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Why Pierre Boulle Didn't Pick Up His Own Oscar

A little Youtube glimpse into history here: the presentation of a couple of Academy Awards in 1958. I love video: it's a time machine with a built-in lie detector. You can catch these people doing shifty things, and thinking nobody will ever wise up. Little did they know...

Here, you can witness Bob Hope telling an inordinate number of very bad, often tasteless jokes, particularly about the USSR. Cold War humour, who needs it? In addition to mocking the Soviets, Hope takes equally unappealing potshots at television, then the movie industry's most feared rival. With material like that, Bob, we know why we watched TV - and why the Oscars were such a big yawn. Notice how Hope's eyes shift around - he reminds me of the Vice President of that time (Nixon). Was that look born of the distrustful mood of the era?

But the worst moment comes AFTER all the bad wisecracks. It's when the insanely grinning Cheerful Fairy, Miss Doris Day, and the as-ever hangdog Clark Gable show up and award the Oscar for writing an adapted screenplay to...wait for it...

Pierre Boulle, for adapting his own 'Bridge on the River Kwai'.

Now, this was why I hunted down the video. I didn't know who picked up Boulle's award. Ah, here comes Kim Novak, doing things with her dress she should have done in the ladies' room. She manages to blurt out something about how she and others were 'proud of' this fine film (as they should have been, but why must she mention her boss Harry Cohn? Considering the rumours about the producer, female stars, and casting couches, it's really bad taste), and then she teeters off on her high heels, apparently relieved to get out of there.

They couldn't have let Boulle accept the award. It might have become obvious that he didn't speak English. And it might have dawned on even their despised TV audience that Pierre Boulle hadn't adapted his own superb novel to the screen.

But then, nobody wanted to admit that Carl Foreman was one of the two who'd done it. Both of them had been blacklisted. Carl Foreman was a Commie (he'd actually belonged to the CPUSA for about 10 years.) Carl Foreman was hiding in the UK.

The Brits gave him a CBE. Good for them.

Want to see this short video, now that you know the subtext? Here it is:

The lingering question is: just how clueless WAS Doris Day? Ah, que sera, sera.

smiley - dragon

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Latest reply: 2 Weeks Ago

A Writer's Dream Job: Patriot-ic Instructor

I've just stumbled across a gem in today's writing job listings.

Wait for it...

Patriot IM Instructor/Writer

I couldn't quite believe it, so I had to read the ad. Yes, it's for somebody to write and deliver instructions on operating a Patriot missile. To foreign customers. You have to draw up the lesson plans and make up exams, too.

I'm imagining these exams. I'm trying hard not to, but I am. I have never had the good fortune to make up an exam that goes 'boom!' in my life. What an opportunity.

The company insists they are Equal Opportunity Employers. They will hire qualified people regardless of race, creed, national origin, or sexual preference. Apparently, there's no need to ask or tell when you're aiming that kind of hardware.

There's one snag, though. You have to have a Secret clearance.

Well, that lets me out. Once they find out about Nigel and the aliens, I'm off missile teaching duty for-evah.

Still, it was an entertaining five minutes.

I won't mention the company's name. They might know where I live.

smiley - dragon

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Latest reply: 3 Weeks Ago

Confessions of an Inadvertent Subversive

It's official - at least, in Colorado. For most of this year, yours truly was engaged in anti-American activity. (Who said, 'So what else is new?' Quiet in the back.)

Until last week, I swear, nobody I talked to knew what the acronym APUSH stood for. I knew it, because I was writing lessons for a course in it. It stands for 'Advanced Placement US History'. How could this course, which teaches students to research, think about, and discuss our nation's history, be anti-American?

It's that pesky 'thinking' part. Certain school boards and legislators don't like it. Particularly in Texas and Colorado. According to these folks, the APUSH framework causes students to think about the 'negative' aspects of US history, such as, for example, slavery, the atomic bomb, or Japanese internment. As opposed to concentrating on the Good Stuff, like Betsy Ross' flag, cowboys, and the invention of air conditioning (which is on the curriculum in Texas, trust me, I know).

When the school board in Jefferson County, Colorado, started debating the AP material, the students went out in protest. See? said the outraged members. That's all that stuff is good for - it places way too much emphasis on civil disobedience. Well, duh. It's kind of hard to teach a history that involves those Philadelphia and Boston hotheats WITHOUT talking about civil disobedience. Do you want us to condemn Ben Franklin, who famously said, 'We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately'? Sheesh.

