Old Oligarch's Painted Stoa

Past Posts of Note
Substantative, in chronological order
The Sunday obligation and illness: question, research & my answer

Denial of personhood: Dei Filius & Terri Schiavo

On Modesty 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Differing with Dulles 1 & 2 on pro-abort politicians

Mad About Manuals 1 & 2

Absinthe recherches early, required reading, 2, 3, 4.

First time at an abortuary

The Maundy

TPOTC impact & analysis and more

Contraception reflections 1, 2

Meiwes, propheta, übermensch

Headship Loggerheads 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

Matrix: Revolutions

Matrix: Reloaded
1, 2 & 3

Terrorist Attack Preparations, and follow-ups 1 & 2 & 3


Casuistry of Drinking

Review of Auto Focus

Parish Review 1

The Power of Shame

Biblical Hermeneutics

Ayoob on Guns

Against the Ordination of Women

Two Cents on Braveheart


Thematic Meditations

E-mail Me
oldoligarch @yahoo.com

Who Knows?
I Might Respond!

E-mail Policy
Any e-mail I receive is fair game for publication, with comments, unless you explicitly say so beforehand.

Gabriel Possenti

The WeatherPixie
Weather at Dulles Airport

Powered by Blogger

My Atom Site Feed
The Old Oligarch tackles his first plumbing problem of the new apartment: Whistling hot water pipes! In the course of this, I stumbled onto toiletology, your online source for toilet plumbing information, include a trove of historical books with titles like this:

The next time you visit the loo, think of Ol' Tom.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/24/2002 09:42:00 PM | link

Interesting Propaganda:

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/22/2002 05:30:00 PM | link

The Architectural version of the aforeblogged Hot or Not. (Also from Reenhead.)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/22/2002 04:51:00 PM | link

Very cool idea by Reenhead: A DC Metro Area Blog Map. Blogs from the metropolitan DC area are arranged according to the metro stop where the authors live. Our end of the Orange Line holds the belt! Hurray.

Also Maureen was very nice to add our wildly right-wing blogs to an otherwise somewhat lefty, jejune list. (Yes, I expected content censorship, which is not a reflection on Reenhead, but on life in general.)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/22/2002 04:47:00 PM | link

Passing feeling of strangeness? Maybe you've been hit by a quarkstrike.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/22/2002 04:36:00 PM | link

Weird: "The cakes - the first of their kind in Taiwan - have a beautiful luminescence because of their cream coating which contains a special protein acquired with the latest biotechnology from Taiwan's endemic red algae."

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/22/2002 04:34:00 PM | link

Charity, by Wm. Bouguereau

From the Art Renewal Center:
"For over 90 years, there has been a concerted and relentless effort to disparage, denigrate and obliterate the reputations, names, and brilliance of the academic artistic masters of the late 19th Century. Fueled by a cooperative press, the ruling powers have held the global art establishment in an iron grip. Equally, there was a successful effort to remove from our institutions of higher learning all the methods, techniques and knowledge of how to train skilled artists. Five centuries of critical data was nearly thrown into the trash ..."

If the above doesn't get you to visit the truly beautiful galleries at www.artrenewal.org, your sensibilities have been destroyed by modernist trash.

As a last appeal, for those not inclined to Pre-Raphaelite sumptuousness, I submit one earnest, modern, Russian Temptation of Christ by Kramskoy:

Oh, yes, and one comical piece by Vibert, "The Diet," best viewed more closely.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/22/2002 05:20:00 AM | link

On target! I do love Augustine. And a curious selection of questions, too. Via http://www.sashacastel.com/:

"God will not suffer man to have the knowledge of things to come; for if he had prescience
of his prosperity he would be careless; and understanding of his adversity he would be senseless."

You are Augustine!

