Friday, October 2, 2009

Just for Fun Friday

I don't remember where I found this/who sent it to me, but I love a good smack-down by witticism, so letters full of them make my day. Enjoy.

Reprinted in full, without permission, from the website: Chilling

Letter to Warner Brothers: A Night in Casablanca

Groucho Marx

Abstract: While preparing to film a movie entitled A Night in Casablanca, the Marx brothers received a letter from Warner Bros. threatening legal action if they did not change the film’s title. Warner Bros. deemed the film’s title too similar to their own Casablanca, released almost five years earlier in 1942, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In response Groucho Marx dispatched the following letter to the studio’s legal department:

Dear Warner Brothers,

Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers. However, it was only a few days after our announcement appeared that we received your long, ominous legal document warning us not to use the name Casablanca.

It seems that in 1471, Ferdinand Balboa Warner, your great-great-grandfather, while looking for a shortcut to the city of Burbank, had stumbled on the shores of Africa and, raising his alpenstock (which he later turned in for a hundred shares of common), named it Casablanca.

I just don’t understand your attitude. Even if you plan on releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

You claim that you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye, and even before there had been other brothers—the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (This was originally “Brothers, Can You Spare a Dime?” but this was spreading a dime pretty thin, so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other one, and whittled it down to “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”)

Now Jack, how about you? Do you maintain that yours is an original name? Well it’s not. It was used long before you were born. Offhand, I can think of two Jacks—Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day.

As for you, Harry, you probably sign your checks sure in the belief that you are the first Harry of all time and that all other Harrys are impostors. I can think of two Harrys that preceded you. There was Lighthouse Harry of Revolutionary fame and a Harry Appelbaum who lived on the corner of 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Unfortunately, Appelbaum wasn’t too well-known. The last I heard of him, he was selling neckties at Weber and Heilbroner.

Now about the Burbank studio. I believe this is what you brothers call your place. Old man Burbank is gone. Perhaps you remember him. He was a great man in a garden. His wife often said Luther had ten green thumbs. What a witty woman she must have been! Burbank was the wizard who crossed all those fruits and vegetables until he had the poor plants in such confused and jittery condition that they could never decide whether to enter the dining room on the meat platter or the dessert dish.

This is pure conjecture, of course, but who knows—perhaps Burbank’s survivors aren’t too happy with the fact that a plant that grinds out pictures on a quota settled in their town, appropriated Burbank’s name and uses it as a front for their films. It is even possible that the Burbank family is prouder of the potato produced by the old man than they are of the fact that your studio emerged “Casablanca” or even “Gold Diggers of 1931.”

This all seems to add up to a pretty bitter tirade, but I assure you it’s not meant to. I love Warners. Some of my best friends are Warner Brothers. It is even possible that I am doing you an injustice and that you, yourselves, know nothing about this dog-in-the-Wanger attitude. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to discover that the heads of your legal department are unaware of this absurd dispute, for I am acquainted with many of them and they are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits and a love of their fellow man that out-Saroyans Saroyan.

I have a hunch that his attempt to prevent us from using the title is the brainchild of some ferret-faced shyster, serving a brief apprenticeship in your legal department. I know the type well—hot out of law school, hungry for success, and too ambitious to follow the natural laws of promotion. This bar sinister probably needled your attorneys, most of whom are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits, etc., into attempting to enjoin us. Well, he won’t get away with it! We’ll fight him to the highest court! No pasty-faced legal adventurer is going to cause bad blood between the Warners and the Marxes. We are all brothers under the skin, and we’ll remain friends till the last reel of “A Night in Casablanca” goes tumbling over the spool.


Groucho Marx

Unamused, Warner Bros. requested that the Marx Brothers at least outline the premise of their film. Groucho responded with an utterly ridiculous storyline, and, sure enough, received another stern letter requesting clarification. He obliged and went on to describe a plot even more preposterous than the first, claiming that he, Groucho, would be playing “Bordello, the sweetheart of Humphrey Bogart.” No doubt exasperated, Warner Bros. did not respond. A Night in Casablanca was released in 1946.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

'Only 1.5%-5%...'

