Watching The Pawnbroker and Blade Runner back to back

I’ve been trying my best not to obsess about the news lately, which is why I’ve been spending less time here. (Blogging and obsessing about the news have always gone hand in hand with me.) On the plus side, this reallocation of bandwidth has given me more time to spend time with my family, take long walks around Ypsilanti, and work on the new startup. On the down side, though, I miss having a platform through which to engage with people. So, these past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the future of this site, and wondering if there might be a way for me to keep it active and relevant, while also not sacrificing the things I noted above, which are making my life better. The question is, how to create a system that is both personally rewarding and sustainable.

One of the best ideas that I’ve considered thus far has been from Linette, who suggested that I stop trying to be so thorough in my dissection of current events, and instead just start posting smaller, less complete ideas, preferably in a different format. So, for the past few days, while I’ve been shut off from the family and everyone else as I await the results of my Covid test, I’ve started drawing on an iPad. Above is one of my first drawings — something I did after watching Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker (1964) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) back to back.

I don’t think I ever would have made the connection, had I not, purely by coincidence, chosen to watch one right after the other, but now I’m off on a tangent, thinking about the ways in which the two films overlap. Both, as you may know, end with central figures forcing pieces of metal through their hands, but I’m starting to think that the connection goes deeper than just the obvious reference to stigmata. I won’t go too deeply into it here, but it’s the kind of thing that, had I gone on to get my PhD in American Studies, I think I might have really done something interesting with.

Both films are very much about the search for the self, and what it means to be human. Rod Steiger as Sol Nazerman in The Pawnbroker, withdraws into himself after his family is murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, shutting himself off emotionally from the desperate and broken people who come into the universe of his small pawn shop of New York’s Spanish Harlem. “I have escaped from the emotions,” he says at one point. “I am safe within myself.” Ultimately, though, when he’s confronted by circumstances resulting from his own actions, he has to face his grief, the guilt he feels as a survivor, and the role he’s played in perpetuating despair in the community where he does business. And he reconnects to the physical world around him by forcing a metal spike through the palm of his hand. In Blade Runner, we have Rutger Hauer as rogue replicant Roy Batty, who, likewise, is struggling with finding humanity within himself after a short, violent life as a fighter of “off-world” wars on behalf of his human creators. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” he says during his final monologue, after pushing a nail through his own hand. Like I said, I still haven’t completely thought it all out, but I know there’s a thesis in there somewhere about the struggle to find the self and reconnect with the essence of what it means to be a connected human being. Anyway, if you ever watch the two films back to back, and want to exchange thoughts, leave a comment and I’ll respond. Until then, I’ll be working on my Venn diagram.

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  1. Bob
    Posted February 26, 2021 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    More of this. Both wonderful films. I saw Bladerunner as a teen in a large, completely empty theatre. Myself and a friend and few if any others. I don’t think it played our theater more than a week. It had a profound impact on me. I’ve been watching a lot of old films this last year. One I tried recently was the Cheap Detective. I know you’ve written about it. It didn’t do much for me but I love Falk as well. Cool cast. More movie talk.

  2. Posted February 26, 2021 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I have not seen The Pawnbroker but I am going to seek it out now. Blade Runner is one of my all-time favorite films.

  3. Posted February 26, 2021 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    There is no guarantee, if you like Blade Runner, that you’ll like The Pawnbroker. They could not be more different. I think it’s just that I watched them back to back that got me thinking about similarities, and I started to think that, if someone were to invest the time — and possibly interview Ridley Scott — that something interesting might come of it. I know there are other films that include stigmata in some way, but I can’t think of another that has self-inflicted stigmata. And, as I was saying, I think there’s something about the use of stigmata to bring about feeling, human emotion, etc. I don’t have it completely thought out, but I suspect there’s something interesting there.

  4. Posted February 26, 2021 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I’ve watched three episodes of Columbo during my self-imposed quarantine. And it’s gotten me thinking about Falk and how I should have gone to LA to seek him out. He was nice to me when we met here in Michigan, and I called him a few times at his office in LA, as he’d given me his number. I have a lot of regrets in life, but that’s one of the big ones. Somewhere I have a photo of him and I together… He said I was one of the best journalists he’d ever talked with. Certainly a high point of my life… But, yeah, I agree with you that the Cheep Detective isn’t good. I really wanted it to be, but it isn’t.

  5. Posted February 26, 2021 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    OK, it’s not a great photo, but here’s me and Peter Falk about 20 years ago.

  6. Bob
    Posted February 26, 2021 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    That’s a pretty great photo. Much better than my photo with Don Ho.

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted February 27, 2021 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Phoebe Gloeckner also said you were one of the best journalists she had spoken to, and she had just come off a book/movie tour. “Not the standard questions/seemed genuinely interested” was the review as I recall.

