#GoodNeighbor spread the word

In the #Blogging-101 assignment for today, bloggers are encouraged to read other blogs, ones they have not read before, and leave a thoughtful comment. In my first week of blogging, I read a lot of blog pages. That helped me to see how different themes are used for different types of blogs. What I learned is that I need to think about my blog content a bit more and try different themes until I get the one I want. With so many free themes available I don’t think I should have a theme that doesn’t suit me.

Another excellent reason for visiting other blog pages is that I can comment on things I find interesting or leave a comment when someone has asked for advice. If I have left a request for comments or helpful advice on my blog and someone leaves a comment, you better believe I’m gonna visit their blog and reciprocate.

@Michelle W. comments that:

Why do this?

  • Because engaging in conversation is inspiring; you never know where (or who) your next post idea will come from.

  • Because if no one knows about you or your site, the best way to spread the word is by connecting to other bloggers. No blog is an island.

Writing and posting blog pages at a record pace does not mean people will read them. I have to connect to other bloggers who share the same…values? I am currently following blogs about retirement, arts and crafts, spiritually motivated, visually inspired, food inspired, and so on. I am not an arts and crafts guy and I am not a retired grandmother, but I find the more I connect with real people’s blogs and leave comments, they visit my blog and leave comments. And they often say that they normally don’t read about the type of things I am interested in. But what we all have in common is the desire to be part of a community where we can all succeed and have fun doing it.

My strategy is to visit the blog page and leave my comment there rather than in the commons. This improves a bloggers site data and I think that is important for most of us.

I will meet the challenge of reading four new blog pages and leaving comments today and I expect to find at least one comment as a result.  Thank YOU for visiting my blog. Please feel free to leave a comment and your blog url so my blog followers can explore your blog page as well.

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Asymmetrical Harry Callahan

It is noteworthy that all of the Dirty Harry films take place in and around San Francisco Bay. Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were murdered in cold blood in San Francisco City Hall in 1978, chronologically in the middle of the film franchise. Supervisor Dan White shot Mayor Moscone in the Mayor’s office and then walked to the other side of City Hall and shot Milk five times. White had to walk around Milk’s desk, bend down, and place the revolver inches from Milk’s head to fire the fifth shot, leaving his revolver empty. White served only five years for murdering two elected officials. This piece of history and local color is evidence that the Dirty Harry franchise was not merely a shoot’em up string of movies aimed at pulling down blockbuster receipts. To be clear: Justice has been perverted in the hands of bureaucracy. Art imitates life.

Screenwriters Harry Julian Fink and his wife Rita did not write the Dirty Harry screenplays to satisfy the bloodlust of Clint Eastwood fans or to cash in on box office receipts. They wrote it because they had philosophical questions to raise about justice in society. The Fink’s present justice as a zero sum gain versus a defunct system of laws in society.  Harry Callahan must completely win or completely lose. If Harry wins, justice is served illicitly. If the law is respected, then justice is miscarried.

The winds of Western Philosophy fill the sails of this Malspaso Armada. When Harry is in a crisis, the audience wills him to blast a loophole through social morality. Whether the audience is a mob bent on revenge or social justice is up to interpretation. As a body of work, the Dirty Harry franchise has entertained me immensely through the years and more recently as I viewed the films again for this little writing project. From watching these movies I conclude that in the society I live in, justice either prevails or it loses completely. The law has made a compromise of justice. Because justice is a zero sum gain, if justice did not win, then justice must be completely lost. A free press is our best defense against tyranny of government or of mobs. And although I prefer law and order, I can’t imagine living in a country where Inspector Harry Callahan is not possible.

Harry is back in Magnum Force

In 1973 Inspector Callahan, AKA Dirty Harry, is back with Magnum Force. This time, instead of violating the rights of an accused killer to serve justice, Harry is on the contemporary side of the law when he refuses to join a vigilante team of rogue police officers. Harry refuses to join the rogues because his ethic does not support being judge, jury and executioner for a random list of criminals; at least not until the court has its opportunity to screw it up first. Once Harry refuses the vigilante invitation to join them, Harry and his partner are marked for death. Harry’s partner is a good cop and family man. He is killed because he is Harry’s partner. Another cop and other innocent people are killed because the vigilante cop squad is trying to tie up “loose-ends”.

