Quotulatiousness

July 21, 2017

Dunkirk

Filed under: History, Media, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle was very impressed with the new Christopher Nolan movie on the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940:

I was perhaps unreasonably excited to see Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s new movie about the evacuation of British forces from a French beach during World War II. The historical event on which it is based is astonishing: unable to get enough warships close to the beach to load their fleeing troops, the British government mobilized a flotilla of small private craft, which ultimately helped evacuate more than 330,000 soldiers ahead of the German army. I was eager to see what one of my favorite directors would do with the story.

He did not disappoint. This nearly flawless film put me on the edge of my seat for two hours. It is the best thing I’ve seen about war since the stunning opening of Saving Private Ryan — and Nolan, bless him, is not prey to Steven Spielberg’s compulsion to mar his creations by slopping them over with speechy goo.

As with all of Nolan’s films, it’s emotionally distant from its characters. Cillian Murphy plays an officer credited only as “Shivering Soldier,” and none of the characters have much in the way of backstory or goals, other than survival. Matt Zoller Seitz calls it an “Ant Farm Picture,” a portrait of society in which individuals are almost incidental. That’s rather the point.

A lesser director would have given in to the temptation to make this a story about the righteous crusade against the Germans, men fighting other men, but Nolan shows us a world in which the enemy is a plane, a torpedo, the water and the flying bullets, and men are reduced to little more than their rage to live.

The result is less a war film than a disaster movie. An exquisite disaster movie. I didn’t expect such a vivid and visceral illustration of how quickly a ship can sink, or just how difficult it is to hit a target in the sky. I left the theater almost too overwhelmed to talk.

Having recovered, I began to wonder why we can’t have more pictures like Dunkirk. The easy answer is, of course, that there is only one Christopher Nolan, and only so many people willing to give him $150 million to spend putting thousands of extras and some World War II-era ordnance onto a French beach. But the easy answer is incomplete.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve been impressed with the reviews I’ve seen so far (except the ludicrous “it doesn’t have any women or POC characters in lead roles” criticism from historical illiterates).

July 15, 2017

The Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee

Filed under: History, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

As a long-time admirer of H.L. Mencken (since discovering Prejudices: A Selection in a used book store on Queen Street in the mid-1980s), I’ve always had an interest in the skullduggery around the “Scopes Monkey Trial” … and apparently so has Colby Cosh:

H.L Mencken celebrates the repeal of Prohibition, December 1933.

In a merely procedural sense, the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, ended on July 21, 1925 with the conviction of biology teacher John T. Scopes on the charge of instructing students that “man has descended from a lower order of animals.” But of course the real Monkey Trial is eternal, winding its way anew through American life, decade after decade. The carefully staged publicity stunt in Tennessee was merely one occasion in a longer struggle over the nature of man and the limits of his knowledge. I know this is an old-fashioned romantic ACLU-liberal view of the matter, but I hold to it.

As I write this column, county officials in Dayton are unveiling a statute of Clarence Darrow, the garrulous, crooked lawyer who represented Team Enlightenment in the original 1925 contest between Darwinian evolution and the Scriptures. In 2005, the citizens of Dayton, where Monkey Trial tourism is now a crucial industry, erected a statue of William Jennings Bryan on the grounds of the immortal Rhea County courthouse. Bryan had been the chosen hero of evangelical Christianity in the trial, dying less than a week after its conclusion, and is the namesake of a local bible college, which paid for the statue.

[…]

I became a serious student of the Scopes Trial as an undergraduate. Like anybody else, I had seen the 1960 Hollywood rendering of the play about the trial, Inherit The Wind, which represents Bryan as an ignorant windbag, Darrow as a tired, patient figure of ostentatious nobility, and a thinly disguised H.L. Mencken as a cruel nihilist newspaperman. Today, I suppose I would regard Mencken as the real hero of the show. He was privy to the ACLU’s engineering of the trial as a publicity stunt, but he also always said that Tennessee was within its constitutional rights to forbid the teaching of evolution — to be, in his view, just as backward as its people wished.

Inherit The Wind makes its pseudo-Mencken a heartless guttersnipe mostly as a device for elevating a sympathetic Darrow even further. This is part of the movie’s major liberty with the events of the trial: it has Bryan drop dead in mid-rant at the moment of its culmination, instead of waiting a few days. What I discovered as a student was that, aside from this excusable concession to theatrical unity, the film probably deserves some kind of prize for general fidelity to historical events.

