me. I wanted to kick his ass .. numerous times.

They really did a good job at making him the ultimate asshole you just could not stand. But he had a nice house. You know.

I was surprised to see that it had a near-100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Now I see why.

This is like a new thing that you have never seen before. And it's more than just novelty. It goes deeper.

Ethan Hawke doesnt even seen like he's acting. He seems like he's a dad who really enjoys spending time with his kids.

A lot of his issues were the same as my issues .. so I caught myself relating to him and getting sucked into his emotions.

[[ I slept over at this Brazilian's girl place in Santa Monica less than a block from the beach who told me that Ethan Hawke owned the house next door wirth Uma. ]]

This is must-see movie.

I liked the other films that Linklater did with Ethan. All the times » before during and after sunset. There is something profound in his seemingly simplistic-life films.

He anchors the viewer in the mundane aspects of life and then goes exploiring from there .. from the ordinarily mundane.

I find his films thought-provoking. In a good way.

I am just thinking out loud. I will quit.

But he explores the nature of relationships and relationship are what represent both the ecstasy and the horror of life. So I would like to encourage him to explore further.

Linklater movies are dialogue-intense. In Film school they try to get the students to tell their stories with pictures and images.

This Netflix is a good deal at $11.99/mo.

My 89-year old Walk-in-the-Park friend had DVD-Netflix, which his daughter ordered 2 at a time. (I keep mine going 1 at a time to keep 'em coming more quickly.)

» Must Watch Every Film Nominated for Best Picture to Prep for the Oscar Party

Ever since dating the Film school girl, I feel compelled to watch every film nominated for Best Picture.

They would have these big Oscar parties where it was fun to watch them debate the merits and demerits of the various nominees for Best Picture. So passionate.

I wonder if the Oscar party is a California phenomenon .. because I have never heard of them anywhere else.

After we broke up, I missed the excitement that filmmaking can bring. I still remember stepping over people who were fast asleep on kitchen floor. And Maria running erands for things that Wendy needed in a pinch during filmming. Always a hustle and a bustle. From early in the morning til late at night. Very late.

Very first DVD I ordered was » American Sniper .. cuz I wanted to see what all the controversy was about. Angelina's Unbroken is next on my list.

» Unbroken

Update » Saw Unbroken last night. Beautifully shot, well edited, impressive cuts. Strong production values.

The Coen brothers (Joel & Ethan) helped craft the screenplay (adapted from the best-selling novel). I especially liked the parts when they go back in time. (The flash-backs.) Very nice. Steady narrative drive.

But still difficult to watch (even_for_me) .. despite being a true story. Because I was feeling very much in the body. Some of it takes your breath away. Like a sharp punch to the ribs.

I can see why Angelina was drawn to this story .. given her work with the United Nations in war-torn countries. Where she sees lots of ugliness. Of the worst kind.

She impresses the shit out of me. Her real-life arc-of-character borders on the mind-blowing. A veritable spiral.

I like her. She makes a difference, and she's not afraid to get dirty. She looks the beast in the eye and says, "Fuck off, bitch."

Despite the great cinematic beauty, I was still going to fast-forward thru the part where he gets punched in the face. That was very hard to watch.

But a voice seemed to say » "Are you gonna pussy-out and fast-forward thru the punches? Angelina made this movie and you cant even watch the whole thing? What the fuck? You wimp."

So I watched the whole thing. Beginning to end. Tho I had to pause it a few times.

My hesitation reminded me of Harold Bloom choking on Blood Meridian from the "overwhelming carnage".

I actually had a cathartic emotional release at the end .. like I had been thru the war myself.

What a tough, impressive fucker this Zamperini guy was. "I got some good news .. and some bad news." True that. What a life.

Makes my cancer treatment seem not so bad. It put things in their proper perspective.

The title of this movie is Unbroken. But I have felt broken before. Yes. It's a horrible feeling. You would do almost anything to make it go away.

This was a very ambitious project for a first-time director. You never know what she is going to do next.

I thought the Bird actor shoulda been older and should have looked more hardened and uglier. The actor they selected seemed too fair-skinned and boyish. Kinda cute.

I particularly noticed when he says to Louie, "I saw it in your eye." (strength of character)

» Denzel & the Russian Bad-Guy

My single favorite scene from all the movies .. was when Denzel comes out of the aisle in slow motion at the end of » The Equalizer .. in the home building warehouse with all the sprinklers raining in the moody dim darkness .. before he fucks up the (much younger) Russian bad-guy.

And I liked the initial fly in past the bridge. Enough to restart it and play it again. That was a cool fly-in. It told you a lot and made it enjoyable.

That movie exceeded my expectations. I have found that I like pretty much everything with Denzel.

Some movies are meant to be seen with a large group of people on the big screen .. such as the new Mad Max, for example. Which makes it a social / cultural event. Like watching fireworks on the Fourth.

» Interstellar is Thought-Provoking to the Point of Being Disorienting

Update » saw Interstellar last night. (Certified Fresh.) Whoa. It actually left me disoriented. There were a couple of times when I felt like I wasnt ready to watch that movie yet. I dont think I've ever had that feeling before.

And maybe I wasnt (ready). Maybe I've been watching too many movies too close together .. after not have seen anything for so many months. In my cocoon.

Watching parts of this movie made me feel like I was in a boxing ring with a sumo wrestler who was slamming me around the ring (with strong, powerful, thought-provoking ideas) this way and that. Ka-blammo.

I could write a whole page on that movie. Easily. I could feel myself trying to grapple with many of the ideas.

Christopher Nolan. Wow. That boy gets out there. I totally resonate with where he goes.

He is a brainy dude. He did Inception with Leo. He started as a writer but now directs.

This was very ambitious. Lots to think about. I stopped the DVD several times in order to ponder ideas presented. I also ran and did a little Wiki look-up on background info.

I did not know that Matt Damon was in this movie. And the first time you see him is waay into the movie .. when they pull him out of a long-sleep cryogenic-like liquid tank. It kinda weirded me out a little.

And I am like » "Holy cow .. that's Matt Damon. What a way to make an entrance." (He reminds me of my brother. I like him. Especially as Jason Bourne.)

They assembled lots of acting talent for this movie. It must be both fun and intellectually stimulating to work on a Nolan film. But he brings psychological depth, too. Maybe that's why I enjoy his films so much.

There was real, no-shit acting in this movie. Is wasnt just sitting around and pondering the meaning of life in the universe.

And Matt Damon's character says the most bizarre stuff of all. The most thought-provoking things.

To the point that the voice in my head says » "Dude, you should download the script (PDF) and take a closer look at what he is saying."

Because while he is saying this stuff, you miss a lot .. because you are still thinking about the last thing he said. And I dont want to keeping hunting with the disc to find those past quotes.

Check out this Damon dialogue, for example:

Don't judge me, Cooper.
You were never tested like I was.
Few men have been.

That triggered something in me that got me thinking. "Dont judge me. You dont know where I've been. Nor could you possibly know."

I have had that thought before.

But my current version of that thought goes something a little more like » "I dont blame you for judging me .. because you obviously could not possibly understand where I've been or what I've seen. It sucks to be judged unfairly, sure, but I understand it. Because I used to BE you. Heck, I used to be you even better than YOU are you. But I am not you anymore. For which I thank God. Because it was very difficult to escape from being you. A judgmental self-righteous person."

You really need to watch this movie three times .. in order to get a handle on it. I might return to it later, but for now, I have more Netflix DVDs waiting to be seen. But I would definitely put this on my Totally Rad must-see list.

You have in this movie .. two stories .. that are connected. Shot in two different worlds. The part where they were cutting back and forth quickly .. that was good. Real good. And you have two actors (at least) and actresses for each character (young / old).

