27 May 2015 Leave a comment
27 May 2015 Leave a comment
22 May 2015 Leave a comment
Didn’t our mothers tell us to be careful with the company we keep? As a critic, I’ve stopped myself and wondered what kind of people should one give one’s loyalty? I was talking to someone and asked him if he could find any good points in the system he was criticizing. When he said no, then I wondered if he wasn’t too critical and possibly ethnocentric to give a valid judgment.
Likewise, there was a time when I fell into the company of people whose negativity and sense of superiority was troubling. Did I want to live like them: Not creating anything, but simply tearing down the creations of others and living what seemed to be desolate and lonely lives? I wondered about this again when it seemed that some critics were living vicariously wild lives through the artists they favored while looking in disdain at the art of people who lived productive stable lives.
“El Critico” is an Argentine movie about a movie critic, Victor Téllez (Rafael Spregelburd) who has become so bitterly critical. He’s divorced and his last relationship ended strangely. He understands there is a problem, but we understand it more profoundly than he does. In his mind, he speaks to himself in French instead of Spanish. He knows that he is dying although “the funeral and the rest will probably take another 30-40 years” and he also knows that “movies are suffocating me.”
Contemporary movies are “more vulgar and less original” and this is “the malady of the cinema.”
Victor is a man who has forgotten how to laugh and declares, “I’m against comedy because there’s nothing to discuss.” Victor is being stalked by one of his victims, director Leadro Arce (Ignacio Rogers), who tells him at Victor’s coffee shop haunt, “It took me five years to make; it took you five minutes to destroy it. It’s obvious you didn’t see the film…Give me a call and I’ll explain the movie to you.”
Disgruntled artists are nothing new and an acknowledged occupational hazard of critics yet his editor reminds him that it’s been two decades since he’s given a five-chair rating, the highest possible.
While his young niece Ágatha (Telma Crisanti) tells him that she adores “Jerry Maguire” and we hear the Spanish dubbing of the famous line “You had me at hello,” we soon enough learn what the critic feels is the problem with the rom-com as typified by the 1996 “Jerry Maguire,” the 1988 “Working Girl” and the 1989 “When Harry Met Sally.”
- Cheap sentimentalism and perfect phrases in the right moment (usually at the end).
- A couple with chemistry.
- Casual encounters, forced and ridiculous.
- She comes out of nowhere, magically (“Working Girl”)
- We don’t understand what she sees in him. In real life she would never look at him (“Groundhog Day”)
- The world belongs to them and their romance.
- Add grotesque secondary characters.
- Violins for romantic scenes (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”).
- A disagreement due to a misunderstanding.
- Rain, lots of rain.
- Finally a run. We do not understand why, but they always run.
- A long, cloying kiss.
This is all a set up for the critic’s fall from the intellectual grouchy grace. Viktor will fall in love with a woman who is younger and it will be an unlikely pairing. There will be running, rain and a kiss, but will there be a happy ending?
Writer/director Hernán Guerschuny was a critic before turning to film. The movies was nominated for an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Argentina for three awards and the film one the Kikito Critics Prize in 2014 at the Gramado Film Festival.
If nothing else you can compare Guerschuny’s observations about critics, rom-coms and best kisses.
- “Frankie and Johnny” (1991)
- “Green Card” (1990)
- “Pretty Woman” (1990)
- “Bridget Jones Diary” (2001)
- “When Harry Met Sally” (1989)
Watching “El Critico,” you can discover the malady of the cinema or if “Life is a passage filled with opportunities.” In French and Spanish with English (and Spanish) subtitles.
22 May 2015 Leave a comment
Two things we need to get straight about the new Disney movie “Tomorrowland.” First, while George Clooney may be the star, he’s falling into that Fred MacMurray Disney tradition of adult star as guide and counsel to a young adventurer. Second, Tomorrowland isn’t and has never been the name of a Disneyland ride.
Tomorrowland is certainly a part of Disneyland. In 1955, when Tomorrowland opened Walt Disney said it would be about what Tomorrow offers: “new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals.” It was about the Atomic Age, and the challenge of Outer Space and the hope for a peaceful, unified world.
Tomorrowland is one of original themed lands of the Disneyland amusement park along with Mainstreet, USA; Adventureland; Frontierland and Fantasyland. New Orleans Square came later in July 1966, several months before Walt Disney died (December 1966).
Tomorrowland was destined to become outdated. The original attractions were Rocket to the Moon, Astro-Jets and Autopia and later Adventure Through Inner Space and the PeopleMover was added in 1967.
The Disney marketing machine has not gone into overdrive to market this film and there seem to be no plans to open any ride that would capitalize on the George Clooney-driven movie, “Tomorrowland.”
Fred MacMurray played a father in the 1959 “The Shaggy Dog” with Tommy Kirk as his son Wilby. Yet in “The Absent-Minded Professor,” he’s the titular character who has flunked basketball player Biff (Kirk).
