Category Archives: Movies

Alas Babylon, by Pat Frank – sculpting post-1959 culture

Before Alas Babylon hit the bookstores and was made a movie the US population hadn’t yet done any heavy thinking about the implications of Sputnik 1 and hydrogen bomb arsenals capable of being delivered to the US heartland.  Strategic Air Command was centered in Omaha, NE, and B47 bombers filled the skies.  Civil Defense was mostly the local mortuary because they owned the ambulances.  Complacency with having been victors of WWII, affluence, abundance and confidence in the future were the rule of the day.

Then along came Alas Babylon.   The story of a small piece of Florida spared the bombs and fallout from an attack by the USSR and a prolonged nuclear war.   Because it was early in the day the post-nuclear-holocaust genre hadn’t yet decided everyone had to die or turn into mutant barbarians.

The story was subdued enough to be believed.  And Americans believed it.  Beefed up Civil Defense, began the individual preparedness planning that would be required if they were to survive.

The first 20 pages of Alas Babylon describes the days leading to the war, all the usual suspects you’d hear tonight if you watched the evening news, minus the USSR.  A buildup of tensions, a US Navy fighter-bomber pilot mistakenly releases a bomb over a port in Syria destroying an ammunition train.  Secondary explosions and the beginning of mutual destruction for the US and USSR.

The book is a microscope look at the minds of the US citizenry as they existed in 1959, before ICBMs, before the moon launch, before the oceans were filled with attack and missile launching submarines.  Martin Luther King was still in the future, along with the Vietnam War, race riots in US cities, Kennedy assassinations. automobile seat belts, gas mileage and foreign cars.  Women were there to be protected, first into the lifeboats of whatever safety could be constructed during and after a nuclear war.

Alas Babylon is a good read, a great study in sociology and a particular slice of history frozen in time. 

Old Jules


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Tags:  alas babylon, pat frank, nuclear war, books, book reviews, reviews, history, society, sociology, human behavior, movies, psychology

Confederates and Non-Confederates

Me, trying on caps at the JC Penny store:  Why are some of these blue, other ones grey?

Store Clerk ladyWhy the grey ones are Confederates.

Me:  Oh.  Okay, what are the blue ones.

Store Clerk lady, frowning:   Um.  Those are Non-Confederates. 

Back when Keith Kelt and I were struggling through grammar school in Portales, New Mexico, a movie briefly drained our bluejeans pockets. 

Suddenly every kid in town had to have a blue, or a grey cap with a shiny bill and crossed rifles at the front.  Half-dollar at the JC Penny store had us all scrambling.  Each of us tripped down to JC Penny the instant we could scrape together the gelt. 

At which time probably all of us discovered we didn’t know enough to be making the decisions as we took cap after cap out of the bin, trying them on.  Those of us who’d seen the movie weren’t educated enough to know much about it, aside from the fact it was bloody, violent, and exciting. 

All we knew was that every kid who was anyone was wearing one of those caps.

Not until I made a fool of myself in class several years later in Junior High did I learn that the US Civil War wasn’t fought between Confederates and Non-Confederates.

Old Jules

Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac

Been feeling the urge most of the day to read Cyrano de Bergerac again.  Dug around in piles and boxes of books trying to find it and eventually gave up the ghost.  Searched and found they have a free download of it.

Heck, everything else being equal I wouldn’t mind seeing the movie again.  Jose Ferrer did a great job of capturing the spirit of the book.  I still recall his ‘nose speech’ from seeing the movie as a kid.  The movie was black and white in those days.  Somewhere color slipped in on some of the YouTube versions.

WordPress Planetarium Software and 21 Grams

In case you hadn’t noticed it, WordPress has evidently installed a planetarium software over-ride here with the stars speeded up and going across the blog north-to-south instead of horizontally.  I’ve no idea why.

After they filmed the scene from the movie 21 grams at the motel next door to where I lived in Grants, New Mexico, I got the job of helping to clean up the site afterward.  While I watched them finish things up I saw wossname, Sean Penn smoking the cigar above and leave it in this ashtray.

