🎞 Watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Warner Bros., 2007)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) from imdb.com
Directed by David Yates. With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Brendan Gleeson. With their warning about Lord Voldemort's return scoffed at, Harry and Dumbledore are targeted by the Wizard authorities as an authoritarian bureaucrat slowly seizes power at Hogwarts.

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🎞 Watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Warner Bros., 2005)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) from imdb.com
Directed by Mike Newell. With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Eric Sykes. Harry finds himself mysteriously selected as an under-aged competitor in a dangerous tournament between three schools of magic.

Reading Katumuwa

Reading Katumuwa by Dennis Pardee, The Oriental Institute from YouTube
Video published on Apr 18, 2014.

This video by Travis Saul features a digital rendering of the Stele of Katumuwa. The ancient stele was discovered by University of Chicago archaeologists at Zincirli, Turkey in 2008. The inscription on the stele, written in a local dialect of Aramaic, is dated to around 735 BC. In word and image, Katumuwa asks his descendants to remember and honor him in his mortuary chapel at an annual sacrificial feast for his soul, which inhabited not his bodily remains, but the stone itself.

This reading of the Aramaic inscription and its English translation is kindly provided by Dennis Pardee, Henry Crown Professor of Hebrew Studies, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. For more detailed information about the inscription, read his chapter featured in this Oriental Institute Museum Publication:

Pardee, Dennis. “The Katumuwa Inscription” in, In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East, edited by V.R. Hermann and J.D. Schloen, pp.45-48. Oriental Institute Museum Publication 37. 2014. Chicago: The Oriental Institute.

http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/oimp/oimp37.html

The reading is also featured in the video “Remembering Katumuwa” featured in the Special Exhibit “In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East” at the Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago, April 8 2014–January 4 2015.
https://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/special/remembrance/

In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East.

Virginia Rimmer Herrmann and J. David Schloen, eds., In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2014.
Download the free e-book: http://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/oimp37.pdf

Remembering Katumuwa

Additional context for the stele

h/t to my friend Dave Harris for sending this along to me.

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🎞 My review of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (United Artists, 1974)

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (United Artists, 1974) from imdb.com
Directed by Joseph Sargent. With Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo. In New York, armed men hijack a subway car and demand a ransom for the passengers. Even if it's paid, how could they get away?

A great classic film starring Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Hector Elizondo, and Jerry Stiller. The plot and story (as well as some great 70’s cinematography) holds up incredibly well and far better than most of its contemporaries. The score of the film does have the definite tone of the 70’s, but isn’t so overbearingly stereotypical as movies which came later in the decade.

While headed by Walter Matthau, this film is far more serious in tone and there are few, if any, bits of humor stemming from his Lt. Garber character (or they just don’t play as well now). The final freeze frame of Matthau’s which closes the film (in an early American studio feature nod to the French New Wave) does have a fantastic feel of sardonic comedy though. Matthau’s function in the film reminded me more of his turn in Charade (1963) than his extensive body of comedic work.

Robert Shaw in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (United Artists, 1974)
Robert Shaw in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (United Artists, 1974)

The film does fit well into the crime/drama/thriller progression of the modern blockbuster which includes its classic predecessors: Bonnie and Clyde (Warner Bros., 1967), Bullitt (Warner Bros., 1968), The Italian Job (Paramount, 1969), The French Connection (20th Century Fox, 1971), Shaft (MGM, 1971), Dirty Harry (Warner Bros., 1971), and Magnum Force (Warner Bros., 1973).

The movie is set in a time period after the prison riot at Attica which is mentioned in passing by the mayor’s staff, but before the film Dog Day Afternoon (Warner Bros., 1975). It’s also obviously set in a time period when people expect airplane hijacks, but think it’s laughable that anyone would consider a subway hijack. (This likely played into the high-concept idea of the studio consider making it originally). However, none of the train passengers takes the hijacking very seriously or seems very scared by the four rough looking characters carrying high powered and automatic weapons. This may be because the terrorism of the late 70’s, early 80’s, or even early 2000s had not yet happened; it was also set prior to John Frankenheimer’s Black Sunday (Paramount, 1979). I find it interesting that the hijackers in the piece actually verbally explain the capacity and killing power of their weapons as if none of the everyday people on the train would understand their automatic capabilities. (This assuredly wouldn’t happen in a modern-day version.) I have to imagine that more modern actor portrayals would have been much more fearful early on. Here no one seems very upset until Mr. Blue shoots the subway car driver in the back. Until then they just seem like they’re a bit “put out”. As an aside, the perpetrators’ going by the names Blue, Green, Grey, and Brown was most assuredly the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s use of similar names for the characters in Resevoir Dogs (Miramax, 1992) which also included the quote “let’s do it by the books”.

pelham-123-subway The film includes a fantastic (though possibly stereotypical) portrayal of 70’s culture through the characters of multiple ethnicities and cultural types. These are borne out in the credit sequence with character “names” which actually include: The Maid, The Mother, The Homosexual, The Secretary, The Delivery Boy, The Salesman, The Hooker, The Old Man, The Older Son, The Spanish Woman, The Alcoholic, The Pimp, Coed #1, The Younger Son, Coed #2, The Hippie, and The W.A.S.P. One of my favorite stereotypes (which the film may have first immortalized) was the hippie woman calmly chanting “Om” and then later “Om stop” on the runaway subway hoping it wouldn’t crash.

