Miyazaki and Takahata's "Panda! Go Panda!"

Saw Panda! Go Panda! (1972) directed by Isao Takahata, script and animation by Hayao Miyazaki, and apparently a first draft of what was to become My Neighbor Totoro (you might say Totoro was a remake, only with subtler storytelling and a deeper (and more autobiographical) emotional subtext).

Very cheerful children's fare, which I'm not used to from either Takahata or Miyazaki (even Sherlock Hound felt like it was aimed at adults as much as kids). This is the most purely cute piece of work from either filmmaker, almost too much so, but there's charm and inventiveness if you look for it: the scene where the girl first encounters Baby Panda (he rolls up into a ball so white and round you think of steamed pork buns); the sight of Baby Panda jumping on Papa Panda's belly and hanging on; the scene where the girl packs Papa Panda off to work, only to let him off the hook by declaring a last-minute day off (the sheer joy of the moment--hard to describe, and all the more remarkable because it's so silly).

There's more pleasures in the second episode, about a visiting circus: a re-telling of the story of Goldilocks, only with the girl as one of the three bears, and three stooges as Goldilocks; an amusingly inventive chase between baby panda and a baby tiger; a flood, and the wonderful images Miyazaki creates as a result (the submerged house becomes an indoor swimming pool, a bed turned makeshift boat looks as if it was gliding through the air; and a circus train full of animals puffs its way across water like a dotty Noah's Ark). It's the slightest work I've seen from them yet, but nevertheless a real delight.


Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke"

First time we ever saw the dubbed version of Princess Mononoke, and it improves on the Japanese (or the English translation of the Japanese) in several ways: Neil Gaiman points up the humor, especially in the lines of Jigo (Billy Bob Thornton) who, when you think about it, is practically the only comic relief in the movie ("This tastes like donkey piss," "Did that sound like a threat? I'm sorry!") Minnie Driver is especially fine as Lady Eboshi, capturing her coolness in the face of fire as well as the ambiguity of her character (Is she a leader? A protofeminist? A warmonger? A statesman with delusions of grandeur?). It also clarifies much of the action the previous translation couldn't quite explain (the fact that, for example, the Forest Spirit may vanish with the sunrise).

As for the film itself, always thought it was his most Kurosawa-like; it takes place at roughly the same time period as Seven Samurai (the Sengoku period), down to the flintlock muskets and clothing and architecture (Irontown looks like a rapidly industrializing version of Kurosawa's peasant village). The action sequences, coherently shot and edited and exciting even by anime standards, recall Samurai's memorable swordfights and horsemanship; various images--quiet ones like Ashitaka riding along a high ridge or running across a grassy field, or more elaborate ones like Eboshi's gunmen firing on attacking samurai, or on the giant wolves running down the muddy, storm-swept slope recall the Emperor's filmmaking at its, well, most imperial (or at least most impressive--Hidden Fortress, Kagemusha, Ran).

I might add that (SPOILER: skip this paragraph if you haven't seen the film) here I think we first see Miyazaki's tendency to tie up (or at least sum up) all the loose ends in his increasingly complex narratives, rushing them a little--San and Ashitaka clarify their relationship in a few lines of dialogue (we love each other but we won't live with each other); Eboshi expresses remorse over her wrongheadedness; Jigo shrugs his shoulders. Unlike in Howl, where the royalty find their missing brethren and call off the war (just like that!), Eboshi pays a price; I just think she needed one more scene along the way to make the transformation more believable (a moment where she hesitates and wonders if she should ride the wolf, for example).

I used to think the film was too exhausting, too complex especially towards the final half-hour (introducing too many new characters with unexplained abilities that don't really pay off); now I'm not so sure. It's Miyazaki's biggest film in terms of budget (well, maybe Howl is bigger), and the one where he works out the most thoroughly his ambivalence towards men and beasts, nature and technology, war and humanity (for a more complex expression of these issues you'd have to turn to his thousand-page manga of Nausicaa, of the Valley of the Wind). Spirited Away is perhaps more moving, Howl displays a more sophisticated palette and integration of digital animation (but the next film is almost always an improvement on the previous one, technologically speaking); Mononoke is, I suppose, his Big Statement, a summation of his work to date.


Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride"

Corpse Bride is terrific--funnier and more moving than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, more coherent and of a piece. What makes it interesting is Burton's attitude towards the bride...which seems to be a common thread in his attitude towards girlfriend Helena's role in his films, all the way from Planet of the Apes.


Lav Diaz: an overview of his films to date

Something I wrote for the summer issue of Ekran magazine (a Slovenian publication). The issue was partly devoted to articles on Diaz and his Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family):

Portrait of the Anguished as a Filipino

A Sound of Thunder

A Sound of Thunder


Napoleon Dynamite

Finally caught Napoleon Dynamite, and am wondering why I bothered. It hath its charms--an indie feel, an occasionally witty bit of editing or timing, an amusing soundtrack, a collection of authentic-looking nerds. But it felt more like a first draft of a comedy, or a couple of fitfully funny character sketches that the filmmakers didn't really know what to do with, other than having them meet and stand around in that iconically nerdish stance (weight on one leg, and barely enough backbone to keep the head raised), gawking at each other. It doesn't have polish and gloss, which is half its appeal; doesn't have much teeth or point, either.


In a Lonely Place discussed

My thoughts on In a Lonely Place

More from Forum with No Name (Warning--plot and ending discussed in close detail):

ChrisJ: In a Lonely Place is a great film indeed and I completely agree with your assessment Noel. I really enjoy Sunset Blvd. but it's a cartoonish guilty pleasure compared to IN a Lonely Place.

DH1: Hmmm... I don't know that I'd characterize Sunset Boulevard as a 'cartoonish guilty pleasure.'

Yes, it's lampoonable. And it's been lampooned many times since. But don't confuse it with the lampoons. There are a lot of other cinematic classics that are equally lampoonable, but that doesn't make something like The Godfather, for example, any less of a classic.

Tonya J: I haven't seen In a Lonely Place in forever, but based on Noel's description I can see why Chris would make that comparison. No denying Sunset Boulevard has some great stuff in it, but it lends itself much more to being a cartoon based on its over-the-top Norma Desmond character. FF Coppola took a pulp novel and made it into something extraordinary. While you could make the argument that Marlon Brando is just as lampoonable as Gloria Swanson, his character and how he inhabitsit is utterly believable, while Swanson seems to approach Norma as less human than caricature.

ChrisJ: I was making a side by side comparison as Tonya understood perfectly, but I'll be very clear.

Sunset Boulevard--good movie. Like it.

In a Lonely Place--great movie. love it.

Compare the two and... see previous comment.

Swanson's performance is not quite a parody, but close and it works as entertainment and in the film which has a deeply black humored cynical tone throughout.

Brando's performance has been constantly lampooned, but is still strong and feels authentic... Pacino is just as good in 1 and even better in 2. One ofthe finest ever IMHO (Pacino in 2)

ted fontenot: Sorry, but I have to say that I think Sunset Boulevard is the much better movie. It's more original in conception, more intricate, and sure, in the laying out of its elaborate conceit, the plot's tighter (ILP is all over the place--I mean, the Frank Lovejoy and wife subplot -- indeed, the whole "mystery" -- is so aimless and even unnecessary), SB's dialogue so very razor sharp, and its characters more realized and much more sympathetic. Bogart is very good, although often his character often seems undermotivated, acts inexplicably. Holden is just note perfect. ("When makes love to the crazy, demanding old woman, his face shows a mixture of pity and guilt and nausea." Pauline Kael) His line readings, of some very fine lines, are just right. He did the same thing again in Stalag 17.

I like much of In a Lonely Place a lot, but it's basically film noir that stays merely film noir. And how many movies are there like that? A whole bunch. But, SB -- the combination of hardboiled realism and a screwball Grand Guignol tragifarce--it never fails to take my breath in its audacious and novel take. But, then, I have pretty much the same reservations re Ray that some have re Wilder. Whereas Wilder has this tendency to pirouette out of his movies, whether appropriate or not (his uncalled for concession to a sometimes overweening and facile cynicism), Ray goes for that all too obvious big bang. Of course, Ray's foray into his own brand of the Baroque, if not Grand Guignol, in the form of a Gothic western, is recalled to mind. But, that's another movie--and one, for all its pluses in concept and intent, is ultimately too stupid to remember with any feeling of self-respect. A pity fuck blind date between Daphne Du Maurier and Sam Peckinpah--but who's getting the pity fuck?

