Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hooray for ISIS! It's Not What You Think

Lets go ISIS! Before you get all worked up and think I’ve gone over to the dark side, let me assure you I am not advocating for Islamic terrorists. Rather, I am rooting for my latest stock acquisition, Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS).

I was dumbstruck when my broker called four weeks ago suggesting Isis for my portfolio. Who knew there was a drugmaker unfortunate enough to share a name with a most vile organization whose idea of pain relief is to lop off one’s head? Anyway, I trust Annette to do the right thing so I approved the purchase at $49.74 a share. When she called Friday to secure approval for an additional purchase, Isis shares had already jumped to $65.09. 

You can talk to your own financial advisor about Isis, but make sure you note you’re inquiring about the pharmaceutical company, not the Islamic State. 

Gilda and I saw the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything last week. Extraordinary performance as Hawking by Eddie Redmayne, but more to the point, how can one not feel inconsequential after seeing Hawking overcome adversity that easily would defeat even the most resilient and strong? Hard to say, “I can’t” after observing his travails and his success.

Speaking of movies, and overcoming troubles, Exodus; Gods and Kings is on my must see list, not because it received great reviews (it didn’t) but rather to see how Hollywood messed with a good (not great) picture, 1956’s The Ten Commandments. As filmdom again has discovered with the less than fanciful new Annie, remakes most often are not worth the updated time and effort (though, to be truthful, the Cecil B. DeMille-Charlton Heston-Yul Brynner Ten Commandments was a talkie version of the director’s 1923 silent screen epic). 

I’ve previously acknowledged my devotion to Davy Crockett so I was thrilled to see Turner Classic Movies, in a deal with Disney, will be airing tonight the Fess Parker Disneyfication of his life. But it will be important to remember some Davy Crockett truths, as reported here some three and a half years ago:

According to a biography by Chris Wallis, Crockett was an illegal immigrant to Texas who wound up at the Alamo not by choice but through assignment by those fomenting rebellion against Mexico, the rightful owner of Texas. 

Though Parker’s portrayed Crockett as humble, Wallis noted he was not above self-promotion, even attending a play about his exploits. 

Crockett was sympathetic to Native Americans, but apparently not to the plight of Afro-Americans. He served two terms in the U.S. Congress, only to be swept out of office after he broke with President Andrew Jackson for the latter’s treatment of the Cherokee Nation and their forced removal from Tennessee land granted them by treaty. 

Crockett went to Mexico-owned Texas to help American settlers who wanted to build plantations worked by slaves. Only trouble is, Mexico did not permit slavery. At age 49, Crockett died at the Alamo in San Antonio. He did not choose to go to the Alamo. He had joined the local militia and had been assigned to defend the mission. 

Sticking to the entertainment theme, the literary world and by extension the film and TV industries are lucky the Internet wasn’t around 150 or 100 or even 50 years ago. Otherwise, we might not have the spy novels of John LeCarre who demonized the Russian KGB. Or we wouldn’t have Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 spoof of Hitler, The Great Dictator. Or the 1939 Warner Bros. flick, Confessions of a Nazi Spy

Those books and movies, and many, many more would not have been produced and distributed if executives followed Sony’s example of acquiescence to North Korea’s demand to shelve The Interview, a farce about an assassination plot against the country’s leader. 

Yes, Sony has been damaged by North Korea’s violation of Sony’s Internet integrity. But giving in to North Korea damages our collective freedom. What is to stop Pakistan, upset by its Homeland portrayal as being complicit with Taliban attacks, from issuing a similar demand to Showtime and its cable partners? 

And where do the threats end? Can North Korea effectively blacklist The Interview stars Seth Rogen and James Franco from any other movie project, for any other studio? With so many action films and video games depicting Muslims as the enemy, could Arab states threaten retaliation, economic if not physical?

North Korea threatened a violent response to any airing of The Interview. But if we have learned anything from 9-11 and its aftermath, it is that our best response to such threats is to go about our normal business and way of life. Be cautious, but do not cower. Stay away from the movie theater, if you so choose, but that choice should be made by everyone individually, not collectively on our behalf by a corporation. 

American policy has been not to negotiate with terrorists, with hostage takers. North Korea took all of our minds and freedom hostage, and for now, has won.