Today is apparently 'International WTF Day':
The Vatican has lashed out at criticism over its handling of its paedophilia crisis by saying the Catholic church was "busy cleaning its own house" and that the problems with clerical sex abuse in other churches were as big, if not bigger.

In a defiant and provocative statement, issued following a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva, the Holy See said the majority of Catholic clergy who committed such acts were not paedophiles but homosexuals attracted to sex with adolescent males.

The statement, read out by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to the UN, defended its record by claiming that "available research" showed that only 1.5%-5% of Catholic clergy were involved in child sex abuse.

Oh, only 1.5%-5%? Substitute "my friends" or "my colleagues" or "my employees" for "Catholic clergy" and one starts to get the idea of how repugnant to all moral decency this release is.

The statement said that rather than paedophilia, it would "be more correct" to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males.

"Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17."

Oh, well. Once you put it that way...

Politically correct terms cannot and should not be used to obfuscate the plain and simple truth that the Catholic Church aided, abetted, transferred and gave shelter to hundreds (or perhaps thousands, given their own numbers) of known child molesters...for decades. That they still have the nerve to publish garbage such as this is a testament to the wicked obstinacy of its hierarchy and is further proof that so many who have suffered by their hands will not receive justice in this life.

It's people like this that make me hope there is a Hell.

H/T: Democracy in America

Nota Bene: This condemnation has nothing to do with God or individual Catholics' relationship with their God: this is about a specific organized religious order. The Catholic Church is a globally recognized political entity that is so morally bankrupt that it passes itself off as the collective voice of God on Earth while issuing press releases that rationalize child molestation.

Empire State Building to Celebrate the Starvation and Murder of Millions

No, really:

NEW YORK — New York's iconic Empire State Building will light up red and yellow Wednesday in honor of the 60th anniversary of communist China.

The Chinese consul, Peng Keyu, and other officials will take part in the lighting ceremony which will bathe the skyscraper in the colors of the People's Republic until Thursday, Empire State Building representatives said in a statement.

The upper sections of the building are regularly illuminated to mark special occasions, ranging from all blue to mark "Old Blue Eyes" Frank Sinatra's death in 1998 to green for the annual Saint Patrick's Day.

I'm all for trading with China because it enriches our country and helps get their hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. But that in no way should be viewed as an endorsement of, let alone celebration of, their government.

ESB, seriously, WTF????

H/T Kevin Williamson

Monday, September 28, 2009

On Christian Fundamentalism

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a religious person, or even a man of faith. I avoided writing about religion because I never wanted to turn into one of the proselytizing pedants that harassed me about my atheism in grade school. Their ungracious efforts to prove their own faith by converting me embittered me toward religion and most people with any sort of pronounced faith. (Thankfully, I have since made my peace with religious people--some of my best friends are Christians--and religion generally.)

I don't usually like reading about religious debate either. Political or otherwise interesting bloggers that engage in theological navel-gazing usually drone on ad nauseam, offering less information about God than their own departure from reason and their rationalizations for preferring one strain of ancient demagoguery to another. I'm all for faith if you can muster it, but I'm not at all interested in mundane personal journeys of people I don't know.

I also didn't really feel like 'coming out' as an atheist to my more religious family members in order to prevent any lectures on Jesus at family reunions, but I read something so menacingly stupid today that I felt compelled to comment:

When author J.K. Rowling was proposed as a recipient for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Bush [43] nixed the idea because Rowling’s Harry Potter series “encouraged witchcraft.”

While I am no fan of Bush, I always assumed he was smarter than his popular image. And, given the undeniably high intellect of William F. Buckley, Jr. and his unquestionable faith in God, I usually tread very lightly in associating intelligence and religious/spiritual belief. But anyone who believes that Harry Potter encourages witchcraft is an imbecile, period.

