Friday, January 31, 2014

Every day, a new discovery: Stairway to Stardom!

Yes! Every day, and in every way, I'm getting better and better. I don't know how I've lived so long without Stairway to Stardom, which actually appeared in a short Wikipedia entry:

Stairway to Stardom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stairway to Stardom was a public-access television series aired in New York City from 1979 to the early 1990s. It was described by NPR as "an amateur talent show many see as a low-rent precursor to American Idol."[1] Filmed "in what appeared to be a freshly carpeted Staten Island basement,"[2] the host Frank Masi would bring on amateur singers, dancers, actresses, and comedians to show off their questionable talents. Describing the show, The A.V. Club claimed that "without exaggeration, it was one of the greatest shows ever to be on television."[3]
Clips of the show have appeared on the web and gained a cult following.[4] The opening theme song was performed by Steve Luisi and All The King's Men.

I wouldn't have found these gorgeous and  gif-ready YouTube clips (God, just think of the gifs. . .stand back, I hope you like gifs, because this is about to become an all-gif blog) without the guidance of a wonderful Facebook page called Kitsch Bitsch. When I first started watching them, I thought someone had mislabelled old SCTV variety show broadcasts from Melonville. But no! This was a real show that went on and on for years, though by now most of the slightly-chubby and/or crazed contestants are either middle-aged or dead.

Aieeee. This could be the start of something big, or something awful, however you want to look at it. It seems to me these choice bits from Stairway to Stardom are being uploaded by the dozen now. Having watched a few, the cheesy camera effects are perhaps my favorite touch. But oh, I just don't know where to start!

Prehistoric Skype and other artifacts from the dark ages of the internet

Don't ask me where I find these things. My wonderful Gifsforum site has given me options I never had before, including dicking around with size, color intensity, and "frames" per second, yielding a sort of Charlie Chaplin effect. Add this to a bizarre snippet from an early '90s (or late '80s - it looks too old for '90s) preview of The Internet, and you have some mighty strange things going on. I think this was some sort of magical preview of a primitive proto-Skype. 

Compressed gifs have a sense of surrealism about them, and also upload much more easily because they have fewer whatchamacallits. Which is about the summit of my technical knowledge. It's only because these things are now ridiculously easy to make that I am able to do this at all. The only real challenge comes in isolating exactly the few xeconds you want, and adding effects.

More to come! I should try to do some Year of the Horse ones, because today is the actual day. And wouldn't you know it, now I find out that being a Wood Horse isn't lucky at all this year. But it was ever thus! Next week I get my galleys! Another step towards horsedom in my personal quest to get back on that mythical horse, which has taken me years and years.

SPECIAL BONUS GIFS! These are taken from a YouTube video of a 1981 news report, describing how those lunatic subversives at the San Franciso Examiner want to put their newspaper on "home computer".
This sad-looking guy is identified as someone who Owns Home Computer, as if he used to work in the circus or something, or has six heads.

 This piece practically claims you have to pry the top off your monitor to get your paper and uses some gorgeous affects such as a red dial-up phone that has to be crammed with great force into some strange thingammy. My favorite is the techie who has to duck down to see the rapidly-moving, Flintstonesque type on his monitor, which looks like Diver Dan's helmet on a bad day.

 In the background is an office that resembles The Daily Planet in the 1940s. I'll bet you any money those guys are going to the coffee room for a smoke. Great Caesar's Ghost!

Ah! Your morning newspaper, no longer delivered to your door all soggy and dog-drooled-on, and without having to pay some punk paperboy who probably has a Ponzi scheme going on the side! No, we're high-tech here, and we get our newspapers on our HOME COMPUTER! That is, if you can read a monitor that's six inches square!

An ad for your Electronic Examiner - on your HOME COMPUTER! Isn't that a little hard to pull off? Steve Jobs was probably in kindergarten then. Like that first primordial creature who bravely crawled up out of the ooze and eventually became human, he ascended from the mud of primitive technology and saved the world. Or something. Or just messed it up in a different way, but at least now there's Kijiji.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A story of lust and unspeakable sin


The Snow Hen of Jostedal

A story of lust and unspeakable sin


Once there was a little legend walking about, that we will name Jostedalsrypa.

