Thursday, November 11, 2021

Absent Friends

 You Know Who They Are

"We have done so much with so little for so long that we could do anything with nothing forever".

Mozart: Concerto For Clarinet and Orchestra; 2nd Movement, Adiago

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Reprint Heaven Forever: Lennon

  John Lennon: October 9, 1940

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass; they slip away, across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on, across the universe;
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way,
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open views; inviting and inciting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me
Like a million suns; it calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world...

Across The Universe (Lennon / McCartney, 1969)

We don't care what flag you're waving,
We don't even want to know your name,
We don't care where you're from or where you're going,
All we know is that you came;

You're making all our decisions,
We have just one request of you,
That while you're thinking things over,
Here's something you just better do:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well we were caught with our hands in the air,
Don't despair paranoia is everywhere,
We can shake it with love when we're scared,
So let's shout it aloud like a prayer:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now

We understand your paranoia,
But we don't want to play your game;
You think you're cool and know what you are doing,
666 is your name;
So while your jerking off each other,
You better bear this thought in mind:
Your time is up you better know it,
But maybe you don't read the signs

Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well you were caught with your hands in the kill,
And you still got to swallow your pill,
As you slip and you slide down the hill,
On the blood of the people you killed

Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now...

The Soul Of America reminds me.

I am reminded to remember, remember, the 8th of December.

Something About Him Was Always A Kick-Out-The-Jambs,
Saturday-Night's-All-Right-For-Fighting Liverpudlian Rebel

Speak, Memory: One of the two arrests we made that day hadn't gone well. After putting the car in the basement garage at the Federal Building, I'd walked up the underground ramp to the street, intending to buy my second pack of Marlboros of the day from the liquor store up the next block. Stepping inside, I looked down at a stack of the early edition of a paper which isn't even around any longer, lying on the counter below the cash register with a banner headline in 48-point type: JOHN LENNON SLAIN.  Fuck; I thought, and then said it out loud.  

Hard to remember the birthday without the other day.  So: Absent Friends. Happy Birthday, John.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Twenty Years

(An earlier version was posted originally in September, 2010)

On November 22, 1963, I was on the playground for 10:00AM recess at my elementary school when teachers called classes back inside prematurely. We were told to sit quietly in our desks. When asked, our teacher told us nervously that President Kennedy had been shot.

After a few minutes, the school's public address system was broadcasting CBS' radio network, announcing the shooting of JFK in Dallas and, ultimately, the audio portion of Walter Cronkite on CBS television announcing the President's death.

Where were you when JFK was shot? was a standard question a large number of Americans (now referred to as 'Useless Boomers') asked each other, due to the magnitude of the event and because it was shared in real-time by the primary media of the early 1960's -- radio and television.

So, September 11th, 2001: Where were you on 9-11? I had gotten up to go to work around 5:30AM here in California, and turned on KQED-FM's NPR news. After stepping out of the shower, I heard a report that a "plane" appeared to have crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. I lived briefly in Manhattan in the late 70's and had seen just how huge those buildings were -- and to me, "a plane" meant an aircraft like a Cessna or something similar.

Getting ready to shave, I remembered a 1945 newsreel about a B-25, flying through dense fog over Manhattan and plowing directly into the Empire State Building. A similar incident at the WTC would be tragic, I thought; but it was an accident, and on the other side of the continent, distant. I sighed, and I shaved.

Not long after, NPR updated its report; I heard the words "jet airliner", which moved the entire event from 'Cessna-off-course' to the category of Well-This-Was-No-Boating-Accident; Did-You-Call-The-Coast-Guard-About-This?

Turning on CNN, I sat on the edge of an armchair, watching an image of the WTC towers from the roof of CNN's Manhattan headquarters, roughly two miles away. One tower looked like a chimney, a boiling cloud of black smoke drifting away into an otherwise cloudless sky. 

Aaron Brown was reporting, taking phone calls directed from witnesses in the vicinity -- only one of whom, the doorman at the World Trade Centers Marriott, was close enough to report on anything immediate and consequential. 

A CNN-affiliate local news helicopter, hovering over the Hudson, provided a closer perspective of the damage. One extended telephoto shot was of the façade of the Tower on fire; I was looking at the pattern of the cladding of the building, a huge, black gash angled across it. I saw occasional clouds of small white shapes fluttering in the smoke, like flocks of birds, swirling -- and realized they were sheets of paper, reams of it, drifting out of the building's broken windows. 

Just as that thought registered, at the right-hand edge of the screen, I saw a darker object drop quickly, straight down and out of frame, for just a moment. I didn't know it then, but I had just seen one of roughly two hundred people that morning who fell or jumped from the Towers' upper floors.

The Falling Man: Photograph By Richard Drew / AP

Images Like This Were Broadcast And Published
In Europe, But Not In America (Photo: UK Telegraph, 2001)

A few minutes later, I watched as the second airliner slammed into the other WTC tower. Aside from profane shock, the only thing I recall thinking was, This is what standing at the curb in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, watching the Archduke Franz Ferdinand being shot, was like. This is what living through history is like. 

I've seen large-scale explosions and been in crazy environments, for real, but the scale of what I was watching made it all seem unreal; special effects. I sat in the armchair, watching, as first the South, then the North towers collapsed (Wikipedia's timeline of the events puts that at 6:59 and 7:28 AM PDST, respectively). News of a third plane crashing into the Pentagon was broadcast; I began flipping back and forth between networks for coverage. 

Finally, I left to make my way to work on mass transit. On a BART train, I was amazed at the languid attitudes of the crowd of commuters -- reading books and newspapers, a few tapping on laptops and Blackberries -- as if it were just another Tuesday morning. People were subdued, but not because anyone appeared stunned; there was no conversation about what had just occurred.

Finally, I turned to a woman sitting opposite me, reading a folded copy of the (pre-Little Rupert) Wall Street Journal, and asked if she was aware of what had happened that morning. "Yes," she replied, adding in a deadpan, matter-of-fact voice, "There are supposed to be more of them [i.e., airliners] in the air to hit other targets." Had anyone estimated how many? "No," the woman shrugged, and went back to her WSJ. 

At work, everyone was released to return home after Noon. I went to a friend's house, where we sat watching CNN. Clips of the second Tower being struck, and of each one falling, replayed endlessly, interspersed with hourly updates and commentary by subject matter experts.

I made a few phone calls, primarily to The Last Of The Old Unit ("Fuckin' glad we're not eighteen right now," one observed). My friends and I sat, watching, barely taking a break. We were expecting more information, something to allow everything we had seen to make sense.

We also knew we weren't going to get it -- the dice had been rolled, and we wouldn't find any clarification until they had bounced off the back of the craps table and come to rest. They're still bouncing; they haven't stopped yet. They never really will. That's how history works. 

That was September 11th -- a red line on the American calendar, the culmination of so many threads in our history going back to 1898 and 1917, the choices successive administrations have made since America decided to follow an Imperial course.

