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Trump’s National Emergency and Blazing Saddles

Friends Of Padre Steve’s World,

Today President Trump declared a National Emergency, though in his own words “he didn’t need to do it, he just wanted to do it faster.”

A couple of days ago I wrote about the great and trailblazing Mel Brooks film, Blazing Saddles. 

It was a film way ahead of its time and two of its characters, Attorney General Headly Lamarr, played by Harvey Kormann, and Governor William  Lepetomaine, played by Brooks himself are a startling premonition of the current President, in their lust for power and incompetence, wrapped in ignorance and racism.

Of course the President’s decision impacts military readiness, infrastructure, and the service men and women who work and live on the bases that will now be deprived of billions of dollars of badly needed infrastructure repairs and improvements just to remain operational. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the President, nor does the Constitutional separation of powers that gives to Congress, and Congress alone the power of the purse. But I digress…

The fact is that the President is doing his damnedest to undermine the rule of law by finding some kind of precedent for something that amounts to an unprecedented federal land grab on the basis of an unprovable national emergency.

Now all the President needs is men to carry it out. Of course, there will be no want of volunteers.

So anyway, as this cracked up Operation gets underway, just remember, Trump won’t be the first nor the last to try find a way around the law and the Constitution to fulfill his agenda, but none will be as funny and to the point as Headly Lamarr and William Lepetomaine. Compared to them, Trump is a pathetically clueless, humorless, and soulless rank amature who believes that he is both witty and smart.

All that being said I cannot beleive that he won’t get away with it. The GOP Senate majority has shown no courage when Trump walks on their Party beliefs and Constitutional responsibilities, and the Courts at this point, God only knows. I hope to be wrong but I don’t expect them to exercise any judicial independence in support of the Constitution and the powers granted to them within it.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Blazing Saddles at 45: It Couldn’t be Made Today, but it Needs to be Seen by Everyone

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Last Thursday, the 7th of February, was the 45th anniversary of an iconic film that even today challenges Americans about the evils of racism and prejudice. Since I was pretty much out of it following my surgery I didn’t write about Blazing Saddles was shocking in its humor which exposed the racism, sexism, and even the anti-gay prejudices that were common in the era. The use of racial invective and slurs by various characters is so shocking now that people who didn’t live during those times cannot understand the real intent of the film.

Mel Brooks used the parody of the classic America  Western Film to confront very real prejudices that ran rampant at the time, and still do, though most people are a bit more careful to disguise their public language and camouflage their prejudices without ever really given them up. In fact the language and terms used by Brooks and his co-writer, the late Richard Pryor are off limits in much of film. I remember showing the DVD to our younger enslisted personnel in Iraq and they were shocked. I had to explain how prevalent open racism was back when the film was released, and what Brooks’s intentions were. He used the humor of the film to bring to the surface the prejudices of many people, including many who later became his fans.

What is really hard for me to believe is that this masterpiece is unknown to many people. The fact that I lied about my age to get a ticket to see the movie when it came out, it was rated R and I had not yet turned 14, and that it remains one of my favorite films of all time, and not just mine, the film was nominated for 3 Academy Awards and is ranked number 6 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs list.

The fact is that Blazing Saddles probably couldn’t be made today because of hyper-politcially correct era. Anyone who knows me knows that I am exceptionally wary of ever using racial stereotypes or slurs and have enough empathy and concern for the sensibilities of people who have suffered through racial, ethnic, or religious persecution and prejudice not to want to see them used for cheap laughs. That being said, in certain times where racial prejudice is being driven from the top down, where the President of the United States can get elected by eliciting racism, sometimes it is appropriate to stick a finger in their eye through the use of comedy. Brook’s used that to drive home to people who otherwise wouldn’t recognize just how deeply racism and racist tropes are past f our society even today.

I think for me one of the most poingent moments in Blazing Saddles is in a scene where Chinese, African American, and Irish Railroad workers come to help the Balck Sheriff Bart, played by Cleavon Little and the self-described White God Fearing Citizens Of Rock Ridge save the town. All that was asked was that they would be able to live there. The late great actor David Huddleston, who played one of the town council members said:

“All right… we’ll give some land to the niggers and the chinks. But we don’t want the Irish!” 

When they all threaten to leave he changes his toon and says:

“Aw, prairie shit… Everybody!” 

The thing is that in those days the Irish were still a despised minority, even though they were white. I am about half Irish by my DNA, and I remember how upset my mom got when she heard that line. It offended her, but I think that such comedic barbs are helpful to all of us if they make us more sensitive to others and aware of our own racial, ethnic, religious, or social prejudices.

