The demonstrations in Lebanon are fascinating and heartening for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the hubbaliciousness of some of the protestors. But that picture is interesting for a third reason: The words on the placard are from “Braveheart.” That’s what William Wallace shouted to rouse the troops. I’m not quite sure what it means – it’s one of those sentiments that falls apart when you interrogate it too closely, but on the other hand it makes sense, somehow. Except that you would be dead, but free. But Free! But dead. On the other hand, if you quibble about such things, you live in a society where Quibbling is the main intellectual activity, because the real struggles of life took place before you came along, and you’ve inherited peace and stability and freedom, and define “tyranny” as the actions of a town council that votes to ban body-piercing parlors within 1000 feet of an elementary school. Fargin’ fascists, man.

Another picture has a picture of the old brute Assad and the chinless peeper-doc son. “Papa Don’t Preach / I’m in Trouble Deep,” it says. Again, amazing: this is a lyric from a vaguely pro-life Madonna song from the 80s. More evidence of the boundless up-side of cultural hegemony. I expect to see a sign that says “You have to fight / and then smite / the Ba’athist Parrrrrty.” (Hyuk! I crack myself up.) I wrote a few weeks ago about the French involvement here – since they regard Lebanon as part of their sphere of influence, shouldn’t we be wary? Shouldn’t we keep them from getting any credit, or muscle them to the wings? Eh. I don’t care.. Let ‘em in, let Chanticleer believe he summoned the dawn, if the end result is a free Lebanon. Of course if the Administration does pull out a chair for France here, it will be regarded as a “sign” that the United States has “bent to prevailing realities in the region” and “abandoned the unilateral policy” that characterized the Iraq policy. Fine; whatever. The United States invents forks, the French determine which order they should be arrayed on the table, and they get the credit for the exquisite meal. That’s how the short run will look for a while. The long run will look different. Not too different – note how we seem to believe that France in WW2 was composed entirely of partisans who spent every night in Monmartre cafes muttering plans to blow up German barracks. But - dang my simplisme – I tend to think that if Lebanon is freed, history might note a glancing relationship between the Cedar Revolution and the deposition of the occupying government’s fascist twin next door.

And what of Syria then? Assad has been taking pains to assure the world he is not Saddam – which might well mean he’s a dead man. Saddam would have purged things to his liking long ago. Assad, I suspect, may well suffer at the hands of the people in his government who are stronger and more serious. The sort of guys who flip between pictures of him and his dad and ask the old eye-doctor question: Better? Worse? Better? Worse? How about now?

Then you might end up with hard-liners in Syria and hard-liners in Iran. Then the fronts are really clear. Then it’s time for the 4Q earnings report, no? Unless something happens before then. I suspect – based on absolutely nothing – that any attempt to crack down on Lebanon would earn Damascus a few products from the Raytheon assembly lines. Look at it this way. Imagine you’re Tony Soprano. You own New Jersey and you occupy Manhattan. Then Canada – f*ckin’ Canada! – comes over and takes out the family what owns Connecticut, okay, and now they got a whole f’ckin’ army in New Rochelle and ships ‘n sh*t off the coast, okay, and you got everyone in Manatt’n showin’ up in Times Square bitchin’ and boo-hooin’ about oh I ain’t got no freedom ‘n sh*t, and if you don’t get out it’s a big bomb dropped on the Bada Bing. Whaddya do?

You get the boys together and you tell them you’re going to concentrate on the Jersey side of the business. Any questions? No, T. Sounds great, T.

But there’s one or two guys in the back who give you that hard look, and that’s what keeps you up at night.

If it’s Tuesday, that means screen grabs. Why? Because some people enjoy it. That’s the motto here, I think. Because it tickles some readers and does not permanently alienate others. It’s also helpful for me, since I can do this in advance. Pathetic but true: on Friday night I watch the movie on my computer, snip frames as I go, and have them resized and uploaded before I hit the hay. Anyway. This is from the WB Gangsters series, and contains a few . . . curiousities.

It’s a modern skyscraper!

No – it’s the spine of a book.

I tell you, when that book turned around and the cover became visible, it was one of the more vertiginous moments I’ve ever seen; it’s just wrong, somehow. I can only imagine how it seemed on the big screen; I expect that 20 percent of the audience instantly threw up in their popcorn. That may explain the movie’s poor box office.

