Bobby, Kris, and Janis

We really enjoy Daniel Henniger but recently he went too far.  Dan is at the WSJ discussing Does Hong Kong Matter?   Well, of course it does but it also depends.  Are we going to cause WW III over it?  Unlikely.  Is Dan going to use a really bad analogy about it to distract us from his reasonable point?  Absolutely.  Janis Joplin’s version Kris Kristofferson’s of Me and Bobby McGee is our all-time favorite song.  Dan should listen more closely.

Sidebar: Sometimes it is Bobbi and sometimes it is Bobby.  The Genius site uses Bobby so we are too.  End Sidebar.

Dan quotes Kris correctly but too briefly.  He says:

Someone once sang that “freedom’s just another word,” and maybe today it is. One casualty of the relentless U.S. political slog is that some important ideas—such as justice, racism, equality and respect—get so beaten into the ground, become so hackneyed, that one feels almost embarrassed to use the words.

The problem is there are lots of kinds of freedom.  Economic, political, and personal to make a short list.  Kris was talking about personal freedom.  The whole verse is:

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free
Feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues
And buddy, that was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

Personal freedom can be a negative as it was when Bobby set the songwriter free.  So the song ends:

Well I’d trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday
Holdin’ Bobby’s body close to mine

Economic freedom and political freedom are positive goods while personal freedom can be positive or negative.  Dan needs to understand the difference between dating and Hong Kong.  There are different kinds of freedom and Hong Kong does matter.

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Men, Women: Reality and Fantasy

It has been building for years but the current hot item in TV shows and movies is for women to beat up men.  Sometimes, like in Stargate SG1, Samantha (Sam) gets to beat up an alien man.  It is a bit of silly fun.  We have recently been watching Whiskey Cavalier (WC) and Blood and Treasure (B&T) where this behavior is happening all the time.  The former is the better of the two although currently, the latter is the only one to be renewed.  Or perhaps not.  Why do we like WC better?  The characters are interesting in WC.  Lauren Cohan in WC looks intimidating but her pictures suggest otherwise.  It may take awhile when looking a Lauren’s pictures but eventually you can bring your focus to her biceps.  Her bulges are elsewhere.  B&T has some interesting flashbacks but the main characters are not very interesting.  In one particularly silly B&T sequence Gwen (Katia Winter check her arms too) beats up Bruno and then Bruno escapes from his cell  by beating up two beefy policemen.

It is great fun having pretty women beat up big guys.  Is it the cause of some of our current confusion?  Men, on average, are stronger and faster than women.  We see amazing women all the time but the strongest and fastest men are much stronger and faster than the strongest and fastest women.  Military .com tells us about some amazing women.  The US Army Ranger school has graduated twelve of them to date.  They also tell us that 40 percent of the men pass but they don’t give a pass rate for women although it seems to be two or three out of nineteen.  Elsewhere, there are assertions that there was an Army thumb on the scale for women:

But whereas men consistently were held to the strict standards outlined in the Ranger School’s Standing Operating Procedures handbook sources say, the women were allowed lighter duties and exceptions to policy.

We take no opinion on these assertions of the Army playing favorites other than to say hats off to the women and men that graduated and that any woman is highly unlikely to be the top scorer in Ranger school.

Sidebar: In running there might be some extremely long distances, like 100 miles where the top women can compete with the top men.  In addition, boys and girls can compete equally at very young ages too.  These exceptions are more proof of the general rule.  End Sidebar

Here is some evidence from sports.  Over the weekend the men (PGA) and and women (LPGA) both had a golf tournament on a par 71 golf course.  The men’s course was 7,353 yards and the women’s course was 6,427 yards for a difference of over 900 yards or 50 yard a hole.  There is a reason for separate tours.  Of course, as Madeline Kearns reports at NRO, the transgender movement has led to unsurprising results.  Connecticut allows men who identify as women to compete with women:

Since enacted in 2017, the Connecticut state [high school] conference policy has enabled two young men to win 15 women’s championships, titles that were held by 10 young women the year before. State athletic conferences in 18 other states have similar policies.

We don’t know if the fantasy of TV and movies has confused folks that women athletes can compete with men.  It is not that a female can never beat a male.  We have seen the women at the handball tournaments and many could hold us to three or less but they can’t compete with the men in the open class.  It is just that the best woman has little chance against a pretty good man.

Let’s bring back Whiskey Cavalier.  It is not a great show but it is interesting enough to renew.  But we shouldn’t be confused that women can compete in athletics with men on the high school, college, or professional level.  We shouldn’t let any group convince us that it is a good idea.

A Tale Of Two Plays

The economic arguments of this summer has been recycled so many times that it bores us silly.  The Donald wants to have trade wars.  It is still a terrible idea.  The Democrats, well, most of them, want to have the government take over health care and raise the minimum wage to $15.  In Venezuela, where they have tried these and more socialist ideas, has gone someplace in a hand basket.

