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Chapter #322: 2015 Rare California Rain Barrels Help - February 16, 2015


First rain of the season at Casa Carrie in Simi Valley, California will soon green-up the hills - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

In Southern California, Rain Barrels Allow Cost Effective Water Storage

In California, and throughout the West, residents who care about long-term environmental viability are monitoring and changing their water usage habits. Here at Casa Carrie, we have been replacing water-hungry outdoor plants. Our new landscape features succulents capable of growing in our now warmer, drier climate. In our parkway, we replaced eighty percent of the lawn with slabs of Arizona sandstone. In our shower and tub, we have five-gallon buckets ready to capture water previously lost during the warm-up Succulents, driftwood, sandstone and a brass bowl create a water-wise environment at Casa Carrie in Simi Valley, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)process.

In November 2014, we purchased two fifty-gallon rain barrels. At that time, I assumed that Southern Californians would want to save every gallon of rainwater runoff possible. While that may be true, companies that sell rain collection barrels focus their marketing efforts on consumers in the Midwest, where summer storms are often plentiful.

An accompanying brochure scolded us not to leave our rain barrels out in freezing weather. If freeze damage occurs, it will void our warrantee. “Store your rain barrel indoors during winter months”, we were admonished. Copywriters of the brochure may wish to add “In cold climates” to their verbiage. At Casa Carrie, in Simi Valley, California, we rarely have frosty nights, even in midwinter. Unlike many Midwestern or Eastern states, Southern Large slabs of Arizona sandstone cover former lawn area on the parkway at Casa Carrie in Simi Valley, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)California gets almost all of its rainfall during the
winter, between November and March.

After visiting our local Do-It Center, Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, we realized that not one brick and mortar store in our area stocked rain barrels of any kind. I can picture Midwestern marketing types believing the hype that “it never rains in Southern California”. If so, who in Southern California would want a rain barrel? My answer is that every homeowner in Southern California should want one or more.

After a Google search, I located the “Good Ideas 50 gal. Khaki Rain Wizard” on the Home Depot website. At just under $100 each, I ordered two, plus a
A fifty-gallon rain barrel stands ready for the first rain of the season in Simi Valley, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)sturdy plastic stand for each barrel. With free shipping from Michigan to California, the total cost for two barrels and stands came to $285. With a $150 rebate expected soon from our local water agency, our net cost for two barrels and stands was $135.

In December 17, 2014, four cartons arrived via United Parcel Service. Shipped from Michigan, the cartons looked like they had traversed an international war zone. Fortunately, the barrels, stands and hardware packages arrived mostly undamaged. Setup consisted of unpacking, and then using a wrench to thread the brass spigots into pre-threaded plastic holes near the base of each barrel. I found it difficult to tell if I was cross-threading the spigot as I turned the wrench. I suggest drop-shipping your barrels to a local Home Depot and then having them install the spigots, free of charge. After setup, the stands were strong and wide enough to stay upright, even on uneven ground. With their faux whiskey barrel appearance, the barrels blended nicely into our garden.

Local TV meteorologist points to Doppler radar image of storm clouds over Simi Valley, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After placing each barrel under a rain gutter downspout, all we needed was some rain. By the next morning, we received about one third inch of rain, which quickly filled both barrels. Actually, one barrel was full and the other had a small pinhole leak on the “winter-storage hanging knobs” found near the top of each barrel. By the time I discovered the leak, I had recycled the shipping cartons. My easiest recourse was to keep the barrel and try to patch the hole with some glue. So far, that process has not been successful.

Reflecting on “quality control” back at the factory, I thought, “Hey, it’s a rain barrel. Shouldn’t it at least hold water?” Maybe the “Good Ideas” people should use an inspection lamp to check for pinhole leaks and then cushion the After a December rain, both of our fifty-gallon rain barrels were full to the brim - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgfillis.com)protruding knobs prior to shipment. An upgrade in the shipping cartons and heavier packing tape might help avoid damage to both the cartons and the barrels on their long trip to California.

