Lazy Saturday: Creature Features

Godzilla1d

Happy Saturday!!

I’m feeling more lazy than usual today. I’ve been idly staring at my computer screen for about two hours–searching for interesting news and trying to figure out what to write about. Frankly, I don’t want to write about Jill Abramson’s firing, Glenn Greenwald’s book, the failed American Spring rally, or “mainstream Republicans” running against Tea Party Republicans. I feel as if I need a mental health day. I would like nothing better than to sit around today–or maybe all weekend–watching cheesy horror movies.

Fortunately, there’s a big-budget but still cheesy horror movie playing in theaters right now, Godzilla!! I’m actually considering going to see it. I’m not sure why, because I don’t recall ever watching the old-time Godzilla movies as a kid. I did used to like to watch creature features, and I still do. So maybe I’ll give the 2014 version of Godzilla a chance. It looks corny but entertaining in this early trailer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IC3Mi9vOb_8   The movie opened in theaters yesterday and did extremely well at the box office, according to Deadline Hollywood: ‘Godzilla’ Crushes It: $98M+

UPDATED, SATURDAY, 6:47 AM: The Lizard is leaping. After the morning dust has cleared, Godzilla showed a stronger than expected Friday late night take of $38M+ and is now estimated to haul in $98M+ after the three-day weekend. And with incredible international numbers continuing to roll in, Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures has a monstrous hit on their hands. Late night numbers pushed it past $36M and surprised everyone this AM.

PREVIOUSLY, FRIDAY 10:47 PM: Godzilla is beating all expectations tonight with a $36M Friday to push its expected 3-day cume to a monstrous $90M+. The Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures pic is just demolishing the box office right now, thanks to a killer marketing campaign that teased audiences exactly to the right degree. Amazing that the monster is still popular a full 60 years after its introduction, and it’s come a long way from a man walking around in a rubber suit. The CGI eye candy, which cost $195M…is playing well on IMAX screens. It also is opening around the world at the same time to huge numbers…

Some reviews: Dana Stevens at Slate: Want to See a Giant Radioactive Lizard Whale on Stuff? Then Godzilla Delivers. This review begins with some helpful background on the Godzilla archetype:

The original Godzilla—a hugely influential Japanese monster movie made in 1954 as a direct response to a recent ripped-from-the-headlines tragedy—is a staggeringly powerful film, but in some ways it’s hard to account for the long cinematic life its title character has enjoyed. Ishirō Honda’s somber Godzilla (the Japanese title,Gojira, was created by combining the words for “gorilla” and “whale”) was a raw scream of collective anxiety from a nation that, nine years before, had survived two atomic bombings, and that was now finding itself caught, quite literally, in the fallout zone of the U.S./Soviet race to build and test an even more destructive hydrogen bomb. That original Godzilla seems so tied to the time and place of its creation that it’s hard to mentally transpose the central monster—a lumbering mega-dinosaur coaxed from the ocean depths by human experiments with radiation—into any other context. Yet that transposition has now occurred 32 times in 60 years (give or take a mecha-lizard), most recently in the form of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, in which the lumbering lizard is reinvented—not for the first time—as humanity’s potential helpmate.

I guess it’s not hard to see the enduring appeal of the Godzilla myth, even divorced from the context of traumatized post-World War II Japan. The arrogance of human attempts to best the gods with technology is an eternally relevant theme (Icarus, Prometheus, Faust, Frankenstein, Flubber), and there’s no gainsaying the basic fun to be had in watching a bumpy-skinned reptile as big as a skyscraper reduce an entire city to rubble beneath his gargantuan stomping feet. Plus, by now Godzilla, with his radioactive fire-breath, stumpy waving forelegs, and aversion to intact skylines, is an archetypal, almost lovable figure—a quality highly valued by film studios in search of market-ready tentpole entertainments. Edwards’ Godzilla is likely to do a decent job holding up its end of Warner Bros.’ 2014 tent: It’s a smooth, sleek, technologically awe-inspiring 3-D blockbuster with a top-shelf cast (speaking middle-to-lower-shelf dialogue most of the time, to be sure, but they do it with style).

Hmmm . . . Like Jaws I, in which we barely glimpsed the animitronic great white shark? Still that was a great movie, one of my favorite creature features of all time.

On Twitter, Ian Bremmer commented on the “slow unveiling of the monster” issue:

 

Although I wasn’t a Godzilla fan as a kid, I used to love lots of the old “creature features” that were shown on late night TV back in those days. One of my favorites was the 1954 film “Them,” which was about giant mutant ants created by radioactivity from atomic bomb tests in New Mexico.

 

 

Also from 1954, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

 

I’ll post some more recent creature feature favorites in the comment thread, because I’m having a horrendous time with the WordPress editor today. What are your favorite creature features? Are you a Godzilla fan?

Of course, feel free to use the thread to discuss and post links on politics or any other topic that interests you.

 


Thursday Reads: A Little Hollywood Glamour before the Daily Horrors

This dress presages Madonna's lingerie outfits.

