- Sunny Days
- Seven Deadly Rackets
- O'Brien's Open Government
- Catch of the Day
- Waging Peace with Cuba
- Radiology Nurse
- Lonelyhearts, The Movie
- Twin Tunnel Tweaks
STUNNING CHRISTMAS DAY in Mendocino County, with bright sunshine and cool, crisp cleansing gusts of mild winds. The world may be going to hell, but we count our blessings.
ON-LINE REMARK OF THE DAY
Personally I am tired of the doomer life. No one wants to abandon the sinking cruise ship until the music stops and the buffet closes. I have a job, new car, friendly neighbors, and a Christmas wish that all us fortunates merely act in the spirit of including the other 99% that have none of these things. The seven deadly rackets: agribusiness, big box commerce, medical hostage system, higher ed swindle, happy motoring, suburban sprawl, and government self interest bureaucracy can use whatever mitigation you can provide until they turn out the lights and we go to the lifeboats.
It could be a spoonful of diamond,
It could be a spoonful of gold,
Just a little spoon of your precious love,
Satisfy my soul.
Men lies about little,
Some of them cries about little,
Some of them dies about littles,
Everything fight about a spoonful,
That spoon, that spoon, that ...
It could be a spoonful of coffee,
Could be a spoonful of tea,
But a little spoon of your precious love,
Good enough for me.
Men lies about that,
Some of them dies about that,
Some of them cries about that,
But everything fight about a spoonful.
That spoon, that spoon, that...
It could be a spoonful of water,
Saved from the deserts sand,
But one spoon of them fortifies.
Save you from another man.
Men lies about that,
Some of them cries about that,
Some of them dies about that,
Everybody fightin' about a spoonful.
That spoon, that spoon, that ...
— Willie Dixon
DENNIS O'BRIEN'S BIG WIN FOR ALL OF US
CATCH OF THE DAY, Dec 25, 2014
ZACHARIAH BARBER, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance.
JOEY GUNTER, Willits. Parole revocation.
HARDY KUENZL, Willits. DUI.
ERIC ROBERTS, Ukiah. County Parole violation.
JOSEPH VENTURI, Ukiah. Tampering with vehicle, probation revocation.
POLITICAL RUMBAS START IN CUBA
Why They Want Trade
by Ralph Nader
Relations between Cuba and the United States have been tumultuous since Castro took control in January 1959 from the dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Fidel Castro and Fidelistas won a revolution and were determined to keep it at all costs. While the United States government was determined to do whatever was necessary – invasion, espionage, assassination attempts on high-ranking Cubans including Castro, subversion, embargos (except open immigration for refugees) and even pressing other nations not to trade with or invest in Cuba.
Foreign policy observers know that the US has propped up dozens of brutal dictatorships in three continents at the same time the US was trying to undermine Cuba. The US opened diplomatic relations with China who fought us in the Korean War. We even have full relations with Vietnam despite our major bloody war with them. The ongoing animosity from the US to achieve “regime change” in Cuba can be seen as bizarre, even given the anti-Cuban immigrant enclave in South Florida, when compared to the aforementioned foreign policies throughout the past half-century with China, Vietnam and other countries and regimes.
Last week, when President Obama, with the support of two-thirds of the American people, announced opening the door to diplomatic relations with Cuba (Congress will still have to authorize an embassy and an ambassador), this included loosening trade restrictions, easier access for tourist visas, and cooperating on health matters, climate disasters, and drug trafficking. Now, the prediction game has erupted in all directions in both countries as to what can, will and should happen regarding Cuba in the coming weeks, months and years.
Well, what we do know is that a Republican Congress will give President Obama very little slack, other than to help US tractor manufacturers and US agricultural exporters trade with Cuba. Annual trade with Cuba will soon go to $1 billion from under $400 million of mostly food exports last year. Trade with Vietnam, a much larger country, reached $30 billion last year!
In the future when relations have progressed to include all tourism and the Cuban infrastructure can support it, Cuba will become an attractive destination for millions of American tourists. Some US hotels will get management contracts with the Cuban government, as some European and South American companies have already. Cubans will be able to receive more remittances from their relatives in the US through credit cards.
The real questions about change, however, are from the Cuban side. What will be the reaction of the Castro brothers to US politicians discussing the changes they believe will be best for Cuban politics, economics and culture? Will human rights and civil liberties expand?
The Castros are realists and futurists who are conscious of their ages and want to preserve the Cuban socialist revolution. The state currently controls 80% of the economy. Raul Castro has permitted a variety of small businesses (450,000 of them so far) and small private agricultural plots.