After fixing the leaky barrel, I will have 100 gallons available for rainwater storage. With a net price after rebates of $135, that meant my first hundred gallons of rainwater cost me $1.35 per gallon. Luckily, we were able to use all 100 gallons before the next storm hit. Although the second storm brought less rain, runoff again filled each barrel. By then, my cost for stored rainwater had dropped in half, to $.68 per gallon. At first, that seems like a lot of money for such a modest collection of water. However, we can now reap the benefits of chlorine-free garden water for decades to come.

Now, in mid-February 2015, blizzards and freezing weather continue to lash New England. Boston has received over six feet of snow in less than a month. Here in Simi Valley, California, it is eighty degrees Fahrenheit outside and there is no precipitation in the forecast. Since December 2014, Mother Nature
Southern Californians often speed up in the rain to enjoy hydroplaning along crowded freeways, at least until they crash into each other - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)has filled our rain barrels three times. Along with the other buckets that we used to collect rain and shower water, we have saved and reused over six hundred gallons during this rainy season alone.

Here is an idea for homeowners all over Southern California and the West. Rather than letting your rainwater run into storm drains, install rain barrels and residential cisterns throughout California. If all homeowners participated, California and the West could save untold amounts of our most precious resource, which is clean potable water available to all.


By James McGillis at 12:37 PM | Environment | Comments (1) | Link


Chapter #321: So. California Lakes Soon to Disappear - February 5, 2015


The dam at Westlake, California is one of the widest private concrete dams in California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In California, Private Lakes Scramble for Sustainable New Water Sources

In 2014, California state government began to take the Great Western Drought seriously. The state legislature passed bills to authorize the sale of over $7.0 billion in “water bonds”. That legislation aimed to add more long-term water storage, clean up polluted groundwater and regulate indiscriminate water mining. For the first time, California required local and regional water officials to manage their ever-shrinking supply of groundwater. Although the legislation may provide some relief a decade hence, we expect to see little relief from current water shortages.

Westlake, in Westlake Village, is one of the larger private recreation lakes in Southern California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)About eighty percent of the developed water supply in the state goes to the seemingly insatiable needs of California’s agribusiness. Even so, the governor recently asked all Californians to reduce water usage by at least twenty percent. During 2014, Northern California scored better on water saving than Southern California. Did necessity or indifference drive Southern Californians to use more water per capita than their northern neighbors?

In Orange County, California, Lake Mission Viejo is a reservoir created solely for the private recreation of its members. With a surface area of 124 acres and an average depth of thirty feet, that “fake lake” comprises 3,720 acre-feet of water. According to water management standards in the U.S., a water supply of that size could support 3,720 suburban households for one year.

Canada Geese are among the largest avian visitors to Westlake. Here, a male and female sun themselves near the lake - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Rather than devoting lake water to the needs of all Californians, the association that owns Lake Mission Viejo dedicates the lake to the exclusive water sports and scenic enjoyment of its members. Although the Lake Mission Viejo Association is exploring ways to reduce water usage in and around the lake, currently they fill their lake with up to eighty-eight million gallons of drinking water each year.

In the 1960s, during the creation of Westlake Village, California, developers dammed up Lower Triunfo Canyon, and then dubbed the seasonally dry arroyo "Westlake". Upon completion of the planned community, the Westlake Lake Management Association (WMA) became responsible for dredging, maintaining and refilling the lake as necessary.

Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy at Boccaccio's Restaurant in Westlake Village, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As the ongoing water crisis in California intensified, WMA found that traditional groundwater sources for its own “fake lake” were dry. In order to keep Westlake full and its surrounding property values high, WMA recently tapped potable (culinary) water supplies. With summer evaporation rates of over 900 gallons per minute, seasonal inflow of potable water at the lake is equal to a two-outlet fire hydrant fed by a twelve-inch water main.

Similar to Lake Mission Viejo, there is limited public access to the shoreline at Westlake. One can enjoy a sunny winter afternoon on the patio at Boccaccio’s Restaurant, and then stroll along a promenade adjacent to the lake. In keeping with the tranquil atmosphere of the place, all private watercrafts on Westlake are either electric boats or sailboats. From a residential perspective, Sailboats cover the docks at the Westlake Yacht Club in Westlake Village, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Westlake is an idyllic setting. With the tightening of domestic water supplies throughout California, residents and visitors alike should enjoy the lake while they can.

