Monday, April 9, 2018

Paragon Ragtime Orchestra Performs "The Kid" Saturday at The Rowland

Paragon Orchestra last year performing at The Rowland. (credit CDT)
There are few cinematic events that you can attend that have more worldly class than the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, playing this Saturday at the Rowland Theater in Philipsburg.

If you think you like the silent greats like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, but you've never experienced those masters the way they were meant to be seen, with live musicians actually playing the scores that Chaplin himself wrote, well, then, you've never really seen Chaplin.

Let me explain.  Watch your favorite film but turn off the sound.  How long would it hold your attention?  Which is precisely what The Mountain is telling you.  If you admire Chaplin's "The Kid," which is the feature playing at the Rowland Saturday at 7 p.m. and have only seen it as a "silent movie," then you've never experienced one of the singular joys The Rowland Theater and the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra can offer.

Think of "Jaws" without the murky deep score that sets you on the edge of your seat.  Or, perhaps more apropos, a Bugs Bunny cartoon without Carl Stalling's madcap genius orchestra behind it.

I've been in the balcony of the Rowland watching this performance in years past... marveling as the percussionist matches every kick in the seat of the pants with some odd rim shot, as the orchestra swells into a love sequence, or thrills into some death defying stunt.  The effect is true cinematic magic.  And you, dear reader, have the chance to witness it for yourself.

Just click HERE and click on the ticket link and you can reserve your seat ahead of time.  Just $25 and you will see something you can't get anywhere else.  Many like to sit as close to the orchestra pit (see picture above) as possible.  For myself, I like the long balcony view, just below.

The front row balcony seats at the largest movie screen in Pennsylvania are a treat to for soaking it all in and watching a great film be brought to vivid life.

The Mountain assumes you know what "The Kid" is about, but for the unwashed.... The story begins when a destitute woman leaves a baby with a note in a limousine and then goes off to commit suicide.  Hilarious right?  But the limo is stolen by thieves who deposit the baby by a trash can.  Enter Chaplin's beloved "Tramp" who finds the child and provides a loving home.  I will leave it there so you can enjoy it fully, friends.  Suffice to say we'll share a laugh and a tear.

Chaplin was once described as the most well known person on earth, so great was his fame and his art at the telling of a simple and pathetic story.  Even today, your heart will get stolen.  Trust me.

Just over there, to the right, is a still from the movie.  That's the kid, little Jackie Coogan, way back in 1921 with The Tramp himself.  What's not to love.

The Mountain makes no idle promises.  That $25 ticket you just clicked on will be one of the more pleasant evenings you'll have spent in a year.  Try not to miss it.

The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra is a world-class orchestra, who've performed the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Center, National Public Radio and the BBC, and world-wide.  If you've been to Disneyland or Disneyworld, you've heard PRO's music as the outdoor theme music at Main Street USA.

You're in for a treat, friends.  Try not to miss this Saturday's splendid concert/film.  You can come back to this tiny corner of the web and thank me later.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Why Red-Map Is Bad for America

Pennsylvania's Congressional District boundaries have been ruled unconstitutional.  Republicans have been rigging the game since 2010 with a strategy called "Redmap."  Here's why the strategy is bad for America and even bad for republicans.
By Shawn K. Inlow

IN A DEMOCRACY, you want a fair election.  You NEED a fair election.

Anyone who agrees you need fair elections in a representative democracy would then agree that undermining the one-person-one-vote paradigm is antithetical to the democracy.

In Pennsylvania, 37% of voters are republican.  How, then, do republicans control 61% and 80% of the state house and senate respectively?  How, then, does the republican 37% of the voters hold a 12-5 edge (one is currently vacant from a republican retirement) in the U.S. House of Representatives?

Republicans would have you believe that they are winning the political war of ideas.  The Mountain says their success has nothing to do with their political ideas.

It has everything to do with changing the rules of the game.

Republicans have always represented the business class, and that's okay, because rich businessmen need love too.  Because, you know, it's so soul-sucking when your only friends are in it because you're buying.  But, like their friends in business, they play politics in the way that a business might lay out a business plan.  They form committees to lay out strategies and then get billionaires to fund implementation.

Repubs (The Mountain is gonna call them "repubs" until conservatives quit using the pejorative "democrat" as a modifier of "democratic" policies.) have decided to undermine electoral fairness in two key ways: 1) change the boundary lines of districts state by state across the country and 2) suppress likely "democratic" voters.

Here is the official website of REDMAP.  When you hear repubs on teevee talking about massive voter fraud, you might want to hold the mirror of their own words up to their faces and see if the creature moving his lips casts a reflection.  By repubs' own admission, they are using pretzel logic to pen as many democratic voters into as few districts as possible, leaving repubs unopposed in much of the rest of the districts.  It tilts the playing field radically to the repub right.

I've heard it described this way.  Suppose the Steelers are playing the Ravens and come out of Baltimore with a 13 point loss.  But in the second game in Pittsburgh, the Steelers impose new rules for the game and the Ravens have to go 150 yards for a touchdown and the Steelers only have to go 50 yards to hit paydirt.  Second game, The Steelers walk all over the Ravens.  You would say that's unfair.  Unfair, but EFFECTIVE. 

On the left is a great example.  This is Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District, or as it is colloquially known, "Donald Duck Kicking Goofy."  You can see it on the large map in the masthead down around Philadelphia and Delaware.  Repubs drew this district when they took control of the legislature back in 2010 after the last census.  Now, you can drive in and out of three districts in one minute.  Crazy.

Further, look at the state map above.  Glenn Thompson represents The Mountain.  (The Mountain, itself, is roughly located on the "r" in Clearfield County.)  Good ol' GT is from Howard, out on the way east toward the point of Centre County.  What in the world does Glenn Thompson have to do with ERIE County?

The repub redistricting map HAS BEEN RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL.  And the legislature has until February 15th to redraw the districts with the governor's approval and file it with the state supreme court.  Failing this, the court will draw the map.  And this is happening in battleground states across America.  It's unfair and it basically means that democratic voters can pour out into the election with a two thirds majority and get one third of the representation.  In North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court has RULED that the redistricting is racist and disenfranchises black (read: "democratic") voters.

This is going on all over the place and, in a second arm of the repub plan, they have devised a strategy to stop likely democratic voters from even casting votes in the first place with a broad plan to initiate voter I.D. laws that The Mountain finds just as racist as the Redmap plan.  HERE IS A GREAT ARTICLE showing how big of an impact voter repression has on our elections.  When The Mountain considers Redmap in conjunction with vast voter suppression efforts,  you can see the repubs' fear.  They fear a brown America.

So, my friends, when you hear a repub on teevee talking about voter fraud, THEY are the ones perpetrating the fraud.  Even Donald Trump, who famously called for an investigation into how he lost the popular vote by over 3 million "illegal" votes, recently disbanded the commission without any proof of his claim.  BECAUSE IT'S FALSE, PEOPLE.  When my republican friends are sitting there watching Fox, and they're eating up stories about voter fraud, they are being LIED to.  Look around.  The ONLY "news" source pushing this line of propaganda is FOX.  Fox IS the fake news media, folks.  But 37% of Pennsylvanian republican's just don't get it.

Worse than all of that, it's a racist agenda pushed by a racist party who is embracing racist ideology.  (Hail Trump!)  And for those republican friends who can still think objectively, it's just unfair.  It's undemocratic.

The reason this is bad for America and democracy writ large is obvious.  But it is also bad for the repub party.  Ronald Reagan could not get elected by today's conservatives.  Old time public servants like John Heinz, who The Mountain voted for couldn't hang today.  What Redmap has done is make the republican party MORE strident.  Even well heeled republicans like the Bush family can't believe the racist and hate-filled bent they're seeing here. 

HERE is a story about how women in general are being repelled by republican politics.  Oh, don't get me started on how repubs have embraced the radical pro-life agenda nationwide.  How repubs everywhere are damaging women's health care, family planning and reproductive rights.  It's as if they've unleashed every nosy church lady all judging and gossiping onto the political landscape.  Pick-a-little-talk-a-little.  No matter how you slice it, the evangelical disconnect is insane in Trump-land.   I think it can be shown he's a self-entitled serial sex offender with three wives who PAYS HUSH MONEY TO PORN STARS!  Oh, my LAND!  They were all in a tizzy back in those quaint Clinton years when a married man lied under oath about a consensual blow job.  My how things change.  In the church-lady caucus, Bill Clinton=Bad; Donald Trump=Okay!

You get the feeling that the women's movement is chasing a lot of pervy repubs out of office before shit goes public.  You know, better to be retire than be blackmailed, right?  HERE is a story about the wave of Trumpist repubs who are gittin' while the gittin's good.  The Mountain wonders about Bill Shuster.  But just look at the way Redmap is producing hard-right crazies!  Roy Jones is breathtaking.

HERE is a story about how the reddening of repub districts is resulting in a degradation of their party.

If there was a home for moderate republicans or even old fashioned people like myself who often voted republican, there isn't now.  Right now, unless you are a corporate capitalist, fascist, neo-nazi or self-righteous evangelical, you have no business being a republican.

The Mountain will leave you with that to think about.  But one more thing.  While we're straightening out the partisan, racist, unfair repub electoral map, why don't we do something about Pennsylvania's state government?

The Pa. General Assembly has 253 members, consisting of a Senate with 50 members and a House of Representatives with 203 members, making it the second-largest state legislature in America and the largest full-time legislature.   As of 2014, members' base pay was $85,356 and THAT'S NOT EVEN THE HALF OF IT.

I ask you.  With the condition of central Pennsylvania and the rampant poverty that has existed all my life around these mountains, who needs that much representation?  There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania.  It can't be that difficult to get a representative government that is fair and doesn't bankrupt everyone else.

Of course, for that to happen, you'd have to get a large repub majority to vote against themselves.  Good luck with that.

Thanks for stopping in, dear reader, and feel free to comment in the space below.  Please know that your comments gain weight when you sign your name.  I do.  You should too.

Also, please feel free to share the link as you like.  And until next time, Enjoy!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

How to Get the Most Out of YOUR Tax Break

This is a lot of money.  Odds are you'll get about $60 or less from the republican tax reform legislation.
How much is a trillion dollars?  
The Mountain was asking itself that question.  It's not as simple as you might think.  In the context of the recent republican effort to pay their donors back in the form of a $1.5 Trillion tax cut , I was trying to figure out how much we might get in tax relief.

Experts have said that 85% of this $1.5 trillion (or $1.275 trillion) goes to the richest 1% of Americans.   There are 122 million "tax paying units" in this country.  And I was thinking how nice it would be to divide $1.275 trillion among "regular" Americans.  If our government is going to blow a $1.5 trillion hole in the deficit , wouldn't it be nice if "the forgotten men" of America got the gravy instead of the crumbs?

To understand this impact and what our government is doing, let's start out small.

One thousand thousands equals one Million.  One thousand Millions equals one Billion.  And one thousand Billions equals one Trillion.  A Trillion can also be thought of as a Million Millions.  So if you divide $1.275 trillion evenly among all tax paying units in America, every one of us would be getting a $1 million tax break.  The Mountain says very little work would get done around here if that was going to happen.  But that's not what's going to happen.

Under this plan, President Donald Trump is going to make an estimated $1 Billion (one thousand millions).  So all this republican bluster I've heard about the national debt and deficit is plainly shown for what it is: pure 100% American Bullshit.  We (us, U.S. all of us) are not bailing out big banks this time.  We're being bilked up front.  The debt plane is being crashed again to benefit the very same people who destroyed the world economy under George W. Bush and handed us the bill.

And you know, I'm getting tired of republicans ripping us off at every turn.  According to Gary Dorrien in his book "The Obama Question: A Progressive Perspective," it's the republicans who wipe out the economy over and over again and it's the democrats who get stuck cleaning up the mess.  Read along with Gary for a few paragraphs...

"Reagan led the Republican Party into temptation by persuading it that deficits don't matter because tax cuts pay for themselves, especially at the upper end.  When Reagan took office in 1981, the national debt was $907 billion, approximately 26 percent of gross domestic product.  Eight years later the debt stood at $2.7 trillion, representing 40% of GDP.  In eight years Reagan tripled the country's accumulated debt by cutting the marginal tax rate from 70% to 28% and cutting the top rate on capital gains from 49 to 20% -- social engineering on a staggering scale that fueled a huge inequality surge.  George H.W. Bush, vowing to maintain Reagan's winning approach, let the debt escalate to $3.9 trillion, which scared him enough to break his vow, raise the marginal rate to 35%, demoralize his party and lose a second term."

"The only break in America's post-1980 record of escalating the debt was the Clinton administration.  The national debt crossed the $4 trillion mark during Clinton's first year in office, 1993.  Clinton raised the marginal rate to 39.6%, which republicans warned would destroy the economy.  At the end of Clinton's presidency, the debt was $5,674,000,000 and heading downward as Clinton rang up budget surpluses of $70 billion in 1998, $124 billion in 1999 and $237 billion in 2000.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, had the United States stuck with Clinton's fiscal policy, the cumulative budget surplus would have reached $5.6 trillion by 2011, wiping out the national debt."

"All of that was quickly squandered by George W. Bush's tax cuts and ramped up military expenditures, plus a prescription benefit lacking a pay-for.  Bush's tax cuts blew a $2 trillion hole in the deficit.  He was the first president in American history not to raise taxes to pay for an expensive war.  Official expenses for the two wars that Bush charged exceeded $1 trillion with long term costs that will triple that figure.  He added a $1 trillion Medicare prescription drug benefit without paying for it either, a windfall for the pharmaceutical industry, creating the first entitlement in American history lacking a revenue source.  Then the casino economy that Bush deregulated crashed.  In eight years the Bush administration piled up new debt and new accrued obligations of $10.35 trillion and it doubled the national debt from $5.7 trillion to $11.3 trillion, not counting the $5.4 trillion of debt inherited from the federal takeovers of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac.  Bush amassed more debt in eight years than America's previous 42 presidents combined, breaking the record of the previous debt champion, Ronald Reagan, and the record keeps growing as three quarters of the debt amassed on Obama's watch is the outgrowth of Bush's unpaid tax cuts, unpaid wars, and unpaid drug benefit, and much of the rest is cleanup for the financial crash."

"Obama inherited a deflating economy teetering on an outright depression, a skyrocketing debt, the structural legacy of thirty years of politically engineered inequality, and two wars.  When he took office in January of 2009 the U.S. economy was losing 741,000 jobs per month and the Congressional Budget Office projected a $1.2 trillion deficit for 2009.  The economy had lost $13 trillion of net worth over the past 18 months and 2.6 million jobs over the past 12 months.  The government had pledged $9 trillion in loans, investments and guarantees to fill the chasm.  And the economy was shrinking by nearly 6% annually.  Had these losses continued the United States would have been in a depression by September.  Instead, by January 2010 the job loss figure had been cut to 20,000 and the economy was growing at nearly 6% annually."

Remember:  THIS time, the tax cut is good for us.  It's not good for Donald Trump.  Take his word for it.

Enjoy your chump change (or should we call it "Trump change"?) because in a couple years your tax bill, Joe Average, is going to go UP while the rich retain their benefits FOREVER. 

So I wanted to get to the bottom of how you can get the biggest bang for your tax cut dollar.  I'm not sure my tax plan is particularly well laid out, but here goes.  

I'd say invest in makeup and disguise items first.  Then look around and see if you can locate someone who owns a politician.  Owning a politician takes disgusting amounts of wealth.  Disguise yourself as that person and go to that person's house and, in a flattering way, ask for an autograph.   While having the person sign your autograph book, gently take him hostage and bind him, gently now, in the closet and wait for his tax return to come.  Use the autograph to forge the check and sign it over to yourself.

Because that's the only way regular people are going to get dick out of this deal.  Because while Donald Trump is getting a billion dollars, you can maybe afford to buy some hot dogs down at Sheetz while you wait for the republicans to come after your Social Security and Medicare when suddenly - Surprise! - there's not enough money left to go around.  Enjoy your lunch.

By Shawn K. Inlow


Thanks for stopping by, dear reader.  You can comment below, just remember that your comments mean a lot more when you actually sign your name to them.  In the meantime, I'll see you down at Sheetz where you can get two death-dogs with everything for under $1!  Until next time, Enjoy!


Thursday, December 28, 2017

9 Of Note

Today's Vault explores films from classics to current films worth your while. Remember:   Life is too short for bad movies.
Christopher Plummer as J.Paul Getty in All the Money in the World

             All The Money In The World
             2017 - Ridley Scott
             Rated R: 2hrs 22min
            Vault Rating: 6

J. Paul Getty was the guy who first figured out how to get oil out of Saudi Arabia.  In doing so, he became the richest man in the history of the world.  He is an odd subject, then, for Director Ridley Scott, who's made some of the great science fiction films in cinema history.

"All the Money in the World" is a dark portrait based on the 1973 abduction in Rome of Getty's grandson and his ensuing reluctance to pay a ransom for the boy's release.  You could be forgiven for not missing Kevin Spacey in the lead role.  Scott fired Spacey after sexual harassment allegations surfaced and re-shot his scenes with Christopher Plummer in a lead performance that is Oscar-worthy.

The portrayal of a man who would make Ebenezer Scrooge seem generous is unkind at best and, for this writer, calls into question either the man's mental health or, more broadly, the potential disastrous effects of wealth on the wealthy.  The man is unlikable.  There are few people in the film who are likeable.  Thus, having played the story more or less straight, you get an unlikable film.  That said, Scott presents it expertly.  Just don't go and expect to see the typical ransom story pay-off, okay?

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in "Lady Bird"

                Lady Bird
                2017 - Greta Gerwig
                Rated R : 1 hr 34 mins
                Vault Rating: 9

"Lady Bird" has to be hands down the best picture of  2017.  If you don't wanna take Vault's word for it, ask the Golden Globes or stroll on down to Rotten Tomatoes where this little gem is the top rated film in the web site's history.

It is the story of a headstrong girl (Saoirse Ronan) coming of age in a catholic school in Sacremento, California.  She's got a passive-aggressive mother (Laurie Metcalf) and challenges every convention in her world which leads to a humorous, poignant and heart rending film.  I think I wept at least twice and was happy when the audience combusted into warm applause at the film's end.

It is refreshing to have a feminine story told from a feminine perspective.  With female directors asserting themselves more broadly these days, stories like "Lady Bird" will seem less and less like they come from some foreign country.  The winner is the film-going public.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
2017 - Martin McDonagh
Rater R : 1 hr 55 mins
Vault Rating: 9

Three Billboards plays like a Cohen Brothers' movie and not just because it stars Cohen favorite Frances McDormand as a mother grieving the unsolved murder of her daughter.  The film takes wild Cohen-esque turns that at first surprise the viewer and then seem downright plausible when you think about it.

It all begins when Mildred (McDormand), frustrated at the lack of arrests in her daughter's unsolved murder, pays for three billboards that question local authorities.  What follows are very natural, often shocking and in some cases predictable consequences.

What you don't get are one-dimensional characters.  Each role in this film is complex, dynamic and lively and it makes for a real crowd-pleaser.    Nominated for 6 Golden Globes including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress.

The Red Shoes
1948 - Michael Powell / Emeric Pressburger
Britain : 2 hrs 14 mins
Vault Rating: 8

Drama musical about a young ballerina (Moira Shearer) who is torn between her love, composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring ) and the iron willed manager of the ballet (Anton Walbrook).

Regarded as the most beautiful in cinema about the ballet, it is a phantasm for the eyes and rightly won Best Art Design-Set Decoration and Color Oscar and best Music and Scoring Oscar on top of that.

Shearer is a top flight dancer and should be hallowed among the screen's most radiant beauties for this stunning performance.

The story is adapted from the Hans Christian-Anderson story of the girl who puts on the red shoes and dances until she dies.  Here, however, she portrays a rising dancer torn between her two loves.

The performance numbers are masterpieces and would reward many, many viewings.

Setsuko Hara  as Noriko in Yasujiro Ozu's "Late Spring."

               Late Spring
               Japan - 1949
               D: Yasujiro Ozu
               Drama - 108 minutes
               VR: 8

A classic of Japanese cinema observes life, love and loss between a widowed man and his daughter in post-war Tokyo.

It is late spring, thematically when flowers and forests burst with life, and we find Noriko, at age 27, rather old for a single woman in the culture, lovingly taking care of her father, Shukichi, who, at age 56, is in the autumn of life.

The cultural imperative toward marriage is heavy, yet there are divorcees (gasp!), working women (shocking!), women pregnant out of wedlock (terrible!) and men who’ve remarried (filthy!).  You know: Life.

Noriko is the classic devoted daughter who wouldn’t think of leaving father to fend for himself.  But Ozu shows us subtle longing when she takes a platonic bike ride to the beach with a male friend of the family who, happily or not, is engaged to marry a younger woman.  Indeed, the prospects of arranged marriage run throughout and Noriko’s auntie has found her a nice 37 year old man who rather “looks like Gary Cooper.”

Through it all, we observe the very real feelings of familial and cultural drift in a world that is also changing.  There is honor.  There is duty.  There is doing the right thing.  But there is also moving on.

               My Happy Family
               2017 Republic of Georgia
               D:  Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon GroƟ
               Run time : 2 hours
               Vault Rating: 8

A middle aged school teacher, Manana ( Ia Shugliashvili), leaves her family to live on her own in 1992 Tiblisi.  This thoughtful drama examines the thick bonds of a Georgian patriarchal family and women's issues of the time that are still relevant today.

The story finds the ever suffering Manana living under the same roof as her parents, her husband, their children and even their fiances.  Every day she endures the nagging of her mother and the demands casually placed on the shoulders of a good wife.  She is not even allowed to enjoy her birthday in peace without her family inviting over the entire neighborhood, forcing her to entertain deep into the morning hours.

It is another feminine story written and (co) directed from a woman's point of view, something that is coming more and more into vogue and its about high time.  This one can be found on Netflix and kudos to them for bringing such original voices to the screen.

Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon in "Atlantic City"

              Atlantic City
              1980 - Louis Malle
              Rated R - 104 mins
              Vault Rating 8.5

Here is a film that captures Atlantic City in all of its colors at the beginning of its casino development.  There are old style thugs, racketeers and number runners competing in the same space as corrupt politicians and developers intent on building gambling shrines.  There are loners and losers and lucky ones all packed into the land adjacent to the famous boardwalk.

The story follows Sally (Susan Sarandon), a sexy casino employee, whose no-good husband, Dave (Robert Joy) turns up with her knocked-up, hippy-dippy sister, Chrissie (Hollis McLaren).  These audacious grifters turn to Sally for a foothold in the city.  But Dave runs into real trouble when he starts dealing drugs and drags his estranged wife back into his seedy world.

Enter longtime low-level mobster Lou (Burt Lancaster, in a masterful role), who is fading and past his prime.  Much like the decaying city in which he lives, he has his charms.  He helps people along if he can and seeks only to have real gangster credibility, if he ever had any to begin with.  He meets and falls for Sally, decides to protect her, and surprises himself by rising to the occasion.

Director Louis Malle's richly textured, atmospheric drama was nominated for multiple Oscars and earned numerous critics' awards.

Magnolia features perhaps the best ensemble cast in film history.
               1999 - Paul Thomas Anderson
               Rated R : 3 hrs 8 mins
               Vault Rating: 10

Just a perfect film and still this writer's favorite of all time, Magnolia is a mosaic piece dealing with the interconnected lives of 10 lost souls in and around Los Angeles during the space of one fateful day.

Each individual in a top notch cast (Tom Cruise, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore and John C. Reilly to name just a few)  locks themselves in their own personal cages of guilt and then suffer their painful longing to be set free.

There are themes of suffering and forgiveness, pain and healing, sin and redemption, all magnified by amazing actors all going at the top of their powers and by the most perfect original soundtrack written by Aimee Mann.

There are layers and layers and layers to this breathtaking film which rewards this viewer time and time again.  There is, of course, the single most unexpected scene for me in movie history too, which you can either shake your head in disbelief over or think it through and uncover the many hidden metaphors that all point tightly to the core of the film.

             Justice League
             2017 - Zack Snyder
             PG-13: 2 hours
             Vault Rating: 6

You don't get away without a comic book based superhero mashup.  You just don't.  So here's a decent one.
Justice League is a better than average comic book romp.  Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead and the world grieves, opening a chance for Steppenwolf to come to earth and wreak havoc.  Batman (Ben Affleck), with all his gravity, forms a team that "won't be enough" consisting of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the hipster cool Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and the comic Flash  (Ezra Miller) along with a cyborg (Ray Fisher) named, appropriately, Cyborg. 

The first half of the film sets up the plot and introduces in turn its principals.  The second half is mostly gee whiz comic book fights.  In a small wonder, the thing hangs together probably way better than a script with ten credited writers ought to, but that's probably because of Chris Terrio, Joss Wheadon and director Zack Snyder doing a nice job of knitting.  

Probably the best part of the film is that it keeps its sense of humor and balances that against the gravitas of the sometimes too heavy Batman to good effect.