And the reality of the drought here in California made the movie's premise seem a little too believable.

I couldnt help but notice that the film repeatedly evokes the Dylan Thomas poem that I appreciate so much.

» The Counselor (by Cormac & Ridley)

Speaking of thought-provoking .. I saw the Counselor last night. In the movie, you never learn his real name. Everybody just calls his 'Counselor'. Michael Fassbender.

I have so much respect for Cormac McCarthy. I am not trying to. I just do.

He is very weighty, heavy. Hard to handle his stuff. He makes you feel both exhilarated and beat-up.

It is hard to do what he does. That is why so few do it. He very much reminds me of Dostoevsky .. in the way he traverses both the beauty and the ugliness of life. In ways that are not as fanciful as he sometimes makes them look. (Juarez really was the most violent city in the world.)

It's like he adopts a wide stance upon the earth. Like his footprint (singular) spans from here to there. And wherever your 'here' might be .. 'there' is a always long way away.

You can live rather easily in the pretty world. And many do just that. And you can even learn to adapt to the ugly world, if you find that becomes necessary. But it is not easy to go back and forth. And the further you go .. like Cormac does and like Dostoevsky does ..

.. that extracts a toll off your ass. Off the writer's ass. Not unlike the price you pay when you try to steal fire from the gods.

You have to pay for that. You only *think* you are stealing it. Only because they are not selling what you want. But that doesnt stop them from coming to collect on your ass.

Notice how .. if you go to the Amazon page for Blood Meridian .. and you scroll down to where it says » Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought ..

.. there you find six or seven other McCarthy tiles (or course) .. along with » The Brother Karamazov. And I dont think that a coincidence. They are both challenging writers to read. Personally challenging.

Some day I should contrast the way Nietzsche is challenging and confrontational .. with how Doestoevsky does it .. compared with Cormac. From a seat-of-the-pants feel.

I do not know how Cormac does it. I mean, I see it .. sure. But how he does it .. I must not be there yet. Because I dont see how he does it. I dont see how anybody does .. except maybe life picks them up and puts them in that position.

There are nothing but A-list stars in this movie. The talent runneth over. John Leguizamo for example, shows up 3/4th the way thru the movie. And I am thinking, "Wow, that's John Leguizamo. I did not even know that he was in this movie."

That's because he's not even credited. You dont even see his name when the credits roll at the end. John Leguizamo. Playing an otherwise minor part. As tho paying his respects. To Cormac, or Ridley, or both.

And Cameron Diaz .. wow. The character she plays. You will never look at anybody who even looks like Cameron Diaz the same way again. She makes Nietzsche seem like a boy scout on his best behavior.

But Cormac makes a point to show you how there is this ugly part of life that is very natural. Elegant even. Wait 'til you see these cheetahs. And a lot of this stuff traces back to the human biological instincts (sex, hunger, etc.).

There is a scene where she sits down across from Javier on the lounge chairs outside .. and she is wearing this incredible outfit that seems like it was made just for her .. to accutuate her strengths.

And the shadowing catches the feminine musculature in her arms and biceps and shoulder delts. Whew. Breathtaking. And she is just getting started. She is just getting warmed up.

And nobody walks thru an airport like a badass without even trying like Brad Pitt. The camera follows him for quite some time. And I am wondering, "How are they getting these great, long, steady, moving close-ups?"

And they are not just nothing-shots .. that take you from point A to point B. But rather you can see the thoughts and emotions going on. Nobody does this quite like Brad Pitt does. He makes an ordinarily unremarkable shot remarkable. And his age has given his beauty a ruggedness (worry lines & smile wrinkles) that the camera obviously likes.

These are all beautiful, sexy men and beautiful, sexy women. Downright gorgeous.

Tho, it isnt until later that you see how they use all this sexy beauty to contrast against the ugliness that he is going to show you. It makes it stand out all the more.

But I think they [the writer / director filmmaking team] use this abundant beauty in order to [try to] balance the ugliness. Because it is a LOT of ugliness. (You know how ugly Cormac can get.)

Speaking of contrasting the ugliness of life with physical beauty .. wait 'til you see how Brad's character dies. Not pretty. That actually fucked me up.

» Identifying Uncomfortably with Brad's Character Westray

The unpleasant feeling here that I shared with Brad's character goes something like this » "I have this thing on my neck .. and if I dont get it off soon it's gonna kill me. Because it doesnt seem like I have much time .. cuz I can hear the gears of the clock clicking down irrevocably. Why doesnt somebody just cut this deadly fucker off my neck?"

And like with Brad's character .. this thing seemed to have come out of nowhere .. but maybe I should have seen it coming .. or watching out for it a little better.

I mean, they have been pointing the radiation machine at my throat. At my neck. The thing (the linear accelerator) goes ALL THE WAY AROUND YOU .. in a complete 360 degree arc .. (not unlike with Brad's character) ..

.. reversing direction at the six o'clock position, directly behind (under) you. Three passes. A minute or two for each pass .. within 12-inches of your face.

You can see the thing right there in front of your face. Which is locked in place .. with a plastic mesh webbing, designed just for you. For your whole head. No matter how fat or thin it might be. Locked in place. So you dont move. (At all.)

The radiation is actually sculpted .. like you might do with a knife. The sheer mathematics that goes into calculating radiation doses that are based on how you sculpt the radiation .. as the radiation source passes around you three times .. is a fantastically marvelous thing in itself.

I find myself marveling and fascinated at the math and physics behind such a thing. Talk about cutting edge.

This was one of the things I asked the director about .. "How do you KNOW that the radiation is going where you THINK it's going?"

I mean, my brain sits very close to my neck. And I saw how she went crazy when they shot her brain with radiation. And if your brain is toast .. what's the point of living?

This technology only became available about a decade ago.

Some people freak out at the claustrophic idea of having their face locked down like that. But I could see that the mesh wasnt my problem. The real deal here was with the radiation. The burn. Like sunlight to a vampire. The scortching burn.

And the chemo only serves to enhance the burn. It is like a group of the brattiest kids you've ever seen running up to these vampires on the beach at high noon and rubbing baby oil all over the them ..

.. so that the sun burns them even more. As the vampires yell (in a voice like Count Olaf), "Get out of here you little fuckers!"

And this is a good analogy because this is exectly what cancer cells are. They are cells that should be dead .. but they're not. They manage to live on and even thrive.

I am fairly certain that you have never had an experience anything even close to this .. because I hadnt. And I have had a wide variety of experiences.

I have not had to shave my neck since treatment began. No hair grows on my neck now. (Save$ money on razors.)

I dont think I couldve done that scene, honestly. My throat has been feeling vulnerable is what I'm trying to say.

I had horrible dreams last night. If I am ever in El Paso, you can be certain there is a pair of dikes in my pocket. Side-cutters.

I remember when my surgeon was doing the biopsy, sticking 4 different long needles into my neck. And said he hit a vein and became excited.

And yes, that fucker hurt when he hit the vein.

I didnt say anything, but the thought passed thru my head, "I hope he doesnt mean the carotid."

Then I started to get lightheaded and I thought, "Fuck, maybe it was the carotid."

Less than a minute later I had passed out.

But if it's really the carotid, you dont wake up lying on the floor .. like I did. You dont wake up anywhere.

That was the only time that I ever passed out. My ego is insisting that I inform you of this, and would probably prefer if I did it in ALL CAPS.

And again here, too, the camera-work is flawless. I obviously found it very convincing.

The contrasts in this story are sharply defined. Cormac takes you right down to the border with Mexico. In Texas. An area that he is well-familiar with. And literally shows you the contrast. And takes you back and forth that dividing line many times.