The attack on the Trade Center towers could have been another kind of defining moment for America. Our government and institutions could have taken it as an opportunity to press for a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy; we could have opened a dialog with others, rather than dictate to them.

Lil' Boots, 2004 Republican Convention: Feared And Bigger Than His Daddy, At Last

I'm not suggesting a Kumbyah moment; it was a crossroads moment, and our choices mattered. But, the government was run by men who had no interest in anything except power (personal, partisan, and financial) and policies that meant the use of force in furthering that power. 

The people "Lil' Boots" surrounded himself with were Project For A New American Century neo-imperialists. After Bush's inauguration on January 20, 2001, they were discussing how to invade Sadaam Hussein's Iraq. What else could we have expected from the likes of Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld? From Fat Karl Rove, Little Tommy DeLay, and Lard Boy?

September 11th: Simply An Excuse

And, they believed it would be simple, 'Roses All The Way', 'Greeted As Liberators' ... so no one planned for occupation, or fighting an insurgency for seven years; or for the effect on the U.S. military of multiple redeployments and 'stop-loss' denials of separation. They never conceived of failure; therefore, it wouldn't happen.

What followed from 9/11 shouldn't have been a surprise: An utterly unnecessary, even illegal invasion of Iraq, supported by intelligence about WMD's invented by right-wing operatives to create a causis beli, and pushed by sociopathic egos 'journalists' like Little Judy Miller, and pundits like David Brooks and William Kristol, and Little Tommy Friedman, to name only a few.

Palettes Of $100 Bills, Baghdad, 2003 (Photo: UK Guardian)

And let's not forget the $12 Billion in cash (at least; no one really knows), piles of U.S. currency shrink-wrapped and paletted and airlifted to Iraq. Some $9 Billion in cash cannot be accounted for. And all the cool new powers used by that dry-drunk, Frat-Boy younger son of an American ruling-class family; or all the power available to President Cheney. 

There was plenty of money to put in C530's and airlift it: 363 Tons of it. There was plenty of money being made from the war, and tax breaks to the wealthy, which reduced tax income to the government. It was a good time to be part of the Carlyle Group.

But, Lil' Boots wanted to cut health care, privatize Social Security; cut any social programs continuing the pact between government and citizens that was at the heart of FDR's New Deal... because, he claimed, there was just no money to pay for that. Because of the war, you see.

And there was Guantanamo, CIA 'black airlines' flying suspected terrorists to secret prisons, and the extra-legal, secret program of 'renditions'. Let's not forget Abu Ghirab. Let's not forget people like John Woo, whose written opinions created what he still claims is a "legal" basis for torture as national policy.

Civilian Casualty Of Baghdad Suicide Car Bomb, 2007

And what followed wasn't just prisons and a lack of due process for terrorist suspects, but developing a matrix of information [see Edward Snowden's revelations about the extent of surveillance performed by America's intelligence agencies], based on the unprecedented data-mining of domestic email and cellular telephone traffic, of banking records and public record databases; a government/corporate State surveillance and intelligence apparatus that outstrips the wildest dreams of the Gestapo and the KGB.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Being Interrogated At
Undisclosed Location By CIA In Middle Of Blog Rant

And, very little seemed to be about defeating Al-Qaeda, capturing or killing Bin Laden and Al-Zwahiri -- otherwise, we would have finished the job in the mountains of Tora Bora in October of 2002. Iraq would never have mattered. We would have kept promises to the Afghans about rebuilding their country, instead of ignoring it -- at least half the reason the Taliban were eventually able to come roaring back.

The 'Go-Go', Lil' Boots Bush years were about a larger Rightist agenda; it was about deregulation, defense contractors, profits; and it was about Fat Karl's dream of rigging elections for permanent Republican rule of the United States. Victory, to these assclowns, had a very different meaning. The portion of it that was military was just a backdrop for Bush and his cronies: Mission Accomplished.

We've had an economic collapse in 2008; eight years of neoliberal nothing, followed by four years of proto-Fascism; we're still wading through the swamp of a two-year pandemic; an attempted coup; and roughly 37% of America's adult population claiming to believe that bulletin-board posts by an anonymous fraudster are more real than mathematics, science, or common sense. 

This blessed 37%  refuse to accept the vaccines for SARS-CoV2. They refuse to wear masks. They do this to "Own The Libs". They are injecting themselves with special magic pony blessed horse juice, or screeching that the Blood Of The Jezus is all they need.

These are the same unvaccinated persons crowding into ED's, taking ward beds in hospitals; filling the ICUs. As I write this, America is losing roughly the same number of people to Covid-19 as were killed on September 11th. Every - Single - Day.

Frequently, since September 11th, 2001 a quote by Bush (whom we are supposed to think well of now; let the healing begin) comes back to me:
We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: In history's unmarked grave of discarded lies. (Applause)

-- George W. Bush, Address To Joint Session Of Congress
Is that appropriate as an epitaph for those who wish to do America harm? Or, does it speak to how we have allowed ourselves to be lied to, and led; will it end up being our epitaph, a closing quote for the United States Of America?
There is no ‘populist’ version of a world where some few are born booted and spurred, and the many are born saddled, and ready to ride, and that's precisely the world which conservatism is trying to preserve.


MEHR, MIT DIE WITZEN:  As usual, What Digby Said (or Dennis Hartley, in this case).


Monday, September 6, 2021

Random Barking Reprint: Taliban

 Someone Else Today. You Tomorrow.
(Originally From March, 2015)

This bill is not about discrimination... [the purpose of the legislation] is very simply to empower individuals when they believe that actions of government impinge on their constitutional First Amendment freedom of religion... 
-- Indiana Governor Mark Pence, to ABC's George Stephanopolis

SB 101: Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest... Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding ... Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability... Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer... (The RFRA, per the Indiana General Assembly)

I had intended to post a long rant on the perfidy and outright evil which characterize right-wing evangelism in America, but we'll just take those items as a given.

SB 101 isn't the first law passed in even recent memory allowing a minority in political control to enshrine their intolerance with the force of legislation -- in this case, evangelical christians (with a small "c") and their god-given (well, somebody's god, anyway) right to condemn -- in this case, LGBT Americans. And evangelicals love to condemn; being a True Believer seems to gives them the authority to do that, filled with Grace™ and love as they are.

And our right-wing evangelicals want to be the dominant authority -- over women, over children, over education and art and sexuality. Our evangelicals, like the Taliban, would like to enact their own version of religious law in America -- and religious law is not about uplifting and empowering the human spirit; it's based on Thou Shalt Not.

Religious law of whatever flavor (and there are few exceptions) is based on the fundamental precept that Humans are bad, stained from birth with evil, who must be carefully watched by the Elders and restricted from committing more acts which The Elders believe are affronts against (somebody's) god.

And (as is always true in less democratic forms of governing), the force of religious law always rests on ultimate punishment. Those who break these laws are whipped and disfigured, have parts of their bodies crudely amputated; are tortured until they confess their crimes; are stoned to death, beheaded, or burned at the stake. And the entire community will be made to watch, or may be required to participate in a ritualized killing... as a religious requirement. As an object lesson.

