Monthly Archives: August 2019

What Killed the Rialto?


When I was a child in the 1970s I got to experience the cultural moment that every millennial dreams of. I saw  Star Wars — I refuse to call it “A New Hope” — in its original theatrical run. As an adult with more sophisticated tastes, I can easily point out why Star Wars isn’t a very good movie. But as a 10-year-old it got me so excited that, between the moment when Darth Vader choked the life out of the rebel captain to the destruction of the Death Star, I had to go to the bathroom at least 6 times. That feeling, that sense of a larger world opening up right before your eyes, was what cinema was all about. Had I seen Star Wars on a laptop via Netflix, or a cell phone, or even on a wide screen TV, I doubt it would have had the same effect.

Now the Rialto Theater in downtown Westfield, New Jersey, a small city of about 30,000 people 20 miles west of New York, is gone, probably for good. I saw better movies than Star Wars at the Rialto. I saw the original Rocky. I saw Saturday Night Fever, with my parents (it was rated R and after the horrific rape scene in the back of Tony Manero’s car, I think they were sorry they brought me). I was not allowed to see Monty Python’s Life of Brian. It was also rated R. The 18-year-old girl selling tickets refused to believe that I was a 23-year-old who had grown up in New York City and had never bothered to get a driver’s license. That was my story and I’m still sticking to it. Later, after I turned 18, I saw The Untouchables, Goodfellas, Amadeus, and a now mostly forgotten old film called The Mission that above all made me want to learn the Oboe. I never did. I remember seeing a revival of The Graduate sometime in the late 1970s. I was well under legal age, but somehow I got in.

To be honest, the Rialto Theater in Westfield never really meant very much to me. All through the 1970s and 1980s it was exactly what it is today, a rather full commercial film house that played conventional Hollywood blockbusters. What really excited me as a boy was getting on the train and going to Newark or Plainfield to see Kung Fu movies. They never played in suburbia. Bruce Lee was too hot for Westfield or Cranford, too radical, too ethnic. After they made the mistake of showing The Warriors down the road a few miles in Roselle Park, and it caused riots in some of the local high schools, the ticket takers in Newark and Plainfield even started checking IDs. There were over a dozen local movie theaters, and while you could see porn — the Five Points “Jerry Lewis” theater in Five Points in Union played the film Caligula for over a year — there was not a karate chop or a roundhouse kick to be had. Kung Fu movies had been effectively banned in Union County, New Jersey, not for me of course because I was an urban kid with no fear of the big city, but certainly for anybody in conservative, Republican Westfield. The rich, preppy kids in that town were afraid of anything with any melanin at all, even Italians.

Eventually, in the 1980s, the Westfield Rialto split up into a multiplex. That was probably the moment it was doomed. That glorious big screen that made Star Wars such a different experience in the theater than it was at home on HBO was gone, replaced by 6 smaller screens that could easily be replicated in the comfort of your home by a wide screen TV and a good sound system. I suppose that if the owners had transformed the Rialto into something like New York’s Film Forum, it might have worked. It’s almost impossible to see anything outside of the mainstream in suburban New Jersey, and going into the city adds a 16 dollar New Jersey Transit ticket to the price of the movie ticket. But there’s a reason the Film Forum is in New York City and not Westfield, New Jersey. The audience for “good” cinema these days is fairly limited. It takes a megalopolis of 7 million people, not a small city of 30,000, to generate enough ticket sales for a theatrical run of the latest high art film from Iran or Eastern Europe, or God, forbid, France. In the 2010s, the Westfield Rialto played exactly what they play at the multiplex on Route 22 in Mountainside or Route 1 in Linden, Marvel Universe comic book movies. It’s probably more fun just to play video games.

In the early 2000s, when they “revitalized” downtown Westfield by giving big corporate chains like Starbucks and Victoria’s Secrets tax breaks, and basically turned the whole town into a big open air shopping mall, they decided to to keep the Rialto around. My guess is they thought “well this is a real, walkable downtown so we need a real movie theater,” but it had long outlived its usefulness and nobody bothered making any repairs. These days, when those same corporate chains that grabbed so much market share in the 1990s and 2000s are giving way to Amazon and Grubhub, they’re also scaling back. Victoria’s Secret is gone. Starbucks is mostly a place to pick up mobile orders on your cell phone. The rents and property taxes are still high and its still almost impossible to find a place to park. So vacancies in downtown Westfield are on the rise. The final goal of neoliberal capitalism is probably for nobody ever to interact with anybody else in real life.


