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The Dear and Departed



As you probably know Elie Wiesel died today. I don’t have anything particular to say here, but figure many of you may.

As you might not have known, Michael Cimino also died today. Personally, I find The Deer Hunter overlong and so racist as to be unwatchable in parts, but many believe him to be a great talent, even if little came of it.

And as you may not have seen, Scotty Moore, Elvis’ guitar player, died recently. I had no idea he was still alive, which isn’t surprising since he basically stopping playing after he no longer worked with Elvis.

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  • advocatethis

    Yeah, that it was overlong was the least of the problems with the Deer Hunter. Unfortunately, he was lauded for it, which lead to Heaven’s Gate. I still insist that there is an excellent 110 minute movie in that one somewhere.
    If you must watch Cimino, stick to Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

    • wjts

      I still insist that there is an excellent 110 minute movie in that one somewhere.

      I think that might be true, but Heaven’s Gate is, I think, the only movie I’ve ever walked out on after paying to get in (I bailed after the roller skating scene). Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a fun one, though.

      ETA: I see he also co-wrote Magnum Force, which is not only the second-best Dirty Harry movie but also inspired a pretty good Robyn Hitchcock song.

      • skate

        Odd, I always think of Magnum Force as a John Milieus script. Have long forgotten that Cimino was one of the writers.

        I am again reminded that it’s been too long since I last saw Silent Running and should try to watch it soon.

        Not a big fan of Deer Hunter either. I did like Heaven’s Gate more than most. Perhaps because I first saw it during college when I was hanging around with too many film & TV majors.

        • Jean-Michel

          Apparently Milius never actually finished a draft for Magnum Force—he left sixty pages in to do Dillinger instead. Cimino was brought in (on the basis of his script for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot) to do the last act and punch things up with more action, which makes sense in hindsight given that Cimino turned out to be a much better stylist than a storyteller. Year of the Dragon has some problematic racial politics (not to the same extent as The Deer Hunter, but that’s a high bar to clear) but is absolutely stunning from a visual POV.

      • vic rattlehead

        Only “pretty good”? Shameless Morrissey trolling.

        • wjts

          Yeah, “pretty good”. There are better Robyn Hitchcock songs. Some of them are even on that same album.

          • nixnutz

            Those are all good songs and you didn’t even dip into like his top 30.

            • wjts

              I reckon “Queen Elvis” is absolutely in his top 30, probably in his top 10.

          • Mac the Knife

            There’s a trilogy! And that’s not even the best song out of the two he’s completed.

    • Dennis Orphen

      If you must watch any movie, and you can’t find a copy of Two Lane Blacktop or or Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, stick to Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

      • vic rattlehead

        Oh dude, yes. Monte Hellman is criminally underrated. Iguana is one of my favorites, and the book it’s based on one of the first I read in Spanish.

    • AGM

      The real story of Ella Watson and Jim Averell is far more interesting than Heaven’s Gate, which is a pretty big sin for a movie.

    • AdamPShort

      Most movies would be much better if they were shorter. Scriptwriters doing features are taught to aim for 88 minutes. But writing an 88 minute feature is extremely difficult, as is editing one. It takes real talent to keep it short.

  • You Forgot Poland

    For EL, everything is racist or causes cancer.

    • I know. Imagine wanting the Vietnamese characters to be people instead of stereotypes. What is my problem.

      • You Forgot Poland

        You’re very happy to make white southerners stereotypes every day. Even though they’re oppressed by globalization, capital mobility, and outsourcing.

        I especially loved your response about Sherman the other day. Something about how his slaughter of civilians ended slavery so it’s A-OK!

        So you’d totally accept the argument that Hiroshima is good because it stopped the Japanese committing genocide against the Chinese. Because the ends justify the means! That’s just how American leftists roll.

        • YRUasking

          You’re reading outdated textbooks. While Sherman’s March involved wanton destruction of property, there weren’t that many civilian casualties. Certainly less people than the 10,000 who were liberated by the campaign.

        • Pseudonym

          Everyone knows the real cause of the War of Northern Aggression was tariffs globalization, capital mobility, and outsourcing.

          • CrunchyFrog

            Everyone knows the real cause of the War of Northern Aggression was liberals abolitionists saying rude things.

            It’s always liberal types who say rude things – never the other way around. Look at Elizabeth Warren – always saying rude things about Donald Trump.

        • Halloween Jack

          Will no one think of the crackers?

      • Ghostship

        The entire Vietnam War was racist – we can’t let those slit-eyed yellow gooks decide their own future – no, it the god-given right of the United States to decide everbody’s future and if any one stand up against us we’ll call the country the new Nazi Germany, the leader the new Hitler and blockade and bomb the shit out of them. So it’s not surprising any film about it is racist – I wouldn’t believe one that wasn’t.

      • I haven’t seen the movie in a very long time, but if the POW scenes are what you would consider racist:

        I have met several people who were POWs in Vietnam. What was done to these guys in real life was far, far worse than anything depicted in The Deer Hunter.

        • Grumpy

          Yeah, I’d never heard this particular complaint about The Deer Hunter. Was it just the POW scenes?

        • Honoré De Ballsack

          What was done to these guys in real life was far, far worse than anything depicted in The Deer Hunter.

          Was it just the POW scenes?

          It’s not what the characters do, per se, that makes the film racist..I think the racism comes more from what I’d call a “ching chong ding dong” Hollywood characterization of Asians.

          • Honoré De Ballsack

            Edit: Just FYI, I’m basing my above comment on having seen The Deer Hunter once, about a decade ago.

            • galanx

              It’s more the way they were doing horrible things- not for information, or even “you guys bombed our hospitals”, but because they’re sinister orientals who enjoy inflicting pain for entertainment, just like the Japs.

              Plus the only other depiction of Vietnam shows the American risking his life to rescue a Vietnamese child, while the VC are depicted casually dropping grenades into cellars full of huddling Vietnamese peasants( though undoubtedly both such kinds of incidents actually happened).

