There is something terribly off to me about Elliot Rodger’s video and literary cris de coeur about not being able to get any from young women in Isla Vista, the town that’s adjacent to the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus.

“I’ve been alone for a very long time. I’ve been attending college in Santa Barbara for 2 and half years now. And in those 2.5 years I’ve experienced nothing but loneliness and misery,” he said in a YouTube video.

“It doesn’t make sense. I do everything I can to appear attractive to you,” Rodger said in a message to women in general. “I dress nice. I’m sophisticated. I’m magnificent. I have a nice car… I’m the ultimate gentleman. And yet, you girls you never give me a chance. I don’t know why.”

The why, I suspect, was that the young man (unconsciously, I assume) went out of his way to not hook up with a young woman as a way of validating his feelings of inferiority. To have sex with women would entail belonging to a club who would have him as a member and thereby blow apart his worldview in which he’s not good enough.

I offer these armchair psychiatric opinions because Isla Vista is renowned—infamous, actually—for its easy sexual action for anyone not Quasimodo, and Rodger wasn’t. On Thursday-Saturday nights, the streets, particularly Del Playa Drive, which runs from the campus west along a bluff above the beach, are a moveable Bacchanalia.

In fact, according to Princeton Review’s annual ranking of party schools, UCSB is currently ranked number two in the nation. The only surprise is that it’s not number one.

A few years ago I spent a lot of time in Isla Vista, investigating the wrongful conviction of a young man for rape. The subtext of the whole sorry, tragic mess was the area’s party atmosphere, where almost anything goes at any time, all of it fueled by copious amounts of alcohol as the sheriffs and university officials look the other way.

One city worker told me that the morning crews in charge of cleaning the sidewalks and small corner parks regularly find used condoms and discarded panties. It seems that not getting laid in Isla Vista is significantly harder than getting laid.

That Rodger so clearly needed psychiatric help which he wasn’t getting is obvious. I wonder why his family, who knew enough to alert the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Department to his ravings, didn’t intervene personally by, say, taking him home.

For that matter, I wonder why the sheriffs didn’t bother connecting the dots between his ravings, his previous contacts with them, and the state’s gun registry, which would have noted three rather recent legal purchases.

Actually, I don’t wonder. And for good reason. Owing to my experience with the department regarding that wrongful rape conviction, which was abominably botched (criminally so, in my opinion), I have just above zero respect for the Santa Barbara sheriffs. So their not connecting the dots is, to me, just S.O.P.

It’s Isla Vista, Jake.

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Gordon Willis, the renowned cinematographer, died on Sunday. If he had shot only the two Godfather films, he’d still be mourned as a serious artist. I never met the man but I do have a personal story that says as much about him as it does the wannabe culture of Los Angeles.

It happened on a Friday morning in spring 1979. My (then) girlfriend and I left Malibu at about eight o’clock for the hour drive in heavy traffic to Westwood, where we were eager to get in line for the first showing of Woody Allen’s newest film, Manhattan. In the days before multiplexes, even A-list films played in only a few theaters located several zip codes apart.

Sure enough, the line was already formed when we got there, and would quickly grow long enough to sell out—this for a weekday 10 am showing of not the next blockbuster in the Star Wars saga but a Woody Allen film. Everyone was sure he would atone for his last film, Interiors, his stab at a Bergmanesque family drama so intentionally devoid of humor that it was unintentionally hilarious. That it had followed Annie Hall magnified our disappointment with it.

The atmosphere in the auditorium buzzed. Judging by the chatter, I doubt there was anyone among the several hundred people who didn’t know that (a) the film was shot in black and white, and (b) Allen was again working with his favorite cinematographer, Gordon Willis. This was, after all, L.A., where residency is supposed to confer company-town familiarity with everyone and everything Hollywood.

When the lights dimmed, several voices actually ssshed the crowd, something I’d never heard. Once it was dark, the opening notes of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue brought sighs of contentment—except for one thing. The images that had faded in onscreen were blurred. What?

After 20 or 30 seconds of this, I began shouting, “Focus!” Maybe because I’d already done it, no one else yelled. Or maybe it was because, well—

“Hey, man,” the guy behind me said, tapping me on the shoulder, “it’s Gordon Willis.”

I looked at him like the idiot he was, turned back around, and shouted “Focus, focus, focus, focus…” Some people actually ssshed me, including the guy behind me.