Anyway, a very witty update on the controversy can be found here:

I note with great satisfaction this statement from the article, 'Still, it’s good to know that the Colorado Board of Education welcomes a diverse range of opinions about reality.' The author strongly suggests that these folks might support the Physics concept of Intelligent Falling, and provides a link:,1778/

Note source of link. We approve of this brand of science. We also agree that it fits right in with the level of discourse in Colorado.

Here's the problem: a soundbite about the idea that the history teachers have got it All Wrong Again plays well on the nightly news. Inviting people into a nuanced argument about how hard it is to teach history these days, and what kind of skill-set you're trying to help the student develop - well, isn't. It seems a bit of an imposition to ask them to put in that much thinking time.

That's the problem: thinking. It's painful, and we don't like it. Much better to get the soundbite version.

Hurrah for those students, though. They WANT to think. Maybe they should read The Onion instead of their local newspaper.

smiley - dragon

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Latest reply: 4 Weeks Ago

What Scared Albert Einstein

What could possibly terrify Albert Einstein? After all, the famed physicist had the courage to face the awesome spectre of curved space-time. What would make him tremble?

A train. When William Gillette was driving.

Everybody's heard of Einstein, but these days, most people would say, 'William Gillette? Did he make razor blades?' Er, no. He was the most famous actor in the world around 1900. He invented Sherlock Holmes for the stage. He also made a pile of money. Being an enthusiastic sort of person with a zest for living, he spent his dough on houseboats - the first one was called 'Holy Terror' - and later on building a 24-room castle on a mountaintop in his native Connecticut. That's where he built the railroad, too. He'd loved trains all his life, not surprising since they were a new technology when he was a kid. At 72, he finally had a train of his own to play with. Gillette invited his friends over to take rides on the 3-mile mountainous track: President Calvin Coolidge, actors Charlie Chaplin and Helen Hayes, and the nervous Familie Einstein.

They even made a little film of it. Here it is:

Einstein did some thought-experiment work with trains. Maybe he and Gillette were on the same mental track after all...

As Gillette was the first to say, 'It's elementary, my dear fellow.'

smiley - dragon

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Latest reply: 4 Weeks Ago

Freebie Sci-Fi Film Tip: Just Imagine (1930)

We laughed. We loved this film. We had to share it.

In 1930, three years into the talkie era, Fox made this terrific musical sci-fi adventure.

It's got time travel, sort of. It's got social commentary. It's got space adventure - boldly going. Unfortunately, it also has singing, but you can fast forward. And it's got unbelievable jokes. You'll like the jokes.

All that and Maureen O'Sullivan. (Mia Farrow's mom.)

Apparently, in the 1980s, life is strange. Everybody in New York flies around in planes, kind of like in 'The Fifth Element'. (The planes are made by Jewish inventors, take that, Henry Ford, they say. That's a 1930 dig at the anti-semitic Ford.) In addition:

- Food comes in pill form.
- Everybody has flat-screen video telephones.
- Sexism is worse than ever.
- Babies come out of vending machines. ('In the year 2525...')
- Prohibition is expected to be lifted any year now...

You get the idea. 1930's fears: creeping fascism, anti-feminist backlash, rampant technology. 1930's hope: somehow, humans make it with a smile. This is wittier than you expect.

Ole Peterson ]Philadelphia actor El Brendel] is struck by lightning in 1930, but is revived in 1980, and brings back his vaudeville act. J-21 wants to marry LN-18, but he's got to prove himself by going to Mars in a spaceship. He, Peterson, and his best buddy RT-42 make the trip in something that looks a lot like a tube of roll-on deodorant with a large boiler inside. The Martians are friendly - well, SOME of them are. It's a sort of bipolar planet, as you'll see.

Okay, it's not CGI, but the effects aren't bad, and the jokes are surprising. ('She's not the queen, HE is.')

Enjoy this. I defy you not to. Dig the airline pilots' drinking song, and their dress uniforms...the 1980s Tyrolean hats...oh, the fashion sense...oh, the humanity...

This film will broaden your sci-fi horizons.

smiley - dragon

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Latest reply: 5 Weeks Ago

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