  8. Junior
    Posted February 27, 2021 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Well, how is a journalist good or bad? What does one do well or poorly anyway?

    I love the scene from the Pawnborker in the crowd when Rod Steiger drops the child and says repeatedly, “I can do nothing”, but the scene belongs in a completely different film. Maybe it should have been in Un Chien Andalou or something. Sometimes when I am in a crowd holding someone’s child, I want to recreate that scene, but it would not fit in my life any more than it did in the pawnbroker.
    What’s more, there are just too many scenes of Rod Steiger walking around feeling sad. It makes the movie too long. It reminds me in that way of Ray Miland in the Lost Weekend. The scene with Steiger’s girlfriend holding out her hand and no reaction from Steiger is also good, but it is really a lot of disconnected, tolerably good scenes instead of a complete film.
    I think about that movie almost every time I am listening to a small radio in an open space. The pawnbroker considers buying the transistor radio while reading the paper in his backyard. Another good scene.
    It seems like the director was tired of the stage and was infatuated with what could be done on the big screen. He got carried away with the mise en scene and lost the continuity of the film.
    Ironic that Steiger sticks his hand with an apparatus for holding bills and tickets. He had complained to his apprentice that the world had told him he had a “mercantile tradition”. He was Jewish, of course. But if you don’t know that, you have not seen the movie. A Jewish shopkeeper self-stigmatizing with an implement for bill paying. Strange.

    As for Blade Runner, the only scene that strikes me as not completely integral to the entire narrative is Harrison Ford calling Shawn Young’s room from the bar. “Especially when I was being so charming”, he said. It just did not need to be there.
    He was just supposed to be a guy who gets beaten by both cops and robbers like Marlow, but soulless. He does not really need feelings, just old football injuries and a huge pistol to keep him going. World weary and dead inside.
    We knew what Young was going through though without the barroom phone call. She was a fake woman with fake memories. But God what a looker! She was an absolute doll smoking that cigarette and being tested about her memories by Han Solo.
    So he did not need feelings to fall in love with her, he just had to look at her.
    She was the most human of the replicants, but she was not a synthesis of the others. One was built for pleasure, one for fighting, one was the brains of the outfit, etc. Young was the perfect woman. Still a girl, even. Innocent, guileless, extremely feminine, but a rich girl from a rich family. And she had a father that did nothing but lie to her.
    And maybe loved her in his way.
    Now that I think of it, the movie should have been just about her. She was not like the other replicants, not a robot who wanted life and fought for it like a modern Pinocchio. She was a human trapped in a robot body.
    She was sentient in every human way, bound to die like humans, beautiful and graceful like the best of humans, and had no idea who she was until a scruffy, not-too-bright, low class, ex detective tells her what she is. The ultimate come-uppance for the poor little rich girl. And of course, she loves him. What a great pre-me too movement story. It is delicious.
    Too bad Phillip Dick is dead. I don’t know. I haven’t read the books anyway. Or were they by somebody else? His books seems like to much fantasy and not enough fiction. Scott stumbled upon something elemental, but got lost in the macho junk with Han Solo and Rutger Hauer.
    Still a good movie, though.
    “Home again, home again, jiggety jig…”

  9. Jean Henry
    Posted February 28, 2021 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    “Well, how is a journalist good or bad? What does one do well or poorly anyway?”

    I have heard many times from ppl who were interviewed about their work that most journalists show up with little familiarity with the work and ask the same mundane questions as everyone else. They seem vaguely bored or only interested in personal detail esp any life drama and not the work. They also usually arrive at the interview with a preconceived notion that doesn’t change (whether right or wrong) after meeting the subject.

    So that’s not good.

    Philip K Dick’s books are great esp Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep. I never liked Blade Runner much. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great movie; It just didn’t interest me. And it seemed dumb relative to the book. Sean Young went to U-M. I didn’t think she was very good in Bladerunner but she was very beautiful. I think they may have chosen her because she was a wooden actress with soulful eyes.

  10. Nobody
    Posted March 2, 2021 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I like the similarity of Detective Gaff in Bladerunner and Detective Lester Freamon in The Wire. Both make miniature “replicas” with their hands, requiring great dexterity. Gaff makes replicas of creatures while Freamon makes replicas of furniture for doll houses. It is interesting that they are both “detectives”.

    It is a strange impulse to make models. None fully correspond to what they are attempting to imitate, but many do so enough to give power to those able to use them to their advantage.

  11. Nobody
    Posted March 2, 2021 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    A few years back, engineers working on adding lanes to the 520 floating bridge had made an error in their structural model for the pontoons. They had based all their calcs off of a smaller scale model and had made a mistake when scaling up. The post tensioned cables in them were snapping and cracks were forming before they made it from Gray’s Harbor to Lake Washington. That simple scaling error added $400,000,000 to the cost of the project.