Sidebar One: OK, a $15 minimum wage isn’t a socialist idea.  It often comes from socialists and it is a really, really bad idea for poor people but socialism is not the only bad economic idea.  End Sidebar One.

We are already on record as opposing these ideas so there isn’t much to say on that front.  The good news is that there have been interesting movies, plays, and books enjoy and comment on.  We are sure that the politicians will come up with some new ideas (and perhaps even a good one) soon but until then we want to discuss The Servant Of Two Masters at Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) and Twelfth Night at American Players Theatre (APT).

Sidebar Two: We went to the Twelfth Night wondering if we had seen it before.  We left the show wondering why it had that title.  Wikipedia tell us it is called the Twelfth Night or What You Will which is only a slight improvement.  The main title comes from the Twelfth Night’s entertainment for the close of the Christmas season.  So if you can connect music and disorder to that night then you might remember the play.  End Sidebar Two.

Servant is a fun play.  GRSF, as we have mentioned, does not have the stage or the company that APT has.  They handle their lack of resources admirably in Servant but it shows from time to time.  Trying to remember who is whom and when can get tricky.  In the madcap scene where stuff is getting thrown around there needs to be better choreography or perhaps more players.  One ingenious part of the play (we don’t know if it is a GRSF invention or not) is using an audience member to play the Doctor.  Not The Doctor.  Three or four members of the audience try out and one is picked.  An actor has a frying pan (yup) that says Yes on one side and Humbug on the other.  The Doctor says the word when prompted.  It is a fun play.  If you can’t make it this year then make plans for next July to see the next season.

Sidebar Three: It is tough to compare other places to APT.  We have been going there for almost 30 years.  We know these folks and the stage.  We go to various celebrations so we see the actors and other professionals up close and personal.  We like to attend opening night to see the other actors in the audience.  Actors make for a great audience.  Watching them is almost as interesting as the show.  End Sidebar Three.

Despite the last paragraph, we are convinced that Twelfth Night is an epic APT success.   David Daniel was born to play the prat Malvolio.  Ted Deasy, a relative newcomer to APT, is wonderfully unaware as Sir Andrew.  It is a sad joy to see his concern as he begins to realize just how unaware he is.  Coleen Madden shines as Maria. The best part is the choreography of Sir Toby (Triney Sandoval), Sir Andrew, and Fabian (Phoebe Gonzalez) with the plants (really, check the gallery) as Malvolio dithers.  The timing and organization of this madcap scene are great.  Yes, the leads are great but you expect that.  What makes APT so engaging is the quality of the whole cast, the details of costumes, and professional use of the stage.  And, of course, all up-the-hill plays are outside in a beautiful amphitheater with trees all around and, hopefully, stars in the heavens as well as on stage.  APT still has over a month to run.  If you can’t make it this year APT should be on your bucket list.

 

 

 

Two Terrific Counterfactuals

We took the Lady de Gloves to see Quentin Tarantino’s  Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood while we were reading Alan Furst’s The Spies of Warsaw.  Our link is to all of Alan’s books because we have found all eight we have read to date to be outstanding.  Quentin’s movie and Alan’s book share at least three things: A counterfactual story, a joy of place and time, and a chilling villain.

Quentin has a bromance between Rick, the leading man played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cliff, his stunt double, played by Brad Pitt set against the backdrop of Hollywood in 1969 (movies, TV shows, ads, cars, and records) while the Manson Family (in case you didn’t know) threatens their joy.  Kyle Smith at NRO thinks Quentin spends too much time on atmosphere:

Tarantino stops the film regularly to linger on a montage of neon marquees fizzing to life, to cast his eye down a boulevard teeming with period cars, or to look at a 1969 television commercial. There must be scenes from close to a dozen movies and TV shows within the movie, some of them real, some fictitious, others combining forms by inserting today’s actors into vintage footage. Almost none of this drives the plot along. Tarantino just thinks it’s cool to re-create 1969 in a thousand different ways, and, with $90 million of Sony’s money to spend, he won’t be denied. He should have cut almost all of it and saved it for the boffins who buy Director’s Cut DVDs.  [Emphasis added]

We agree with Quentin and disagree with Kyle.  We don’t quite agree with Armond White.  It was beyond cool to us and we see it as advancing the plot. It is not that Matt Helm was a great movie or Jose Feliciano’s version California Dreaming was any good.  It is an excellent movie, because like Alan, Quentin reflected the time, the culture, and specific people.  The joy amps up the coming conflict especially as Sharon Tate enjoys her role in Matt Helm.   Perhaps we see it that way because we grew up in that era.  Or perhaps it was reading Alan’s evocative book when we saw the movie but we delighted in the atmosphere of both and the contrast between them. We saw the atmosphere as ratcheting up the tension.   In both cases we know that gruesome deaths are close by despite the joy of ’69 and the manners of ’38.  It is hard to imagine two more different places.  Alan and Quentin capture them beautifully.