This dress presages Madonna’s lingerie outfits.

Good Morning!!

Last night I watched a little bit of The Girl Who Had Everything, starring Elizabeth Tayor–on TCM of course. I had never seen it before.

The movie was released in 1953 when Liz was only 21. She sure was gorgeous. You have to see some of the outfits she wore in that film, one of which is on the right.

From Wikipedia:

The Girl Who Had Everything (1953) is a feature film directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Armande Deutsch for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film features William Powell in his last MGM feature and one of his last film roles before retirement.

The screenplay was written by Art Cohn, based upon a play by Willard Mack, which in turn was based on the novel A Free Soul by Adela Rogers St. Johns. The play and novel were also inspiration for an earlier film adaptation called A Free Soul (1931).

The plot:

Steve Latimer (William Powell) is a successful defense attorney who has tried to give his daughter Jean (Elizabeth Taylor) everything he can in life. She decides to leave her boyfriend, the amiable Vance Court (Gig Young), for Victor Ramondi (Fernando Lamas), a rakish and dangerous man with underworld connections whom Steve is representing. Steve tries to warn Jean away from Victor, but she accepts his proposal of marriage.

Trailer:

Now for some outfits.

girl who had everything

Liz girl

Liz girl2

I can see why JJ loves to watch TCM. Movie stars just aren’t as glamorous these days as in the 1950s.

In real life, Liz was the woman who had everything. After she died, her huge fashion and jewelry collections were auctioned off by Christie’s. From The Telegraph Nov. 19, 2011:

In my job as a fashion curator for Christie’s I have been lucky enough to see close at hand the private clothes of some of the 20th century’s most famous women….

Now here was my latest rabbit-hole: a tiny black door framed in black granite, puncturing the windowless facade of an art-handling warehouse in Long Island, New York. I was Alice again, diving down to explore the possessions of another 20th-century icon: the soon-to-be-dispersed jewels, fashion and memorabilia of the last of the great Hollywood Golden Age superstars, Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor in 1965 wearing the diamond tiara given to her by Mike Todd, her third husband. Photo: Rex

Taylor in 1965 wearing the diamond tiara given to her by Mike Todd, her third husband. Photo: Rex

What met my eyes was rack upon rack of Taylor’s clothes, stretching into the far distance. These racks were packed so tightly that hems, frills, collars and belts stuck out; her collection of clothes in bright orange, sequins, prints, sunflower-yellow, lace and feathers were hung in the order they had been unpacked from her house in Bel Air and her chalet in Gstaad. Handbags – more than 200 – emerged one by one from many crates….

As I went through the racks of clothes it became apparent that here was a vast haute couture and prêt-à-porter wardrobe spanning more than 50 years; Elizabeth must have been one of the greatest couture clients of all time. Once she had bought from the collections, she carefully kept these exquisitely made pieces in superb condition on the top floor of her house in Bel Air.

Here a series of rooms, formerly, I suppose, a guest suite, had become one vast dressing-room carpeted in her favourite lilac. All it lacked was the star on the door. In this eyrie, Taylor kept the clothes she had chosen, worn out in public and laid aside for another day. Her handbags were swathed in tissue paper or in specially made bags and stacked neatly by colour. So were her shoes and the more than 30 pairs of cowboy boots…

More gorgeous photos at the link.

Now back to real life and today’s news {sigh….}

Terrible news out of Austin, TX (Statesman.com):  Two dead after car crashes into SXSW crowd.

A driver attempting to evade a drunk driving stop hurtled past a barricade on Red River Street and plowed through dozens of SXSW revelers, killing two and injuring 23 in a horrific scene early Thursday morning, police said. The street, home to many popular clubs hosting South by Southwest music showcases, had been closed to motorists and was crowded with music fans waiting to get into the Mohawk nightclub.

According to police, the man, driving a small Toyota car, went the wrong way down Ninth Street after evading a stop at a gas station around 12:30 a.m., turned onto Red River and drove for more than two blocks, striking numerous pedestrians before hitting a scooter traveling on 11th Street, killing the man and woman on board. The driver then struck a taxi, injuring two, and crashed into a parked van, Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

The man then attempted to flee on foot before he was stunned with a Taser gun and detained by the police officer who originally tried to pull the man over at a gas station on the frontage road of Interstate 35.

Speaking to reporters on Red River Street, which was still littered with shoes, clothing and other debris from the incident, Acevedo vowed the man would face capital murder charges in the deaths of the two scooter riders and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

And in New York’s East Harlem, at least seven people are now confirmed dead after a gas explosion leveled two apartment buildings yesterday. WSJ:

At least seven people were killed and more than 60 were injured in an apparent natural-gas explosion that leveled two residential buildings and severely damaged a third Wednesday morning in Manhattan, officials said.

Police said early Thursday that a seventh person was found dead. This follows an adult male pulled from the rubble just after midnight, a woman found about 2:45 a.m. Thursday, and a man discovered about a half-hour later.