You do not know it at first, but you are paying a toll every time. And later you will see how.

Cormac is very deep. He sorta tells some of the story 2 and evens 3 steps removed from the surface display. I caught myself wondering if the average viewer would notice that. I hardly noticed myself. It doesnt shout at you .. but it does whisper rather insistently.

One reviewer wrote something like » you keep witing for something to happen, but it never does. I thought, "He is not getting it .. tho I really cant blame him." Because that's not what this story is about. [ I will talk about morals later .. which this story *is* about. ]

With most movies you have the displayed story and you have the place from where the story is told. And there is (something like) a quantum gap between them. And a really good story will have a second remove, sort of speaking, that influences the first remove at times that the storyteller wants to emphasize or highlight in some way.

But with Cormac, and I will readily admit that it may just be the chemo here fucking with my head, my mind, my central nervous system .. but, it seems like with Cormac, you have an extra layer, an extra (more refined) groove, track, quantum level.

Which drops down at just the right point .. to bring you this very cool seemingly coincidental effect. So timing definitely plays a role.

And I could just say that he is deeper than most, but it is the way that he is deeper .. this quantum-like way .. that makes him stand apart.

And he begins .. "Once upon a time there was a fast bike. A motorcycle. Very fast. Watch how fast I'm talking about..."

What a beautifully shot movie. I actually went and looked to see who the cinematographer was. I noticed that these Polish guys have an eye for beauty. And I heard that Poland was a beautiful country.

And the color palattte he uses with with beautiful actors and actresses .. I was all over the pause button.

And yes I had the subtitles turned on. Because Cormac is a writer. And I want to see what he is saying. Later I thought that I could have just downloaded the script (PDF?) and got what I wanted. (As a writer.) But then I would have missed Ridley's translation of the script. (« I think that nscript is a product of voice-recognition software, because it has weird errors. I am having trouble finding an accurate script. Here is a forum discussion on the script at Cormac's site. Not sure if it is official or owned by him.)

Cormac is not trying to impress or appeal to a wide audience here. I dont think he ever really is. He makes it difficult to access his material. He makes you pay a price. He sets up a rather tall boundry around his work. And if you are able to scale thsi wall .. then more power to to you.

Which is why I say that you have to get in shape before you read a Cormac novel. Most of them, anyway.

But I feel as tho he has somehow managed to tap into an unseen vein of sorts. I mean, he definitely has "the thing" going on. I catch myself walking all around his thing .. trying to see how he does it.

If there are any shotcuts I have yet to find them. Maybe it is the years? I dunno. But you never walk away from Cormac the same person you were.

And the mechanism that he uses to 'hook' the bad shit to the Counselor .. that was very cool. I actually paused the DVD to ponder a minute.

This movie deals with morals. There are many lines that will make you stop and say, "What did he just say?" Sorta like when somebody says the obvious to you in a way that strikes your consciousness with a slap upside the head.

Cormac shows you he other side of the coin .. of the very same coin. Just like Dostoevsky does.

There is a scene near the end, where the Counselor is talking (on the phone) to a wise, wealthy, powerful, older, seasoned, experienced Mexican man. I would watch the whole movie again just to hear that dialogue about the different worlds we create. But I will definitely go download the script.

There is also a very cool thing he does with coincidence vs pragmatism .. I paused it again there to ponder.

This is philosophy. It is a very philosophical movie. There types of things challenge yo on a personal level .. whether or not you are ready to be challenged.

My sense with Cormac is not so different sometimes than my sense of the intimate lessons that you can learn from a skilled, beautiful, sexy-to-the-point-of-irresistable-woman .. it may have hurt like hell, but you a better person for it. Much better. And stronger.

(Tho it may take some time for your black-n-blue ass to recover. For your wounds to heal. Your soul will then be like tempered, hardened steel. If you are not broken.)

Speaking of sexy-to-the-point-of-irresistable .. wait 'til you see the hottie that Cameron Diaz hires to trick-fuck Brad Pitt. And the way they tell the story .. you dont know. Until AFTER you realize that you yourself wouldve been trick-fucked, too.

Check out the legs on this girl. (You cannot miss them.) Those are the same legs that the wow girl had. I dont know how you would describe them except 'well-defined'.

Like with any movie, you suspend disbelief with movies. But this movie is not about minimizing the what-ifs of reality .. but rather embracing them. And then taking you well beyond them.

Tho the first thing I want to do is to go get for you the dialogue between Cameron Diaz and Javier when she shows you her guns, the definition in her musclar arms. Because I think you will find that exchange telling. (I did.)

It's almost like they are talking about two different things. But they're not. But in another way, they are.

The character that Javier plays .. with his spikey hair sticking straight out .. and living in this place with huge, tall violet walls. Like a compound.

Again the color palattes are works of art. There is an outdoor scene later in the movie where both Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt get their own color palatttes .. sitting next to each.

And these are such beautiful men to begin with .. they dont really need much hekp, you know? And here is the cinematographer making them look even more gorgeous that they already are.

In the books of Cormac's that have been translated into movies .. you feel more removed from the story because the film is an adaptation of the screenplay which is itself an adapatation of the book.

But here Cormac goes straight to screenplay and you have Ridley interpreting this thing cinematically. So you can feel the closeness to Cormac. And especially what he represents. And what he does that yields this representation.

I can feel myself starting to wax abstract .. because this is not easy stuff to discuss. Maybe later I will return to flesh out some of the contradictory parts.

I am learning that these writers like Cormac and Dostoevsky do not shy away from the psychological paradoxes of life .. particularly the paradoxes that appear less than pleasant. Rather they embrace them and run with them and show them to you.

And nothing takes your ass on a wild moral ride like some of life's more perplexing paradoxes.

One particular scene that I keep find myself returning to .. occurs during the Counselor's crisis point .. and Fassbender's commitment to ALL of his movies is nigh unto mind-blowing. What a commitment. He has gone all-in. A long time ago. (Not unlike Jake.)

And they are talking on the phone. And the Counselor is fucked. Beyond fucked, actually. And he talking to this wealthy, distinguished, articulate, powerful, elderly Mexican gentleman.

And the way that they are TALKING CROSS CULTURES is very interesting. I mean, they are having a very simple-to-understand conversation, which in a nutshell goes something like this »

Counselor » "I need help. Will you please help me?"

The Mexican man » "There is no help for you. You have already walked thru this door and this cannot be undone. And actions produce consequences."

I dont know why I keep going back there .. but I was walking around today thinking about that part and I almost lost my footing. Like these are earthquake thoughts.

At the end of this movie, the bad girl walks away happy and rich .. and the good girl .. you dont even wanna know. And thru no fault of her own, either. But rather despite her niceness. Or maybe even because of it.

Think about that for a moment. Is that not how real life is .. all too often? Is that a paradox? (Kant certainly thought so.)

I would not say that they celebrate these paradoxes .. but I can see how some might come to that conclusion.

A part of me is asking why I just saw this movie now .. instead of before, when I really wanted to. In other words, what part might timing play here?

And it just so happens that I read about Pynchon .. who has been compared to Cormac. And it probably has nothing to do with it .. but it feels like it does. Because of the proximity.

These are talents that will continue to live on in the pantheon of the writing gods. Check back in a century or so and you'll see what I mean.

I was not really ready to deal with a Cormac story .. because of my physically weakened state after chemo and radiation. Not that you can really prepare yourself very well.

I was thinking that having a filmmaker and these wonderful actors and actresses between me and Cormac .. would somehow insulate me from his weightiness.

In restrospect, this was silly thinking. And I am now feeling it in a big way. In an overwhelming sort of way. It will take me a little to recover but I will be okay.

