So, like…

…did anything interesting happen last night?


Obamacare Repeal Flames Out In The Republican Senate

Incredibly, it was John McCain who wound up being the vote to end this latest round of “repeal and replace”.  The same John McCain who was brought in hastily from surgery (and diagnosis of having brain cancer), to supposedly be the vote to bring this over the hump.

However, yesterday, Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham gave what I thought was a pretty bonkers news conference where they talked about what a farce the “skinny” repeal bill was and how Mr. Graham, in particular, was reluctant to vote for it unless assured it wouldn’t be passed by the House “as is”.

Mr. Graham: If you feel the bill is a farce and don’t want it passed, then don’t vote for it.

Which, in the end, is what Mr. McCain did.

Though very much liberal in much of my ideology, for many years I’ve felt Mr. McCain was a Republican one could at least reason with.  In more recent years, I have to be honest, I felt he was losing it.  The presidential race against Barack Obama saw him nominate Sarah Palin for the VP role, which in my estimation was not only a stupid move but probably played a big part in his eventual loss.

It’s been said “Obamacare” will eventually fail.  I hear this is an exaggeration.  I also hear that many of the states that have the biggest problems in this era of the Affordable Care Act (which is the proper term for Obamacare), have problem because they didn’t want to implement the full extent of the ACA’s provisions.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that I experienced Canada’s “socialized” medicine… and it was freaking great.  I’ve experienced some of Europe’s socialized medicine as well, and frankly, it too is great.

I don’t like this Darwinian system we’ve had up until the ACA.  I don’t like the idea of people potentially going broke later in life or as a result of some kind of catastrophic medical need.

There are better ways to go and, sadly, the world outside our borders seems to have embraced this quicker than we have.

Perhaps with this later failure both parties will finally -finally!– get together and form a coalition that actually improves upon the ACA rather than trying to gut it.



Found this article over at and written by James Walker:

Researchers shut down AI that invented its own language


If I understand the article right, Facebook developed an AI system that, they realized, was creating its own language to interact with each other.


I’ve written fiction involving AI machines.  The sudden realization that AI machines -even rudimentary ones- may be “intelligent” enough to create their own language to interact with each other…


Just, wow.

Should we be amazed?  Afraid?  Equal parts of both?


The Drowning Pool (1975) a (very) belated review

A while back I caught -for maybe the fourth time- the 1966 Paul Newman detective film Harper (you can read my full review of the film here).  Based on the Lew Archer detective stories by writer Ross Macdonald, Harper is considered a great second generation version of the old hard-boiled detective movie genre.

Ross Macdonald, to me, was a great writer who wrote many great novels and his Lew Archer books are high up there on my list of re-readable works.  Having said that, it is also clear Mr. Macdonald (actually a pen name for Kenneth Millar), was very much mimicking the Raymond Chandler detective novels, even as he was doing a magnificent job at it.  I can see where some might find it difficult to admire Mr. Macdonald’s work because it owes so much to Raymond Chandler, but, again, his works are so damn good it eventually doesn’t matter.

One of the more interesting bits of casting in the movie Harper was having Lauren Bacall in it as the matriarch of the screwed up family Harper (Paul Newman, reportedly, wanted the Archer name changed because in the 1960’s he was on a roll with movies featuring characters whose name began with an “H”.  I’m not kidding) is investigating.  This bit of casting was especially satisfying as one of her classic roles had her co-star, with husband Humphrey Bogart, in the Raymond Chandler novel adaptation The Big Sleep (1946), which as I stated above was mimicked so well by Ross Macdonald in his novels.

Harper, to me, is a damn good movie thought I don’t feel it quite reaches the level of The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon or Murder, My Sweet.  It feels over-long and, sadly, the near cameo role played by Janet Leigh (who is quite good in the film, nonetheless), could have been clipped without affecting the movie much at all.