Sidebar: Somewhere we saw a critic defending Quentin against other critics saying he should have shown the rest of ’69 including the antiwar movement and racial conflict.  The critic says Quentin can make the movie he wants.  We think there is a better explanation in that the movie needed just one villain, the Manson Family, against the joy of the times.  It is, as the title implies, a fairy tale.  End Sidebar.

Alan has the love story of Anna and Mercier set against the anxiety of pre-WWII Europe while threatened by the Nazis.  Both live in Warsaw but they travel all over Europe.  Mercier is a doubly wounded warrior who comes from a long line of French warriors.  In 1938 nobody would think the previous sentence was a joke.  He was physically wounded in battle and he lost his wife to the ‘flu.  He is thinking about retiring but as his “Cold War” starts to heat up he finds interest in his work and love.  The extraordinarily brief epilogue suggests that Mercier and Anna will be back. We hope so.

We can’t tell you about the counterfactuals other than we enjoyed both.  Watch the movie and read the book carefully so you don’t miss the important stuff.  We can’t create the counterfactual where we only do one of reading Alan’s book and seeing Quentin’s movie.  We encourage you to do both and recognize that they might be better if taken together.

 

 

Shetland

We are experimenting with changing our video watching system.  After a couple of decades (yes, we are conservative in a myriad of ways) on DirecTV we are trying out a variety of apps tied into Amazon Fire TV.  We figure the worst outcome is that DirecTV will be cheaper when we come back a year from now.  One of the reasons that we made the switch is that Shetland season five (the TV series not the place, about 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland) is exclusively on Britbox.

Sidebar One: Britbox is cheap and has interesting stuff but to get some of the historical stuff like the earlier seasons of Shetland you need another app, Acorn, which is fairly cheap too but it was disappointing that we needed to pay twice.  End Sidebar One.

Shetland, the TV series, is one of the great shows on TV.  Wikipedia tells us we are not alone in our opinion:

Douglas Henshall won the 2016 BAFTA Scotlandaward for best actor for his role as Jimmy Perez, and the series received the award for Best TV Drama.

It is based on the books by Ann Cleaves who also is responsible for Vera that you can see on Britbox too.  We enjoyed the Shetland books but not so much the Vera books or the Vera show.  Shetland the first time we can remember we liked the video better than the books. There are substantial changes from the books so if you can’t abide by that then skip the show.

It is a great show because it does so many things and some of them are unexpected.  The most unexpected is giving us a hero in Jimmy Perez.

Sidebar Two: How does a person with a surname like that show up on Shetland?  Jimmy’s ancestor was part of the Spanish Armada (1588) that was shipwrecked on Shetland (or was it Fair Isle?) centuries ago.  End Sidebar Two.

Jimmy is John Wayne in a John Ford Western.  He is a brave, courageous loner that shares the stardom with the scenery.  About five times a show we think that we really, really need to go to Shetland.  Today, most shows are about how damaged the protagonist is.  Jimmy is not flawless but he is a good guy.

It is also a procedural.  They look at the decisions that folks, and especially the police, make and how difficult those decisions are. Everybody, white or black, male or female, gets put under the microscope.  It is thought provoking rather than PC.

It has interesting characters and excellent writing.  You will want to watch it several times when Jimmy compares Duncan to the attempts of the Scottish national team to qualify for the World Cup.  It is amazing and unexpected.

It would be better to watch all five seasons in sequence but you could watch season five first and still figure stuff out.  Either way Shetland is worth watching.  Enjoy!

Shakespeare’s Cymbeline

We escorted the Lady deGloves to the Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) in Winona, MN to see Cymbeline.  We encourage folks to see these types of regional Shakespeare and especially the GRSF.  American Players Theatre (APT) is substantially better, in part because it has its own stage and a larger group of actors, but folks like GRSF provide an interesting take on the Bard.  It is a joy to see how GRSF does a play like Cymbeline on a small stage with actors playing several parts.

Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare’s play that is performed fairly rarely.  Our search of APT only showed it performed in 2004.  We do not know if their online records are comprehensive and searchable.  We do know that we never remember seeing it there.  Our memory is not perfect either.

We enjoyed GRSF’s version of Cymbeline.  And of course, it has the words that make us love Shakespeare.  Although the title is the king, the main characters are Posthumus, an orphan raised by the king, and the king’s daughter Imogen whose name has lots of alternative spellings.  Posthumus and Imogen are married against the king’s wishes and the king banishes Posthumus to Italy to start the action.

As we see it, the play revolves around our favorite theme from Shakespeare: forgiveness.  One critic has a point that the author might be engaging in a bit of self-parody.  The forgiveness at the end will truly blow your mind.  Among some of the things to be forgiven are Cymbeline banishing Belarius, Belarus kidnapping the Cymbeline’s two sons, one of the sons killing Cymbeline’s stepson, Posthumus fighting for the Romans against Cymbeline, and those are the minor items of forgiving. It is a typical Shakespeare ending that is contrived but comprehensive.  We love them.  The Lady deGloves, however, would only be willing to forgive Posthumus posthumously.