• "Obama Wants Our Women"

    Communism sure is scary. How else to explain its continuing deployment as an all-purpose bugaboo (and thoughtful gift), decades after it posed any real threat, an idea so scary that people use it when they really mean Socialism, which sounds a little too Facebooky to strike fear into the hearts of idiots?

    But what is it, exactly, that makes Communism so terrifying? The redistribution of wealth? The drab, shapeless uniforms?

    As someone who has recently spent a couple of years in the 1950s – when there were actual Reds around to scare – I have a theory. An examination of hundreds of popular movies from the time, which baldly reflected the national psyche, reveals that Americans were less frightened by nuclear annihilation or universal health care than they were by the loss of what was most precious to them:

    The Commies were coming to carry away their women.

    This is a familiar trope to anyone who has ever visited an art museum or googled "rape of." And it has proved quite handy over the years in motivating our menfolk. (more…)

  • Century of No Progress

    Soon we will be living in a magical future, a world without wires, in which all of our energy and information needs will be met invisibly, pulsing in the air around us, not causing cancer at all.

    And only a century too late to save poor Nikola Tesla.

    Tesla (1856-1943) was sort of the sad sack of the scientific genius world, brilliant and only a little insane, who nevertheless failed in most of his endeavors due to a lack of fiscal acumen and the conniving of douchebags like Thomas Edison. His AC was far superior to Edison's DC, but Edison proved better at publicity stunts. Arguably Tesla invented the radio, but Elmo Marconi beat him at the patent office, with the financial and political backing of the asshole Edison.

    In 1898, Tesla began working on a project that would show them all, dwarfing the meager accomplishments of Marconi and Edison and making him as rich as Kubla Khan, a reference not dated at the time. (more…)

  • Unpleasant drive-in theater concessions: a look back

    Today's foray into culinary anthropology takes us to the drive-in theater, a once thriving venue in which people watched films from their cars while lined up in a parking lot. As odd as that concept sounds, it pales in comparison to the things those early entertainment pioneers ate.

    Hot Meat

    The eating of meat was done unapologetically, with high fat content an apparent selling point.

    Indeed, the presentation of hot meat selections approached the pornographic.


  • Weirdness behind the scenes of Rebel Without a Cause


    Knight and Day, the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz action comedy, opens this Wednesday in empty theaters, another of this summer's sausages ground out by the studios, or so's the buzz. Years of tinkering, a carousel of possible stars (Adam Sandler, Chris Tucker, Gerald Butler), the usual assortment of writers, three directors, three titles – it can't possibly be good.

    Unless it is.

    Movies suck, and harder lately, goes the meme, because of the increasing intrusion of suits into the filmmaking process, creating that downward spiral of quality and taste known as Development Hell. Not like the old days, as director Taylor Hackford reminisced last week, when "The Louis B. Mayers or the Harry Cohns of the world were always out there looking for commercial stuff that might sell, whatever it might be, but they also went with their gut on certain other things."

    Here's a story from the old days. (more…)