It’s billed as a romance, and rightly so; we all know that human relationships was the author’s strong point. (coff.) Yes, it’s the book every 20 year old should read, and every 30 year-old should forget! The Fountainhead! Coming to a theater – a weak, spineless, committee-designed and aesthetically compromised auditorium for collectivist sheep – near you. Now, the "comedy short," which for once is both:

It’s Joe McDoakes. Warner Brothers did about 98345 of these – amusing little tales of modern life, with its hero forever behind the eight-ball. They were written by the fellow who played Joe. Here’s a clip – I’m sure you recognize him. Play it again if you don't get it right away. It’s a little

disconcerting, given his status as a futurist icon, to hear him yelling in 1949 – but that was only 13 years before the premier of you-know-what. Will the difference between 2005 and 1992 seem so great to the next generation? I think not – there has to be some sort of technological and cultural shifts that walls off various eras from one another. 1949 – black and white movies, not much TV, ubiquitous hats, anodyne pop. 1962 – color mass media, tailfins, rock, the future in hand and more en route.

The cartoon:

"Homeless Hare," a minor Chuck Jones-directed effort. Bugs is up against a mean construction worker. Starts well, has some fine gags, but it has a long sequence that, ahem, defies credulity. I know, I know, it’s a cartoon, but there’s always a shred of internal logic in these things; you never see Bugs screw off his head, throw it at someone, grow a new one. We would never accept that Bugs could shoot lightning bolts from his ears unless he had been struck by lightning or experimented upon by some Peter-Lorre type mad doctor.

In addition, it has the inevitable dazed-person-walks-around-skyscraper-construction-site-without-falling sequence, done much better in Disney's “Clock Cleaners.” And that's not because the Disney sequence is brilliant - it's not bad, but this just isn't as good. I love these backgrounds; the shapes make them instantly recognizable to
anyone on the planet, I’d bet. That's New York. Could be Chicago - but why would it be, when it could be New York?

It also had music that can best be described as "Not Powerhouse, for once."

Our movie is “White Heat,” a Cagney movie from 1949 that’s all over the road. It’s a caper movie! It’s a gang-hideout movie! It’s a crooks-on-the-lam movie! It’s a prison film! It’s a tense copper-under-cover movie! It’s an escape drama! It’s a crooks-on-the-lam movie again! It’s a gang-hideout movie AGAIN! IT’S A CAPER MOVIE AGAIN! But first, some revenge! It has a nice symmetry, now that I think about it.

Since it’s a Cagney film, he has to amusingly brutalize a blonde. This time it’s Virginia Mayo (who died just a few months ago.) First he kicks her in the knee as she models a fur while standing on a chair.

But she goes into the Stork-of-a-Thousand-Fists martial arts posture and strikes back!

Well, no. The movie has some of those bygone streetscape neon-laced visions I love so much, no matter how pedestrian they appear:

They speed past a Village Pharmacy in Beverly Hills. Want to bet it’s this one?

“White Heat” has to be seen in context of “Public Enemy,” he said, channeling the sort of grad-school drivel that elevates these movies into something they really aren’t. At the end of Public Enemy, Cagney’s character comes home to his old ma – only he’s dead, trussed, and dropped off at the front door. Towards the end of White Heat, Cagney’s character is due back at the house, where he moll-spouse and her new beau are planning to rub him out. The sets are identical. The White Heat foyer:

The Public Enemy foyer:

Did they design the latter set to echo the former? Probably not; just easier to shoot this set-up. But if it was intentional, it’s a clever little wink. Especially since he comes through the window this time.

The final shootout takes place in a chemical depot, which makes for some nifty shots. This looks like another planet:

The movie was the last gangster role Cagney played, and one of the last WB gangster movies of the era. It’s curious to note what really brings the killer down: high-tech. The movie has all sorts of gadgets, which you don’t associate with 1949. Cops have a three car tail, and communicate with phones. Phones! In the car! Radio signals are used to track a vehicle; Edmund O’Brien calls in fire with a portable phone the size of an eight-year old. And then of course there’s the ending – without chemicals, death itself would be impossible. You can feel the 40s wrapping up the loose ends. Here come the 50s, brother; you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Note to Rand fans who want to contest my assertion that the book should be read when you're 20 and forgotten when you're 30: A) I intend no disrespect towards your feelings about "The Fountainhead," but it's a novel. Yes, it's fun, yes, it has Thrilling Passages, yes it's full-strength objectivism and yes it's a great source for late-night arguments that reflect on the world in which we the living live, but it struck me as cardboard opera. At its best it's an introduction to a line of thought every kid should read, so they can work out their own ideas in accordance - or opposition - to the book's provocative notions of the individual 's relation to society. But for some it's Dianetics for nerds. B) I have been over this in emails and discussion groups for a very long time, and have no desire to read any emails on the subject. Sorry; just thought I'd warn you.

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