My vision is bad but my sense of smell is keen. I could smell a fire before you ever saw it
Heng Liu

Remembering Venice - Oki Kenji
Click images for desktop size: “Remembering Venice” by Oki Kenji
I liked Obama’s response to Bush’s State Of The Union Address.
I didn’t like the State Of The Union. It only showed that Bush has no contact with the people of this country. He’s off in a millionaires dream of endless dividends at no cost to himself.
I took a long walk today with my puppy and the good dog. Guilty Bystander It was a cold nasty day. The snow is melting and becoming icy slush.
I noticed that people who live on steep hills are the worst at keeping their walks cleaned, shoveled or walkable.
I slipped a couple of times but I didn’t fall once. I think that disappointed the dogs.
Either I’m adapting to this type of climate or the dogs efforts to kill me are becoming less genuine.
While I was walking I realized that I was unconsciously avoiding stepping on any cracks in the sidewalk. I think I’ve been doing that since I was 5.
When I became aware of it I tried to alter my stride to either step on the cracks or to pay them no mind. I couldn’t do it. My stride would revert and I kept avoiding them. All because of that rhyme, “Step on a crack and break your mother’s back.”
I have no idea why that should be so ingrained. I probably don’t want to find out.

Last night I was completely alone. Or as alone as you can be with dogs.
I watched Brad Pitt’s, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”. An ungainly title for an ungainly film.
I like the legend of Jesse James. Thanks to Henry Fonda I prefer the legend of Frank James. I like that in the far west there are still old timers who will champion Frank James and look sympathetically at Jesse.
When I was in Missouri I went to this place called Mermac Caverns, or something close to that. I went there because it was one of the old hide outs of Jesse James when he ran with the Daltons and the Youngers.
Dove
Click images for desktop size: “Dove” by Unknown
You have to be some kind of legend to get me to spend twelve bucks to look in a hole in the ground because once, you may have stood there.
I can’t explain the world’s fascination or even my own fascination with Jesse James. That doesn’t matter much. What bothers me is that Brad Pitt and Andrew Dominik (The writer/director) have less of a clue than I do.
One thing I have to say is that the movie runs over 2 and one half hours . . . of which 1/3rd seems to be overly dramatic time lapsed shots of evangelical skies.
I was wondering why all the characters didn’t have vertigo. Maybe Jesse killed so many because he had a horrible case of motion sickness.
Every event that happens in a man’s life, no matter how portentous, is not accompanied or proceeded by 30 seconds of vast whirling clouds.
Hell's Five Hours There’ve been an amazing amount of screen portrayals of Jesse James. For my money the most memorable were Tyrone Powers romantic but legendary portrayal, Robert Duvall’s sociopath psychotic and James Keach’s cardboard cutout.
Brad Pitt’s interpretation borrows heavily from the latter two. His Jesse James tries to be legendary but comes off as a psychotic stick figure. He makes the character confusing and erratic with no solid line of light or plastic reality to hold on to.
This isn’t helped much by Pitt’s and the writer’s bizarre point that Jess was suicidal . . . huh? This is explained (in their minds anyway) by Jess walking out onto a frozen river and shooting at his reflection in the ice while talking about suicide. Its a pretty stupid scene.
Casey Affleck’s Robert Ford is just annoying. The guy is working hard but the part is just unbearably half baked. Robert Ford shot Jesse James in the back because he idolized him and wanted to be famous . . . I guess I could accept that but I don’t think I need to be clubbed over the head with it repeatedly. And repeatedly.
Hugh Ross does the narration. Once in a while a narrator can be an interesting addition to a move. Not often and certainly not when the narrators main purpose seems to be to explain what the heck is happening and to convey things that the director and actors seem incapable of.
At it’s least offensive the narration reminded me of a droning history teacher who seemed intent on draining the excitement of the acts buried in our books.
What seems amazing to me is that this Andrew Dominik was able to convince these people to sink their millions into this movie and moreover that Dominik himself should be the eye that told the story!
I watched it to the end. Because its a western and, like a million other things I know I’ll never get to do, I’ll never have a time machine that will take me back so I can see these things for myself.
Still Life - Ring de Pieter
Click images for desktop size: “Still Life” by Ring de Pieter
Then I watched a Chinese movie, “Assembly”.
It shows how dumb I can be. I never imagined that a war movie from Mainland China would be out the People’s Liberation Army.
The first hour is really spent introducing us to Captain Gi. He’s been in the army since 1939 when they were fighting the Japanese. (WWII – its fashionable to forget that they were in that war too) We find him fighting the the USA sponsored National Army. The National Army has American tanks and artillery. The People’s Army has home made howitzers and molotov cocktails.
What’s fascinating is there isn’t a big deal made about this inequity. The only real point was that the Nationals had better boots and jackets. That was pushed because it becomes a major plot point.
The first 2/3rds of this movie is battle. I would say it owes something to Speilberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” in that it is unflinching in its devastation and in the effect modern war fare has on the human body.
Highway Dragnet It is fabulous heroic action footage. Unbelievably well done. Unbelievably gripping, touching on cliches and expanding them to reality.
Captain Gi and his 47 men are given an impossible task. To hold a strip of land until they here the bugler play “Assembly”.
They all die except for Captain Gi. He is the sole survivor. The Chinese don’t quite believe who he is because he was found shot and burned and broken but wearing the jacket and boots of the enemy.
Then the film takes a deeply fascinating turn.
I can say that the Chinese have figured out how to make movies. This one delivers in ways that Brad Pitt’s film doesn’t even hint at. I was half expecting commie propaganda. If its there it is so skillfully enmeshed that I missed it.
During the Korean War Americans are not shown as a much hated enemy or even a force. They come across as well meaning bunglers more than anything else.
The biggest personal villain seems to be Chairman’s Mao’s incredible byzantine and intractable bureaucracy! And its disregard for the individual.
A man who is killed in the war receives 700 pounds of rice for being a war hero. A living war hero gets a ticket home. A man missing in action presumed dead gets 200 pounds of rice for his family. A funny price to put on things.
Sometimes Love Is Pain
Click images for desktop size: “Sometimes Love Is Pain”
Gi spends the rest of the film trying to find the battlefield and the remains of his company. He walks through a graveyard full of hundreds of markers for unknown soldiers. “Their mothers gave them names. Why is it now that they are nameless.”
He finds the battlefield and discovers that miners are using the dead soldiers helmets as piss pots. He gathers up the helmets and washes them in a stream and then puts them on the unknown soldiers grave markers.
And then he finds out that his company was sacrificed. They were left to die. And the man who gave the order was a friend who is now dead and past Gi’s vengeance. His whole purpose in life is now, to find the bodies of his men and see them honored.
Its a beautiful movie. Sharp, unstinting and devoid of agitprop.
It’s a true story.
Very much worth seeing but the opening hour is more harrowing than any war film since Fuller.

I have to cut things short. I think I’m getting sick.

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