    The fella that was the head engineer on the project was forced to step down from his role.

    No pontoons have sunk to date, but they do have to pump water out of them regularly as the concrete is porous. The 520 is 4 miles of floating concrete. It is one of those suspension of disbelief scenarios, similar to watching the land below you shrink as the 737 airfoils create enough lift to pull a 100,000 + pound chunk of aluminum.

    There may come a day when all the roles filled by engineers and technicians that keep these man made wonders actually functioning will be unfillable for a variety of reasons. The working model will just start breaking down and the marvels they keep afloat will sink.

  12. Jean Henry
    Posted March 3, 2021 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm… why would engineering become obsolete when we literally need to re-engineer everything we do structurally, mechanically and in terms of city and infrastructure design in the next 20 years?
    It feels like a more essential field than ever.
    I have an old friend who is a bridge engineer who is now working on intentionally non-durable bridges that would be cheaper, quick and easier to install and that could be more easily removed, retrofitted and replaced as needed.

    This is in anticipation of climate adaptation needs which will make most long standing infrastructure standards unviable. Just the freeze/thaw cycle is making a mess of it. Much less storms and floods and Texas freezing over.

    I don’t feel very sentimental about most old feats of engineering. Many of them were ill-conceived, especially Dams. But I find the new adaptive engineering is inspiring and hopeful.

  13. Nobody
    Posted March 3, 2021 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    A lot of engineering and fabrication is realized by an extensive network of people who have a deep understanding of materials and processes. The knowledge is passed on not unlike an oral tradition / guild system. If there is a break in that tradition, it is no easy feat to get it back. Boeing, due to cost concerns, tried to avoid relying on the deep knowledge of their machinists and suppliers when making changes to the 737 Max. Instead, they relied on software engineers to try to develop a solution that would replicate the mechanical system required.

    We are going to continue to engineer and fabricate, and there are a lot of interesting ideas out there. There was a cool bridge built a few miles from me recently to open up a salmon creek. It was built with fiberglass arches that were manufactured in Maine. The site was hard to get heavy equipment in there for moving precast concrete, so they used this instead and it cut the install time down from months to weeks.

    It is the legacy stuff and the loss of the deep knowledge behind it that concerns me. The Hanford site is a perfect example. The engineers need to work out containment systems that will last centuries and part of the design problem is that we cannot assume that engineers 5 generations from now will know how to maintain the system, or if there will even be anyone who understands the dangers of what it is trying to contain. The first containment systems for the radioactive waste were only built a generation ago and they are failing already.

    The Dutch will provide the model for future coastal cities. Their whole political system is centered around the polder.

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted March 3, 2021 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    My experience with old school engineers on sustainability projects was that they could not adjust their thinking about construction and mechanical to more sustainable systems. Even when hired to do so. Truly creative engineers and contractors are rare. But we need them. Nothing will be made the way it is now in 20 years. Especially planes. (See carbon fiber and alternative fuels. )

  15. Nobody
    Posted March 4, 2021 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    The laws of physics are not going to change. I trust the more conservative engineer precisely because they build on the knowledge that has been hard won over the years when trying to solve problems. The best engineers are the ones that are building on this knowledge base rather than severing themselves from it. If Boeing had it to do over, I am pretty sure they would have tried to re-engineer the max using traditional means rather than trying to make software emulate the changes needed.

    I know a few people that work with carbon fiber. It is not an easy process. The layups need to be done precisely to prevent failure. Damage is difficult to repair. It is also creates rigid structures that lack the flexibility of aluminum. Costs are 2 to 10 times aluminum. Engineers have worked out the right alloys to meet the stress criteria. Something as simple as the rivets can cause catastrophic failure if the holes are not drilled properly. The wings of the airplanes are shaped in a facility out here that uses shot peening to case harden the aluminum and bend it to its final shape. All these materials and processes are proven solutions to the problems presented. The knowledge base is diffused among a wide range of people and businesses, and it can be lost. It is not the kind of knowledge that you just put up on a wiki page and call it good. There are thousands of nuanced pieces of knowledge that require a true skill and are only gained by hard earned experience, and it needs to be passed on to preserve it.

    I’d love to see lighter, more efficient planes that use electric motors and have light enough batteries to give them the energy density to travel 3,000 plus miles on a charge. The problem is that each new contrivance is built off a model that is isolated in many aspects. They can figure out and resolve many of the internal failure thresholds, but once that model is realized as an actual functioning entity, it is part of a larger system where materials and forces interact in really unanticipated ways. It is no longer an isolated model. It is a part of a larger whole.