Why such a long handle, you may ask? when it would be a lot easier to name him (her!) Junie or Jolie or some such other two-syllable name?

Because Jostedalsrypa is a myth.

Jostedal, as we will now call her (given that the other name is just too long to remember) is sometimes called the Snow Hen of Jostedal. I first encountered her yesterday, though her myth (reality?) goes back to the 1300s, when the Black Plague was harvesting Europe with a scythe as lethal as the Reaper’s.

When all was said and done, when all the ploughing up to make graves and the burning down to make sanitary lodgings had passed, when the few people left on the earth were breathing little sighs of relief here and there,  Nordrik walked the sylvan glades and frosted peaks of Scandinavia. He looked up with tears of gratitude at Scandy’s burning skies and thanked the Norse gods that he had been –

But enough of this, it's getting in the way of the story.

Back to Jostedalsrypa. While this Nordrik (or Norhan, or Norvasken, depending on which scholar you quote) was beating the bushes for edible mushrooms, he heard a stirring sound.

Not like you’d stir your coffee, but more of a feather-on-leaf stir, very frail, a shaking of the bushes so minute that it might just be the stirrings of a bug.

With his ailegaard (walking pole), he gently parted the bushes. Nothing.

Then he kicked the quivering bush with his foot.

This provoked a whooshwhooshwhooshwhooshwhooshwhooshwhooshwhooshwhoosh
sound, akin to the whirring of doves spiralling upwards, of partridges flushed from the bush.

But the wings of this creature (if creature it was!) did not carry it far, as just a few feet off the ground it fell with a dismal thud.

He looked at the strange thing.

It was shaped like a hen. It looked like a hen. It flapped like a hen. It was partially camouflaged by snow, dirty snow that was half-melting and had formed around the hen as a sort of protective covering, an ice nest.

“I will call her Jostedal, after Lake Jostedal and the City of Jostedal and Jostedal Canyon," said Norrdka, lifting the terrified bird from the snow and marvelling at how heavy she seemed in his arms.

Her head jerked this way and that. A snow hen!  Imagine that. So those silly legends must've been true after all. She seemed to have the intelligence of a – well, of a hen. Her feet paddled the air. Still Norrdka trudged, wondering how she would taste stewed up with a side dish of mushrooms.

The Black Plague had left its survivors with a keen appetite.

Nothing that moved was ever wasted,  but because the Snow Hen was displaying nesting behaviour, the family  held back on eating her.  Everyone clucked with joy when  Jostedal produced her first egg. “But do not eat it yet!” cried Gromkin, the snow-crowned patriarch of the family and the one who had suspiciously survived the Plague by hoarding quail eggs in his pockets.

“Why, old man? Why not eat the egg as a side dish with the chicken and mushrooms?” cried Norrdka.

“I have a recipe for Chicken Eggskongg,” Mama chimed in.

“Hatch this egg. Nurture it. It will be extraordinary.”

Even those who did not agree with Gromkin decided they had better listen to him (he would whack them on the side of the head if they didn't), and keep the Snow Hen around as a renewable resource for food.  Meantime, they had this egg, which seemed somehow magical in their sight.

 They could not sit on the egg, so after a meagre dinner of wood fungi they coaxed the chicken to sit down and incubate it. It took a lot of shoelaces to tie her down.

But something very strange happened in the night. 


Norrdka wasn’t the first to discover what had happened to her.  It was the old man, Gromkin. He saw the two of them over in the corner. The old man had a stick in his hand and was poking at her.

Squatting in the corner with not a stitch of clothing on her comely body was a beautiful young maiden!

Could this be the Snow Hen of  ancient  tales and stories? How was that possible?  Were they all seeing the same apparition?

The beautiful naked maiden whom they soon dubbed Shnowen had grown a sort of covering of white feathers over its body. And to think they had nearly eaten her the night before!

“ARE YOU HERE TO GRANT US THREE WISHES?” shouted the old man to the perplexed-looking chicken-lady.

She turned her head this way and that and made low, barely-perceptible clucking noises.


“Do be quiet, Father,” Mother cautioned him. “She is perplexed. Besides, she has already laid an egg which may be of inestimable value to us.”

And lo, it was.