June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman – “If this woman were running for any office at all, she would have my vote”

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kurt Loder clearly enjoyed watching Wonder Woman:

Wonder Woman is a bright, promising start for a new superhero franchise. The picture may be hobbled by familiar genre junk — in the beginning, an overabundance of origin-story narrative clutter; at the end, yet another fiery digital apocalypse — but in finally providing the kick-ass Amazon with a movie all her own (after 75 years of Wonder Woman comics), director Patty Jenkins has created something fresh and stylish — an action-romance that’s unusually light on its feet.

The movie is fueled almost entirely by the flashing, dark-eyed charisma of Gal Gadot, who introduced this Wonder Woman in a cameo in last year’s dismal Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Gadot, a onetime Israeli beauty queen and former IDF combat instructor, has no trouble at all incarnating the warrior princess Diana, a young woman raised in an all-female society on a kind-of-mythical island who ventures into the world of men and is appalled by the violence and gutlessness she finds there and determines to do something about it. If this woman were running for any office at all, she would have my vote.

The movie is also fortunate in having secured the blue-eyed soul-hunk services of Chris Pine, whose romantic chemistry with Gadot is a rare combination of warmth and self-deprecating wit. Pine plays Steve Trevor, an intelligence officer with the American Expeditionary Forces (the year is 1918), who has discovered that the Germans have a horrible new weapon that could extend World War I beyond an armistice that is on the verge of being signed. They must be stopped.

[…]

The movie disregards the bondage overtones of the Wonder Woman comics, but does maintain a straightforward feminine POV. You might expect director Jenkins — who’s been unable to get any movie made in the 14 years since her first feature, Monster, enabled an Oscar win for Charlize Theron — to be a little bitter in this regard, but she seems entirely cheerful. True, when Steve’s assistant Etta (Lucy Davis), details all the duties she does for her boss, Diana does say, “We call that slavery.” But Jenkins also has Diana melting down at the sight of a baby on a London street, and the contrasts between feminine and masculine principles in this picture are for the most part gently conveyed: Steve is dedicated to snuffing warmongers; Diana is more concerned with war’s victims. When Steve teaches Diana how to slow-dance in a lamplit village square one night, she says, “Is this what people do when there are no wars to fight?”

Although some of its sets are shabbily artificial-looking, and some of its slo-mo action is wearily dated (Zach Snyder was one of the producers), this is nevertheless a movie you root for. It’s richly pulpy but cleanly wrought, and it creates a new comic-book world that’s blessedly free of the grim neuroses that darken so many superhero films. Most notably, its star is a gift to a genre that was long past the point of beginning to feel seriously depleted.

May 31, 2017

Stormtrooper gear

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In The Register, Gavin Clarke talks about “inexpensive” replicas of the original Star Wars stormtrooper helmets and other gear:

Original Stormtrooper Hero Helmet from Shepperton Design Studios + originalstormtrooper.com

Two years ago, the helmet of an Empire Strikes Back stormtrooper fetched $120,000 (£92,736) at US auction.

An Imperial TIE fighter pilot’s helmet, said to be one of just 12 made for A New Hope, went the following year for £180,000 ($233,244) – something the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce dismissed as a “piece of plastic”.

Big money indeed, but the record to date for stormtroopers, the most widely recognised symbol of the Empire, is held by A New Hope sandtrooper helmet, named the Stop That Ship Helmet for the scene it briefly appeared in – the Millennium Falcon blasting out of Mos Eisley under fire. That helmet sold at auction in April for $190,000 (£145,675) in the US.

Yes, four decades after A New Hope debuted in the US – 25 May, 1977 – props built for just £20 a pop are fetching the price of a three-bed semi in the West Midlands.

What’s helping drive up the price is scarcity: just 50 stormtrooper uniforms were made for A New Hope. Those that survived the shoot now reside in private collections.

[…]

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists – Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 – around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

May 29, 2017

Mark Steyn on the career of Roger Moore

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

On the weekend, Mark Steyn posted an article discussing the late Sir Roger’s pre-Bond roles:

Roger Moore played 007 in seven Bond films – although it seemed like more at the time. He was a rare Englishman in a role more often played by Celts and colonials – Connery (Scots), Lazenby (Aussie), Dalton (Welsh), Brosnan (Irish)… Any Canadians? Yes. Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). For some Ian Fleming fans, Moore was a little too English for a role that benefits from a certain chippiness toward his metropolitan masters. Yet he bestrode the era like a colossus whose legs wee almost as unfeasibly long as they are on the Octopussy poster and whose trouser flares were almost as terrifyingly wide as on the Man With The Golden Gun poster.