You love to study tough issues and don't mind it if you lose sleep over them.
Everyone loves you and wants to talk to you and hear your views, you even get things like "nice debating
with you." Yep, you are super smart, even if you are still trying to figure it all out. You're also
very honest, something people admire, even when you do stupid things.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson
(If you use Henderson's paste-in HTML, you may have to tweak it yourself if your blog uses style sheets. -- O.O.)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/22/2002 04:51:00 AM | link

Dr. Weevil, who does not employ perma-links, blogs about the agony & ecstasy of his speculative etymology of the German Urdummheit.

The ur- prefix is one of my favorites as well. What I'd really love is a systematic exposition of er- and ver-.

All this talk of ur- has reminded me of my old friend, Asbach Uralt Branntwein.

Be sure to visit the Schatzkammer, check out the connoisseur snifter, and their little memorial to Hugo Asbach's invention of Asbach chocolate cordials so that women could drink Branntwein in an age "when it was unthinkable for women to drink in public." Some "roaring twenties" they had in Deutschland!

The "drink recipes" section bears witness to some truly different cocktail sensibilities. Consider the "Indian Oyster." The ingredients include Asbach, tomato juice, olive oil and an entire raw egg yolk. Ymmm...About 10 of those should land you in the hospital.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/22/2002 04:21:00 AM | link

Cray takes back the belt from the Japanese with the Cray X-1, the world's fastest supercomputer. At a max configuration of 52.4 trillion floating point operations per second ("teraflops" i.e. calculations involving 16-bit decimal precision), that's about the combined speed of 39,000 Intel 1 GHz processors working in unison -- provided they could work together in unison like that, which they can't, which is why you need a supercomputer to do it.

The Cray-1, the world's first supercomputer, was built in 1976 for Los Alamos to the tune of $8.8 million. It could boast a 160 Megaflop processor speed (about 10% of today's 1 GHz chip) with 8 Meg of onboard RAM. Now we carry that in a Palm Pilot. Woohoo!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/18/2002 03:46:00 AM | link

I am delighted to find that my Anti-Panda tirade scores #4 among Yahoo search results for "Perfect and polite Pandas." Long live Google's preference for blogs!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/18/2002 03:27:00 AM | link

Revenge of the Domestic Quotes
O.O. returns his wife's practice of quoting his random daily musings. Quoth the Mantis:

"I think when we wage war against Iraq, we should call it Operation Peace Train."
(Cat Stevens, who sang Peace Train, is now a fundamentalist Muslim.)

In reaction to the newscaster's remark that the Republican party doesn't court the votes of the poor, minorities and women: "Who needs those losers?"

In loving repartee with her husband, who prefers not to knead raw hamburger with his bare hands: "What's the matter? Little faggot doesn't want to get his hands dirty? Awwww..."

On the introduction of a small amount of parsley and oregano into aforementioned hamburger: "QUIT putting LEAVES in my MEAT!"

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/18/2002 03:24:00 AM | link

Welcome to the Google Searcher looking for "The Illiad compared to The Simpsons." If only there were enough time, my friend, and I could write like James Joyce.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/18/2002 03:16:00 AM | link

Did a small template update. By the time I got around to linking him, it seems that Little Latin, Less Greek is now dormant.

Lugete, O Blogifex Lectoresque, et quantum est hominum venustiorum? Bloggus mortuus est mei amici..." (Ok, Catullus is getting pissed off, I'll cut it out.)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/17/2002 04:19:00 AM | link

I'm probably a little more right and a little more authoritarian than this, but on some questions, I believe that religion and morality need to temper the actions of business and state, which may have lowered my score. I.e., I'm a theo-trad authoritarian, rather than secular authoritarian.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/17/2002 04:06:00 AM | link

A double conversion: The Cranky Professor moves to his own domain, www.crankyprofessor.com, and from Blogger to Moveable Type. New face, same good stuff. Check him out.

A little more color on that stark new template, please!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/16/2002 09:55:00 PM | link

Tom responded to the previous e-mail with another letter, containing the important point:

"I think, too, that it is important to have the attitude that we should try to glorify God at all times with all of our actions. I think this kind of attitude will help people keep a proper perspective on how many drinks they ought to throw down."