Kael sums it up on both of the movies for me: "Ray doesn't seem to have an adequate budget or enough ideas to play with . . . the dialogue is no more than functional [compare a really good film noir like Out of the Past], and there's not much of a supporting cast."

On Sunset Boulevard: "This brittle satire tribute to Hollywood's leopard-skin past . . . is almost too clever, yet it's at its best in this cleverness . . . ."

I almost always prefer the thoroughgoing witty and clever to hamfisted earnestness, however powerful in places.

TonyaJ: I tend to like realism (not necessarily earnestness) over cynicism and over-cleverness. For unrealism or flights of fancy I look to guys like Gilliam or Jonze or now, Gondry to make my mind sing about the ridiculousness/fabulousness of life.

Noel: Difference in taste, ted. Swanson's Desmond is larger than life and vivid as hell, but I can't see myself knowing someone like that, whereas Bogart's Steele, yep--know one or two at least, plus their kinks (okay, I kind of know a few people in my local film industry). Not just alcoholism; one of the filmmakers I have in mind has a gambling problem; the other used to do drugs. And they're both charming as hell.

I don't quite think Swanson's Desmond is cartoonish--I think she gives the figure enough detail to make it rounded, a real human being (that's where the tragedy comes in), and I do think it's a great performance, but I also think Bogart's Steele has equal magnitude (at least), but with fewer outlandish gestures. And against Holden's beautifully subtle performance I'd pit Gloria Grahame's wonderfully believable one (with the additional and totally unfair remark that I thought Grahame was a hell of a lot sexier).

And yeah, Wilder polishes his dialogue to perfection, which is what I disliked about it; it was too perfect (again, this is strictly according to my taste). The dialogue in In a Lonely Place has its zing, but you have to be more alert to catch it; the cleverness isn't as obvious. It also feels more of a time and place, like the kind of dialogue you and I would speak, whereas I can't imagine people talking as brilliantly as in Sunset.

Remarkable too if you consider what Dorothy Hughes' novel was like--basically a first-person narration by the killer himself, and how he was eventually caught. The film shifts the focus from the killer to Steele and Gray, and their relationship.

And I disagree with Kael; I don't feel this is noir, but a kind of domestic tragedy with a murder tacked on (which seems to be Bogart--who executive produced--and Ray's intent). Dorothy's novel was noir--it's much darker than the film--but again, seems to me that's the filmmakers' intent: it's as dark as life would be.

(Liked Out of the Past a lot, incidentally, but was much more impressed by Robert Siodmak's Criss Cross (a rougher, grittier, more realist movie), which TCM once showed side-by-side...)

And the plot, which I agree isn't as tight as Wilder's, seems to meander just the way life would. Love it that the killer who dominates the first half fades away (so to speak) in the second, and love the way Ray focused on the police officer and his wife after Steele leaves their dinner party; their scene together doesn't add anything to the plot, but it so beautifully encapsulates their relationship in such detail that you suddenly see them as two real human beings, and a kind of complementary couple to go along with and comment on Steele and Gray's relationship (how's that for originality?).

As to hamfisted earnestness--not to my ears, I guess. Really think this is terrific stuff, torn it seems from the actor's and filmmaker's inner lives (but I've stopped being a big fan of Wilder, just a middling one, so that may be a factor...).

In a Lonely Place

From Forum With No Name:

Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place (1950) is terrific stuff, a drama-in-the-corrupt-heart-of-Hollywood kind of flick, much like Sunset Boulevard (made the same year), only I think more persuasive: the characters are memorable without being grotesque, the dialogue authentic without sounding polished, the ending quiet (no violent deaths or descents into madness), but with a sense of immeasurable loss. I'd go so far as to say the film is better for the lack of extreme drama--these are reasonably sane, intelligent people who really love each other but just can't seem to hold on to each other. Can't believe the other film is the better known.