In the second half of the twentieth century, development of new “fake lakes” in the desert-like conditions of Southern California was still a viable business option. Lake Mission Viejo and Westlake are prominent examples of a Southern California trend that ended when developers finished filling Lake Mission Viejo with imported water in 1978. At both lakes, unscrupulous or ignorant developers sold aspiring Southern California homeowners “lakefront property” adjacent to potentially unsustainable bodies of water.

Author Jim McGillis at Westlake Village in February 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In 2014, many water wells ran dry throughout Southern and Central California. Hardest hit were the poor and working class communities of the San Joaquin Valley. Ironically, irrigation districts in the same area consume almost half of the developed water supply in the state. In that area, farmers cherish their nut tree crops, which are notorious water wasters. There are credible estimates that it takes one gallon of irrigation water to create a single almond. With 944,000 acres of nut tree crops planted in Central California, just “a can a week” is all that the Almond Board of California TV ads ask us to consume. If their ads admitted that production of just one can of almonds requires several hundred gallons of water, how many of us would buy a can each week?

Many San Joaquin Valley farm workers and their families bathe with buckets of cold water and rely on donated bottled water to survive. Meanwhile, residents of Westlake Village and Lake Mission Viejo, ply their exclusive lakes on electric boats, eating California almonds and drinking Perrier.

In February 2015, no water ran down Triunfo Creek and into Westlake, in Westlake Village, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)It is a free country and if you have the money, you can buy the resources for your own pleasure. With luck and money, you can keep an unsustainable lifestyle going long enough to sell your fake lakefront property to the next true believer. If I owned lakefront property in either community, I would sell my property and move away while the lakes are full and the unsuspecting are still ready to purchase. After all, every bubble must someday burst.

 


By James McGillis at 04:49 PM | Environment | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter #320: C.Proietto - Cattolica, Cafe Eden Roco - January 24, 2015


The "Little Venice on the Ellerbach" area of Bad Kreuznach, in an old photograph - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com

Newly Identified Costantino Proietto Paintings of Bad Kreuznach, Germany and Cattolica, Italy

In late 2012, I wrote about a newly discovered oil painting by artist Costantino Proietto (1910-1979). On the back, the red felt-tipped inscription read “Bad Kreuznach”, which is an ancient town in Germany. In 1964, the artist had sold the painting to Ms. Marion Fortune, an American working in Germany at that "Bad Kreuznach", by 20th century artist Costantino Proietto - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.comtime. Her heir, Ms. Shelly Jenkins had recently received the painting and had planned to keep it. In early 2014, Ms. Jenkins changed her mind and sold the painting to me.

Upon its arrival, I gently cleaned the painting and then added a new custom frame. Otherwise, it looked as it did when Tino painted it, fifty years ago. Still, there was mystery surrounding the painting. With its depiction of a river scene and prominent buildings, I assumed that someone would know more about the setting. As I have learned, if I put C.Proietto images out for the
Ms. Petra Tursky-Hartmann in an undated photo - Click for 2013 image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)world to see, someone will write and help me identify a particular scene.

In July of 2014, Ms. Petra Tursky-Hartmann of Frankfurt, Germany wrote to me regarding the location featured in my newly acquired C.Proietto painting. At that time, she wrote,
“The two pictures show a place called ‘Little Venice on the Ellerbach’ in Bad Kreuznach (I’m born in Bad Kreuznach). The painting shows the place where the small river ‘Ellerbach’ is flowing into the larger ‘Nahe’ river. It is an historical place, where the skinners lived during the last century. Due to several floods, they were allowed to fix there balconies high over the river. Because of the heavy smell from their work, it was not the best place to go. Still, many poor people had lived there for hundreds of years. Today, animal processing is no longer allowed, but these kinds of balconies still hang over the river ‘Ellerbach’.

In the early 1960s, Bad Kreuznach was a very big American Army base; nearly 10.000 soldiers were there. So maybe, Mr. Proietto was there for an exhibition, sold paintings and then painted “Little Venice” in Bad Kreuznach. Maybe not … Who knows? One more mystery.”