But none of that is what killed the Westfield Rialto. It probably would have gone on forever showing men (and women) in tights getting into CGI fights if not for a greedy landlord. The landlord, who the media seems reluctant to name, stopped making repairs. The theater company stopped paying the rent, and that was that. I suppose they’ll replace the Rialto with mixed use condos. You can never have too many of those.

The cultural repression around the Iraq war made it easier for sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein

At least according to Taylor Swift.

That idiotic rule so many of us are taught that “you shouldn’t talk about politics or religion” has its consequences.

She cites her background in country music as one of the reasons she didn’t join other celebrities in speaking out about her politics.

“I come from country music,” she told The Guardian. “The number one thing they absolutely drill into you as a country artist, and you can ask any other country artist this, is ‘Don’t be like the Dixie Chicks!’”

The all-woman country trio famously denounced the Iraq war in 2003, saying they were “ashamed” be from the same state as then President George W. Bush, which led to a boycott from country radio and public condemnation.

“I watched country music snuff that candle out. The most amazing group we had, just because they talked about politics,” said Swift. “And they were getting death threats. They were made such an example that basically every country artist that came after that, every label tells you, ‘Just do not get involved, no matter what.’”

Recognizing Myself in a Bad Writer

Even though I largely agree with the politics behind this piece, reading it gave me a headache. Paul Street needs an editor, badly.  It starts off great. This is dead on accurate.

Trump is just the tip and leading beneficiary of the big white iceberg of Amerikaner racism- denial. Ask a typical white Trump supporter if they or their clearly racist president is in any way racist and you will hear passionate denials on both counts combined with outrage that anyone would think to pose the questions in the first place.

But then it just goes on and on and on without making any real point.

I recognized myself.

Paul Street, like me, is a politically homeless leftist. Without any movement to join, without a real ideology to believe in, you just try on what appeals to you on any given day.

Two years ago, Paul Street was rabidly anti-Bernie from a Green Party/Demexit point of view.

As I pointed out back in July of 2015, U.S. Senator Bernie Senator (“I”-VT)  is not the independent left politician many progressives claim he is.  He’s a Democratic Party company man.

That was been clear from his long Congressional record of voting with the neoliberal, dollar-drenched Democrats and accepting their seniority-based committee assignments.

Then a few months ago, he decided that Bernie is our only hope.

Now, it strikes me, is not the time to be beating up on Bernie Sanders from his radical port-side. Yes, comrades, the Democratic Party is an inherently elitist, fatally flawed vehicle for progressive change. It is a corporate and imperial institution, owned and controlled by the nation’s interrelated and unelected dictatorships of money and empire.

Now he’s convinced himself of the neoliberal Atlantic “wages of whiteness” thesis. He seems to believe that Barack Obama simply by virtue of being black was a threat to the system.

Fifth, there’s the strange white trauma of the Obama years. In November of 2017, The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer hit on something important when he credited Trump with sensing accurately that “Obama’s time in office inflicted a profound psychological wound upon many white Americans, one that [Trump] could address by adopting a false narrative that placed the nation’s first black president outside the bounds of American citizenship. [Trump] intuited,” Serwer wrote, “that Obama’s presence in the White House decreased the value of what W.E.B. DuBois described as the ‘psychological wage’ of whiteness across all classes of white Americans, and that the path to their hearts lay in invoking a bygone past when this affront had not taken place and could not take place.” (emphasis added)

Perhaps Paul Street would be a better writer if he figured out what he wanted to say before putting pen to paper. Then again, perhaps the only way to get to the truth these days is to allow yourself to write badly, to ramble on and on until you finally, implicitly, come to the inevitable conclusion that the only thing you really understand is that you have no idea what’s really going on.

Personally I think while Obama threatened a certain kind of “whiteness” he empowered yet another kind, professional managerial “whiteness.” He allowed us liberal elites in the big cities to believe we were anti-racist without threatening our class interests. Paul Street may actually have come to the same conclusion later on in his essay but I couldn’t finish it. The real problem with being a bad, long-winded writer is that while you may eventually come to the truth, nobody will actually read it.

The Epidemic of Violence Against Women Continues in New Jersey

I was finished with this article before I realized I had no idea what this guy’s motive was.

Why would you just follow a coworker home from lunch and murder her? Did she, perhaps, catch him embezzling company funds? Was he an incel virgin obsessed with a woman he couldn’t have? He wasn’t. He was recently married and has a one-year-old child.  Is he just mentally ill? Who knows

The man accused of killing a coworker on her lunch break in June told his supervisor he’d be returning to work late that day from his break because he needed repairs done to his car, according to court papers filed in the case.

