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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Et Cetera

Dead Man Walking

Play it again, Sam? Why not? And again and again.

It could be coming soon to a theater near you: "Casablanca II: The Reich Strikes Back," starring -- Bruce Willis and Demi Moore? Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson? Harrison Ford and Meryl Streep? Who needs 'em? No, for our all-new sequel, we'll be using the original stars: Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Sure, they've gone the way of all flesh -- but that's just their worthless human bodies a-moldering there under the earth. We still have their images -- and with the computerized special-effects technology now sweeping Hollywood, these images can be broken down, digitized and re-created in three-dimensional form, bringing the long-dead back to box-office life. On screen, these "synthespians," as the digital actors are called, cannot readily be distinguished from living actors.

The industry is already grappling with the legal implications -- who owns that flickering 50-year-old image of light in the shape of Bette Davis? -- while producers prepare to plunder hallowed Hollywood tombs. The questions are thorny, says Joseph Beard, law professor at St John's University: "The same technology that would allow you to use Errol Flynn in a new action picture could also let you put Audrey Hepburn in a porn flick. Where does it stop?"

Hollywood is justly famous for its sense of restraint and propriety, so surely there's no need to worry over such silly-billy ethical matters. But those corporeal carcasses now drawing fat studio paychecks are still unsettled by the techno-trend. Who, for example, would pay Ms. Moore her going rate of $20 million to undrape on screen when they could have Marilyn Monroe stripping gratis (except for some chump change to the computer hacks)? Why haggle percentages with Tom Hanks when you can get Jimmy Stewart to play those same shy, lovable, lanky-guy roles?

Of course, the path to virtual actors has already been paved by the mammoth success of cartoonish humanoids like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone. It's not very likely that an audience weaned on such fare will care -- or even notice -- if the last vestiges of prickly, recalcitrant, unpredictable human nature disappear entirely from screen and tube.

Uncivilized Behavior

This just in from the far-flung frontiers of ground-breaking science: Primitive peoples said to have enjoyed kinky sex -- especially those Ukrainian transvestites.

It's shocking but true, says Timothy Taylor, lecturer in archaeology at the University of Bradford: "Masturbation, homosexuality, bestiality and transvestitism" have been around ever since humankind could stand, well, erect.

"Sex has never been just for reproduction," he boldly averred last week. (Wasn't that the motto hanging outside the Athens Boys Club -- "Sex: It's Not Just for Reproduction Anymore"?)

As pictorial proof of his astounding thesis, Taylor whipped out a reproduction of a 5,000-year-old Siberian rock engraving which depicts a Stone Age gentleman on skis attempting congress with an elk. (Or was that a postcard from modern-day Aspen?) He also mentioned the nomadic Scythians of Black Sea fame, saying they were made impotent by the constant clanging of crown jewels on horseback, and thus unmanned, took to wearing women's clothes. (All right, so they weren't technically Ukrainians. But if they lived there now, they would be, right?) At least they left the poor elks alone.

All Gummed Up

But then again, maybe sex is just for reproduction. In Saudi Arabia, it better be.

This week the Saudi government seized banned chewing gum that claimed to boost male sexual performance. (Presumably, manic mastication keeps drowsy fellows awake during the deed. Or something.) The stimulants were sold by "weak souls" in various pharmacies, and probably smuggled in from Israel, a Saudi daily said. Originally produced in Spain and Germany, they were selling for about $26 a chew -- and at a brisk clip, the paper added.

The squelching of sexual decadence is a serious business for the conservative kingdom. Last year, the Saudis -- whose loose, flowing, billowy male garments resemble nothing so much as the fashions once favored by certain hard-riding Scythian nomads -- executed four Turks for the heinous

crime of bringing aphrodisiacs into the country. None of that primitive pervo stuff here, boy!

A Royal Pain

All right, so he wasn't a traitor. He was just a big, dumb, clueless, selfish, quasi-fascist royal twit.

That appears to be the final verdict on Edward, Duke of Windsor, the one-time king of Britain and emperor of India who renounced his throne in 1936 -- to marry a divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson -- then proceeded to embarrass the British government for the next nine years with his pro-German mouthings and dubious acquaintances.

Reports in recent years had indicated that the dour Duke might also have been involved in backdoor plots to negotiate a peace treaty with the Nazis that would have allowed the Germans to keep much of their ill-gotten gains -- and, incidentally, restore His Dimness to the throne. But an investigation of previously-classified government documents, launched at the behest of Queen Elizabeth II and completed this week, shows that Edward was not actively involved in any treasonable activities, although he might have lent an ear (and mouth) to some unseemly talk from time to time.

The papers do show an exasperated Winston Churchill trying frantically to get his erstwhile sovereign to leave Paris before the Nazis marched in, to stop importuning the government with huge decorating bills during wartime and, basically, to keep his titled trap shut. A Foreign Office operative sent to monitor the situation wrote back: "The Duke is notoriously pro-Nazi. He is also a heavy drinker and whatever wits he once had have wilted."

Wilted wits, foolish talk, bad marriages and large-scale leeching off the public purse: ol' Ed sounds like a thoroughly modern Windsor to us.

-- Compiled