I have had this Netflix account for a while now and I saw the Counselor listed there and I knew I wasnt ready. But I was definitely curious. But I kinda slowly talked myself into it.

At first I simply added it to my list .. to my que. And then I started moving it up the que. And then when I saw it there in the mail, I was like, "Oh shit, it's here already. Guess I have to watch it now."

I actually waited a few days .. making excuses, "I need to do this first," and I need to do that. Then I watched the other movie first.

But when I actually pushed play, I thought, "This is gonna be so much fun. The talent here."

And I thought, "Maybe it's not really that good?" Even tho they have assembled a decadent amount of filmmaking talent all in one film. "Or maybe they just dont get it?"

I admit that I am looking at different things than a film critic might look at. And you cannot assemble such talent without cranking up the expectations .. which often leads to disappointment.

And I found that, like all of Cormac's work .. this is a finely-crafted story. It's not just thrown together haphazardly. Not hardly.

I remember one time I was at the local library with this girl and I ask the girl who is sitting behind the desk, looking intently into a computer screen .. and I say, "Do you happen to know if you have Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy? I looked, but maybe I'm looking in the wrong place."

And she literally flinches in her seat from the mere sound of the title and slowly looks up at me warily and asks, "Are you suuuurrre that's the book you want? I only ask because I had to read that book for a class..."

And she is looking me up and down .. as if sizing me up .. to see if I am man enough to read this book. And I can tell she has her doubts.

I am not going to tell you that this girl was staring contemptuously at my crotch .. but it sure felt that way.

I remember at one point in the story that it felt like I was taking artillery fire. Boom! .. these shells would go off around me .. so to speak. The effect of these ideas.

And just when I got up another would hit. Boom! Well timed artillery. And the thought passed thru my head, "Maybe I should just stay down until the artillery ends."

Cormac knows how to soften you up .. before going in for the kill.

But he sends these weighty declarations out there .. almost like a salvo. Which he sorta forces you (me?) to analyze. Almost daring you to analyze for yourself the integrity of its construction.

And it isnt long until I found myself admiring the construction of these assertions .. boom! another one would hit.

And by standing up, I mean to say that you actively challenge the veracity of these assertions .. looking for weak spots and flaws.

And by staying down I mean to say that you just accept these assertions without challenging them.

I am talking about assertions such as this one » Grief transcends value. (Two subjects which I happen to know a little something about.)

I must confess .. after I saw this movie, the voice in my head said » "Dude, dont write about this movie yet. You are not ready. And you are not strong enough right now, physically, to deal with this kind of stuff. And once you start you wont be able to stop. You know how you are."

And I dismissed this, saying (rather confidently) "No, I am just going to write a little and briefly mention that I saw it, and later, I can return to flesh it out. No more than a few short paragraphs. Just to plant a marker, so to speak. A flag."

But once you start .. the gears just get to turning and turning and they just wont stop. You need to see the movie to really get what I am saying.

But also, I like to capture my initial reaction .. which can be telling. Especially in rerospect. And later I can go back and add the shadowing of time to my illustration.

Many lines stood out, yes, but this one in particular, said by Brad Pitt's character Westray to the Counselor » "You will not believe me, but I am going to tell you anyway."

I return to elaborate .. because I have written that very line myself. I need to check some dates first.

I remember when I wrote it .. I said to myself » "That's a good line." Like I surprised myself.

Ooh, I may get to talk about listening to the voices .. Cormac seems to be bringing that out in me. That would be a super-cool thing to discuss.

An area in which I have much experience .. let me tell you.

The voices. That would be a rocketship to pretty much anywhere.

It is kinda tricky to talk about, to write about the voices .. because they are not really into that shit. They go and hide, or clam up.

You have to be one sweet-talking mofo (like me) in order to talk about them while they are talking. But I have learned some tricks over the years.

But even still .. I would be surprised if I get to write about the voices in any real depth.

But certain things make these voices less reticent.

Or maybe this is something new .. maybe they are going to stand upon their soapbox and say, "Listen up, bitch. I got something to say. Pay attention."

But if we do go there .. then it feels like I would be taking you to my world.

Indian Point Nuclear Plant on the Hudson River in NYThe feeling is similar to what you get when people (workers) would come into the big, concete containment dome that surrounds commercial power reactors »

"Welcome to my world. Because this is where I live. And this is where I rule. For twelve hours a day. Six days a week.

If you want to do something here, you gotta come talk to me first. And we will talk about what you want to do.

And I will take good care of you. Such good care that you will see me at the bar tonight, eating a burger and you will want to buy me a beer.

And you will make me laugh and let me know that you appreciated it when I caught you doing that very stupid thing, but I didnt tell anybody, so you wouldnt get in trouble."

So there is a part of me that is excited at the mere possibility of the idea. Tho from past experience, it seems like a tall order.

But before I wade too deep in those waters, I should tell you the thing that Brad Pitt (Westray) said to the Counselor that he wouldnt believe. Here ya go:

» You Won't Believe This, But I'm Gonna Tell You Anyway

Westray: You're not gonna believe this, but I'm gonna tell you anyway.
I think about my life.
I can live in a monastery. Scrub the steps. Clean the pots. Try some gardening.
Counselor: You're serious.
Westray: Very.
Counselor: And why dont you?
Westray: In a word? Women.
I've seen it all, Counselor. It's all shit. It's all shit.
[ Westray stands. ] I'll be in touch.

In short, he is talking about being to walk away from the fast life or obscene amounts of seemingly easy money. He says, "I know you dont think I can, but I really can. And I'm always ready to do just that." (And yes, he is well-prepared.)

I went back and found my reference .. in my March, 2014 entry .. in a section titled Embracing Duality.

But the statement reminds me of what Habakkuk wrote here. And Habakkuk is my kind of prophet.

Scripture quotes Jesus many times as saying » "Truly, truly, I say to you ..."

Which is really just another way of saying » "I know that you might find this hard to believe .. but I'm gonna tell you, anyway."

» The Writer Behind the Writer

And speaking of that March, 2014 archive and writers writing and listening to the voices .. there's a section there titled » The Writer Behind the Writer .. which I am still exploring.

But one of the facets here, and perhaps one of the most interesting facets .. is that these things seem to come out of you .. things that you know not of.

So, the effect is one of feeling like you dont know who you are. And that is what I tried to portray in my dialogue there.

It is a very weird feeling .. after living with yourself for so many years .. of feeling like you dont know who you are.

And sometimes (not often) I will write something, and a part of me will look at it and say, "Dude, what does that even mean?"

Wasnt it Wittgenstein who cautioned us about language? This says to me that we must strive to go BEYOND the (mere?) language.

And sometimes I see myself making very bold statements, and I say, "You have gigantic cojones, dude." As tho it were coming from a person whose own cojones were not so grande.

And I wonder if these other writers have similar experiences.

Cultural & Artistic Development

In the arts you are either growing or you're good as dead. The artist must continue to push himself beyond old limitations or he might as well go home and stay there.

Films of recent years have been compared to those of 1939, which is generlly considered the single best film year ever.

And film is the bleeding edge of the arts, no? It certainly requires the most diverse set of disciplines and talents. And requires the largest financial commitment.

So I have been watching these films with an eye to creativity and craftsmanship and production values and the general quality compared with films of both the recent past and the more distant past.

And I am liking what I see. Very high-quality stuff. It makes me excited for the future .. to see what stories tomorrow's filmmakers and artists will come up with how they will tell them.

» The Talented Writer/Parent Hank Moody Drives a Dirty Porsche 911 Around the Streets of Los Angeles in Californication

I also took advantage of Netflix offer of a free month of/for » streaming .. to check out » Californication.