As Shnownen walked around the bare cottage pecking the floor and flapping her arms. a crack began to form in the egg. The whole family, all seventeen of them, gathered around it in anxiety and hope.

The crack was very slow to form, and Grandfather Gromkin wanted to whack at it with his splinggboln, but the rest of them held him back.

And just as they were all about to give up and serve up this egg with a side dish of roasted fowl, lo!

Out popped, not a genie or a monster or an apparition or a dybbuk or a djinn. It was a child.

It was as child so tiny and radiant that no one could believe it. “That’s achick,” declared Seventeenth Brother.

“It’s never a chick. It’s a homunculus.”

“An automaton, I’ve seen one of those, it was an old monk that could walk around.”

“Silence!” cried the magical child, who seemed to be made of purest gold.

“State your business,” bellowed the old man, who was very direct.

“I have come here not by accident, but by design. I am here to refine human nature. I see cruelty everywhere, I see grabbing at food that belongs to others, I even see people eating each other’s flesh.”

“NO! It never happened”

“How can you even think such a thing!”

“You must be evil. How can you abuse us like this?”
But the family felt a deep and secret shame.  The Black Plague had certainly brought out the worst in everybody.

“Here is the test,” the magic child replied. “For forty-seven days, you shall have no food. The doors of your humble cabin will all be locked. This is a test of your character and of your ability to be selfless, and will redeem you for the black sins you committed during the Time of Pestilence.”

“Forty-seven days? Whover heard of THAT? Why not forty days and forty nights?”

“Shhhh, Grandpa Gromkin, maybe he’s joking.”

“No. It’s not like that,” broke in one of the many anonymous brothers.  “It means forty days, like Noah's rain in the Scriptures, PLUS the seven days it took for God to create the Universe.”

Ohhhhhhhh.” They all relaxed a little.

The first few days were rather exciting, as the tiny golden child talked non-stop about many amazing things while Shnowen, now called Shwenon, picked and plucked and made hen noises. A few times Eldest Brother pursued her around the cabin, and no one could tell if it was for food, or some other purpose too dark to mention.

After a while, that bird began to look better and better.

Grandfather nagged the magic child day and night. “Are you sure you really meant FORTY-SEVEN days?” he asked him. “Maybe you only meant seven.” There was a faint clinking sound in the background as the family tightened their belts.

On the thirteenth day, they decided to kill the chicken.

Why not kill the chicken? They would not survive unless they did. But the axe and the knife and the other implements of cold-blooded murder were all outside, so they would have to corner and strangle her. This was a nearly-impossible task with a human-sized bird.

So they began to tame her. Here, chicken, chicken, chicken! Nice chicken. Because she was starving to death, she would do just about anything they asked of her, including the unspeakable act I mentioned before.

But I shall draw a veil over such evil.

One day, however, in spite of the brain fog of famine, one of them had an idea.

“Wait!” Sixteenth Brother cried. “If we can last out this wretched forty-seven days, imagine what this bird will be worth for us.”

“We can put her on display.”

“Make her do tricks!”
"All sorts of tricks." 

”And she’s beautiful, and naked. So you know how people will respond.”

“But forty-seven days. . . “

“Listen,” said Grandfather. “I’m close to a deal.”

For along with greed and pride and lust, and anger and envy, and all those other things we’re not supposed to do, Grandfather excelled at crooked wheeling and dealing. Soon he had bargained the child down to twenty-four days. With his mother held hostage, about to be roasted on a spit, he was in no position to argue.

The force-field around the cabin began to waver.

The family wondered if they could hold out much longer, as the chicken was getting skinnier and skinnier and sat listlessly in the corner pulling her feathers out. She looked bad and would not enchant or even scare anyone.

“Goddamn you, Snow Hen,” cried Norrdka, cursing the day he had ever found her. “You started this. You’ll finish it.” He rushed at her with every intention of strangling her.  But she was too feeble to resist, and collapsed with a drawn-out cry.

“NOW have we passed the test?” asked Fourth Brother hopefully. They had, after all, not KILLED the chicken. They had resisted killing the chicken, who had obviously died of natural causes.

“You failed it a long time ago,” the child answered. “What is more, there isno spell. You could have left the cabin any time you wanted to. So you committed yet another sin."
"What could that be?"

”Mountebank!” cried Grandfather.