And nations ruled by True Believers and their edicts -- religious, or political -- always become bankrupt cultures; shabby, frightening, and ultimately murderous places.  Ask the Muslims of Serbia and Croatia. Ask the Tutsis of Rawanda. Ask the Rohingya of Myanmar. Ask the people of Cambodia. Ask the people of Afghanistan. Ask the Jews of Europe.

(A Dog has a long memory:  The last member of my family had been a born-again evangelical; for a time, they were associated with a tiny sect, organized around a self-proclaimed 'pastor'. After a long illness, my family member died; at the funeral, I watched the 'pastor' turn what was a moment of grief and remembrance into his opportunity to tell a captive audience, at length, that their time on earth was short and everyone in earshot and beyond was hellbound and they'd better get right with the lord. He shouted and strutted; he preened -- a True Believer in full, in love with the power that act of condemnation gave him -- power of passing judgement, and settling scores

(I've found some of him in every individual I've seen or experienced since who claims to be 'moved' by an allegedly higher power. And the so-called "laws" associated with whatever freakshow delusion they're pushing which allow them to do pretty much whatever they want. Yes, they'll make fine leaders of America, or whatever they'll call their New Kingdom.

(Ask the members of the People's Temple at Jonestown. Ask the Branch Davidians at Waco. You might even ask the members of 'christian' congregations across America, listening to speeches made by their 'pastors' condemning other people as less than human and feeling such putrescent drivel is not only just fine but righteous.) 

SB101 is not the last legislation of its kind that we'll see passed in America. And if an evangelical christian ever becomes President of the United States, we will see many more. The United States is, in the eyes of many, the country where political apathy is king; perhaps that's so.

If it is, then God help us all. In our torpor, ultimately we may find ourselves ruled by the same kind of strutting, egotistical monsters that a real pastor, Martin Niemöller, had in mind when he made the oft-quoted observation:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out. 
-- Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)


(Reuters) - Indiana's Republican Governor Mike Pence, responding to national outrage over the state's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said on Tuesday he will "fix" it to make clear businesses cannot use it to deny services to same-sex couples.

Pence, in a news conference, said the law he signed last week had been widely mischaracterized and "smeared" but he called on the state's Republican-controlled General Assembly to send a new law to his desk this week to fix it...

But Pence found support from conservatives including Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz and possible presidential contenders Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio...
Critics say Indiana's law went too far in potentially allowing businesses to deny services to gay couples, because they could argue that doing so went against their deeply held beliefs.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Indiana under an appeals court ruling last year.

Religious Freedom Acts in Georgia and North Carolina appeared to stall this week after Indiana came under fire. But the Arkansas House of Representatives is expected to approve this week an RFRA that has already passed the state's Senate.


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Bad Moon

The Present Is Prologue

Texas Volk Hail Their Victory

It doesn't matter whether the authors, supporters of the 'Heartbeat Act' in Texas expect it to stand against narrow legal challenges, or even as a Constitutional challenge to abortion law. It doesn't particularly matter how the Act fits into a long, "death of a thousand cuts" strategy of Right-wing attacks against Roe. Its provisions don't only decimate reproductive rights for women. 

The Act weaponizes vigilantism to allow Texas citizens, Americans, to exercise control over other American citizens -- as it relates to providing, receiving or 'aiding and abetting' abortion procedures for women in the state. 

It encourages any Texan to seek up to $10,000 in civil damages against abortion providers, clinic staff; Uber drivers; relatives, family members; supportive clergy – anyone they claim is a defendant, as defined by the Act. And, a lawsuit doesn't have to be filed where alleged acts took place. It can be filed in any county in the state -- for example, in a deep Red Texas district, with  judges sympathetic to The Cause.

There are already Tip Line websites set up -- to help zealous, god-fearing citizens to inform on whomever they claim to suspect of anti-state activity. 

Join The Team. Send An Anonymous Tip. 

Meritless lawsuits have always been with us; but this provides state support for any citizen to harass and threaten another, in furtherance of an ideologically-driven law. It goes far beyond a challenge to Roe. It codifies tactics of stalking and intimidation used by the Right for decades. In law, it's absolutely unprecedented -- but not in History.

History's examples of whole populations cowed and manipulated by the violence of a minority, supported and financed by a class of wealth, are too numerous to count.

Yesterday, Texas also passed a separate law which allows "all Texans to own guns and to carry them in public, without a license and without training.”

Also yesterday, Jair Bolsonaro, fascist populist leader of Brazil, told his supporters to buy and stockpile guns against a future conflict with hated liberals and Leftists -- "Only the stupid person will store food," he said. "Smart ones get guns."

The Past Is Present Tense

This is what happens: after the election in November of 2000, and over the thirteen years I've been sporadically writing this blog, decline and dissolution in America have been both easier to see but more difficult to convince people to believe -- we're Frogs, and the water has taken a long time to heat.

(Via The Soul Of America) here is Adolph Reed: "The right-wing ... [has] a single concrete objective—taking absolute power in the U.S. as soon and as definitively as possible. And [they] even seemingly want, to destroy the social fabric of the country [in taking power] ...

"Discrediting government ... has been a component of the GOP game plan ..  and Democrats have reinforced [that] in their own way. ...Four decades of retrenchment and privatization ... steadily increasing economic inequality and government’s failure to address it in any meaningful way [fuels a] lack of confidence, distrust, and hostility toward government ... and eventually even the idea of the public itself.  And [Right-wing billionaires who] bankroll the ultraright have taken advantage of that, [stoking] frustration and rage into a dangerously authoritarian political force."

I kept track of events, but nothing I read or watched surprised me much -- a stupid and dangerous position, since it meant ignoring experience and abandoning better judgement.  I'd grown up in the Fifties and Sixties; saw Southeast Asia personally. In the Seventies I studied history, focusing on Europe --  Germany in particular -- between the wars: Weimar, and what came after. 

I was someone who knew things, but coasted along believing the High School Civics Class view of America -- the long national Narrative of an America, not perfect, but on a constant upward (and of course, liberal) arc into an inevitable, enviable future. Even Vietnam was a tragedy beyond measure but a regrettable episode, a blip, in that long view. 

And during Watergate, Liberals rejoiced: America's Great Silent Majority was wrong. Their hero, Nixon, was a Crook -- but he was an aberration in the American Narrative; an exception, and the political Right was, too: the Fringe, on the wrong side of history. Easily dismissed. The future would be a moderate Liberal culture. 

Sure. Of course it would be.

Now, nearly 50 years later, the grandchildren of the Silent Majority are back. They're bully-mean in their MAGA caps and January 6, 2021 - Civil War T-Shirts, and they see the world through small, piggish eyes, and they hate you.