    The funny thing is that engineers start with the function, the telos as the greeks called it. They then figure out the best form, materials, and processes for making it. The greeks argued that we have a natural telos as well ( versus a man made artifact ), and that a fulfilled human life is only achieved by performing that function. The enlightenment firmly put that idea in the trash bin. And here we are now 400 years later after that abandonment with large swaths of our population left to seek purpose and fulfillment through the cults an conspiracies of social media rather than having and /or developing a skill that is part of a traditional body of knowledge that can be applied for their own good and the good of others. What is the point when it is of no value? And when that fails, the other options for a meaningless , disconnected life are drugs, despair, and suicide.

    I am not sure how technology is going to provide us a good, purposive life when each progressive step robs us of our connection to a deep tradition of connected skills and the communal good will that goes with it. What exactly is it progressing toward, and to whose benefit?

  16. Jean Henry
    Posted March 4, 2021 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I just came here to say told you all so re Greenwald. What a prick.

  17. Jean Henry
    Posted March 4, 2021 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Nobody— A sustainable future requires new and old technology. Fossil fuels are recent. Technology isn’t. Technology is not inherently good or bad and I’m not sure what basis you could possibly have for applying moralism to it. What I know is that technology moves culture in a way moralism never does. Maybe that’s why moralists fear it.

    Do you really believe things were better in the past. Because I’ve got some data to show you.

    Reliance on fossil fuels is sheer human laziness. And it’s a relatively tiny and regressive piece of technological progress.

  18. Posted March 5, 2021 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    JH, what did that prick Greenwald do now?

    Re technology, people have been saying that it will ruin us since forever. Maybe it has. Maybe we have already lost our connection to deep tradition? I mean we have lost many connections to traditions but I am not sure that has caused human lives to be devoid of meaning. Technology causes disruption and change and not all of the changes are good but so many of them are. I think that overall, technology has improved our lives more than it has harmed us by having us lose the knowledge of the old ways (which of course were once the disrupting technology that caused us to lose connection with tradition)

    I know I have appreciated our medical technology these last few years! I mean dying young from cancer is a human tradition but not one I want to keep connected to.

  19. Jean Henry
    Posted March 5, 2021 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    According to Greenwald Trump, Bannon and Carlson are actually Socialists, because Populism = Socialism. In a nutshell.

    He’s closing that divide between alt left and right daily. He’ll be joining Bannon any minute now. I truly hope that they all form a Populist Party so that everyone can really learn how that kind of strategy (which again for the 100thx is NOT grassroots organizing) works. Also just dump the chumps. All of them. Or put all the nativist, anti-feminist, anti-‘identity politics,’ pro-economic justice for only us folks in one boat and sink it.

  20. Posted March 8, 2021 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    LOL, so he also doesn’t know what socialism is?

    I guess it is a good thing I stopped paying attention to Greenwald years ago!

  21. Posted March 10, 2021 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    It is funny because Greenwald just isn’t usually on my radar. But here he is being a hypocritical dick as always. LOL

  22. iRobert
    Posted March 11, 2021 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Mark, I’ve been sort of jokingly suggesting you should stop blogging for a long time now. But I was serious really. It wasn’t that I didn’t think your writing was good (it is) or that your perspectives weren’t insightful (they are). I just knew it was costing you in ways you might prefer it didn’t. But you knew that. We all did. I think Linette’s suggestion of posting short references in a different format is a good idea and could lead to something very interesting.

  23. Junior
    Posted March 16, 2021 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    How does the detective (Edward James Olmos) in Bladerunner make useful models? I thought he just left little origami cranes lying around so that we (Decker) knew he had been there. It has been quite a few years since I saw the thing (about 25), but I must have missed that part.
    The Pawnbroker made essentially nothing. He showed his Hispanic apprentice how to test metals for value, and he might have melted a few valuables down if the jewelry (model) itself had marginal value, but I suppose that is part of the irony of his life. He really has some interesting things to say to his protege about the life that the world expected of him due to his mercantile history. I just wish the film had had more completely absurd scenes like the child-holding scene in the crowd. It would have rounded out the narrative and explored the strangeness of being a survivor. I really liked the modern spookiness of the Pawnbroker. The idea of a holocaust survivor who has lost everything, sitting in his backyard listening to a transistor radio and debating the value of buying it for the youngsters is like a strange psych ward dream. If there was ever a movie with justifiable flashbacks, this was it.
    I think it was the same director who made A Soldier’s Story. The scene from that movie with the drill sergeant in the spotlight at the bar performing a soliloquy would really be extremely effective if it were not the only scene like that in the film. It seemed to me that the director was in love with the stage, but was afraid to bring it onto the big screen completely. It just has a feeling that it is done half way.
    Some things can be m0odern and gothic like that together. It reminds me of Idiots First a bit, but not just the Jewishness. It has a spectral, ancient insanity about it that really expresses a mood that travels through time “even unto the tenth generation” or something like that.
    All works of art have something in common I suppose, but the idea that “the past is not over. It is not even past” from Requiem for a Nun is an interesting melting -pot idea that outsiders in America really express well.
    And we all seem to be good at being outsiders. I think it is what we will be known for in the US when they write our history. Like Neo-Platonism to the Lake District, we have our characters who come “unstuck in time”. Not just men and women out of place, but completely out of time.
    So what do you make of a director going from Bladerunner, full of camera tricks, mise-en-scene, moody, foggy, damp, dank, razor stubble environments to Thelma and Louise?