Besides the camp fire fart scene my friends, that is the continuing value of Blazing Saddles.

Have a great night,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

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The Waco Kid Rides into the Sunset: Rest in Peace Gene Wilder


http://www.movieclips.com/videos/blazing-saddles-official-clip-applause-for-the-waco-kid-409395779531
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sunday night lost a comic genius and great human being. Gene Wilder passed away with his family surrounding him at the age of 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. While many remember him most for his role as the quirky candy genius Willy Wonka, I will always remember him most for his roles in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers. Of course I will never forget him in Stir Crazy or The Silver Streak, but for me it was his roles in the Mel Brooks comedies that I will never forget. 


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The first time I saw him was in The Producers where he played the neurotic accountant Leo Blum who helped Max Bialystok (Zero Mostel) figure out that he could make more money producing a Broadway flop than a hit. I saw that film on television when I was about 12 years old, well before I ever saw him in Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, and I never forgot him. Then in 1974 I was able to convince the box office attendants and ushers that I was old enough to be admitted to the latter two films. Actually, it wasn’t that hard back then to fake it, no one ever asked for I.D., and I’m sure that some of them were stoned before they even showed up for work but I digress… 


https://www.yahoo.com/movies/video/blazing-saddles-clip-waco-kid-192608486.html
There are few people who could play neurotic people with the comic sensitivity that Gene Wilder did, the man was brilliant.  The next film that I saw him appear was Brooks’s classic Western spoof, Blazing Saddles where he played the washed up alcoholic gunfighter, the Waco Kid, whose name was Jim, though most people called him Jim. Wilder was a last minute replacement for Gig Young who actually did have an alcohol problem and collapsed on set forcing Brooks to shut down production for a day and bring Gene Wilder in relief. Wilder was perfect for the role and complimented Clevon Little who play the Black sheriff Bart to a tee. I think my favorite scene is where Sheriff Bart wishes a little old lady a “good day” and is told by her “up yours nigger.” Almost inconsolable Bart comes back to the office where the Waco Kid gives him some great advice. 

https://youtu.be/KHJbSvidohg

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Then there was Young Frankenstein where Wilder played the grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein opposite Marty Feldman, Terri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Peter Boyle. This was followed by Willy Wonka and so many others. I loved Wilder when he was paired with Richard Pryor as well. 

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I could go on and on about Gene Wilder, by I will stop for now. He and so many of his fellow cast members from these films are gone. Zero Mostel, Kenneth Mars, Clevon Little, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Richard Pryor, Alex Karras, and Peter Boyle to name but a few. He never announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s because he didn’t want to upset kids who saw him and said “look there’s Willy Wonka.” He was a joyful spirit who loved life, and now joins the love of his life, the late Gilda Radner, and now he goes into that final sunset. 


Rest in peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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Politics! Politics! Politics! The Genius of Mel Brooks

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Next Tuesday is the South Carolina primary, and after all the hoopla in Iowa and New Hampshire I don’t know if I can stand the incessant political bombardment on the airwaves and the internet. As such I take a bit to get my fill so I know what is happening, and then retreat into my private world.

Sometimes that private world has some fascinating intersections with politics.  I love the movies of Mel Brooks and find them hysterically funny. Call me crude, uncultured or anyhting else you want to call me I find Brooks to be one of the most brilliant writers to ever grace film.  Despite some of the course language and frequent use of the double entendre employed I find that Brook’s films speak our current political climate in strikingly biting ways. Brooks had an amazing way of confronting ingrained prejudice, discrimination, racism, religious intolerance, and the massive economic, social, and political privileges enjoyed by the wealthy. What is amazing to me is that his movies have become classics and that four decades later they still are relevant to the political, social, economic issues that we face as well as the continued curse of racism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDxzIuhTROU

Both Blazing Saddles and History of the World Part I came out in times of political and economic turmoil. Like now when these films came out people were disillusioned and cynical about their political leaders.  The country was badly divided, racism was rampant while divisive social issues, a problem riddled military and economic malaise ruled the day.  The Soviet Union seemed to be on the ascendant while some were writing the obituary of the United States and Western Europe. There are a lot of similarities.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYqF_BtIwAU

In such difficult times most political leaders and their partisan followers are absolutely devoid of humor, as are most pundits and politically minded preachers.  As a result everything becomes personal, and anyone that deviates from the party line is “the enemy.”  This goes for partisans on both sides of the political chasm.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk47saogI8o