Here, Clooney is the adult version of Frank Walker is a boy genius (Thomas Robinson plays young Frank) with a lot of gumption–enough to get on a bus by himself while hauling a large contraption to an inventors convention at the New York City World Fair in 1964. The contraption, a personal strap-on rocket jet pack,doesn’t work, but it could work and it could be an inspiration. That impresses a young girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who is taller and more mature than Frank and unusually calm in demeanor. Athena seems to be the daughter of the contest’s judge, David Nix (Hugh Laurie).
Seemingly infatuated by the young Frank, Athena gives him a special badge to Tomorrowland. When Frank enters the “It’s a Small World” ride alone in a ride car behind Athena and Nix, his badge is scanned and a secret passage way opens up taking him below the World Fair and into an incredible world of Tomorrowland.
What happens there ends up embittering the young Frank who becomes a hermit in a high-tech hideout until Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) mysteriously receives a Tomorrowland pin that causes her to see a world where a seat has been reserved for her. Newton’s dad Eddie is a rocket scientist (Tim McGraw) who is widowed and soon to be out of a job as the rocket launch platform is about to be dismantled. Casey has been sabotaging the dismantling and that’s the reason she ends up in jail. She does have a little brother, but he’s not really part of this adventure.
Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” as well as “Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol”) reaches back to his animation roots and gives us a rousing, fun but not too frightening family entertainment. Bird co-wrote the screenplay with Damon Lindelof (story by Bird, Lindeloff and Jeff Jensen) and includes touches of humor and nods to other Disney properties, particularly in the “Blast to the Past” sequence. What is really worth noting is that while the philosophical face-off is between two men, Frank and the unaged David (explained off by some kind of special elixir shake and not android memory implant), Athena is, true to her name, a wise warrior and Casey is also a doer although less martial arts trained.
Bird also sensitively plays the romantic element which could have been a bit icky.
There’s heartbreak here, but the overall feeling is one of hope for the future. The movie which visually incorporates Art Deco and retro Modern art styles as well as steampunk, also attempts to recapture Walt Disney’s 1950s optimism of the original Tomorrowland, despite the scientific disasters we are confronted with daily (global warming and domestic and foreign terrorism). You might not look at bathtubs the same way.
The truth is the world is in a bad state and we need optimists. We’ve lost those environmental visionaries like Jacques Yves-Cousteau and Joan Goodall won’t live forever. We need a new generation of bright young optimists and dreamers who believe that the world can be a better place. “Tomorrowland” gives girls a nod, something more than welcome in today’s world.
17 May 2015 Leave a comment
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” experience at the El Capitan is something for the hard-core Stan Lee fans. There’s no song or dance and even the live organist isn’t featured. What you do get a chance to see are the original art, costumes and proper as well as some things from Stan Lee’s original collection. These items are on display downstairs in a room adjacent to the restrooms and will only be there until 20 May 2015 (Wednesday).
For collectors, you can also ask for the VIP Limited Edition Comic Book special. For $29, you get a reserved seat, popcorn in a special Age of Ultron tub, a drink and a limited edition comic book. Regular VIP seating is $26.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created “The Avengers” as a secondary response to the DC Comics Justice League of America (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash). Their first response had been “The Fantastic Four” while under the name of Timely Comics in 1961. “The Avengers” came out in 1963.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is the sequel to the 2012 “The Avengers” and is already slated to have two sequels: “Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 and Part 2.”
“The Avengers” begins in Asgard with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) making a deal with a leader of the extraterrestrial race Chitauri. Loki gets the Tesseract and with his scepter enslaves a few key people in order to move forward his plan to subjugate earth. With Earth under attack, Espionage agency SHIELD (Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate) director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) activates the Avengers Initiative, uniting Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Loki’s adoptive brother–the crown prince of Asgard Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is Loki-less. Instead, our villain is created by Tony Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner when they leave the gemstone of Loki’s scepter running alongside Stark’s AI, JARVIS (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System). The gem is an artificial intelligence system that works more like a human mind. Ultron (voiced with the silky venomous tones of James Spader) determines that in order to have world peace, he needs to eliminate the humans.
The scepter had been in the hands of the evil organization of Hydra and used by Baron Wolfgang Romanoff in human experiments. Twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff were one of Romanoff’s success story. Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has superhuman speed. Wanda has psychic power. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) begins by implanting visions in the mind of Stark and later will do the same for all the Avengers. The visions play on true memories and fears and cause the Avengers to fight with each other and in the case of the Hulk, bring unfavorable attention to their cause.
The Avengers seek refuge in the beautiful countryside home of Clint Barton, with his wife and kids, but will need the leadership of Fury as well as some additional superheroes to vanquish the bad guys. Throughout, there’s the budding romance between that big green guy and the Black Widow.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon, “Age of Ultron” does have cultural references (Banksy) and humor (Captain America advises, “If you get killed, walk it off.”). Don’t worry about the language. Captain America has taken care of that at the beginning and all the Avengers, for gosh sake, watch their language (PG-13).
This is fun and fast with a bit more character exploration, particularly with the angst-ridden Banner and the Black Widow, who’s never been a wife.
If you’re a real fan of Marvel Comics and the Avengers, then don’t miss the El Capitan screenings. You have until 20 May 2015 before the theater switches over to “Tomorrowland.”
