Movie recommendation: Sorcerer

What’s going on with various unions in Hollywood being forced to strike? Roughly 99.7% of Hollywood executives are Democrats (source). Why won’t committed Democrats pay workers a fair wage?

While it is sad that the Netflix Cleopatra (3% audience score) spinoffs might be delayed by the refusal of Democrats to pay their workers properly, the public can still watch Sorcerer, the recently deceased director William Friedkin’s favorite among his movies (French Connection and Exorcist are the best known).

From Friedkin’s obituary in the NYT, a Ukraine connection and also one to the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community:

William Friedkin, known to his friends as Billy, was born in Chicago on Aug. 25, 1935, to Louis and Rachel (Green) Friedkin. Both parents were Jews who had left Ukraine early in the century with their families to escape the tsarist pogroms. His mother, who was known as Rae, was an operating room nurse; his father worked a variety of low-paying jobs.

“The French Connection” was rejected by every studio in town before Richard Zanuck, in his final days at 20th Century Fox, gave it the green light. Convinced that the film required a street-level documentary feel, Mr. Friedkin spent weeks on the beat with the two police officers who had broken the French Connection drug case. He said he paid an official at the New York Transit Authority a $40,000 bribe to overlook the rules and allow the famous chase sequence to be filmed.

He later called “Sorcerer,” in an interview with Indiewire in 2017, “the only film I’ve made that I can still watch.”

The lurid “Cruising” (1980), with Al Pacino as a New York City detective who goes undercover in the city’s gay S-and-M bars to solve a murder, aroused the fierce opposition of gay activists, who objected to the film’s portrayal of gay men and who picketed the location shoots, much to Mr. Friedkin’s dismay.

Another great movie from this guy: To Live and Die in L.A. (you wouldn’t have wanted to be hoping to get anywhere near where they filmed the car chase on the day(s) of filming!)

Trigger warnings: the employer of the main characters in Sorcerer does not comply with OSHA regulations; seat belts are not always worn; the roads and bridges that they traverse were not approved by Pete Buttigieg.

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Long term effects of taking away $5-10,000 from every upper middle class family with a female child?

We are informed that the Future is Female. In “The Future is Female”: Women’s March in Boston 2018, for example, the future governor of Maskachusetts is described as having worn a shirt reading “The Future is Female”. Such T-shirts may be found at retailers in MA: All genders are welcome, but the future belongs to only one?

What if a group of evil people identifying with one of the 73 non-female genders decided to oppress those identifying as “female” by taking away $5,000 to $10,000 from every reasonably successful family with a daughter? Would Americans resist this attempt to take away important capital that could otherwise be used to give a young woman an education, startup capital, travel experiences, etc.?

Here’s what StubHub was offering, on May 20, for seats at the Taylor Swift tonight in Detroit, Michigan:

You can buy a house in Detroit for the cost of two tickets (StubHub fees are on top of these quoted rates?) and associated concert expenses.

What will be the long-term effects of this brilliant mining out of families with female children? Wikipedia says that Taylor Swift is childless and “an advocate for … women’s empowerment”. But how are women empowered if, as girls, their college fund is looted of $10,000+ so that they can hear some songs that are regularly played for free on the radio?

(A white male California Democrat posted “The Numbers Are In on How Biden-Era Funding Is Skewing Scientific Research Ever-Wokeward” to Facebook (a professor, he likes everything about the Democrats except that white male professors have the lowest priority for getting research money!). An Italian immigrant scientist contributed to the discussion, which led to a Democrat responding with “for someone coming from a country that has only achieved any level of relevance in recent times by succumbing to fascism, I guess there is some cold comfort and making fun of liberal ideals that psychologically incapable of internalizing.” My response to this attack on Italy:

If you value the ability to listen to Taylor Swift in your Prius, shouldn’t you at least celebrate Italian radio pioneer Guglielma Maria Marconi? She did her work decades before Mussolini came to power. Unlike 2SLGBTQQIA+ community member Nikola Tesla, who attempted long-distance transmission by dumping power into the ground (literally), Ms. Marconi followed Katherine Clerk Maxwell’s equations and Henrietta Hertz.

It is fair to say that Taylor Swift is my touchstone!)