    • MAJeff

      hi, Jenny

  • erlking

    Also lost today was Robin Hardy, director of The Wicker Man. One of the all-time great weird movies.

  • mikeSchilling

    Also the Indians’ winning streak, gone at 14.

  • charles pierce

    Also my patience with Clay Buchholz.

    • keta

      At least he has a computer sales career to fall back on.

    • howard

      I looked at the box score and said how is buchholz still getting innings?

      • efgoldman

        how is buchholz still getting innings?

        League rules don’t allow Iron Mike to pitch in actual games. They got nobody else. Whatever a negative number of MLB-ready pitchers is, that’s what they have.

    • efgoldman

      Also my patience with Clay Buchholz.

      We were out tonight, for a lovely (and expen$ive) dinner with close friends on the water in Warren RI. Perfect night for it, I was not going to let the Sox ruin it.
      I think it’s time to bail for the season. All the other sports are done, I don’t watch football pre-season ever (not since poor Darryl Stingley got croaked, and then John Hannah and Leon Gray each blew out a knee for the season in the same exhibition game). Time to binge re-watch the complete The Wire DVD set my kids got me a couple xmases ago.

    • Pseudonym

      Incidentally, I noticed earlier today that Lemieux’s blogroll still links to your Boston Herald blog. Might be time to bug him to update that, assuming you guys are constantly communicating on JournoList.

  • howard

    Words like innovator and pioneer get thrown around a lot in music: Scotty Moore really was one.

    • petesh

      “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scotty.” — Keith Richards

  • J. Otto Pohl

    Elie Wiesel’s 1982 support of Israel’s backing of Turkey on the issue of the Armenian genocide basically destroyed any moral credibility he had.


    • wjts

      Where “support” means “withdrawal from a conference cancelled by the Israeli government”.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        He was for a long time a denier of both the Armenian genocide and the Nazi genocide against the Roma. He only changed his tune on Armenia when the Israeli government did. This is in addition to his support of Israeli atrocities in Gaza and elsewhere. Unlike the Observer author I don’t find Wiesel’s racism against the Roma on the basis of the actions of a couple of individuals excusable.


        • slothrop1

          A complete dick about the Palestinians.

          • slothrop1

            Why isn’t Israel Bavaria and a big chunk of Austria? Even the indigenous Palestinian Jews thought the Zionists were terroristic loons.

            He was a radical Zionist supporting settlements.

            • DAS

              If Israel were established in Bavaria, there would be a Bavarian refugee problem and people would be asking “why isn’t Israel in Palestine?”

    • efgoldman

      You know, Jotto, there comes a point that you have to separate the artist/author/composer as a person from the art. Weisel’s book isn’t any less valid (or horrifying) after 1982 than it was before. Even the Israel Philharmonic started playing Wagner in the 1970s. We know that many creators of great art were moral reprobates, and worse.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        Sure but the same people that hold up Wiesel up a moral icon with no blemishes are the same ones that dismiss everything Solzhenitsyn wrote because he disliked Jews. There should be an equal treatment. Both men created great art. Neither became morally flawless because they were in camps.

        • Dilan Esper

          Who holds up Weisel as someone with no blemishes? He was a survivor who bore witness and inspired a lot of people.

          • The Dark God of Time

            Motto can’t comment about Weisel without demonstrating wha a jackass he can be as a self-admitted reactionary.

          • manual

            He won the Nobel prize! He was awarded it for being “messenger to mankind” and his “practical work in the cause of peace.”

            In fact, he is routinely identified as a leading defender of the opposed and marginalized.

            He decidedly did not support the inclusion of the Romani into the Holocause museum (the whole episode was disgusting), diminishing them as later causalities (the first casualties were the handicapped, not the Jews, anyway), was terrible on the Palestinian people, and his cowardice on the Armenian genocide was pathetic.

            If your claim to fame is peace and supporting the world’s victims, choosing which ones you find worthy is troubling.

            • CrunchyFrog

              IOW, he was part of the group who interpreted “Never Again” to mean “Never Again to Jews”.

        • Warren Terra

          Both Wiesel and Solzhenitsyn are hugely important witnesses to extremes of human evil. This doesn’t make them moral arbiters later in life.

          Also: if you seem too dedicated in harping on their later failures in judgment, this will lead to the suggestion that perhaps you somehow resent or wish to refute their earlier acts of witness.

        • mikeSchilling

          Yes, the empty set equals the empty set.

    • Yes, Wiesel was a champion of human rights for everybody except Palestinians, who he considered sub-human. The most disgusting hypocrite who ever lived.

      • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

        The most disgusting hypocrite who ever lived.

        Although this seems like an obvious bit of hyperbole, I am encouraged by the fact that more and more people are starting to realize this:

        Wiesel was a champion of human rights for everybody except Palestinians, who he considered sub-human.

        • mikeSchilling

          “Sub-humna” is more hyperbole. He saw then as a threat to Israel and the Jewish people, and considering that one of the tactics of the PLO, Hamas, and Hezbollah alike is to kill Israelis and other Jews, that’s not incorrect. It’s an incomplete view, but can we understand why someone whose formative experience was an attempt to exterminate the Jewish people wouldn’t get any further? No,? OK, then Wiesel was a hypocrite and a monster. Glad we cleared that up.

      • Gator90

        Well, there have been many disgusting hypocrites in this world. But Wiesel’s New Jersey-sized moral blind spot should be remembered and acknowledged by fair-minded people.

    • elm

      While Weisel was far from perfect, even on the specific issue of the Armenien Genocide, this particular complaint is completely wrong. He withdrew from the conference rather than disinvite the Armenians or publically disagree with his government. Perhaps that was cowardly, but it wasn’t support of Turkey. He has also always held that what Happened was genocide, though he was pretty weak on the issue of reparations. See this For a balanced take.

      On the Roma, as far as I know we have a single source claiming he obnoxiously dismissive on the subject. I don’t know how much credibility to give that source though I do think Weisel privileged the Jewish victims of the Holocaust over other victims.

      On Palestinians, yeah, he was pretty bad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he thought they were sub humans but he certainly wasn’t a champion for their rights. And he seemed to support a two-state solution, although with Jerusalem entirely in Israel’s hands.

      He was a flawed figure, an ardent defender of Israel even when Israel was in the wrong, but you shouldn’t allow those flaws to blind you to all the good he did.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        There is lot more than one source regarding Wiesel’s prevention of Roma representation at the USHMM. His dismissive attitude towards the Roma victims of the Holocaust during the 1980s is documented in numerous sources. Here is another one. He is not the perfect saint that his worshippers claim he was.


        • Malaclypse

          Otto, just for just this once, can you realize when you should shut the fuck up?

          • J. Otto Pohl

            When there are multiple articles in Haaretz claiming that your position of hatred against the Palestinians is too extreme maybe it is.


            • slothrop1

              Sorry – I see you have covered!

          • wjts

            If he could realize that, he wouldn’t be Otto.

          • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

            you should shut the fuck up?

            Why the sudden outbreak of anger? My experience on this blog has been that it is pretty laid back about allowing people to post controversial things – and then letting us work through them. Are you against that?

            • Malaclypse

              I think Otto’s tiresome contrarianism is particularly tiresome today.

              • Cheerful

                The willingness of some here to immediately use personal abuse against J. Otto as opposed to addressing the actual points made (and supported by others here re the Roma) is also a little tiresome. Mr. Pohl can be contrary. But I have never seen him simply insult people in the manner in which he is habitually insulted.

                • Origami Isopod

                  The problem is that Otto has a very long history of derailing conversations with off-topic comments meant to redirect attention to himself. I don’t think it’s the case in this thread; I think it’s fair to reflect on the wrongs as well as the rights done by Elie Wiesel in life. Sometimes, too, Otto says interesting things. But I honestly can’t blame people who get tired of the “Hey, everybody, look at me!” act and snap at him. Even in this thread, considering how beloved Wiesel was by so many.

            • NewishLawyer

              Because Otto is an anti-Semitic Jew-hater, self-described reactionary who blames the Jews for his inability to get an academic position in the United States. Never mind that there are thousands of people (if not more) who fail to get academic positions in the United States and still manage to be decent people and not blame it on a minority group.

              Yet someone Otto gets tolerated here as a pet contrarian because he writes better English than Jenny and he has that weird kind of reactionary politics that sometimes agrees with left-positions.

              • wjts

                I don’t recall Otto ever blaming the Jews for his job woes.

              • J. Otto Pohl

                I have never blamed Jews for not getting a job in the US. I blamed the leftist academic establishment which is predominantly non-Jewish.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  You said they were Stalinists, Jotto. Have the courage to be honest about what you write, instead of being mealy-mouthed about the so-called “leftist academic establishment.”

              • elm

                Jotto is not an anti-Semite (as far as I know). He’s a stubborn, self-obsessed contrarian and a staunch critic of Israel. The latter, as far as I can tell, derives from fervent anti-colonialism and not from anti-Semitism. He fails to see the moral gray areas in the debate (which is part of what’s makes Jotto Jotto) but I honestly don’t think he’s doing it from malice.

                Nor do I think he should shut up, although he should stop fighting straw men as he does in his response to me. I explicitly acknowledged that Weisel was deeply flawed and while I was perhaps mistaken in the sourcing of the Roma critiques, Jotto didn’t respond to any of my other points.

                I would prefer Otto argue better rather than not argue at all.

                • Thom

                  Thanks for bringing some reason to this discussion.

              • manual

                He is right about the episode involving the Romani treatment before the presidential commission on the holocaust.

                Think of him whatever you wish, but he is correct that there was a deliberate campaign to preclude and diminish the Romani suffering during the holocaust. It was a disgusting episode.

          • vic rattlehead

            For this once? Well, no, dying does not absolve someone from valid moral criticism. Of course I don’t know enough to opine on the accuracy of what Jotto is saying, but the mere fact that he is criticizing Weisel is not in itself objectionable.

        • mikeSchilling

          There’s one Wiesel quote there:

          Mister Hancock! I have read what you have written! And I don’t like it! I don’t like it at all!!

          How is that a denial?

      • DAS

        Why shouldn’t the capital of a Jewish state be the historical (i.e. from before Islam even existed) holy city of the Jewish people?

        And while Wiesel was hardly sensitive to the very real plight of Palestinians and too supportive of a government that us bad for Israel and for Palestinians, how is his insensitivity to Palestinians any worse than the insensitivity shown to Israelis regularly on sites like this one? For example, in the ad linked above, Wiesel critiques Hamas’ illegal war tactics. If his admittefly insensitive and morally triumphant way of doing that us an til Palestinian, how are constant critiques of how the Jewish state defends itself not antisemitic? After all, what is so unique about Israel? Hmm …

        • vic rattlehead

          Yeah those goddamned Johnny-come-lately Muslims. 7th century CE, wtf guys?

          • libarbarian

            The first reference is “Israel” in that land is in the Merneptah stele ~1200 BC.

            7th century AD ain’t so old in that context

            • vic rattlehead

              Yes I’m aware. It’s still extremely bigoted to presume that a group is somehow more “deserving” based on that. Only 1400 years old? Fuck em! Another groups been around longer!

              • Origami Isopod

                Not to mention that the 7th century CE is still a lot earlier than when the first white people set foot in the Western Hemisphere, even if you’re going by the Vinlanders or the apocryphal stories of the Welsh voyagers.

            • wjts

              And the Israel named in that stele bears about as much relevance to the modern nation-state of the same name as Bronze Age Etruria does its modern namesake Tuscany.

              • Bill Murray

                really, Hadrian pretty much severed the political connection to Jerusalem at the end of the Bar Kokhbar Revolt in 135.

              • mikeSchilling

                While the Palestinian Authority and Hamas represent a continuous nation-state dating back to Mohammed.

                • vic rattlehead

                  Which zero people on here have claimed. Thank you for arguing in good faith.

        • elm

          Personally, I think W. Jerusalem should be considered the capital of Israel by the whole world. In my personal two-state solution, E. Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians. What to do with the Old City is horribly complicated, though. An advocate of a two-state solution with an undivided Jerusalem in Israel’s hands is, I think, mistaken but in no way a moral monster.

          Nor do I think that Weisel calling out Hamas for their bad tactics is problematic. Where Weisel falls down on the question of Palestinians was his complete refusal (as far as 8 can tell) to push for their rights. He had a moral voice that might have made a difference and yet, especially in his latter years, he pushed whatever line the Israeli government, even the odious Netanyahu government, was pushing. This made him no different from most other members of Likud, but from Weisel I would have expected better.

          I’m Jewish and I’m a believer in Israel’s right to exist and have been advocating for a two-state solution most of my adult life. Netanyahu has taken us further away from that possibility and deserves tons of criticism for his policies. It is true that many on the left (and, in Otto’s case, the self-described reactionary right) are insensitive to the violence perpetrated against Israelis and have often criticized what they have done in legitimate self-defense. But let’s not let that blind us to when Israel has taken actions outside of self-defense or used disproportionate violence to achieve their legitimate aims. Weisel was so blinded and it’s a real stain on his legacy. Otto and Ceravntes overstate the size of the stain, but it is there nonetheless.

          • Keaaukane

            We should nuke Jerusalem. Take it out of the equation.

            You can send my Nobel Peace Prize in care of Henry Kissinger. Thank you.

          • Gator90

            I’m puzzled by the concept of Israel’s “right to exist.” Nation-states exist until they don’t. Does Belgium have a “right to exist”? Does Ecuador? The Central African Republic? I don’t get it.

            It appears that when people refer to Israel’s “right to exist,” they really mean the “right” of Israeli Jews to maintain, by whatever means necessary, a nation-state with a Jewish majority population. But that doesn’t sound as good, I suppose.

            • elm

              I believe more generally in national self-determination. All nationalities have a right to decide that they want their own state. This can cause problems when multiple nationalities exist in the same geographic space and so the right to national self-determination needs to be balanced against other rights, of course.

              The reason so many people expressly say they support the right of Israel to exist is that the express aim of the Arab states and the PLO (until fairly recently in some case) was to destroy Israel and drive the Jews into the sea.

              For me in the current era, saying Israel has a right to exist is saying I support a two-state solution over a one-state solution. A tw-state solution is problematic but I think it does the best job of balancing the self-determination rights of both Israelis and Palestinians (Palestine, in my opinion, also has a right to exist if the Palestinians want their own state) with other rights. What to do about Jerusalem remains one of the thorniest issues in what is increasingly becoming a pipe dream, though.

              • Gator90

                The 2-state solution was always a pipe dream, in my opinion. If the disputants wanted it, it would have happened a long time ago. To me, the ultimate choices are either permanent apartheid or a single state. My vote, for what it’s worth, would be for the latter.

                • elm

                  If those are the options, I vote for the latter as well, although with something like Belgian-style or pre civil war Lebanon style consociationalism.

                  I’m not yet ready to give up on the two-state solution and while working towards the goal, I obviously think Israel needs to stop the settlements, stop the disproportionate military responses to Palestinian terrorism, and do much more to support the Palestinian economy. This position is well represented in current Israeli politics, though unfortunately it keeps losing to Likud, who is making both one and two state solutions less likely to occur.

            • NewishLawyer

              This is technically true but as far as I know there are not many calls for Ecuador or Belgium or the Central African Republic to dissolve and cease being what they are.

              There are people who want Israel to stop existing as a Jewish state and this is why people call in defense for the right of Israel to exist.

              FWIW I am a firm two-state solution kind of person. Perhaps Jerusalem can be a dual capital or an Open City that is under the administration of the UN. Maybe even use non-Jews, non-Christians, and non-Muslims to admin the Old City.

              • as far as I know there are not many calls for […] Belgium […] to dissolve and cease being what they are.

                You don’t know as far as possible, in this case. I’m sure sonamib can give details. In brief, one reason that Belgium recently went (as someone pointed out here) for two solid years without being able to form a government is that there are a LOT of calls (or at least, enough, and loud enough) for Flanders and Wallonia to separate one way or another. (I was reading about that in various European newspapers before the turn of this century, for that matter.)

                I admit (and maybe this was what you meant to say, but didn’t) that to the best of my knowledge there’s no significant number of such calls being made by non-Belgians.

                • elm

                  Right. And in my view of national self determination if either the Flemish or the Wallonians want to be independent, they have the right to be. What happens to Brussels becomes almost as problematic as what happens to Jerusalem in this scenario, though.

                • What happens to Brussels becomes almost as problematic as what happens to Jerusalem in this scenario, though.

                  Loser gets the Mannequin-Pis!!!

                • Ahuitzotl

                  Each wants the other side to take Brussels?

              • Pseudonym

                Should the Central African Republic that’s in the midst of an ongoing civil war featuring government-aligned forces displacing and massacring Muslim-minority civilians cease existing as a Christian-animist state?

              • bender

                The history of the UN’s dealings with the state of Israel would not lead a reasonable person to expect Israel to trust the UN with the administration of Jerusalem. IMHO.

        • Pseudonym

          Why shouldn’t the capital of a Jewish state be the historical (i.e. from before Islam even existed) holy city of the Jewish people?

          Why shouldn’t Jerusalem be given back to the Canaanites, then, or their descendants, since they lived there before Judaism even existed?

          • Hogan

            Or whatever Melchizedek was.

            • Pseudonym

              Well, I’m going with archaeological rather than scriptural evidence when it comes to the history of the region, since “we committed genocide to get this territory but God told us to so it’s ok” is not an argument for a right to control a certain area of land that I hope many here would find morally persuasive. I mean, Jebus!