The talented writer/parent Hank Moody drives a Porsche 911 around the streets of Los Angeles in Californication

I mean, listen to this introductory Netflix description » Best-selling novelist Hank Moody battles writer's block and a weakness for drugs, booze and one-night stands while he struggles to make things work with his on-and-off girlfriend and their teenage daughter.

X-files star David Duchovny won a Golden Globe for his sardonic performance as a bed-hopping best-selling writer. (He looks good for 54.)

My curiosity got the best of me. It actually starts out good .. then fades toward the end. Seven seasons' worth. One of Showtime's longest running series. People get tired after a while. I get it. (But staying power is important and you want to finish strong.)

I found myself relating to it more than I thought I would. I mean, for starters they set the scene in California. Then they have him driving a Porsche 911. Tho Hank drives a cabriolet (rag-top) while I owned coups (hard-top) and targas (removable top).

I wont even mention the part that he is a wildly-talented writer. (My ego loves this stuff.) There are more similarities.

So they make it easy for me to see myself in his shoes. Too easy, sometimes. So, in that sense, I found it unusually entertaining.

(I especially liked the Eddie Nero character, a real character who cracked me up. But he does not appear very often. Of the more common characters, I really liked Stu Beggs. Wasnt he great? I also liked Richard's deep manly voice and his bizarre crazinesss. Always entertaining.)

Bukowski (1920-1994)I mean, Hank's character is reportedly patterned after Bukowski .. who I admire. Tho I admire different parts from those that Hank Moody seems to admire.

And speaking of easy .. who finds it difficult to picture themselves with Natasha?

I never watched the X-Files, so I was not familiar with David Duchovny. He was first brought to my attention by the Film school girl's graduate thesis-project partner (Lisa) who told me about him ..

.. when she was over at the house where we lived in Laguna on noisey PCH.

A former church with high ceilings. Where Maria was our landlady. After she married the guy who owned that and other realestate properties there in Laguna Beach.

Properties in which I would later live. From which I would come away with many of my most amazing memories. And where the Bug was conceived.

"Who?" I said, when she told me the name of the guy who I reminded her of.

After she left I wondered if she meant anything by it. I mean, we were the only ones back at the ranch. Everybody was off shooting. And I admit that I sometimes have trouble understanding members of the fairer sex.

"Well, he must be a handsome dude," I joked.

"He is," she said. "He's hot."

I am not slutty like Hank, no. (I date church girls.) Tho, like anybody, I can be tempted.

She seemed surprised that I had not heard of him .. and obviously thought I should be made aware.

Many times, during he days when the film crew was off shooting somewhere in Laguna, when the house was full of Film school students sleeping on the floor (including the kitchen) .. Lisa would return at lunch time and say "Wendy wants the camera."

So I would give her my digital camera. I mean, they left early and came home late.

That evening I would upload the photos to my server and send a link to family & friends. Cool shit.

It was one such day when she told me about Duchovny.

And the strange thing about watching this series .. is that you really do feel like you become part of their family .. their bizarre, dysfunctional family, along with their wonderful friends.

I never did the whole Friends things, but I know people who have .. and family is a big thing .. with feelings that run deep and transcend (mere) logic. You know what I mean. And for me, the Hank Moody jacket wears more naturally. And yes, sometimes too naturally.

So now that I feel like a part of that crazy family .. I want to tell him a little story that he might find interesting. Especially because I know that he appreciates fine literature.

Back when computers were just becoming a thing .. I was sitting in the area just outside a reactor containment dome here in SoCal. And we are waiting for the guys with the keys and the wrenches to come unlock the door and get the reactor refueling ball rolling.

But until they show up, we have nothing to do. And this guy brings up web pages of photos of Gillian Anderson .. your old partner. I had never heard of her before that.

And this guy told me that she "really does it for me."

A statement that I found curious. So I asked, "What is it about her that does it for you?"

And he said, "She's smart. That really turns me on. Her brain. Her mind. The way she thinks."

Which brings up the 'smart-is-sexy' perspective. And being multi-Ivy yourself, certainly you are qualified to address that issue from both sides .. I would imagine.

Does an intelligent woman do it for you? Like this guy (who showed me photos of your old partner) ?

I had my mother tell me flat out, "The reason that I married your father is because he is smart."

I would imagine that women who are attracted to intelligent, educated men .. would be attracted to you. In an offspring-enhancing sort-of-way.

After looking at these glamour photos of Gillian for 10 or 15 minutes .. he closed things up and even showed me how to empty the browser cache.

"I have a friend," he said, "who works over in the the computer department. He said you have to do this or they can find the pictures."

And that was right about when the guys with the keys showed up. But I always remembered his comments. He was smitten by smartness.

I am far from the expert that you are .. but my experience has been .. that sex is very much a conscious act .. with another conscious human.

And to the degree that your partner can be 'conscious' with you .. this deepens the sense of intimacy and eroticism and maybe even danger.

So there is a heightened sense of eroticism that comes from being with an intelligent woman.

» She Always Knew Exactly What She Wanted (Beyond Mere Tenacity)

In reflecting on the Film school girl recently, because that was such a pivotal time in my life .. the transition from the "evil nuclear military-industrial complex" person that I had become .. as she characterized me .. into something a little more socially conscious that should probably include hugging a tree or two every now-n-then.

"I will have your military-industrial ass hugging trees by the end of the summer."

I thought that she, more than any other person I have ever known .. she » knew what she wanted. (To » direct.)

Me? I am more of an » explore-the-universe type-of-guy. You know » let's see what's out there. But she always knew exactly what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go and she made shit happen. Small miracles. Many of them. She was a force, really.

I mean, I was one of the things that she wanted .. so I got to see its inner workings .. up close and personal-like. Feel me? And it's more than just pure tenacity. Tho yes, she could be tenacious.

So, in that way, she seemed very different. But how can you not admire that?

And I learned a lot of good parenting stuff watching her .. and the priority she assigned to her kids.

I was not intending to write about her .. at least, not here. But she once told me than one of the reasons that she went after me (.. with her strong traction beam) was because she knew I would be » good for her kids. And a » good role model for the boy.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this was one of the coolest compliments I ever got. Which is why I still remember it.

Duchovny » the Real-Life Princeton / Yale Ivy League Stud

Anyway (got sidetracked there) Duchovny's Wikipedia page says that he went to Princeton and Yale. (Get the fuck out.)

He's an East-coast boy in real-life. In the series, he plays a Long Island boy.

Before exiting this California freeway about David Duchovny as an East coast transplant driving around Los Angeles in a dirty Porsche [ 'POR-shuh ] cabriolet as a talented writer portraying a handsome Bukowski-type character as he has lots of sex with a series of all too eager young things ..

.. I should inject a dose of reality and share Carolina's thoughts in a piece which describes » The myth of LA as a paradise for creative types.

"What a buzz-kill you are, Carolina. I was feeling so good driving around LA with Hank."

One parting note. Dont buy a black 911 like Hank's. They are impossible to keep clean. I had a white one. When they get dirty, they just look less clean. But when a black one gets dirty, it looks dirty. But yes, when they are clean, they look sparkling. (But the are rarely clean.)

I had a roommate in San Clemente who had a black one. We had a 2-car garage on West Canada. People would come over and see the black and white 911's sitting in the garage and say, "You fucking guys."

» Major Life Transition From Military Nuclear-Industrial Complex to Lagunatick Writer

I left there after 7 years to the day .. when the Film school girl said, "Why do you keep paying rent there when you are never there?"

She lived in Laguna. A real lagunatic. With her kids at Laguna Beach high. She knew everybody in town. Or maybe it just seemed that way.

[ My wrting keeps going back to her .. that is so weird. ]

I did not say this, but was thinking, "Because I'm waiting to see if you turn into a psycho and then I wont be stuck here."