They hate Colored people and Foreigners, and Eggy-heads, and Libs and Gay and Trans People and E-lites. The weak and the soft.  They love god; yes they do (somebody's god, anyway), and America. They have guns and carry them -- and you have nothing to fear, so long as you do what they and their leaders say. 

It is the Purity of their Strength; it is Blood and Soil; and they will sing 'Amazing Grace' in celebration after they dump your battered corpses in some nameless field.


Disease and climate deterioration are at the top of the list of conditions which frighten me. But what is happening now in America makes me believe we are close to something horrific: Our own version of the world after Weimar, and What Comes Next. 

We've already had a four year taste of what that could be -- and we've had an attempted coup. That we can have another is ignored by the DOJ, and Biden's government.

 When I submit to fear, I see my country being dominated -- by the malignant, the vicious, the bestial -- with no cure except The Fire, Next Time; and no guarantee that where it leads will be a happy ending. That this is the same worldview of those people I revile on Twitter as Thugs and Cletuses.

Could America disintegrate into an even more obvious Oligarchy, like the old Soviet Union? Into warlords, criminal gangs, armed militias like Lebanon, like Syria? Could it become Atwood's Republic of Gilead? No one knows. 

But I feel sure we can't continue down the same road we've been travelling without penalties we can't imagine, at the mercy of being blown apart by another natural disaster, another Covid variant; the whims of a Rebecca Mercer, or Steve Bannon, or The Murdochs.

Our old National Narrative says America is too diverse, has too high a standard of living to fail. On the other hand, History is littered with empires, cultures, which believed they were too strong to collapse.

George Packer (author of The Unwinding) recently noted in The Atlantic that America's national Narrative is a string of crises -- Our Story being 'how we got out of it' -- and that we now have not one unified Story of America; we have four. The one now on display in Texas, in my view, only leads out a one-lane gravel road to the cemetery. 

"The issues Trump had campaigned on waxed and waned ...What remained was the dark energy he unleashed... Trump’s people still talked about freedom, but they meant blood and soil. Their nationalism was like the ethno-nationalisms on the rise in Europe ... Trump abused every American institution ... and his people cheered. Nothing excited them like owning the libs."

People can write opinion pieces calling out lying and bullying by the political Right but it makes no difference. We can wonder if Congressional Republicans violated ethics rules, or if McCarthy violated federal law (threatening U.S. companies over the Senate panel inquiry into 1/6), and it will not matter. 

Their behavior -- McConnell's corruption; Gaetz' degeneracy; Cawthorn's flirting with threats of civil war and Boebert's intimations of physical violence; Greene's barely coherent lying -- are their badges of honor. Anything is permitted in Owning The Libs -- including sedition and treason. 

If you need proof that we do not live in a country with rule of law, consider: There was no penalty for their support of a coup on January 6th. There will be no punishment for them now, or ever. 

I recently saw a video of an anti-masker, anti-vaxxer, holding a list of names and addresses of the local Board of Supervisors in his area, shouting at a small rally. The Board was preparing to vote on a mask mandate; this person held up the list of names and was literally screeching (I'll paraphrase), "We know where you [Supervisors] live! We're going to be at your front door -- we're coming for you!" Asked what would happen if the Board voted for a mandate, he shouted back, "Civil war!! Civil war!! Get your guns!!"  

This isn't some extremist, Fringe element, like John Birchers of the 1960's, spouting rhetoric that will never go further than a street corner. America's Right wing is pushing for confrontation -- but not one ending in reconciliation and an end to division. They want to "take America back". They want a final confrontation -- bloody, retributive; like a battle on the plains of Armageddon. 

What's happening now can't lead to any other conclusion. America's political Right is a madman with a gun, who keeps taking one step towards you, then another and another -- all while screaming Don't get any closer!! I'm warnin' ya!! I told ya to stop comin' at me!! And, when he finally shoots you: See what you did?? You Libs made me do it!! Told ya!! Told ya!!

Something will happen. That seems inevitable. It's what the Red-caps have been told by their leaders should happen, after The Steal (reminds me of a monument, erected by the nazis in the 1930's at the border with Danzig: Remember, Germans, What Blind Hatred Has Stolen from Thee). And the rich Bundists who've bankrolled the Right want it, too; they can be Oligarchs without apology in the Brave New World, after. The Murdochs will be able to sell so much advertising time.

And when it happens, it will have to be an act of high drama. Something for the cameras. Wannabe 'patriots', and wealthy Bundists, need a historic spectacle to justify what they're about to do; a glorious event that fits with their political Narrative: they're about to become Founding Fathers. 

Even if it develops from some mundane incident, when the Right seizes their opportunity (remember, they're looking for it), the Event will be more seriously executed than January 6th. The lines crossed on that day will have to lead to the immediate subjugation of America and its citizens, or its dissolution in a hot civil war. These are the choices.

Ian Welsh (who sees Texas as a harbinger of collapse; Welsh is compassionate towards persons but doesn't care much for 'America' -- perhaps this is wishful thinking on his part): "[enactment of the Texas law] is the thin edge: what’s coming to Texas now will be coming to you very soon. Roe vs. Wade is doomed; Republican Trumpists are taking over the party apparatus to ensure the next coup attempt succeeds, and Democrats are doing nothing to stop any of this... 

"The best case scenario is probably the US splitting peacefully. That will be unfortunate for those left-behind, but it beats the entire country falling, or a civil war."

UND MEHR, NOCH EINMAL VON ADOLPH REED:  "I know that many liberals, and not a few leftists, will dismiss this account as wildly hyperbolic. Liberals have an abiding faith in the solidity of American democratic institutions... arguments demonstrating why a putsch can’t happen because it wouldn’t be in capital’s interests... But that’s why political scientists nearly all were caught flat-footed by the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

"To be clear, I’m not predicting the possible outcome I’ve laid out. My objective is to indicate dangerous, opportunistic tendencies and dynamics at work ... which I think liberals and whatever counts as a left in the United States have been underestimating or, worse, dismissing entirely. 

"If forced to bet, based on the perspective on American political history since 1980, or even 1964... I’d speculate that the nightmare outline I’ve sketched is between possible and likely, I imagine and hope closer to the former than the latter."

UND AUCH EIN WIEDERHOLENIt's worth repeating this, by Umair Haque, from 2018.

Do your best; try to be kind; try to be courageous in service to others. Good luck.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

This Is Your Boat Deck Wednesday Update For 2nd Class Passengers

A Barking Rant 

God's Away On Business

Using BandAids On Brain Cancer

Prosecutions for the January 6th attempt to derail Congressional certification of the  Presidential vote are dissolving into surrealistic theatre. The investigation, involving so many Federal resources, was intense and focused -- it matched the seriousness of the event. But any investigator knows a case they've built can be chopped up, watered down, even ignored by the prosecuting authority in their jurisdiction.

Charges have been brought by the DOJ against 605 rioters. The lead felony offense in the Federal indictments -- the most serious violation against each of them -- is "obstruction of an official proceeding"; attorneys for the defendants argued back that the joint session of Congress to certify electors' votes is a ceremonial, not an official, session, and the charge should be dismissed.