Still, the economy is in bad shape, notwithstanding universal free public education through the university level, universal health care, religious freedom and the ingenuity of Cubans in gaming the system with small-time black markets to get what they need.
Cubans have grown to rely on their remarkable ability to repair given their lack of imports due to embargos. The 1958 Chevrolet taxis I saw in Havana when David F. Binder and I joined a foreign press delegation to interview Castro in April 1959 are still on the streets of Havana today. Nonetheless, Cuba needs to significantly improve its infrastructure and expand the manufacturing of household goods.
It is not likely that Cubans can hold true to their principles in the face of an unimpeded flood of US junk food, credit gouging, deceptive TV advertising, one-sided fine-print contracts, over promotion of drugs, commercialization of childhood with incessant and often violent programming and other forms of harmful corporate marketing.
Few societies can absorb the sensual seduction of Western corporate/commercial culture’s onslaught and not succumb to becoming a mimicking society. If it can happen to China – the Middle Kingdom – it can happen to any country.
President Obama promised last week to assist civil society in Cuba which made me wonder why he hasn’t assisted civil society – dominated by a two party tyranny and corporatism – in the US. Furthermore, given the history it may not be in the best interest of all Cubans for the “American imperialists” to assist their civil society.
The Castro brothers may be looking at Vietnam as a model. There the Communist Party is still strictly in charge, but there is a burgeoning “capitalist” economy expanding quite rapidly. In addition, Vietnam has seen the expansion of public corruption, pollution, profiteering, inequality, a painful generation gap and upheaval of cultural traditions.
One thing you can say about Castro’s Cuba, compared to Venezuela and many other South American regimes, is that there is not much big-time corruption. In fact, a corruption-ridden Venezuela that ships 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba and is falling into deeper disarray is a reason why the Castros want more trade, tourism, and technical investment from the U.S and other countries.
Cuba exports physicians to many countries, often as a form of foreign aid. On the other hand, the US imports physicians. Fidel Castro told us in 2002 that he was willing to collaborate with the US in other countries to confront tropical diseases and epidemics using each country’s strengths. The US government had no interest in his offer.
Now, with Cuban physicians going to West Africa in far greater numbers than our medical corps to deal with Ebola, the thawing of relations may produce more joint efforts in fighting or preventing such deadly epidemics.
Stay tuned to forthcoming events. Waging peace is a novel experience for hawkish US foreign policy operatives and their provocative private consulting think tanks in Washington, D.C.
(Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.)
LONELYHEARTS, THE MOVIE:
No Art And No Box Office
by Dwight Macdonald (Encounter Magazine, 1959)
As has perhaps been observed somewhere, Hollywood is a strange place. I visited it last fall for the first time to talk to Dore Schary about his new film version of Nathaniel West's Miss Lonelyhearts. I was prepared for the vast horizontal scale — it cost me almost $5 to get from the railroad station to my hotel — for the interminable white boulevards, the theaters like mosques and the hamburger stands like castles and the almost complete lack of pedestrians. I was prepared for my room at the Beverly Wilshire which had a black and white marble floor, Chinese bamboo beds with gold silk canopies, a private patio, incredibly powerful air-conditioning, and television and a closet the size of the hotel bedrooms I usually stay in. I was even prepared for Forest Lawn Memorial Park, courtesy of Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One.
But it was at Forest Lawn that the new note first sounded. Culture. Off-key, but definitely audible. I had not realized that every one of Michelangelo's major sculptures is to be found there, full scale and executed in the most expensive Carrara marble by real Italian sculptors. Nor that the world's largest painting is there, a panorama of the crucifixion by "the celebrated Polish artist, Jan Styka." It is so big that a large auditorium is devoted solely to its display, every hour on the hour, with a recorded spiel of awesome dignity; the painting, apart from its size, gives the general effect of a Saturday Evening Post illustration. Nor was I aware that there is a full-scale reproduction, in stained glass, of da Vinci's Last Supper enshrined in an aggressively Gothic structure which the management hopefully calls "America's Westminster Abbey" and which so far contains just three cadavers, including that of Carrie Jacobs-Bond, composer of I Love You Truly. The spiel here, also in the loftiest good taste, implies that for all practical purposes this is the original Last Supper, since it was executed "from da Vinci's original sketches in the great museums in Europe" and is super authentic and brand-new as against that faded, much restored thing in Milan. The Michelangelo statues are also now really the real originals, since they are much newer and whiter than those worn-out objects in Italy.