Adults: $16 (Matinee M-F before 6pm, $14) Child (3-11): $13, Senior (60+):$13, VIP: $26, Group (20+): $12
VIP LIMITED EDITION COMIC BOOK Ticket Offer:Purchase this special offer for $29.00. Includes: Reserved Seat, Popcorn, Drink & Limited Edition Comic Book. (Comic Book will be available at the Box Office on date of your event. You will need ticket and photo ID to receive).
17 May 2015 Leave a comment
As a child of a single mother who raised three children after being widowed, I know about scrimping and saving. I am not a child of the Internet, but I do love it. Loving it doesn’t mean loving all aspects of it and that includes Uber and AirBnB.
As a feminist, you already knew that because of the “Ms” part of my title, I’m not in favor of services that favor men over women, even if the bias is unintentional.
Recently, the New York Times columnist Ron Lieber wrote about Airbnb and a 58-year-old American who was attacked by a dog during his stay at an Airbnb host in Salta, Argentina. The American, Mike Silverman, is white. He was attacked by a Rottweiler. The NYTimes reports that he suffered a “six-square-inch gash and a handful of puncture wounds.” Airbnb at first “declined to cover his two-night hospital stay. Silverman is not your average working-class guy. He and his wife were taking a trip from Alaska to the bottom of South America on a $100 a day budget. They have stayed at over 20 Airbnb properties without incident over the years.
Silverman calls himself a “student of the world” and has worked in technology as a strategy consultant. His story appealed to the columnist Ron Lieber of the New York Times.
Silverman now wants to know “how many accidents have happened at Airbnb-listed properties. He’s worried about things like “whether travelers have died of carbon monoxide poisoning” at an “illegally converted hostel.”
Airbnb only founded in August of 2008. It is not yet a decade old. As a techie, Silverman should have noticed some problems with Airbnb. First, Airbnb is not a hotel chain. It is not a franchise opportunity. It is an application, a software that allows people to connect to each other–landlords to short-term renters in a manner that may or may not be legal.
Silverman’s problem isn’t the first publicized in the media.
In 2011, a host had her San Francisco apartment burglarized. This wasn’t the first time. After the publication about the San Francisco apartment, another host came forward with an incident: Troy had some meth addicts trash his place.
That’s what can happen to hosts, and Silverman and Lieber weren’t concerned with these. Yet they also weren’t concerned with the 2011 incident where two American women were sexually assaulted, photographed and videotaped. The two women, 24 and 26, were in Barcelona in October. Their host took them around the city and got them very drunk. According to a Sky News report, the two victims were unable to physically resist. When the police searched his apartment in March 2012, they “found hundreds of similar photos and footage taken of other young women.”
These women weren’t the first. The others before did not report the rapes. This is something that the New York Times did not report about. If you want better information on Airbnb, BusinessInsider.com seems to do a much better job.
Since safety should be an issue that we all care about, what assurances or pre-emptive measures does Airbnb take? Does Airbnb consider checking to see the criminal records of the hosts? Are any of the hosts sex offenders? Are any of the guests sex offenders? How would one know?
A more recent case came to light in Northern California. A woman ended up paying to have two tenants leave. The Santa Cruz woman, Poonam Sandhu, rented to a couple for two weeks, but on the third week, the couple asked to go off of the Airbnb contract and convert their agreement to a day-to-day cash agreement. Sandhu ended up paying $1700.50 to the two tenants to leave. The tenants weren’t named, but apparently already had a civil lawsuit against them for non-payment of rent, something that Airbnb does not investigate. The couple have a claim against them for $9825. The claim was filed in February of this year in Santa Cruz Superior Court according to the ABCNews video report (SCWWS150119). Sandhu didn’t begin renting her room to this couple until 1 April 2015.
Aside from that, there are other problems with the rating system. The New York Times did make note of this in a January article about how Uber ratings by customers may mean fewer rides by drivers interested in keeping good scores. A research paper by a PhD student and two professors from the management and computer science departments of Boston University, considered how reviews on sharing economy sites were different from review sites like TripAdvisor.
One problem is clear: 95 percent of the properties have a 4.5 or 5 star rating and virtually none less than a 3.5. TripAdvisor has a much lower rating average of 3.8. If you wonder why all the experiences are good, then you haven’t checked out websites such as TrustPilot or AirbnbHell.
Or you can try something more traditional: The Better Business Bureau. As of today, Airbnb is not BBB accredited. It has 288 complaints closed with BBB in the last three years. Of that 131 were closed in the last 12 months. The majority of the complaints were under problems with the product/service (209). There were 46 billing and collection issues.
Some of the problems include listings that break the original owner contract with HOA. This problem was noted by in a 2011 article on Digital Trends which noted that “home or apartment renters are probably violating the terms of their lease.”
Last year, consumer advocate Christopher Elliott wrote about a person who cancelled a long-term reservation half a year in advance but received no refund until Elliott got involved. Does that story sound familiar?
Uber has taken measures this year for background checks but that was only AFTER it was banned in New Delhi as a result of an alleged rape according to a Time.com article. A 25-year-old woman accused a driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, of assaulting her in December. The woman is suing Uber in San Francisco and the driver is being charged with rape and kidnapping in New Delhi.