For every girl that I get romantically involved with .. there is normally something that seals the deal for me. Actually two .. one tentative and one confirming .. but it is really the confirming thing that seals the deal for me.

Where I interpret something as a green light from the universe .. that I can go ahead and embrace this relationship. (I wanted to say go ahead 'safely' .. but few relationships are truly safe. There is always a risk of getting trick-fucked.)

And for the film school girl, this was a cool thing. A cool story. Tho I dont want to take the time here to describe it.

Tho, on a more rational basis, she offered you entree into the community itself. She was a mom, too. The community of Laguna Beach. One of the coolest communities anywhere on the planet.

And that was new to me. A woman who offered you such rich connections to so many people. To such a wide variety of friends.

And to be honest, she seemed a little crazy at first. I mean, they dont call them Lagunaticks for nothing.

And I am from this very military nuclear industrial background and these Lagunaticks seem like aliens.

But they are the nicest aliens, and the writer in me found them just fascinating, saying, "Ooh dude, these people are interesting and they're nice. Let's play with this girl for a while and see how things proceed."

But human beings are not nearly this rational. You know I'm right. You know they base decisions of critical importance on such whim and the most irrational logic.

So remind me to tell you that story about what it was that really did it for me (Mr. Cautious) with the film school girl. (Key words » warmed sesame oil massage.)

But she was hot for me after I had shared with her some writing I'd been doing. After she read the manuscript I showed her, she basically said »

» "Dude, you totally kick ass. You obviously have the gift. You are truly the real deal. My panties are sopping. Wanna see for yourself? My dad is actually a published writer and he doesnt write anything close to this good. He is going to be totally jealous because he works very hard at it and you make this shit look easy. Stop wasting your rent money on that place in San Clemente because you are never there anyway. I will not turn into an obsessive, crazy psycho hose-beast from hell. I can see that you are cautious with women. Go home and get your shit and bring it back here with you and sit down over there and write. I will give you a desk that looks out over a 180-degree view of the Pacific. There is Catalina island. I can take you there, too .. on the coolest all-wood (teak) schooner that you've ever seen. We will wait until everybody goes ashore and then I will fuck your brains out on the boat, too. Just stay away from my very sexy 16-year old daughter who is in high school or I will cut off your balls. Actually, I will make sure that you have no sexual energy left. Because I will give you the best professional-grade hot oil massages you've ever had and pour warm sesame oil down the crack of your butt and then I will totally fuck your brains out. I will climb right up on that massage table and have my way with you. I may even call over one or two of my girlfriends to help. And I know a lot of people in this town .. an artists' community .. people who can help you. People who have connections. Would you care for a sample of what I'm talking about? I would be more than happy to demonstrate what I am talking about. I know it is cliche here in Laguna, but I left my husband for this young latin classical guitar player because my husband has no emotions or passion whatsoever and that became a major issue in our marriage. I was dying on the inside, emotionally speaking. But the kids didnt really appreciate the fact that he was not much older than them. So I know already that they are gonna dig the shit out of you. Isnt this cottage amazing? I have my own, private goat-path down to the nicest beach in all of Laguna. And trust me, I know, because I have spent much time at every one of them. Every day at sunset, you should walk down there, where you will have the whole beach to yourself, and you should take a little of this paca lolo down there with you. And take a hit and walk and pray and talk with God and listen to the sound of the waves and smell the salt in the ocean mist. My younger brother lives in Hawaii, so we naturally get the best shit .. grown by Rastafarian virgins in the mountains leading up to an active volcano. Trust me when I say you will only need one hit. I will go down there with you sometimes, sure, but I can see that a man like you needs some alone time .. to think, and to listen to the writing gods, and to the interesting voices in your head. And when you come back from praying at the beach, I will have a cold beer and a hot steak waiting for you. And then I will oil you up and fuck your brains out until you pass the fuck out. And then tomorrow, we will wake up and do it all over again. Tho maybe I will need some help from one of my friends. They have already told me that they would totally be game. I have to wait until the kids go back to their dad's, tho. And did I tell you that I am performing tonight? down at a club in the Laguna canyon? I perform with a bunch of guys on this cool percussion performance art. You will be totally impressed and want to have sex with me. No doubt. I have already put in your name at the front desk to save you the $10 cover and there will be a beer waiting for you at the bar. That's on me. But I will naturally expect you to fuck me extra good for that. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. But you should probably just drive me up into the hills surrounding Laguna .. I know this place .. and just bend me over your Porsche right there .. looking out over the city. I'm an outdoor kind of girl, to be honest. I've never been done over a Porsche before. It's just that I was married for so long and it all built up over a long period and now it is all coming out .. sorta at you. Thanks for being so understanding. By the way, here is the new Playboy that just came out today. I bought it for myself, but you might enjoy reading some of the articles. What do you think of this picture here? That really does it for me. How about you? What turns you on, Mr. Military-Nuclear-Industrial complex man? Tell me about your last girlfriend. What was she like?"

Like I said, she could be tenacious when she really wanted something.

Hopefully everybody who so desires it is currently engaged in a fulfilling relationship where they get these signs from the universe periodically .. signaling that they may proceed yet again further into the intimacy of their relationship.

But that first, initial signal is always special. Because it represents what it is that really does it for you .. about this girl.

You probably want to know what was the motive force that ejected me off the nuclear-powered gravy train. That is a good story. Too good to tell here. But remind me later.

» Obama in Charleston

It has been a week now since Obama gave his eulogy for the people at the church where 9 black worshipers were praying in Charleston. When they were shot dead by a white youth. I may be commenting on that eulogy. I have certainly been thinking about it. About things he said.

One of the things he said that stuck out » "We dont need more talk." [ on the subject of race ]

Because I intuitively sense something historic in that eulogy .. a sentiment echoed here by Michi, who was also born in New Haven county like George and myself. [ Her piece, by the way, was published after I posted this .. if such things matter to you. ]

Confederate flagAnother thing that Obama said » For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.

Systemic oppression .. you could talk a lot about that.

When Obama gave his speech in Newtown, there were things that I disagreed with. During his Charleston speech, there was one part that gave me trouble.

I know what he was trying to say, but I'm not sure that I agree with the way he said it. I will go grab the exact quote later. Because I need to be precise here.

Here is the statement that caught my attention .. speaking of the killer » "He didn’t know he was being used by God." Which could be interpreted in different ways.

That is like saying that Hitler was used of God. I dont think you would find many people who agree with that sentiment. And we should be careful not to blame God for stuff that is really about people and how fucked up they can be. How warped they can become in their thinking.

But really, it was about a kid who hated black people, whether they were good or bad. He hated all black people .. young and old, male and female .. because of nothing more than the color of their skin. Talk about cold-blooded murder. In a church.

What kind of person walks into a church .. the house of God .. and shoots dead the worshipers gathered there? (After fellowshipping with them for an hour.)

I would be lying if I said that I wasnt curious about their spidey-senses. Arent you? Dont you wonder if the hair on the backs of their necks wasnt standing on end?

I probably shouldnt walk much further down this road. This is really a topic for a southern gentleman to address. My expertise in that area is not really enough to wade very deep .. and really know what I am talking about.

Because I only briefly passed thru the culture. And they made it clear to me that I did not know jack shit about the South. And they were right.

So when I write about this topic, I can hear a voice challenging me, saying, "Who the fuck are you?" [ to talk about this subject ] Some subjects I can write about better than others.

But what I can say about this is that God does not have very much to do with hate crimes committed in a church sanctuary.

» Was the Civil War Really About Slavery?