Unfortunately our problems are multifaceted in scope, and deeper than the Marianas Trench.  Scandals have long been part and parcel of both the Legislative and Executive branches of our government.  As a people we seem to hate the sinner involved but love the scandal itself. The scandals titillate us and satiate our most wanton desires for reality entertainment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryvljjccqL8

Our corporate 24 hour news cycle thrives on them and even the slightest odor of a potential scandal sends the media into a frenzy. But many of the scandals while troubling seldom amount to a hill of beans. Meanwhile implicated office holder or official is incessantly beaten by the opposing media and sometimes even “friendly” media long after grounds for the scandal are shown to be false.  That being said there is a double standard because it is quite often that a truly guilt party gets off with no punishment, few are forced to resign from office, while even fewer ever end up in court for offenses that most of us would get jail time for doing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boO4RowROiw

More troubling from my point of view is the manner in which politicians at almost every level prostitute themselves in order to rake in political donations from big donors.  This is a bi-partisan problem.  Business, political action committees, and special interest groups of all varieties participate in getting in bed with those in power. I think one of the most egregious examples are the Koch brothers, but they are not alone. In the midst of the money driven depravity for power the actual needs of constituents or the greater good of the country are seldom address. God forbid a constituent show up at a town hall meeting and ask hard questions or state opposition to their representative’s position.  Sometimes those who have the courage to do so are physically assaulted by the supporters of the politician, forcibly removed and sometimes arrested.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZegQYgygdw

The average congressman spends a third or more his or her time in office raising money for the next election, some spend more than 50% of their time raiding campaign contributions.  The thing is that money talks and if you look at any major legislation who will see a direct correlation of money to the votes of congress. Again, both parties are guilty of this and they do it every day. Is it a wonder that Congress has single digit approval ratings?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XfqlbFvGN8

Is it any wonder that the President barely polls 40% approval?  Is it any wonder that grass roots Tea Party members and the progressives that by and large make up the Occupy Wall Street movement are in the streets?  True partisans on both sides deride the opposing movement but the fact that so many people are upset shows that our political system as we know it is broken and may not last.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDxzIuhTROU

Now I admit that was an awfully serious interlude. However, it sets the stage for the humor of Mel Brooks.  Like I said in the beginning I love the humor of Mel Brooks. He is a comic genius and understands that humor is often more effective in making political and social commentary than almost any other means. Both Blazing Saddles and The History of the World Part One had wonderful if crude satire about politics and speak volumes about our political condition and how many people feel about their government.  I am putting a few clips from both films here and let them do the talking with no commentary from me.  Have fun and enjoy even as you cringe at how accurate Brooks’ commentary is today.  You would think that he is a prophet.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Work Work Work…I Missed You…

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Well my friends it is a Sunday night and I am tired. I have been working all week with contractors in my house and after my chapel service this morning I came home and continued to work. Thankfully if everything works out on Wednesday the painters and other contractors will be back to finish the last bits of what we need done and a friend will be over to help install new lighting.

My dog Molly has been a joy, and hopefully in the next few days both of us will have reason to celebrate and chill out.

But anyway since I am too tired to think of anything new to post, though I might put up a re-run of an older post I wish you a good night and good week.

Peace

Padre Steve+

P.S. There is a funny Blazing Saddles message in the title of this post…

<a href=”http://www.hypersmash.com/dreamhost/”>http://www.hypersmash.com/dreamhost/</a&gt;

 

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My Life is Movie Quotes

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“My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.” Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) 

I have been rather serious the past few days on the blog but in real life I am usually less than serious. It is scary because whether I am at work, at home or out it seems like no matter what the topic, no matter what the situation be it serious, light hearted or mundane a movie or television quote somehow comes to mind. Truthfully sometimes I wonder about me.

However last night Judy found herself doing the same thing and of course giving me the credit, or the blame for her doing the same thing. I love it when a plan comes together.

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In one of my classes on National Security Policy we were talking about the limits of what you could do as a military or a nation and the quote from Magnum Force where Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry played by Clint Eastwood) told Lieutenant Briggs (Hal Holbrook) “A man’s got to know his limitations.” In another discussion I was thinking of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. But I digress…

Like I said I always seem to come up with movie or sometimes television quotes for the occasion. I think it is because I have one of those phonographic memories that keeps going around and around.

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When someone is too negative I think of Donald Sutherland in Kelly’s Heroes who said to his driver “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”

Of course my life is a sea of Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Pulp Fiction and other quotes. When I have no idea about something I think of Mongo (Alex Karras) who said “Mongo not know, Mongo only pawn in game of life” or when I’m a bit nervous I think of the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) “But I shoot with this hand.” 