This high cultural tone persisted through my week's stay in Hollywood. I lunched at the Brown Derby with an English screenwriter who regretted that he was leaving too soon to meet Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, and Gerald Heard, and others of the local crowd. I spent an interesting three hours with Stanley Kubrick, most talented of the younger directors, discussing Whitehead, Kafka, Potemkin, Zen Buddhism, the decline of Western culture, and whether life is worth living anywhere except at the extremes — religious faith or the life of the senses. It was a typical New York conversation.
I visited the set of Some Like It Hot and saw Marilyn Monroe in black lace pajamas jump out of the upper berth eleven times, deliver one line, and then run dancingly off set, with a charming mixture of deerlike grace and parody of deerlike grace to perch on lap of the man sitting next to me who happened to be her husband, the playwright Arthur Miller. I had an hour at 20th Century Fox with George Stevens and another with Jerry Wald. Mr. Stevens, who was then working on The Diary of Anne Frank is big, rugged faced, slow spoken. He looks like one's idea of a rancher. In common with everyone else I talked to, he was optimistic about the "new Hollywood" of independent producers that has broken the monopoly of the great studios and for the same reason: actors and directors, that is, artists, are now in the ascendancy at the expense of the old-style executive moguls like the late Louis B. Mayer. "It was hopefully thought in the old days that people didn't make films, that they were turned out somehow by an organization but only an individual can make a picture. It can't be done collectively." He also felt — another general impression out there — that the grip of the Hays censorship office has relaxed and that it is now possible to treat more daring themes in a bolder way: "There will be a wonderful period for the movies in the next 10 years." Jerry Wald, a plump, Baldish, cigar-chewing producer, talks rapidly and freely on any topic, was also full of cultural optimism. His walls were lined with Rouault prints and other okay modern art products and he had just finished a major production of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. "Mass audiences are hep now," he said. "There are 25 million college graduates. There's no such thing as highbrow and lowbrow anymore. They get the best TV and radio shows. They can appreciate quality. I'm going to do Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers next and I just bought Winesburg." I suggested that Ulysses would make a splendid movie. "I've got an option on it!" he replied instantly, adding: "It's basically just a father searching for a son. Universal theme!"
It is true that discordant notes may still be noted in the general harmony. "We never make a picture for the art houses," Mr. Wald stated firmly. "The most the art-house circuit can do is $600,000 and most pictures cost a lot more than that. You always try to make a BIG picture. Nobody deliberately starts out to make a stinker. Art houses are just a salvage operation for us."
I suggested that some artists might prefer a perceptive audience to a big one. This didn't go down: "An artist tries to reach as many people as possible, don't he? He's not talking to himself." The 25 million college graduates marched in again. "Now you take Schary’s The Red Badge of Courage — that was a flop and so it went into the art houses. I’d say it had superior intent but inferior content." "Hey, that's GOOD!" exclaimed Mr. Wald’s press agent. There were other discords: the producer referring to "the Baumhaus school of Art"; MGM spending $15 million on a remake of Ben Hur; a director describing a melodrama set in Israel: "We kick off with the Dead Sea Scrolls." But the point is that they are discords. Ten years ago they would have been the tune.
With all this culture proliferating in Hollywood, it is not surprising that Dore Schary, who has long had the modest distinction of being the leading intellectual among the top studio executives, should signalize his return to Hollywood two years after his resignation as production chief of MGM with an independent production of Nathaniel West's Miss Lonelyhearts. But the new Hollywood for all its fine cultural plumage is not so different underneath the feathers from the old bird. Palm trees don't make Los Angeles an exotic city and options on Ulysses don't make Hollywood a sophisticated one. Just as the "psychological" Western is au fond the same sturdy old Model T that once carried William S. Hart into action, so this new production of Lonelyhearts, for all its "seriousness," is just another soap opera. It is painful to say this because I really wished Schary well on his return from Elba, so to speak.