Kenneth C. Saal, 30, of Lindenwold, is charged with first-degree murder and a weapons offense in the death of Carolyn Byington, 26, who was found stabbed to death in her Plainsboro apartment on June 10.

Then I realized that part of the reason it took me so long to wonder about a motive is that violence against women is becoming so common his simply being a man seemed explanation enough.

The Governor of New Jersey Railroads a Black Critic of Israel

New Jersey Globe first reported on Dye’s Facebook posts. Some of the ones cited have been deleted from his page.

Politico New Jersey said it also viewed some of the posts. The website said one post accused Israel of sterilizing Ethiopian Jewish immigrants without informing them. “Ya’ll keep thinking these people are harmless against blacks,” Dye wrote, according to the website.

Dye wrote in another post that “Jews use a Willie Lynch technique to divide and conquer blacks and black and Latino people for power.”

Jeffrey Dye  seems to have phrased a few things badly but most of what he’s saying about the Israeli government’s sterilization of Ethiopians has been widely reported in mainstream media outlets like Forbes and The Guardian. His arguments about the “William Lynch strategy” do unfairly scapegoat Jews for something the English did, but he’s referring to a “divide and conquer” strategy used to maintain white supremacy that’s been well documented by historians. Finally, Advance Media refers to making a reference to the 1619 project as antisemitic. That’s outrageous.

Note how they say “antisemitic” instead of “accused of antisemitism” or “ethnically charged” the way they would if Dye had been a white employee making racist remarks against blacks. Of course the Maga Chuds and white nationalists in their comments are going wild with glee at Murphy’s firing of a black employee. For all I know there may be more damning quotes than what they reprint in the article but right now Murphy and Advance Media seem to me to be more concerned with appeasing our white nationalist and ultra-Zionist President than they do with giving Dye a fair hearing. The only thing he really seems guilty of is hyperbole and over the top wording.

Can a White Actor Play a Black Historical Character?

I found this old interview of James Earl Jones by Dick Cavett. Anthony Quinn (a Mexican of Irish descent) had planned to make a film about the Haitian Emperor Henry Christophe.

It’s fairly clear that Jones doesn’t think Quinn should play Henry Christophe but he makes his point in a very nuanced, sophisticated way that’s far more convincing than the absolutist arguments you here on social media today.

I also think Jones would have made a great Beethoven(when he was in his 40s, although he’s probably a bit too old now at 88). For what it’s worth, Quinn was quite convincing as a Libyan in the film Lion of the Desert.

How to Steal Anybody’s Dirty Gym Clothes

I mostly ride my cheap 800 dollar aluminum road bike through wealthy suburbia. So normally I don’t take many precautions about its being stolen. It’s not that rich people don’t steal. If you follow the local news closely you’ll be surprised at how many nice 5-bedroom McMansions owe their existence to Medicare fraud and insider trading. It’s just that they don’t steal cheap aluminum road bikes. That’s no real mystery.

(The only thing that confuses me about wealthy suburbia is why rich people make their kids sell lemonade in front of million dollar colonial revivals. I suppose it’s all about teaching them the virtues of capitalism. The wealthy make their kids cosplay as entrepreneurs at a very young age. Then when they become 40-year-old Wall Street dads they buy Ford F-150s and cosplay as rednecks).

In any event, in the fall, I’m going to be commuting to a university campus in a high crime area of a major city on an expensive Brompton folding bike. Realizing that there will be times when I’ll probably have to leave it outside, I started shopping for U-locks. The cheap cable lock I use out here isn’t going to cut it against professional bike thieves, who see university campuses as great places stake their claims. I finally decided on a Kryptonite Evolution. During my research, I came across a YouTube channel by a guy who calls himself “The Lock Picking Lawyer.” If you think your bike, or any one of your possessions, is safe, then think again. Any lock can be picked, cut, or twisted open in a shockingly brief period of time.

One video and a bit of Googling and I was able to open an old Master combination lock that was sitting in my drawer, and for which I had long forgotten the combination, in pretty much the same way. The point, I suppose, is fitting the level of security you’re using with the circumstances. You don’t really need a very good lock when you go to the gym. Most of what you keep in your locker is fairly worthless. It’s indoors, and anybody in proximity to your easily picked lock is in a towel, drying himself off while talking on a cell phone, or being watched by naked men drying themselves off while talking on a cell phone.