A few moments later the film stopped and the house lights came on. A young man ran down in front of the screen and apologetically explained that the film had arrived just minutes before the showing, so they hadn’t had time to correct the throw, which apparently was different because of the black and white photography.  He said they were already rewinding and would start the film again in mere seconds.

The lights went down, the music came up, and onscreen appeared gorgeous tableaux of New York City, one shot after another composed like paintings.

After several of them, I turned around to the guy behind me and, with barely suppressed glee, said, “Now that’s Gordon Willis.”

R.I.P.

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The Los Angeles Times—which intentionally ignored allegations that presidential candidate John Edwards was having an extramarital affair; which has all but ignored the IRS’s targeting of tea-part groups since Lois Lerner invoked the Fifth in front of Congress; which has refused to investigate the death of four Americans, including an ambassador, in Benghazi last fall—finally has a scandal worth devoting 2,200 words to:

Adult film actress Sarah Shevon drove up the Pacific Coast Highway one spring evening last year to a job she said her talent agent had booked for her at a gated Malibu estate on Dume Drive.

Shevon said she came dressed as instructed in a plaid “schoolgirl” skirt and a white blouse knotted up at her midriff, expecting to make $300 to act in a sex scene on camera.

After parking her green 1997 Toyota Tercel in front of the five-bedroom Mediterranean villa, Shevon said, she walked in and met her costar, a well-dressed man who asked to be called “Mr. Rich.”

The performer also acted as camera operator, she said, but he was no pro.

“Mr. Rich,” the 29-year-old actress believes, was Richard Nanula, who until last month was chairman of the Miramax film company and a principal at the private equity firm Colony Capital.

Nanula, 53, resigned from those positions July 7 after two websites published video images of a man they identified as Nanula having sex with adult film actress Samantha Saint.

And this is a scandal worthy of the front business page why?

Indeed, the story is full of breathlessly stupid observations designed to somehow make us think that this is genuinely in the public interest.

In the adult entertainment industry, it’s known as a “private”: an intimate, off-camera encounter between a porn actress and a paying customer.

Two years ago, Sarah Shevon said, fellow actress Trinity St. Clair asked her to perform a private with a man at a Malibu home. Oral sex would be expected for a $1,500 fee. Shevon said she saw it as an act of prostitution and declined. …

Shevon says she acted in a film that included a sex scene with a man she believes was Hollywood executive Richard Nanula.

“I don’t like how there are these guys who have a lot of money and power and they feel like they can just take advantage of girls or get whatever they want out of them by throwing money at them,” she said.

Right. A porn actress who has sex for money, but only if the cameras are rolling, complains that rich guys feel like they can buy what they want.  Who knew?!

Here’s a reminder of what the LA Times said two weeks ago about Roman Polanski: that he was

convicted of having sex with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977…

Got that? A middle-age man drugs and forces himself on a 13-year-old, and to the Times it’s just sex.

Now let’s recall what Times reviewer Kenneth Turan had to say in 1995 about Miramax‘s Kids, a truly disturbing film that begins with a 16-year-old boy deflowering a 12-year-old girl, a scene that Turan described thusly:

Directed in neo-documentary style by photographer Larry Clark in his feature debut, “Kids” follows the exploits, such as they are, of teen-age Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick), known to intimates as “the virgin surgeon.” The film opens with him operating on his next victim, and then, in the most explicit language screenwriter Harmony Korine could dream up, sharing all the details with his drooling pal Caspar (Justin Pierce).

And yet a divorced man whose sexual life ought to be between himself and his partners finds himself taken down by a newspaper that has no consistent standards.  It would not be unreasonable to suspect that the Times was asked by someone—an enemy of Nanula—to devise what can only be termed a shameless hit piece.

When the Koch brothers were said to be interested in purchasing the Times, the newsroom threatened mass resignations.  How ironic.  Under the Kochs ownership, it’s a good bet that this story would never have been assigned.

If sexual propriety is the new standard for covering film executives, will we soon see in the Times a piece on the prominent exec who is also the author of gay-porn books?  I hope not.

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Thought For the Days

July 16, 2013

Let’s say you’re the author of the greatest mystery story ever told. Do you give away the big secret before the end, knowing that a lot of people won’t bother with the rest?  Or do you ignore the constant carping and let everyone get to the ending on their own?

Just asking.