“Look at your Snow Hen, once so beautiful and so full of promise. She has died of hunger and despair. Not only that, there is no meat on her bones to sustain you.”

“I could make a good stock,” Mother suggested.

“I could stuff her, you know, put her on display.. . . “

Silence!  You people do not deserve to be in the presence of magic, because your souls are dark and selfish and full of corruption. You abuse the thing you claim to love the most and keep her captive in terror.”

“No one will know.”

“YOU will know. The knowledge will suck the strength from your soul and blight all your days, and continue for seventeen generations."

“But this is why they made Jesus.! If we repent, he will take all our sins away."

“Not this one.” Disgusted, the child burst into a ball of flame that grew and grew and grew until it consumed the entire cabin.

There was but one person spared. As white smoke surged up from the chimney, a bird with dazzling white feathers emerged and grew larger and larger until she seemed to fill the whole sky. The Snow Hen of Jostedal had freed herself from the prison of human darkness, never to return.

POSTLUDE. The provenance of this piece is strange. Years and years ago, I saw a NOVA program on PBS about a girl named Genie, a "wild child" who had been tied up in a dark room for an incredible thirteen years by her sadistic brute of a father.

The girl couldn't speak, could barely walk, and was the size of a seven-year-old. While the public may have seen a horribly damaged child, the scientific community saw a blank slate - that is, blank except for a lot of dollar signs.

The documentary recounts the stampede of interest from scientist, linguists, neurologists, sociologists, and many other ologists who scrambled for research grants to "study" Genie. This was in 1972, and NOT ONE person believed that it would be preferable for Genie's welfare to be placed in loving foster care until she gained enough stability to work with the scientists. 

It did not even occur to them.

I can't recount all of this heartbreaking story because it's too complex, except to say that the girl was eventually abandoned by the scientists who had so greedily fallen on her when she was released from her thirteen-year prison. When she was finally de-institutionalized, she was taken home by two of the research scientists like some sort of shelter dog, then abandoned a few years later when the grant money ran out. 

At the end of this wretched story, Genie is "put away" in a nursing home, and that's the end of it. Since she's younger than me, she is probably still there, in another sort of prison. I did find a reference from some time in the '90s, when an observer insisted she was "happy and content" in the home she had never chosen. Certainly she has no power to object.

 I recently watched the NOVA program again - I'll try to find a link to it, it's riveting - and then acquired a book called Genie: A Scientific Tragedy by Russ Rymer. I was sure this book would be spellbinding, but 50 pages in I began to wonder whose side he was on.
He spent pages and pages on the work of Noam Chomsky, a pop icon and pseudo-linguist who believes there is only one language in all of human experience. As far as I can see, this demented idea has nothing at all to do with Genie and her difficult, halting acquisition of language, but it helps the author distance himself from all that mess and align himself with someone trendy.
But there's something else here, and I have to admit when I first read it I groaned. "I've been diddled," I thought. He listed various "feral" children that had been found roaming the woods over the centuries, and the farther I got into the list the more sure I was that he was having us on, making the whole thing up as a way of disrespecting his readers and jerking the leash.

“Among the cases of wild children discovered over the last seven centuries, more than fifty have been documented. The list includes the Hesse wolf-child; the Irish sheep-child; Kasper Hauser; the first Lithuanian bear-child; Peter of Hanover; the second Lithuanian bear-child; the third; the Karpfen bear-girl; Tomko of Zips; the Salzburg sow-girl; Clemens, the Overdyke pig-child; Dina Sanichar of Sekandra; the Indian panther-child; the Justedal snow-hen; the Mauretanian gazelle-child; the Teheran ape-child; Lucas, the South African baboon-child; and Edith of Ohio.”

I think it was Edith of Ohio that did it. This HAD to be a mean form of satire designed to jerk the reader around. But like the diligent little Googlist that I am,  I did a search for each and every one of these names, and lo, they WERE mentioned somewhere, even if briefly, as part of a list of "wild" children. Most of them are considered myths, an extension of the ancient story of Romulus and Remus who were suckled by wolves.
I'm not sure quite how that led to the story of the Snow Hen, except that the name really grabbed me: it really seemed like something out of Hans Christian Andersen.
The arc of the story is pretty crazy, because there IS no arc: I literally took it word by word with no forethought at all, no sense of what might come next. At various moments you have to stop and try to shape the story a bit, and then of course edit it later for inconsistencies. But I did very little of this.

