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January 23, 2015


Hmm, I wouldn't describe Z as a moral dilemma movie. It always struck me as a pretty straightforward (and excellent) political drama.

No, Z counts as I Was Confused All Along Movie. It's M that was described as a moral dilemma movie.

Loves me some Peter Lorre, I do. Dr Gogol (Mad Love?) would have been a fine Gollum.

I don't know about Z, which I've never seen, but it never seemed to me that M was a moral dilemma story.

Possible trigger-non-warning: M is about a man who murders children. However, lacking modern technologies (no Living Color and Surround Sound) as well as modern moral sensibilities (e.g., it assumes that some things are known to be wrong or right, like murdering people and stopping murderers), it does not dwell in loving detail, or any detail or explicitness whatever, on the process of murdering. How refreshingly quaint! Do not go if you're looking for a horror movie. If not, though, it's a damn good movie.

But getting to the point: There is not a simple line between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys; e.g., the murderer is caught by the combined efforts of the criminal underworld, who for the time being work on the side of the cops, though the latter don't know this. And the murderer is crazy, and the movie ends in an unanswerable agonized question. And yet, where's the dilemma? Where ought a right-thinking person -- at least arguably -- to have acted differently?

The only one who ought to have acted differently is the murderer, who is crazy and is aware of it much of the time. So, amibiguities and contradictions and unanswerables, but this doesn't fit my personal idea of dilemma.

It also has a premise that I think is a work of genius. The disappearences of children get noticed, and the public and the newspapers get worked up about the failure to catch the perpetrator. Pressure goes on the police to Do Something, and they start casting about and raiding everything in sight in hopes of a clue. Which spoils the usual working arrangements with the underworld, the leaders of which now find it hard to do business. So they set aside their quarrels and organize every thief and con man in Berlin, and all the beggars. (Anyone recall the Threepenny Novel?) This is a formidable intelligence network, which runs the madman down. The final scene, a sort of underground trial of the miscreant, is memorable.

Final ramble, this being one of my all-time favorite movies. But it requires a digression: I first saw M at the on-campus Friday night movie in the spring of my senior year at a college with the amusing requirement of passing a rigorous Qualifying Exam before undertaking the senior year and the senior thesis. My friends who were juniors were duly concerned with the impending Junior Quals. At the end of the movie, then, the Peter Lorre character is allowed his say, and gives an impassioned speech about his sufferings of being uncontrollably mad. The fires in his mind, the voices he heard, the torment! That is,

Das Feuer!
Die Stimme!
Die Qual!!!

Cheered up the juniors a bit, despite the seriousness of it all.

What made the movie explosive at its time was that the underworld represented the 'gesundes Volksempfinden' (natural healthy sentiment of the people) demanding a simple solution, death, while the state treated the killer as a sick person that needed treatment (and could be let loose again later to kill anew).
That was also the reason why the Nazis banned the film when they came to power. They did not like to see their official position being presented by criminals. Imagine, if you will, an American movie in the first half of the 20th century where the voice of 'reason' would be a communist functionary. No imagination necessary actually since such movies were produced during WW2 (and became HUAC targets after the war).

Thanks for that insight, Hartmut! I've passed it on to the Studentin.

Yama: you're right, there can be something very Gollum-like about Lorre. I wonder if he directly influence either Andy Serkis' portrayal, or Tolkien himself?

I doubt the latter. Tolkien was no friend of the cinema at all. But the ents were a result of him watching a performance of Macbeth as a youngster and getting disappointed because the walking Birnam forest was fake. According to his own words he long dreamt of a real forest attacking a castle (=> siege of Isengard).

"Yama: you're right, there can be something very Gollum-like about Lorre."

Not surprising, considering his definitive portrayal of Gollum opposite Humphrey Bogart in the 1940s:


(As in Peter Jackson's version, Gollum gets a fair portion of the running time in this version, though Sam hardly gets any. At least we get to see him again in Casablanca.)

Oh hey. So that whole DEA parallel construction definite-non-scandal turned out to be significantly worse than it sounded at the time. Whodathunkit?

I particularly love this: "The government . . . asked the court to assume the information had been obtained unconstitutionally."

I don't know about the lawyers here, but that bit made my head hurt.

Speaking of the DEA, they apparently have license plate recording network of unknown size shared with other state, local, and federal agencies:


Best(worst) part:

One DEA document references steps needed to ensure the program meets its goals, "of which asset forfeiture is primary."

I'd say they have a 'long standing confusion' about what their primary goal is. Or maybe not.

The DEA seems to have a pretty good idea of what their primary goal is. The public and the media? Not so much.

This is confusing:

One of the millions of feral pigs who make up the power base and leadership of the murderous Republican Party begging to be killed:

Mike Huckabee:

"There are two things you should never see. You should never see a law or a sausage made. I have seen both. And I still eat sausage. If you're gonna have some sausage you gotta kill some pigs. And folks there are a lot of people in America who want the sausage they just don't want to kill the pigs. We need to do some pig killing — to get to the sausage."

I agree with him.

anyone here have any experience with whole-home audio?

our current house has ethernet in all rooms, so we keep our iTunes libraries on a NAS. then there's a laptop in the living room whose job it is to run iTunes into our receiver. and the receiver has two audio zones (living room and back porch). the receiver also handles switching between video sources for the TV. it works OK, but doesn't do anything for audio any other rooms.

we're starting new construction so now we have the chance to put in any kind of audio we want. i'll be doing ethernet everywhere, just because.

Sonos sounds interesting, but i haven't been able to figure out what i'd need. could it replace the AV receiver - that is, could it switch video as well as audio?

Anyone here have any recent experience with designing a whole-home audio system?

Our current house has ethernet throughout, and all of our iTunes libraries live on a NAS. My desktop plays iTunes in the 'office' room. In the living room, we have a laptop which has its audio out connected to our AV receiver; this laptop's lot in life is to run iTunes. And the receiver has two zones : living room and back porch. So, this works OK, but does nothing in any other room.

We're starting new construction and so we have the opportunity to set up any kind of audio system that we want (and can afford). We'll be doing ethernet everywhere regardless.

I've been looking at Sonos, but it's not clear what I'd need for components. And it kindof sounds like I could maybe ditch my A/V receiver (run the BluRay player and cable directly into our TV and the maybe grab the audio out from the TV and into some kind of Sonos setup?

Or, Apple's Airplay?

Get a boom box and carry it around on your shoulder.

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