Review: Street Smart

July 26th, 2020 maintains a list[0] of movies you can watch for free. Quite a few of them are awful, like “Dogtooth”. Others like “I Am Not Your Negro” are spectacular. “Dogtooth” was so wretchedly terrible and overrated that I plan to spend more time thinking and writing about it merely to have something positive result from so scarring an experience. If there is any doubt that evil exists in the world, keep in mind someone made “Dogtooth”. is a free, Linux-friendly site that offers a decent selection of shows and movies. You’ll find the repugnant “Dogtooth” here, but also some actual movies that don’t make you hate humanity. Tubi has “Street Smart” as part of their Spotlight category. I’d never heard of “Street Smart” but I’ve liked some Morgan Freeman movies, or at least “Shawshank”. There’s a global pandemic, so what the hey?

“Street Smart” was released in 1987 and stars Christopher Reeve and Morgan Freeman. There’s a time-capsule aspect to watching portrayals of stars, cities, and interiors from the late eighties. I was a kid when the movie was released, and it’s interesting to see old soft drink logos and cars. Who my age doesn’t remember Reeve as Superman and think about how hard he tried to have a dignified life after injury?

Reeve is a magazine writer back in the days when people read things. Magazines even. Reeve has committed to writing about a pimp but is completely incapable of finding one. He’s clearly not cut out for the world he hopes to cover. In other words, no street smarts. So he just makes something up. Fiction passed as truth would have seemed bad in the eighties but would hardly raise an eyebrow now. I don’t want to portray journalism as bad. It’s more important than ever. I’m sure we all miss the outrage over manufactured truth.

Reeve’s story is the talk of the town, because it was the eighties and people read things. Trouble begins when Reeve is questioned about his source and just how this Harvard-educated fella could have been given so much access? Worse still is that the phony story hews awfully close that of a real pimp played by Freeman. The local district attorney believes Reeve wrote about Freeman, while Freeman’s defense attorney senses an opportunity to have the case muddled enough to result in acquittal.

This movie has the ingredients of a zany comedy, where aw shucks, this is all just one goofy mix up. “Street Smart” is better, and quite serious. Reeve becomes more successful, landing a regular television spot where he provides a safe, voyeuristic view into small crimes like graffiti and taxi fraud. Taxis. Remember those? Reeve starts to lose his sense of self and falls further into both his lie and the world it steals from.

The genius of the movie is that Freeman quickly senses and capitalizes on Reeve’s naivete. The two meet, and it’s not long before Freeman shows what his world is really like. Violent, unforgiving, predatory. The movie does a good job of illustrating the kind of tourism the privileged can engage in with regard to the poor and minorities. Freeman knows this, and uses it to his advantage. The movie makes the point explicit, but not in a hyperbolic way. Why is Reeve picking on the poor?

“Street Smart” was Freeman’s breakout role, earning him a well-deserved Academy Award nomination. Freeman provides his villain with dignity of sorts, fluctuating between harsh violence and a type of paternalism for those he controls. We’re shown a human with both mercy and uncertainty, instead of cartoonish fantasy that patronizes the viewer.

The movie is effective social commentary that is more relevant today than it was in the eighties. Everyone including Reeve seems corrupt. Truth only matters when there’s not profit to worry about. The district attorney, Reeve’s long-suffering girlfriend, and a prostitute Reeve befriends are not corrupt and show how vulnerable the good can be in a terrible world. The movie is quite strong here and makes me wonder why more haven’t seen it.

I’m reminded of the 2001 movie that everyone has seen: “Training Day”. If you liked “Training Day” there’s something wrong with you, or you haven’t seen far superior movies like “Street Smart”. Denzel Washington is amazing in “Training Day” but the movie is quite poorly strung together. The borrowed premise is similar. A privileged, white outsider doesn’t belong in the world he finds himself in while showing the audience that this underworld is filled with real human beings trying to survive.

“Street Smart” is quite a good movie that misses its chance to be a great. Despite all the careful commentary and willingness to show the brutality of life, we get a far more typical Hollywood ending. In one sense the ending shows us what typically happens to those with fewer means. Reeve isn’t a hero and great movie would have haunted us with that.


$Id: review_street_smart 569 2020-07-26 14:26:01Z x $


Writing Again

July 25th, 2020

It’s strange to think I’ve barely left my home since the beginning of the great SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. I’ve driven to surrounding areas a bit, a store here and there. The situation we find ourselves in reminds me of Shayamalan’s “The Happening” from 2008, a poorly-executed film dealing with unseen danger. In the film, you sniff some bad air and then decide you want to wreck your car or otherwise harm yourself. Unlike the film, it’s not angry trees that are causing harm in the world. No, I didn’t spoil anything for you.

The great pandemic has forced us all to adapt. If you’re lucky, your employer lets you work from home, greatly limiting your risk of getting yourself or others sick. Humans need contact, however, so you have to keep mindful of your own sanity. I’ve spent a lot of the pandemic working on music. I also felt this would be a good time to put my web site back online.

It’s no longer 1997 and I don’t have to build my own web sites. Why not use WordPress? Security, for one. You can use containers to add a modest amount of containment[0]. Containers provide lots of ways of doing something. Lots of often boneheaded ways. I want to have a site that I can administer, update, migrate, backup, and restore that hopefully offers a touch more security. Containers are a wonderful way of making all of that far more difficult than it needs to be.

I was quite happy to run on RHEL 7, having set up my server years ago. RHEL releases are supported for about ten years, reducing churn and upgrades that can break things. Docker is the dominant container technology, but but I chose Podman due to its ability to run rootless containers. RHEL 7.8’s version of Podman fails (at the time of this writing) when trying to run MariaDB rootless. Things work fine in RHEL 8, so I created a local RHEL 8 VM, transferred it to my cloud provider (which had changed lots of things in the years since I’d last logged in), and copied over my old configs.

Unfortunately some of my configs go back to 2008 or earlier. It’s not difficult to set up a mail server, but it does get a bit more interesting if you want to do things like integrate Dovecot and enable TLS in more areas. So after about twelve or so years, things in RHEL 8 had changed enough that I had to re-learn what some archaic configs meant once again. Dovecot’s config changes in RHEL 8[1] ensured I wouldn’t be up and running without lots of frustrating trial and error.

Somehow after I’d spent enough time suffering through all of the new tech changes I hadn’t kept up on, I had a working server again. My next concern was getting WordPress running. That’s not difficult using the official container, but you’re in for some fun if you want TLS or if you want WordPress served via location and not via a host name. You’ll notice you’re reading this via “” instead of “”. In short, I’ve given up on trying to make the WordPress container work via location. I got far enough that nearly everything worked, but what you’ll find is that WordPress will work, mostly, but then you’ll get things like improper redirection for login pages or, once you fix that, bad links for password resets for users. You win, container. it is.

I’ve spent a long time with all manner of new tech, just so I could write a few things. If there’s interest I’d be happy to share what I know. In the meantime, I’ll just say that all of the effort wasn’t strictly necessary. If you want to write things, just get an account at a site that’s already set up somewhere. Or you could spend a lot of time learning and tweaking.

[0] Containers don’t traditionally ‘contain’ as much as virtualization. Virt is better if you’re after more complete security.
[1] This post finally solved my Dovecot issues:


You’re Early

You’re a bit early. But good for you. Maybe take some time to strut: