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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Monday, May 02, 2016


A few orders and grants of mild interest. Breyer continued his concern for capital appeals that last decades. A statutory opinion split the justices various ways depending on how they looked at things, suggesting law is a bit messy. Another Sotomayor/Roberts pairing. Except for the possible order, justices now will work on their opinions for a couple weeks.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Car

The Svengoolie movie this week was this 1970s B-movie with various familiar faces about a demon car. It was overall a pretty fun "bad movie" and a good pick if a bit "modern" (had to black out a guy giving the finger!) given the regular picks. Good Sven bits.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950's (Marijane Meaker)

“He was the most wonderful cat: black–perhaps partly Siamese–with enormous green eyes. And very intelligent. You could tell he had been a writer’s cat. He would sit by me, seriously, as I wrote, while all my other cats filtered away.” Know this author as the YA author ME Kerr; this is about her relationship with the author of the book behind Carol. Interesting. The book isn't deep but interesting snapshot of the times and a more unpleasant Highsmith years later.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


The NY Daily News got on Kelly Ripa repeatedly for staying away a few days after her co-host leaving the show being handled in a disrespectful way. Calm down. Not sure if A followed from B, but if it did, appreciate my online communication to a local councilman actually did lead to fixing a barrier set up for construction in a way that you had to climb over something after crossing the street. Stevens with a new speech (in honor of Scalia but on various topics). SCOTUS without comment rejected a last minute death penalty appeal. He's dead.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Latest "Super" Tuesday

Trump sweeps five races by sizable margins. Sentiment now is he's basically the nominee, a contested convention unlikely (this sort of thing helps clinches things if he comes a tad short). [Trump has about 950 of 1237; NJ will probably give him 50 and unbound PA etc. should give him at least 50 / really needs less than 200 of the other 400+.] Sanders only won Rhode Island and effectively concedes -- statement speaks of getting as many delegates/staying in to the end but not about "winning." Sorta knew that the whole time.

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, & Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Bart Ehrman (along with Elaine Pagels, a repeat go-to for early Christian thought, including Gnostic teachings) has a new book out. It was an interesting discussion of memory and how it affected how Christianity was remembered pre-gospels. Think the point was made about two-thirds the way in but overall he is as usual good reading. Again, do think the historian can examine miraculous beliefs, psychological and other techniques available to understand what "really happened." Plus, as part of history, it needs to be covered more than he does.

Monday, April 25, 2016

U.S. Appeals Court Reinstates Tom Brady’s Four-Game Deflategate Suspension

Some orders from SCOTUS but the big legal news so far is that the 2CA upheld the NFL regarding four game suspension of pretty boy. My take: four games sounds too much, but the players negotiated for a procedure and second guessing by a federal court unless it was simply unreasonable is asinine. And, that test wasn't met. To be continued.

Update: Only SCOTUS opinion this week amounts to a minor 1A case. Major case this week is a public corruption prosecution to be heard on Wednesday. An equally divided court is possible which would (to me a bit unfairly) result in the prosecution being upheld.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

TV Watch

Veep is back in a few minutes while the second season of Better Call Saul ended on what amounts to a cliffhanger last Monday. Looks like his brother has a confession of tape, but it's still brother's word v. brother's word, one who (feigned or not) appeared truly to be off the deep end. Saul easily can say with cause for belief that he "confessed" to settle down Chuck. Meanwhile, one more episode in "series 2" for Grantchester, tonight's episode ending with Sidney distraught after the person he encouraged to confess was hanged. Summer shows?

Murders in the Zoo

Some years ago, I enjoyed the early (1933) Loretta Young film Zoo in Budapest.

Last night, from the same year, Svengoolie's pick was a bit more gruesome. He noted in his introduction that they would warn people before scenes that might upset some (the Hollywood Production Code not being enforced as strictly at the time) -- maybe, he should have done so at the opening since the film started with the twisted villain sewing a (live/awake) guy's mouth shut for flirting with his wife. His wife (actress famous for her role in Island of Lost Souls) was surprised when told the guy went out alone and asked what he said before leaving. The husband calmly noted "nothing." Do think that the two scenes we were warned about -- the wife dying in an alligator pit and some animals fighting (and perhaps the attempted murder of a scientist, also in that segment) actually might have been a bit less gruesome in a fashion than that one. Still, the "code" should have been happy -- adultery was not left unpunished here!

[Update: My DVR had a glitch a few times and apparently missed the reference regarding the first scene according to people here.]

Svengoolie is on at 10P.M. (EST) on ME (Memorable; a classics station) TV on Saturday nights over here and that is a pretty good time -- back in the day, and perhaps for some today, that sort of would be a "late show" for many people. Do think the midnight hour is the best time for this sort of thing and if you DVR the thing, you can fast forward past the commercials. OTOH, I have repeatedly actually watched the movie on Sunday morning, watching a half hour here, a half hour there while doing other things and waiting for afternoon sports. As noted in the past, find these films a mixed bag, some not paced or otherwise of the style that I prefer. This would include some fairly classic films. Others have been rather good, including this one as a whole. The Svengoolie bits also were pretty amusing and since the actual film was only around an hour, he added an "on the road" segment at a convention.