That wasn’t the first case. In 2014, a Los Angeles driver, Frederick Dencer of Encino was accused of kidnapping and rape according to a report by the Daily Beast. At the time, Uber told the LA Times, “Nothing is more important to Uber than the safety of our riders.”
Yet the Indian driver was out on bail pending another rape case from 2013. He had previously been arrested for molestation in 2003 as reported by CNN.
There’s been some hair-splitting about whether an Uber driver was on or off the clock as in the recent case in Mar Vista. Last month, an Uber driver was accused of sexual assault in Paris. Closer to Uber’s home, three San Francisco women accused a driver of sexual harassment and the District Attorney’s joint investigation reportedly found “multiple legal infractions” in an ABC7News Report.
In 2013, a former insurance underwriter, a driving instructor and cab driver, wrote about his Lyft and Sidecar experience. Safety was obviously not very important aspect of the interview process. In 2012, a San Francisco Bay Guardian questioned unregulated cab services and predicting both fraud and safety problems. In another article, SFBG also noted the cab versus Lyft problem wasn’t all about technology, the cost of regulations are passed on to the taxi customers means cabs cost more but regulations are a good thing. In a letter to the editor of SFist, a cab driver explains why ride-sharing isn’t a good thing.
Despite all this, Techcrunch came out in favor of Uber, Lyft, SideCar and downplayed “the so-called problem.” The article was written by a man, Ryan Lawler who compared a single case in Washington, DC where a driver was accused of sexual assault and the number of sexual assaults by taxi drivers. Lawler wrote: “Do a quick search on Google or Google News for “cab driver rape” and you’ll find no shortage of articles detailing such cases. What stands out about the news stories in those links is the unfortunate and sad truth that sexual assaults by taxi drivers are not as unusual as they should be.” One of those links is actually about a fake taxi driver and not an actual taxi driver.
Lawler is not concerned about the safety of his female readers or the mothers and daughters of his male readers.
If Uber (founded in 2009), Lyft (founded in 2012) and SideCar (founded in 2012) didn’t make provisions for rider safety, then what makes you think that Airbnb has made provisions for consumer safety or health training?
Hotels, motels and even bed and breakfasts are regulated by local laws. Some complaints about Airbnb accommodations have been cleanliness. My one and only stay at an Airbnb was like one of those college experiences. I left on the floor of the kitchen/living room. The bedding wasn’t freshly cleaned, neither was the kitchen (including the microwave) nor the bathroom.
I chose to be in an apartment in a well-populated half-residential area a short walk from the subway station. Other places I looked at seemed like unregulated hostels for multiple people and others seemed to be shared apartment situations not unlike the Airbnb slumlord in NYC. Airbnb didn’t ban him until a ValleyWag article. Regulations and background checks work both ways. It might have saved an Airbnb host from dealing with two brothers who apparently make a habit of squatting and bilking people through crowdsourcing (e.g. Kickstarter).
Prior to Airbnb and another cheap option is Couchsurfing. Founded in 2003 as a nonprofit and then liquidated in 2011 when its assets were sold to a private for-profit corporation, Couchsurfing also began in San Francisco and used to have a personal vouching system that was discontinued in 2014. That means all members are responsible for their own safety. Sexual harassment and sex-changing have been issues that Airbnb might have learned from. In 2009, there was the Leeds rape case, in 2012 a man was indicted in Marseille for sexual offenses. More recently, an Italian man, Dino Maglio, was accused of raping a 16-year-old Australian. The man had grown so bold, he didn’t prey on lone travelers. The girl was traveling with her mother and sister. All were drugged. Other women had also been drugged and raped, but CouchSurfing didn’t have any mechanism in place to prevent further incidents.
Instead, the other women went to the police and later to journalists. Yet only with the indictment of the man for the rape of the young Australian did these accusations gain greater media attention. Couchsurfer’s chief executive Jennifer Billock told Newsweek that “safety was a top priority and that the website is constantly evolving to find and halt abusers of our system.” Yet apparently not fast enough. Maglio was convicted this month of rape and sentence to six years in prison. Maglio was a police officer before his arrest and that might have comforted the women he lured to his Padua, Italy apartment yet the police and Couchsurfing didn’t heed the experiences of his previous guests.
There is also a double standard. Couchsurfing is for some synonymous with sexsurfing. Male hosts may expect sex with female guests according to a blog entry by a woman who decided that on her next trip female hosts only. From the comments, some guests and hosts have a method (which introduced me to Roosh V).
Couchsurfing and Airbnb aren’t exactly the same thing. Couchsurfing is about staying somewhere for free. Airbnb is for paid stays, but I also got the feeling that sex was expected with some entries I read on Airbnb, the ones that were incredibly cheap and the male host was only open for young females travelers and sure to mention he liked to party.
What should be clear is that none of these services have thought about safety, particularly safety of women traveling alone.
If you only read the New York Times, the newspaper that decided the tale about a dog bite was important enough to devote a column, you might not have heard about these cases. Maglio was reported on 17 March 2015 from an AP report. The Leeds and Marseille Couchsurfing cases weren’t reported in the US newspaper of record.