  24. Junior
    Posted March 17, 2021 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    No. I was wrong. Soldier’s Story was Norman Jewison. Mr. Tibbs from the Heat of the Night TV series and Rod Steiger from the movie got me mixed up. But the sergeant from Soldier’s Story was very good.

  25. Sad
    Posted March 19, 2021 at 9:15 pm | Permalink


  26. Hyperian Warlock
    Posted March 20, 2021 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Hi everyone. I’m sorry if I drove everyone away. I now realize what a fool I was to believe in Trump. The Mueller investigation was not a witch hunt. Charlottesville was not a false flag operation to make white supremacists look bad. Mark is not kidnapping children and pimping them in the basement of his restaurant. You were right and I was wrong. I’m ashamed of myself. Please forgive me. I’m back on my meds. I will change my screen name to whatever iRobert demands.

  27. Anonymous
    Posted March 22, 2021 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    It’ll be interesting what happens to science and art once more is known about what happened behind the scenes. Is Michael Jackson still the king of pop? What should we do with Woody Allen? What do we do with nostalgia when it turns it that the good old days were only good for some?

  28. Wobblie
    Posted March 23, 2021 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    I love how Young bitches and moans about the evil male directors who ruined her career. Then she uses those very same connections to boost her sons career. Moral of story, sexism in movie industry bad, nepotism in movie industry, that’s ok. So much for good old American meritocracy.

  29. Jean Henry
    Posted March 23, 2021 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Are you equating sexism with nepotism as an evil?
    That’s amazing, Wobblie.

    How does one get a Union card exactly, Wobblie?
    Is it a meritocracy?

    People tend to give jobs to people they know or to people whom people they know recommend.

    I’m not impressed that Young’s son has benefitted greatly from her supposed legitimacy. It doesn’t look like she has much of a career left nor many connections to avail herself of.
    It’s clear that Young is an imperfect human, maybe even an ambitious woman (horrors!). I don’t think she’s much of an actress. She still didn’t deserve to have Harvey Weinstein expose himself to her and then blackball her.

    I think maybe we can all agree on that.

  30. Jean Henry
    Posted March 25, 2021 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Years from now we probably won’t remember much of what preoccupied us here but I’m guessing we’ll all remember that we had a front seat to the evolution of the spectacle that was Qanon. I’ll remember unveiling the strange fringe source of HW’s outrageously multi-factored and improbable conspiracy theories and the darker bizarro places they lead. Who would have thought it would lead to a Capitol insurrection? The Madness of Crowds. Most revolutions are nuts. That one was beyond. And people here accused me of cruelty to HW because he supposedly posed no threat.
    Anyway it’s all over now it seems. With a few bodies and lives destroyed and a country struggling to heal from the ugliness that emerged.

  31. Jean Henry
    Posted March 25, 2021 at 8:28 am | Permalink

  32. Posted March 26, 2021 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Jean, you think it is over?

    I am not so sure. I think it is just underground more than it was. Nevertheless, I hope you are right.

  33. Wobblie
    Posted March 27, 2021 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    JH no I do not equate sexism with nepotism. False equivalence is a tool of right thinking liberals. Rather I was (very obviously I thought) the moral hypocrisy of complaining about white men using their positions of power to adversely effect her career while using those same connections to advance your child’s. Sexism is an evil that pervades society and adversely effects us all. Nepotism is much more episodic and in as far as I know is only illegal in the public sector (though I see where Biden just hired King Manchen’s wife to A highly lucrative executive position—move on nothing to see here).

    JH the way you join a union is you apply, agree to abide by the rules of the union, pay your initiation fee and first months dues. Really very easy. You should give it a try.

  34. Wobblie
    Posted March 27, 2021 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    JH you could join the National Writers Union (NWU-UAW) or the IWW, I believe the USW-CIO also has a general membership status. The one thing that would probably keep you from taking out a card is many unions forbid employers from membership.