The 9:31 a.m. Wednesday blast rocked the East Harlem neighborhood, shattering windows, throwing neighbors from their beds and sending people fleeing down the block in a cloud of smoke and debris.

The century-old, five-story brick structures housed 15 apartments, a church and a piano store in a neighborhood favored by immigrants. The blast also caused significant damage to a neighboring four-story building. More than 100 residents were staying in a nearby American Red Cross shelter.

Emergency workers were searching for victims in parts of the rubble, but sections remained inaccessible because of a sinkhole created by a water-main break, likely caused by the explosion, city officials said.

The missing Malaysian Airlines jet mystery continues as “conflicting reports” sow confusion. From the LA Times:

BEIJING –  The mystery of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 deepened amid allegations that the airplane flew four hours more than originally thought and might have traveled more than one thousand miles away from where search and rescue teams are looking.

Citing U.S. national security sources, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that government personnel were pursuing the possibility that the plane was commandeered “with the intention of using it later for another purpose.’’ The newspaper also said that data transmitted by an onboard monitoring system toRolls-Royce Plc., the engine manufacturer, suggested that the plane flew for up to five hours in total after its takeoff from Kuala Lumpur at 12:21 a.m. Saturday morning.

Malaysian officials at a press conference Thursday denied the story and said the last engine data was transmitted at 1:07 a.m., about 20 minutes before the aircraft disappeared from civilian radar screens.

Nevertheless, the Malaysians said they had expanded the search and rescue operation into India and the surrounding waters, the Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea and Arabian Sea. If in fact the Boeing 777 flew for five hours from Kuala Lumpur, it could have traveled 2,200 nautical miles, as far as the India-Pakistan border.

According to Reuters, there is “no evidence” that the plane continue flying for hours after it disappeared from radar. There had been reports of debris being sighted by Chinese radar, but that turned out to be false. According to BBC News, the photos of the reported debris had been “released by mistake.” Authorities are now investigating the pilots of the plane as well as all passengers and crew. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, they are “paying ‘special attention’ to [a] Chinese Uighur passenger.

Police investigating the backgrounds of all 239 people aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight are paying “special attention” to a 35 year-old Chinese Uighur man who undertook flight simulation training, according to a report in a leading Malay language newspaper in Kuala Lumpur.

The Uighurs Muslim ethnic minority group from the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang have been battling for independence since they were brought under Chinese control in 1949, claiming they are oppressed by China’s authoritarian government and face religious restrictions and widespread discrimination.

Earlier this month the Uighurs, who make up 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, were blamed for a violent attack at a Chinese train station.

At least 100 people have been killed in the past year in violent clashes between Uighurs and Chinese security forces.

A bizarre and humorous read . . .

Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake inexplicably turned himself into a laughingstock yesterday when he left a bizarre threatening voicemail for James Kirchick of The Daily Beast. Kirchick had written an article last week about the on-air resignation of former RT (Russia Today) anchor Liz Wahl, and apparently Gosztola was outraged that anyone would criticized the official Kremlin propaganda network–perhaps because Glenn Greenwald has praised it and Julian Assange has frequently appeared on it. Here’s the latest from Kirchick: Defending Putin’s Propagandists.

Coming soon to a theater near you: A Filipina Drama Queen pairs up with a Subversive Gay Jew to embarrass the Russian government!

No, this isn’t the tagline for the summer’s laugh-a-minute buddy comedy. It’s how some online media outlets are describing last week’s on-air resignation of Liz Wahl, anchor for RT-America, the English-language propaganda channel funded entirely by the Russian government. Wahl cited the network’s blatantly propagandistic coverage of the crisis in Crimea, its “whitewashing Putin,” and her own family history as the descendant of Hungarian refugees fleeing Soviet oppression as reasons for her departing the network.

And now, the network’s defenders are coming out in droves—and not just from the dark, traditionally conspiratorial corners of the Internet.

Read more about it at the link. As for the Gosztola episode:

This afternoon, a gentleman identifying himself as Kevin Gosztola, who writes for the left-wing website FireDogLake, left a message on my cell phone. He claimed to be working on a project for First Look Media — the high-profile investigative journalism start-up that employs, among others, Glenn Greenwald.

The Daily Beast posted the audio of the voicemail, along with a transcript that I can resist posting:

“So you don’t deny that you encouraged Liz Wahl to resign. We are going to be publishing a story at First Look Media and I know that you’re going to be losing control of the narrative that you’ve managed to create around Liz Wahl’s resignation. We have multiple sources.

“It’s fairly obvious that you have orchestrated this as part of some Foreign Policy Initiative [the think tank where I work] agenda. And this is what we’re going to be putting out there. So your fun little charade, public stunt that you’ve been putting on which the media has completely eaten up here in the United States, is hopefully over

“If you have any comment and if you’d like to respond to me and prove that this is not how it is, you let me know. But otherwise we are ready to go. And, you know, you like to ‘fuck with the Russians’ and we’re going to respond to that and let people know where you’re coming from as you have worked with Liz Wahl to expose what you call a propaganda network.”