These cops believe that if a few good people are hurt and killed in order to protect the greater society, then the greater good is served. This they believe is justice served. This is the crux of the dramatic conflict. Harry does not see it this way. Harry sees the right of the individual and rejects the tyranny of the connected or elite ruling class hierarchy. Again the husband and wife team, the Finks, have posed a critical question for Dirty Harry fans: Does the end justify the means? One of the greatest contributors to contemporary Western culture, Niccolo Machiavelli, posed this question. In the end, Machiavelli decided the end justifies the means only when stabilizing and improving governments and not in other circumstances such as everyday events or crisis decision making. So in true Machiavellian style, Harry does not agree that the end justified the means when innocent civilians or police are killed. Harry responds by putting himself in the open to let the vigilantes come for him. Then he drilled them each with his “.44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world…and liable to blow your head clean off.”

Let’s skip ahead a few films to 1988 and the last of the Dirty Harry movies, The Dead Pool. As the credits open two cars chase Harry and shoot up his car, trying to kill him. Cut scene to the office of the Police Chief where Harry is being read the riot act for destroying another car which costs too much money and for attracting bad publicity for the Chief and Mayor to deal with. In 1971 Callahan was an over the hill cop, seventeen years later in 1988 he is truly the last dinosaur on the force and still an inspector. (Duly noted, this dinosaur can eat you alive and pass the bones.) We see this lone lawman standing guard between thugs who are pampered and protected by the law and the innocent civilians who need protection. The image of the brave gunman fighting for justice in the Wild West is never far from the imagery. The Chief of Police pressures Harry to work with a reporter in order to spin publicity in the Department’s favor. Harry refuses until the reporter has something he needs. Eventually a romantic interest develops between Harry and the reporter.

The symbology here is important but still it is frustrating to see female roles gain interest only when they can improve the male’s position in the plot. Nevertheless, we now see Harry move from clashing with reporters to actually gaining insight to the importance of the Fourth Estate. Harry espouses a relationship with the journalist, symbolically joining the Fourth Estate with law and order; an unbeatable partnership for seeing justice prevail when the Constitution has reached its limits.

The screenwriters Fink raise the questions: Is justice really the love baby of the law and the press? How free should our free press really be? Is this another zero sum mentality?

Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence, Founding Father, architect, scholar, and gentleman plantation owner said that, “I would rather have newspapers with no government, than government with no newspapers!” Harry sees that even if he did not appreciate everything the press did, there is a zero sum mentality and placed his bet on freedom of the press. The message is clear: A government of laws and enforcement is a two legged stool without a free press; a stool easily toppled by tyranny.

May-November Man

I’m a sucker for genre when it comes to film. I love the John Wayne and Clint Eastwood Westerns and characters of my youth. Almost any period piece has me from the beginning. Jack Nicholson in China Town, or opposite Brando in Missouri Breaks, is still a treat for me. The Ten Commandments; A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop; Bladerunner; Saturday Night Fever; and Casablanca are among my favorites for their commitment to cultural expression. Quentin Tarantino is a genre unto himself and I love his unique and identifiable aesthetic. Some would say my palate is not refined, and I could hardly argue with that, but for better or worse, I have my likes and dislikes. Just because I enjoy Pabst Blue Ribbon doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a fine wine pairing with a gourmet meal as well.

When I saw the trailers for November Man with Pierce Brosnan I thought the bones for a great spy-thriller were promising. I imagined Pierce Brosnan revising a bit of 007 and a touch of Remington Steele. As such, this movie was a huge disappointment. I was entertained by the cliche packed dialogue and visuals, right down to the close-up of a motorcycle back tire spinning out and Brosnan staring down the barrel of a bad guy’s gun and deftly snatching it from his hand. All of the other tags are there: car chase through city streets, high-tech tracking, good agents gone wrong, bad agents that aren’t so bad afterall, old trusted spook buddies, new spy making a name for himself, etc. The connection between Brosnan’s 007 and Devereaux proves to be a May-November relationship. Brosnan still looks good, if that’s important, but he is less convincing as the volatile killing machine bent on…revenge? Justice? Survival? Less convincing in his anger and not imposing at all. He is, as always, refined in a masculine everyman sort of way. Frankly, Brosnan appeared so old and weak that I can’t even imagine him in The Expendables.