Those folks left a hell of a mess.

But being the sort of guy I am, I emptied those butts into a baggie and stored them away for whatever future use I could put them to.  That’s bound to be an expensive cigar and I always figured on smoking it on down, but I could never build up the certainty I’d advanced to that level of risk level yet.  Whatever’s on that cigar always seemed to me potentially more lethal than whatever I’ve already got and don’t know about.

But I’ve digressed.  What I wanted to say is, “DAMN those movie people are a messy bunch.”

That, and, “Why don’t WordPress stars move horizontally across the screen like normal stars?”

Old Jules

Brewster McCloud – A Strange and Memorable Movie

I watched this movie repeatedly in theaters when it came out in 1970, always remembered it, but never came across it again.  Four decades later I still have vivid recollections of certain scenes and a general impression it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.



I’ve no idea whether I’d still like it today, no idea whether seeing it again would inspire me to think of all of it as still as somehow haunting and valid to the human experience as I once did.


Watching the trailer brought back some reminders of scenes, but it somehow failed to capture whatever it was that captured me.

In some subtle ways my mind connects Brewster McCloud with Balzac’s Droll Stories.  A multi-layered plotting capable of being enjoyed for the surface stream hilarity, but containing something fundamental, profound and pervasive about the human condition.

If you’ve watched this movie recently enough to recall it better than I do, or if you should see it after reading this, I’d be interested in learning how it sits with you.

Old Jules

Best Quick and Dirty Movie Scenes Ever – Baggage Check

There’s a strange logic here:

Life’s full of choices of this sort but we rarely recognize them.


There are several of these, difficult to pick one over another:

We’ve probably all experienced this thing with a pesky fly.


This one’s in a class all its own


I still have a vivid recollection of seeing this for the first time 60 years ago and wanting to get under my seat at the theater.


These two scenes almost belong in the same movie.  Chilling.

 Cabaret – Tomorrow Belongs to Me – “Do you think you can control them?”

 Panzerlied (Battle of the Bulge with english intro)  “Too young!  They’re too young!”

Zulu – The final attack – A brief history of the European conquest of everywhere else.  “They don’t have any tenors among them.  That’s for sure.”

It all sort of runs together:  “Tell your sweetheart not to pine, to be glad her boy’s in line.”

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Patton – “At least you’ll be able to tell them you didn’t spend it shovelling shit in Louisiana.”


Followed by this:

Network – Mad as Hell Scene  – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”


Cool Hand Luke – “I don’t care if it rains or freezes.”


Treasure of Sierra Madre – “Badges?  We don’t nee no stinkin badges


North by Northwest – Climbing the American ladder of success


The Alamo – “When I was a boy any girl would turn up a bunch of trees like that, cut a bunch down and one for a ridge pole and build herself a cabin alongside the other.  Seems like all anyone would ever need.”


The Outlaw Josie Wales parleys with 10 Bears - “Dying ain’t so hard for people like you and me.  It’s living that’s hard.  Governments don’t live here.  It’s people who live here.  I’m saying people can live here together without butchering one another.”


Amazing Synopsis

Have you ever considered how much time, energy, money and lousy grades could be avoided if world history could be summarized for the kiddos into videos lasting a few minutes?  For instance, consider the European conquests of Africa, the American continents, and India.  The chillerns spend all kinds of time having to memorize the nigglingest details and names the teachers can’t even pronounce.  Pizzzzarrro.  Montezooooma.  Courtessss.   Geroneeemo.  Krazyhorse.  Not to mention the even worse ones in Africa and India.

But the hilarious fact is that all that isn’t needed.  All those books didn’t need to be printed.  All those names and dates didn’t need to be memorized to understand the basics of the European conquests of more-primitive geography.

Here it is.  The incredible 4 minute 56 second summary of the European conquest of Africa, the Americas and India:

If the video doesn’t play the link below should work:

Those kids can now go back to playing on the computers with a total understanding of the history of their ancestors.

I’m going to search around to try finding some more good summaries of other hard-to-remember history.

Old Jules