WTF?! It’s now bad form at FDL to “fuck with the Russians?” First Look’s editor denied that Gosztola works for them:

“Kevin [Gosztola] doesn’t work for First Look Media. He apparently spoke to Glenn [Greenwald] about the possibility of doing a story for [First Look], but Glenn hasn’t given him an assignment or a contract,” Eric Bates, executive editor of First Look Media, told The Daily Beast in an email. “Glenn let Kevin know that he shouldn’t be representing himself as acting on behalf of First Look.”

How embarrassing. This story was the talk of Twitter yesterday, and not just among the Snowden critics.

I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories have piqued your interest today?


Wednesday Reads: Beg, Borrow, Steal…Maybe Blackmail Will Do?

wake the hell upGood Morning

My fingers are tingling like they are being poked with hundreds of little pins, and since we have some rain coming towards Banjoville…my arthritis is acting up as well. So, this morning’s post will be more along the lines of a link dump.

In this morning’s Orlando Sentinel, there is an op/ed that is outright propaganda, check it out: Editorial calls on Congress to approve chained CPI

But the president’s proposal deserves bipartisan support, no matter what the polls say. It’s an incremental yet meaningful step that acknowledges the need to include Social Security — the biggest federal program at more than $800 billion a year, and growing — in any balanced deficit-reduction plan.

Obama and Congress have cut deficits, but not enough to keep the national debt from growing as a share of the U.S. economy. They’ve largely left entitlement programs, including Social Security, off the table.

More debt means higher interest payments, less money for investments that would grow the economy, and more vulnerability to foreign creditors.

The president’s proposal would tie increases in Social Security and other benefit programs to an inflation index known as the “chained CPI” — a name only a bureaucrat could love. Many economists say the chained CPI is more accurate than the government’s current index, which overstates inflation.

Tying Social Security to the slower-growing inflation rate would reduce total annual benefits for the average 65-year-old retiree by only $50, though the reduction would compound over time to $1,147 a year by the time the retiree hit 85.

But the president’s proposal would prop up benefits for the poorest and oldest retirees. Targeting help to seniors in most need beats sticking with a system for everyone that overstates inflation and adds billions to the government’s bottom line.

Switching to the chained CPI would save at least $130 billion in Social Security payments over 10 years. It also would improve the fiscal fitness of the program, which is now paying out more in benefits than it is collecting in payroll taxes. The money to close the gap gets borrowed, which means that — contrary to claims from some advocates — Social Security adds to the deficit.

The chained CPI could save another $200 billion or more over the next decade outside of Social Security. How? By slowing spending growth in other benefit programs. And by adding to revenues by gradually moving more Americans with increasing incomes into higher tax brackets.

Obama is taking flak within his party for his proposal. For liberal Democrats, Social Security cuts are as bad as tax hikes for conservative Republicans.

But the president says he won’t go through with the switch unless Republicans go along with more tax increases. The GOP should be willing to close loopholes for corporations and the wealthy — especially if it’s in return for the kind of entitlement reform that Republicans have demanded from Obama.

There are a few comments already pointing out how stupid the author of the editorial is, you know…since Social Security is not a “debt” and all that shit.

sorgfelt at 5:47 AM April 10, 2013Social Security is an independent fund supplied solely by our contributions, and does not add to our national debt in any way, shape or form.  The author of this piece is either grossly uninformed and/or a pawn of the corporate entities who want to cut the business owners’ part of the contributions to Social Security.  It is utterly despicable that this article could be written and anyone could be led to take it seriously.There is one connection to the national debt: Congress has seen fit to borrow money without interest from Social Security to pay for our stupid, illegal wars.  That in itself is a travesty.  And to use that as an excuse to raid Social Security is despicable.
Florence Perry at 5:42 AM April 10, 2013It infuriates me when people call Social Security “an entitlement”.  It is not.  We put our hard earned monies into it, and it is our monies.  The government decided to borrow that money and now has to pay it back and called it “an entitlement” so they can cheat us out of our money.  You should get your facts straight Sentitnal (sic).

Madamab has a post up this morning that ties into this so be sure to stop over at Widdershins: Activist/Feminist Wednesday: Obama Goes After Social Security (And Women) | The Widdershins

Perhaps you don’t need math to be a politician these days? But there is some discussion as to whether you need it to be a scientist: Do you need to know math for doing great science? | The Curious Wavefunction, Scientific American Blog Network

There was a bit of a scare this morning, when an official tweet was sent accidentally by a town in Japan: Yokohama mistakenly tweets North Korean missile launch

Officials in the Japanese city of Yokohama were left red-faced on Wednesday after mistakenly announcing the launch of a North Korean missile to 40,000 followers on Twitter.

The city, south of Tokyo, prematurely fired its Tweet just before noon (0300 GMT), announcing “North Korea has launched a missile” with blank spaces to indicate the exact time.

