Mass Killings In the US

August 5, 2019

After the two latest mass killings in the States this weekend, President Trump declared that a primary cause of these killings was that kids play too many violent video games.

“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace,” Trump said in the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.”

One simple chart proves him wrong, as usual:

Of course, this Administration never likes to have facts get in the way of a good campaign speech.

Thanks to Vox for this.


R.I.P. Barrington Pheloung

August 3, 2019

Barrington Pheloung, one of the most innovative and interesting music composers on TV, has died.

Famous for his theme to the Morse TV series, he also contributed the incidental music for the series, including in his work complex clues to the drama being shown.

“The classical-inspired melancholy score earned the musician global acclaim and a Bafta Award nomination for best original music. Pheloung said the success was down to the show’s unconventional two-hour time slot, which allowed him to write more intricate musical cues.”

He also composed the main themes for both the sequel (Lewis) and prequel (Endeavour) series.


A Screen By Any Other Name …

June 11, 2019

We are, apparently, at the very cusp  of history where the use of mobile screens by US adults exceeds the use of TV screens.

“We’ve expected that mobile would overtake TV for a while, but seeing it happen is still surprising,” said Yoram Wurmser, eMarketer principal analyst. “As recently as 2014, the average US adult watched nearly 2 hours more TV than they spent on their phones.”  What are people spending time on their devices doing? They’re consistently spending the bulk of their time using apps over web browsers, with the average person spending 2:57 in apps vs. 0:26 on a mobile browser. Within apps, people spent the most time listening to digital audio, followed by social network activity. “Digital audio apps continue to add minutes because people are streaming more music on their phones, and podcasts have taken off in popularity in the past few years,” Wurmser said.

The movies begat television, and television begat YouTube, Fortnite and music streaming on smart phones.  What happens next?

R.I.P. Doris Day

May 13, 2019

Doris Day, one of the last survivors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, has died aged 97.


When stars were stars, she shined.

And The Rich Get Richer….

March 15, 2019

Back in January, I reported on an Author’s Guild report that showed the average income for a full time writer in the US in 2017 was just $20,300.  Of course, averages are a function of the highest and the lowest figures available.

Literary Hub has compiled a list of the high numbers over the last ten years. These are the estimated incomes of the top writers since 2008:

1. James Patterson : $836 million
2. J. K. Rowling : $546 million
3. Stephen King : $259 million
4. Danielle Steel : $231 million
5. John Grisham : $192 million
6. Jeff Kinney : $165 million
7. E. L. James (Tie) : $153 million
7. Janet Evanovich (Tie) : $153 million
9. Nora Roberts : $128 million
10. Suzanne Collins : $114 million
11. Dan Brown : $111 million
12. Dean Koontz : $101 million
13. Rick Riordan : $91.5 million
14. Stephenie Meyer : $75 million
15. Ken Follett : $68 million
16. George R. R. Martin : $60.5 million
17. Veronica Roth (Tie) : $52 million
18. Bill O’Reilly (Tie) : $52 million
19. Nicholas Sparks : $46 million
20. John Green : $45 million
21. Tom Clancy : $35 million
22. David Baldacci : $26 million
23. Paula Hawkins : $23 million
24. Gillian Flynn : $22 million
25. Michael Wolff : $13 million

Extraordinary numbers, I think. They prove the power of TV and movies to vastly expand the earning capacity of the novels, especially those in series.

And they show, as if we needed more evidence, that the inequality of rewards inherent in capitalism are just as prevalent in cultural industries as in any other.

My Fair Lady: Another Perspective

March 13, 2019

In the summer before I was 12, my father was working for several months at Victorine Studios in Nice. He took a furnished suite on the Promenade des Anglais overlooking the beach and my mother, my 13-year old cousin Pauline, and I spent a wonderful summer in the south of France.  Pauline and I learned some French, turned a deep shade of brown, and generally had a really good time.

However, some days were rainy or too cloudy to spend time at the beach or wandering the alleys. We found ourselves stuck in the apartment with little to do.  This was 1961, pre-screens of any kind.  Pauline had a portable turn-table but didn’t have any records. For reasons that are beyond me now, I had a Shadows’ 4-song EP and a long-playing recording of the London staging of My Fair Lady. We played them endlessly. By the end of that summer I knew every lyric and every bit of phrasing in the musical. And my enjoyment of those tunes has stuck with me through all these years.

I guess it was that sixty-year fascination that drew me to read Digging In To The Queer Subtext of My Fair Lady, a fascinating and illuminating view of the writing of the show and then the movie by Alan Lerner in the context of homosexuality in the late 1950s.

“[Henry] Higgins is certainly coded as a certain gay stereotype. He is a lifelong bachelor, an upper-class man of means, sophisticated and bored. He is a snob who lives with another man. He’s well-dressed, worldly, and knowledgeable about culture. He expresses a preference for men as well, but since this is the 50s, sexuality and the deed itself must always remain in the offing, forever the tension beneath the surface of the moment … For many viewers, it is the sexual tension between Higgins and Eliza that creates the movie’s mystique. But for others, it’s the tension of ambiguity that draws us in.”

As an 11-year old in 1961, I was not yet woke to the misogyny of Why Can’t A Woman Be ore Like A Man? and certainly the ambiguity of the relationship between Higgins and Colonel Pickering in their repartee flew over my head.

The article goes on to discuss the double life of the movie’s director, George Cukor.

“Cukor could go to elegant houses in the afternoons and sip high tea with titled ladies—and he could live an active homosexual life behind closed doors—as long as those two worlds never intersected … If they did, there might be scandal, damage to his career, revelation, and humiliation.”

There is a suggestion that, “with Cukor as My Fair Lady’s director, it’s possible that a pulse of homosexuality beats at the story’s core.”   However, with the Higgins-Eliza love angle accented in the movie (compared to the stage musical), and the playing down of Pickering’s character, Cukor was playing it safe.

“Lerner’s My Fair Lady, first and foremost, seeks to entertain. It still makes commentaries on gender, but the directors left an undercurrent of the sexual unknown to entice the audience. Cukor attempted to strip away anything in the movie that might hurt its sales. What he left was a movie that, while delightful, allows the audience to assume what it wants.”

Well worth the read.

R.I.P. Albert Finney

February 8, 2019


I started my movie going in the 1950s and early 1960s when British screens and stages were newly dominated by socially-realistic kitchen sink dramas and a group of actors and writers who became known as the Angry Young Men. My father loved this stuff and took me to see everything that we could.  It was from this early exposure that I first got to see the prodigiously talented Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Like any actor with a long career, there are movies of Finney’s that I don’t care for. But his extraordinary performances in Saturday Night, The Dresser, Miller’s Crossing, Under The Volcano, Erin Brockovich, and Big Fish among others are always worth the time.

He’ll be missed.