‘Mahagonny’ (1980), a film by Harry Smith

Here’s my cranky old man’s take on the second film Ann and I ever walked out of, but don’t judge the film too harshly by it. I’m sure it’s better than I make it out to be. While watching it, I kept glancing at Ann, and thinking about Alvy Singer dragging Annie Hall into numerous screenings of ‘The Sorrow and the Pity’ (1969-4hrs.25min).

There’s a proper review of this art house magnum opus from 2003 in the New York Times, and here, too, an interview from this past week with Rani Singh, director of the Harry Smith Archives in NYC which aired on WFAE, Charlotte Public Radio. Less helpful is the IMDB page.

Anyway, my review emerged in an early morning conversation with my daughter Ellen. Enjoy…

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By the way it’s worth mentioning that the first film Ann and I bailed out of years ago was ‘On Golden Pond’, which won Academy Awards for both Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. So don’t listen to me!

Pigs, Sheep, and Wolves…

(Reading time: ~2 minutes)

Here’s some clarity for you this morning: Fervor has utterly displaced Mellow in these United States.

Remember when you’d hear the complaint, “Hey, Dude! You’re harshing my vibe! Yo, chill!” Maybe mostly on tv, and perhaps only ironically over a beer in a backyard, but the thing was this: In general, back then we valued relaxation.

And, we could indulge in it!

Fast forward to today: No matter which side you’re on, it’s all Urgency. It’s all Crisis. The Right cries out, “Defend Our Freedom!” Everyone else shouts, “Defend Democracy!” The underlying passions are feeding a stridency and tension that may reach a flash point.

Don’t mistake my reflections here as a call to calm down. I am anything but complacent these days about the dangers I’ve seen coming, and, yes, arriving in America.

We are confronted by a small but powerful faction that has built its strength by playing on and magnifying people’s fears and hatreds. The fear and hatred is irrational and tribal. It’s curated to be so by those that generate it because frightened people are easy to manipulate, and also easy to stampede!

There was a guy some time back accused me of being a “sheep” for telling him to calm down. “What’re you so angry about?,” I challenged him.

“You’re one of the SHEEPLE!”, he shouted.

And I closed my eyes and pictured the mob stampeding the Capitol.

Those who would lead you to smash things aren’t thinking about you. The one swinging the sledge isn’t thinking about the hammer. He’s thinking about the target of the blow, and what he might do with the empty space left after destruction. The burning of the Reichstag didn’t liberate Germany.

Those who would lead you to reverse an election in these United States- (they tried on January 6th, and they’re trying again in 2024) ..Those are the ones who pursued only three missions when they held control: increase the wealth of the richest, seize factional control of the courts to shape society to their view, and build a “show-piece” wall to perpetuate fear of the “other”.

Paul Simon wrote a song called ‘Pigs, Sheep, and Wolves’. It’s a simple little story tune; an allegory riffing along axes of culture, politics, and human psychology. If you see what I’ve been saying here, you might enjoy it too. Chill out with it for a bit.

And after that ask yourself who are the sheep, who are the wolves, and what do the pigs really want.