Classic stations, now even more prevalent with extra channels, and VCRs etc. allow people these days to enjoy old films, even a few silents. As with today, of course, the films are a mixed bag, but have seen a decent number of films from that decade over the years. For instance, I noted enjoying Fay Wray (who had a credit as late as Gideon's Trumpet, almost fifty years later from her most well known role in King Kong) as a lawyer. The film had various interesting aspects, including her first big moment in a trial involving a guy caught in a breach of contract suit that turned on a woman "passing" as white. After reading about her in a book on film censorship, I also checked out Hedy Lamarr (no, not the guy in Blazing Saddles) in the 1941 romance Come Live With Me (the title turns out to be a bit of a spoiler). Didn't quite like how the film developed, but the early scenes were good and Lamarr (with her accent and brunette hair etc.) definitely was enjoyable, even if she was not quite as risque as in Ecstasy. The ending aside, the early adultery does seem contrary to code.*

The charm with Murders in the Zoo included good pacing, a wickedly good lead, a doomed wife with a nice touch of style and an amusing bit of comic relief in a goofy press agent for the moment off the bottle. Various supporting characters rounded things out, including two rather bland roles, one an early role for Randolph Scott -- that scientist that appeared to be doomed. Given the similar times, I wonder if the zoo in the two movies were set in the same place. From what I recall, the entry-way looked alike, but perhaps gates at zoos would look alike. (As for zoos overall, I'm wary of them, at least for confining certain animals in small enclosures. Guess there is a way to have some animals that wouldn't mind the set-up, but others clearly rather not be so confined). Scott might have survived, but really shouldn't have -- he figures out a guy has killed at least two people (not clear if he knew about that other guy), who already accused him of negligence connected to the deaths and even brought a civil suit against the scientist. And, then invites the guy to his office to have it out!

Luckily, off-screen, the scientist did figure out how to develop a serum (which the villain ironically helped him with by bring back a poisonous snake) so his assistant (and love interest) was able to save him after he was attacked with the same toxin that killed the wife's lover (per the footnote, well, they did "love" each other and "made love" in the Jane Austen sense!). He might have been played by the person that turned out to be the biggest star (though others had some success too) but here was a rather bland sort of character. The villain was suitably killed by a large snake (the on screen summary of the film on Fios' listing saying just that would happen!) while trying to escape the zoo as some police or guards looked on without trying to do anything really.

The wife vaguely suggested the husband had some reason to blackmail her to stay, even though she didn't love him, but we never find out what. The movie ended (after we see the scientist is okay) with a comic bit of the press agent, now off the wagon, running into a large cat and bumping him on the head to shoo him/her (not it!) away. All and all, it was an enjoyable film. And, Svengoolie's Captain Spaulding (a Groucho Marx character) bit was quite good. Plus, the final joke about a contest where you try to get at some "steaks" high on a bar -- you either win or have to pay for everyone's drinks ... the "stakes" were too high! -- was pretty clever. Next week's movie is The Car, sometimes a later film included (here a forgettable 1970s thriller).


 * Lamarr's character is "from the country that used to be Austria" (thus the film has a bit of an edge), whose visa ran out. She hides under an assumed name, but immigration catches up with her. But, the agent is impressed when she takes the news calmly, and when her male admirer pleads with him to help, the agent suggests she get married to an American citizen. As you see, that is a well worn plot device.

She finds a willing party in a down on his luck Jimmy Stewart, who is so unwilling to take advantage of the opportunity, he doesn't even let her round up from $17.80 (itself a very conservative figure of his needs) stipend. An early scene includes Stewart interacting with a profession bum that turns out to have a wad of cash -- a bit harsh given many people around then begging for money really were in need. Though the male admirer (today it would be more easy to call him a "lover") was the one who was the very catalyst of the idea, she doesn't tell her about it, saying the reason she was able to stay was "a secret." Jimmy Stewart stays in his cheap flat but soon (who wouldn't?) falls in love with her.

But, the admirer tells her he actually is willing to divorce his wife, so she goes to JS asking for a divorce -- something without travel (the other guy's route) to Nevada a tricky thing in NY then and later. OTOH, if the authorities found out they weren't even living together, figure the whole thing would likely be annulled anyhow. That might help her immigration status though. Jimmy Stewart's honorable man routine (including not willing to take a buck from the bum that clearly didn't need it) was a bit much but again Hedy Lamarr was quite fetching.

My classic movies guide suggests many of her films as a whole weren't that good, but why need they be with such a draw?