            • Melchizedek was a Type of Christ. So I suppose it belongs to the Christians (if only to provide them with a place to blow up in the End Times).

          • Scaramuccia

            That same argument could also be applied to justify the colonization of Hebron, since it was the “historical” capital of the Kingdom of Israel under Saul (according to biblical accounts).

      • manual

        Norman finkelstein’s Holocaust Industry, which was endorsed by Raul Hillberg (who publicly was against Wiesel on the Romani question), goes into detail about Wiesel, Yd Vashem and others publicly pushing back on inclusion of the Romani in the museum because they were not a people and there suffering was different (less important) and were thus not worthy of consideration.

        Because you dont know about this episode does not make it false. I dont know J Otto, but he is right that Wiesel marginzalied the Romani suffering during consideration of the US Holocaust Museum.

        • elm

          I never said the Roma charge was false, just that I was only aware of a single source for it. It appears I was wrong about there only being a single source. I haven’t looked into the question much, but if the accusation is true, then Weisel deserves significant criticism for wanting to keep the Roma out of the Holocaust Museum. Like I’ve said, Weisel was flawed. I don’t think those flaws take away from all the good he did but nor should those flaws be ignored.

      • Origami Isopod

        I think this is by and large a very fair comment, although I agree with Otto on the topic of the Roma (and with you that Otto need not shut up in this thread).

        NewishLawyer makes a good point downthread that what Wiesel suffered undoubtedly influenced his opinions on the Israel/Palestine issue. However, those opinions were shared by and large by a whole generation. I grew up Conservative Jewish in the ‘70s and, to be quite blunt, got the full Zionist indoctrination in Hebrew school. The Holocaust was still very fresh in living memory, and my elders had experienced much more antisemitism than I had (or have since). Also, the internet didn’t yet exist, so American Ashkenazim like me had far less exposure to the voices of Muslims and Arabs. Yes, absolutely, Judenhass is a problem in their world, but many Jews are racist against Muslims and Arabs (and Ashkenazim can be quite racist against Jews who aren’t white, for that matter).

        As a child, I heard all about the atrocities against Jews in WWII. I didn’t learn until adulthood that Roma, LGBT people, or the disabled had also been singled out for destruction. I visited the Holocaust Museum in the mid-‘90s, and while my memory here isn’t trustworthy, I don’t recall much of its content being devoted to any victims other than Jewish ones.

        (ETA: There is also the complicated issue of the Slavs in WWII. They were considered subhuman by the Third Reich, and violence against Eastern Europeans in the UK post-Brexit indicates that Europe still has an issue with Slavs. But they also committed some of the most appalling acts of violence against Jews, particularly in Poland and Romania, supposedly shocking the Nazis from Germany and Austria with their bloodthirst.)

        There are some Jews, even young ones today, who claim that trying to draw attention to any other victims is somehow “derailing” the conversation. I do not agree and I wish they would not speak for me. While it is inappropriate at best and antisemitic at worst to soft-pedal Jewish suffering, it is absolutely critical to acknowledge that we were not Hitler’s only targets. And while I don’t think anti-tziganism is really an issue with the older Jewish generation, if only because Roma aren’t really on the radar here in the U.S., homophobia absolutely influenced their reaction to the inclusion of LGBT people in the list of victims.

        I’m heartened to see that younger Jews, secular or religious, are more enlightened about Palestinian issues. I see quite a few on Tumblr who are trying to balance Zionism with Palestinian rights. I personally don’t think that’s a circle that can be squared, but it’s better than the elder generation’s racism.

        Anyway: Wiesel was a highly important witness to history and writer of it, but he was ultimately a human being with a human being’s biases and, I daresay, a good if mild example of how suffering can degrade rather than ennoble one’s character.

        • Warren Terra

          I think a distinction can be made between the Nazi obsession with destroying the Jews, and their broader notions about racial purity and eugenics – there were a lot of nationalities and types people they wanted to wipe out, but there was one people for whom they created a whole system of laws, sought them out across the continent, about whom they concocted elaborate conspiracy theories, etcetera.

          None of this diminishes Nazi atrocities against the Roma, Gays, Slavs, the disabled, communists, etcetera, and I hope the Holocaust museum covers all of those crimes in full detail – but it doesn’t make them the same, either.

          • Origami Isopod

            That’s fair, but at this point in history I do think more attention needs to be paid to the other groups, and Jewish human-rights groups making allegiances with them (if they haven’t already; admittedly I’m not as well informed on the topic as I could be).

          • Linnaeus

            I think one can make such a distinction, too, but I also agree with Origami Isopod that some more attention ought to be paid to other groups. It’s also worth noting that programs of organized mass murder like Aktion T4 didn’t confine its victims to only Jews and served as a kind of experiment, the lessons of which were then applied to subsequent (and far more deadly in scale) phases of the Holocaust.

            • Origami Isopod

              The pre-WWII predecessors to the Holocaust need a lot more attention too, both in history classes and in the media.

        • elm

          I pretty much agree with everything you said here. Good comment.

          I also received the full indoctrination in Hebrew School in the 80s, though I remember having the Roma, disabled, and homosexuals included as additional victims (they were always discussed as secondary but weren’t ignored..)

          My grandfather was born in Jerusalem in the 20s and was actually arrested by the British when they rounded up Irgun members after the King David Hotel bombing (he claimed to have nothing to do with the bombing, a claim I believe because he had a habit of distorting history to make himself appear more important. If he was even tangentially involved he would be telling the story of him being the mastermind) and spent time in a British prison camp as a result.

          So I got the indoctrination at home as well. It took me awhile to separate the fact from the fiction, and perhaps I have not been wholly successful in doing so, but for such a complex issue, too many on each side see it as entirely black and what.

          • Origami Isopod

            Thanks. Also, I’m glad to hear that other victims started making it into the Hebrew school narrative.