The books' popularity doesn't negate the assertion of 'pro-witchcraft' leanings--common sense does. God or no God, the fact that whomever suggested it wasn't immediately mocked and thrown out of the room makes me shudder that the corridors of power were ever staffed with anyone so asinine to believe it or so spineless as to know its absurdity and ignore it.

Seriously, though, I know that this way of thinking represents a much higher number of people than I like to admit. I was once placed into a Mennonite youth group and was thereby introduced to the surreal worldview of Christian fundamentalists. I won't go into all the gory details, but suffice it to say that anything secular was treated with suspicion, and anything in fiction that paralleled God in any way—e.g., the Force in "Star Wars"—was evidence of the Devil's workings. I don't know which was more ridiculous: their belief that fantasy fiction was intentionally meant to subvert Christianity or that they were actually afraid of it. (I know Darth Vader was evil, but damn.)

This ingrained fear of fiction spilled well-beyond fantasy and into other works that dealt with unpleasant (esp. sexual) subject matter. These See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil types are the book burners of old. They are the censors. They are the people that perpetuate ignorance, in the name of public morals. They look to quash anything that challenges their worldview, and thus, their control over others. They are, in short, evil in their own way.

The fact that these people ever rose to such power in this country actually scares me. The fact that I ever voted for them makes me sick.

Who Gives a...


Jenny Slate, one of two actors hired over the summer to join the repertory cast, was making her "SNL" debut in the sketch, called "Biker Chick Chat," which aired in the last 20 minutes of the season premiere. Slate and Kristen Wiig played surly motorcycle babes who used the substitute words "frickin' " or "friggin' " in every sentence they spoke.

But when, at about 12:43 a.m., Slate was supposed to say to Wiig, "You stood up for yourself, and I friggin love you for that," she mistakenly said the real f-word instead. Slate made a face -- puffing up her cheeks, basically -- but the sketch went on with no other problems.

Lorne Michaels, the show's executive producer, said from New York late yesterday that the moment was especially traumatic for Slate because "it was literally her first time on the show. There was nothing dirty, just a slip of the tongue. It was 'frickin', frickin', frickin' ' and then boom! The pain that Jenny is going through is, I'm sure, considerably worse than that experienced by anybody who saw it."

Michaels indicated that times may have changed enough since 1981, when "SNL" player Charles Rocket uttered the word, so that the incident may not cause the uproar it did then. He said the NBC switchboard did not "light up" with angry viewer phone calls. And because "SNL" is tape-delayed to the West and Midwest, the word was only heard in the Eastern portion of the country.

...the FCC went wild doling out enormous fines for alleged obscenities during the George W. Bush era, it's believed in some circles that the Obama administration will have less interest in such matters.

The fact that it's ever a concern for the federal government what naughty words are said on television ? There was a recent case FCC v. Fox, where the Supreme Court upheld speech restrictions imposed by the FCC because, in effect, harm is caused by people hearing expletives during certain times of day. To which I say, to quote Eric Cartman (link not remotely safe for work):


What part of "Congress shall make no law..." was unclear? We have Americans dying and being maimed daily in wars overseas--and, in the process, inflicting death and suffering upon others--we have a criminal justice system that incarcerates more than any other nation on the planet (hundreds of thousands of which are imprisoned for crimes against no one, it should be noted) and our government is nearly criminally borrowing money against wealth not yet made by generations not yet born and someone saying "fuck" is somehow important?

I will write more on the supposed decline of civility (e.g., Kanye, Joe Wilson, Serena, etc.) and what it means to American society today soon, but this is just absurd. You can debate the propriety of using terms like that all you like--and there is an excellent and persuasive argument for not swearing--but that anyone would even consider getting the government involved over an uttering of certain phonetic syllables that only offend sensibilities (as opposed to threats or 'fighting words,' for example) is wholly offensive to mine.

The government should stick to what it's good at its job and leave people to their own language choices. I hope Shales is right in thinking that Obama will pull back the reins on the FCC, but I'm not holding my breath.

Mood Music Monday

Long distance dedication to a friend going through some very rough times right now.

Get better, BG.