Confluence of the Ellerbach and Nehe Rivers in Germany - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Ms. Tursky-Hartmann then explained that her mother may have purchased her own Costantino Proietto original oil painting while on her honeymoon in 1960, when she was twenty-eight years old. She went on to say, “Maybe, the artist had an exhibition in Bad Kreuznach at that time (1960-1964) and my mother bought the picture of Eden Teraza to remember her honeymoon? (This is pure speculation, but then, the date inscribed, 14360 would fit).”

In a subsequent email, Ms. Tursky-Hartmann provided details that are more accurate about her mother’s C.Proietto original oil painting. Its title is "Cattolica - Terraza Cafe Eden Roco Italia". “Yesterday, I visited my mother in Spabrücken, close to Bad Kreuznach, where she lives with my sister.

"Little Venice on the Ellerbach" section of Bad Kreuznach, Germany - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)I told my mother about your email. She was interested to hear what I read to her, as I translated your email.

My Mother told us, that she started to work in 1952 and went to Italy for holidays during the late 1950s. At that time, she was working as a clerk for the local Court in Bad Kreuznach. In 1959, she accompanied my father to Riccione and Cattolica, where they stayed in the Hotel Moderno.

During her earlier tours, she travelled by bus, with a group. She always had an interest in Italien Culture. In the 1950s, many Germans travelled to Riccione-Cattolica and Rimini. She liked, that the osterias and hotels were close to the sea and that dining and drinks were very cheap, and that the climate was warm.

It was not so easy for Germans to travel through
Artist Tino Proietto painted scenes in, Cattolica, Italy around 1960 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Europe after World War II. However, Italiens, she said, had no problems with the Germans, because of Mussolini’s friendship with Hitler. She said that the Germans could have good parties at Rimini.

Once, while in Cattolica, at the Terraza Cafe Eden Roco, she said she saw
a painter - maybe C.Proietto. There were several painters close to the beach offering there paintings. She remembers that this painter painted three pictures on three easels at the same time and with very high speed. With the same colours, he painted each picture.

Selecting one, she liked this picture very much from the first moment. She then bought the picture from the artist for 400 German Marks. The painter rolled the picture in a stovepipe, because she was travelling by bus with a very small suitcase. When back in Bad Kreuznach, she went to the Bechter Gallery, where they put the frame around it.

When I asked her about the year, she did not remember exactly. However, the inscription on the backside of the picture indicates
Pro 14360. If this is true, the picture was finished in March 1960. I was born on June 5, 1960. Therefore, in spring or summer of C.Proitto "Terazza Cafe Eden Roco" painting in the Tursky home in Germany, 1962 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)1960, she was definitely not in Italy for holidays. My younger sister was born on November 17, 1961, so maybe Mama was in Italy in early spring 1961.

In the photograph, you can see that the Proietto is hanging in our living room on November 17, 1962. That was during the family celebration of my younger sister’s first birthday. Mama then said that it is not important, exactly when she bought the picture. More important is, that she has the picture to remember her most beautiful moments of freedom, for her Grandmother was very strong!


"Cattolica - Terraza Cafe Eden Roco Italia" original oil painting by Costantino Proietto (1910-1979) - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After mentally digesting everything that Ms. Tursky-Hartmann had written about her mother’s C.Proietto painting, I stopped to think about another C.Proietto I had purchased a year earlier. It too was of a seascape, featuring a prominent pergolato, with a shoreline receding into the distance. Until then, I had no clue as to its location. In his earlier works, Tino Proietto used only his signature to authenticate his own work. Later, in the 1960s and beyond, he applied a wax seal to the corner of a sticker, which authenticated each new painting.

After reviewing the details of the Tursky-Hartmann C.Proietto, I recognized certain elements contained within it. For instance, the distinctive latticework wall and the potted plants were almost identical to the ones in my mystery
Right-hand view of Terazza Cafe Eden Roco in Cattolica Italy, by artist Tino Proietto matches the left-hand view above - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)painting. If Costantino Proietto stood near the shore at Terraza Cafe Eden Roco, painting the same scene from three different angles, the result would be a tryptic, showing the broader scene.

Although painted later than mine, the Tursky-Hartmann painting would form the left panel of the tryptic. The author’s painting would form the right panel. Where, I wondered, would I find the middle panel? I surmised that it would show the scene, looking straight out to sea. As happens so often with C.Proietto paintings, they provide some answers to aspects of the mystery. Likewise, each new C.Proietto painting brings new questions with it.

Proof that both paintings are of the same scene is seen in the potted plants and lattice-work in the wall - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With his self-designation as a “kunstmaler” (meaning production painter, in German), it could only have been Costantino Proietto at Terraza Cafe Eden Roco simultaneously creating three paintings. Why paint only one masterpiece when, as the “master of impasto”, you can paint three at a time? That would be the consummate artist, Tino Proietto, in his mid-century prime.

I offer my thanks to both Ms. Petra Tursky-Hartmann and her mother. First, they identified the location of the Marion Fortune C.Proietto as “Little Venice” in Bad Kreuznach. Then, they went on to explain the history of both known
Costantino Proietto "Terraza Cafe Eden Roco" paintings, being theirs and my own.


By James McGillis at 06:48 PM | Fine Art | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter #319: Hollywood: "Violence is the New Sex" - January 20, 2015


RKO Radio Pictures combined the concept of radio and motion pictures, helping popularize movies as a visual and sound medium - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Hollywood and Big Media Discover that "Violence is the New Sex"

As we begin the year 2015, it is appropriate to reflect upon what has changed in our lives. In addition to our self-centered musings, we might stop and remember our roots. Although there may be loners in our midst, from ancient times most humans lived in tribes. Because of real or perceived threats from the “Other”, defenses were created, battles fought and foes vanquished. In the past year, many tribes in this world have reverted to the ancient vortextual cycle of affront and subsequent revenge.

Is there a unifying theory that explains our current sad state of international affairs? As a contrarian, the “theory of negative creation” comes to my mind. As your mother once said, “If you do not have anything nice to say about someone, do not say it”. In 2015, many tribes again believe that confrontation and “fighting against” is the best way forward.

Big Media now serves up a steady diet of death, doom and despair, disguised as news or information - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As of 2013, worldwide population was about seven billion. Of that, 31.5% are Christian and 23.2% are Muslim. Hindu (13.8%) and Buddhist (6.77%) are the only other religions scoring more than one percent of the total population. Surprising to me was the Jewish religion at only 0.22%. Fighting against the “Other” is a prominent theme in the Old Testament canon of the Christian Bible. The roots of the Old Testament are in the Tanakh, which is the ancient Hebrew canon. Early in the seventh century CE, yet another Abrahamic religion, Islam, codified its various stances against the “Other” in the Quran.

Together, the two largest religions, both of which had their roots in nomadic or herding cultures, encompass almost 55% of the current population. During their pre-industrial rise as mega-religions, Christianity and Islam often prescribed severe, even barbaric punishments on criminals and non-believers. Today, most self-identified Christians, Muslims and Jews disavow honor killings, revenge killings, stoning and mutilation. However, some radical Christians and Jews abide by ancient concepts of “religious war”, just as some radical Muslims countenance Jihad. Energy bridges connecting to the ancient days of each religion seem stronger now than ever before.

U.S. Representative Gabby Gifford was shot by a disaffected, mentally unbalanced young man who saw her as the enemy - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Like a stick of dynamite near a flame, it takes little or nothing to set off violence toward the “Other”. In recent weeks, a series of irreverent humor magazine covers were enough to incite terrorist acts in France. Soon after the smoke in Paris had cleared, a series of cyber-attacks followed. The cyber-attacks mimicked the recent North Korean hack of Sony Pictures, which was in revenge for release of the lowbrow satirical movie, “The Interview”.

What is “negative creation” and why does it matter? Because of our cognitive abilities, most humans believe that we are superior to any other species. Many people extend such negative thinking to other human “tribes”, religions, political and ethnic groups. Our lizard brain, which is at the core of our cognition, has great power to both project and react to fear. If we allow the rich or powerful to do the “creating” for us, their stake in power over others will skew toward negative creation.

Other than nation states and Islamist insurgencies, whom do I identify as the rich and powerful? Often, they are the top managers of our largest media conglomerates. After several decades of mergers and acquisitions, there are fewer Media Giants than ever. However, the remaining few now dominate theatrical movies, TV, internet products and old-fashioned print media.

