Sunday, January 30, 2005

The State murders Tarzan

Bill and Sue-on Hillman host THE ultimate website for fans and scholars of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, John Carter of Mars (aka Barsoom), and other classic adventure heroes. In their news section, they've posted a very interesting "retro news item":
Tarzan Poisoned

TARZANA RANCH, May 12, 1924 -- (To the Editor of The LA Times)

I wish to register a protest against the ruthless and inconsiderate methods of the government Biological Department in the placing of poison in the hills without proper posting or other notification.

Last Saturday morning the papers carried a notice to the effect that the quarantine was lifted in the Santa Monica Mountains east of Topanga Canyon, and on Sunday morning we rode back into the hills and took one of our dogs with us. There was no poison sign posted on the gate through which we passed or in any part of the hills through which we rode, yet there was poison out, and our dog died before we reached home.

For nearly nine years this Airedale, who is known almost from coast to coast, has been the constant friend, companion and protector of my children. Those who have owned dogs know how closely the affections of a family are knit to these faithful friends and the grief of children when such a playmate is taken from them. The most casual amenities of social intercourse should have prompted the proper posting of the poisoned district, and that posting was possible is evidenced by the fact that when I rode this morning I found poison warning posted on the gate through which we took the dog Sunday morning -- put there too late.

No action on my part can bring "Tarzan" back to my children, but I am in hope that some publicity may help to safeguard other animals in the future.

Very sincerely yours,

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Harry Lime is alive and well

Back in October, I wrote briefly about the great 1949 film The Third Man, which starred Orson Welles as Harry Lime, "the worst racketeer who ever made a dirty living" in Vienna. Lime appears only briefly in the movie, but Welles' portrayal of the character is powerful, seductive, and unforgettable.

For many years, I knew that Welles had also played Lime in an early 1950s British radio series, syndicated in the U.S. But until last week, I'd heard only one of the old radio broadcasts (offered on Criterion's extraordinary Third Man DVD). Well, I discovered that the people at Old Time Radio offer the ENTIRE 52-episode "The Lives of Harry Lime" series on a single CD (MP3 files) for just $5! I snapped it up immediately and I've been listening to hours and hours of Orson Welles/Harry Lime ever since. Wonderful!

The radio program is a prequel to The Third Man and turns the badguy "movie Harry" into a lovable, globetrotting rogue who only fleeces victims greedier than he is. Each episode features the movie's famous Anton Karas zither music and opens with a gunshot. Then Welles says:
"That was the shot that killed Harry Lime. He died in a sewer beneath Vienna, as those of you know who saw the movie The Third Man. Yes, that was the end of Harry Lime, but not the beginning. Harry Lime had many lives and I can recount all of them. How do I know? Very simple. Because my name is Harry Lime."
The stories are terrific, and the clever dialogue is often laugh-out-loud funny. Welles wrote a few of the scripts, including the premiere episode, "Too Many Crooks." And he turned one of his Lime plots, "Man of Mystery," into his 1955 movie Mr. Arkadin.

If you love The Third Man, you'll adore this CD -- all 26 hours of it. Check it out right here.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Even neocons shudder...

Diehard Bush neocon Peggy Noonan had problems with Dubya's inaugural speech today. She found much of it, she writes in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal, "over the top." Noonan quotes Bush's remark that the U.S. has "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world." Noonan responds:
"Ending tyranny in the world? Well that's an ambition, and if you're going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth."
Noonan quotes the ending of Bush's speech: "Renewed in our strength -- tested, but not weary -- we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." She writes:
"One wonders if [this White House] shouldn't ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not."
George W. Bush may, God help us, do for the 21st Century what Woodrow Wilson did for the 20th.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


I took a second look online today at the trailer for The Fantastic Four movie, due in theaters July 1. I'm stoked for this one, friends. Yeah, I know I shouldn't let my expectations get the better of me, but I grew up on Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, the Invisible Girl, and the ever-lovin' Thing, fer chrissakes, and this film looks, well, fantastic. Michael Chiklis makes a terrific looking Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) and Jessica Alba is red-hot as Sue Storm (aka Invisible Girl).

