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RE: The Godfather. Hey Bill, you've put your finger on the heart of genre studies. The Godfather, and all gangster movies, portray a shadow society, one that has some similarities to our own, but important differences. It's a society that is run for the benefit of those who can't attain power or respect from the actual society. The fun thing about gangster movies is discovering what these shadow rules are and what happens when they clash with the rules of the real society. And in every gangster movie there is some character (in The Godfather it's the corrupt police captain), a representative of real society, who it turns out is very similar to the gangsters, someone who has twisted the levers of society to his own benefit, and thus makes the audience reflect: are we really any morally superior to this shadow society?
Asked by: RanBricker

Answered: 5/26/2023


Barzini is one of the heads of the five families.  While the war seemed to be between Corleone and Tattaglia, "it was Barzini all along" declared Don Vito to Tom Hagen after the big meeting with all of the families across the country (to make the peace and protect Michael).  The main villain (or the antagonist pulling all the strings) ends up having one speaking scene (at said meeting) in the entire movie.
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 5/26/2023
 Yeah, I remember that now.   I remember seeing some You Tube segment that picks out this little clue and that one and "explains" why Vito says "it was Barzini all along."   Thanks. 


Hi Bill,  
Am reading your series on Honors & expectations, when the thought occurred to me that you could measure whether guys who otherwise had the same WS/WAR but had differing amounts of awards also differed at the age at which they received their first award. You might be able to document something called the "Matthew Effect" in scientific studies of achievement. Would you be interested in discussing? That would actually be a contribution to the academic literature.  
Asked by: djmedinah

Answered: 5/26/2023
 God save me from academia.  


A complementary idea to yours about the loose-rules settings of gangster/Western/war/space scenarios is an idea I've kicked around for a bit: Men WANT to do righteous violence, & through some of those stories they get to vicariously live that desire.  
By "righteous," I mean JUSTIFIED. It may be that men wanna do violence, period, but are ruled enough by reason & morality to cage the wild desire-unless it's utterly called for! That'd be why the "Taken" movies, say, are popular-the hero kills characters that DESERVE it (They kidnapped his daughter!) with no inconvenient moral quandaries to wrestle with. The gangster movies don't fit so much, but in the other categories there are (WERE) characters a-plenty that could be considered *other* enough to gun down with satisfaction - outlaws, injuns, Nazis, and finally the perfect Other: Space aliens!  
IMO, some of the best movies subvert this. Unforgiven. Taxi Driver. Starship Troopers almost lampoons the idea of the alien Other.
Asked by: JohnPontoon

Answered: 5/26/2023
 Dirty Harry Syndrome.  Do women not have the same urge?  I suspect that they do.  


Hi Bill, Today I saw the documentary about Yogi Berra, It Ain't Over.  It's funny, touching, insightful, and very entertaining.  The movie also brings up the point, as have others including yourself, that Yogi's brilliance as a player has been unfairly overshadowed by his image as a funny looking guy who said funny things. But to what extent is this true? Seems like he was highly respected both during and after his playing days: three MVPs, election to the Hall Of Fame, regarded as one of the top three catchers or so of all time and arguably the greatest.  And since the clownish persona provided him with a lucrative post-baseball career as a commercial spokesman, it wasn't all negative.  Anyway, I highly recommend the movie; I think you and members of the site will enjoy it. Doug
Asked by: dlang62

Answered: 5/26/2023
 I'll try to get there.   Somehow this reminds me of a joke that Michael Dukakis made after he lost the race for President.  "People said I was a technocrat.   But only 37.8% of the public felt that way."    


Surprised at the backlash for the Munson joke. I figured our demographic was middle aged to older males. Maybe you have more of a young audience than I thought or Thurman is really beloved. Anyway, keep being yourself, because your true self never means to harm anyone. Thank you for your daily writings.
Asked by: CoachLee

Answered: 5/26/2023
 Thank you.   The Twitter audience skews younger. . . probably not as young as it did ten years ago.  


I have a question that could be construed as either specific or general.  Mike Ivie played for Joe Altobelli in 1978 and the first 140 games of 1979.  In that time he  
had 643 at bats and hit .311/.371/.535 with 134 RBI.  In the rest of his career,  
2051 at bats, he hit .255/.308/.385 with 277 RBI.  How much of that would you attribute to some quality of Joe Altobelli—something he did that allowed him to get more out of Ivie than anyone else ever could—and how much to Altobelli just being lucky to manage Ivie when he was at his peak?  (Ivie turned 27 about a month before Altobelli was fired.)
Asked by: WarrenJohnson

Answered: 5/26/2023
 I wouldn't attribute any of it to Al 2 Bellies without specific evidence of a causal connection.  If Ivie said in an interview somewhere something like "Two Bellies was great for me.   He always gave me clues that I should focus on for each pitcher" or "Alto always had confidence in me, and just wanted me to focus on doing well what I could do well". . . .Well, something like that, that you would normally just ignore as happy talk, would become something you would pay attention to when attached to the statistical record.   But divorced from one another, they're just something that happened.  


