How King Kong Almost Didn’t Get Made

King Kong (1933)

In an essay about Soviet writer Isaac Babel appearing in her book The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, Elif Batuman describes a meeting between the writer and an American prisoner:

A shot-down American pilot, barefoot but elegant, neck like a column, dazzlingly white teeth, his uniform covered with oil and dirt. He asks me worriedly: Did I maybe commit a crime by fighting against Soviet Russia? Our position is strong. O the scent of Europe, coffee, civilization, strength, ancient culture, many thoughts. I watch him, can’t let him go. A letter from Major Fauntleroy: things in Poland are bad, there’s no constitution, the Bolsheviks are strong … An endless conversation with [Frank] Mosher, I sink into the past, they’ll shake you up, Mosher, ekh, Conan Doyle, letters to New York. Is Mosher fooling—he asks frantically what Bolshevism is. A sad, heart-warming impression.

It seems that Frank Mosher was none other than Captain Merian Caldwell Cooper, the future producer of King Kong in 1933. Their encounter took place in Galicia in 1920, when Cooper was a member of the Kosciuszko Air Squadron.

Captain Merian C. Cooper (Alias Frank Mosher)

Cooper was captured by horsemen attached to Budyonny’s Cossack Cavalry. He would have been killed on the spot had not an “unnamed English-speaking Bolshevik” saved his life. That Bolshevik was one of the greatest Russian writers of the 20th Century, Isaac Babel, who was served with the Bolshevik cavalry, collecting material for his great book of stories entitled Red Cavalry.

Somehow, Cooper made his way back to the U.S., along with a fellow flyer named Ernest  B. Schoedsack, whom he was to hire in later years to direct King Kong.

 

 

 

Computer Phobias

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I Have a Thing About Touch Screen Interfaces

As one who has been working with computers since around 1964, I have developed a number of phobias based on problems I have had.

One of my main computer phobias sharply separates me from the millennial generation: I distrust and in fact despise touch screen interfaces. My new Lexmark MC3224 has a touch screen panel for commands that is sheer torture to navigate, unless I had fingers the size of a newborn lemur’s.

The absolute worst is a touch-screen “keyboard” on a 2” x 3” touchscreen that makes it virtually impossible to avoid fat-fingering errors.

A corollary is that I refuse, for the time being, to buy a smart phone. My 74-year-old eyes are not up to deciphering a micro-screen, so I will not even try.

There are certain brands that I avoid because of run-ins, particularly printers. Some people love Epsons and Brothers, but I avoid them like the plague. I have stuck by Hewlett-Packard for many years, and it was unusual for me to buy a Lexmark. (By the way, it’s still working!)

The same logic applies to software. After hours of rage attempting to update Norton Anti-Virus, I have consigned that particular brand to the dumpster. I may soon add AVG because of their predatory marketing of slivers of their security products.

One product that has drawn my contempt over a period of many years is the old Word Perfect word processing system. I have stuck my Microsoft Word and Excel, even when they adopted their stupid ribbon interface a few years ago.

And don’t even let me start on Apple Macintoshes!

 

Printer Hell

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Lexmark MC3224

I have not posted quite so much of late because I have had problems with my computer. My old HP inkjet printer finally died after a new version of Windows 10 was installed. So I ordered a reasonably priced color laser printer and immediately ran into problems.

There are so many ways to connect the printer to the computer that I was nonplussed. I tried first to connect it via USB to the computer. That didn’t seem to work, plus the USB plug didn’t sit firmly enough at the rear of the printer. Then, with the help of my friend Mike Estrin of Network Connections LLC, I tried connecting the printer to the router using Lexmark’s software.

Finally, I bought a network cable and with Mike’s help, hooked the printer to the router using it.using it. Now it finally seems to work without losing the connection or shutting down for no apparent reason.

My fingers are still crossed. My Lexmark has been functioning normally for the last twenty-four hours. I hope it continues to. The printer does produce nice copies, has good color, and is probably cheaper to run than an inkjet with a voracious appetite for expensive ink.

Sandwich Excess

What Ever Happened to the Simple Sandwich?

The Carls Jr.  hamburger chain had a TV ad a few years ago that used as its motto: “If it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face.” It seems that what used to be a rather simple dish has grown out of all proportion.  I used to be a big fan of sandwiches; and I still am—if I make them myself!

Over the course of the last few years, what has happened to sandwiches is a microcosm of what has happened to American cooking. In a word, there is more of everything, until it is a major production including the beginnings of a salad and the obligatory glop, whether it is mayonnaise, mustard, Russian or Ranch dressing.