CNN is owned by Time Warner, which also owns Warner Bros. Studios, the creator of many top-grossing, violent films - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Charlie Hebdo, the profane humor magazine that recently lit the spark of radical Islam was a small publication. Since the attacks in Paris, CNN (owned by Media Giant Time Warner) has focused the bulk of its news reporting on terror, terrorists and the risk of terror attacks in the U.S. What used to pass for regular news on CNN now appears only on the “news crawler”, at the bottom of the TV screen.

As public corporations, the main focus of Media Giants is profits, as derived from box office receipts, internet streaming revenue or TV ad sales. In the worldview of Media Giants, we, the audience should observe, absorb and consume a steady diet of visual and auditory fear mongering. Although they may still show some public service messages from time to time, fear and terror are still the best sellers at CNN and Fox News and many other Big Media outlets. Look no further than Fox News publicizing Muslim neighborhoods as supposed “No-Go-Zones" in Paris, France. In their zeal to promote Rupert Murdoch’s version of an anti-Muslim “religious war”, Fox News has discredited itself as a legitimate news organization. Even after Fox News apologized for their error, Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal doubled down on promoting the concept of "No-Go-Zones" in both France and Great Britain. When a supposedly rational elected official goes off the deep end of an argument, as Jindal has done, he discredits himself and by association, the people he was elected to serve.

Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California is responsible for making many of the top-grossing violent movies in recent history - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Before any readers get bored, I will skip to my punch line. It is this: “The Media Giant’s covert and overt promotion of gratuitous violence, internecine war and cyber war risks destroying civil society as we know it.” Warner Bros. Entertainment’s released “American Sniper” on the Friday before Martin Luther King weekend 2015. In director Clint Eastwood’s sly way, the movie avoids gratuitous violence in favor of patriotic, “justifiable violence”. In a direct affront to the non-violent ways of Dr. Martin Luther King, the movie posted a record January weekend opening of $105.3 million in box office receipts.

How, you might ask, did we get to the sad point where profit-making corporations drive and often determine what the public sees and comes to believe is true? in 1887, the original Media Giant, Randolph Hearst and his ubiquitous Hearst Corporation started its rise with his taking control of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. Not ironically, the first motion picture cameras were under development at that time. By 1910s, Hearst was producing newsreels for theatrical release. In the 1930s, with the advent of “talking pictures”, the rise of the Media Giants accelerated. By the 1960s, the mad dash for Media Giant supremacy was well underway.

Before the U.S. Motion Picture Production Code (MPPC) took full effect in 1934, nudity and sex were acceptable subjects within Hollywood movies. Not ironically, federal laws stopped the legal sale of marijuana by the mid-1930s, as well. By 1934, with the Great Depression in full swing, moralists of every stripe tried to stop drugs, alcohol and “dirty movies” from reaching consumers.
Since 1970, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic, equal in detriment to heroin.
The NBC Universal Building at Universal City, Los Angeles, California now has the name "Comcast" added to its already crowded sign - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
When I reached adulthood, in the 1960s, “Hollywood” dumped the old
MPPC, reintroducing nudity, sex, and light drug use into their movies. In 1967, Hollywood distributed the Swedish movie “Elvira Madigan” to U.S. audiences. Although considered quaint by today’s standards, the nudity and sexuality portrayed in the film were previously unheard of in mass-market movies. The same year, “I am curious (Yellow)” hit U.S. audiences with even more overt sexuality. My curious mother-in-law attended a screening, wearing a disguise that featured a scarf and dark glasses. Later, she reported, “They had sex in a lot of places; even in a tree.” Reviewer Roger Ebert wrote, "Forget it. It's a dog. A real dog".

In 1970, the movie "M*A*S*H” featured on-camera marijuana smoking. Mash did set a gentler tone with drug use than the "stoner movie" genre, which soon followed. Unlike cocaine, which Hollywood continued to treat as the road to ruin, marijuana soon made its way into mainstream consciousness as naughty, but acceptable entertainment. With the Baby Boomers coming of age in the 60s and 70s, Hollywood soon discovered that depiction of soft drug usage helped to sell movie tickets.

In 1969, Sam Peckinpah's movie, "The Wild Bunch" advanced screen violence to blood-spurting new levels. Slow-motion gunshots jerking bodies, fraying clothing and splaying the flesh of both villains and heroes guaranteed the movie’s artistic acceptance. Soon, Hollywood would realize that violence sold more movie tickets than sex and drugs combined.