What constitutes an official Congressional proceeding; its never needed to be defined. One Federal judge in Washington was frustrated enough to comment that the DOJ's charge was so constitutionally vague that it could easily be overturned on appeal.

But there seems to be no rush to bring justice. Some defendants on bail are being allowed to vacation, attend weddings, or go backpacking out of the country; it's all quite leisurely. And while estimates of damage repair costs to the U.S. Capitol are over $1.4 million -- the total of monetary fines levied against the 605 defendants for that damage is... $2,000. 


Cosplay Conspiracy Is Too A Crime

More serious, the DOJ is not pursuing actual conspiracy charges against any defendants. The FBI claims no such information has been discovered, but an independent review of social media posts in the weeks leading up to the insurrection show clear planning and coordination -- tactics, and objectives. 

Review of cellphone videos and social media traffic show at least two groups of insurrectionists appeared at the Capitol in full tactical dress and appeared to follow military-style movement discipline. At least two of them carried zip-ties inside the Senate chamber

Lt. Col. (Ret) Larry Brock, USAF, (At Left), and unnamed Cletus in Senate Chamber

Then there are the recent revelations about the attempt by Trump and his allies to entice then-acting Attorney General Rosen to support The Leader's false narrative of a stolen election through a letter from the DOJ claiming irregularities in swing state voting. 

Trump told Rosen in a December 27th phone call that all he had to do was agree to the DOJ letter -- "Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen", according to contemporaneous notes taken by acting deputy AG Richard Donoghue. 

Meetings between Trump and his allies and toadies were held at the White House in December and January. Trump (and others) made phone calls to election officials in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, trying to find weak links who would support The Lie. Trump inserted loyalists into key intelligence and Defense Department positions; the Joint Chiefs of Staff planned to resign if he ordered the Armed Forces to enforce martial law. Then came January 6th.

(Photo: Mother Jones)

You could ask whether there was an attempted coup in the United States; it's a matter capable of question, but no one wants to ask it. As with prosecution of the insurrectionists who breached the Capitol -- the Justice Department and Attorney General Garland seem tired, uninterested in pursuing Trump or his toadies for conspiracy. Biden said recently that pursuing Trump is a "bad idea". 


One might be forgiven for thinking that our Justice system just doesn't care. The message our government seems to be sending is attempt a takeover; pay no penalty. That there is no political will in the government to step down hard on any attempt to subvert the Constitution -- and to appoint a fat, lying, narcissistic con artist as President For Life of the United States of America. 

It's almost as if they were signaling to the Owners who financed the coup attempt (Koch, Mercers, Murdochs; others), and their hired front men -- Trump, Stevie Bannon; screeching evangelical preachers; and the Red-Hat Orcs -- telling them: try again. 


Meanwhile, the usual suspects in Congress seem determined to push every situation as close to the edge as possible -- keeping the level of viciousness and blood-feud outrage high among the Faithful Red-Hat Cletuses. 

There's a drumbeat, too, on Murdoch media; Tucker Carlson travelled to Hungary, then aired on Fox his extended infomercial gushing with praise for its authoritarian, proto-fascist government, and its Leader, Viktor Orban. It was a love letter to Lil' Viktor, and a message to Americans that -- with a Strong Daddy and United [White] People -- a fascist form of government can be good, for loyal white people. Such a pretty, orderly country under Orban, the Strong Daddy -- as Trump was, and will be again.

Little Tooker Hearts the Strong Daddy, the Good Daddy; the Fuhrer

Little Tucker, like the Congressional Rethugs, want to keep the level of hatred and calls for Action! high -- all for Der Tag, when the call goes forth, and the loyal [white] people will Own The Libs once and for all. Scores will be settled and the strong shall rule; non-white people will disappear again, and all will Love The Leader, or else. 

And the Red Hats continue to lap up the vomit NewsCorp and the Murdochs provide; a fantasy of victimization and marginalization -- and now, they've twisted their politics around the axle of the Covid wagon: Mask mandates, vaccinations, are infringements on personal freedom and cannot be allowed. Marjie Green, Rand Paul, Teddy Cruz, Loren Boebert and others screech and preen and strut in front of the cameras, decrying this vast conspiracy against freedom-loving Americans.

And tens of thousands of bikers crowd into Sturgis, South Dakota, for their annual festival -- cheered on by the state's governor, who wants to be the next Trump. Last years' event was cheered on by her, too. 500,000 people showed up. It was later proven to be a Superspreader event for Covid; this year will be no different -- given the Delta variant, it will be worse.

...and the Delta variant roars across the country. For someone who actually trusts science, scientists, and professionals to provide the best data possible, watching people on the Right equating vaccination with slavery or the Holocaust is unbelievable. There is almost no way to describe it, except as metaphorically a descent into schizophrenia, psychosis.

I'm an end product of the Enlightenment -- and people behaving like superstitious peasants, refusing to listen to anyone but Murdoch media 'personalities', or gibbering Sky God preachers, about, well, anything... I find it hard to believe it's happening. America hasn't had a long spasm of irrational nationalism since 1917 or 1942 -- but this is different. 

40% of our adult population claims that science and fact are lies. That bleach and faith in Jesus are prophylactic miracles, or a cure, for Covid. That simple, common-sense public health measures (masking and social distancing) are part of a sinister plot organized by a One-World cabal of pedophiles to steal the election from Trump and his loving supporters, to control Americans and remove their freedom. 

All the verbiage aside -- I'm speechless in the face of this level of malicious, willful ignorance. I don't know how the Cletuses can do it -- particularly when The Truth is staring them in the face: The largest number of new Covid infections consists of unvaccinated individuals. States with the highest percentage of Maga-ites, or Trumpist Rethugs, also have the highest new case numbers in America. This is what happens.

Surge bedding outside a Texas hospital, to accommodate high numbers of Covid patients 

The governors of two states hit exceptionally hard -- Abbott in Texas and DeSantis in Florida --  have signed orders banning any mandates by school districts, or businesses to wear masks or to be vaccinated. DeSantis threatened that school districts which violate the order will have salaries or state funding frozen.

As unbelievable as that seems -- at the same time, DeSantis and Abbott are asking for help from other states to deal with the rising number of the sick who need hospitalization, as medical facilities in each state are overflowing with Covid victims; as in the Fall of 2020, ICU nurses are posting videos describing how bad this is. And it is bad.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released it's 2021 report on the state of  deterioration of the earth's living species, weather, soil, water and temperature. No surprise: it's bad. 

But this report -- unlike the others released by the IPCC since 1988 -- says unequivocally that their report is "a code red for humanity". It's effectively too late to prevent a rise in average world temperatures by 1.5 Centigrade, and as a result there will be a rising number of "extreme weather events", wildfires, disease. 