It is also painful because I greatly admire West’s novel which seems to me a miraculously pure expression of our special American sort of agony, the horror of aloneness, and of our kind of corruption, that of mass culture. It is a prose-poem, except that instead of being fuzzy and long-winded like most prose poems, it is rather a poeticizing of prose: sharper, stripped, laconic, every word counting — a masterpiece of omission like The Great Gatsby. A chilling wind from the grave blows into one's heart from this anti-epic, which is uncompromisingly negative, a bitter wit mocking religion, love, ambition, the American Way of Life, humanity itself. Its protagonist is hopelessly split between love and hate and finally destroyed by his inability to resolve the conflict. He cannot love the people who write in to him for help in situations where there is no help — the noseless girl, the 15-year-old boy whose deaf and dumb kid sister has been raped — yet he feels he should love them. Sometimes he hates them: "He was twisting the arm of all the sick and miserable, broken and betrayed, inarticulate and impotent. He was twisting the arm of Desperate, Brokenhearted, Sick of it all, Disillusioned-with-tubercular husband." Nor can he love his girl, Betty, who is pretty, loyal, kind — and conventional: "Her world was not the world and could never include the readers of his column. Her sureness was based on the power to limit experience arbitrarily. Moreover, his confusion was significant, while her order was not." Counterpointed against Betty's stolid decency is the frenetic nihilism of his editor, Shrike, which he cannot accept either. And counterpointed against his affair with Betty is his frustrating and sordid pursuit of Mrs. Shrike, a romantic teaser, and his disastrous seduction of and by one of his correspondents, Mrs. Doyle, who betrays him to her crippled husband when he tries to bring the couple together again. The book ends with Doyle shooting Miss Lonelyhearts.
If the epigraph of West’s novel might be Dostoevsky’s "Hell is the inability to love," that of the film might be William Dean Howell’s observation to Edith Wharton: "What the American public always wants is a tragedy with a happy ending."
This Mr. Schary has bountifully supplied. Doyle does turn up at the newspaper office to shoot Miss Lonelyhearts, but he is so overcome by Our Hero’s sincerity and compassion that he cannot pull the trigger and staggers out, a sadder and wiser man. Even the cynical Shrike, who up to this point has been handing out a poor man's equivalent of the novelistic Shrike’s destructive rhetoric, suddenly has a change of heart and begs Our Hero to stay on the paper. When Our Hero, though "deeply moved," insists on leaving (with his girl, of course, whom he is about to marry, of course, and who of course, happily explains as she exits, "I believe in him"), Shrike gazes after Our Hero with ill concealed affection.
"I feel that pure tragedy, classic tragedy means that the hero can't overcome his obstacles because of his character or maybe it's his destiny," Schary explained, apropos of his ending. "There is something inescapable about his doom. But I felt that dramatically Miss Lonelyhearts’ life did not have to have a sad ending." Or, as the film's director, Vincent Donehue, explained to me: "Dore said he didn't believe the Christ figure had to be crucified." The idea of an uncrucified Christ is very American.
Yet Dore Schary is right. His film, unlike the book, does not in fact require a tragic ending, for the simple reason that about all the film has in common with the book is the names of its characters. Miss Lonelyhearts is now an undivided person, an idealistic young man who doesn't drink or smoke, who feels only a deep compassion for his correspondents, and who has no trouble at all loving his girl. Indeed, Montgomery Clift and Dolores Hart are as wholesome a pair of young lovers and have come within camera range in months. Shrike is still Shrike, although his tortured wild wit has been smoothed out to the conventional wisecracking of the tough newspaperman. (Hecht and MacArthur have a lot to answer for.) The conflict between love and hate has been brought up out of the murky depths of Miss Lonelyhearts’ soul and neatly externalized by concentrating the good in him and the evil in Shrike.
Lonelyhearts is essentially a Western: the good guy arrives in town — or the newspaper office — tangles with the bad guy and ultimately defeats him. (The tragic element in the Western is, however, omitted — nobody gets hurt.) The other characters have been similarly reduced. Mrs. Doyle, a grotesque in the book ("He made a quick catalog: legs like Indian clubs, breasts like balloons… Despite her short plaid skirt, red sweater, rabbit skin jacket, and knitted tam-o-shanter, she looked like a police captain") is now just another sexy slattern to be "understood" as well as condemned. Mrs. Shrike ("She returned his kisses because she hated Shrike. But even there Shrike had beaten him. No matter how hard he begged her to give Shrike horns, she refused to sleep with him") has been cleaned up into a sad eyed, gallant, noble wife (Myrna Loy) whose only interest in Miss Lonelyhearts is a (sad-eyed) maternal one.
"Fay Doyle is a tramp, so I had to change Mrs. Shrike," Schary explains. "We couldn't have two tramps in the same picture." And so for ten years is Mrs. Shrike has been expiating her single infidelity ("I was alone — I was drunk — you had betrayed me a dozen times"), patiently bearing Shrike’s abuse, hoping against hope to win her man back. "Few of us get a second chance. Go to him, Justy," he counsels Betty, who has so renamed for some deep Hollywoodean reason. "You never get a free pass to love, do you?" replies Justy-Betty, only to be topped by: "Some women like you, Justy, have to run after the second chance. Some, like me, have to sit and wait for theirs." Her ten-year vigil is rewarded in the happy ending: the last shot is of Shrike in the office about to join his wife in Delehanty's bar where she is, as usual, waiting for him (patiently, nobly). He sees some flowers in a vase on the stenographer's desk, picks them up, and with a remote look in his eyes gently wraps their stems in copy paper and exits. The Shrikes’ marriage has been saved. Slow fade out. The end.