The 1970 movie M*A*S*H was an unwitting precursor to the "Stoner Movie" genre, as exemplified by Sony Pictures "The Interview" - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) débuted its new movie rating scheme. An "X" rating was reserved for films deemed unsuitable for minors. Overt sex, drug use or gratuitous violence were enough to earn an "X" rating. As the years went by, "X", in the form of sex sold less well at the box office. If the public wanted to see graphic sex, they could view “XXX” movies. With the advent of home video and later internet pornography, “X” for sex and “XXX” moved to third tier producers and distributors.

By 1990, with the old “X=sex” formula fading, the MPAA eliminated that moniker and created a new "NC-17" designation. That new rating meant “No children, seventeen or under admitted.” Since MPAA ratings were voluntary, a distributor of a questionable film could either accept the dreaded "NC-17" rating or distribute the film as “unrated”. Either way the vast majority of theater operators would screen such a film. Art houses and secondary outlets make far less money for the Media Giants. If you need proof, just look at the abysmal $5.7 million in box office receipts for the first three weeks of the “biggest buzz film of 2014”, “The Interview”.

If you group the MPAA’s three children’s movie ratings, “G”, PG” and “PG-13”, there is sizable potential profit for the Media Giants. A “PG-13” rating admonished parents that “some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers”. Even so, millions of tweens flock to the edgier films. To them, “PG-13” is almost as good as an “R” rated movie. In theatrical release, an "R" for “restricted” means “Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian”. Few parents will accompany a pre-teen to an “R” rated movie, but the same parents might ignore the rating if viewing an “R” rated video in their own home. After all, children do not pay attention to TV, do they?

Hollywood of old is remembered as the home of glamorous stars, not explosions and gratuitous violence - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Over time, an “R” rating became the kiss of death for all but the most adult-oriented movies. In order to reach a broader audience, Hollywood modified many “R” rated films to earn a “PG-13” rating. “The Dark Knight,” “Terminator Salvation”, “Inception”, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”, “The Avengers”, “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Taken 2” were all released as PG-13 movies. The meta-theme of all these movies is violence, not sex. For the Media Giants, orange is the new black and violence is the new sex.

When I reached adulthood, the average eighteen-year-old had seen 16,000 humans shot to death on either a movie or a television screen. Soon, Hollywood downplayed simple gunplay, exploiting instead the visceral feel of large-scale explosions. The concept is that as long as you are killing “bad guys”; it is acceptable to graphically eviscerate any such lowlife, “sub humans” as might appear. Now, we the people can stream “The Interview” at home for the whole family to see. Note that it is an "R" rated film (for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence). When its producers explode a puppet-head representing Kim Jong Un onscreen, the whole family is supposed to laugh and cheer. In late December 2014, at least two congressional representatives suggested that that the U.S. government should invite Sony to screen that violent stoner movie at the U.S. Capital. Was it a freedom of speech issue or because poor Sony Pictures was losing tens of millions of dollars on its ill-timed release of "The Interview"?

Random violence bullet-damage to the rear-view mirror of the author's pickup truck, obtained on a Los Angeles freeway - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Young Adam Lanza, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass murderer, stayed home for years playing "first-person shooter" video games. His gun-toting mother taught him how to shoot at the local gun range. Steeped for years in violent video games, admitted Aurora, Colorado mass murderer James Holmes went to the local multiplex to carry out his heinous acts. Violent video games often became the subject of popular Hollywood movie franchises and vice versa. Psychological studies have long shown that young males are susceptible to internalizing (and later externalizing) what they see repeated on movie or television screens. Whether it is violence toward women or the explosive violence of action movies, weak or disaffected habitues are ever more likely to act out their dystopian fantasies in the real world.

Only when parents wake up and stop allowing a violent aural assault on their children by Hollywood and the Media Giants will our culture return to the spirit of the recent holiday season, which once was, "Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men". Only when parents and children vote with their dollars for non-violent entertainment will the Media Giants forsake their addiction to violent box office hits and the obscene profits that they produce.


By James McGillis at 03:58 PM | Current Events | Comments (0) | Link

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