Loosely related, “The Future is Female” art exhibit in Bentonville, Arkansas, January 2019, complete with $38 T-shirts:


  • the future of the Biden family, Navy Joan, lives in Arkansas and yields $480,000/year tax-free for her plaintiff mom (New York Post) after an initial payment of $2.5 million (i.e., more than $10 million in spending power over 18 years) and is one of a handful of Americans who can afford both a Taylor Swift concert ticket and a college education (though her mom, Lunden Roberts, has demonstrated that there are better ways for an American to earn money than by going to college and working W-2)

Update at 7:24 pm Eastern:

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A visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art

One of the joys of New York was casual access to great art museums. Post-coronapanic, however, access is no longer so casual. They’re on the dreaded timed ticket system.

The lobby contains neon art by Eric Adams:

What other messages do we see in the Renzo Piano building who total project cost was $760 million in pre-Biden money?

In the oppressed after first investing $760 million in a fancy building?

My favorite work on display is by Josh Kline and reflects a compromise between Republicans and Democrats regarding whether it is permissible to install gas stoves in American households:

Kline predicted “mass layoffs” in a series called “Contagious Unemployment” back in 2016. He wasn’t completely wrong in that labor force participation is low, but technical “unemployment” (people who want jobs and can’t find them) is actually lower than it was in 2016. Even if the artist failed as an economic prophet, his shrink-wrapped middle managers are impressive:

The permanent collection is always worthwhile. Sailors and Floosies (Cadmus 1938) might need an update now that “US Navy hires active-duty drag queen to be face of recruitment drive” (New York Post):

(Cadmus could have painted himself in? He wasn’t famous for being straight.)

The view of the High Line is awesome:

The museum is also a good place to see the Little Island at Pier 55 (about $260 million in public and private money):

The main exhibit was by a Native American artist, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. It is uncontroversial and accurate to refer to people crossing the border without an invitation as a “European invasion”:

(Would the museum characterize the current flood of folks coming across the border as an “invasion”? If not, why not? Because they are generally not armed while the mostly-peaceful Pilgrims had rifles?)

A 2021 painting by Smith cashes in on Americans’ love of pronouns:

Her “trade canoes” are impressive. Examples:

Pilots may imagine that the FAA is everywhere in the galleries because the guards’ uniform says “Here to Help” on the back:

What’s the mask situation, you might ask? About half of the guards were masked. (If they’re worried, why don’t they switch to a job with less potential for virus transmission?) With the exception of the virtuous group, perhaps only 1 in 40 patrons was masked.

How’s the neighborhood?

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Cash in on Zeitgeist by selling paintings of the Ukrainian flag?

A modest-sized Jasper Johns painting of the American flag sold for $36 million in pre-Biden money (New York Post, 2014). A hedge fund billionaire might have paid $110 million for one in 2010 (NYT). Here’s a (priceless) triple-flag version at the Whitney:

Johns is 93, possibly too old to be a heavy enough Twitter and Facebook user to realize how much value there is in displaying the Ukrainian flag. Could this be an opportunity for a younger artist to step in? Imagine the above painting but with Ukraine flags instead of U.S. flags. (I mentioned this to friends and they said that it would be even better as rainbow flags.)

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Harvard and the Art of Masking

An email received this month:

(Harvard cannot offer free admission to the people who have granted it freedom from paying taxes on what it earns from its $50 billion cash hoard, except for on a few days.)

Note the Science-driven COVID prevention strategy of 1 out of 4 people wearing a non-N95 mask. The same email promotes an event in which it appears that 2 out of 3 visitors are wearing Fauci-approved cloth masks:

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American Diversity concert tonight in Cambridge

I received a mailing from a music organization in Cambridge, Maskachusetts, “A unique program of music written by women and people of color”:

I’m very sorry that I can’t attend and see if The Mask is about an N95 mask and his/her/zir/their journey of protection (modern update to Gogol’s “The Nose”?). Maybe it will be explained in the program notes and pre-concert lecture.

Note that the concert is entirely free to those who limit their working hours so as to qualify for SNAP/EBT (“food stamps”):

We are proud to participate in the Mass Cultural Council’s ‘Card to Culture’ program. EBT card holders who present their EBT card in person at the Box Office receive 2 free Gold section tickets to a Spectrum Singers concert.