But the thing I've most been thinking about is this quote »

» Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought -- the cause of slavery -- was wrong

Because, when I was in the Navy, stationed aboard a nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine (boomer) out of Hawaii (Pearl) .. we later got rid of all (16) Polaris ballistic missiles .. as part of the SALT II treaty with the Soviets ..

.. to limit the number of nuclear warheads (they were old, anyway) .. and combined the two crews (the blue crew and gold crew) .

And I opted to spend my last 2 years with their crew .. which contained many people from the south, and especially Texans.

My previous crew, by compasison, contained many East coast boys .. Jersey boys like the Dog, NYC boys (Bronx or Brooklyn) and a handful of Long Island boys. All sharp cookies. (And me from Connecticut.)

And they are calling me yankee and shit like that. And over the months and years, the subject of the Civil war came up. And I could see that they still harbored a grudge against the north.

And I said, "Dudes, it's been over a century .. come on, you gotta be kidding me."

But they werent kidding. No. They were NOT happy with the north or anybody from the north.

And they let me know. They seemed to unload all the hostility that they felt for the north and especially for northerners right onto me.

I mean, it went on for a while. A good, long while.

» You Fucking Yankees are All the Same

And I'm saying » "Dudes, my family wasnt even here. They didnt arrive from Europe 'til the turn of the century. I can guarantee you that my ancestors had nothing to do with the American Civil war."

That did not matter to them. Not in the slightest. "You fucking yankees are all the same."

To them, I was a yankee and therefore deserving of the worst contempt a southern gentleman could muster.

They were having at me .. ganging up on me. And they were coming at me with a hostility and resentment that I did not even know existed.

My questions to them during this time .. were designed to try and figure out the origins of this great hostility and this surprising resentment.

I mean, it was interesting from the perspective of learning about blind spots that you must obviously have.

» I Never Seen a Guy Laugh So Hard and So Long

One time I was in Engineroom Upper Level working on the 8K gallon per day distilling plant/unit. (Which sucks in salty sea water and spits out fresh potable water at a rate of 8,000 gallons per day for 150 guys.) And it was running, so there were hot steam pipes to watch for.

And I had to reach my wrench to get it on this nut and when I did my forearm pressed up against a steam pipe and it took me a few secs to pull back because my arm was wedged in there so deep.

And the skin of your forearm is tender and I let out a heartfelt series of expletives because it hurt like hell.

And this big, black southern dude from Texas who was 300 lbs of solid muscle came running over .. but not to see how I was doing, no.

Rather he was laughing his ass off .. because a yankee had let out a shrieking cry of pain .. like this was a reason for pure joy.

I mean, you'da thunk that my wail of pain was the funniest thing he ever heard.

An just when he would start to calm down, he would repeat my profane cry and start up laughing all over again.

I went and saw the doc and he gave me a tube of burn cream.

» Texans Angrily Insist that the Civil War was not About Slavery

Ooh, I got carried away .. this is really the thing I want to tell you » this Texan mafia who liked (loved!) to gang up on the yankee and set his dumb ass straight ..

.. they said (insisted, even) that the Civil war was NOT about slavery. "Then what was the Civil war about?" I asked.

The Lost Cause narrative says that SLAVERY was not the root cause of the civil war

They said it was about » economic oppression.

I was a yankee, yes. I knew very little about all the facts behind the Civil war. Everything I knew about Southern culture came from watching the Beverly Hillbillies. And these guys had grown up there. They certainly spoke with the authority of indignation.

So when Obama said that the Civil war was about slavery .. uh, I thought about the Texan mafia ganging up on me in engineroom upper level.

I thought » "Obama has obviously never met the Texan mafia."

I wonder what Stephanie thinks about that.

Stephan Ruhle says the Civil War was primarily about slavery

Hi Stephanie. I like you. Would you like to know why?

I wonder what Kashana thinks about that. I wonder what John Oliver thinks.

John Oliver says that the Confederacy was primarily about slavery

I wonder what Ken Burns thinks.

Ken Burns says that the Civil War was primarily about slavery

» Excerpt from a Speech Given by Alexander H. Stephens, VP of Confederate States

Here is an excerpt of a speech given by Alexander H. Stephens (1812-1883) on March 21st, 1861 .. just a few weeks before the American Civil War got underway:

Here is the page for the American Civil War on History.com, where they begin by asking » If you had just one word to describe the Civil War, what would it be?

» Treason?

In the first paragraph of this article, Sarah writes:

Just as citizens suspected of conspiring with foreign governments should be investigated and prosecuted in the present, those who committed treason in the past need not be glorified. What could be more logical than taxpayers’ patriotic plea that their federal, state and municipal governments consider removing, from public property, tributes to traitors loyal to the Confederate States of America who took up arms against the United States to perpetuate the institution of slavery?

Notice, in particular, her use of the term » treason .. which is defined as:

Violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one's country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies.

The crime of betraying one’s own country.

The offense of attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance, or of betraying the state into the hands of a foreign power; disloyalty; treachery.

» Celebrating the Wrong Thing?

Brian Beutler says that we are celebrating the wrong thing, and that, instead of celebrating Confederate generals with these statues, the nation should rather be celebrating the day of April 9th every year .. by making a national holiday the day that Robert E Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Robert E Lee surrenders to Ulysses S Grant Appomattox Court House April 9, 1865

» Not an Easy Conversation to Have

On the subject of the Confederate flag .. this is not an easy debate to have. So I am proud of my country for having the balls to conduct such a debate in a meaningful way. (Speaking of confronting an ugly past, check out Indonesia. Go Indonesia.)

And even if you arent yet ready to read Ta-Nehisi, you should at least be aware of him. And maybe even some of his influences. Because the conversation continues.

» The Difference Between Working with Northen Boys vs Working with Southern Boys

Here is something that I can talk about .. even if only anecdotally, because it is an area in which I do have experience. And that is that the northern-based crew were better reactor plant operators.

Now I do not know for a fact that the other crew, when they were a separate crew unto themselves, received all "average" grades .. from the boys from Washington, who would come every years for a week or two and check you out .. to see if you really knew how to operate a reactor plant safely.

But I have no reasons not to believe our officers when they told us this.

There were 3 possible grades » average, above average and below average.

Average basically means » you need work. Above average, which we never got anything but while I was on the northern crew, meant » you can breathe easy, but we will be back next year to check again. And below average meant that you were fucked and your life was shit until you could improve that grade.

And I had spent two years with the northern boys before converting to the southern crew. So I knew wtf. And I could see that they did not know their shit nearly as well. And they did not run things nearly as smoothly.

They majored in minors. Little, unimportant shit was very important to them. They were very much into focusing on the gnat's ass, yet missing the big picture. Even I could see that.

They were very much into crossing t's and dotting i's. At first, I said, "You're kidding, right?"

No, they were not kidding. I could go into excruciating detail here, but will spare you. But my point here is to bring a contrast and comparison to light .. because I worked for two years with each crew. (2 years of schooling + 2 years with the northern boys and 2 years with the southern boys = 6 years total.)

It didnt take long for me to realize that this was going to be a painful learning experience.

This is one of the reason why competence means so much to me. Because these fuckers were all my bosses. And they do not like me because I am a yankee and I am from the other crew and I already have years of experience operating this very reactor plant at a level that people qualified to judge would deem "above average".

» Loyal Incompetence

I might note here that I think this is where George Bush went wrong .. and yes, I have thought about this quite a bit .. because the consequences of those fucks ups were so enormous.

George W Bush with (inexperienced) FEMA director Michael 'Brownie' Brown during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, August 2005So you naturally ask, "How could shit go so wrong?"

And I feel that the root of the problem is that he sacrificed competence for loyalty. (Because of his insecurity. His cowboy insecurity.)