Bogart here is amazing--this is the performance he was going for in Treasure of Sierra Madre, only there the role seemed too big for him; here it seems to emerge from him as if it had been there all along (he just needed a few extra years to marinate, relax, realize that exposing himself (this is reportedly the closest Bogart ever got to showing his real self) was the way to go). He treads a delicate line, not between sanity and madness, but between basically decent human being and charismatic but irrepressible sonofabitch (a subtler and more difficult challenge, I think), making the melding of the two identities not just believable, but memorable.

Gloria Grahame--what can I say? Ice-queen blonde, passionate lover, desperate, despairing woman all in one (I'm tempted to say she's a slimmer Monroe, but with sensibility and brains). She makes you understand what's at stake--a woman so lovely and intelligent and totally in love it would be crazy not to want her--same time she makes you understand how terrified she is of Steele and his temper. Grahame and Ray's relationship was deteriorating at this point, and you can't help wondering how much of that seeped into her performance, or the film. It's full of honesty, apparently--Bogart's, Grahame's, Ray's--and as a result it hits home; you feel as if this could have happened to your next-door neighbors, or to you.

As for Ray and his directing style--I literally can't remember. This isn't a putdown; I was so caught up in the story and performances I could barely recall anything, except that Ray manage to capture a wealth of emotional details, the kind I imagine you'd only get if you shot the entire movie in closeup. I sensed some quietly virtuoso shots, and an understated scene where a police officerhands over photos of a woman's twisted corpse to Bogart, which he looks over without much fuss or comment (it isn't the photos that seemed unsettling so much as their indifference). Great film, maybe one of Ray's best, definitely one of Bogart's.


Robert Wise

Robert Wise

Three sides to the man--craftsman (The Haunting, The Andromeda Strain, The Day the Earth Stood Still), Hollywood hack (Sound of Music, Star Trek the Motion Picture), hired mutilator of a great masterpiece (The Magnificent Ambersons).

The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm


Humphrey Bogart day on TCM

Caught Humphrey Bogart Day last August on TCM.

Anatole Litvak's The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) is a bizarre little crime/comedy film, where Edgar G. Robinson plays a brilliant doctor so keen to study criminal psychology he plots crimes and studies everyone's reactions to them; I kind of hesitate to even call it a 'comedy' because everyone plays it so straight and serious, though I found myself laughing my head off. Bogart was more of an anguished mobster; the movie really belongs to Robinson, who plays mad scientist with the gusto of a shorter Boris Karloff.

Archie Mayo's direction of The Petrified Forest (1936) felt like it had a bit of a petrified quality--it's a stage play and shows a theaterbound, literary quality. Leslie Howard as an intellectual bum, however, wears that literariness gracefully on his shoulders and Bette Davis matches him with her ardour (I much prefer both of them, however, in that fizzy theater comedy It's Love I'm After, done a year later). Bogart breaks the bounds of the proscenium arch with his haunted gangster with an unshakeable sense of doom (he reminds me of Toshiro Mifune in Drunken Angel).

Peter Godfrey's The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947) has Bogart as a moody, perhaps mad painter, and Barbra Stanwyk as his invalid wife, slowly coming into the realization that her husband may be a Bluebeard. It's gothic material that really needs a more gothic touch (Welles? Carol Reed?), I think. Stanwyk puts as much conviction into her performance as she can, but Bogart seems to be treading water here--you don't know if he's a cad, a psychopath, or just deeply confused. He's upstaged by his eerily cheerful daughter, played by Ann Carter.


Luis Bunuel's Simon of the Desert

Luis Bunuel's Simon of the Desert is interesting, in that the whole thing could have been staged in a theater instead of being on film...only there's the presence of Bunuel's camera, looking up at Simon on the pedestal, circling him, homing in on him, peering at him from different angles. Can't help but wonder if Bunuel meant the camera's point of view to stand in for God's, the way it keeps going round and round Simon, as if looking for a crack in his armor.