Nearly ten years later and in 1975 a sequel to Harper was released entitled The Drowning Pool.  Returning to the role of Lew Harper was Paul Newman.

I’d seen the film a while back and didn’t think all that much about it.  In general, most critics felt this film was an inferior production, though like Harper it was based on, and adhered to, the Ross Macdonald novel.

A few days back I noticed it was being played on a cable channel (TCM?) and decided to give it another look.  I set the DVR and, a couple of days afterwards, sat down and gave the film a look.

And I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

Don’t get me wrong, The Drowning Pool is not as good a film as Harper.  The plot kinda rolls along and there’s plenty of talk but not a whole heck of a lot of action.

Yet the movie intrigued me and -I won’t lie- I found myself immersed in it.

Paul Newman, as noted, returns to the role of Lew Harper.  When the movie opens, he’s flown into New Orleans and meets up with Iris Devereaux (played by Paul Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward).  Mrs. Devereaux, it turns out, was an old flame of Harper’s and is now married and living in an old Plantation house.  She was, and its implied still is, something of a wild child and has apparently had a fling or two on the side.  A recently fired chauffeur, it appears, is sending blackmail notes to her demanding money or her affair(s) will be revealed.

Because Mrs. Devereaux lives under the steel thumb of Olivia Devereaux, the mother of her husband and a woman who supposedly keeps everyone in the household in line, she fears that if this information is revealed she’ll be cut off from the family and its fortune and sent packing.  Worth noting is the implication her husband, the barely seen in the movie James Devereaux, is heavily implied to be a closeted homosexual whose marriage to Iris is a sham and therefore her fears are very real.

So Iris Devereaux calls on Harper to find the chauffeur and make him stop sending the notes and Harper agrees to do so while getting involved in the machinations of the Devereaux family and people who know them.

He soon encounters Iris’ daughter, the angry and even wilder-child Schuyler (Melanie Griffith in one of her first movie roles) as well as the chief of police Broussard (Anthony Franciosa) and his very hot tempered deputy, Franks (Richard Jaeckel).  In time, Harper will also bump into J. J. Kilbourne (Murray Hamilton), who may be pulling several strings behind the scenes.

Interestingly, much as I liked the movie Harper and still feel it is a superior movie, I came away feeling The Drowning Pool more effectively captured the tone of the Ross Macdonald novels, and for that I have to give the film a huge plus.

Again, The Drowning Pool may not be a superb film but it is a pretty damn good one and like Mr. Macdonald’s novels it unravels in a slow yet satisfying way, giving you time to sink your teeth into almost every character and realize how it is they interact with -and against!- each other.

Ross Macdonald’s Archer novels tended to feature complex -and very screwed up- family interactions and this movie gives it to us in spades.  The ending is shocking, sad, and leaves us wondering what could have been, another familiar theme present in the Archer novels.

In conclusion, its nice to revisit a film you didn’t think all that much of and find it a better experience than you thought.  While today’s ADD audiences might find the movie too slow to sit through, I enjoyed soaking up the ambiance and characters present in The Drowning Pool.

The embedded trailer below, alas, cuts off some 1:15 seconds in.  No matter, its not a terribly good trailer for the film and makes everything look more tongue in cheek than it was…

Alice Cooper and Andy Warhol…

Found this story over at CNN.  It was written by Oscar Holland and Allyssia Alleyne and concerns…

Alice Cooper’s ‘forgotten’ Warhol found after four decades

The upshot of the article is that musician Alice Cooper, best known for such songs as School’s Out and I’m 18, apparently bought and owned an Andy Warhol print whose value today may be upwards of $10 Million… and it was only now that he remembered he had it.

Why is that?

Blame the 1970’s rock n’ roll lifestyle.  From the article, Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper’s manager at the time, states:

I remember (then Alice Cooper girlfriend) Cindy came to the office and said that she wanted to give Alice the electric chair (painting) for his birthday, and (Warhol’s studio) said she could have one for $2,500.  That’s my recollection but everything from those days is really foggy. As I (later) found out — things that I thought were real were not real.