  35. John Brown
    Posted March 28, 2021 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Q may be waning, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the mentality among the white supremacists and christo-fascists that they need to be prepared to literally fight a war to protect themselves from a liberal, multicultural, commie hell. Will we get an assault weapons ban or meaningful gun control from the Govt? Doubtful. But nothing is stopping anti war folks with disposable income from buying these untraceable guns and either securing them for defense of the multicultural democracy from the Gilead crew, or practice free market gun control by chucking them in a deep lake.–ar15-sporting-rifle

  36. Wobblie
    Posted March 30, 2021 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    JB is that the going price for an AR15 these days? Seems like the price has gone down from 20 years ago when I paid attention to such things. Hungarian and Chinese knockoffs of AK47 could be had for less than half the price of an AR15 back then.

  37. Jean Henry
    Posted March 31, 2021 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Wobblie– as I’m sure you know nepotism has long been an issue in Unions, especially competitive ones in the trades. And you can’t gain admission without getting a job and you can’t get a job without pulling the right strings or knowing the right people. I know two young people in LA with substantial relevant work experience who are trying to get Union cards for crew work on film sets right now. I had to make calls to friends and introduce to friends who could also make calls for them, just like one does for any job. Of course the unions that are for freelancers or generalized are easier to get into because they want the dues but don’t offer much job security or anything else in return.
    And I’m not an employer.

    Lynne– Q is no longer posting. People are dropping off like flies. I just drove to Colorado through a lot of Trump-land (I’m vaccinated) and there were many fewer signs of Q or even Trumpism than there were when I drove to NOLA in August. But there will always be conspiracy theories and people taking advantage of vulnerable people to promote them.

  38. Posted March 31, 2021 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    JH, that is good news about Q but of course there will always be conspiracy theories and people willing to use them to take advantage!

    That stuff about unions is totally true. They have been horrible for POC and women historically. Which isn’t to say that I am against them. I am not. I am very much in favor of them but only if they admit members fairly.

  39. Wobblie
    Posted April 1, 2021 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Happy Qanon day.

    JH. You are confusing archaic craft unions which frequently allow employer members with modern industrial unions. Unions do not hire—employers hire. Craft unions are built around apprenticeship. Your view and knowledge of unions is pretty wrapped. Industrial Unions will let anyone join who agrees to abide by the rules and pay your dues. Does that mean you get a job—that is the bosses decision. Unions do not hire. The influence peddling you refer to is , as you point out how you get anytype of job. Much easier to beat up on institutions you dont like than commenting on how King Manchin just got his wife a Federal appointment worth hundreds of thousands.

  40. Anonymous
    Posted April 1, 2021 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Can we talk about Sidetrack? It’s local and timely.

  41. Posted April 1, 2021 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I am watching that case with interest. I am obviously no labor law expert but I do have an interest in it. I am not sure that all of the allegations are actually violations of the law. For example tip pooling. That is perfectly legal under state law and also has been legal under Federal law since 2018 as long as they don’t use the pooled portion of tips towards their minimum wage tip credit. It is illegal under the FLSA to not pay tipped employees minimum wage for tasks that are not usually tippable if those tasks exceed 20% of the time they are on the clock so they may get them there. I assume that the plaintiffs have kept meticulous records.

    Here is the thing though. Labor law does not favor employees. A lot of the time, even when one has a pretty clear case that they will almost surely win, the potential judgment is not that much.

    As an example, I was nearly fired from a previous job. I had been talking to co-workers about potentially unionizing just before that. I had been angry at management for a while so I had a couple of years’ worth of notes and documentation. My father knows all kinds of labor lawyers because of his job so he talked to one for me. What I was told was that I had a strong case but that if I wanted to pursue it, I would actually need to get fired. If that happened. I was told it would take about 4 years for the case to run through the system and that my employer would only be liable for lost wages. In other words, if I was fired and found a job right away, my employer might be off the hook! My father was willing to support me if I got fired and didn’t want to find a job right away so that we could maximize the potential judgment. All of that seemed like too much bother so I simply quit and found another job. It turned out to be a good decision because the company went bankrupt a couple of years after I quit which would have potentially resulted in my getting nothing (I don’t know where lawsuit related creditors fall in the hierarchy of paybacks in a bankruptcy)

    My guess is that this will not result in much for the plaintiffs. If it turns into a big class action, the lawyer might make a good sum but for individuals, not so much.

  42. Wobblie
    Posted April 3, 2021 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I’ve worked with Dave Blanchard on several UI issues over the years. A very good Peoples Lawyer. He was instrumental in the robo-fraud UI lawsuit against Rick (the. Killer ) Snyder snd his illegal seizures of millions of dollars from unemployed workers (I played a smallpart in that effort).
    Wage theft in the service industries is rampant. Always tip in cash—best way to ensure your server actually gets the money.
    Many employer lawyers advise employers on how to skirt wage and hour laws. Like the erosion of all labor standards from the min. wage, to child labor laws—employers rarely pay any price for screwing their workers. Unions give you clout that the law does not.