I think that you might be getting the idea. I’m a bit warped, but I’m okay with it. For better or worse I cannot go through a day without a minimum of three or four movie or television quotes. They come from everywhere and nowhere and span the ages and genres.  Sometimes I wonder if I picked “the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.” 

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So there it is. You want the truth? Then you need to ask this question posed by George Costanza (Jason Alexander) on Seinfeld“Do you ever get down on your knees and thank God you know me and have access to my dementia?” 

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Have a good night and great weekend “Set ludicrous speed” and “go do that Voodoo that you do so well!”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Thoughts on the Academy Awards

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For the first time in years I can actually say that I saw a good number of the films nominated for Oscars. Even more surprising I actually enjoyed the Academy Award presentation show for the first time in I don’t know how long. I think a lot had to do with the fact that I had seen a lot of really good films this year and secondly I enjoyed Seth MacFarlane’s presentation.

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I was reading today that quite a few people didn’t like it. They sneered through their facelifts and Botox filled lips that MacFarlane’s humor was juvenile, crude and all sorts of other. Oh well, I guess that’s where my mind operates, but then I don’t think I have anything in common with the film critics and entertainment commentators that didn’t like it. If I recall correctly they didn’t like Mel Brooks either. Some people don’t know how to laugh, especially at themselves.  Actually though I didn’t think that he deserved to win, that Ted the bear deserved a nomination for best actor. But that’s just me.

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What was really cool that Judy, watching over 200 miles away from me enjoyed it too. I guess that this proves that we were made for one another. I loved Captain Kirk coming to the rescue and the Jaws theme playing every time an award recipient went overtime, the only thing that could have made it better was to have a Great Land Shark eat the first offender.

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As or the actual movies that I saw and the Oscars awarded, the show was pretty good. Now of the big films nominated I saw Lincoln, Argo, Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained. I did not see the Life of Pi because I gave up Pi and its carbs in order to be able to drink beer. That is kind of a yin and yang kind of thing, I like Pi but it’s a trade off. I also didn’t see Les Miserables because frankly watching a depressing story without any gratuitous sex or unnecessary violence put to song does nothing for me. I didn’t see Silver Linings Playbook but since I deal with crazy all the time and have the Mad Cow myself, I figured I pretty much knew the story. I also didn’t see the foreign film about the old foreign people because that has no market in Eastern North Carolina. I am not against foreign films, especially if they deal with U-Boats like Das Boot or Gay French Couples such as La Cage Aux Folles.

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Now of the films that I saw, they were all great, even Ted, which sadly didn’t get a nomination. The scenes of Congress in Lincoln were so realistic that I wondered where Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Harry Reed were, and if they had a role as advisors to Spielberg. I thought that Daniel Day Lewis deserved the Best Actor Oscar for Lincoln, and why not, his Lincoln did better in theaters than the real Lincoln.

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Likewise I loved Argo, anything that pisses the Ayatollah’s in Iran off get’s my vote for best picture. Skyfall was not only the best Bond in like Diamonds are Forever, but the villain was the creepiest ever, almost as good as Dick Cheney. Oh, damn, he wasn’t in a Bond film, my bad I meant Christopher Walken. 01_silva-4_3_rx512_c680x510

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Zero Dark Thirty was great and though it didn’t win a big award it scores because it tells the story of killing Bin Laden and has been unofficially banned in Pakistan.

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Django Unchained was one of my favorites this year and I thought that the writing and acting was brilliant. I was glad that Christoph Waltz won the Best Supporting Actor, though I still think that Harvey Korman was cheated back in 1974 when he didn’t get a nomination for Blazing Saddles. Waltz is a brilliant actor, one of the best around and the role was amazing. Ang Lee getting the Best Director was a tough choice, Ben Affleck should have been nominated but wasn’t and Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino  could have easily won.

At least the losers were gracious unlike this character.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfD2JFfwxLY

As or the show, again, I thought that Seth MacFarlane did a great job in offending almost everyone equally. But that hasn’t been allowed since Mel Brooks did it back in the 1970s. I saw that MacFarlane was in a no-win situation and in order to win he elected to emulate Captain Kirk with the Kobyashi Maru scenario. He was charged with trying to attract younger viewers to a show that has been the realm of rich ossified geriatrics who wish they had the talent of the people that they were heckling. Sorry, trying to please some people is like trying to please the two old guys in the Muppets, or failing that the commentators and pundits that always look like they are constipated on cable news.

So anyway, enough for tonight.

Peace

 

Padre Steve+

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