“We received a call from one of our followers who had noticed the mistake. We had the Tweet ready and waiting, but for an unknown reason it was dispatched erroneously,” said a city official.

The city retracted the Tweet about 20 minutes later and apologised to followers of @yokohama_saigai, the official said.

Japan is on full alert ahead of an expected mid-range missile launch by North Korea, with Patriot missiles stationed in its capital to protect the 30 million people who live there.

Twitter is a big deal over in Japan, so this tweet was taken very seriously.

Meanwhile, over in Great Britain, History is getting an overhaul in their school systems, and it is not a good one, per the BBC:  Draft history curriculum ‘list-like and too narrow’

A draft history curriculum for England is “list-like”, “prescriptive” and omits “the histories of Britons who are not white Anglo-Saxons”, says a report.

The group, Curriculum for Cohesion, of teachers, academics and employers calls the draft “unteachable, unlearnable and un-British”.

They warn that if adopted the curriculum may alienate pupils from ethnic and religious minority groups.

I guess these people realize that History…will teach us nothing…/snark.

Makes me think of our very own GOP:

Clay Bennett: Intellecticide – Clay Bennett – Truthdig

Remember that event during the Occupy Wall Street protest, when the NYPD destroyed the Occupy Library? Well, they now have to pay damages. City To Pay $365,000 For Occupy Library – Business Insider

A New York City court has ruled that the city shall pay $366,700 for a destructive raid on Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park encampment.

Around 1 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2011, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered the NYPD to evict protestors — some of whom had camped there for almost two months — from Zuccotti Park in New York City’s Financial District.

The police threw away 5,554 books from the Occupy library and destroyed media equipment in addition to removing tents, tarps, and belongings.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York decided that the NYPD’s actions violated the protestors’ rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

The city will pay:

  • $47,000 in damages and $186,350 in legal fees for The People’s Library.
  • $75,000 and $49,850 in legal fees to Global Revolutions TV for damaging their “computers, wifi hotspots and similarly related live-streaming equipment.”
  • $8,500 for trashing the bicycle-powered generators that protestors built to light up the park after police held their other generators.

Wonderful to see that justice prevailed in this case.

I have some movie links for you now. This coming week the movie Camille will air on TCM: Wednesday, April 17 @ 09:00 AM (ET)

Set photograph, George Cukor directing Robert Taylor and Greta Garbor. 1936

Behind-the-scenes photograph taken while shooting the film Camille, George Cukor directing Robert Taylor and Greta Garbor. 1936

I love this film, it is beautiful.

Mike Luckovich had a very sweet tribute to Roger Ebert:

Mike Luckovich: RIP Roger Ebert – Mike Luckovich – Truthdig

This next link is just about some interesting movie trivia:

8 Pseudonyms Famous Writers and Directors Used in Movie Credits | Mental Floss

However, one pseudonym that is missing is a favorite of mine, from the movie The Bank Dick:

The Bank Dick (released as The Bank Detective in the United Kingdom) is a 1940 comedy film. W. C. Fields plays a character named Egbert Sousé who trips a bank robber and ends up a security guard as a result. The character is a drunk who must repeatedly remind people in exasperation that his name is pronounced “Sousé – accent grave [sic] over the ‘e’!”, because people keep calling him “Souse” (slang for drunkard). In addition to bank and family scenes, it features Fields pretending to be a film director and ends in a chaotic car chase. The Bank Dick is considered a classic of his work, incorporating his usual persona as a drunken henpecked husband with a shrewish wife, disapproving mother-in-law, and savage children.

The film was written by Fields, using the alias Mahatma Kane Jeeves (derived from the Broadway drawing-room comedy cliche, “My hat, my cane, Jeeves!”), and directed by Edward F. Cline. Shemp Howard, one of the Three Stooges, plays a bartender.

In 1992, The Bank Dick was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Mahatma Kane Jeeves….what a riot!

Boston Boomer sent me this link last week:

Meet the Tarantula as Big as Your Face : Discovery News

It’s big, it’s hairy, and it’s venomous.

The newest spider to give arachnophobes the willies, a tarantula named Poecilotheria rajaei has been discovered on the island nation of Sri Lanka.

With a leg span of 8 inches (20 centimeters) and enough venom to kill mice, lizards, small birds and snakes, according to Sky News, the crawler is covered in subtle markings of gray, pink and daffodil yellow.

Here is a picture of this monster:

Oh boy!

In another link BB sent me, related to spiders….this one is so damn cool: A Golden Spider-Silk Textile | The Art Institute of Chicago

Strands of silk from over one million of Madagascar’s golden orb spiders (Nephila madagascariensis) were woven together to make this dazzling textile, the only one of its kind in the world. Completed in 2008, the panel’s story underscores the globalism that is characteristic of many textile genres in Africa. Created by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, the loan of this rare textile celebrates the opening of the Art Institute’s redesigned galleries of African art and Indian art of the Americas.