Very true. Like a good 17th century Jesuit, I approached the question looking for the low-bar requirement of "what can I do that is still just this side of falling into sin." Tom has a more positive approach which cannot be legislated, but is more in tune with Gospel. When in doubt, take the safer way.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/16/2002 09:43:00 PM | link

My Casuistry of Drinking

It was only a matter of time. One reader writes: Your posts seem to glorify an excessive form of drinking that I have always believed was sinful . . . since my return to the faith.

To be fair, Tom wrote me a very cordial note that was in no way accusatory, and I thank him for his question. Since he details his objections to my posts, I'll copy the letter below:

"I stopped by your blog today and came across a couple of posts that gave me reason to pause. Please forgive me if my assumptions are off-base, but I am assuming that you are a Catholic since you are a member of St. Blog's Parish.

That being said, the 2 posts that gave me reason to pause were the review of Michelob Ultra and the post just after it concerning your visit to Yale. In the former post you stated, "...I find that too much sugar during a drinking bout can really exacerbate a hang-over..." In the latter post you stated, "I went to Mory's, imbibed heavily (as is traditional)..."

I don't mean to come off as being "holier than thou", but isn't excessive drinking sinful? I, too, enjoy a good brew or a good shot of scotch, but my "heavy" drinking days are a thing of my very secular past, thanks be to God. Your posts seem to glorify an excessive form of drinking that I have always believed was sinful. I shouldn't say "always". I should say that since my return to the faith I have believed this to be sinful. Am I being more Catholic than the Pope or is excessive drinking sinful?

It is true: I am a Catholic, and I do tend write about my love for the vine in lyrical, romantic terms. I think alcohol is the most useful invention since the wheel, and it sweetens my gloomy disposition enormously. There's a reason why wine is an allegory for grace throughout the Old Testament!

That said, you're absolutely right: excessive drinking is sinful. But perhaps we differ about what constitutes "excessive." I don't mean to sound Clintonesque by raising that point. For example, I think that the DWI threshold (BAC 0.1) is far below the "sinful" threshold for most people, putting aside first-time drinkers, marathon runners, and working nuclear technicians.

What are my practical norms here? Drinking becomes sinful if it: (1) Causes appreciable injury to one's health, either short-term or long-term, and (2) Drinking becomes sinful if it facilitates an occasion of sin, or can be reasonably expected to do so.

Let's immediately leave aside innocent cases such as having 2 - 4 beers or the equivalent in cocktails or scotch, since that's negligible, and we both agree it's fine.

In the aforementioned Mory's afternoon, I had a fair amount, although it is hard to tell exactly how much when you're drinking out of a common cup. I had two bourbon Old Fashioneds with lunch, followed by maybe the equivalent of eight or ten 8-ounce cocktails from the cups (about 30 proof?) in two hours. I was feeling good. In fact, I didn't plan on getting that intoxicated. At the same time, I knew I had a little too much, so I did my usual ritual before taking an afternoon nap: I drank a few large glasses of water and took two multivitamins. When I awoke three hours later, I was perfectly fine. No foul, healthwise.

In terms of moral responsibility, I was still in complete control of my actions, although I was definitely not in good shape to drive, which I didn't. The only negative consequence of that afternoon was stumbling into a muddle-headed discussion about Gadamer and Derrida in a cigar shop with someone who deserved a better portion of my time. If that's a venial sin, so be it.

What do I consider a serious sin? A major hang-over, for certain. Now this doesn't mean just a headache in my book. I have a headache about 2 days a week, just from reading. I'm talking about waking up feeling like a shriveled prune, weak, with a splitting headache, or throwing up, etc. Those times when your body says: "Thanks a lot, jerk" and you can't even think of touching a drink that evening without feeling bad all over again. That merits a trip to the confessional, as far as I see it.