  • Thankful for (Government-supported Harvard University hosts a play in which only those who identify as Black can attend: “We have designated this performance to be an exclusive space for Black-identifying audience members”)
  • Why you want to be on SNAP/EBT
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Book review: the American love affair with opioids, accelerated by McKinsey

Loyal readers may remember a review here of a book by a Los Angeles Times reporter on America’s taxpayer-fueled heroin habit (see Who funded America’s opiate epidemic? You did.). Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty covers the same story from the angle of the family behind OxyContin. The Sacklers, whose names adorn university and art museum buildings throughout the U.S. and Europe, have been convenient scapegoats, but it turns out that they didn’t do it alone. Some things that I learned from the book…

Arthur M. Sackler, the patriarch, died before OxyContin was invented (the slow-release coating was actually the invention of a British company that had been acquired by the Sacklers’ sleepy Purdue Pharma and was used originally for morphine pills called “MS Contin”). He was the significant art collector and benefactor of AOC’s party venue at the Metropolitan Museum (how did it cost $587 for a car ride from the Bronx to the Upper East Side?). With the help of some friendly bureaucrats at the FDA, who would go on to be of much greater assistance to his brothers’ company Purdue, he pushed the limits of what was legal/ethical in medical advertising, especially for Valium and Librium, but museums are still happy to display the name of Hoffmann-La Roche, which actually made the drugs.

The book describes McKinsey, “The firm that built the house of Enron”, working to help Purdue Pharma increase sales of OxyContin even after the company and three executives had pleaded guilty to federal crimes regarding claims made regarding the drug. McKinsey’s biggest idea, according to the author, was that Purdue Pharma’s salespeople should make more frequent calls on the doctors who were the biggest prescribers, i.e., the “pill mills” such as Eleanor Santiago‘s (1 million pills, which resulted in a 20-month prison sentence for the physician). McKinsey also consulted for Johnson & Johnson, the author says, to help them push more opioids out to consumers. (See “Behind the Scenes, McKinsey Guided Companies at the Center of the Opioid Crisis” (NYT 2022))

Speaking of Johnson & Johnson, they owned a division in Tasmania where all of the poppies were grown to enable the production of OxyContin and competitive opioid pills from Janssen (J&J’s pharma subsidiary, now famous for its never-FDA-approved one-shot COVID vaccine) and other companies (in-depth background). The Federal DEA was also complicit in allowing a massive increase in the import quota for this critical raw material.

The author describes Mary Jo White, later appointed by Barack Obama to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, as instrumental in weakening the government’s efforts to punish Purdue, which was owned entirely by the Sacklers (not, however, by any of Arthur M’s descendants or cash-hungry former wives, “the Valium Sacklers” as opposed to the “OxyContin Sacklers”).

Consistent with Dreamland, the book previously reviewed here, Empire of Pain says that it was common for people to transition from Oxy to heroin sold by migrants from Nayarit, Mexico and that, in fact, 80 percent of heroin overdoses were among people who’d previously been prescribed OxyContin. (See also “From Nayarit to Your Neighborhood: Heroin’s Path to a Ready Local Market”.)

The book supports the heritability of success theory advanced in The Son Also Rises: economics history with everyday applications. Even after a couple of generations that could have succumbed to idleness, the Sackler descendants are reasonably hard-working and successful. Madeleine Sackler, for example, has been successful as a filmmaker (ironically, a couple of them are about life in prison, which is not unrelated to the drug that has funded her lifestyle).

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty is timely given that a lot of our American brothers, sisters, and binary-resisters were just paid $600/week to stay home for two years and consume drugs and alcohol (this Senate document says there was a 30 percent increase in overdose deaths, but blames the “pandemic” rather than the “lockdown”). The antiracism experts at Mass General say that heavy drinking increased by 21 percent during lockdown.

If nothing else, reading the book will make you cautious about taking that first bottle of painkillers that a doctor prescribes!

The author is a New Yorker writer and he asserts as fact that HIV/AIDS would have been a solved problem if Republicans had not blocked federal funding for research into a cure for this disease (yet SARS-CoV-2 continues to kill steadily despite literally $trillions in tax money that has been thrown at it; see Did vaccines or any other intervention slow down COVID?). He also asserts as fact that if Purdue Pharma was liable for opioid-related deaths then gun manufacturers are obviously liable for shooting deaths (never mentioning that the gun manufacturers have always been quite candid about the lethality of guns/bullets and that the theory of liability for the opioid industry is that the companies lied to Americans about heroin-style drugs not being addictive/harmful).