The NYTimes did report on Shiv Kumar Yadav, the Indian Uber driver. The NYTimes does discuss house swapping, but not convicted Airbnb rapist Pablo Cesar Cordoba Riascos.
Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, and Couchsurfing are not regulated. They are not customer service oriented. they don’t require safety and health standards that might be expected of the established, regulated and more expensive traditional vendors. In some cases, the service you receive won’t even be legal.
What happened to Lieber was unfortunate. Yet I find it puzzling that the rape of American women would not get the attention of the NYTimes and that after the rapes that Airbnb still doesn’t do background checks. Finding a place to stay isn’t a problem; finding a safe play to stay and a safe ride is.
06 May 2015 Leave a comment
For some, May the 4th is about Star Wars. For others, it is about the Kent State shootings. You’ve probably heard about Kent State, but the documentary “The Day the 60s Died” attempts to look at both sides. “The Day the 60s Died” currently streaming on PBS.
Kent State is a university in Kent, Ohio. It is the largest city on its county and currently has a population of 32,345. In 1970, the population was 28,183. It’s current demographics is 83.1 percent white.
The Kent State shootings occurred on 4 May 1970. The Ohio National Guard fired on unarmed students, killing four and wounding nine others.
I was stunned to learn that the students didn’t believe that the National Guard loaded their guns with real bullets, but also the extent of violence that preceded the shootings. The documentary uses interviews with people who were involved in key events at Kent State and also gives background of Cambodia and Vietnam, using archival footage of then-President Richard M. Nixon on his plans to expand the war effort into Cambodia.
The interviewees include Dr. Gregory Antoine (student at Jackson State College in 1970),Terry Braun and Ron Orem (both Vietnam combat veterans), Pat Buchanan (White House advisor and speechwriter to President Nixon), Gail Collins (New York Times columnist), Jerry Casale (Kent State student protester and founder of the musical band DEVO), Tim Naftali (former director of the Nixon Library and Museum), Rick Perlstein (historian), and Mark Rudd (co-founder of the Weatherman).
The program also notes that there was another tragic shooting incident, the Jackson State killings on 15 May 1970, again it was in connection with students protests against the US invasion of Cambodia. Two students were killed and 12 were injured by police at what was Jackson State College (now Jackson State University). Jackson State is a historically black university founded in Natchez, Mississippi in 1877. The college moved to Jackson in 1882.
As a result of the shootings, students nationwide protested. One continues to hear the voices of the protestors and the supporters of the protestors, but the voices that aren’t present are those of the townspeople.
“The Day the 60s Died” alludes to these voices when one woman who was a student at Kent and had been on campus when the four were shot recounts how her father came home and said that the guard should have shot all the protestors. Another woman comments that she approved of the shootings.
The protestors hadn’t won over the locals. They had angered and frightened them. The protests against the Cambodian campaigns at Kent State started the day after Nixon announced on TV the Cambodian Incursion. About 500 students demonstrated on 1 May 1970, a Friday afternoon. That night violence broke out. Beer bottles were thrown at police cars. In the downtown area, storefronts were broken. A bank window was broken and an alarm was set off. The police arrived to face a crowd of 120. At the time Kent only had a polie force of 20 according to the Newsweek coverage. Although the police cleared the area, Newsweek reported that “a campus-bound mob of several hundred students rampaged through town.”
By Saturday, city officials and downtown businesses had received threats. With only 20 officers, the Mayor requested reinforcements. The on-campus ROTC building was set on fire on Saturday and rocks were torwn at the police and firemen. You can read the WKSU-FM accounts of the whole sequence of events. According to the WKSU-FM account, a photographer was attacked and his film exposed.
Monday, (4 May 1970) a protest was scheduled for noon. The shooting happened at 12:24 p.m. and lasted only 13 seconds. Some students thought they were firing blanks.
At the time of the shootings, 58 percent of people polled by the American Institute of Public Opinion thought that the students were to blame. Some of the people of Kent felt the same way. A motel clerk told the Newsweek reporter, “You can’t really help but kind of think they’ve been asking for it and finally got it.”
After a weekend of arson, vandalism, assault and battery of firemen, policemen and the National Guard, Kent State protestors were shot at with four dead and nine wounded.
The Kent State shootings wasn’t the first time protestors had been shot on a college campus by law enforcement. On 8 February 1968, South Carolina Highway Patrol Officers shot and killed three African-American male protestors and wounded 28 others. The count is higher but the so-called Orangeburg Massacre took place in South Carolina, at a historically black college, South Carolina State University, and the protestors were black. The students were protesting the whites-only policy of a local bowling alley. The shooting had been preceded by black students entering the bowling alley. A window in the bowling alley was broken on 5 February 1968. Student protestors were beaten and arrested. Eight protestors ended up in the hospital.
There’s a debate as to why and when the shooting began on the night of 8 February 1968. Objects were being thrown at the police and the police eventually responded with gun fire. The Orangeburg Massacre receive little coverage, but other events also overshadowed it: the 4 April 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, the 6 June 1968 assassination of presidential candidate Robert Kennedy and the Tet Offensive which began in January of that year.