In this regard, my remarks about the low sugar content of Michelob Ultra might have been misleading. My main idea was simply this: The primary cause of hang-overs is dehydration. Consuming a lot of sugar doesn't help in this department, since sugar dehydrates you too. (One drink I love, for example, has enough Grenadine to send a diabetic into orbit. Five of them, and you've probably had half a small bottle of Grenadine.) In such cases, when drinking several drinks, consuming a lot of carbs can mean bringing on a hang-over where a low-carb selection of alcohol will not bother you at all. This would apply to low-carb beers as well as to dry drinks like martinis, scotches, etc. If there's no moral issue involved (i.e. criterion #2 for sinfulness is not a factor), I tend to push the threshold of criterion #1 as far as possible on "big" drinking nights, since it's only a health concern. That's because I like to drink! I don't consider that indulgence sinful as long as its outside criteria 1 & 2. I drink far less frequently than I did during my college days, so the occasional big night out has really no long-term effect for me. On most days, the single beer or wine I have after work is probably a net health benefit, if recent research is to be believed, and the earnest drinking session only rolls around about once a month or so, if that.

Hopefully that dismisses any occasions of scandal, and the implicit suggestion that I ought to remove myself from St. Blog's Parish. (Do they have a St. Blog's Order of Penitents?)

The most interesting practical question, I think, is formulating a casuistry about retaining one's moral responsibility. This is a much more difficult task than assessing the health concerns. IMHO, it really depends on the person, and how he is affected by alcohol. As for myself, I always become happier when I'm drinking -- if not downright exuberant. I never become withdrawn, or angry, depressive or vindictive like some folks can do, although I occasionally wax playfully pugnacious. My major problems are things like (a) spending money on a lark, or (b) doing something that could cause me physical injury because I'm a klutz and don't realize it (like trying to fix that pesky electric circuit after one too many, or burning myself with my Zippo). I've had a hard time fixing trait (b), but (a) is easily solved by taking a fixed amount of cash with me to the bar, or going with Zorak.

Thus, I am fairly liberal with myself and drinking, but that is premised on my own assessment that (a) I know how sober I am at each stage of intoxication, and (b) I know when my reason is seriously impaired -- an assessment I trust because it is corroborated by Zorak, experience and close friends who know me well enough to judge when I'm too far gone. I've found that some people cannot establish their level of sobriety accurately at all after a few drinks. Such a person needs to approach alcohol very cautiously. Before he knows it, his inhibitions are gone and he's still drinking like a fish, which spirals into the realm of serious sin rather quickly. If this is the case, I suggest that such a person hold himself to a pre-determined number of drinks, telling a friend or his bartender at the outset if necessary. I don't think a tendency to "slide" into having "one too many" is a sign of alcoholism, unless it happens routinely and leads to sinful drunkenness on a regular basis.

So that's my casuistry. I realize that some folks may find it too permissive. Especially those who have had problems with alcohol in the past. I completely understand that perspective. I know alcoholics, and I have one in my non-immediate family. I know people who are not alcoholics, but routinely drink excessively out of depression -- and I sympathize! -- but that's not me either. It was me at one time in my adolescence, but I've mastered that urge successfully for over a decade. So all in all, I let myself go on festive occasions and so forth.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/16/2002 03:50:00 AM | link

A fascinating exegesis on "branch" prophesies in Isaiah, such as Is 11:1-10.. (The branch image is also found in other prophets: Zech 3:18, Jer 23:5, Jer 33:15, etc.)

Rev. Miller also has a nice online presentation of "Great Scroll" of Isaiah found at Qumran, a/k/a 1QIsa, here. Be sure to scroll down to see just how much he has put online.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/13/2002 06:23:00 PM | link

My wife, Zorak has an excellent post about her conversion to Catholicism. Clicke, lege.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/13/2002 06:03:00 PM | link

I've talked about the literal and spiritual senses before, but here's a new one: the wise-ass sense, which uses typology for polemic value. (The author compares Rome's conservative theological instincts to Balaam's ass, which by balking, saves its master:)