So there.  We're all caught up.  Please feel free to share the link to the blog and if you'd like to comment just below, please remember that your comments gain in stature when your actual name is associated with what you say.  Thanks for reading today, dear reader, and until next time, Enjoy!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Democracy In The Balance

THE MOUNTAIN SAYS Donald Trump is at best a vulgar man and at worst a criminal.  The Mountain suspects the President of the United States is a money-laundering stooge, as are a great number of his team, for Russian mobsters.

You might think with criminal charges lodged against four of Trump's political team, that many questions remain.  But the talking heads on Fox and craven republicans in Congress - who are still howling about Hillary Clinton - seem to have no curiosity about what the president did despite four of his team being arrested.  In fact, Fox and the republicans who consume it are now turning on the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation - literally the only agencies in this democracy capable of investigating the president.

Because, you know, you wouldn't want to find out anything that might undermine your business model, now would you?

Fox helped create Trump.  They fostered the monster.  Many of their top talents helped Trump build his 33% bedrock of the misinformed and I hope, dear reader, that you are not among them.  Think about it:  Everyone except Fox is lying.  All of the thousands of climate scientists who've spent their lives studying one little corner of this massive problem... All of them... have devoted their lives' work to .... lying.  All except the one or two who Exxon Mobil bought and paid for.  THOSE two guys... they're the only truth tellers in the world and Fox is the only content provider that found them?

This is dangerous for democracy.  Fox has single-handedly, along with talented a.m. talk blowhards like Rush Limbaugh, undermined the simple fact that there IS, indeed, observable truth.  When the truth is sufficiently crippled, anything can happen.  Kelly Ann Conway, on practically day one of the administration, wasted no time going to the Orwellian max when she claimed the insane mantle of "Alternative Facts." 

If that's what you're selling.

I have personally taken innocent people into custody for questioning.  You know what innocent people do?  They try to tell you everything because they know the truth will save them.  They want a polygraph test.  They'll bring forth corroborating witnesses.  They'll do anything to make sure their integrity is intact.  Donald Trump and Fox and Fox's crony republicans do just the opposite.  They cast aspersions or blame on someone else.  It is common for the guilty to blame the police.  I've seen it many times and any police officer will tell you the same.

These people are putting themselves, not even their party, above the country.

An accused does not have to prove his innocence, but any Hitchcock aficionado can tell you it's possible and even thrilling.  The prosecution must prove guilt.  Trump is not accused yet, but he could - if he was without guilt - prove his innocence.  Every journalistic and criminal investigative bone in my body tells me Trump has problems.  For the good of the country, the Mueller investigation has to proceed until we can understand the nature and depth of these problems.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is literally un-American.  And yes, I shiver to say that.

So how does Trump prove it?  How does he, if you will, show us his birth certificate?

If Trump would just show his tax records to the public (Be assured that Mueller's team already has them.) it would be no time at all until Americans understood what Mueller already knows and I suspect full impeachment would proceed.  We would be privy to who Trump's business partners are and have always been.     There is already much reporting on the record that shows a strong likelihood of international money laundering by the president on a scale that ingratiates him to Vladimir Putin.

What if those facts came out?  What would happen if Trump himself was arrested?

First off, you, dear reader, would be able to read the Affidavit of Probable Cause.  You would be able to read the bill of goods that shows a crime or crimes were likely committed and that this president likely committed them.

Who would be the biggest loser?   Not Donald Trump.  Fox would lose everything.  That's why Fox is screaming the loudest.

Where would Fox be then?  Would they apologize?  Would they retract anything they've "reported."  Would they fire their talking heads or just the executives who put words in their mouths?  What would Sean Hannity's show look like then?  But, more importantly, friend, where would you be when the "fair and balanced" (sic) network was shown to be blowing corporate sunshine up your ass?  Where would you be when it was shown that the "lamestream" media wasn't nearly as bad as you've been led to believe and that only Fox was lying?  Would you ever watch Fox again after all this deception?  I'm asking.  Would you?

Would you then begin to question the information you've been ingesting?  Would you then try to read a newspaper?  Or is it too late for you?  Are you too lazy to do that work?  This government represents how a large portion of America thinks!  Bad information causes bad decisions.  You have a responsibility to the republic.

Fox has a lot to lose here if what the Mountain suspects comes into full view.  Fox loses all credibility in this scenario.  So what is Fox's programming now?  Vitriolic weirdos like Judge Jeanine Pirro  ((Read about her personal problems here.) shrieking that the Mueller investigation is corrupt.  You oughtta know, Jeanine.  You used to be a judge.

A "cleansing?"  Wow.  I could tear this argument apart in many ways.  Let's call it a post for another day.  For now, let's try to find such a hateful screed in any other respectable outlet.  Good luck with that.

Look, folks.  The truth has got to come out.  I remember a time when republicans wanted the whole truth about a blow job.  This is about knocking the underpinnings out from under our democracy.  The truth is the only thing that can save this country from real damage.  Oh, republicans are all about defending the constitution until it is their guy under investigation.  Then the process of justice and the rule of law have to be abridged because... what?... They scream loudest and have their own channel on teevee?

Fox has to protect itself.  Fox is the McDonalds of your media diet.  Shit is bad for you.