The idea of harnessing spider silk for weaving is an age-old dream that was first attempted in a methodical way in France in the early 18th century. In the 1880s, Father Paul Camboué, a French Jesuit priest, brought the dream to Madagascar. Intrigued by the strength and beauty of the silk produced by the island’s golden orb spider, he began to collect and experiment with it. In 1900 a set of bed hangings was woven from spider silk at Madagascar’s Ecole Professionelle and exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris (today the whereabouts of those hangings are unknown). But the idea of creating an industry that could compete with Chinese silk (produced from silkworms) proved unrealistic.

Please go read the rest of this fascinating story at the link…and look at some of the photographs below:

SpiderSilk_lg

Colour of the Moment – Spider Silk Yellow Gold | Significant Colour

http://significantcolour.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/untitled-3-copy.jpg?w=370&h=

Spider silk cape goes on show at V&A | Art and design | guardian.co.uk

Golden spider silk cape

A model wearing the golden spider silk cape. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

It has taken eight years and more than a million Madagascar Golden Orb spiders to create a work of art “with the quality of a fairy story”. And it goes on display at London’s V&A museum this week.

Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, a textile artist and a designer-entrepreneur respectively, have created a shimmering golden cape from spider silk, a fabric not woven in more than a century.

Golden spider silk cape at the V and A | Yes I Like That

Isn’t that spectacular?

I will end this post with a funny nature story…Scheming chicks blackmail doting parents for more food

Fledglings of a southern African bird species threaten suicide to blackmail their parents into bringing them more food, scientists said Wednesday. When hungry, pied babbler fledglings flutter from the nest to the ground, where predators roam, and start screeching to highlight their plight, said a study published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “This stimulates adults to increase their provisioning rates,” the science team wrote. “Once satiated, fledglings return to the safety of cover.” The strategy is dangerous, as the birds are not good flyers at this tender age and at particular risk of predators on the ground. But the short-term risk of being caught is probably lower than the long-term costs of being small and weak, said the paper. Pied babblers have high reproductive rates and competition for mates is high. Weaker birds are often kicked out of the nest by siblings, putting them at a huge disadvantage in the race for survival and procreation.

More information: The influence of fledgling location on adult provisioning: a test of the blackmail hypothesis, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rspb.2013.0558

Now that is one ballsy move if you ask me!

So what are you reading about this morning?


Steven Spielberg’s Dark and Gloomy “Lincoln”

Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln

I went to see Spielberg’s latest film “Lincoln” today. That was three hours of my life I’ll never get back. I admit that I’m not a fan of Steven Spielberg or of historical dramas, so maybe my judgment isn’t worth that much; but I’m going to write about it anyway. I am a fan of Daniel Day Lewis, and I suppose he was the best thing about the movie. The second best thing was that Tom Hanks wasn’t in it.

Spielberg’s film covers the last four months of Lincoln’s life and is centered on the fight for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Certainly, the subject had the potential for a gripping drama, but instead Spielberg managed to turn a thrilling story into a movie that I found boring, pretentious, and depressing.

What bothered me most as I watched the film was how dark and grim it was–scene after scene after scene of men wearing dark clothing and talking incessantly. But as the endless scenes wore on,  I couldn’t keep my own present-day irritations from affecting my reactions.  I was incredibly annoyed to watching important national decisions being made solely by white men–most of whom were old and not very pleasant to look at–without any input from women or African Americans.

The make-up seemed designed to emphasize wrinkles, bags under the eyes, and unattractive facial hair in microscopic detail. Tommy Lee Jones was never handsome, but in his role as Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens he was made to look almost monstrous, with deep wrinkles, sagging jowls and giant pouch-like bags under his eyes.

But back to my growing irritation. After the misogyny and racism we have seen in this country over the past four years, I found the domination of “Lincoln” by white males to be incredibly annoying. And my irritation only grew as time went on. Surely there must have been black people who fought to pass the amendment–where were they?

The talk of “equality” of the races and the evils of treating “men” as property really rubbed me the wrong way, considering that women and children were to continue being treated as property for at least another hundred years after the passage of the Thirteen Amendment and that black men even in 2012 are still very far from being treated equally. Even our black President isn’t immune from the patronizing and bigoted attitudes of many Americans.

Admittedly, it’s unfair of me to judge the movie based on my present-day anger. Still, I think part of that feeling did arise from the fact that the movie–I think wrongly–ignored the thoughts and feelings of women and black people.

Only two women are shown having any kind of role in events: Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley. Mary Todd Lincoln is shown interpreting her husband’s dreams, trying to prevent her eldest son from enlisting in the Union Army, and supporting her husband’s policies. Her closest companion was Keckley, a black women who had purchased freedom for herself and her son, and become a seamstress. She was eventually introduced to Mary Todd Lincoln and went with her to the White House. Keckley wrote an autobiography, Behind the Scenes: Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. But none of this was spelled out in the movie.