Under no circumstances would I make a sandwich if:

  • It wouldn’t fit in my mouth
  • Most of its contents would drip onto my shirt

My Father and my uncle used to make fun of me because I tended to make sandwiches out of all kinds of meat dishes, which they preferred to eat in splendid isolation from bread, raw and pickled vegetables, salad dressing, and cheese. In fact, my sandwiches were rather simple affairs, and they still are.

Go to Google Images and search for pictures of sandwiches, or click here. You won’t find anything but rather elaborate productions.

 

A Hint of Fall

Could Summer Really Be Over?

Our seasons in Los Angeles are very different than in other parts of the country. For the last few days, we’ve had a touch of autumn; but that doesn’t mean that there will be any consistency in the weather over the next six weeks or so. We might very well be in for a spell of hot, dry, windy weather—otherwise known as the Santa Ana winds. Or we could actually get some measurable (i.e., more than 1 centimeter) precipitation, though that is unlikely. It will probably get cooler in the evenings, or not.

One thing for sure: My left knee is aching, and I struggle slightly to rise from a sitting position. I’ve just taken some aspirin, which will probably help some. And I will probably get my flu shot sometime this week, because the flu season sets in fast whenever the weather gets cooler.

Although this has not been a particularly hot summer, it has been a humid one. Our humidity usually lasts only through July, but this year it has been virtually non-stop. We even got some slight drizzle yesterday and Friday. It would be nice if we had another wet winter, though the scientists who predict this sort of thing say that California will continue to have terrible droughts. This translates into terrible wildfires. Sigh!

 

 

The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

American Flag Pin

Thanks to the current occupant of the White House, I am feeling less patriotic than ever. I have come to associate the ubiquitous flag pins that Republican politicians wear with the excesses of the Trump administration. As Dr. Samuel Johnson noted, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” I don’t believe that for members of the older generation who have fought for our country, but for younger people, especially politicians, who use it to identify themselves as racists, white nationalists, saboteurs, and looters—in a word, Republicans. It is a symbol the course of being degraded beyond all recognition.

I am feeling out of touch with American voters. Can I trust them to actually love their country and send the Trump administration down to ignominious defeat? Not entirely, especially in certain parts of the country where politics is a form of resentment and regional hatred, especially against voters who live in large cities. It is the politics of Hooterville versus the politics of New York and California. (Though even New York and California have isolated pockets of atavistic tendencies.)

It has gotten to the point that I feel alienated from American politics, both Republicans and Democrats. (I now vote No Party Preference.) I don’t even classify myself as being Caucasian any more. As a Hungarian-American, I am Finno-Ugric, or “Other Race.” (Most of my rage is directed at White voters.)

I hope that this is only a phase I am going through until the politics of the United States returns to normal—that is, if it ever does.

The Philosophy Club

St Peter Chanel High School in Bedford, Ohio

When I was attending high school at St Peter Chanel in Bedford, Ohio, between 1958 and 1962, I started two extracurricular activities. One was a literary magazine called The Phoenix (our school teams were the Firebirds). I am actually a little embarrassed about the quality of our articles and illustrations. But more interestingly, I started a philosophy club which met evenings. Our moderator was a gaunt Marist missionary priest who had spent years attempting to convert the natives of New Guinea to Catholicism.

Imagine his discomfiture when a bunch of high school kids decided to argue about the existence of God. We had a couple of firebrands in the group—Ed Jaskiewicz and Rodger Harper—who set about demolishing two millennia of church dogma.

The “Angelic Doctor,” St Thomas Aquinas

As a good practicing Catholic (at the time), I introduced St. Thomas Aquinas’s five proofs for the existence of God. That didn’t sit too well with Jaskiewicz, who shot them down while Father Barrett, our moderator, turned a vivid shade of fuchsia. For my part, I started to stammer. It just wouldn’t do for Chanel’s star student to foment heresy.

Well, neither the philosophy club nor the literary magazine exist today. In fact, St. Peter Chanel High School is no more. The last I heard, the school was going to be torn down by he Bedford, Ohio, Board of Education. And I’m still a little skittish about philosophy. It’s not because I still believe in Aquinas’s five proofs, which are the bedrock of Catholic doctrine, but because I’ve always found philosophy so difficult. In no other field of endeavor do all the participants so anathemize one another.

I am currently reading Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus and actually liking his existential philosophy. It’s nice sometimes to undergo change after so many years.