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Slavery: Then and Now

July 14, 2013

In Orange County, a Saudi princess was arrested for forcing a Kenyan woman to work as her slave.   No surprise, she quickly posted her $5 million bail.  Via the LA Times:

Alayban was arrested early Wednesday by police at her Irvine home in a gated community where they say she forced a 30-year-old to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for only $220 a month. She was unable to leave because Alayban kept the woman’s passport and documents, police say. …

In addition to the Kenyan woman, police said officers found four other workers being held under similar circumstances at Alayban’s residence. Their passports had been locked in a safe-deposit box along with the alleged victim’s, Rackauckas said. No charges have been filed in relation to the four other women, but Rackauckas said further charges are possible.

Orange County prosecutors identified Alayban as one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

There are a lot of things that frankly puzzle me.  Among them is why so many African Americans have turned to Islam, whose thousand-year history of enslaving sub-Saharan Africans (and selling them to Western slave traders) legally ended only a few decades ago but unofficially continues to this day.

During my research for the book L.A. ’56: A Devil in the City of Angels, a true-crime drama that revolves around the issue of racism in 1956 Los Angeles, I spent weeks poring through back issues on microfiche of two local black weeklies, The Los Angeles Sentinel and the (now defunct) California Eagle.

It was in the Eagle that I spotted a full-page advertisement urging a no vote on Proposition 4.  The headline, OIL MONEY SUPPORTS THE ARABIAN SLAVE TRADE, was set above a photo of black-skinned men and women who were identified as being in a Saudi slave market, awaiting buyers.  I couldn’t actually ascertain what the proposition was about, only that it would benefit the big oil companies.  Anyway, the proposition itself seemed beside the point.

Proposition No. 4, an OIL MONOPOLY bill, will shut in [sic] California oil production. It will flood the state with Arabian oil. That means millions of dollars more will go into the pockets of those who are BUYING AND SELLING HUMAN BEINGS in the legalized slave markets of the Middle East! In Saudi Arabia alone, there are more than 500,000 slaves.

Last year Standard Oil and its importing allies (Arabian-American Oil Co.) paid King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia $250 million in oil royalties – money that helps make a big business of the slave trade. The Wall Street Journal on April 10 described the slave market as a “byproduct of oil prosperity”:…

HERE’S what the NAACP said in a resolution adopted at its San Francisco convention just a month ago:

“Resolved, that the NAACP takes cognizance of the United Nations report relating to slave trade in the Middle East and demand that the State Department…discourage and eliminate the trafficking in human beings as it now exists in Saudi Arabia.”

A “NO” VOTE AGAINST PROPOSITION NO. 4 IS A VOTE AGAINST HUMAN SLAVERY!

That was in 1956.  Here’s from a 2005 report by our own State Department:

The Government of Saudi Arabia does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Saudi Arabia has moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3 because of its lack of progress in anti-trafficking efforts, particularly its failure to protect victims and prosecute those guilty of involuntary servitude. Despite reports of trafficking and abuses of domestic and other unskilled workers and children, there is evidence of only one Saudi Government prosecution of a Saudi employer for a trafficking-related offense during the reporting period.

So you see, the Saudi princess was just conforming to her cultural norms.  Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on her.

Minister Farrakhan could not be reached for comment.  Either that or no one tried.

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Starry, Starry Knight

July 6, 2013

This has been, by any measure, a harsh week for our president.  Being blamed by both sides in Egypt—the Muslim Brotherhood side on one hand and the, uh, non Muslim Brotherhood  on the other—for the intolerable conditions and political chaos has got to hurt.

After all, it bumps up against his good intentions and his well-founded belief, ratified over and over again in the years before he ascended to the presidency, that his words alone had the power to move the masses.  “Yes, we can!” he asserted–and we agreed.

At home, things aren’t much better. The president’s signature piece of legislation, Obamacare, is running into some operational difficulties that this week required him to announce that one major facet of the bill pertaining to employers of over 50 employees won’t be enforced for another year.

True, it was news to many of us that bills duly passed by Congress and signed into law by a president can be simply ignored until a more convenient time.  But still, we must accept responsibility for not doing as we were instructed, thereby forcing President Obama to endure the displeasure of knowing that we who are below him on the ladder of life have failed his plans for us.

One image kept coming to mind this week.  And one song.  The lyrics must run through his mind as he stands there contemplating the mess we wouldn’t let him fix:

“This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”

Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will

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