As for black characters, there is a sort of butler who says he was born a free man, a couple of black Union soldiers and anonymous black audience members who file in to the House gallery to watch the final vote on emancipation. I later learned that the “butler” was William Slade, who along with Elizabeth Keckley, was active in the abolition movement. Toward the end of the film, Thaddeus Stevens is shown getting into bed with a black woman whom I later learned was Stevens’ housekeeper Lydia Hamilton Smith. The two were lovers for 23 years, so why didn’t Spielberg emphasize her influence on Stevens’ attitudes about racial equality? Why was she included in the film almost as an afterthought?

At least one reviewer, historian Kate Masur, expressed a similar reaction to mine–except that hers was based on actual historical knowledge. Masur writes:

[I]t’s disappointing that in a movie devoted to explaining the abolition of slavery in the United States, African-American characters do almost nothing but passively wait for white men to liberate them. For some 30 years, historians have been demonstrating that slaves were crucial agents in their emancipation; however imperfectly, Ken Burns’s 1990 documentary “The Civil War” brought aspects of that interpretation to the American public. Yet Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” gives us only faithful servants, patiently waiting for the day of Jubilee.

This is not mere nit-picking. Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” helps perpetuate the notion that African Americans have offered little of substance to their own liberation. While the film largely avoids the noxious stereotypes of subservient African-Americans for which movies like “Gone With the Wind” have become notorious, it reinforces, even if inadvertently, the outdated assumption that white men are the primary movers of history and the main sources of social progress.

I’m no historian–or movie reviewer–so I was relieved to learn that I’m not the only person who was deeply disappointed in “Lincoln,” despite fine performances by many of the white cast members. According to Masur,

In fact, the capital was also home to an organized and highly politicized community of free African-Americans, in which the White House servants Elizabeth Keckley and William Slade were leaders. Keckley, who published a memoir in 1868, organized other black women to raise money and donations of clothing and food for the fugitives who’d sought refuge in Washington. Slade was a leader in the Social, Civil and Statistical Association, a black organization that tried to advance arguments for freedom and civil rights by collecting data on black economic and social successes. The film conveys none of this, opting instead for generic, archetypal characters.

Masur was offended by the

brief cameo of Lydia Smith…housekeeper and supposed lover of the Pennsylvania congressman and Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens… Stevens’s relationship with his “mulatto” housekeeper is the subject of notoriously racist scenes in D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of a Nation.” Though Mr. Spielberg’s film looks upon the pair with far more sympathy, the sudden revelation of their relationship — Stevens literally hands the official copy of the 13th Amendment to Smith, before the two head into bed together — reveals, once again, the film’s determination to see emancipation as a gift from white people to black people, not as a social transformation in which African-Americans themselves played a role.

And why was Frederick Douglass left out of the film entirely? Masur notes that he was invited to the White House after Lincoln was inaugurated for the second time. According to Lincoln biographer Ronald C. White,

what the audience doesn’t fully understand, in the final scene – almost the final scene – where suddenly African-Americans arrive in the balcony as the final vote is to be taken, that one of those is Charles Douglass, the son of Frederick Douglass. Charles had fought in the famous Massachusetts 54th; he will write to his father after that climactic vote: ‘Oh, Father, how wonderful it is. People were cheering, they were crying tears of joy.’ So that had the potential for more black agency, but it doesn’t come to full fruition in the film.”

To add insult to injury, Lincoln is far too long at 2-1/2 hours (plus ads and previews). It could easily have been edited to 2 hours or less, especially since Spielberg chose to ignore the historical roles of African Americans and women in the events the film depicts.


Tuesday Reads: Marilyn Monroe, Fifty Years Gone

Lawrence Schiller, “Marilyn Monroe,” 1962. (Credit: Courtesy of Judith and Lawrence Schiller; Lawrence Schiller © Polaris Communications, Inc.)

Good Morning!!

I’m writing this late on Monday night. I’m a little burned out on the news, and I haven’t been feeling so great today, so I thought I’d skip politics and devote my Tuesday morning post to noting the 50th anniversary of the day we lost Marilyn Monroe, August 5, 1962. We can talk about the news in the comments though!

LA Weekly has a report of the memorial. The main speaker was Professor Lois Banner, the author of a new biography of Monroe.

Lois Banner certainly must be considered one of the Marilyn religion’s rising gospel writers. Banner, a professor of women’s history at USC, is the author of Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox, her well-received, scrupulously researched and ten-years-in-the-writing biography, whose release was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary.

Banner’s book, which attempts to demolish any lingering image of Marilyn as a dumb blonde and merely the sexual object of male fantasy, asserts that the star was shaped by a complicated and deeply conflicted personality. Marilyn was marked by an intense intellectual curiosity but also by emotional and sexual abuse as child that would develop into full-blown sexual addiction and her ultimately tragic substance abuse.

Outside the memorial, the 73-year-old writer briefly spoke about Marilyn’s status as an “icon of the American character” and the key to her enduring fascination. The answer, according to Banner, is complex but begins with her tragically early death. Dying at the height of her beauty instantly made the star what Banner calls “the Aphrodite of the national imagination — the woman who represents our sexual desires and dreams.”

