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Sep 6, 2011           

Movies  and movie stars

I certainly haven't finished about evil genes I wrote lately about, in
since - for one striking example - Amsterdam's municipal government seems to be (dis)graced with several aldermen and mayors who are excellent examples of the thesis, but for the moment want to turn to something different.

As it happens, while I suppose I am remarkably learned and well-read in several fields, which has to do with things as having no TV since over 40 years, having a well-equipped brain, and having a strong interest in abstract subjects related to philosophy and logic that few are really interested in, I certainly also am remarkably ignorant in several ways, notably about things relating to TV, popular culture (as I think it is known, somewhat grandiloquently), sports, and movies.

This is mostly so because I simply don't much care for such things, or actively dislike them, and I certainly don't suffer being ignorant in these fields, but then I also do miss things and people that are worthwile, due to my not having a TV and not having gone to see movies for decades (being ill, and also not being much impressed by most movies I saw).

Then again, I have fast internet since 2009, and that really makes a great difference in what I can access and find things out about, e.g. via Wikipedia and Youtube.

Indeed, it seems to me that fast internet changed my own personal relation to knowledge and culture, as it in fact also does to anyone else having fast internet, namely by making what's known as "civilization" and "culture" (high and low senses of both) far more easily accessible and searchable than it was before - which is another theme I want to take up one of these days, since it is both quite important and quite interesting, but that I here mention only in passing, since I now want to get to a few examples of this, rather than abstract considerations about fast internet.

One of the few things I liked on TV but did not see much of, having no TV myself since 1970, and also having only access to Dutch TV at the time I could have seen it earlier, that did show some but not most  of it, was The Dick Cavett Show, because Cavett clearly was an intelligent interviewer with many interesting guests.

But then I didn't see much of it at the time it was originally broadcast, either in the US or a bit later and - I suppose, but don't know for certain - quite selectively in the Netherlands, in the 1970ies.

Now there is internet with Youtube, and it turns out there's rather a lot from the Dick Cavett shows on line (and much more available on DVD, as you can find out by way of the last two links), and it is thus that I picked up - among other things, such as shows with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and Orson Welles - interesting interviews by him with Richard Burton and with Katharine Hepburn.

As it happens, being remarkably ignorant in some fields of knowledge, as I said, I didn't know much about either of them. In fact, the only films with them that I recalled seeing, I suppose in the Sixties, are "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf" with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the leading parts, and "Bringing up baby" with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in the lead.

Burton turns out to have been an intelligent man from a large Welsh miners family with a major alcohol problem, who was probably a good actor - I have only seen one film with him, in which he was quite good, and otherwise don't know and can't say - but otherwise, apart perhaps from his private life, if one is interested in the lives of movie stars, which I am not, not particularly interesting.

I do not mean to sound dismissive - add "in the way e.g. Galileo and Newton were", to "not particularly interesting", if you want to get my point: surely Burton would have agreed, for as I said: he really was an intelligent man - and I also do believe movie actors, as types or roles, are quite interesting in principle, namely as public personas that function in a rather special way in the civilizations they are famous in, also in ways that were not open to actors until there was film, especially because until film and TV it was not given to anyone to be known as a face and a moving character to many millions in many countries, and also as a kind of role-model for many, on and off stage, but then again, while Burton was presumably a good actor and an intelligent man, he does not stand out as very special beyond that (*).

Katharine Hepburn does, as you can find out if you didn't know, by following the Wikipedia link: She was
quite interesting: Very beautiful, really smart, quite an independent person, a great actress who did every sort of role and acting, both on stage and in film, and clearly also a woman of quite a few talents, including athletics, conversation and, it seems, painting. She also had a degree in history and philosophy, from Bryn Mawr. (**)

Wikipedia quotes a source to the effect that she was
"arguably the most interesting, difficult, challenging woman in the history of American pictures."
and the reasons for that - which seems a fair estimate to me - were mostly her intelligence and independent mindedness, both human qualities that I like a lot, and see in few. Here is another thing I like about her, that also gives a source I mentioned above, also quoted from Wikipedia:
Regarding religion, Hepburn stated in her 1973 interview with Dick Cavett that although she agreed with Christian principles, and thought highly of Jesus Christ, she did not believe in religion or the afterlife. She told a journalist in October 1991 "I'm an atheist and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people."
I'll probably write more about her, because I like her type, and she clearly was a great actress with a fine mind and some interesting ideas. Here I'll end with describing what does seem rather special about her and makes or should make her an example for many:

Katharine Hepburn was blessed with most of the advantages many women desire: Great beauty, a fine mind, well educated, kind and well-off parents, a stable family, a good education, an independent character, and several considerable talents next to acting - and she succeeded in making the most of her native and social and personal advantages, and made herself, to a considerable extent due to her own persistence, character, and intelligence, into the greatest actress of her time and of the screen.

Here I think I have been writing mostly objectively - e.g. "greatest actress" seems to be the common acclaim of those who know about acting, actresses and films, and I simply copied it from Wikipedia, and didn't dream it up myself, though again it seems a fair judgment to me:
Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907  June 29, 2003) was an American actress of film, stage, and television. In a career that spanned eight decades of the 20th century, she was known for her headstrong independence and feisty spirit - qualities that she transferred to both dramatic and comedic roles. In 1999, she was ranked by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star in the history of American cinema.
This seems a fair appraisal of a highly talented woman, whom I certainly hope to return to, if not as a person, perhaps, and if not then because I fear too much one can see or read about her, by others and by herself, is more selective or hype than it is real, but as a character type, and as a public persona.


(*) As so often, William Hazlitt wrote - I think, but argueably so in terms of English literature, at least, in fairly objective terms - the best about actors and acting, and indeed started his career as a writer as a theatre critic, and was mostly responsible for the fame of his contemporary Edmund Kean as an actor. Again, the best book about Shakespeare is by him - and you find under the link at Gutenberg:
Characters of Shakespeare's Plays

(**) Being myself interested in making good rational judgments, let me remark that I am aware of being biased a bit, for example in ways that I am not biased about - say - Richard Burton, in that Katharine Hepburn clearly is the type of woman that interests me as a heterosexual man. Then again, while admitting to that sort of personal bias, I do believe I am  judging her fairly, and refer in support to the links I provided, and indeed what I like most about her are not her beauty, great as it was, as her intelligence and her independent mind: She clearly thought for herself, and had considerable talent and courage that way.

P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.   Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam/ with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

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