Face facts.  If Donald Trump fires Robert Mueller, he is admitting guilt.  And if he does, there will be war to correct the situation.  If Trump had nothing to fear, he wouldn't need a pledge of loyalty from James Comey.  If Trump had nothing to hide, he wouldn't be the first presidential candidate in modern times not to release his tax returns.  If Trump had nothing but integrity, he would be cooperating with the Mueller investigation.  It is clear whose side Donald Trump is on, we just don't know how bad it is.  The Mountain thinks it's bad.  Really bad.  We cannot have the  President of the United States in the pocket of a hostile foreign dictator.  It is highly dangerous to democracy and to the world in general. 

Look.  Hillary Clinton told you all what it was long before the election.  You might not have liked her, but she was right.  Is that why you didn't hear this?

Who's the puppet?

I guess we're all puppets here.  And I hold all republicans responsible for this.  I hold every local republican.  Every republican sitting on the bar stool down on the corner.  Every township supervisor, school board member and county commissioner.  Every registered republican.  I ask you:  How can you continue to affiliate with this?  You wanna do something about it?  Call your republican representation and tell them you're changing your party affiliation.  Then go down to the county election office and register independent.  Because supporting a team that protects a Russian puppet is a bridge too far for any decent republican.  Maybe then you will supply the cowardly lions on capitol hill with enough courage to stop cowering in the face of the rich, corporate fascists that have taken a once honorable party and sold it straight to hell.

The only republicans I see standing up to the strong man... the only republicans I can see with the guts to do what's right... are Robert Mueller and his team.


Feel free to comment below and, as I've always said, your opinions matter more when you sign your name to them.  Feel free to share this link with your friends and thanks for taking a walk on the Mountain with me today.  Merry Christmas!

si 12.25.17

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Barring the Door Against Fascism
Vladimir Putin - Fascist

fascism - (fash-is-uhm) noun (sometimes initial capital letter) - A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.  See photo at right.

There has been an inordinate amount of admiration for the likes of Vladimir Putin coming from the American right.  When the President of the United States and his sycophants fawn over a man who kills anyone who opposes him, if you are standing on Ronald Reagan's grave, you can be forgiven for getting the willies as he rotates under the sod.  There are innumerable ties between the Trump team and Russian mobsters, oligarchs and Vlad himself.

The Mountain suspects Putin is balls-deep in the Trump administration and that when Putin coughs, Trump tweets.  And since no part of the Steele Dossier has been disproved - In fact, many parts of the dossier have been proven independently - it is easy to see why Trump refuses to release his tax returns to the American public.  Trump, The Mountain believes, is a willing dupe involved with big business money laundering - large scale international financial crimes - for the mob bosses who control Russia.  As an investigative reporter and a former criminal investigator, The Mountain feels sure that Trump's IRS files were the first information Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed.   Once you know who the billionaire owes, then you know who is the organ grinder and who is the monkey. 

All of this is just one part of a grave assault on American democracy.  The republican party has embarked on a corporate plan to take over the democracy.  In effect, capitalism is buying out the democracy so that the government serves corporate interests rather than the electorate's interests.  And damn it, when Verizon wants net neutrality revoked then, by God, net neutrality will be revoked.  And when Exxon wants climate change denied then, by God, climate change will be denied.  And when Monsanto doesn't want their genetically engineered food labeled, by God, it will not be labeled.

When corporate donors buy up all the stooges in congress, which has just about completely happened, at least on the republican side, then we are dangerously close to becoming a thinly disguised fascist state.

Trump has managed a dandy of a stretch.  Utilizing the disinformation of Fox News and Breitbart, the Trump campaign has somehow cobbled together a coalition of evangelicals, tea party activists, Alt-Right Neo-Nazis and Wall Street Ayn Rand worshipers into a bedrock 33% of the American electorate.  Together with the Redmap gerrymandering process, a minority of republican voters ensures corporate control through mostly republican lackeys.

The U.S. House of Representatives looks to the future with Redmap-colored glasses.  The U.S. Senate is also controlled by republican corporate interests.  If you doubt the corpo-republican axis you need look only as far as the republican legislative agenda.  They can hardly govern even given the keys to all the power except to do ONE thing: pass "tax reform."  The DONORS want some payback like a Wall Street dividend check on their investments.  And the republicans are lining up to do as they're told.  That the GOP is selling this as a "middle-class tax cut" is preposterous.  That they are ignoring the $1.7 Trillion hole the plan will likely blow in the national deficit seems to fly in the face of everything conservatives have ever stood for.  But look at them scurry to get it done so that those campaign donations will keep coming.

But there is a glimmer of hope.  You've seen that the republicans just cannot govern.

They bitched about Obamacare for seven years and voted 50 times to overturn or amend it.  But when they got into power they had never done the work to repeal and replace it.  Trump bragged it would be fabulous heath-care.  They had SEVEN YEARS to come up with a plan, but when they pulled back the curtain having taken control they had no plan and couldn't even come close to agreeing among themselves.

And lately, it seems that the pure vulgarity of the GOP candidates is finally starting to catch up with them.  Trump appears to be a serial harasser of women if not a complete mysogynist.  But when the gerrymandered Alabama electorate chose Roy Moore, a pro-life, evangelical pedophile (go figure out what HIS belief structure must look like) to run for the U.S. Senate, finally the people there, by the slimmest of margins, said no.