  43. Jean Henry
    Posted April 5, 2021 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie– I am pro-union. Very much so. I just don’t believe supporting unions means total denial of any failing within.

    Your dogmatism leads you to assume opposition where there is none. It’s fascinating.

    I grew up in a very rural and industrial working class place and the kids I went to school with there who didn’t go to college (about 65%) went into the trades and factory work, usually at whatever factory of trade their dad or relatives were in. It was all nepotism.

    My young friends in LA can’t get a job on most movie sets without a Union card and can’t get a card without a bunch of hours on multiple jobs. And the fees are exorbitant. It’s simply untrue that they can just sign up.

  44. Wobblie
    Posted April 6, 2021 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    JH since you seem to lack the skills necessary to help your young friends, Ill help. Here is the link to IATSE Local 600 the union that represents many of the folks in the industry. There is a link where you send your resume along with indicating what kind of positions you wish to be hired on for.

  45. Jean Henry
    Posted April 9, 2021 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie— once again for the bleachers, they can’t join a union unless hired; can’t get hired without a union card or apparently a friend/family in the union and the promise of membership/job. They can gig in non-union jobs but as independent contractors and so not a job by union definition.

  46. wobblie
    Posted April 11, 2021 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    JH, hit for the bleachers and once again you you hit a foul. three ways to get on the roster—
    3. If you can demonstrate one hundred (100) days of paid work experience under one (1) job classification within
    a three (3) year period immediately preceding the date of application for the Roster.

  47. Anonymous
    Posted April 14, 2021 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Over the years I’ve learned that rules can be written, but very often not followed, so that’s what happens in real life is very different from what is predicted to happen from afar.

  48. Nobody
    Posted April 14, 2021 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Free will keeps throwing monkey wrenches into deterministic models. Goddam free will.

  49. Anonymous
    Posted April 25, 2021 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Here to hoping that everybody eligible for vaccination has gotten or is going to get it. This third surge is no joke.

  50. Lynne
    Posted April 26, 2021 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I got my second dose a week ago! By Saturday, I will be fully vaccinated. I am excited because everyone in my family is now fully vaccinated and Sunday is Easter so yes, we are having a nice family Easter dinner! I always like the family dinners, but I haven’t been to one in a while. Often I am still in California at Easter. I guess I have high hopes for these vaccines but am probably going to keep masking up and will mostly socialize outdoors (which I did last year even though I was unvaccinated)

  51. Anonymous
    Posted April 27, 2021 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Until when? With vaccines freely available now to anybody who wishes to get one, it could be considered a civic duty for a vaccinated person to displace a person who has an unknown immune status to COVID at a restaurant with a fixed capacity, so as to reduce disease transmission risk to all the diners and workers in the restaurant. Eat out indoors and often!

  52. Wobblie
    Posted May 1, 2021 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Happy May Day Fellow Ypsilantians.

  53. stupid hick
    Posted May 1, 2021 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Wobblie, that looks like a great article but it’s too damn long. Happy May Day, comrade. Has anyone seen the village idiot and his sidekick? Are they on some other local blog now?

  54. Hyperian Warlock
    Posted May 1, 2021 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I’m still lurking here, waiting for Mark to come back so I can apologize properly for what a racist and sexist moron I used to be. Please come back, Mark. I am so sorry.

  55. Anonymous
    Posted May 4, 2021 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Happy Star Wars Day!

  56. iRobert
    Posted May 17, 2021 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    I saw John Barr, Jr. driving on East Huron River Drive and Clark Road the other day, and he drives exactly like you would expect.

  57. stupid hick
    Posted May 22, 2021 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    “…and he drives exactly like you would expect”

    Ass-backwards on the far-right shoulder of the road?

  58. Cro-Mignon
    Posted May 24, 2021 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Mark, have you ever seen Paris, Texas? Not the place but the movie.

  59. Posted May 24, 2021 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Interesting. He sent me a FB friend request yesterday which made me wonder if that theory that he is HW is actually true.

  60. johnthebasket
    Posted May 24, 2021 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Post I left on my former site, which is now deserted. Long may it wave . . .

    Today would have been Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday and we should acknowledge it. Wait a minute . . .all that shit he put in his body didn’t kill him. Dylan actually turns 80 in person, and we should recognize great art when we see or hear it.

    Bob was visited by genius when I was an adolescent; the genius camped in his head for several years and flew away, as it does, only to return for a brief visit ten years later for Blood on the Tracks. Leonard Cohen said, “I feel embarrassed to take credit for a talent I can’t command, and which visits rarely.” Not Bob. He’s always been happy to take credit for his genius, even though it flew out the window decades ago. But what a stretch of productivity. Fourteen months, three beautiful albums, the American Songbook turned on its head, popular music veering into “singer/songwriter” and “folk/rock” like a mighty river deciding to turn left all at once. The man who charged the Pope $300,000 for a brief Vatican concert turns 80 today. L’chaim, Bob.