"For, undoubtedly, something has changed. The freedom with which the editors of the Bible de Jerusalem handle such problems as the sources of the Pentateuch, the authorship of the various parts of Isaiah, and the literary and historical origins of the four Gospels, cannot very well be reconciled with the early decrees of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which put exegetes in a straightjacket under pretense of fighting Modernism. These decrees have never been rescinded, but they have been interpreted and explained-I am tempted to write that they have been explained away. Now this does not mean that exegetes have been given an absolutely free hand. The Encyclical Humani Generis is there to remind them, as well as their fellow theologians, that if norms are relaxed, yet norms are still there, and that rules may be enforced, at times painfully. This, of course, places Biblical scholars of the Roman Church in a rather awkward position, halfway between academic freedom and ecclesiastical discipline. It is fair to say, however, that, partly because of the decrees of the Biblical Commission, Roman Catholic exegetes have learned to analyze more clearly the relationship between literary problems and the evolution of culture and religion. They were prevented from being carried away too far on the tidal wave of Higher Criticism, after it had yielded whatever valuable results it possibly could. After all, the ass of Balaam saved his master balking stubbornly."

Note: Even in 1952, someone can contrast "having academic freedom" and "being under ecclesiastical discipline." Ex Corde is overdue. The only academic freedom that makes sense is a disciplined exercise of freedom, like that of the well-trained actor, or athlete. Pointing out the idiocy of undisciplined freedom to liberals is still the goal, 50 years later.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/11/2002 02:06:00 AM | link

Review of Auto Focus: The Life of Bob Crane

Personal Background:
Like many people my age, I adored Hogan's Heroes as a kid. Although the last season concluded two years before I was born, the show's 186 episodes spent decades in syndicated re-runs. Bob Crane, who played Hogan, was something of a local hero, having been born and raised in Waterbury, CT, just a few miles from my own home.

(More on Hogan's and Bob Crane )

I think I was ten or twelve when I realized Crane must have done other things in his career, so I asked my father what ever happened to my favorite funnyman. Dad laconically replied that Crane had been murdered -- beaten to death in a Scottsdale, AZ motel, and nobody knew who killed him. I couldn't imagine someone wanting to kill a man so congenial and benign. Thus, learning of Crane's murder probably occasioned one of my earliest soul-searching moments into the question of "How can man do such things to fellow man?"

Crane, Technophile and Sex Addict
I didn't become aware of the "dark side" of Bob Crane's life until I read a National Review article by Rob Long, entitled "Porn on Demand: Internet Makes It Easy To View Pornography Without Shame," which appeared in the May 31, 1999 issue. (I will link to NR once they get the article online...)

Long describes Crane's sordid descent into home-made still and video pornography to make a point: much of the high-tech multimedia equipment and software we use today owes its development to sex addicts whose desires have fueled innovation and funded the expensive early models of video equipment. Long uses Crane as a prime example of an "early adapter:" someone who is willing to shoulder the cost and inconvenience of those expensive prototypes, and thus paves the way for the masses to enjoy an inexpensive Betamax cam, or nowadays, a $49 USB webcam. Likewise, that Intel Indeo 5 codec you use to watch a Windows Media Player broadcast of Padre Pio's beatification was initially developed to carry as much flesh and moaning per kilobyte as humanly possible.

Long paints Crane as a pioneer in the Age of the Porn Pipe, the nickname broadband installers have given their product. Crane's rare combination of wealth, popularity, sexual addiction and immunity to shame could support such an expensive and scandalous habit in the 1960s, so that nowadays, massive quantities of high-quality porn can be obtained for pennies in seconds, in the privacy of one's own home.

Greysmith's Portrait of Crane
Long's brief article does not address the other side of Crane's "creepy habit," such as two ruined marriages, estrangement from business contacts and friends, financial straits, and finally, Crane's murder, likely at the hands of his codependent, bisexual video repairman and partner-in-crime, John Carpenter.