It occurred to me while making my lunch today that perhaps the Snow Hen is Mary, Mother of God, and the golden child is her son  Jesus Christ, holding those wicked people in the cabin accountable for their sins. He doesn't let them get away with anything, not even throwing the Bible back in his face.  I hope Jesus would approve.

Hercules and the Mighty WHA-hoo

Next to The Adventures of Clutch Cargo (and his pals, Spinner and Paddlefoot), The Mighty Hercules has the worst animation the world has ever known. I've been watching them on Teletoon Retro lately while knitting my grandson a Minecraft Creeper. No, really! I am, and it's turning out well. The cartoons look a lot better than they did on a grainy black-and-white TV, but they're still pretty bad.

I must have been about nine when I started watching these - slavishly, every day after school. Sure beat the hell out of Captain Jolly and Poopdeck Paul, hosts of a chintzy Detroit kids' show that everyone watched because there was bloody-well nothing else to watch, we got three channels or something, and didn't want to watch Art Linkletter, Queen for a Day or Tennessee Ernie Ford.

My favorite scenes were with Hercules and Pegasus, even though Pegasus was almost as irritating as Newton, that rotten little centaur who talked in a Mickey Mouse voice and repeated everything he said. What was irritating was his whinny, which was straight out of Sound Effects Central. There was a high-pitched sort of trilling noise, then a full-out neigh, but they kept repeating the same two sounds over, and over, and over again.

I was shocked to hear identical whinnies in a lot of old Westerns, making me realize how much of movie and cartoon sound tracks is totally fake. You can even hear it in early sitcoms: certain laughs crop up again and again, even on different shows, meaning it's a generic laugh track on a loop. My brother and I noticed this to great hilarity, first on I Love Lucy, and then on Pete and Gladys and I Married Joan. There was this one person laughing that stuck out, a sort of high-pitched "WHA-hoo!" that we would notice - in fact, it was a sort of game, to see who could collect the most WHA-hoos. It was identical on every show we watched, and cropped up at least three or four times per episode. And do you know, I still hear them today when I watch old sitcoms, and wonder just how dead that person must be after all these years.

And my teachers, certainly my grade school teachers, all dead now, and most of my high school teachers, and even the people I used to work with in the ratshit jobs I had in my twenties - probably a lot of them are dead by now too. It gives me pause. But not a lot, because I never did like them very much anyway.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Orang Pendek Paranthropus Boisei

Why do I do this to myself? Why do I like to scare the hell out of myself with things I know don't really exist? The habit goes back to childhood. There is plenty on the internet to weird/gross yourself out on, but one of the worst is "imaginary hominids", a la Bigfoot, like this guy, whatever-his-name-is.

Oh, I know it has to be a drawing or a painting or something, but doesn't it look real?  It could be a photoshop deal of some kind. Probably is.

But God it weirds me out. I've seen pictures of reconstructions of early humans, or protohumans, some of whom didn't make it to the higher levels of evolution and died off. Makes you realize the origin of the word "lowbrow". The only equivalent we have now are microcephalics, a few of whom survive infancy and literally live without a cerebral cortex.

Imagine these things grunting and walking around (because they did walk upright, all of them, so below the neck they would look creepily human). When did the first meaningful grunt occur? What were the first things to be named? Did they name themselves - each other? Why did language develop independently in ALL groups of early humans, and how did we come to be so wired for it? When did grammar begin? The rest of culture doesn't interest me nearly so much.

I sometimes put myself back in time, watching these bizarre beings that would some day be "us". Watching what they do, what they "say". Surviving. Feeling joy? We don't know. Who was the first australopithecine to experience depression?

I wish sometimes I could dial back time, I mean to a time before it was too late, and say to these guys, hey, look, you really fucked it up the first time. Next time, can you plan a little, not rape the resources of the earth and so poison everything that the world climate finally pops a mainspring and spins deliriously out of control?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ovarian cancer: teal should be the only color (and other musings on social atrocity)

This is one of those days when a lot is happening: we lost Pete Seeger at the great-grandfatherly age of 94. Without Seeger there couldn't have been a Dylan, and without Dylan there couldn't have been a Springsteen, and on and on.