Was this a case of the press not seeing that black lives matter? The documentary doesn’t look into Orangeburg, but it shows the kind of civil war that was brewing in the U.S. over the civil war in Vietnam.
Seeing this documentary, you still have to question the wisdom of protestors throwing rocks at men with guns. I couldn’t help but think of that mother recently seen taking her son to task for throwing rocks at officers in Baltimore.
When you listen to the tragedies of the students, don’t forget that the protestors were also terrorizing a community and that at the time there was no plan in place for handling student protests and mob violence on college campuses. Up until then the city of Kent had a 20-man police force.
“The Day the 60s Died” gives you a feeling of the era but reminds us that anti-war time protests weren’t all flower power and love. “The Day the 60s Died” is currently available on PBS for instant streaming.
06 May 2015 Leave a comment
When I first met Alex Luu, I would not have guessed he was a first generation US citizen, leaving his home country when he was about eight. His English is filled with slang. Yet later, as I watched him develop his one-man shows, I learned that he once called Saigon home. As the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon loomed, I asked him about the Oscar-nominated “Last Days in Vietnam” which is currently streaming on the PBS website and what films he felt best represented his views of Vietnam.
Luu is a performance artist and workshop facilitator whose next performance is this Friday (May 8) in downtown LA. The day before, his My Own Story workshop’s final performance will be presented at Julian Nava Learning Academy where he is facilitating and teaching as resident Teaching Artist for East West Players. He is also a Teaching Artist for the LA Arts Commission and the Ford Theatre Foundation.
At the time of our phone conversation, he hadn’t had a chance to see Rory Kennedy’s documentary, so I waited until he had and his email reply reminded me of “Our Town.” It’s those ordinary days that are filled with missed opportunities or tender memories.
Of “Last Days in Vietnam,” he wrote, “I found it incredibly moving, especially the footage of the daily life and goings on in South Vietnam of the calm before the storm that was to come that last month of April. Watching those ‘normal’ scenes of everyone going about their daily lives actually kinda triggered something in me… And it immediately brought me back to my own daily life (going to school, riding in the cyclo, being picked up by my uncle everyday after school, him cooking afternoon meals for me and my sister, etc.) in Vietnam before escaping. Somehow those calm scenes affected me the most and it actually made me cry.”
For an American, those scenes would seem ominous, but Luu had grown up seeing a military presence. The Vietnam War began before he was born.
“I also thought that the film as a whole was much more penetrating and was responsible in showing more of the behind-the-scenes (as experienced by both American and South Vietnamese sides) of the politics and maneuverings between USA’s efforts and South Vietnam. The most telling part was the role of the American ambassador. I actually did not know that part of it.
The interviews with some of the South Vietnamese survivors (military and non-military) were also significant because not much of that has been done in previous Vietnam war docs. And of course the footage of the final days, even though I’ve seen most of it, is still visceral and harrowing because it always reminds me how bizarre/surreal it is to watch and know that I was in that crowd somewhere in some of that footage.”
Of his own experience, Luu recounts, “So crazy that come this April 30th it will be the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon! And I was there on that day running for my life (along with my parents and sister), literally, to get on the last chopper out of Saigon under enemy firie.”
Luu’s family wasn’t originally from Vietnam. “My dad was born in Canton, China, when later as a teenager, my dad and his parents needed to leave because of the Japanese (Imperial Army). They ended up in Vietnam. I’m not exactly sure why. I think there was a business opportunity for my grandfather in Vietnam.”
Luu’s mother was Chinese Vietnamese, meaning Chinese but in Vietnam, but later, Luu would be shocked to learn that she was Chinese-Vietnamese—half Chinese and half Vietnamese. Luu recalls, “In 1974 there are late night talks by candle light about we have to leave Vietnam. It got really bad. Two years after I was born there was the Tet Offensive in 1968. I remember my mom, she would hold me when they had bombings.”
At the end of 1974 and into 1975, he recalls “having more and more relatives over. They would talk into the wee hours of the night about how will we leave.”
Luu’s family felt there was little choice. “My mom was a professional nurse. My dad was a business man who co-managed a store selling stereos. But my mother worked for an American company, ITT. We had to leave because technically, my mom worked for the Americans—not for the American military, but for an American company.” They were sure that the North Vietnamese would treat the family members harshly because of that connection.
“I saw my mom and dad literally burning every single family photo we had, especially at the ITT place or at the hospital with the American nurses and the American doctors. I literally don’t know what I looked like as a baby.” The earliest photo he has of himself is him at three.
“We had to get rid of the evidence that my mom worked for ITT,” yet they also needed to “get on whatever list they had for my mom and my immediate family.” On the day of 30 April, “it didn’t matter if you were on one of those lists or not. We ran. “If one of us fell or whatever, we would have been left behind. It was full on craziness. It was almost like a riot—not an orderly evacuation.”