But it got me thinking. Whenever I get into an argument with someone on the Internet about gun control, he (or even sometimes she) will inevitably say something like “Since I know you don’t have a gun, I can find out where you live and steal everything you own.” Of course that would be a waste of time and bullets. It would be much easier just to wait until I’m not home and kick the door down. I’m only 5’11” and 182 pounds and there aren’t many doors on many suburban houses I couldn’t easily kick in with a little effort. In fact, I very rarely even bother to lock the door. All they really do is keep honest people honest. I suppose a home alarm system with a direct line to the police would be much more effective than a gun or a thicker door, but in reality there are probably “lock picking lawyers” who can defeat a home alarm system as easily as they can defeat a cheap padlock.

Why don’t the poor and working class simply march on the wealthy and take their stuff? Well that’s easy to answer. The rich spend an enormous amount of money on police, whose actual job isn’t to protect my life but to protect the property of the rich. Everybody major city in the United States actually has a small class army mislabeled a “police force,” mislabeled because, as anybody who had the shit beaten out of them by the NYPD during Occupy Wall Street learned the hard way, the police don’t prevent people from stealing. They actually enable the ruling class to steal. Occupy Wall Street gained mass support in the Fall of 2011 because many Americans realized that the sub-prime mortgage scandal and Obama’s subsequent bailouts were a massive transfer of wealth from main street to Wall Street, from ordinary Americans to their oligarchic masters. Occupy Wall Street died out because everybody realized, just as quickly, that it was impossible to protest in the face of heavily militarized urban riot squads hired by the banks to prevent people from calling them out as the white collar criminals they are.

Liberals are obsessed by the idea that Russians “stole” the election from Hillary Clinton, and that Jill Stein “stole” votes that rightfully belonged to the Democrats. But who are the biggest thieves in the world? It’s not the Russians or the Chinese, the Iranians, or even the Saudis or Israelis. All you really have to look at who has the biggest world police force, and that’s none other than we Americans. Every one of those 5 bedroom McMansions, every one of those Ford F-150s, every one of those lemonade stands manned by 9-year olds with trust funds was made possible by the American Empires. The problem is it can’t last forever. The American Empire is economically and environmentally unsustainable. Sooner or later, “we” are now going to be able to afford spending more money on the military than the Russians or Chinese combined. Sooner or later, we’re going to realize that we wasted trillions of dollars on aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons and ended up with nothing but our own paranoia and a dying planet.

In his classic novel Les Miserables, a Catholic Bishop named Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel gives a desperate, recently paroled convict named Jean Valjean shelter for the night. Valjean pays him back by stealing his expensive silverware. After he’s captured by the police, Valjean is brought back to the Bishop’s house with the stolen property, but Myriel doesn’t accuse him of theft. On the contrary, the old Bishops tells the police that he actually gave Valjean the silverware as a gift. After the police leave, to Valjean’s astonishment, all Myriel asks him is why he didn’t steal a pair of silver candlesticks too, which he promptly turns over to Valjean with the injunction that he use all of the stolen property to get on with his life and become an honest man.

The gendarmes retired.

Jean Valjean was like a man on the point of fainting.

The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice:—

“Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.”

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:—

“Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”

Later we learn that there’s actually a method to Bishop Muryiel’s madness. Not caring about property was freedom. He could travel anywhere he wanted. He could take to the road and spend the day in the mountains and not have to worry about highwaymen or cut-throats since everybody knew he didn’t carry money or valuables and  wasn’t worth robbing. Where other high churchmen needed to surround themselves with squads of policemen and soldiers and had begun to resemble Pontius Pilat more than Jesus, Myriel could just get on his horse any time he wanted and go anywhere he wanted. He was a genuinely free man.

Perhaps we Americans should follow his advice. Think about how much richer we’d be if we weren’t stealing from the rest of the world. Think about how much happier we’d be if we didn’t need the greatest military the world has ever seen or the most repressive surveillance/security state in history.

A Reason to Impeach Trump Now

1.) The Constitution gives Congress and only Congress the right to declare war.

2.) The United States funds the Israeli military to the tune of billions of dollars a year.

3.) Trump is colluding with Benjamin Netanyahu to keep members of the United States Congress from traveling to Israel, limiting Congress’s ability to make informed decisions about American foreign policy.

This in effect rends the “checks and balances” in the United States Constitution null and void. Nancy Pelosi should either stop protecting Donald Trump and file articles of impeaching or resign. It’s a constitutional crisis whether she wants to admit it or not.

President Donald Trump is defending Israel’s decision to bar two Democratic members of Congress from visiting the country, even as he claims he didn’t “encourage or discourage” the move.

Trump told reporters on Thursday that he “did speak to people over there” regarding the decision but says he was “only involved from the standpoint that they’re very anti-Jewish and very anti-Israel.”