            For me, part of the problem with separating fact from fiction was genuine antisemitism on the left. It’s true that right-wingers conflate antisemitism with good-faith criticism of Israel, and I picked up some of that mentality without realizing how reactionary it was. But those two extremes create a vicious circle that makes it very difficult to sort the issue out, especially in the UK and other countries with a viable left wing. Since the right can’t be expected to dial it back, I think it’s up to the left to. Unfair, yeah, but that’s politics.

            My family is pretty boring in comparison with yours. In comparison with most people’s, tbh.

        • NewishLawyer

          I think the Ashkenazi thing is more American than Israeli. As I understand it, the Israeli left is disliked for being the party of the old Ashkenazi-German-European elite. The right-wing parties in Israel are largely made up of Jews from Middle Eastern countries, the Mizrahi.

          • Origami Isopod

            This is contrary to what I’ve read and heard.

            Also, I’d note that “leftist” does not equal “anti-racist,” as we can see in the U.S.

            • J. Otto Pohl

              Neither the Mizrahi or Ashkenazi are homogenous groups in Israel. The Mizrahi are divided among Moroccan, Yemeni, Persian, and even Bukharan Jews. The Moroccans are the most integrated from what I am told and a lot their culinary culture is now Israeli wide. For instance the fact that every tea break includes fresh mint to put in the tea comes from the Moroccan Jews. The Ashkenazi for lack of a better term here are divided among recent Russian immigrants, the descendents of Yiddish speaking Polish and Lithuanian Jews that mostly came in the 1940s, Romanian Jews, and Jews from other European countries and the US. The Russian Jews having been born in the USSR generally prefer to speak Russian and use Hebrew to communicate with the other Jewish communities. I suspect this is also true with some of the Mizrahi for instance Arab speaking Jews from Yemen and Persian speaking Jews from Iran. Interestingly enough I am told that the Bukharan Jews in Israel prefer Russian to Persian (Tajik). The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. But, if they need more languages on a sign the they will generally put Russian and English and sometimes add Amharic. That is about all I could figure out in the brief time I was there.

              • Origami Isopod

                Well, thanks for the backgrounder, but the heterogeneity of those groups doesn’t preclude Ashkenazi racism against them, any more than the heterogeneity of Latin or Asian Americans has protected them from racism in the U.S.

        • J. Otto Pohl

          Romania isn’t Slavic. It is Latinate. Although the Antonescu regime did exterminate many of the Jews in Moldova and Transniestr. You might be thinking of the NDH (Independent State of Croatia) which was slavic although both the Ustashe and Berlin claimed that this was in language only and not in blood.

          • Origami Isopod

            Romanian, both the language and ethnicity, are very, very mixed in terms of Latinate and Slavic influences, as well as other influences such as Hungarian and whatever indigenous population was there when the Roman soldiers arrived. But I take your point.

        • Scaramuccia

          That was a great comment, a pleasure to read. Thank you.

          • Origami Isopod

            You’re welcome, and thanks.

  • Nick Conway

    I don’t know much about Elie Wiesel, I read Night only once, in high school. But despite reading it nearly 10 years ago, I still regularly remember and think about several sections of that book.

    A lot of students are required to read Night, and I think for most of them it will end up being the darkest thing they ever read, watch, listen to, etc., by far. The level of pain and suffering that it reveals to students is incredibly important; Night is really unique in playing that role in the american education system. Whatever else has gone on with Wiesel’s other views (I’m not familiar with those debates), his writings have had a huge impact on millions of people.

    “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
    Never shall I forget that smoke.
    Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
    Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
    Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
    Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
    Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.

    • Larrry

      Yes, good writing. Wiesel wrote well. He did however FORGET to apply his own experiences to people that the recurring racist governments of Israel have chosen to oppress, otherwise smash, and slowly exterminate. Wiesel’s were sins of omission and banal hypocritical self-serving rationalization. To a real but lesser extent, he became a ‘good German’. He was cognizant of his moral complicity in Israel’s crimes against humanity but rationalized his way into a cul de sac of moral deformity.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        Regarding Israel it was more than omission. Even Israelis have found Wiesel’s unconditional support of the current government to be problematic.


      • NewishLawyer

        He was also a human being and all human beings are flawed. He suffered great anti-Semitism as a child and teenager and this probably led him to being a defender of Jews above all.

        I don’t think this is necessarily good but it seems perfectly psychologically understandable.

        Hamas are not merely fighting for a Palestinian State like Israel is a Jewish State. They are anti-Jewish fanatics who want nothing but an Islamic presence in the Middle East especially in the areas of Israel and Palestine. They are not freedom fighters or allies in arms of the left. They are anti-democratic, anti-woman, anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-LBGT zealots. I understand critiques of Likkud and further right-wing Zionism as extremist and wrong. I don’t understand people on the left who maintain defenses of Hamas and Hezbollah.

        • Joseph Slater

          I co-sign what Newish Lawyers says. Beyond that, the whole Israel-Palestne issue is massively complex, morally and practically, and oversimplification by some parts of the current left too often do drift into anti-Semitism territory.

          • Warren Terra

            Yeah, I mostly avoid Israel-Palestine debates for just this reason, and it’s on display plenty in the comments here today (as it was last week when Corbyn decided to equate Israel with Daesh, and some people seemed to be dabating whether he’d done no such thing, or whether he’d been perfectly right to do so).

            • farin

              This is yet another case where a general consensus to use “Daesh” rather than “Islamic State” would save confusion and hurt. Corbyn compared Israel to “self-styled Islamic states or organizations,” which doesn’t demand much charity to understand as a reference to, e.g., the Islamic Republic of Iran or Hamas, whose name is short for “Islamic Resistance Movement.”

              • Warren Terra

                I’m sorry, I’ve lost all patience with this nonsense, and you and your inconceivably grandiose (and, quite possibly, convenient) amounts of “patience” can fnck right off. Because it is an insult to good Muslims to grant to that organized group of assholes who practice atrocities within the territory they have seized in Syria and Iraq, and further afield, the name they desire of being the “Islamic State”, they are referred to in various ways: by acronym, by “Daesh”, and by instead calling them the “self-styled”-Islamic State. All of this is standard practice, and nobody, no matter how inconceivably charitable they might be, need have any doubt that a reference to the bad actions of a “self-styled Islamic State” will be taken as a reference to Daesh and its atrocities, and not interpreted as a criticism of restrictions on press freedom in Malaysia.