[…]

But The Saint, for six years in the Sixties, was a hit of an entirely different scale, and made Moore the first UK TV star to become a millionaire (hence, in the Seventies, the tax exile). Leslie Charteris had created the Saint in the Twenties, and the books are very much of their day. But Moore’s version planted Simon Templar firmly in the Swingin’ Sixties with a lot of Continental dolly birds to give it some Euro-cool. Lew Grade, bored by running a local telly franchise in Birmingham, had his eye on the global market and gave The Saint a rare style for the British TV of its day. It started with the stylized graphics and theme tune, and then, upon the initial reference to Simon Templar’s name, the animated halo appearing over the character’s head, at which Roger Moore would glance amusedly upwards – perhaps the first conscious, and most iconic, deployment of his famous eyebrows.

True, if you paid close attention from week to week, the passenger terminal helpfully labeled “Nice” or “Monte Carlo” or “Geneva” looked remarkably like East Midlands Airport, but Moore’s tuxedoed aplomb held it all together. He was almost too dishy in those days – his beauty spot, for one, seems far more prominent in monochrome – and he sensed that he didn’t have to do too much but stand there looking suave. Everything he would do as Bond he did as Simon Templar: the quips, the birds, the sports cars. But he did it, more or less, for real. He co-owned the series, which eventually made over a third of a billion pounds (which back then, pre-devaluation, wasn’t that far shy of a billion dollars), and he took it seriously enough to serve as producer and director – although, on the one occasion I met him, he characteristically pooh-poohed the idea that he had any talents in either field. The series became less of a mystery-solver and more of a spy caper as it progressed, and indeed in one episode Simon Templar is actually mistaken for James Bond. Sean Connery had been whinging about his Bond burdens since at least Thunderball in 1965, and Roger Moore fully expected to get the call.

[…]

Moore belonged to the last generation of British thespians for whom it was assumed that acting meant presenting as posher than one’s origins. Unlike Lord Brett, young Roger didn’t go to Harrow but to Battersea Grammar School. He dad was a policeman who went to investigate a robbery at the home of Brian Desmond Hurst, a prolific director whose films include the all-time great, Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. Constable Moore mentioned that his boy Roger quite fancied being an actor, and Hurst hired him as an extra for Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and then paid for him to go to RADA. That’s where he met a young actress called Lois Hooker from Kitchener, Ontario, who changed her name to Lois Maxwell and became the defining Miss Moneypenny. Young Lois and young Roger both poshed up at RADA – although, as snootier critics with more finely calibrated class consciousness were wont to observe, from his Saint days to Lord Brett to Bond he was Lew Grade’s and Cubby Broccoli’s idea of an English gentleman rather than the real thing.

May 21, 2017

What Fans Never Knew About Weird Al Yankovic

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 19 May 2017

With his seemingly endless optimism and light-hearted satire, Weird Al Yankovic has a power that goes beyond innovative lyrics and catchy tunes: he makes people happy. But Weird Al Yankovic’s path to success hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Here are the weirdest moments in Weird Al’s journey from a nerdy, accordion-playing teen to the Prince of Parody…

Dr. Demento | 0:23
Bathroom success | 1:15
Voice actor | 1:52
Band-mates forever | 2:35
The Saga Begins | 3:05
Top 10 triumph | 3:54
The UHF bomb | 4:33

May 4, 2017

What’s So Bad About The Galactic Empire?

Filed under: Economics, Liberty, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:06

Published on 4 May 2017

Have you ever really stopped to consider why the Galactic Empire in Star Wars is actually bad?

Welcome to Out of Frame, a new on-going monthly series where we talk about the intersection of art, culture, and ideas from a classical liberal perspective. The goal for this series is to explore the underlying ideas in movies, TV, comics, books, and other media that you may not have thought about before.

We really hope you loved this video and want to see more.

If you do, be sure to subscribe to our channel and come back for the next episode in a few weeks!

www.FEE.org

QotD: Christopher Lee in the Star Wars prequels

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

His own favorite film was Jinnah, in which he played the title role of Pakistan’s ascetic founder. It’s very credible, but it’s not why audiences loved him. Lee redeemed almost anything he was in, but had his work cut out when George Lucas signed him for the Star Wars prequels. By then Lucas was a director without peer when it comes to getting bad performances out of great actors. Once upon a time Ewan McGregor was one of the sexiest actors on the planet. Then George Lucas cast him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and turned him into a souvenir action-figure with no private parts and a flat monotone voice. As Princess Amidala, Natalie Portman couldn’t be Aniduller. The kid who plays Anakin seems like he should be the shy fellow in the back in some passing boy band but instead his agent stuck him with some lousy movie gig in a language not his own. He and Miss Portman roll in the grass like it’s a contractual obligation. The most fully realized characters are the computer-generated ones, like Yoda, the wrinkly midget with the inverted word order that nevertheless sounds less unnatural than the rest of the inert, stilted dialogue.

But, when it comes to such acting honors as there are in the series, the Empire strikes back! Lee as Count Dooku and Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine have the measure of Star Wars: go with the hokum, have some fun doing the standard creepy-snooty Brit bad-guy shtick, and cash the check.

Mark Steyn, “Fangs, Light Sabers and a Supernumary Papilla”, Steyn Online, 2015-06-13.

May 1, 2017

QotD: How to negotiate badly (unless you’re in a movie)

Filed under: Europe, Government, Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Does the [Republican congressional] caucus nominate a leader who will be itching for more such fights? This would be bad for America’s already dilapidated political institutions and civil society. It would also, I must point out, be bad for the Republican Party, which still shows lingering signs of infection by the dreaded “Ask for the Stars, You’ll Get the Moon” bargaining strategy. (Ever notice that’s so beloved by Hollywood, and by almost no one who actually has to negotiate deals for a living?)

The idea behind this is that you will eventually settle for something about halfway between your initial demands, and what the other side is asking for. The winning strategy is therefore to ask for enormous concessions, include unrealistic demands as bargaining chips, and convince the other side that you’re just crazy enough to walk away if they won’t make a deal.

As it happens, we have just had a demonstration of this technique — a live drama, no Hollywood effects: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tried it with the EU. This strategy worked so well that he ended up with a worse deal than the original offer, plus a banking crisis that is still unspooling. Somehow, this never happens in Hollywood movies.

It’s easy to see why Hollywood loves this strategy: It’s really easy to explain without chewing up screen time, and it’s dramatic. Why don’t real-world negotiators more often do this?

Megan McArdle, “Let’s See What Republicans Learn From Losing Boehner”, Bloomberg View, 2015-09-25.

April 23, 2017

Top 5 Gun Myths That Hollywood Taught Us

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Aug 2016

Top 5 Myths about Guns That Hollywood Taught Us

Forget what you see in the latest action movies or even video games, these gun myths shouldn’t be believed. We see it everywhere; James Bond, Westerns, Call of Duty, Fast and Furious, Terminator, Black Hawk Down, The Expendables, Goldeneye, Battlefield, Taken, Die Hard, Bon Cop Bad Cop, The Matrix, and so on – They’re all Bullshit, but we fall for them thanks to Hollywood. Here’s looking at you Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Can Bullets shoot through cars? Will gas canisters explode if you shoot them? Am I safe from bullets underwater? Those questions and more will be answered in this edition of Watchmojo’s Top 5 Myths.

April 22, 2017

Movie on the Armenian Genocide attracts massive number of Turkish trolls

Filed under: History, Media, Middle East — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

One of the worst aspects of the First World War was the attempt by Ottoman forces to eliminate the Armenian “threat” by launching an organized campaign of murder and deportation that killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians. A new movie which is set in this time has been drawing trollish attention from Turkish detractors:

The Promise, the grandest big-screen portrayal ever made about the mass killings of Armenians during World War I, has been rated by more than 111,300 people on IMDb — a remarkable total considering it doesn’t open in theaters until Friday and has thus far been screened only a handful of times publicly.

The passionate reaction is because The Promise, a $100-million movie starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, has provoked those who deny that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred between 1915 and 1923 by the Ottoman Empire or that the deaths of Armenians were the result of a policy of genocide. Thousands, many of them in Turkey, have flocked to IMDb to rate the film poorly, sight unseen. Though many countries and most historians call the mass killings genocide, Turkey has aggressively refused that label.