Evacuees watch from a ferry as wildfires consume the Greek island of Evia

The best humanity can do to mitigate the effects already put in motion is to completely change the course of the major streams of the global economy towards that end. It is all or nothing -- unless world governments do what they've always done and allow themselves to be bought cheaply by the fossil fuel, mining, aerospace, timber, and farming megacorps. Then I guess we're well and truly fucked.

But on the bright side -- hey, we have Our Owners, the Oligarchs, at play! Richard Branson got into space -- well, kind of -- ahead of Jeffy Bezos; yay! But meanwhile, Elon got the coveted contract with the U.S. government! Which means a Virgin made it above the Amazon, but both were sprayed with Musk.

Jeffy didn't like that. He filed papers and said it was unfair and he would just give more money to NASA and he would too just give the government a real price reduction (which would be recouped with interest in Jeffy's pricing structure; it looked good to say we'll charge less right now!). But the government said Jeffy was a silly and ha ha ha no. Jeffy cried, and took away things from the subcreatures in his labor camps to make himself feel better. And lots of people bought stuff and made him more money too. Yay!

Our Oligarch Owners caper and play, and someday will all go away -- to the emerald Isle of New Zealand, to escape all the Bad Things. We, of course, will not -- proof positive that god favors Jeffy and Elon and Marky and Richard and all His Billionaires. Because otherwise they'd have to bake and die with the Little People Worker Bees! 

Please go to the Boat Deck for a Second-Class sing-along with the ship's orchestra! There will be a free, small soda for those of you who remembered to keep your coupons. After, we will assist the First Class passengers into their boats and wish them a hearty Bon Voyage! and wave to them, until.

Meanwhile, don't cry, or make a scene. That will just spoil the party for everyone else; look at how brave they are. And remember, that small soda is a privilege. They can take it away any time they want.

MEHR, MIT EIN SPOTTSBILLIG KLEINER SODA:  Here, courtesy of The Soul Of America, an essay on the balance between the sinkhole of facts we observe, and the sticky commodity of faith in a future.
We must always act from a sincere love of our fellows, but never give in to maudlin sentimentality or (worse) facile irrationalism. In theory, so long as one avoids silly ideological tropes, it is not so difficult to keep the two apart. But on a day to day level it can seem very difficult indeed. Especially when one is faced with nigh-inevitable catastrophe.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Absent Friends

 You Know Who They Are

"We have done so much with so little for so long that we could do anything with nothing forever".

Mozart: Concerto For Clarinet and Orchestra; 2nd Movement, Adiago

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Reprint Heaven: The Big Guy Is Your Buddy, Part I

 Gozirra, Then and Now

(From 2014.  Part 2 follows below.)

Disgruntled:  Not Allowed On The 'Blue And Gold Fleet'
Arooo, Arooo / Godzilla Sure Likes You
He's Got Big Feet/ And He Smells Real Neat
Arooo, Arooo Arooo; Arooo, Arooo...
>>  Rhyme Started By Friends' Children;  To The Tune Of, "Hi Ho, Hi Ho; It's Off To Work..."
The Big Guy will be making his appearance this week, on a gigantic multiplex screen near you, in another installment of the timeless saga of ambition, terror, sea water, and a 350-foot Lizard who just wants to be the best 350-foot bipedal Lizard ever, and find love in a busy uncaring world -- the 28th (or, depending on who you ask, the 29th) film version of Godzilla.

In Sixty Years, He Has Entered Our Collective Unconscious

Spoiler Alert, Sort Of

Be Advised: If viewed in reverse, this film shows the Giant Happy Fun Lizard putting out fires and rebuilding a large, urban area for its inhabitants, playfully wrestling with other large alien figures (but none so large as He), then backing away respectfully into the ocean as a grateful nation sends naval vessels and its airforce to join in celebration.  Roll credits; everyone goes home feeling good.
According to people who have actually seen the film (the most creative take I found is by illustrator and reviewer, Natalie Nourigat, and can be found at her site, Spoilers !), most classic moments you expect to see in Giant Monster movies are present: The scientist who tries to warn the population and is ignored; the brave warrior; scenes of people chatting about things personal; the happy children, playing at the seaside... and all the while, the audience knows: Gorzirra Out There. Gorzirra Come Soon. U Are All So Scrood.

So Much For 'Suspension Of Disbelief': No Way It's That Overcast On The Bay In August

In fact, it may be that Godzilla 2014 is so much like previous Giant Monster films that it runs the risk of ironic self-parody -- and when The Big Guy appears, he's just in the nick of time to keep us from nodding off.

And still, we don't know: What the hell does he want? Why does he do the stuff he does? Is he just pissed off, twenty-four-seven? About what? Is he sad? Is there a Ms. Godzilla? And the answer always comes back --  It's In The Script! He's Godzilla! It's a monster movie, for crying out loud; it's not 'Prime Suspect'. There is no nuanced, emotional or rational context in the film to provide those kinds of answers.

We've seen "Earthquake!" and all the Airport movies, and "2012": the earth shakes a lot; planes almost crash; and there's that Mayan, end-of-the-world thing. They're genre films, which build on every previous film of their kind that's gone before.

The best you can expect is that a director is superb at delivering a genre story (M. Night Shyamalan, say, before Lady In The Water). Rarely, a classic appears and redefines a genre (like Chinatown, or Alien) -- but in general, most of these films follow a formula as faithfully as the tides.

Outtake For The Gag Reel: Having Blown His Line, The Big Guy Does Karaoke

And special effects -- showing us what the impossible looks like -- draw us in.  I'm also curious to see what Bryan Cranston does with his role (his first after Breaking Bad), and Ken Watanabe (of 'Letters From Iwo Jima' and Inception), but the CGI treats will be a focus.  And I'm interested to see whether my neighborhood survives; from the stills on the Intertubes, it appears North Beach, the Waterfront and Financial district are Toast, so who knows.

And I'll go to see The Chairman Of The Board, of course. He's been a treat for sixty years.

1954: Big Guy's Beginnings

(Note: This narrative undoubtedly has holes, inaccuracies, and is incomplete. It won't satisfy a Godzilla, or a film, purist. This an arc about the evolution of a character from destroyer, to near-slapstick character, and back again. Enjoy.)

Gojira (The Original) Attacks The Tokyo Diet Building, 1954

The Godzilla franchise isn't as old a film character as Dracula or Frankenstein, Batman or Superman -- but the mythos behind all of them has periodically been re-imagined and re-translated on the screen for new generations. There's no doubt about it, though: As a concept, Godzilla is a classic. And in Japan, Gorjira is regarded as one of the two most classic films in its national cinema -- right alongside Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

No joke: when it premiered in 1954, Japanese audiences (who have very different cultural reference points than we here in the West) didn't consider it a cheesy monster flick so much as a serious morality tale about the limits of science, told through the destructive hijinks of a mythic lizard. In fact, there's a bronze statue honoring The Big Guy in downtown Tokyo.