In short, Dore Schary who was the scriptwriter as well as the producer, has performed a considerable feat of converting Miss Lonelyhearts into Stover at Yale. The usual excuse, sometimes a valid one, that Hollywood makes for changes in some well-known book is that they are cinematically necessary — it is a matter, after all, of translating from one medium into another. But this won't work here. The film is about as cinematic as the proceedings of the American Iron and Steel Institute.
A producer is said to have observed, years ago, explaining why he could no longer go along with Paul Muni's series of recreations of such culture heroes as Pasteur and Zola: "Art and box office, okay. Art and no box office, okay. No art and box office, okay. But no art and no box office…"
Lonelyhearts falls into the last category. The photography is that chocolate marshmallow kind of subluminous chiaroscuro that glazes with standardized unreality most Hollywood movies. Almost all the action, or rather non-action, takes place on two all-too-familiar sets: the barroom and the newspaper office. (Some awful movies at least keep eyeballs twitching with a variety of locales.) Schary apparently entrusted the direction to Vincent Donehue because he directed his recent state hit Sunrise at Campobello. Donehue had worked on the stage and in TV, but not in the movies, which would have been alright if his experience had given him the innocent boldness of, say, the maker of Pather Panchali. Instead, it made him timid. He has simply photographed a stage play for which there is ample excuse in the talking script. But a more experienced director might have been able to inject some slight illusion of cinematic movement. The only faintly cinematic passage is the montage sequence under the titles, where one does get some impressionistic shots of life in a Midwest city. After that, rigor mortis sets in for the remaining 85 minutes.
(Aside: The titles and credits are often the most interesting part of a Hollywood film because montage is almost inescapable there, montage which the great Russians thought the basis of cinematic form and which has been reduced in Hollywood to "Vorkapich Effects," named after a Russian trained Soviet technician who came there in the 30s. A train journey, for instance, is suggested by rapid cutting between wheels, tracks, locomotive, etc. or a financial panic by similar manipulation of shots of tickertape, shouting brokers, headlines, etc.)
The acting is uneven in quality and conflicting as to styles. Montgomery Clift’s tense mannerisms don't jibe with the broad ingenuity of Dolores Hart. It is never clear just what he is expressing since the same writhing lips, fixed eyes and trancelike don't-hit-me movements occur in every context while it is all too clear what she means. Their love scenes are dialogue between Gertrude Stein and Faith Baldwin. Robert Ryan, a self-conscious and wooden actor who depends for his effectiveness on a sinister cast of countenance, plays Shrike like a western bad man coached by Noel Coward, nor is he more successful than Clift in making contact with his opposite number, Myrna Loy, who plays Mrs. Shrike in a world-weary manner more suitable to the Oriental vamps she used to do in the 20s. The one triumph among the principals — Jackie Coogan and Onslow Stevens, two old-timers with plenty of dramatic presence, make a lot out of minor parts — was that of Maureen Stapleton as Fay Doyle. Unhappily, the free and easy power, the precision and vitality of Ms. Stapleton's performance makes one realize how fumbling the other principals are. It is as if a real person suddenly appeared in a row of marionettes.
But even the most inspired performers might have found the script hard going. I wonder if Sir Laurence Olivier himself could have put over a line like Ryan’s: "Father Shrike, the encyclopedia on ‘heels.’ Subtitle: every man." Or Clift’s: "Even now — full of guilt and shame — the only clean thing I ever owned was my love for you." And Duse herself might have been thrown by Miss Hart’s line: "Has anybody ever tried to figure out how many tears you cry in a lifetime?" The characterizations in general are deeply rooted in the cornfield. Every word assimilates them to that vast body of clichés that has been slowly built up — as a coral reef is built by the accretion of tiny, identical organisms — in our mass culture — a parody of a tradition. Shrike is especially painful. His first words addressed to the barman ("Charlie, a double of the usual stomach lining destroyer") gets us right into the front page groove and he follows it up with other conventional postures.
Cynical: "Love and kindness — man is good? Take a bath, little blue boy, and wash off the eau de cologne."