When this great tree fell, the tree that will gradually compost itself into soil for succeeding generations (that is, if we don't strip it bare and pave it over instead), there was no terrible grief, because he had given more even in the first 40 years of his life than most people do in a lifetime. He was a light, a real man, both gentle and fierce. I once saw a clip of him playing Beethoven's Ode to Joy on a banjo. It seemed to sum him up, somehow.

But at the same time, other rumblings are felt. As if it's an entirely new phenomenon, as if it's a disease that women are still ashamed of and expected to bear alone, ovarian cancer is just barely beginning to come out of the closet. I've written about this before, about how "pink isn't the only color", though by the relentless pompom-waving juggernaut that is the breast cancer industry, you'd never know it.

Today Facebook was full of it, warning women not to use baby powder on themselves or they'd get ovarian cancer, without explaining just how. Like wildfire, the warning was shared and shared, kind of like the one about apple cider vinegar curing heart disease. These things remind me of the forest animals in Bambi during the fire: "Run! Run!" Why is it everyone automatically drops 30 or 40 IQ points, or else reverts to ten years old, when they go on Facebook?

But I digress. Ovarian cancer isn't cool because it isn't nearly as survivable as that other, more stylish disease. It's just not in vogue, and besides, it's terrifying. Women dread it infinitely more, knowing they won't just lose a breast or their hair, but their lives. They don't talk about it, it's still hushed, silenced, and profoundly stigmatized. It's as if you've done something irreversibly wrong to your most female, womanly parts, and they have turned irretrievably toxic. 

The ovarian cancer awareness movement had to pick teal as its color, maybe because all the others were taken. But in some ways, it's oddly appropriate. Teal isn't just one color, but is a mix of green and blue, the blue darker than in turquoise. It's a tiny bit exotic, a little outside the orbit. The disease isn't in the public consciousness yet, not in the way that the "other one" is. My feeling is that it's disgraceful to pound away at one form of cancer at the expense of others. In the rainbow of known diseases, in the spectrum of things we talk about and make banners about and run for and scream and cheer for, ovarian cancer isn't even in the running.  But teal is a new color, an original, slightly rebellious. I like it. I like surviving, and I like fairness, and I LOVE unfairly neglected causes getting their due at long last.

The thing I saw on Facebook today about talcum powder migrating up your vagina and poisoning your ovaries with cancer seemed absurd at first, but I've come to believe that it doesn't matter whether it makes sense or not. The warning has put the disease on the table for discussion. Let's keep it there for a while, shall we, until people stop gasping in horror and turning away.

Oh, and speaking of which, this is Mental Health Day, isn't it? I'm not sure what they call it now. (My brother, a schizophrenic, once made the memorable statement, "Support mental health or I'll kill you.") Anyway, it's the one day out of the year when we're allowed to think/talk about mental illness. Just the way it's approached bugs me - a sort of awkward "uhh, let's go in the other room and actually talk about this - now don't be ashamed, don't feel stigmatized, we're not stigmatizing you, in fact by talking about it, by starting a dialogue, we're hoping to break down the stigma that makes everyone think you're a raving maniac." 

It's sort of like that. It's still that bad smell that maybe can be dispelled using the same formula that worked for breast cancer (except it will never work, due to humanity's millenia-long dread and horror of mental illness). 
People in the news, stars like Catherine Zeta Jones, "admit" to having bipolar disorder, or even "confess" to having it, as you'd confess to a serious crime. These awkward public admissions are laden with guilt and culpability, but who notices? She's "brave" to unmask herself, to strip bare this jolting revelation: brave, that universal description for saying something it really would have been better to keep to yourself. 

When will this change? I think, when the last human being takes its last poisonous, gas-laden, toxic gasp of air before expiring. Maybe in twenty years or so. Nice to see the stigma dispelled that quickly.

OK, then - this piece has no theme to it at all except "things that bug me", so I might as well go steaming ahead. Facebook, my new Bible (blughhh) is now running all sorts of pieces on Woody Allen and "the scandal" (you know, the one he calls "What Scandal?"), in which he apparently abducted his own stepdaughter and married her, molesting his 7-year-old other stepdaughter in the process.

