Out There

Comedian Paula Poundstone commenting after a “Who’s Carl This Time?” segment on NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! about a question at the Democratic presidential debate on Dennis Kucinich’s story of having seen an unidentified flying object.

I still don’t think it was as nutty as attacking Iran or Iraq. I wish the aliens had communicated with George W. Bush.

Not Too Confidential

Looking through the Flash job listings at Monster, a Director of Technology job for a company in SW Portland that declined to list its name (it just says “Confidential”).

Then again, there’s the job description:

Job Overview

The Director of Technology is asenior-level leadership role whose primary focus is PMSI’s technology offerings.This position’s outward face serves as PMSI’s technology advocate participatingin new business development through technology solutions for clients.Internally, this person will help form and lead the development team and theirenvironment including Web development and Network Infrastructure. The ability and desire to perform and executein an agency environment and in “start-up” mode is a must.

Planned Marketing Solutions International.

Phony Soldier

Preston Sturges’s Hail the Conquering Hero was released in August 1944, nearing the end of the third year of the US involvement in World War II. The Allies had landed at Normandy a couple of months earlier and were fighting their way through France. The war in the Pacific was still in its grueling island-hopping phase. The six-month Guadalcanal Campaign had begun exactly two years earlier with the first amphibious attack of the war.

The story of Hail the Conquering Hero is built around but not on the Marines fighting for Guadalcanal. Sitting in a bar one night, Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith (Eddie Bracken), born the day his father was killed in battle in World War I and the descendent of a long line of military men, pays the tab for six broke Marines. They discover that Woodrow had joined the Marines a year earlier but was drummed out of basic training for chronic hayfever. Ashamed to admit his failure to his mother, he’s dug himself into a hole by pretending that he was shipped off to Guadalcanal, he’s broken off his relationship with his girlfriend, and he’s been working in a shipyard as a clerk.

Bugsy (Freddie Steele), an orphan who thinks Woodrow is doing his mother an injustice by letting her think he’s in danger calls her and tells her Woodrow’s back from the war. The Marines — led by Sergeant Heppelfinger (William Demarest) conspire to help Woodrow get back home without breaking cover by giving him one of the sergeant’s WWI medals. It being a comedy, things snowball. The town sets up to give the “hero” a giant welcome. Woodrow is unhappy with the plan from the beginning and tries a number of times to tell people it’s a sham. His ex-girlfriend is about to get married to the sleazy mayor’s son but still loves Woodrow. The townspeople buy up and burn the mortgage that the hero’s mother took out to get through hard times. They plan to erect a statue of Woodrow and his father shaking hands.

And to top it off, the long-time opposition to the mayor decides that a newly-minted war hero would be just the thing for their ticket to finally beat the mayor.

Of course, everything is set straight in the end. It’s a comedy. And the townspeople not only forgive Woodrow for his attempt to spare his mother’s feelings, they admire him for his honesty when he comes clean and the manner in which he does it.

At the time Hail the Conquering Hero came out, the campaign for the Mariana Islands was under way. Marines had landed on Saipan in June and captured it a month later. Fighting on Guam and Tinian was still going on (a year later, B-29s would take off from Tinian to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Almost 4,000 Marines died in the Mariana campaign.

But that didn’t stop this kind of movie from being made and actually being popular. A film about a guy who tells everyone that he’s off at war, who gets sucked into a narrative about being a hero, and who is redeemed by coming clean about his failings.

I just have a hard time imagining anyone doing the same kind of story now.

Happy Birthday, Dad.