Interesting "lessons" from an "interesting eyewitness account" part 2

This has been going through the various egroups I'm subscribed to. It's long, but skim through it and check out the "lessons" attached to the end.


Excellent account, but the lesssons drawn from the experience seem all fucked up (actually, I googled the names, and they DID write the account, but someone added the "lessons").


What Katrina taught the US, I'd say, is that government is a huge factor in helping out people in disasters, and if you pick the wrong person (i.e. Michael Brown for FEMA) to head disaster management, you just screw things up worse. Not to mention the fact that Bush diverting resources to Iraq instead of infrastructure (the levees) and his total lack of concern about the environment (the marsh lands around New Orleans, which were natural barriers to flooding, were drained and developed, is why there was no defense for the city other than an inadequate levee) all helped make the disaster possible.


Some of the other lessons endorsed are just as odd--so are Americans expected to become survivalists, storing months of water and food, and maybe a few shotguns?


The "lessons" sound like something the Republicans would put out, just to spin this story their way. Note the implied demand for yet another tax reduction.

Interesting "lessons" from an "interesting eyewitness account"

(A bit of a long read but highly compelling)


Trapped in New Orleans




Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreens store at the corner of Royal and Iberville Streets in the city's historic French Quarter remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing, and the milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat.


The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers and prescriptions, and fled the city. Outside Walgreens' windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry. The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized, and the windows at Walgreens gave way to the looters.


There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices and bottled water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead, they! spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.


We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home on Saturday. We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreens in the French Quarter.


We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and police struggling to help the "victims" of the hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed, were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans.


The maintenance workers who used a forklift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to ! free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hotwire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the city. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens, improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.


Most of these workers had lost their homes and had not heard from members of their families. Yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20 percent of New Orleans that was not under water.


* * *


ON DAY Two, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves and locals who had ! checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina.


Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources, including the National Guard and scores of buses, were pouring into the city. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible, because none of us had seen them.


We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the city. Those who didn't have the requisite $45 each were subsidized by those who did have extra money.


We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and newborn babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute they arrived at the city limits, the! y were commandeered by the military.


By Day Four, our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously bad. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that "officials" had told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the city, we finally encountered the National Guard.


The guard members told us we wouldn't be allowed into the Superdome, as the city's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. They further told us that the city's only other shelter--the convention center--was also descending into chaos and squalor, and that the police weren't allowing anyone else in.


Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only two shelters in the city, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that this was our problem--and no, they didn't have extra water to gi! ve to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement."


* * *


WE WALKED to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing--that we were on our own, and no, they didn't have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred.


We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and constitute a highly visible embarrassment to city officials. The police told us that we couldn't stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp.


In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge to the south side of the Mississippi, where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the city.


The crowd cheered and began to move. We called ev! eryone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation, so was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."


We organized ourselves, and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched past the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group, and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news.


Families immediately grabbed their few belongings, and quickly, our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, as did people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and other people in wheelchairs. We marched the two to three miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it didn't dampen our enthusiasm.


As we approached the bridge, armed sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bri! dge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions.


As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us that there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.


We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans, and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for: if you are poor and Black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River, and you are not getting out of New Orleans.


* * *


OUR SMALL group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our op! tions and, in the end, decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway--on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned that we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway, and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet-to-be-seen buses.


All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away--some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the city on foot.


Meanwhile, the only two city shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery that Ne! w Orleans had become.


Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an Army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts.


Now--secure with these two necessities, food and water--cooperation, community and creativity flowered. We organized a clean-up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom, and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas and other scraps. We even organized a food-recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).


This was something we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself. You had! to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. But when these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.


If the relief organizations had saturated the city with food and water in the first two or three days, the desperation, frustration and ugliness would not have set in.


Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.


From a woman with a battery-powered radio, we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the city. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway. The officials responded that they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone ! to it.


Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking city) was accurate. Just as dusk set in, a sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces and screamed, "Get off the fucking freeway." A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.


Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims," they saw "mob" or "riot." We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" attitude was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.


In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of eight people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cil! o Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements, but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.