Incredible, no?  Especially the last line about things that “I thought were real were not real.”

Perhaps that’s the best description of the rock n’ roll lifestyle circa the 1970’s you’re going to find.

Hey Bulldog…

In the seven (yes, only seven) years The Beatles actively released albums (their first album was 1963’s Please Please Me, their last release was 1970’s Let It Be… though that album was actually recorded before 1969’s Abbey Road) they released an incredibly large volume of music.

What is astonishing is not only the amount but how uniformly good/great most of it was.

But when one releases that much material, there are bound to be some songs that rise to the top and others which don’t.  Some may be viewed as not very good -not all of ’em can be winners- while some simply fade away and are liked but perhaps never quite loved.

Hey Bulldog may well be one of those -somewhat- forgotten tunes.  Here are some sounds from the recording of that song back in 1968, with the memorable piano intro…

I like the song but, like many others, consider it a decent but not “terrific” Beatles tune.

Nonetheless, the song has one major distinction which no other Beatles songs have: There are those, like Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, who feel this is the last Beatles song the entire band collaborated on relatively equally.

Yes, you read that right.

Though they would go on to release plenty of other material in the time they remained a band, the fact of the matter is that in 1968 The Beatles were only a couple of years away from breaking up and their personal relationships had already started to fray.

Again, there was still plenty of music to be made and released before the breakup but these songs tended to be done in “camps”. The four Beatles would work on their stuff individually and, its been reported, might get together -or not- to finish off something that was already nearly done.

In the case of Hey Bulldog, the four Beatles were together in the studio and worked on this track from its inception to end in a 10 hour session.  The song was brought in by John Lennon yet it was in collaboration with the other three Beatles that Mr. Lennon’s initial ideas and the finished product was worked out.

Find that bit of trivia about the song fascinating?

Then check out the link below.  In the article, the SirusXM Editors offer…

Hey Bulldog: 9 Things You Didn’t Know About This Overlooked Beatles Song

Sketchin’ 6

Shortly after finishing up the Robert Conrad picture, I took on another iconic movie image.  In this case, Steve McQueen from the movie Bullitt

Art is a funny thing.  The Robert Conrad picture (you can see it here) I thought was a total knockout.  A complete success.

This one?

Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think its a terrible picture, but I’m not feeling Steve McQueen’s face here.  On the other hand, I really like certain parts of the picture, like the hand, body, and hair.  but something isn’t quite working on the face itself.  Perhaps its the eyes or maybe the lips.

The good thing about doing art is that once you finish a piece, you can go on to the next one and hope for better.

Come to think about it, that’s life, isn’t it?

You always try for the best but sometimes things don’t work out as well as you want.

Brush yourself off and go on to the next job/work.

With practice things will get better.

Comics… here today…?

It’s no secret that comic book sales are on a steady decline.

This saddens me tremendously.

As a very young child, I was wowed by movies, by TV shows, by books… and of course, I was blown away by Comic Books.

To this day, over forty years later, I still love the medium and still feel it has tremendous possibilities.

But the reality is that today, the comic book medium is in trouble.  So much so that during the San Diego Comic Con, there was a panel with DC Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio where they talked about their plans to “save” the medium.

The below link is to an article about that panel.  It is written by Charles Pulliam-Moore and is found on

DC Has An Epic Plan To Save Itself From the Comics Apocalypse it helped create

As you can tell from the headline of the article, Mr. Pulliam-Moore (or perhaps the editors of aren’t feeling a tremendous amount of love towards these folks, noting that many of the problems in the comic book industry today could be traced to many of the things they themselves were involved in.

This, sadly, is very much a fact.

Jim Lee and Dan DiDio aren’t country bumpkins who just last week “showed up” at the comics industry and are just now realizing how screwed up it is.

Regardless, and giving them something of the benefit of the doubt, I’m pleased they’re finally realizing something I’ve felt has long been a problem with comic books: Continuity.