And with the republican margin in the senate now being 51-47 with 2 independents, good gravy, their precious tax giveaway to the super rich could be in jeopardy.  Donald Trump, himself, stands to profit by $1 Billion under this plan.  So much for helping out the "forgotten men" of this economy.

If recent elections in New Jersey, Virginia and now the redest of red states Alabama are suggestive of anything, it might be that the electorate has finally gotten wise to the vulgar, fascist loving republicans and are calling shenanigans on their ultimate power grab.

Maybe by the time the next presidential election comes around, Mueller will have shown Trump for the criminal The Mountain suspects he is.  Maybe then the corporate citizens bent on controlling government and edging us toward a fascist state will realize their money is far better spent doing good for Americans rather than just trying to OWN America for themselves.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rowland Reels to Begin on Valentine's Day

The Rowland Theater in Philipsburg, Pa. is a beautiful old-world theater.  (Photo by the Altoona Mirror)
 by Shawn K. Inlow
PHILIPSBURG, Pa. - The good folks at the Rowland Theater, one of the most lovely movie houses you will ever find (pictured above), have hit upon a new film series - Rowland Reels - to begin Valentine's day at 9:15 p.m.

"The idea," explains Rowland Theater Director of Daily Operations, Kevin Conklin, "Arose because a lot of people ask us about classic movies, so the board of directors talked about it after the installation of our digital equipment."

The schedule of films is being roughed out now and Conklin hopes to continue Rowland Reels on the second Saturday of every month.  Start times will vary between 9 and 9:30 p.m. depending on the run-time of the 7 o'clock feature.  And depending on how the program is received, Conklin says that Rowland Reels could grow to include the 4th Saturday of the month and expand it's calendar of films.

Currently, such chillers as "Carnival of Souls," "Nosferatu" or great film comedians like Charlie Chaplain, Buster Keaton and the Three Stooges among many others including multiple Oscar winners are being considered for the series.

The Mountain had gone down to the Rowland last Halloween and checked out "Night of the Living Dead."  It was long a favorite of mine and I had realized I had never seen this game-changer of horror cinema on the big screen.  And what a delight it was.  When your zombies are on a little box, even if it is a fifty inch screen, they are not nearly as jarring as when they are projected to the size of a house and are coming right for you as you squish down behind your popcorn.

"The patrons were excited to see 'Night of the Living Dead', " said Conklin.  "Last Halloween's twin-bill of the Romero film and 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' was a bit of an experiment to see what people would say.  And people loved the movie."

It is, I suppose, about projecting stars in the orders of magnitude that they deserve.  And they've chosen one of the great film romances to magnify this Valentine's Day, starting out with the 1940 comedy / romance "His Girl Friday," a raucous war of the roses between Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) and Walter Burns (Carey Grant).

Here's a clip with one of my favorite exchanges.

The film makes amazing use of its mega-watt stars with Charles Lederer's  machine-gun script that has Grant and Russell tossing barbs at one another so fast you can barely keep up, let alone tell which of the two estranged lovers is coming out on top.  In fact, the screenplay is considered one of the longer ones in film history, yet the pacing is so fast that the movie comes in at only 92 minutes.

Director Howard Hawks filmed the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue to mimic the way people really speak.  Nobody having a discussion waits until the other person is done talking.  You talk over one another all the time, so Hawks was trying to get a natural feel to the dialogue.  Boy howdy, what a screaming success.

The verbal boxing match between the leads is like a heavy-weight title fight.  Something that had never been seen before or since in cinema history.  So treasured has "His Girl Friday" become, that it was selected by the National Film Preservation Board to its National Film Registry in 1993.

The plot of the film revolves around Hildy Johnson, who returns to the offices of her old newspaper to tell her ex-husband she's getting married in the morning.  This doesn't sit well with Walter Burns, who seizes upon the story of an innocent death row inmate, doomed to the gallows in the morning, to lure Hildy back into the news reporting game.  Burns bets that Hildy's love of a good scoop might derail the pending nuptials and give him another chance to wheedle his way back into Hildy's heart.

So if you're going to remember Valentine's Day this year, mark down the date (gentlemen, that would be Saturday, February 14) and plan to get out to the Rowland Theater in Philipsburg for the 9:15 p.m. premier of Rowland Reels.  Cost of a ticket is only $5 and, trust me, you'll be doing yourself, your date and the local movie house a favor.

And if you are so inclined, Valentine's Day is also the opening day for the wickedly popular "50 Shades of Gray" which the Rowland will be screening at 7 p.m.  So no matter what your romantic bent, be it the hot-n-steamy or the classy-n-sassy, The Rowland Theater has you covered.

You can find more information about Rowland Reels by checking The Philipsburg Journal.   You can click over to the Journal's Facebook Page HERE.  You can like and follow the Rowland Theater HERE and you can always see what's playing HERE.

Thanks for visiting The Voice of the Mountain.  Please feel free to comment below and please remember your comments matter more when you sign them with your own name.  And feel free to share the link with your friends.

Until next time, Enjoy!

Now Hear THIS!!