Disillusioned: “Ah yes, those years of peace, full of man's kindness to men, with fascism and Nazism the fashionable purgative. We've come so far, haven't we? It's now such a happy world."
Tough: "You are as important to this department as my tonsils, which I lost some 40 years ago."
Witty: "Mr. White is not available. He's gone to perdition. Perdition, Nebraska."
Adam, or Miss Lonelyhearts, is the other side of the cob. "Adam is young," reads a script, "with a mind full of hopes and dreams. But there is muscle to back up the hopes and dreams. Adam searches for truth which at this point he cannot define. But if he ever stumbles on upon it, he will certainly be able to identify it."
Perhaps, but one wishes his mind was furnished more substantially. He certainly has an odd idea of the newspaper game. "It's dreary work," he tells Justy. "But in time a byline. And the chance to write words that count." (Words that are counted, would be more accurate.) He and Justy go through the prescribed exercises of a nice young couple, American-style. "You taste good, like orange," he tells her as they drink a carbonated beverage together. Later he grapples with the problem again: " I love you because you are possessive — a man wants to be wanted. [Rarely has the American male accepted his chains more gracefully.] And I love you for a long list of other things — because you're warm and soft in the right places — and your eyes are like cornflowers. Am I too poetical?"
Nathaniel West’s hero has rather a different style: "Betty the Buddha. You have the smug smile: all you need is the potbelly. What a kind bitch you are."
It is all very strange. Justy is a replica of Betty — the only character in fact who is carried over unchanged from the book into the film — that is, a very nice, wholesome, pretty and conventional girl. But Justy is accepted at face value by Schary’s hero who loves and cherishes her, while Betty is sneered at, humiliated, and relentlessly analyzed by West’s hero, perhaps because his mind is not furnished exclusively with hopes and dreams. Even more eerie is the way West's hero proposes to Betty: “He begged the party dress to marry him, saying all the things it expected to hear, all the things that went with strawberry sodas and farms in Connecticut. He was just what the party dress wanted him to be: simple and very sweet, whimsical and poetic, a trifle collegiate yet very masculine." This is precisely how Schary’s hero presents himself to Justy, except that he means it, while West’s hero doesn't, knows he doesn't, and is in fact in the last stages of schizophrenia. In the next, the final chapter, he becomes Christ and is shot as he rushes to embrace Doyle "with his arms spread for the miracle." Schary’s hero walks out into a new life with Justy on his arm: "We're going to start somewhere else, fresh." Why crucify Christ, after all?
"I see Lonelyhearts as a modern morality play," Schary says, "a good man who stands for something goes against Shrike’s nihilism. It's an unconventional picture. I knew I wouldn't have any chases or much outdoor stuff, none of the sure-fire things. I didn't use color because it's a serious film, not just entertainment, and there is no mood music because it's a film of talk and ideas and I felt that music would intrude. I thought it would go if the talk were good enough."
It isn't good enough, nor are the ideas.
"The reason movies are often so bad out here," Stanley Kubrick observed, "isn’t because the people who make them are cynically money hacks. Most of them are doing their very best they can. They really want to make good films. The trouble is with their heads, not their hearts."
Schary was one of the few major Hollywood executives with a liberal record. The first script he sold in Hollywood which he wrote in 1933 with Jerry Wald of all people was an indictment of the Hoover bread lines, entitled The Public Must Eat. Several years later he won an Oscar with the script for Boys Town, an inspirational salute to Father Flanagan's work, which was followed by two tributes to Thomas A. Edison, Young Tom Edison and Edison, The Man. His career as producer was marked by an extraordinary number of "message" films: The Boy With Green Hair, Bad Day At Black Rock, The Hoaxsters, Crossfire, Journey For Margaret, Joe Smith, American, The Next Voice You Hear, Blackboard Jungle; most of them were more worthy than interesting. Jerry Wald calls Schary "a Don Quixote, constantly fighting the windmills of opposition." The irony is unconscious but accurate, for Schary's "message" pictures have a way of missing the real problem and tediously examining a false issue as in Lonelyhearts. Or Schary battles the forces of Mammon on behalf of the little man, decency, democracy, art, love, etc. But man, whose name in this context is sentimentality, has put his seal on him so that as an artist he is part of the enemy he fights as an idealist. For all his intelligence and good intentions he has been so thoroughly saturated by mass culture — or to use a four letter word, corn — that he instinctively sees the world that way.
