Mr. X

prouty3

Today I finished L. Fletcher Prouty’s JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.  There are some of you that will read the title of this book and discount it entirely.  However, I think Prouty has something to offer, if not on the JFK assassination itself, then about what went so horribly wrong in Vietnam.  

I picked up the book months ago as Oliver Stone recommended it.  Prouty was the basis for the Mr. X character in the film JFK played by Donal Sutherland.  Prouty was a controversial character in real life as he not only believed JFK assassination was a coup d’etat, but made other controversial claims as well.  However, with his military experience and his close connections with high ranking military officials, you can’t discount everything that he says either.  

I think it is important when reading any book that deals in some way with history to read with a grain of salt. A book like Prouty’s one has to read with even more of a critical eye than usual.  Surprisingly, the actual assassination of JFK only takes up maybe the last 15% of the book.  Most of the book is telling the history of the Vietnam War, what went wrong there, what our involvement really was there, and why there was a hostile climate surrounding Kennedy due to the decisions he was making about that war prior to his death.  

I have seen some of the claims Prouty makes about Vietnam made in other places.  We entered the war with a Cold War mentality, we didn’t understand the local culture, we made many mistakes that turned the local population against us, etc.  

The book also goes into such details as how much money there was to be made in the military industrial complex due to things like helicopters.  Not only did the war create a giant market for helicopters and other weapons, but the helicopters themselves were a very inefficient way of fighting the war because of the amount of support staff that was needed and the fact that they weren’t very dependable given the kind of terrain and conflict that took place in that war.  

Up until JFK’s death we only spent between 2 and 3 billion dollars in Vietnam.  Afterwards we spent around 220 billion dollars.  

The book also goes into detail about the culture of Vietnam and how we either didn’t understand it or were at times willfully ignorant.  Much of the conflict was the result of things that we and the Diem government did that uprooted the traditional life of the Vietnamese peasants who had been living like they did before the war for hundreds of years.  We tended to view everything through the communist/capitalist lens of the Cold War while many of the enemy combatants didn’t fall neatly into that prism.  We did a lot to create our own enemies.  

The sections dealing with the Vietnam War are very thought provoking and well detailed.  It is in his claims about the assassination where I feel that Prouty overreaches and makes bold claims without a lot of detail to back it up.  However, he does provide a pretty convincing thesis on at least why JFK was despised by many members of the US power structure.  

This was a fascinating read.  Even if you don’t buy into Prouty’s theory of the assassination, or even skip that part of the book entirely, I think the rest of the book justifies itself.  It is especially thought provoking when it takes an inside look at the mindset of those carrying out the Cold War.  

 

The Zero Theorem Trailer

This is the trailer for the new Terry Gilliam film The Zero Theorem.  I simply can’t wait to see this.  With movies like Time Bandits, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil, and Tideland, Terry Gilliam is one of the few cinematic geniuses of our time.  I remember walking out of Tideland,even not knowing quite what to make of it at first, being completely excited, because I knew I had seen something unlike anything I’d seen before. He is a true artist who is able paint in dreams and nightmares with equal ability.  

It’s Only Tuesday I’m Afraid

The poets have been castrated
And now they just play for scraps
Meanwhile the golden child
Gets blown while going in the black

It’s grotesque and it’s insulting
It’s decadent and inhumane
But it’s only Tuesday
I’m afraid

The painters have all been hired
By the advertising agencies
To paint Vincent van Goghs
For the drug companies

It’s grotesque and it’s insulting
It’s decadent and inhumane
But it’s only Tuesday
I’m afraid

Some clown just ate a spider
Now they’re throwing him a parade
Some slut is crying for the camera
While swimming naked in champagne

It’s grotesque and it’s insulting
It’s decadent and inhumane
But it’s only Tuesday
I’m afraid

Having fun in Boise, Idaho 8/19/2014

The Police As Soldiers

More Fergusons are coming: Why para-military hysteria is dooming America http://www.salon.com/2014/08/18/more_fergusons_are_coming_why_para_military_hysteria_is_dooming_america/ via @Salon

On the road today.  Going on tour in Idaho and Montana.  Check out the schedule at http://www.shinyribs.org.  While I am traveling this Salon article does a pretty good job at laying out some of the reasons that our police often look like soldiers when handling a crisis such as the one in Ferguson.  