Ray Harryhausen's Stop-Motion Creature, 1953

Godzilla's cinematic roots were Made In The USA: In 1953, Warner Brothers premiered the classic Beast From 20,000 Fathoms -- a giant, prehistoric dinosaur, released from frozen sleep in the Arctic by a nuclear test explosion, swims to New York City and then comes ashore to raise all kinds of ruckus. Sound familiar? The monster was played by a large rubber model with an internal, articulated armature, operated by the master of stop-motion animation, Ray Harryhausen, (the armature designed and built by Ray's father), and the film was distributed around the world.

But Godzilla's real genesis began over a labor dispute: In the spring of 1954, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka of Japan's Toho Film Studios was in a real fix.  Having negotiated making a film for Toho in Indonesia, with everything ready, the Indonesian government refused to grant visas to Japanese actors (one way of saying, "Thanks for the brutal occupation of our country a few years back").  Tanaka, who was just trying to make a movie, was moderately screwed.

Director Honda (Left), Producer Tanaka (Right), Toho Films

Toho Studios had grown out of a theater company which (among other things) managed all Kabuki theatres in the city of Tokyo. It began to make films in the late 1920's, and operated movie houses for a new, domestic Japanese market. After 1945, it was struggling to make and distribute motion pictures in a Japan still trying to define itself after the end of the Second World War. 

Tanaka had funding to complete a film, but suddenly, no project; he had to find one, or else. As he flew back to Japan from Indonesia, that American film he'd seenBeast From 20,000 Fathoms -- about a monster lizard terrorizing New York -- drifted through his head, and he began getting ideas.

Back in Tokyo, Tanaka made a forceful pitch to the studio heads to make their own version of  20,000 Fathoms. He was given approval to re-direct the budget of his Indonesian picture towards this new film -- but with one catch: he had only six months to get a film in the can, edit it, and produce a Final Cut.

This called for what the Japanese referred to during WWII (some enthusiastically; some with sarcastic derision) as a "Hero Project" -- shortened deadlines, intense work, little sleep, and All Hands On Deck. In short order, Ishirō Honda (who had already completed two domestic films for Toho) was hired to direct what Tanaka called "Project G" (for 'giant'). Shigeru Kayama, a science-fiction author, was engaged to develop a screenplay and the concept of  The Monster -- originally a wild predator which came ashore, ate people, and went back in the water.

A second draft of the screenplay by Honda and Takeo Murata expanded on themes Tanaka wanted to see in the finished film -- fears of radiation and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, real-life monsters unleashed by the United States in the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and through continuing nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific.

The Monster in their script -- which had no name, yet -- grew in size, particularly after the studio consulted their special-effects director, Eiji Tsuburaya, who had worked with director Honda on his previous films.
Before Godzilla's Visit: Tsubraya's Miniature Tokyo Bay (1954)

Tsuburaya was known at Toho Studios for the realism of miniature model effects he created for a 1942 Toho film dramatizing Japan's attack on at Pearl Harbor. He had been intrigued by stop-motion animation ever since seeing King Kong in the 1930's, and while he was impressed with Harryhausen's work for 20,000 Fathoms,  Tsuburaya advised Honda and Tanaka that a stop-motion Creature would not work for the new project.  That technique was time-intensive, and 'Project G' had no time to spare.

Tsuburaya suggested an actor wearing a large suit would be their Monster, and attack a tiny Tokyo. Some wanted a monster designed with a mushroom-shaped head, reminiscent of a mushroom cloud, but the traditionalists won -- the Creature was dinosaur-like, but still needed a name. Producer Tanaka reportedly overheard colleagues talking about a Toho Studio press agent, nicknamed "Gojira," -- a combination of the Japanese words for gorilla (Gorira) and whale (Kujira). Tanaka decided to use it as both the name for the Creature and the title of the film -- and to Western ears, 'Gorjira' sounds very much like... Godzilla.

(MEHR, Mit Arooo: In response to a question, yes: the sound, "Arooo!" assigned to The Big Guy did originate from its use by 'Nixon's Head' in the animated series, Futurama

Here at Before Nine, we've reported Arooo being used by The Zombified Ronald Rayguns, among other things. Oddly, it's a term also applied to conical, clear plastic packaging, and [our favorite] Dog Products.)

(Part 2 Follows)

Reprint Heaven: The Big Guy Is Your Buddy, Part II

 Gorzirra, Then and Now

(Part One Is above; or, Go Here. From spring, 2014.)

[NOTE: As the Googlemachine has reminded all of us, this is the 114th birthday of  Eiji Tsuburaya, special-effects designer and the originator of so many hero beings from Japanese science fiction cinema. He also created the concept which we know today as The Big Guy, the Chairman Of The Board; and San Francisco's hometown monster, as we are a Sister City with Tokyo.] 

Releasing Gojira: 1954

(The Story Thus Far:  An American film, Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, is released by Warner Brothers in 1953, and gives producer Tomoyuki Tanaka of Toho Film Studios the inspiration he needs to save his job. Allowed to make a Japanese version, he is given roughly six months to complete it.

(Tanaka envisions a Giant Lizard, the mutated product of radioactive fallout or contamination, to serve as a warning about the limits of science and unintended consequences of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

(It's decided the Creature will be named "Gorjira" [a combination of the Japanese words for 'Gorilla' and 'Whale'], and the project's special effects consultant, Eiji Tsuburaya, convinces Tanaka and his team that an actor in a large rubber suit can play the Monster, and will have the fun of ravaging a miniature downtown Tokyo.)
Haruo Nakajima (Left) Served Tea On The Set Of Godzilla (1954) 

One of Toho Studios' principal stunt actors, Haruo Nakajima, volunteered to play Gorjira -- but even with several redesigns, the suit was heavy and difficult to use (its final version required a drain for collected sweat) and only frequent rehydration breaks kept Nakajima from passing out due to heat exhaustion. 

Tsuburaya (Left) Confers With Nakajima, 1956

The film was completed on schedule, released in Japan on November 3, 1954, and was a blockbuster hit.  Overnight, Toho was the film studio in Japan, and Gojira's director, producer and special effects creator hailed as geniuses of the cinema arts.

The film was sold to the American market; producer Joseph E. Levine had it dubbed, cut by twenty minutes, and inserted scenes of Raymond Burr (star of the popular television series, "Perry Mason") as an Edward-R-Murrow-style journalist, broadcasting eyewitness accounts of The Big Guy's trip to Tokyo.

Raymond Burr Contemplates His Fee For This Acting Job

Levine named the film "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", and released it in 1956. It was a smash in the U.S., pulling in $2 million dollars (that's about $40M in 2014 dollars, kids -- not bad for a guy in a rubber suit).

Toho, and Daikaiju, Go Viral1955 - 1961

Tanaka initially considered Godzilla a one-shot morality tale, not the beginning of a 'franchise', and of an entire cinema industry.  However, the movie was so popular (not only in Japan, but worldwide) and making sequels seemed so potentially profitable, that in less than a year Toho shot and released "Godzilla's Counterattack" (later famous for the derisive line, "And you call yourself a scientist").