The next day, our group of eight walked most of the day, made contact with the New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search-and-rescue team.


We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.


* * *


WE ARRIVED at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We eight were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. Afte! r being evacuated on a Coast Guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.


There, the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses didn't have air conditioners. In the dark, hundreds of us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.


Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport--because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly and disabled, as we sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we weren't carrying any communicable diseases.


This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heartfelt reception! given to us by ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome.


Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.


LARRY BRADSHAW and LORRIE BETH SLONSKY are emergency medical services (EMS) workers from San Francisco. They were attending an EMS conference in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck. They spent most of the next week trapped by the flooding--and the martial law cordon around the city.


 Lesson 1: Government is NOT here to take care of you. That is not its purpose, never has been, and never will be. You have been sold this protection lie in order to justify reducing your wealth, freedom, and natural rights as a human being.


Lesson 2: "To Protect and Serve" is a PR con. Which is not anti-cop per se - see Lesson 5.


! Lesson 3: The military is not here to defend you or your rights. Perhaps it was once, before your great-grandmother was born.


Lesson 4: The biggest part of survival and being prepared is your mental attitude


Lesson 5: Individuals, working together, can make a difference. They may wear costumes (uniforms) or they may not.


Lesson 6: If you don't learn a lesson the first time, you will be given a second chance - with more dire consequences. Do you have water, water, water, food, first aid supplies and an emergency plan in case the next assault affects you directly?


Vittorio de Sica's "Two Women"

Was prepared to dislike La Ciociara (Two Women, 1960)--Sophia Loren won an Oscar for her role in this picture, after all--but midway through the picture found myself firmly in its grip, a comic drama about a Roman woman (Loren)and her innocent daughter, forced by the war to go back to her home village to live. By film's end, of course, it was devastating, particularly the last ten or twenty minutes. I don't mean just the assault, that was strong enough, but the aftermath, the American officers that drove around the women, the unspoken subtext of what had happened to the daughter--you understood what was going on, even if no one talks about it, or even mentions it.

This would make an excellent double bill with Mario O'Hara's war drama, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God, 1976) about another woman struggling to survive the war.

Tribute to New Orleans

From someone who's lived there thirteen years. Expresses better than anything I can think up of what the city meant, and what the people responsible for letting it become what it is now really are.

(Relevant posts start on August 29, 2005 onwards)



Hayao Miyazaki's Sherlock Hound, Discs 2 & 3

You're nothin' but a hound dog too

Might add some of the non-Miyazaki episodes on disc 2 in particular are worth watching--The Green Balloon, for one has an interesting procedural where Hound tracks down the owner of a lost balloon, and The Sacred Image has a group of spunkily inventive kids.

Where Did the Sovereigns Go (Disc 3) is interesting in the way it characterized Hound's latest client as the real villain. Superb characterization; we get to know the man long before we even lay eyes on him, from the grindingly poor village at the foot of his castle (and their reaction on learning Hound and Watson are his guests) to the castle itself, high up a hill and beautiful and throwing a constant glare (the sun's reflection from his giant gold statue) down at the people in the valley. The statue itself is a Goldberg wonder, and for one surreal moment the man himself appears to Hound as if made of gold (nicely done Midas reference). Moriarity makes a belated appearance as a convenient alibi (the putative villain, so to speak).

Treasure Under the Sea (Disc 2) is easily the most spectacular episode in the series--could be more in the succeeding episodes, which were done without Miyazaki, but would it have the same level of complex, detailed motion? Again, the putative client seems to be the real villain--not one but two power-mongers (they're brothers), one greedy for machineries of war, the other greedy for (beautifully drawn) treasure. Really fast-paced, with a climactic deathtrap that seems more impressive than usual.

The White Cliffs of Dover (Disc 2) combines two Miyazaki specialties: a strong heroine and aeroplanes. Here it's again Mrs. Hudson who comes to fore, not the motherly way she did in the episode where Moriarity kidnapped her, but as genuine action heroine.