In reading Lillian Ross's Picture, one cannot but sympathize with Schary in his epic battle over The Red Badge of Courage with Louis B. Mayer, the symbol of all that was vulgar and mindless in the old Hollywood. One cannot but rejoice at his victory, soon followed by Mayer’s forced exit from MGM (which was itself, alas, shortly followed by Schary's ditto). Yet when the smoke cleared away, Schary insisted on cutting out most of the scenes that the director, John Houston, had particularly liked and that the preview audiences had particularly disliked. So, too, Lonelyhearts originally ended with Shrike, as Adam leaves the office, turning to the audience: "He hasn't got a chance, you know that. In the marketplaces of the republic, he'll be minced into hamburger. But, if he comes your way, give him a hand. He's a nice guy." (This was omitted before release.) In Henry James’ story, The Next Time, it will be recalled, Ray Limbert tries to write a facile, sentimental bestseller but art keeps breaking through and he dies in poverty. Dore Schary’s problem is in every way the opposite.
After he left MGM two years ago, Schary wrote an inspirational drama about Franklin D. Roosevelt's triumph over poliomyelitis, called Sunrise at Campobello, which he produced on Broadway (in collaboration with the Theatre Guild) which became a major hit. He has just produced another play with the Theatre Guild: Leonard Spiegelgass’s Majority of One, which concerns a Jewish widow (Gertrude Berg of "Molly Goldberg" fame on the radio) who goes to Tokyo and meets and is wooed by a rich Japanese industrialist (Sir Cedric Hardwick), and while one respects all efforts to reduce racial prejudice sometimes one has the feeling that things are getting out of hand. He has also nearly completed another play of his own, The Highest Tree, which he expects to stage soon.
Lonelyhearts opened in New York in February (and in London in June), got unfavorable reviews (quite a feat, by the way), and disappeared from its first run Time Square house speedily and abruptly. Schary has no plans at present for any future movies. His professional base seems to have shifted to the theater. He is selling Schary Manor, his rustic-tudor mansion in Hollywood, and he and Mrs. Schary are moving permanently to New York. “We felt strange in Hollywood when we went back last year," he says, "really out of things. I've been in the top level big studio crowd, but now I found I was an outsider. We didn't like it at all."
Despite its New York fiasco, the film may just conceivably do better in the provinces — the mass public is a wayward creature — but it seems more likely that Schary's return from Elba will follow the historical script.
BAY DELTA CONSERVATION PLAN'S TERMINAL FLAWS REMAIN
In spite of minor changes, tunnel plan is still a water grab
by Dan Bacher
(December 19) The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) officials today unveiled changes to Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the giant twin tunnels, including the elimination of the northern pumping plants at the proposed water intakes on the Sacramento River.
Delta advocates weren't impressed, responding that the "fatal" flaws of the water diversion project remain. These include taking water from the Sacramento River above the Delta, violating the Clean Water Act and hastening the extinction of Central Valley salmon and other species.
The cornerstone of the plan remains two massive tunnels, 40 feet in diameter, that would divert water from the Sacramento River and ship it over 30 miles away to the state and federal water project diversion canals near Tracy in the South Delta. The tunnel plan is opposed by a diverse coalition of fishing groups, Indian Tribes, family farmers, Delta residents, environmentalists and consumer advocates.
In a news release, the Brown administration and its federal partners claimed they had made "several significant changes" to the water conveyance portion of the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan, most notably the elimination of the need to build three pumping plants along the Sacramento near Hood.
"The changes were pursued over the past year in an effort to respond to the concerns of Delta landowners and others," according to DWR. "The changes, subject to further refinement, will be incorporated into the draft plan and Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement that were available for formal public comment until July 29."
They said changes will be "recirculated" for additional public comment in 2015, but didn't indicate a specific date or month when this would occur.
The changes announced today would:
- Eliminate three pumping plants on the east bank of the Sacramento River between Hood and Walnut Grove.
- "Minimize activity" on Staten Island, which provides important sandhill crane habitat, by removing tunnel launch facilities, large reusable tunnel material storage areas, a barge landing site, and high-voltage power lines.
- Increase use of property owned by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).
- Eliminate the need for additional permanent power lines to the intake locations in the north Delta, including near Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
- Eliminate impacts on Italian Slough (near Clifton Court Forebay) by removing an underground siphon.
- Reduce power requirements.
- Allow water to flow from the Sacramento River entirely by gravity at certain river stages.
- Reduce tunnel operation and maintenance costs.
"The changes would eliminate the need to build three separate two-story pumping plants along a five-mile stretch between Clarksburg and Courtland," DWR said. "The original plans to build three intakes screened for fish protection along that stretch of river would not change, but after extensive engineering analysis, DWR has determined that it is not necessary to also build pumping plants adjacent to each intake in order to move the water from the river and into tunnels."