The family, incredibly, is still bitter and angry, even hysterical about this. Ronan Farrow, Mia's oldest son, sent Woody a Father's Day card that read, "Happy Father's Day - or, in your case, Happy Brother-in-law's Day." Never mind, he was actually sired by Frank Sinatra anyway, and he's dead, so we can't go into Mafia ramifications. Myself, I am surprised at the rancor and even hate that Mia still feels for Woody. I'm not saying all should be comfy-cozy with him: he strikes me as fairly reptilian and a man who will pretty much take whatever he feels like, claiming, "The heart wants what it wants." But Mia strikes me as earth-motherish, having adopted a dozen or so disabled Third World children, a granola type who normally would preach forgiveness for everyone because, after all, "everything happens for a reason" and our enemies teach us the most valuable lessons in life. We shouldn't hate them, but thank them.

Mia is still a screaming banshee when it comes to all this stuff. I don't know what really happened in the Farrow/Allen household 20 years ago, but I do know that, against the odds, Woody and Soon-Yi Farrow are still married and have raised two daughters together. I doubt if Woody is the kind of Dad who goes to their ballet recitals, but he hasn't walked out on them either. 

That said, I still have problems with Allen. He made a searingly brilliant film last year called Blue Jasmine, with Cate Blanchett out-Blanching Blanche du Bois in a performance that made my scalp crackle. The only false note in it, and it was a real clanger that nobody even noticed or maybe didn't dare comment on, was the utter disconnect from any kind of technology beyond 1950. In order to get a decent job, Jasmine had to take "a computer course", something so generic it sounded like the courses my local library offered seniors in 1992. The classroom depicted a lot of twentyish students sitting at rectangular desks with antique-looking monitors in front of them. Jasmine supposedly didn't know anything about this - at all - though in another scene, she uses an iphone with impugnity. I don't think Allen knows what iphones are - he has no idea what Twitter is, and is only vaguely aware of blogging or YouTube. Somebody must have forced this change on him just to anchor the film in the present day. (Or maybe he thought she was improvising a mad scene by talking into her makeup case.)

What do you call this ranty rambling, then? Pete Seeger will turn to soil, or maybe not if he turns into pavement. Ovarian cancer as a "cause" will remain buried unless and until people care enough to bring it out of the closet. Mental health issues are still "admitted", "confessed", always "bravely", of course. The bravery isn't in enduring what can be an excruciating illness (but hey, not always! One can live with it in a state of grace and even joy!), but in having the guts to admit you've had something you should have been able to snap yourself out of yourself. Something that inspires primal shivers of dread and even repugnance, because it is associated with the walking dead. The jabbering homeless. Vivien Leigh, Blanche du Bois, receiving shock treatments in a "psycho ward". (And here's a connection. The deranged Jasmine babbles away to a couple of kids sitting there trying to comprehend what she's saying. She talks about "Edison's Medicine" - ECT treatments, presumably, a phrase that used to mean execution by electricity, "the chair".)

And on it goes.

It's been my experience that if you criticize or even comment on anything, people will expect you to be able to fix it. So if I could do one thing to set the world right, what would it be? Slap humanity on the side of the head and tell it to SMARTEN UP before it's too late! Or at least wake up. Great potential riches lie asleep, buried because we are afraid of them. Afraid of looking at them, but most of all, of looking at ourselves.

POST-BLOG THOUGHTS. As usual, I have some post-thoughts in this post. The little doohickey above is interesting. "Strong men can have depression TOO" - what does that imply, or perhaps scream from the rooftops? "Strong men can have depression, JUST LIKE WEAK MEN" (or wusses, or crybabies, or homosexuals, or whoever you happen to hate on a particular day). It's just inherent in the statement that "we" think depression only happens to men who are NOT strong, at least not strong emotionally. So we have to reassure everyone that YES! Even guys with big bulging muscles, even guys who have more brains in their dicks than their heads, even Mafia dons and Wall Street wild animals and other perceived power types, CAN HAVE DEPRESSION, though we still cannot figure out why - it's a puzzle, a real riddle that anyone with any earthly power at all, any perceived social worth, would ever have it! Must just be a quirk of the human condition. Or all those steroids I've been sucking down for the past 10 years.