When Marvel Comics under legends Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko essentially re-created and re-invigorated the comic book industry in the very early 1960’s, one of the biggest things they brought to their books was the idea of continuity.

What happens in Spider-Man #5, for example, may be referenced in Fantastic Four #10.  Hulk may wander away at the end of an issue of The Avengers and we find his wandering took him to the next issue of Daredevil.

It was a thrilling concept for its time, something that wasn’t seen in most comic books to that point, but like all good things, it set the groundwork for problems to come.

The fact is that Marvel became very continuity devoted and DC, which eventually decided to follow along with the concept of continuity, created a fun “history” of their characters but a history that, over time and following so many years of issues which followed, became convoluted and silly.

Inevitably, the continuity history became too hard to handle and the companies had a desire to “clean things up”.  The famous 1980’s mini-series Crisis on Infinite Worlds was meant to do just that, to restart DC comics continuity and have everyone be in a “year one” situation.

Image result for crisis on infinite earths

But, while certain titles did try to go with a “new” mentality, big problems were created with -ironically enough- other continuity issues.  I won’t get into all the details but, essentially, the series removed the idea of a “multiverse” and had all the characters merge into one world… which ironically enough created all kinds of other continuity problems.

Marvel, for their part, branched off into “Ultimate” versions of their characters among other things, essentially trying to create their own multi-verse.

Another problem Crisis, and Marvel’s company-wide crossover Secret Wars created was a sense that big events made for big sales.

So we had continuity going nuts, company-wide crossovers selling big, and big events being viewed as a way to goose up sales.

It was a recipe for big sales in the short term and big problems years down the road.

Eventually, these big company-wide crossovers and big events would get… tiring.

Worse, expecting readers to shell out big bucks for a whole host of books they might not otherwise bother with to get the “full story” of the latest event was silly and burdensome.  Eventually, readers realized that these big, continuity altering events were not quite all they were cracked up to be and, it was no big surprise, these events became less than interesting.

So Mr. Lee and DiDio seem to want to move in the opposite direction, releasing big event books that are self-contained, perhaps like graphic novels, and whose continuity is self-enclosed.

I’m all in favor of this but I suspect, rather strongly, that this is yet another example of how the movie/TV industry shadows over the comic book industry.

The fact of the matter is that making a comic book of this type, with a complete beginning, middle, and end, is a pretty damn good way to do a story you can then present to those big-wigs in the movie/TV industry.

I fear that comic books are becoming just that, a relatively cheap way of pitching movie/TV concepts and, because the real money is there, that’s what Mr. Lee and DiDio are pushing.

The demise of the comic book industry is not a new thought.  There were many in the 1970’s who thought it was on its way out.  Then in the 1990’s.  And now today.

Perhaps the industry survives.

I hope so.

I like the industry.  I like reading well written and well-drawn books.  I’m dismayed by much of what is published today, but if I’m honest, there has been plenty of what I feel was “bad” material published in the past as well.

As with so many things, we’ll see what happens…

Sketchin’ 5

Though I haven’t had a chance this past week to do any iPad sketching, this past half hour I found and did this image:

Love the image…

And I think I have the whole “image size” thing figured out.

The gentleman in the picture is Robert Conrad who is best known for playing James West on The Wild Wild West TV show.  This particular image was taken from, believe it or not, a photograph of him when he was in The Battle of the Network Stars in the late 1970’s.

Dunkirk is being released today…

…so how about taking a look at, and ranking, all 10 of director Christopher Nolan’s films?

This list, presented on and written by Bilge Ebiri, offers a look at all his films, including Dunkirk, and ranks them:

All 10 Christopher Nolan Films, Ranked

In case you’re curious (and, what the hell, even if you’re not), I’d probably still put Memento as Christopher Nolan’s best film.  Though low budget, it was an absolutely incredible bit of daring film making, giving us a story presented in chunks and going backwards in time.