I learned about this side of Crane's life largely by reading Robert Greysmith's The Murder of Bob Crane: Who Killed the Star of Hogan's Heroes?, now retitled as Auto Focus and selling at Amazon.com. Part real-crime murder novel and part biography, Greysmith's book is excellent. He traces the causes of Crane's decline, and the possible motives for his murder in clear (and lurid) detail. The edition I read appeared right before the 1994 re-trial of John Carpenter, so perhaps the new edition is further updated.

Kinnear as Crane, doing what he loves

Auto Focus: The Movie
Director Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and American Gigolo) liked the Greysmith story as scripted by Michael Gerbosi and decided to make Auto Focus: The Life of Bob Crane. I saw it last night in Fairfax. You can find theaters and show times in the Virginia / DC area here at allnva.com

Schrader, a Dutch Calvinist, pulls no punches when presenting Crane's spiral into the estrangement and soul-eating emotional instability of his addiction. The key moral point of the movie is made fearlessly, for which Schrader deserves full credit. I shall not reveal the last line, but the fact Schrader got away with it is a testimony to the moral guts left in a major Hollywood production crew. Using Greysmith's biography as his foundation, Schrader moralizes the factual narrative without overwhelming the viewer with Greysmith's incredible level of biographical detail. A movie necessitates dropping details, and some have criticized Schrader for making Crane's wives and children two-dimensional "stick-figure sufferers" as a result. But if the shallowness of some supporting characters is the price Schrader paid for keeping his focus on the interior psychological disintegration of Crane, it was worth it.

Long's observations about Crane's technophilia may have come to Schrader's attention as well. Throughout the movie, the evolutions in video technology serve to mark the passage of time, one of the few temporal referents aside from the progression of events in Crane's career. Long's reflections on "early adapters" make an implicit appearance in a few scenes as well, when the devices most folks will later use "to tape the Carson show" and "make home movies of the kids" are first introduced in the living-room pornotorium workshop run by Carpenter and Crane. A subtle yet memorable scene occurs when Crane has made a movie of the children and a birthday party, which he shows to Anne, his first wife. Anne is a devout Catholic and patient spouse who has previously chastened Bob for his habit of collecting "shady magazines" and "amateur photography" in the garage (Bob denies it as "innocent" and "natural" but agrees to get rid of them -- then doesn't). Anne is initially amazed at the technology. But when Bob calls it "the Polaroid of the future" because no development by a third party is required, she leers at him in suspicion, although Crane fails to perceive she has made the connection between his once and future predilections.

The movie opens by depicting Crane's family life in the 1950s: almost stereotypically perfect. Greg Kinnear is convincing as Crane (the grin and head-gestures are great), although I agree with Scott Crane that Kinnear could have bothered to bulk up and comb his hair to match Crane's actual size and style. We pick up on Crane's biography right around the time that Lenny, Crane's agent, offers him the script for the lead role in Hogan's Heroes.

As a biographical side-note, I thought Schrader did a nice job reminding the audience what a gamble Hogan's Heroes was, and how the pilot initially offended so many people. Now that Hogan's is such a familiar show, we forget that the idea of a slapstick comedy in a Nazi concentration camp was met with stern opposition by many critics. Crane, already an established name in radio, gets burned during an interview about his lead role in Hogan's by a fellow radio broadcaster. "I thought you were my friend," Crane exclaims. "Yes, but I'm also a Jew," and the interviewer storms out, with just enough tape to make Crane's new pilot sound horrible. The show, of course, succeeds nonetheless. Also, Kurt Fuller, whom Schrader has cast as Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink on Hogan's) does a fabulous job as Klink!

DeFoe as Carpenter, left.

Willem (sic) DeFoe is great as John Carpenter, the creepy, established profligate whom Crane meets on the set of Hogan's Heroes while he is wiring Richard Dawson's new car for sound. (Dawson played the role of Peter Newkirk on Hogan's. And in case you didn't know, by the way, Richard Dawson was a complete pervert, videophile and sex addict, too, which puts a whole new spin on his habit of touching and kissing every woman who appeared on Family Feud, doesn't it?)

