Sunday the Frau and I went to the Tampa Theater to see Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The Tampa Theater is neat, one of only a few Theatrical Palaces left from the 20’s it has been restored and maintained by the City of Tampa. The Wurlitzer Organ itself is worth a trip, recently the 103 year old organist passed away, Rosie was enormously popular among “her children.”

Metropolis was one of the few American screenings of this restored and digitally remastered version, with 25 minutes of “lost” footage.

Having just finished Charlie Chan by Yunte Huang, which wonderfully recreated the world of film from the 20’s and 30’s, I felt purposefully challenged to experience what the audiences from the 20’s would have felt in watching this epic film. And it’s usually fun to go to the Tampa Theater and listen to the Wurlitzer.

Unfortunately that was all the fun of the 3.5 hours of talking heads and the movie. After decades of film evolution I gotta say that watching a 2 ½ hour silent flick was not fun. The film itself was ridiculously melodramatic and the “acting” ……..well it wasn’t. Acting from the 30’s was infinitely better than this. Even Fritz Lang grew to hate this flick and called it silly. There may have been 10 minutes of interesting footage and the rest belongs in a silent museum. I give it thumbs down, or better yet, a middle finger salute.


Charlie Chan

I am reading a new book written by a Chinese Professor of English at Berkley. Yunte Haung first lived in Tuscaloosa after “escaping” from  Tianamen Square and immigrating to the US. Hard to imagine the cultural shock that must have been. He has written very penetrating and surprising history of one of the great movie Icons of the 20’s 30’s and 40’s. Majoring in American Studies this kind of “cultural history” is right in the middle of my sweet spot. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas to come since ordering the book (not on the stands yet) when it came yesterday I opened it just like a present and I haven’t been able to put it down. I don’t want to finish it but I still can’t put it down.

While growing up in the Florida  panhandle in the 50’s was great fun, there was a limit to cultural entertainment. In fact there really was none except what came from the library, movies, radio and TV. So I read and watched a lot of movies, both at the air conditioned theater and on TV. One of my favorite genres was mystery . I inhaled The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Pirot, Dr. FuManchu and Charlie Chan. I loved all their eccentricities. Living around an ethnically diverse Air Force Base was kinda interesting for me. I just naturally embraced people of different cultures cause they were much more interesting to talk to than the red necks that would have comprised the entire population if not for the Base. So I just never “got” prejudice and bigotry until later when MLK and the Civil rights workers were slain.

Anyway I loved Charlie Chan for the entertainment and it never occurred to me that he was a stereotype and that people really disliked Asian folks long before Pearl Harbor. Turns out that Charlie was based on a real life detective on the Honolulu PD, Chang Apana, whose real life history is just as interesting as Charlie’s character. Haung divides the book into 5 sections: The Real Charlie Chan (Apana), Charlies Pop (author Earl Biggers ) Charlie Chan, The Chinaman, Charlie Chan At The Movies, Charlie Chan Carries On. The book covers 70 years and moves smoothly around the world for cultural and factual background, spending just enough time to tell one the time without building a clock.


Haung includes a list of “Chanisms” in the Appendix’s and I select one to conclude.

“Front seldom tell truth. To know occupants of house, always look in back yard.”

He really looked in America’s back yard.

What If?

What if we actually took politics seriously? I mean does anyone really look at the divine comedy that passes for leadership today as serious? What if it were? What if somehow, someway, when a person got elected they actually became responsible and accountable to the people that they represent?

What if a national referendum was held to agree on what is really important for our leadership to be focused on and they were incentivized to focus on only those things until they were completed? Incentive is of course largely measured in pay. So if their pay was tied to performance on the strategic issues only, would they deal with them instead of the flavor of the day?

Further, what if the national budget could only be spent on the strategic issues, we would have to make it illegal to spend money on anything that was not previously agreed upon as mission critical in the strategic plan. We would have to restrict sources of revenue so that special interests could not buy” pay to play” access.

Tying budget to performance would be essential but not enough. What if we expanded the law relating to treason to include devious performance by elected officials so that, not only would they be incented by pay but also disincented  by penalty.

Once this framework was approved the next critical aspect would be establishing the vision and strategy to fulfill it. What if, during this process the will of the people actually agreed in plurality on the strategies and that they agreed that our focus would be on these only? Metrics were established that measured success and that these metrics were reviewed by everyone on a daily basis. Everyone could be given a pocket card that lists the strategic points and their metrics, when election time came, those points would be essential to a candidate’s election or defeat.

I know what I would favor and not favor for our elected officials to deal with I wonder how many folks would agree with my list and how many would have additions or deletions.

Defense (foreign & domestic)






I would disallow budget/metrics for

Social welfare/reform

Human Services