Loosely related… the Temple of Dendur at the Met, in what used to be called “The Sackler Wing” (funded by Arthur M, blameless in the OxyContin debacle), “temporarily closed” in June 2021 for coronapanic:

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Top Gun 3, Balloon Hunter: starring Tom Cruise and Justin Trudeau

Friends on Facebook are still expressing their fears regarding the recent Chinese balloon overflight and thanking the Vanquisher of Corn Pop for saving them from this unarmed threat, which was neutralized by a $1 billion F-22 (cost estimated at $700 million per plane in pre-Biden money). Top Gun 1 had the F-14. Top Gun 2 had the F-18. How about a Top Gun 3 with Tom Cruise in an F-35 versus a fleet of unarmed Chinese balloons?

Some of the latest slow movers were shot out of the sky over Canada. Every contemporary movie needs some Black and Brown characters, e.g., as brilliant scientists who design equipment to track and kill the slow-moving menaces. Combining the two preceding sentences, the obvious choice to portray the Black and Brown characters is Justin Trudeau (he already has the costumes and makeup).

Speaking of Tom Cruise, here is the Church of Scientology’s cruise ship, Freewinds, docked in Aruba:

Of course, I am now telling everyone that this was our ship and that we spent sea days being audited, getting clear, and learning more about Xenu (the last part is sort of true; Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas has a Zumba class led by the vivacious Peruvian cruise director Mey).


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Why can’t we get Art Nouveau furniture made by CNC?

What I wanted for Christmas and did not get is an entire house full of Art Nouveau furniture as seen in the Musée d’Orsay or the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Here are a few images of the collection at the d’Orsay, from our October 2022 trip there:

With modern 3D printing (e.g., for the lamp) and computer numerical control (CNC) routers, what stops the mostly-automated production at near-IKEA prices of replicas of the above works of genius and craftsmanship? An IKEA-crafted bed for comparison:

Maybe the problem is that putting an Art Nouveau piece into a standard American developer-built house or 2BR apartment would make the walls look sadly lacking in ornamentation.


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Did the Silicon Valley TV show predict Sam Bankman-Fried?

Sam Bankman-Fried was notable for his ethical approach to doing business, particularly “effective altruism”. New York Times, May 2022:

He lives modestly for a billionaire and has pledged to give away virtually his entire fortune, which currently stands at $21.2 billion, according to Forbes. A growing force in political fund-raising, he has a super PAC that recently gave more than $10 million to a Democratic congressional candidate who supports some of his philanthropic priorities. … a straight-talking brainiac willing to embrace regulation of his nascent industry and criticize its worst excesses.

Both Mr. Bankman-Fried’s parents are Stanford Law School professors who have studied utilitarianism, an ethical framework that calls for decisions calculated to secure the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. “It’s the kind of thing we’d discuss in the house,” said Mr. Bankman-Fried’s father, Joseph Bankman.

As might be expected for a young man raised on dinner-table discussions of moral theory, Mr. Bankman-Fried is also an admirer of Peter Singer, the Princeton University philosopher widely considered the intellectual father of “effective altruism,” an approach to philanthropy in which donors strategize to maximize the impact of their giving.

Mr. Singer, whose scholarship helped inspire the movement, said he has gotten to know Mr. Bankman-Fried over the years and called his philanthropy “wonderful and really quite amazing.”

(Speaking of those donations to Democrats, will Joe Biden and other politicians refund the money that they received, fraudulently, from FTX customers? The Securities and Exchange Commission says that FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried were stealing money from customers all the time:

in reality, Bankman-Fried orchestrated a years-long fraud to conceal from FTX’s investors (1) the undisclosed diversion of FTX customers’ funds to Alameda Research LLC, his privately-held crypto hedge fund; (2) the undisclosed special treatment afforded to Alameda on the FTX platform, including providing Alameda with a virtually unlimited “line of credit” funded by the platform’s customers

The Democrats are now in the position of Ponzi scheme investors who got paid from other investors and the typical remedy for that is clawback. Joe Biden and fellow Democrats would return their ill-gotten money so that the small depositors at FTX can get some of their money back.)

Who could have predicted all of this? The writers of the HBO series Silicon Valley! In Season 6, which aired in 2018, Gavin Belson, the Hooli founder, introduces a hollow code of ethics for tech companies: “tethics”. Facebook and other California behemoths eagerly sign onto these empty words.

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