For assorted desktop wallpapers from the upcoming movie and to check out the trailer, go immediately to

Learning from "King Arthur"

For Christmas, my brother-in-law gave me the "extended, unrated" DVD of last summer's King Arthur. Starring Clive Owen as Arthur, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, and the gorgeous Keira Knightley as Xena, uh, Guinevere, this alternative take on the Arthurian legend got a pretty brutal drubbing from critics generally. But I enjoyed it (and am re-enjoying it) thoroughly. And as Andrew Young points out this morning in his column, the film is a vivid attack on empire, imperialism, and war. It's very much worth seeing.

The quagmire continues...

Will upcoming "democratic elections" be the beginning of the end for American involvement in the Iraq/Middle East quagmire? Of course not. In the latest New Yorker, Seymour Hersh (to my mind, the best and most reliable of journalists for the past 35-40 years) quotes a former high-level U.S. intelligence official:
"This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah -- we've got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism."
Ah, yes... "Perpetual war for perpetual peace," after all.

You can find Hersh's excellent/nightmarish article, "The Coming Wars," right here.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

"Elektra" Rocks!

Ignore the overwhelmingly negative press reviews heaped on Rob Bowman's Elektra movie. Go see it yourself, particularly if you're a fan of the Marvel Comics character. Jennifer Garner does a splendid job of reprising her role from 2003's Daredevil (another film unfairly roasted by critics). Terence Stamp is wonderful as Stick, her blind sensei. And the action sequences kick butt.

The critics' response to Elektra is another example of people reviewing films that lie outside their cozy "reality tunnel." Being unfamiliar with a genre (in this case, comic books), they don't "get it." I recall reading poor reviews of Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns, which a few critics complained was "nothing like its TV predecessor," ignoring 50 years of the Dark Knight's comics history. They generally disliked Daredevil because it wasn't as bright and funny as Spider-Man, not realizing that for more than two decades, the Daredevil comic has been a dark, brooding crime series for older audiences, not 10-year-old kids.

Elektra is faithful to the spirit of the comics character, and Marvel fans should enjoy the hell out of it.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

German school cops threaten families

In Germany's Paderborn County, seven homeschooling families were fined and ordered last week to send their kids to official government schools or the police would forcibly take them to school. Any resistance by the parents, school board officials said, would result in the removal of the 13 elementary age children from their homes and into state custody.

All seven families had been homeschooling their children using packaged curriculums from German correspondence schools and demonstrated to officials that the children were receiving a proper education at home. The families' arguments were dismissed.

Like Chris Dominquez, who alerted me to this story via the blog, I wonder how many American "educrats" agree with these German school cops.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Rosemary Kennedy, R.I.P.

In 2001, Senator Ted Kennedy was honored by the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society for his efforts to advance legislation that benefits people with psychiatric illnesses. Said Kennedy at the time: “Mental health policy has a special meaning for me and the whole Kennedy family.”

Damn straight.

Last Friday, Ted’s sister Rosemary died at age 86. Back in 1941, when she was only 23, Rosemary had been lobotomized by authorization of her father Joseph, without her consent and without the knowledge of her mother Rose. Why? According to yesterday’s obit for Rosemary in the New York Times, Rosemary “had taken to sneaking out of the convent where she was staying at the time” and “there was a dread fear of pregnancy, disease, and disgrace.” After the lobotomy, Rosemary was “reduced to an infantlike state, mumbling words and sitting for hours, staring at walls.” Wrote Thomas DiLorenzo yesterday on the blog: “...the Kennedy family made as much political hay of [Rosemary’s] situation as it could, founding the Special Olympics in her honor. I’m sure she would have been very happy about that, if only she could have comprehended it. I wonder what kind of lesson this event taught the young Kennedy boys about how they should treat the women in their lives?”