When the postal plane--the first of its kind--crashes near their Baker Street apartment, for example, she rushes inside while Hound and Watson rush out, and we think she's going for shelter; yet she's right back out again and not just catching up but outrunning Hound. She reaches the plane, and we learn why she went indoors first: to fetch an ax for chopping away the plane's twisted wreckage from the pilot (she not only got there before Hound, she knew exactly what to bring and do).

Then a lovely little moment: the pilot is safely on the ground, the plane has harmlessly exploded, and we're looking at Watson full-face, who breaths a sigh of relief. Camera pans left to the pilot, who looks in concern to the left of him (camera following), past Hound to Mrs. Watson; she faints. Cut to a shot from Mrs. Watson's POV, and the pilot's suddenly anxious face: he calls her "Marie?"--from the two others' reactions, a hitherto unknown name, to either Hound or Watson--and steps forward. But to the left of the frame is Hound, making sidelong glances, and as the pilot steps forward, Hound accidently knocks him aside. Lovely bit of 'staging' (they are, after all, drawings and not solid human beings--which makes all this all the more impressive), and even lovelier bit of revealed character: Hound, who has never shown any interest in Mrs. Hudson, is possibly possessive, even jealous.

The rest of the episode is a real thriller, with wonderful examples of Miyazaki going all-out animated-actionwise (love the odd bits of knowledge we learn, about the numberless ways a plane might be sabotaged, or how they might have fixed said planes in mid-flight), and Mrs. Hudson again going into the rescue with everyone else gaping in disbelief. Between this and The Kidnapping of Mrs. Hudson, it's hard to choose a clear favorite.

Oh, and Moriarity's fried fish are a wide-eyed delight.

My thoughts on disc 1, and the series as a whole, here


Southern-style risotto

Did a mushroom risotto today--1/4 stick of butter, half an onion fine-chopped, cook until it starts to turn gold. Take off heat, add shitake and portabello mushrooms, then instead of prosciutto I substituted good ole-fashioned Southern country ham, thinly sliced, and mix. Put back on heat, add rice, toast for another minute, then add a cupful free-range chicken broth every few minutes before it dries out. Topped it with a cupful of grated parmesan and chopped parsely.

For dessert I grilled some pineapples and served em with a mix of warm heavy cream and Nutella.

Bread, salmon, berries

Got a ten-dollar bottle of balsamic and a nine-dollar bottle of extra-virgin olive oil; mix the two together as dip for a crusty Italian loaf. Crusty bread in incredibly sweet aged vinegar and a very fine and pale oil--could make a meal all by itself.

Also bought a large fillet of wild salmon for seven dollars (it was on sale, and cheaper than even farm bred salmon), drizzled it with oil, added salt and vinegar, and baked in the oven, 450 degrees for twenty minutes. Simple and easy and pretty good. Accompanied by a salad of baby spinach leaves in ginger dressing.

For dessert, two tablespoons of nutella mixed with heavy cream, gently heated till combined, then pour over a cup of raspberries and blackberries.


Dil Chahta Hai

From I Spit On Your Groove:

colette: Noel, I was reading your blog entry about bollywood pics and I was wondering why you didn't like Dil Chahta Hai . I'm no bollywood expert but I thought it was great. It had all the stuff that makes a bollywood musical well so Bollywood, fabulous locations (the city shots looked like they may have really been in Bombay) beautiful people in beautiful clothing, over the top dance numbers, broken and then mended hearts, a cad, a good guy, a fast girl, a good girl. What set this one apart for me was the story was interesting and engaging without the dancing and pop music.

It's the beautiful stuff--St. Elmo's Fire with a lot of pretty Indian youths instead of white bread. The stories were old even when St. Elmo's came out (young man in love with older woman; boy loves girl who is promised to another; so on and so forth). Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor and Bimal Roy, they made films about everything from the poor to the filthy rich, they told them well, and they told em with real style.

Also admit I have a dislike for movies that weep over pretty people and their so-called problems; need something a little more complex to keep me from walking out. Depiction of the middle to upper class in movies is a special challenge, one not to be taken lightly; I'd say the only ones really capable (off the top of my head) were Renoir, Visconti, Bunuel, Kapoor, Dutt, and maybe at a far lower level Ang Lee.