Dawson, fleshfiend

During the first season of Hogan's, Dawson and Carpenter persuade the clean-cut, teetotalling Crane to rendezvous with them at a strip club one night after production. Always struggling to outdo Dawson, who wanted the lead role for Hogan's but didn't get it, Crane feels he has to prove himself superior to Dawson in every way, and that soon spills over to holding his own in the nightclub scene, where his popularity brings feminine temptation his way quickly. Schrader's depiction of Crane's first adultery is somewhat convincing, albeit biographically inaccurate.

As Hogan's Heroes skyrockets, and Crane's fame with it, his occasions of sin increase, and Anne is left increasingly out of the picture. On a rare visit home, the Catholic priest at Crane's church makes an attempt to find more wholesome outlets than the strip club for Crane's love of music and the social scene after work. He fails. As Crane enters into progressively more orgiastic enterprises with Carpenter, he also falls in love with Sigrid Valdis ("Hilda" on Hogan's, Patty Olsen in real life), who "understands" Crane and his career better than Anne. Crane soon divorces Anne to contract an "open marriage" with Olsen, who tolerates his philandering.

Already hooked through the eyes by the naked female form, Crane's need for social acceptance combines powerfully with his desire for a woman "who can understand him" to fuel Crane's increasingly empty pursuit of innumerable women. I think the point is understated, but it seems Schrader wants to maintain that Anne understands Bob best (she knows his strengths and weaknesses) but she will not tolerate his adultery, so Bob turns to Patty, who is much more accommodating, but ultimately less fulfilling to the increasingly self-centered and carnal Crane who emerges at the end of the film. (The biographical accuracy of this point is hotly contested, both women and their children still being alive....)

Crane's downward spiral occupies the entire second half of the movie. Schrader is a master of the gradual transition. Thematically and cinematographically, the film tracks Crane's "degradation." The cinematography transitions from brightly-colored, very stable, low-contrast shots at the beginning of the film (think of early "Color by Deluxe" TV shows, like the Brady Bunch) to dim, highly-saturated, high-contrast shots at the end, which are often shot from uncomfortable angles, or from unstable, hand-held positions. The closing scenes are so visually compelling, they may make you slightly dizzy. Thematically, we watch Crane's slide from rising celebrity, to playboy, to profligate, to frazzled hustler, and finally to a washed-up addict resorting to cheap ploys for female attention which backfire. All throughout Crane's decline, Schrader pointedly introduces arguments against Crane's home-made pornography and profligacy, in the mouths of concerned friends, such as Crane's agent Lenny. But each is rationalized away, with slogans which are now enshrined as leftist anthems to perversion. "It's natural." "It's a stress relief." "Who's to judge?" "If people think sex is so awful, they've got the problem, not me." (Of course, when it's "drugs" or "alcohol" instead of "sex" everyone calls it "denial," and likewise, Crane is an addict in denial by the time he utters these lines and nearly loses a role in a Disney film.)

As fortune and fame leave Crane, Carpenter occupies a larger and larger emotional role in Crane's life, even more so than Patti, whom he ultimately divorces. Although Crane has no interest in Carpenter's bisexual proclivities, Carpenter serves Crane's enabler, tech specialist, and constant companion in the weekly orgy scene. By the end, he is Crane's "only friend," perhaps because he is the only one can tolerate, moreover understand, Crane's overt sleaziness. Crane's refusal to curtail his sexual proclivities causes his quest for "acceptance" and "understanding" to end not with the woman of his dreams, but with a man who is creepier and more addicted to "the life" than Crane. When Crane dedicates his life to the pursuit of pleasure, the only one who understands him is a man worse off than himself. The heartbreaking scene in which Crane wins a piddling appearance on Celebrity Chefs, only to offend the audience with off-color remarks, shows how far he's fallen, and how unaware of his problem he has become.

It won't give away the end entirely, but I will say this much: When it dawns on Crane that he must get out of his lifestyle or die destitute, it is too late. Moreover, Schrader leaves open the question of whether Crane had the moral fortitude to sever all his old ties and begin a new life. Lastly, the concluding comment about what can be justified under the principle of "men gotta have fun" is so brutal, it made my day.