      • AMK

        As he makes very clear in the book (I had to read it in school too), Wiesel was a religious Zionist—believing that God set aside the historical Israel for Jews as a divinely chosen nation–when he was a yeshiva student growing up in Romania/Hungary, long before he experienced the Holocaust. So it’s not exactly some kind of huge hidden “gotcha” that he turned out to be a hawk on Israel, or that he sees Israel in primarily ethno-religious terms. We can of course disagree with his thinking on that issue but it’s not like he’s trying to hide anything.

        • Warren Terra

          Really? A child growing up as an oppressed minority on territory soaked with the blood of his murdered ancestors embraces the notion that a magical man has promised he and the people he knows and loves should be able to live somewhere else, where they can control their own destiny and not get murdered in the streets, preparatory to the process being industrialized? And all of this without nuance or an understanding of its implications for other people living in that promised land?

          Next you’ll reveal that unhappy children dream they’re adopted and will discover their real parents.

  • lsimmonds

    I saw Scotty Moore play at a rockabilly fest at Lake Irvine with X not too long ago… ok like 15+ years ago, but still very much post Elvis.

  • wetzel

    I really love The Deer Hunter. In my sense of it, the depictions of the Vietnamese are not prurient in the way that similar depictions in a Steven Siegal movie would be. The scenes that come in for criticism are deeply embedded within the traumatized, first person point of view of DeNiro’s character. I guess this is the same kind of argument as to why Ulysses isn’t obscene. War is a phantasmagoria that makes people see devils. Maybe there’s some cognitive dissonance going on here because I love the movie. Maybe some different choices could have been made. Maybe so, but whatever the case, the movie’s merits still put it among the greatest films. It’s definitely among the half dozen greatest films about war. I think it deserves a more thoughtful critique.

    • Dilan Esper

      I basically agree with this. Erik makes this film sound like “The Green Berets” or one of the hokey propagandistic World War II movies. “The Deer Hunter” is a complex film with complex themes, and the characters’ subjective experiences of what happened to them in Vietnam is at the center of it.

    • Honoré De Ballsack

      The scenes that come in for criticism are deeply embedded within the traumatized, first person point of view of DeNiro’s character.

      As noted above, I’ve only seen The Deer Hunter once (somewhere around 2005)–but if the director’s intent in the scenes in question was to show events from the De Niro character’s distorted POV, then he was unsuccessful. As a viewer, I never got any sense that any part of the film wasn’t supposed to be from an “omniscient narrator” point of view.

      • vic rattlehead

        Surely you’ll agree that trying and failing in good faith to say something deserves more credit and less excoriation than blind uncritical bigotry?

        • Honoré De Ballsack

          Just to clarify: I don’t think Cimino deliberately used crude stereotypes of Asians in an attempt to tell the story through the eyes of De Niro’s character. I think he used crude stereotypes of Asians because it was standard practice for American filmmakers at the time to do so, and it didn’t occur to him to do otherwise.

          That said, I don’t think the racist elements in The Deer Hunter somehow render the film invalid or unsuccessful overall (although seeing it in 2016, it definitely feels dated.)

          Edit: See also Bruce Vail at 10:04 below.

          • Halloween Jack

            I think he used crude stereotypes of Asians because it was standard practice for American filmmakers at the time to do so, and it didn’t occur to him to do otherwise.

            See, for example, Long Duk Dong in the otherwise-charming sixteen Candles.

  • It’s been over 30 years since I watched The Deer Hunter so I don’t recall any controversy about the film being racist.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      There was a huge controversy over the film’s depiction of the Vietnamese and its use of Russian roulette, unknown in the actual experience of the Vietnam War. As Peter Biskind recalled in a 2008 essay in Vanity Fair, there were even protestors at the Oscars:

      “As the golden night approached, the backlash against The Deer Hunter gathered strength. When the limos pulled up to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on April 9, 1979, they were met by demonstrators, mostly from the Los Angeles chapter of Vietnam Vets Against the War, waving placards covered with slogans that read, no oscars for racism and the deer hunter a bloody lie. Washburn, up for best original screenplay, claims his limousine was pelted with stones. According to Variety, ‘Police and The Deer Hunter protesters clashed in a brief but bloody battle that resulted in 13 arrests,'”

      • MikeJake

        There was a huge controversy over the film’s depiction of the Vietnamese and its use of Russian roulette, unknown in the actual experience of the Vietnam War.

        Every book I’ve read about Vietnam notes the corruption and decadence of the South Vietnamese regimes. The Russian roulette scenes have a sort of “inscrutable Asian” vibe to them, but they also stand in as a symbol of the moral rot in Saigon.

  • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

    Don’t forget that Steven Bochco was also listed as a co-writer
    for Silent Running. At least he avoided being quite as anvilicious
    in his future work, and at least somewhat more modest in his ambitions that Cimino.
    I don’t know what it is about directors that make them think longer
    is better. There should be a 90 minute rule for film-makers.
    Anything over 90 minutes is padding.
    As you might expect, overlong movies are one of my pet peeves.

    • erick

      I agree with Ebert who said something to the affect that a 90 minute movie can feel like it never ends and a 3 hour movie can fly by leaving you wanting more. It is about quality not length.

      • bender

        Once upon a time, three hour Hollywood movies had an intermission with music, so people could attend to their physical needs. I wish that practice were revived.

      • Halloween Jack

        Stephen King once described a horror movie as being the sort that, halfway through the first reel, you wish you had a cigarette. I get that completely, and I don’t smoke.

    • Nick056

      I just watched The Fly this week, which is a masterpiece of economy at about 90 minutes. But Once Upon A Time in America (a movie whose release, reception, and critical afterlife parallels Heaven’s Gate in some ways) cannot be too long. Every version of that movie that added originally cut footage has enhanced it.