To that she adds the aura of mystery contributed by Marilyn’s involvement with the Kennedys and the conspiracy theories surrounding her death. Then there are the photographs. Marilyn was probably the most photographed woman of the 20th century, Banner says, “and the famous images of her literally run into the thousands. She realized herself in front of the camera, and many have said the camera was her real lover.”

Here are two Huffpo links to some lovely photos of Marilyn:

Marilyn Monroe Photos: Candid Shots Of The Woman Behind The Starlet

Marilyn Monroe ‘Intimate Exposures’: Exhibit Unveils Never-Before-Seen Bruno Bernard Photos

Between inventing pin-up photography, earning the nickname “Bernard of Hollywood” and discovering Marilyn Monroe, Bruno Bernard may just be the world’s most famous photographer.

In her new book “Marilyn: Intimate Exposures,” Bernard’s daughter, former Playboy Playmate Susan Bernard, has released a collection of her father’s most famous photographs of the one and only Marilyn Monroe–including 40 never-before-seen shots.

In the collection are the first professional photographs ever taken of Monroe (then named Norma Jean Dougherty), intimate backstage shots throughout her career, original negatives, Bernard’s work notes and letters from Monroe to Bernard, including one reading, “Remember Bernie, you started it all.”

Bernard is presenting the collection at the San Francisco Art Exchange for its United States premiere during the 50th anniversary commemoration of Monroe’s death.

The photos at both links are wonderful. I really enjoyed looking at them.

The LA Times reports on another exhibit of Marilyn photos.

One of the many disappointments to befall the actress’ tragic life was her struggle to have a child, having suffered multiple miscarriages. Very few images of a pregnant Monroe exist but famed celebrity photograper Phil Stern found himself at the right place at the right time during her last pregnancy with third husband, playwright Arthur Miller.

In 1958, Look magazine assigned Stern to capture what studio mogul Sam Goldwyn saw through his office window. Perched high and out of sight from the people below, he spotted Monroe walking across the lot during a break from filming “Some Like it Hot,” and snapped the photo just as the wind blew open her kimono, revealing her pregnant belly.

This photo is just one of many that Stern took of Monroe during an illustrious career that spanned six decades. Twenty-three images from his collection will be on view at The Phil Stern Gallery opening Sunday on the 50th anniversary of her untimely death. The exhibition continues through Nov 1.

You can view some of the photos at the link.

On Sunday night, 60 Minutes ran a 1987 interview with Playwright Arthur Miller by Mike Wallace.

During their relationship, Miller wrote the screenplay for “The Misfits,” with the lead role played by Monroe. She played a wounded young woman, who falls in love with a much older man. It would be her last film.

Despite the success of 1961′s “The Misfits,” Miller’s marriage to Monroe had been struggling for months, and the couple ultimately separated. In addition to drug and alcohol dependency, Monroe had endured several miscarriages and was battling depression.

“I guess to be frank about it, I was taking care of her. I was trying to keep her afloat,” Miller told Wallace. “She was a super-sensitive instrument, and that’s exciting to be around until it starts to self-destruct.”

When Wallace asked Miller if he knew Monroe’s life was destined for disaster, he said, “I didn’t know it was doomed, but I certainly felt it had a good chance to be.” Less than two years later, Monroe was found dead at the age of 36 in her California home.

There are some more lovely photos in this NY Daily News article: Marilyn Monroe, famed blond bombshell, yearned to retire to Brooklyn in her twilight years

The blond bombshell, who lived in New York City on and off for several years before dying in Los Angeles in 1962, called Brooklyn her “favorite place in the world” in a radio interview with NBC’s Dave Garroway.

“When I retire I’m going to retire to Brooklyn,” Monroe told the late “Today” show host. “That’s my favorite place in the world, so far, that I’ve seen.”

Monroe, then 31-years-old and inbetween her marriages to New York Yankees Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, admitted she hadn’t “travelled much, but I don’t think I’ll find anything to replace Brooklyn.”

….

When asked what it was about Brooklyn she loved, Monroe’s answer was simple: “Almost everything.”

“I just like walking around,” she said in her soft, whispy tone.

Monroe said one highlight was the view of Manhattan which can only be seen from Brooklyn, but stressed her affection for the borough was more than that.

“It isn’t only the view, it’s the people,” Monroe said. “The people and the streets and the atmosphere, I just like it.”

On Weekend Edition, NPR ran a piece on Marilyn Monroe As An ‘All-Around’ Comedian.

I love just about all of Marilyn’s movies, but I guess my favorite is The Seven Year Itch.

The Rachmaninoff fantasy scene:

And the famous subway scene:

It’s hard to believe it was all so long ago. Sorry this post is so short, I should be back to my regular self in the morning. Now it’s your turn to fill me in on the real news of the day. I’ll pitch in some links too, of course.