The four of the—Luu, his father and mother and sister, but none of the extended family members got on a helicopter. “It was pretty harrowing. I remember it just like yesterday…The helicopter can’t get everybody. I remember looking outside of the hold. We were squished next to each other. Some that just couldn’t fit in, mostly men, some women, were just literally grabbing on to the door and the helicopter was taking off. They were still trying to grab on and throw their kids in. A soldier, I know he didn’t enjoy it, had to pry their hands off of that door. I can hear the screams and see the people falling off.”
The helicopter wasn’t quite safe yet because there was a chance the helicopter would be shot down. Only after they cleared Vietnam airspace, did the soldiers begin laughing and celebrating. “They fed us. It was my first taste of a hamburger—no lettuce no vegetables.” The helicopter went to the USS Hancock where Luu and his family stayed for over a week.” Some day, Luu would like to find the soldiers on that carrier. The soldiers gave him a sticker. The refugees slept in the huge cargo space on military cots. “Many nights it was pitch dark. I would sneak out and I would walk around. I remember standing there and seeing the dark ocean. That was kind of fun. I met this little Vietnamese girl. I guess she was sneaking out, too.”
From there, Luu’s family ended up in Guam. The refugee camp “looked like ‘MASH.’” We slept in tents. there were wooden shower stalls—one for women, one for men. It was not a lot of fun and there were a lot of mosquitoes. It was like a little village.”
One of his mother’s co-workers helped sponsor Luu’s family. They went to Arkansas before they flew to California.
Alex Luu’s list of movies:
1. “Green Eyes” (1977): TV movie about a Vietnam vet (Paul Winfield) returning to Vietnam in search of the son he left behind.
2. “Three Seasons” (1999): Is about several different characters whose paths cross, including an American searching for the daughter he fathered during the war, a cycle driver who falls in love with a call girl, a woman who harvest lotuses for a man with leprosy.
3. “The Killing Fields” (1984): First-time actor Haing S. Ngor as a photographer trapped in Cambodia during the Pol Pot cleansing campaign.
4. “Oh, Saigon” (2007): Documentary that won’t the Best Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Filmmaker/writer Doan Hoang escaped Saigon on 30 April 1975, but her older sister did not. Doan returned to find out what happened to her sister and learns she had two uncles her father never told her about—one a North Vietnamese Communist and another who was an anti-war South Vietnamese army deserter.
5. “Heaven & Earth” (1993): The true story of a Vietnamese village girl and her life during and after the Vietnam War. she ultimately marries a marine and moves to the US where her husband suffers from PTSD.
6. “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990): A Vietnam vet (Tim Robbins) suffers from psychological problems after the death of his child. Luu said this movie is about what American vets faced when the come back and that American soldiers were “somewhat experimented on.”
7. “We Were Soldiers” (2002): About the first battle of Vietnam and the soldiers on both sides.
8. “Daughter From Danang” (2002): A documentary about the reunion of a girl adopted to an American family as a part of the Operation Baby Lift and her search for her birth mother.
9. “Regret To Inform” (1998): This documentary took a decade to make. Filmmaker Barbara Sonneborn is a war widow; her husband died in Vietnam. She and fellow war widow Xuan Ngoc Nguyen who was her translator interviewed Vietnamese and American widows to examine the legacy of the war. Nominated for an Academy Award.
10. “Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam” (2009): A documentary about the 2,500 Vietnamese orphans who were airlifted out of Vietnam and the challenges they face.
On other films, he liked parts of “The Deer Hunter,” but the most harrowing scene never happened. That’s the central piece of the movie, but it never happened. He likes “Apocalypse Now” but feels it’s not really about the Vietnam War and more about updating the 1899 Joseph Conrad novel, “Heart of Darkness.” He also likes “Born on the Fourth of July.”
Luu felt that “Bat*21” was jingoistic. However the really bad movies are the Chuck Norris (although he likes Norris) and the Rambo movies.
Luu’s next performance, “Toytown USA,” is this Friday (May 8) in downtown LA at the Royale (2619 Wilshire Blvd., 7 p.m.). The day before, his My Own Story workshop’s final performance will be presented at Julian Nava Learning Academy where he is facilitating and teaching as resident Teaching Artist for East West Players.
06 May 2015 Leave a comment
In Mel Brooks’ 1968 movie, “The Producers,” producer Max Bialystock and his accountant cohort Leo Bloom, thought they had a sure fire failure in “Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden.”
Currently other Hitler-themed comedies are making the rounds as memes using a scene from the 2004 movie “Downfall” (Der Untergang) and using some pretty creative subtitles. It helps that you totally ignore the actual meaning of the German dialogue.
Most of these memes are under the titles of “Hitler finds out…” or “Hitler reacts to…” Not all of them used an editor so the one posted has a few errors (lose versus loose). And yet, I couldn’t help but laugh.
You can make your own Hitler video at this link or read up on the history of “Downfall/Hitler reacts.”
28 Apr 2015 Leave a comment
Being the best dancer doesn’t necessarily get you to the finals. Monday night, 27 April 2015, was Willow Shield’s last on “Dancing with the Stars” Season 20. A part in a blockbuster movie franchise doesn’t guarantee the votes.