Bill, which did you prefer, Godfather 1 or Godfather 2? Also, did you enjoy the third one at all?
Asked by: Stevez9753

Answered: 5/22/2023
 I don't know one from another.   I think they're all a little overrated.  


The one thing that has always stuck with me from The Godfather is when the other crime families approach the godfather and his sons with a proposal to cooperate in the dealing of heroin. The godfather flat out says they are not interested in this 'dirty business.' But one of his sons jumps in and says that the terms of the deal as proposed are insulting to his father.  
That showed the other families that they couldn't do business with the father, but that they could do business with his son. This leads to the attempted assasination of the godfather and kicks off the whole series of events described in the book and the movies.  
Not an original observation; I read this somewhere and it made me pay more attention to the ins and outs and subtleties of the book and movies. Incidentally, this is the kind of thing that plays out in legitimate, non-violent businesses and sales, too.
Asked by: Gfletch

Answered: 5/22/2023
 Absolutely.   Junior people don't speak up in business meetings, because doing so reveals divisions within the company.  
I don't think the Godfather refers to it as "dirty business" IN THE MEETING YOU DESCRIBE.   He says "It makes no difference to me what a man does for a living," and attributes his reluctance to participate to the fact that this would cost him his connections to politicians and cops who help him cut corners.  


Re the time frame of The Godfather.  I think the movie starts right after WW II, probably around 1946, but ends a few  years later after Michael has killed Sollozzo, escaped to Sicily where his wife is killed, and then comes back to take over the family after Sonny is killed.  So i think the movie covers probably the last few years of the 1940s and, maybe, 1950.  My thoughts anyway.  
As for the popularity of the movies, speaking only for myself, I think it's in part because there ARE rules within organized crime, even though not the rules we play by.  At least in the movies, the mafia guys aren't going around with AR-15s taking out innocent bystanders.  They are, primarily, killing other people in the business, who also know what the rules are.  They may be sociopaths, but, at least as portrayed in the movies, they aren't bothering people who aren't in the business.  I don't know how true that was in real life, but, in the movies, they aren't looking to kill for the hell of it.
Asked by: Marc Schneider

Answered: 5/22/2023
 Thanks.  I think that is both true and false, somewhat true but also self-serving propaganda designed by mobsters to legitimize what they are doing.   Tony Soprano at one point says something like, I think to his psychiatrist, "We are SOLDIERS.  We kill soldiers from the other side, we risk our lives to feed our families."
When I was in Boston there was a soldier from the Whitey Bulger gang, a guy named John Marazano, not sure I have spelled that right.  Anyway, I like it was Marazano who had made a deal with prosecutors in regard to the murder or the businessman in Oklahoma that, in exchange for his testimony in that case, he could not be prosecuted for any OTHER crimes in which he implicated himself while testifying in that case.   His lawyer spotted the opening, and, in cross examination or possibly re-direct, led him through all of the murders he had committed. . . and did you kill THIS guy, as a part of this ongoing criminal enterprise?   And did you kill this other guy?   Got him to confess to 20-some murders while on the stand in that case, making the prosecutors unable to prosecute him for those crimes.  (They eventually, years later, came after him for some RELATED offenses, so he did do SOME prison time for the crimes.)
Anyway, while I was living in Boston Marazano was free and clear, and he would occasionally appear on talk shows, not exactly talking about his murders but in general about his crimes.  He was church-going man, seriously, and gave off the appearance of a normal laborer, somebody you would hire to fix your electricity without giving it a second thought.   He HATED being described as a "hit man", and insisted that he never killed anyone for money.  He wasn't paid to kill any of these people; he just did what he was told to do to protect his friends.  
But if you follow it through. . .while it may be true that he was not directly paid to kill any of these people. . .it is NOT true that all of the people he killed were engaged in the same business.   Some of them were killed because they WOULDN'T engage in the business, they wouldn't play ball.  
The point I should have made yesterday, and above. . .this is where I started to go but didn't get there.   
The popularity of gangster movies is largely explained by the fact that they live outside the rules of normal society, and when those rules are destroyed, anything becomes possible, becomes plausible.  It opens up the landscape.   At the time that I first became "aware", MOST popular movies and most popular TV shows were Westerns or World War II movies.   Why?  The same thing.   The West was a  place were the Law had not been clearly established-which it really was--and, because the law did not place parameters on how people could act, anything was possible.   The same thing with World War II movies; wars occur at the breakdown of civilization, which makes it possible for things to happen that don't happen in ordinary life.   People can be killed; relationships can form and melt in the space of the show.   
By the 1970s. . .after some nitwits decided to make "realistic" war movies. . . by the mid-1960s World War II movies were falling out of fashion, replaced by "Space" movies and "Space" TV shows. . . Star Trek and Lost in Space and Star Wars, etc.   Science fiction, The Twilight Zone. . .the same thing.  It creates a place which is outside the normal rules that we all live by.  Or, going backward, the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and onward; "Tarzan" creates a space which is exempt from the normal rules of civilzation, although it has it's own rules.  The last Tarzan movie I am aware of, about 1980, postulated a "more realistic" Tarzan.  Morons; nobody wants Tarzan to be realistic.  Making it realistic kills the genre.   
Teen Sex comedies often involve the protaganist(s) going on car trip or going to summer camp or going on a family vacation to Brazil, going to some place where the rules don't apply, so anything becomes possible.   The same with gangster movies; it simply creates a space where the normal rules don't apply, people don't live on a budget, etc.  
MOST movies are crime movies in some sense.  