And maybe it looks good from a certain perspective .. feeling that a certain man owes you great loyalty because you hired him for a job he isnt really qualified to do.

But if you do not have competence .. and any kind of crisis arises .. you are totally fucked.

I mean, loyalty means very little without competence. No?

I know this is an over simplification, but I feel that this is what lies at the heart of the disaster that were the Bush years.

Incompetent loyalty. The effects of which We the People will be feeling for many more years. (Tho not you billionaires.)

» An Impressive Generation

Speaking of George .. Nicholas Kristof wrote a very nice column on his daughter, titled » A Millennial Named Bush.

An impressive column by an impressive man about an impressive girl, who is part of an impressive generation.

I know that it seems like I am over-using that word .. but see for yourself. [ Erik is copying me. But that's okay. ]

Talk about a sharply defined contrast.

I went back and reread that. Wow. I would not want me mad at myself.

With the larger entries I (obviously) write in (individual) chunks and pieces and sections and themes. But when I later go back .. after being away from it for a while .. and read the whole thing. The effect is much more .. additive.

The freshness of it hits me. "Dude, who are you really?"

Here is what I wrote then (in the piece) .. that George was » "not able to finesse the complexity of the situations that the office presented to him."

(Tho I addressed that particular line to George himself .. adjacent to a picture of him standing next to 'Brownie'.)

One is an intellectual defect, the other character-based, or psychological. Or maybe even moral.

At the end of the Kristof column ha has young Bush crying when she thinks about her dad. And my inner critic says, "There. You made a girl cry. Are happy now?"

But her dad is a walking cautionary tale. A tale of torture and incompetence and stupidity. I can't help it that her dad is a war criminal.

Are not these things intuitively obvious even to the most casual of observers? To even hard-core Republicans? I think they are.

The nation has paid so dearly for them .. let's not squander the lessons of the Bush years.

[ There were a few of us who transferred over, but most simply transferred to a different nuclear submarine, where they would have to requalify on a different reactor plant, which is not exactly the funnest thing that you've ever done. ]

All of these ORSE boards are well-documented, so the truly interested could go back and verify the grades that I am talking about.

After I got out and was working in commercial nuclear power for a while, making mad Rad bank, the home office asked if I wanted to go work down at the Brown's Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama. "I'll pass," I said. "I've had enough of southern hospitality for a while."

Tho, to be fair, all of the Alabama boys that I've known were very cool. Surprisingly street savvy and wickedly funny.

And I prefer to work a pressurized water reactor (PWR) rather than at boiling water reactors .. if I can help it. It's not a make or break thing.

» Justice for a 22-Month Old (Cooper) Baked Alive by His Dad?

Speaking of the South .. whatever happened to that Chick-Filet dad ..

Cooper Harris | 1 Year Old | Baked to Death.. who left his 22-month old son in the car to bake alive in the hot Georgia sun on one of the longest days of the year (most sun, coincidently)?

While he was sending pictures of his erect penis to underage girls from his air-conditioned office.

And why would his wife stick by a man who sends pictutes of his erect penis to underage girls?

Do you understand how she could do that? Cuz I dont.

Most girls that I know set their discriminator far lower. "Dude, you fart too much for me. I'm outta here. C-ya."

I have googled the case but cant find anything recent. That kid was so cute. That kind of shit bothers me.

This dad does not need a jail cell, no. He needs a team of good shrinks .. to find out what went wrong and how he could do something like this.

Because the case seems to be crying out that there is something wrong at Chick Filet and in our churches. Something very wrong.

They should schedule his trial during the hottest part of the summer.

» The Pope is Kicking Ass on a Global Scale & Taking Names Internationally

I also want to mention some of the things that the Pope has been doing and saying and decreeing. Impressive stuff.

Such as creating a tribunal for » negligent bishops .. without which they will never fix the problem.

I was very much impressed by his recognition of the assassinated archbishop from El Salvador, Oscar Romero. I gave him big points for that. (CNN, United Nations, BBC)

But I dont want to bite off more than I can chew .. in my weakened state. The spirit is willing .. you know.

Wow, look at this. Impressive.

Here he calls corruption "the gangrene of the people." He is bringing the thunder. Vatican-grade thunder. You can hear the rumbling from far away. And he does not seem intimidated .. by anything.

I suspect this is because he hails from Argentina .. where they have seen some shit. Some very ugly shit.

» Have We Entered a Period of Accelerated Social & Cultural Change?

I will admit that I am biting off more than I can chew by even mentioning this topic, but ever since I have emerged from my cocoon of treatment .. it seems as if things in our nation are changing unusually fast. No?

I could cite many examples, and will return to do just that. But Glenn's post here was the thing that focused my attention on the topic. Thought-provoking, no? Especially when you compare what he wrote with what Ted said about it.

I won't even mention things global.

I have always been interested in zeitgeisty things, particularly as they pertain to the writer. The chronicler. The observant writer.

Speaking of cultural change .. I saw this speech by Hilary at the New School and thought » "She could be president."

I never had that thought about her before. fwiw. (Tho some say she is merely talking tough.)

She seemed at ease there. In her zone. Her comfortable space. Is it me or did she not seem different? She made it look easy, not hard.

» Obama Goes to Jail

Obama in Prison Cell at El Reno in Oklahoma on July 16, 2015(That title heading is bound to make many a Republican feel vindicated.) Check this out. That gives me a total boner.

Obama is going to be the first sitting president to visit a federal prison?

You gotta be shittin' me. You run a country that sends more of its citizens to prison than any other country on the planet .. and you presidents never pay a visit?

Not even the Russians and the Chinese together send as many of their citizens to prison.

Are we really the land of the free? Doesnt look that way.

I guess this would be a good time to start. Bring your over-night bag, dawg. If you really wanna get a good feel for what it's like to live in the Land of the Free for millions of Americans.

Dude, John Oliver has a nice intro to prisons posted here. You should check it out. And also this one about Bail. And this one about Municipal Violations. There are more that you need to see, but those will get you started in the right direction.

Say hi to bubba for me.

» How Far Will Obama's Pebble of Zen Justice Ripple Out into the Pond of American History?

Obama addresses the press at El Reno Prison in Oklahoma on July 16, 2015Update July 19, 2015 » I am impressed. That Obama went to jail. And I am not the only one.

I am actually wowwed. I was impressed before, but I was wowwed when I read the following passage (near the end of this column by Peter Baker) »

Like Mrs. Clinton on Robben Island, Mr. Obama was shown a cramped cell and briefed by officials. Then he came over to a group of us, kept in place by yellow police tape, to talk about overhauling the criminal justice system. It was basically a recitation of the same policy points he had made in a speech a couple of days earliers.

But when he started to walk away, my colleague Darlene Superville of the Associated Press, called after him, asking what struck him about the prison.

He paused, almost as if considering whether to actually say what he was thinking. Then he turned to come back. What struck him, he said, was that it could have been him in one of those cells. He, too, had made mistakes, he said. And were it not for the advantages of life that he had – advantages the El Reno residents did not have – he might have been a prisoner and not a president. “There but for the grace of God,” he said.

It was a strikingly personal observation, one that would be hard to imagine any other president making, even if any of them had taken the time to go to a federal prison.

This is the kind of shit that makes me proud to be an American. Not torturing little, skinny, innocent taxi drivers to death, no. Not pouring a slurry of raisins and walnuts up people's asses.

That kind of shit does not make me proud to be an American, George.

Rad note » this section where I discuss Obama going to jail has been transferred to its own separate page .. see here » Obama Goes to Jail.

The end of page 2 of 2 of the monthly entry archive for July 2015.

Here is a link that will return you to » PART ONE of two.