Further quoting DiLorenzo: “There is no better example of how corrupt and dishonest the ‘mainstream media’ are than how it never misses a chance to refer to the Kennedy family as ‘America’s royalty’ or ‘America’s first family.’ ”

Of course, anyone who has done even the slightest research on the Kennedys knows that Rosemary’s story is just one of many horrors in this family closet.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Remembering the "Old Curmudgeon"

Ten years ago, this very day, the great Murray Rothbard died suddenly of cardiac arrest. Within a week, I was one of several featured speakers (including John Hospers and Samuel Edward Konkin III) honoring Murray at a meeting of the Karl Hess (Supper) Club in Los Angeles. Within two weeks, I'd written this about Murray in my broadsheet out of step (January 20, 1995):
"I've been inspired and influenced by many, but none more so than Murray Rothbard. It was his 1969 article 'Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal,' appearing in Ramparts, the Left magazine of its time, that introduced me to laissez-faire economics and genuine libertarian thought. I first met him in late 1970, while still a high school kid, at a Right-Left Conference in Los Angeles. But it was another 23 years before I saw Dr. Rothbard again, at Ludwig von Mises University (Claremont College, 1993) here in California. And I spoke with him briefly twice more, at the last two annual gatherings of the John Randolph Club.

"I've felt no greater loss in recent years than I did upon hearing of Dr. Rothbard's death. My last memory of him is from last October's JRC meeting, held just outside the very belly of the Beast, Washington, D.C. After dinner on Saturday night, drinks in hand, members stood around a piano and sang songs to the new populist revolution. Many of the songs were old left-wing and union organizing tunes, with new lyrics by Rothbard and others. And none sang with more vigor than Dr. Rothbard himself.

"Murray Rothbard used to refer to himself as the 'Old Curmudgeon.' More appropriately, I think, he was the 'Joyful Curmudgeon.' He was the eternal optimist. A gracious, warm conversationalist. A tremendous champion of liberty. And among the most principled men I've ever met."
I've heard a few people argue -- regrettably, some from the Libertarian Movement itself -- that Murray Rothbard has lost much influence in the Movement since his death. Phooey. Take a look at what exists of his legacy just online (,, not to mention in the academic community. And right here, you'll find a wonderful testimony to how Murray still inspires this movement, even ten years after his death.

I still miss you, Murray.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Will Eisner, R.I.P.

Will Eisner, one of the greatest forces in the world of comic books, died last night in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at age 87. He had recently undergone quadruple heart bypass surgery and died from complications.

Writes Bob Andelman, author of the upcoming biography Will Eisner: A Spirited Life:

"Will Eisner didn't create Superman, Batman, Spider-Man or even Archie and Jughead. Some comic book fans may scratch their heads when asked to describe his work. But every artist and writer in comic books, as well as graphic artists across the entire spectrum of modern illustration, television and film, owes debt to him."

More than 35 years ago, I began reading reprints of Eisner's extraordinarily clever stories (from the 1940s) about Denny Colt, aka The Spirit, a "dead" detective who lived in a cemetary and fought for justice. I'm still re-reading them today, and I get as much pleasure from them now as I did at the age of 14 or 15.

I will miss Will Eisner. Thankfully, his unique work will live on.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Are the Democrats STUPID?

Stephan Kinsella posted an intriguing piece on the blog a few days back.

"I am amazed at the left's stupidity," he writes. "Why they need to anchor their image to the vapid Hollywood and libertine types is beyond me. Their basic thrust should be some kind of mildly populist, redistributionist, soft-socialist but culturally conservative platform. The Democrats could slough off the unnecessary negatives, and win big, by adopting something along the following..."

Kinsella then goes on to list six points, which include a form of universal health care (with medical vouchers) and Social Security reform.

"Not that these would be good things," concludes libertarian Kinsella, "but they could help them get more votes."

Actually, much of what Kinsella suggests tongue-in-cheek for the Dems sounds like the platform the Republicans are already creating for themselves.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Libertarian Cheer for the New Year

To ring in 2005, Harry Browne, author of the classic How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World and two-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate (but I won't hold that against him too much), has written a wonderful bit of libertarian optimism today for It's called "The Future Is Not Hopeless." You'll find it here, and I urge you to read it.

Writes Harry: "While [freedom's] victory isn't assured, it is possible."

I wrote a similar piece of cheerleading back in July 2002 for It opened with the statement "Most libertarians depress the crap out of me." You'll find that essay ("Hey, Libertarians -- Cheer Up!") right here.

Happy New Year!