I've done quite a bit of research in organized crime for my own writing and the big thing they care about after a hit is not to be caught with the gun on them. It's apparently a lot harder to get usable prints off a gun than people think, so the easiest way for law enforcement to link a killer to a gun is to catch him with it. The preferred method is to dispose of the gun (there are probably more guns than bodies in new York's East River), but, how ever they do it, they do not want to caught with it on them.
Asked by: DanaKing

Answered: 5/22/2023
 Sure.  Makes sense.   The Man from the Train, although he was probably professional burglar, never took ANYTHING from a house where he had murdered people, probably for the same reason.   It's the easiest way to get yourself hung.   


The question about steal rates in the oldey tyme days is interesting. At a spot check, in 1924 the caught steal rate was double what it was in 2022, 48-24 percent. In the 8 team National League, with a 154 game schedule, 21 players were caught stealing more than ten times, and only ten of them had more SBs than CSs.  
In 2022, with 15 teams and 162 games in the NL, only one player was caught more than 10 times, Ronald Acuna with 11, and he had 29 successful steals.  
Ssems like there should be more to this than a mere tolerance for throwing away outs by the oldtimers.
Asked by: OldBackstop

Answered: 5/22/2023
 1924 is toward the end of relevant period.   Once home runs became more common, starting really in 1920, stolen base attempt frequencies declined gradually.  I can almost quote directly from Casey Stengel's 1961-62 autobiography, not sure exactly when it was, but I remember the quote because it made an impact on my thinking.   Read the book 40-some years ago.  He wrote/said to his co-author "One reason they quit doing it is that they finally figured out that it helped the team only when the base stealer was successful almost every time, like Max Carey." 


I have no idea even how to go about checking this out, but I've always thought that the low stolen base percentages in times of few actual stolen base attempts were at least largely the results of failed hit-and-runs, where the batter failed to hit the ball and the stats treat the play as a stolen base attempt. A player will always have a few of these, and if there are few actual stolen base attempts, the hit-and-runs have more effect on the stats. Does this seem to you like it is true?
Asked by: Brock Hanke

Answered: 5/22/2023
 The problem is in the word "largely".  If you had suggested that they were "at least partially" a result of that, I could certainly agree.   "Largely", I just don't know.  


Bill, the FBI reports the homicide solve rate was about 55% in 2020. It s dropping despite DNA advancements and increased street cameras. Do you think you could be n the 45% who gets away with it?
Asked by: Stevez9753

Answered: 5/22/2023
 I don't intend to find out.  


The Puzo book does a good job of fictionalizing real events, and moving events around a few years here and there.  Then the Godfather movie does a good job of adapting the book for its own 7 hour purpose.  It's been decades since I read the book, but I seem to remember the turf wars and Luca Brasi playing a more prominent role than in the movie.  
On a side note: Barzini appears in four scenes, of which only one of them does he actually speak.
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 5/22/2023
 Who the hell is Barzini? 


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