As a concluding technical remark, Schrader's depiction of Crane's murder was exceptionally accurate in its detail. It's almost a tip-of-the-hat to real-crime buffs or Crane fans who have read the literature. Everything was as detailed as Greysmith's account: Crane is killed using the very instruments of his pornography. Even the murder-scene photos seem to have been consulted for the tell-tale bloodspray, and the curious profusion of blood around Crane's head that caused the first observers of his body to assume it was a woman's head with long, dark hair. In Schrader's closing depiction, this dark shadow around Crane's head is like a sinkhole in place of a halo.


I offer this review to make the sad story of Bob Crane known more widely in the Catholic blogosphere. Pray for him. I am certain Schrader's movie will garner bad reviews just because its moral point is such strong medicine for this day and age. The best review I've read (sans last line, and expected liberal pro-porn bias) is at New York magazine online. Other critics rightly say that the film lacks flash and momentum, but I didn't mind. The viewer gets sucked in to the downward spiral of the plot, which is the point, and so the beginning of the film is slow and staid, while the end is tense, overwrought, erratic and inescapable.

You can visit the official website, which is poorly done, IMHO. The synopsis is uncompelling. The 42 meg of video clips give far too much away, and the clips of the beginning of the movie make it seem like the film will be painfully slow to watch, which it is not. (A little slow, but not painfully slow.)

At the same time, I paused before seeing the movie as a theologian, and got the wife's permission. If it wasn't for my pre-existing interest in Crane, I would have been put off at the level of nudity involved, which is appreciable, but not X-rated, and thankfully, we are spared from any serious male nudity, although it's obviously implied, and at one point pixilated out of the film (to keep an R-rating?) Some scenes are downright creepy, which was the director's intent, but others are IMHO unnecessary, such as Crane's bizarre daydream about Klink, Schultz and Hilda (yes, that), a disgusting masturbation scene (implied, not shown, but still very gross), and Crane's soliloquy about the wondrous variety of boobs and nipples in creation, which was corny. (And decidedly inferior to similarly-themed but innocent soliloquy in Eight Days a Week.)

A little research on Internet reveals a war going on among Bob's fans, and indeed among his own children. Crane's son, who goes by "Scotty" Crane, has launched a website www.bobcrane.com, ostensibly to correct the view of his father promulgated by the movie, for which he was not consulted. Sadly, Scotty Crane is an ardent defender of the sexual philosophy that ruined his father and entangled him with a murderous pervert. In categorical defense of everything his father ever did ("sexually liberated, ahead of his time") he even sells Bob Crane's vintage porno archive online, because Bob would have wanted it that way, according to Scotty. (What can't you find on the Internet!?)

From Scotty we learn about even more about the culture of death that followed in the wake of Crane's departure from Catholicism to pornography. "My father was ardently pro-choice, even before Roe vs. Wade," Scotty proudly announces. No surprise, since Crane paid for the abortions of at least 8 of his sexual "mistakes" after a botched vasectomy left him still fertile. He also exposed his own children to pornography from their earliest youth, a cause of his second divorce from Patty, because he simply didn't see anything wrong with it.

Scotty may be right that if Bob Crane was alive today, he would proudly show his porn collection to the Blogosphere, just as indiscriminately as he showed it to anyone else who would look. But that's the point. The whole tragedy of Bob Crane is how his addiction embarrassed and alienated those around him. This wonderfully witty, talented, generous and humane man pained so many people with the wicked products of his addiction that it ruined his career, his marriage and ultimately his life. If he had only been brave enough to repent, and to pull the hooks from his eyes, he would have lived to be a better husband, father and actor, instead of making that hopeless, sordid, bloody end, alone and empty in a Scottsdale hotel room.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 11/06/2002 12:11:00 PM | link


Friends Outside the
Prophetes Viatoresque:
(but still worth reading)

Recently Read

In my MP3 Player