As an indicator of racial change, there’s an odd exchange (that may have been funny at the time), but to a more modern viewer is now just awkward:

Lt. Garber: [looking for the inspector] Inspector Daniels?
Inspector Daniels: [identifying himself] Daniels.
Lt. Garber: [realizing DCI Daniels is African-American] Oh, I, uh, thought you were, uh, like a shorter guy or – I don’t know what I thought.

There’s also a nice indicator of the growth of stature in women in society as the lead character posits (several times) that a plain clothes police officer might in fact be a woman, a fact that one of Garber’s colleagues failed to contemplate. This is offset by a zany statement by an old, gruff (and somewhat marginalized) subway supervisor (following a prior litany of profanity, by almost everyone in the room):

Caz Dolowicz, subway supervisor played by Tom Pedi
in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (United Artists, 1974)

 

I’ll have to go back and rewatch the remake again to further compare the portrayal of the two time periods. I will note that the mayor’s deputy comes in at one point in this incarnation and says to him, “Pull your pants up Al, we’re going downtown.” I can’t help but sadly imagine that in a remake, the mayor wouldn’t be laying sick in bed getting a shot in the ass, but would more likely be sitting behind his desk with a woman in a compromising position to get the cheap laugh.

The film also includes some great, but short character actor turns by Tony Roberts as the Mayor’s assistant, Doris Roberts (almost unrecognizable to modern day Everybody Loves Raymond fans) as the mayor’s wife, Kenneth McMillan, and a middle-aged Joe Seneca.

I also noticed an obscure, early production office coordinator credit for Barbara DaFina, better known as Barbara De Fina, much later a well-known and prolific producer and production manager, known for Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995) and Hugo (2011). She was married to Martin Scorsese from 1985 – 1991, though she had a nice body of work even prior to that.

Another quote that I can’t help but mention not only for its sheer joy but because it’s also one of the first lines of spoken dialogue of the film:

The Pimp played by George Lee Miles, referring to his clothing, confidence, and swagger on the dark, dank subway platform
in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (United Artists, 1974)

 

In the pantheon of first lines of poetry, this captures the tone of its time incredibly well.

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Mike Morell interview by Charlie Rose on World Politics relating to the Presidential Election 2016

Mike Morell interview on Charlie Rose by Charlie Rose from Charlie Rose
Mike Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, on Donald Trump and his recent op-ed endorsing Hillary Clinton.

First let’s start with the fact that I’m a big Mike Morell fan! If you want to know about world politics and know more about not only the big picture but the minutiae, and learn it from someone who can not only lay out an argument succinctly but with great depth, there is no better tutor than Morell. A former deputy director and a former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell is about as good as it gets in understanding foreign policy. Morell is great at laying out simple facts and figures relating to incredibly complex and nuanced events and exploring a range of potential options, and then, only if asked, will provide any personal opinion on a subject. I love the fact that he appears frequently on Charlie Rose which is about as good as it gets in the interview game. Listening to their discussions will make you a better citizen, not only of America, but of the world.

Last week I was floored that Morell, a lifelong non-partisan due in great part to his decades long government service, broke ranks to endorse Hillary Clinton in an influential op-ed piece in the New York Times. I suspect (completely a gut reaction on my part) that despite not having registered with a political party, Morell leans more to the right and would generally vote Republican. Despite this, he laid out a scathing argument why Donald Trump should not be the next president. He was my foreign policy hero to begin with, but now I’ve got to build the pedestal even higher. I’m glad that despite the sacrifices he had to make to present such an argument, that he stood up firmly for what he believes is right for the country.

If you haven’t read his piece from Friday, I highly recommend it. If you prefer a video version with more discussion and elaboration, then last night’s Charlie Rose was fantastic.

Even better, if you want a scintillating and engaging primer on world politics, jump back into Rose’s extensive archives and watch all of Charlie Rose’s past interviews with Morell.

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Andrew Solomon Interview on Charlie Rose

Andrew Solomon interview by Charlie Rose by Charlie RoseCharlie Rose from Charlie Rose.com
Author Andrew Solomon introduces his new book, "Far and Away."

A great interview with Andrew Solomon relating to his new book Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change, travel, and the world in which we live. Though it’s not discussed directly, there’s a feel of Big History philosophy in the discussion.

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Bob Frankston on Communications

Triangulation 4: Bob Frankston by Leo Laporte and Tom Merritt from TWiT Network
Computer pioneer who helped create the first spreadsheet, Bob Frankston, is this week's guest.

On a recent episode of Leo Laporte and Tom Merrit’s show Triangulation, they interviewed Bob Frankston of VisiCalc fame. They gave a great discussion of the current state of broadband in the U.S. and how it might be much better.  They get just a bit technical in places, but it’s a fantastic and very accessible discussion of the topic of communications that every American should be aware of.

Bill Davenhall at TEDMED 2009 on Geomedicine: How Your Environment May Affect Your Health

TEDMED 2009 on Geomedicine: How Your Environment May Affect Your Health by Bill Davenhall from TEDMED
Does where you live have an impact on your overhall health? Bill Davenhall believes that the location of our homes is critical to our medical history.

 

This is a great thing to think about the next time your doctor asks for your medical history. Perhaps with more data and a better visualization of it, it may bring home the messages of pollution and global warming.

A lovely bit of satire on Evolution vs. Creationism… what will they come up with next?

Christian Groups: Biblical Armageddon Must Be Taught Alongside Global Warming from The Onion
Constitutional debate continues over whether public schools should include biblical Armageddon alongside global warming in end-of-world curriculum.