Co-host Tom Bergeron called it “a spray tan stroll through time.” This episode did feature Len Goodman’s first ten and it didn’t go to Willow Shields, Nastia Luikin or Rumer Willis. It went to Riker Lynch and his partner Allison Holker for their baseball-themed 1920s quickstep. Surprisingly, the other judges weren’t as charmed and gave them nines for a total of 37.
Chris Soules & Witney Carson went for an elegant 1940s foxtrot but only were rewarded with a 31.
Judge Julianne Hough loved the whole production.
Bruno Tonioli told Soules he was turning into a real dancer, but cautioned him to watch his posture in hold. :
Carrie Ann Inaba said that while he was truly the underdog, he is at the right place at the right time.
Goodman commented that his fluidity was good and unlike trains in England you were right on time.
Rumer Willis & Valentin Chmerkovskiy performed a 1980s jive for a 35.
Tonioli called it wholesome as homemade apple pie and completely different in character from last week. He did caution that her hand hangs a bit behind the beat
Inaba called the routine really pristine, but felt Willis lost a little something. For Inaba, the routine felt a little bit safe.
Goodman commented that it was better to be safe than sorry. He said Willis had nice technique but could have had a tad more flair.
Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess were up next. In the rehearsal footage, we saw the lovely Amy Purdy giving him advice and noting the difference between being an amputee above or below the knee. The emphasis this week was bringing character to the dance and Galloway performed a jazz piece to the music “Super Bad.”
Burges really adds some funky hair for that 1970s flair. Galloway was a pimp/gangsta.
Inaba thought the routine was insane.
Goodman felt it was strong and clean twice and said, “It’s as good as any dance as I’ve seen you do.”
Hough noted that Galloway did have swag and did great isolations.
Tonioli announced that Galloway was “bad ass hot and so cool you gave me chills.”
Gallloway and Burgess were awarded one ten (from Inaba) for a total of 36.
Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson performed an Argentine tango of the 1980s for a 31. Herjavec showed he could also be a shark on the dance floor.
Nastia Liukin & Derek Hough had a setback when Hough was injured during rehearsals last week. He broke a toe and sprained an ankle. Liukin danced with Sasha Farber but Hough was still on the stage for a very cute piece that takes place on a subway train.
Julianne Hough said Liukin “killed” the dance.
Tonioli called it the “best subway ride” you’ll ever take and felt there were so many elements that it was “a revelation of a dance.”
Willow Shields & Mark Ballas went ninjazz. Yes it was weird and sort of wonderful in a hokey way. Inaba made her comments in a thick American accent.
So the way it works this week is the top couple get immunity. They will not be eliminated. The remaining couples must do a dance off. The top scoring couple get to choose their opponent and the chosen couple get to choose the dance. The winner of the dance off gets 2 extra points.
The Leader Board
Nastia Liukin & (SashaFarber) Derek Hough: 38
Riker Lynch & Allison Holker: 37 + 0
Willow Shields & Mark Ballas: 37 + 2 ELIMINATED
Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess: 36 + 2
Rumer Willis & Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 35 + 2
Chris Soules & Witney Carson: 31 + 0
Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson: 31 + 0
Chris Soules & Witney Carson:
- 31 (8, 7, 8, 8)
- Foxtrot (1940s)
- “Five Minutes More”—Frank Sinatra
Nastia Liukin & (Sasha Farber) Derek Hough: Immunity
- 38 (10, 9, 9, 10)
- Charleston (Modern)
- “Honey, I’m Good”—Andy Grammer
Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess
- 36 (10, 8, 9, 9)
- Jazz (1970s)
- “Super Bad”—James Brown
Riker Lynch & Allison Holker: Last to be called safe.
- 37 (9, 10, 9, 9)
- Quickstep (1920s)
- “Wiggle”—Jason Derulo feat. Snoop Dogg
Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson
- 31 (7, 8, 8, 8)
- Argentine tango (1980s)
- “Word Up!”—Cameo
Rumer Willis & Valentin Chmerkovskiy
- 35 (8, 9, 9, 9)
- Jive (1980s)
- “Dear Future Husband”—Meghan Trainor
Willow Shields & Mark Ballas: ELIMINATED
- 37 (9, 9, 9, 10)
- Jazz (Futuristic)
- “Electric Feel”—MGMT
Willow Shields & Mark Ballas defeats Riker Lynch & Allison Holker in salsa to “Temperature” by Sean Paul
Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess defeats Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson in cha cha cha (tie broken by Len Goodman) to “Dance with Me” by Kelly Clarkson
Rumer Willis & Valentin Chmerkovskiy defeats Chris Soules & Witney Carson in foxtrot to “Orange Colored Sky” by Nat King Cole
Phone voting begins during the show on Mondays, and is open until 60 minutes after the conclusion of that show in your local time zone.
Online voting at both ABC.com and Facebook opens each Monday when the show begins on the East Coast at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) and stays open until 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) the next day. During the season’s seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth week, online voting will open when the show begins on the East Coast at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) and will stay open until 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT) the following morning.
Tonight on ABC you can watch some of your favorite contestants returning with new routines and new challenges as part of the “Dancing with the Stars” special 10th anniversary show, 8 p.m.