At the Doctor’s Office

At the doctor’s office
Warm earth tones
And serene posters
Try to distract you
From the intrusive instruments
Waiting to poke and prod
Muzak is playing
But it’s not Muzak
It’s the latest hits
From the top of the charts
No wonder we’re such a sick nation
When this less than meaningless
Benign clap trap
They call music
Is what the masses use
To sooth the soul
Is the recording industry
Run by the CIA
To deaden the will of the population
So that businesses
Have empty vessels
In which to fill with their slogans?
Or do people simply prefer
Vanilla emotions
So that they don’t have to question
The state of things?
My blood pressure goes up
And I feel more ill
Then when I entered

Austin, Texas 8/18/2014

The Movie Locke and The Morality of Telling the Truth

‘Mastery of small, telling gestures’: Tom Hardy as a man who goes awol in Locke.

Warning – There are some small spoilers for the movie Locke in this piece.  However, there is nothing that gives anything away that should spoil the ending or your enjoyment of the movie.  

Last night I saw the movie Locke starring Tom Hardy.  I knew very little about the film before I saw it, other than it was a one man show where Hardy spends the entire movie in a car, and what little I thought I knew outside of that was wrong.  For some reason I thought that it had something to do with crime, but it did not. I thought I was renting a criminal thriller, although one with a unique premise, but the movie, although it kept you on your seat the way a thriller does, was way more interesting and unique than your typical thriller.  

The movie is a story of a man that makes a moral mistake in his life, the only one from what we can tell, but a big one.  He has gotten a woman pregnant that he barely knows.  He is in charge of large concrete construction jobs and after finishing one of his buildings he sleeps with the woman after they share two bottles of wine.  His reason for sleeping with this woman is that she is a very sad person, who has a very lonely and unfulfilling life, and he feels bad for her.  However this act and all other characters are never seen.  We only know what is going on in the title character’s life, Ivan Locke, because of conversations he has on his car phone on the way to the hospital on the night this woman is to give birth.  

The character of Locke is not only married, but also has a historical concrete pour set to take place the next day.  He decides that it is the right thing to do to be by this woman’s side as she has a baby, because it is his mistake that it is being brought into the world.  He has to inform his family that he will not be home and his coworkers that he will not be at the concrete pour.  This is what the drama of the movie comes from.  It seems like a very simple story, but it is completely captivating.  

One of the things motivating Locke is that he never knew his father until he was in his 20’s.  He despises his father as he has a bunch of one man imaginary conversations with his father about how he wants to be a better man than him.  He doesn’t want the baby to grow up not knowing who he is.  

At the center of this film is a series of moral questions about what happens when we tell the truth.  Locke decides to be truthful with everyone involved.  Will he be ultimately rewarded or punished for telling the truth?  Does telling the truth matter more than the possibility of either the reward or punishment?  Is Locke acting morally when he tells his wife about what he has done, or is he destroying his family and causing unneeded pain?  

This is a film that could be discussed in a philosophy class, but it never seems like it while you are watching it.  It has the pace and excitement of a thriller.  It could be a one man play, but the cinematography and the music are highly cinematic and compelling.  I couldn’t help but think of other movies that have beautiful shot night sequences like Heat, Lost In Translation, or Drive.  

Tom Hardy is simply one of the best actors living and breathing today.  He is always able to transform himself completely into whatever character he is playing.  Watch him in Bronson, Warrior, or this movie and you will see a completely different and believable character on the screen.  Although there is no doubt that the writing and directing are absolutely superb in this movie, it says a lot that his performance, at the center of the film, is completely captivating.  

Whether you come to this movie to view it as a very well done piece of entertainment, or are looking for something deeper, I have no doubt that it will be worth your time.