Incredibly, there is a big payoff at the very end and, even more incredibly, if you have the DVD and/or BluRay that allows you to play the film in “normal” time, it works just as well!

As for most disappointing Christopher Nolan film… that would have to be Insomnia, which Mr. Ebiri also ranks rather low, giving it the #9 slot (I would put it at #10, frankly).

Here’s the thing about Insomnia: Mr. Nolan’s 2002 film was a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film featuring the same title which, IMHO, was so much better.

The plot of Insomnia is that a somewhat corrupt cop accidentally -or could it have been on purpose?- shoots and kills his partner while chasing a killer in the fog.  We learn that our corrupt cop is about to have a hearing before the board and that his partner, the man he killed, may well have been about to testify against him.

The case they are involved in lies in a distant city in the Arctic and there, daytime light lasts for weeks.  Our “hero”, whom audiences can’t quite know if he’s actually good or not, is affected by the constant light and can’t sleep all while trying to solve the vicious crime and keep an eye out on his superiors… who may be about to drop the hammer on him.

The original film, which featured an unknown cast (though lead actor Stellan Skarsgård has since become a better known fixture in American films), worked because of that fact.  We were never sure of just how “good” or “bad” our protagonist was.

In the Christopher Nolan remake, the lead character is played by Al Pacino and, unfortunately, right away we know he’s a somewhat bad man who is trying to redeem himself from the grime of his life.

With the bigger names in the roles, we unfortunately know too much about the characters and their motivations and, therefore, already have an idea of where things are going, which we didn’t in the original film.

Yes, the remake had a big, powerhouse cast.  But this may well have been a case where having bigger names meant we knew the film wouldn’t take too many chances and, indeed, it did not.

Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia isn’t a “terrible” film, by the way.  I don’t think any of Mr. Nolan’s films are mediocre, much less “bad”.  But when compared to some of his other works, it simply doesn’t measure up to them.

All in my humble opinion, of course!

Sign of things to come…

Found this article by Chris D’Angelo over at…

Boss of Coal-Hauling Railroad says “Fossil Fuels Are Dead”

Hunter Harrison, the CEO of freight railroad CSX Corporation, represents one of the largest railroad companies that haul coal around the country and, for him to say the above is certainly thought provoking.

Whenever I delve into politics, what often bugs me the most is that people tend to have a certain predisposition to information and are often unwilling and/or unable -or even worse, outright lie- about other views.

I’ve pointed out before that I lived through the earlier days of the desktop home computer revolution.  This began, roughly, in the very early 1980’s and my very first computer was an Atari 800…

Image result for atari 800

There she is, in all her glory and with the cartridge bay open (the computer could have two -count ’em- two cartridges placed within the system simultaneously!  (Never mind that I don’t think there ever was a need to have more than one in at a time)

Computer systems have come a hell of a long way since those heady days of the early 1980’s and I’m certain if I offered anyone the choice of going back to that old Atari 800 or using the latest iPhone the choice would be laughably one-sided.

Which is why it frustrates me to see us still using fossil fuels and coal when clearly there are other, cleaner ways of getting our energy.

Ironically enough, it is because of the success of things like cell phones, laptops, etc. and the desire to make better and better batteries for them that has lead to what appears to be this new energy revolution.

Because we needed better and better batteries for our smaller computer gadgets, we’ve developed batteries and battery technologies which have, in turn, uses beyond the cell phone or laptop.

Thus after too many years of extremely slow growth, it appears the electric car may finally replace the old combustion engine.  Solar power, too, is becoming a much more significant piece of our energy grid as is wind power.

And then you have people like Mr. Harrison, whose company operated within the fossil fuel industry, coming out and noting he has to think ahead and that his manner of business is on the outs.


And, moreso, it gives me hope that we can finally start cleaning this planet in earnest.

After all, why would anyone want to live in a smog filled, dirty world?