  • Todd

    I never saw the theater version of “Heaven’s Gate” that UA cut up and ruined. But the restored longer cut that Criterion released a few years ago is terrific. One of the better American westerns. I thought “Deer Hunter” was terrific as well. Cimino created some of the finest images and sequences in American film and he also got excellent performances from his actors. He didn’t care so much about narrative coherence, or budgets or film schedules.

  • Bruce Vail

    The Deer Hunter is much more notable as an event in the re-interpretation of the Vietnam war by the American public than it is a cinematic event. As a movie, I don’t think it holds up very well at all.

    Coming along in 1978, it reassured Americans that they were indeed good people but they had made a mistake fighting for the undeserving Vietnamese. Indeed, the movie tells us that the Americans were the real victims of the war, because the American were essentially virtuous while the dirty nasty gooks just got what the deserved.

    • This.

      • Nick056

        “This” is just as uncharitable as that assessment of Haggard that drove you up a wall a few months ago.

        Tell us again how much you dislike overly simplified socialist cultural criticism.

        The AV Club’s obit if Cimino has a good, full discussion. Of his work, including why The Deer Hunter is remarkable. Neither the article nor the discussion in comments neglect the problematic racial aspects, and the reaction to them. But dismissing the movie outright as not very good and also mostly notable for its racism is just a staggering example of ideology demanding bad taste.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Loomis defended H Rider Haggard?

    • J. Otto Pohl

      That is one interpretation and very uncharitable one. The basic narrative that I think evolved was that the war itself was a mistake but that the US soldiers (many of them conscripts) that fought in it were not the villians. Rather it was the politicians like MacNamara, Kissinger, Johnson, and Nixon that bore the blame. The war was a mistake for many reasons but chief among them was that it was unwinnable. A big part of the reason it was unwinnable was the corruption and incompetence of the RVN government and ARVN officers. The problems of the various South Vietnamese dictatorships does not mean that most Americans thought that all Vietnamese are bad. I was a child in the 70s. But, I do know by the 1980s that the largest settlement of Vietnamese in the US in OC was fairly well accepted. So yes most Americans that fought in Vietnam were no different from those that fought in any other war and a number were extremely brave and honorable men. BTW, I think that was basically the case with the Soviet soldiers that fought in Afghanistan as well. I have visited the Afghan War memorial here in Bishkek twice recently.

      • Hogan

        There is still some controversy in the US over who exactly held the knife that stabbed us in the back. See, e.g., the 2004 presidential campaign.

    • mikeSchilling

      Not just dirty, nasty Vietnamese. Every non-American character in the movie is evil and treacherous.

    • jamesepowell

      Just one person’s view, along with what I recall from my contemporaries.

      We watched this film closely and more than once when it came out because a lot of it was filmed in the beloved home town and we considered it “ours” in this respect. See also, A Christmas Story. So we watched it and we analyzed & talked it to death.

      We were not the generation who faced the draft, but our older brothers did. We knew the basic facts of the Vietnam War fairly well; it was something we had been reading & talking about every day for several years.

      I can only speak for myself and my cohort, but I don’t recall anyone who considered The Deer Hunter a re-interpretation of the Vietnam war. It was still a very fresh experience and no one needed such a thing. We didn’t think the movie was “about” the Vietnam war in the same way that Coming Home, Boys in Company C, and later Apocalypse Now! were. The Deer Hunter was about male bonding, small towns, shattered expectations. The God Bless America singing at the end was an attempt to hold on to something that was already gone.

  • Origami Isopod


    Caroline Aherne, British comedian, 52, cancer.

    Robin Hardy, Wicker Man director, 86, cause not given.

    Michel Rocard, Socialist French ex-PM who’d told the UK to leave the EU before they destroyed it (2014), 85, cause not given (though he had suffered a blood clot in 2011).

    • Todd

      Geoffrey Hill, too.

      • Vance Maverick

        I have mixed feelings about Hill’s poetry. Highly accomplished, but I’m not sure what I would return to. Mercian Hymns is certainly enjoyable.

    • LFC

      @Origami Isopod

      Wow, I’m glad I read/scrolled down this far in the thread, b/c I had no idea that Michel Rocard had died. I’m old enough and interested enough in the European left that that name definitely means something to me. Must go read an obit.

      • LFC

        p.s. And speaking of the Vietnam War, Michael Herr, author of Dispatches, died recently, in case that hasn’t already been mentioned here.

        • Origami Isopod


          I know that famous people at varying levels of fame die every year, but 2016 has really been something else.

  • ajay

    1. After a terrorist attack on Istanbul, Loomis asks: “Where’s all my Facebook friends changing their image status to the Turkish flag like they did with the French flag after the Paris attacks? Where’s all the talks about the threat to the glorious Turkish civilization? Where’s the 24/7 news coverage? It’s almost as if these things only matter to Americans if they happen to other white countries! If it’s outside Europe or one of its white settler states, it’s just another thing happening to those people.”

    2. On the day that 119 people die in terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Loomis puts up a post headed “The Dear and Departed”, memorialising a white American has-been director who made his only decent film before most of us were born, and a retired white American session guitarist.

    • Origami Isopod

      Your point is taken, but it’s a little odd you don’t mention that the post also memorializes Wiesel, in fact includes a photo of him but not photos of the other two.

    • LFC

      Pt taken (and E.L. also didn’t mention the attack in Dhaka), but consistency may be a lot to ask of someone who posts so much. I’m pretty amazed at how much he posts, even if a lot of it is finding and quoting stuff; even that takes time.

      [Also btw re “made only decent film before most of us were born”: if you mean ‘Deer Hunter’, I’m outside that “most of us”: 21 yrs old when it was released and I remember seeing it in a theater.]

    • I await your useful comments on the endless number of posts highlighting labor conditions and dead workers in nations you probably can’t find on a map.

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