Instead, water could be moved from the river into tunnels by a single new pumping plant constructed 40 miles away, at the end of the tunnels on DWR property near Clifton Court Forebay, according to DWR.
"The roughly 87-acre footprint of each intake would not change, but three 46,000-square-foot buildings would not be needed to house pumping plants. No permanent transmission lines, substations, and surge shafts would be needed, either. Facilities at the intakes would include fish screens in the river, sedimentation basins, drying lagoons, access roads, and control gate structures," DWR stated.
Fact sheets and visual simulations of the proposed changes to the northern intakes and Clifton Court Forebay are available at: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com.
Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Governor Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, said a "slight revision" of the proposed project removes none of the "fatal flaws," including removing water before it flows through the Delta and violating the Clean Water Act and degrading Delta families’ drinking water. The plan continues to threaten Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species with extinction.
“You can dress it up, you can dress it down by making the project look less industrial," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD executive director. "But if you divert the Sacramento River from the Delta, it will kill the SF Bay-Delta estuary. It is still a water grab and slightly lessening the construction impacts means nothing.”
Tunnel opponents once again called upon Governor Brown to “abandon the doomed project” and instead embrace a "sustainable water solution that is fair to all Californians." That solution includes reducing Delta water exports, strengthening Delta levees, and investing in regional water independence through sustainable programs.
“These minor changes appear to save money for the water-takers on construction and possibly operation costs, but they still do not address local concerns," said Osha Meserve, counsel for Local Agencies of the North Delta (LAND). “It is a misnomer to call the new configuration ‘gravity flow’ as if it will operate on its own."
"The river flows by gravity," she noted. "This system will still require pumps, and a tremendous amount of energy to operate. They have lost even more ability to operate the experimental intakes in ‘real time’ to protect fish, with the pumps so far away."
Meserve also pointed out that:
- Local tunnel critics have never focused on the pumping plant structures on their own as being a major concern, in contrast to claims by DWR officials. "It is misleading to say this minor project change addresses local concerns," said Meserve.
- The so-called temporary electricity transmission lines (10 years) are still a major bird strike concern. All they have proposed to mitigate this impact is to install bird diverters, which have limited effectiveness, especially in foggy or nighttime conditions.
"There is also no direct monitoring of bird strikes being proposed," said Meserve. "They intend to just do a population survey of the Greater sandhill cranes every five years to see if the population has changed. If it has gone down, it is not even clear what the response would be to assist in the crane’s survival."
- Taking some tunnel impacts (tunnel launch sites and muck) off of Staten just places them in other islands to the north and south. These areas also contain important bird habitat and productive farmland.
“84% of the water in low-water years would still have to be taken from the existing below-Delta pumps – continuing the massive fish killing that has gone on for decades and threatens extinction of salmon, smelt and other species," emphasized Barrigan-Parrilla. “The BDCP still takes the fresh water that presently flows through the Delta from above the northern Delta boundary, causing harm to the farmers who currently draw water within the Delta."
"The fight over the BDCP tunnels and the future of the Delta is California’s fight over whether we will have a sustainable economy and environment, or if we will succumb to the top 1% of corporate water interests controlling rivers, streams, fisheries, water rates, family farming, local development, and spending from the general fund – all in all – access to the California dream," Barrigan-Parrilla concluded.
The tunnels opponents outlined a sustainable solution to our water challenges. “We need to face the fact that the State has over allocated up to 5 times more water than is normally available in the Delta watershed,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “We need to invest in water recycling, conservation, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup, and new water-saving technologies that provide local jobs and reduce reliance on the over pumped Delta.”
The Environmental Water Caucus (EWC), a coalition of fishing groups, environmental organizations and Indian Tribes, proposes an alternative that reduces water exports to a more sustainable level, in order to permit recovery of the Delta while maintaining water supplies for both Delta and south of Delta water users. The "Responsible Exports (RX) Plan" sets a cap on water exports of 3 million acre feet in all years. (http://www.restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/RESPONSIBLE-EXPORTS-PLAN-MAY-2013.pdf)
In contrast, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is based on the absurd contention that diverting more water from the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas will "restore" it. In reality, the BDCP will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperiling salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
In an extreme case of corporate greenwashing, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, under the guise of "habitat restoration," will take vast tracts of Delta farmland out of agricultural production in order to irrigate toxic, drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley owned by powerful corporate agribusiness interests.
For more information, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org