  61. Bob
    Posted June 14, 2021 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Blood on the Tracks is the only great thing Dylan did in the last fifty five years? Whatever

  62. stupid hick
    Posted June 26, 2021 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    It has been so peaceful here since Trump lost and all the crazies left this blog. Anyone else loving it?

  63. Posted June 28, 2021 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    SH, well….it is a little boring but I guess I would rather have boring than crazy so I am good!

  64. stupid hick
    Posted July 4, 2021 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Hey Lynne, good to see you are still lurking here. Have you been to Mark’s restaurant? It’s not bad. The beans and rice are better than Popeyes. Double the price but I suppose it’s what Mark has to do to keep the riff raff away. I understand he doesn’t want the clientele that prefers to pee on his restroom wall instead of the urinal.

  65. Posted July 12, 2021 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    SH. Yes, I have been to Bellflower. The food there is amazing. Like seriously amazing. I have been dining in the past couple of times but soon, I need to order up a bunch of those pepperoni rolls because they freeze well and make for a really super yummy “lazy” dinner when paired with a salad kit.

  66. stupid hick
    Posted September 12, 2021 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Well I have to hand it to Mark Maynard. The Bellfowler is mentioned to have one of three bars worth visiting in Ypsilanti, in a blog post titled “Does your college town suck?”, which I will not link to because I am confident anyone who still lurks here knows how to find it if they want to. Not mentioned however is the quality of the bar food. Not long ago I had the best coney dog I have ever eaten at the Bellfowler! The most expensive too, at 3 for $24. Now I remember when you could get 3 coneys at Jhonny’s for less than $2. But those were awful. I do not have fond memories of Jhonny’s. Mark’s coneys are at least twice as good, and his restroom is at least 5 times more clean.

  67. stupid hick
    Posted September 19, 2021 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone go to the Bellfowler yesterday to see whether Mark was offering anything special to commemorate National Cheeseburger Day? I would have but I only had $87 in my wallet. I know better than to go there without being ready to drop at least a hundo plus tip. So yesterday, too embarrassed to show my under-resourced face at the Bellfowler, I decided to go to both McDonald’s and Burger King and compare their special NCD offerings. I was both disappointed and pleasantly surprised. Disappointed because both special offers required installation and use of a mobile app, which I refused to do. Surprised, because I have been out of the fast food game for quite some time and I was shocked to observe that Burger King has convincingly routed McDonald’s from the value menu battleground, which McDonald’s had dominated for a generation. Burger King served me a well-crafted bacon cheese burger, on a sesame bun, for $1. Regular price. McDonald’s offered up a sloppily-assembled cheese burger that, despite being advertised under their $1/$2/$3 menu heading, actually lists for $1.28. The BK bacon cheese burger was actually pretty good and for a dollar it was an exceptional value. Bacon! Sesame bun! A true and honest dollar menu! Long live the King!

  68. Sad
    Posted September 19, 2021 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Wait SH.

    Where you able to walk in or did you have to do the drive thru? I love those places but has zero tolerance for the drive thru. When will I be able to order from a kiosk and sit inside like the good old days?

  69. stupid hick
    Posted October 12, 2021 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    Sad, the impact of the computerized kiosk on fast food culture is still undetermined but the central role of the drive thru is undeniable. Many scholars argue it is the single distinctive characteristic that separates fast food from other junk food species, such as pizza delivery. I am not that closed minded, but I do cherish the drive thru experience. Give it another try. You may come to appreciate it. PS, the McRib returns in November. I wonder if Mark will prepare anything special to compete.

  70. Sad
    Posted October 24, 2021 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Well SH

    It’s a brave new world.

    I’ve adjusted to drive thru by just frequenting those establishments when in the vicinity and I see that there are no lines. I’ve also perfected speaking loud so the server can hear me.

    I look forward to the McRib.

    I thought of this place because I unheard peoples talking about the poboy at Bellflower.

  71. stupid hick
    Posted October 30, 2021 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Sad, the return of the McRib is only 48 hours away. There is also a sweepstakes to win a McRib NFT! If you follow McDonald’s on Twitter and retweet their sweepstakes invitation you can win one.

    In other fine dining news, I read that Burger King is going to stop their long-popular paper coupon offers. How depressing. Apparently BK is not doing as well against McDonald’s and Wendy’s as I thought. Does anyone know if Bellfowler coupons are available? Buy one entree, get one for $20 would be an awesome deal. Mark should hold a sweepstakes for an adrenochrome Bloody Hillary cocktail NFT to commemorate the most popular Bellfowler cocktail.

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