I’ll go right out and see the next Brosnan spy movie because I am a sucker for the spy genre and I’d rather see one of my old favorites and complain about it than sever my relationship after one unsatisfying film. That means he has one more chance and if it’s a turkey then shame on me. I’d like to see Brosnan take on strong leading roles with which he can do a convincing job. I’d like to see Brosnan avoid the indignity of films like The Expendables (and November Man) and take on a role that showcases his depth. Surely he has professional and life experiences that lend well to different characters and scripts. Now is the time for Brosnan to showcase his craft, to show changes, to adapt to life.

Dirty Harry Film Franchise an Expose’ of American Justice

The first film of the Dirty Harry franchise, written by husband and wife team Harry Julian Fink and Rita Fink, opened to audiences fed up with America’s involvement with the Vietnam War and a general public demand for accountability in government and more law and order in society.  According to Wikipedia, the murder rate in the United States grew from 9,110 in 1960 to 20,510 in 1975. Other violent crime statistics such as rape and armed robbery show similar increases during this period. Law and order was the cornerstone of many a political career such as those of Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. The Supreme Court provided a cogent counterbalance to strong arm law enforcement as demonstrated by the landmark decisions of Miranda vs. Arizona and Berghius vs. Thompkins in which a suspect’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights are preserved. In the Dirty Harry franchise, we see Harry violate victim’s rights, fight vigilante justice, and form an unlikely partnership with a woman and the Press all in order to see justice served. In each movie Inspector Harry Callahan steps in to administer justice, and the viewing public, liberal or conservative, appreciates the results.

In Dirty Harry, Inspector Callahan broke the rules and violated the suspect’s rights which led to release of the suspect. As the plot would have it, the suspected sociopathic murderer is right back on the streets snubbing his nose at the inept city government and committing further acts of random violence. Here is the dialogue taken from the famous scene in which the suspect’s rights were originally violated:

The Killer: [pleading] Please. Stop. No more! Can’t you see I’m hurt?

Harry Callahan:  The girl, where is she?

The Killer: [crying with reason] You tried to kill me.

Harry Callahan: If I tried that your head would be splattered all over this field.

[demanding]

Harry Callahan: Now, where’s the girl?

The Killer: [cries] I- I have rights. Why can’t you people just leave me alone?

Harry Callahan: Where’s the girl?

Here we see the court has tied Harry’s hands. If he interrogates the suspect without first Mirandizing him, then the suspect will go free, Harry may be held accountable in a court of law, and ultimately justice is perverted. If Harry follows the law, then he must read the man his rights, arrest him, provide council, and then interrogate. By this time the victim is dead. The politicians and the court have engineered a system that ultimately places law enforcement officers at a literal life and death decision point but they have not provided the answer or protection of the law. Inspector Callahan is on his own with no protection of law to deal with the killer. The screenwriters Fink are asking quite clearly, “What is the appropriate balance between rights of the victim and the rights of the suspect? When and by whom shall this be determined?” Meanwhile, the killer is set free because Harry violated his rights. The killer then hijacks and terrorizes a busload of children. Harry chases the killer to the waterfront and instead of arresting him, Harry executes him. The end scene shows Harry pull out his badge and throw it into the Oakland Harbor.

There is no coincidence that the year was 1971 and Harry was Inspector 71. Why is Harry throwing his badge into the water, one may wonder. It is the symbol of the bureaucracy he is flinging away, or perhaps he sees himself unworthy of the badge, being no better than the killer he just murdered. Maybe he was throwing away the value system that the badge had come to represent. Maybe he was throwing his whole career out. These questions pick at the underpinnings of society and leave conclusions to the viewer. The conclusions of the film are cloudy, leaving space for thought and challenge of convictions.

If it is good and well that the killer is stopped, why must Harry symbolically bury Inspector Callahan at sea? Have the Finks suggested that Law and Order can not thrive alongside Justice in the American way of life? Or that there are no absolutes judgements concerning life and death? That leaves a scary opening for cops who aren’t Dirty Harry Callahan and think they are. The Finks have me convinced that justice is a zero-sum fixed ideology. Ultimately, in a laboratory setting, either all the good guys or all the bad guys will have all the marbles. That is why Harry throws his badge into the water. Because America is a nation of laws, and a cop operating as judge won’t fly. Harry served justice, but justice did not serve Harry.