This was the first film where Godzilla would fight another monster, Anguirus (which became Godzilla's friend in later movies) -- and this established what eventually became the hallmark of the Godzilla 'franchise': Other monsters appear (from inside the earth, from outer space, or the mind of Minolta), wreak havoc, and Earth is defenseless... until Godzilla appears to save the day.

War Of The Rubber Suits: Big Guy And Anguirus Duke It Out

"Counterattack" (released as Gigantis in the U.S.) wasn't as successful in Japan as the original Godzilla, and the movie didn't adapt well to foreign distribution. As a result,  Toho began releasing other daikaiju movies (a term meaning "gigantic, strange monster"), a new genre of films Toho had created and which other Japanese studios began to imitate) -- most notably Rodan; "Varan the Unbelievable"; and Mothra by 1961.

All three of these characters would appear in later Godzilla films. All were solid box-office hits in Japan; Toho Films decided to keep milking the daikaiju cow so long as it kept paying off.

Good, Bad, and Even Worse: 1961 - 1973

"Look, No One Told Me Kyoto Was A World Heritage Site"

... and pay off it did. In 1961, Toho collaborated with American producer John Beck to create "King Kong versus Godzilla", the most box-office popular Godzilla movie of all time in the U.S. and Japan.  On the strength of that success, Toho produced 12 more Godzilla films -- by the end of which Godzilla was transformed from a mutant, destructive Monster created by atomic radiation, to the protector of humankind.

Actually, no one can be certain whether The Big Guy likes humankind enough to fight for it, or is just amazingly pissed off at the violation of his turf by some giant Bug / Dragon / Flying Turtle / et al.

(I'm not adding a list of all Godzilla productions; you can look at the Godzilla Wiki for that. We're just looking at the evolution of an archetype here.)

Unfortunately, over time, several things happened:  Godzilla's character and portrayal began to resemble the formulaic aspects of other daikaiju films and characters, and other Giant Monster films had a certain level of low comedy and moments of near-slapstick action.  Toho adapted its most popular character to fit the genre, not the other way around, and by the early 1970's things were ... goofy.

No longer the chunky-but-trim Terror From Under The Sea who laid waste to large urban areas, Godzilla lost most of his back spines and looked like... your neighbor, in a big rubber suit.

Godzilla (L), Megalon (R), And Other 400-Foot-Tall Beings

In 1971, I thought the bottom of the barrel was Toho Studio's "Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster", which showed human victims chopped up in sections (take that, kiddies), pratfalls, and Godzilla boxing like a human. It's tough to maintain suspension of disbelief under those circumstances.

Unfortunately, it was topped by their 1973 Godzilla vs. Megalon -- I swear to God; the stunt workers in that 89 painful minutes of cinema had to have been higher than Mt. Fuji. And the "film" was shot in only two weeks: Toho was low on funding. The daikaiju cow had gone dry.
Death And Transfiguration: 1975 - 1995

In 1974 and 1975, Toho tried slightly rebranding their character for its 20th anniversary in MechaGodzilla and The Terror Of MechaGodzilla, but the original magic of the character had been badly diluted; the public wouldn't pay to watch him, and Toho's executives didn't want to risk their money in future Godzilla film projects.  The Big Guy only made a few appearances on Japanese daikaiju science-fiction television into the early 1980's, all moderately ridiculous compared with the menace and destructive power of the original Monster.

In 1984, the 30th anniversary of the character's birth, Toho made a simple and radical decision to save the franchise which had financed the studio's successful expansion for decades:  They started producing a new set of Godzilla films, called the "Heisei Series."

Most were for the Japanese market only -- but through them, Toho Studios simply 'reset' their character -- they ignored every Godzilla film made after the original 1954 release (good pick, that) and started with a new film appropriately titled Godzilla, which starred a Big Lizard who looked almost identical to the one who stepped on Tokyo in 1954.

In it, The Big Guy returns to his amazingly pissed-off former self, indestructible, created by nuclear radiation, a 350-foot-tall Lizard out for your personal ass.  It was released in America as Godzilla 1985, with some added scenes featuring an American played by (wait for it) Raymond Burr.

Ten years later, in 1995, Toho decided to end their franchise by killing it, in Godzilla vs. Destroyer. Toho made Godzilla's death public by adding "Godzilla Dies!" to posters and advertising of the film, and (while leaving a door open for a successor to reappear), The Big Guy dies.

Broderick Gets Up Close And Personal With Roland Emerich's So-Called Lizard (1998)

In 1998, everyone wished his successor had died before the filming started when TriStar Films licensed with Toho to develop their own Godzilla -- a computer-generated Big Lizard which had little relation to the classic Big Lizard. Directed by Roland Emerich and starring Matthew Broderick, it was a financial and artistic flop; the less said about it, the better -- but it was Bad. It was just Bad.

There was, of course, the movie 'Atonement', but Godzilla's appearance in that film was barely mentioned. Probably because we'd all rather look at Keira Knightley.

So, there are two Godzillas -- the Japanese Monster who came from the sea to destroy things, stayed to become a comedic actor, then returned to his old ways.  That current Godzilla encompasses both the original Destructor, the product of bad science and big bombs, and his daikaiju side, battling other Big Monsters to protect the Earth, his turf, or just for the hell of it.

Godzilla films have continued to be popular in Japan, and a second series was released following The Big Guy's supposed 'death' in 1995 -- again, Toho simply "reset" the story line without reference to the character's end... but this is one side of his existence that American or European audiences don't see. In Asia, Godzilla is timeless and lives on, as pissed-off and irrascible as ever, sometimes defending mankind and occasionally kicking Tokyo's ass.

The second Godzilla is a creature of Hollywood -- less accessible, a  Godzilla "leased" from Toho Studios and who is (aber natürlich) much different for a Western audience. He's more of an animal, nastier, cunning and cold-blooded -- kind of like The Koch Brothers on a good day.  He's all Destructor. No slapstick from this Big Guy.

However, after Emerich's poor showing nearly twenty years ago, no American studio (or whoever owns the conglomerates which make films these days -- Disney; Little Rupert's Fox; Comcast) wanted to risk putting money behind another Godzilla remake -- until now. This new film is supposed to be a "totally new concept" in Godzilladom. We'll see.

It's nice, though, that The Big Guy is getting work. He thinks so, too, I'm sure.


MEHR: With apologies to Fafnir, Giblets, the ghost of Freddy el Desfibradddor; Mistah Charlie, Phd.; and the Medium Lobster Himself (who is, well... pretty sizable):
Godzilla! There is no Giant Happy Fun Lizard but He - the Living, The Self-subsisting, the Eternal. No slumber can seize Him Nor Sleep. His are all things In the heavens and on earth and under the oceans. Who is there that can intercede In His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth What (appeareth to All as) Before or After or Behind them. Nor shall they compass Aught of His knowledge Except as He willeth. His throne doth extend Over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth No fatigue in guarding and preserving them, For He is the Most High, The Supreme (in glory). He is Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, the One and Only.