Yet that wasn’t the most audacious sabotage of The Promise, a passion project of the late billionaire investor and former MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian.

In March, just a few weeks before The Promise was to open, a curiously similar-looking film called The Ottoman Lieutenant appeared. Another sweeping romance set during the same era and with a few stars of its own, including Ben Kingsley and Josh Hartnett, The Ottoman Lieutenant seemed designed to be confused with The Promise. But it was made by Turkish producers and instead broadcast Turkey’s version of the events — that the Armenians were merely collateral damage in World War I. It was the Turkish knockoff version of The Promise, minus the genocide.

“It was like a reverse mirror image of us,” said Terry George, director and co-writer of The Promise. George, the Irish filmmaker, has some experience in navigating the sensitivities around genocide having previously written and directed 2004’s Hotel Rwanda, about the early ’90s Rwandan genocide.

George bought a ticket to see it. “Basically the argument is the Turkish government’s argument, that there was an uprising and it was bad and we had to move these people out of the war zone — which, if applied to the Nazis in Poland would be: ‘Oh, there was an uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto and we need to move these Jews out of the war zone,’” says George. “The film is remarkably similar in terms of structure and look, even.”

The movie itself, however, didn’t win over A.V. Club critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky:

Among the many virtues of James Gray’s The Lost City Of Z is its sense of proportion, which turns a decades-spanning historical epic into a pas de deux between vision and madness. Unfortunately, most recent historical epics have been more on the order of Terry George’s The Promise: messes of soap and cheese. Here at last is a film that tackles the Armenian genocide by way of a flimsy love triangle and an international cast (it really captures the diversity of the Armenian people), straining so hard to show its good intentions that it doesn’t bother to be directed. What does a movie that can’t even mount a competent horse chase — despite repeated attempts — have to say about the murder of 1.5 million people? At least George can rest easy knowing that his film is less bungled than Bitter Harvest, the February release that turned the Holodomor into the stuff of schmaltz. Up next, presumably, is Nicholas Sparks’ Auschwitz.

Doing his best impression of Omar Sharif, Oscar Isaac stars as Mikael Boghosian, a village apothecary who agrees to marry doe-eyed local girl Maral (Angela Sarafyan) in order to use her dowry to finance his dream of becoming a doctor. (Pity poor Maral, as no two members of the cast seem to agree on how to pronounce her name.) Arriving in Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Mikael moves in with his wealthy uncle and enrolls in medical school, but soon develops a crush on Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), the modern young woman who tutors his uncle’s children. But it’s 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is about to enter World War I as an ally of Germany and Austria-Hungary and within months will begin a strategic elimination of its large Armenian minority. As if to make matters worse, Ana has an American boyfriend, Chris Myers (Christian Bale), the Associated Press’ bureau chief of Armenian genocide exposition.

Still from The Promise, by Open Road Films.

April 10, 2017

Audit Hollywood!

Filed under: Business, Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Harry Shearer has launched a suit against the owners of the movie Spinal Tap after he and his co-stars earned a pitiful sum on merchandise and music royalties, despite the film’s continuing popularity. Movie studios and music conglomerates use impenetrable and complex accounting “rules” to hide any profits (as profits need to be shared with actors, directors, musicians, and writers):

Behind the ambitious, creative talent that is Hollywood lies a darker side of the entertainment industry little appreciated by the ordinary moviegoer. It’s an opaque world of film financing, revenue accretion and minimal profit share. If exposed, as our Spinal Tap lawsuit against Vivendi aims to do, fans will no doubt be horrified at the shameful gravy train that rolls for corporate rights holders at the expense of creators. So far, challenges to media conglomerates’ comfortable status quo provoke little more than derision, since the power balance is so skewed in their favor. But, for how much longer?

Spinal Tap began as a mock rock band that we four – Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and myself – developed for an appearance on a TV pilot at the end of the 1970s. On our own initiative, we wrote and recorded most of the songs and performed them live in several music clubs around L.A. before any cameras rolled. The ultimate movie was truly, in the words of Michael McKean, “the result of four very stubborn guys working very hard to create something new under the sun.”

[…]

Unfortunately, “Hollywood accounting” isn’t a practice confined to California. Within the success story that is the European film and television industry, which generated €122 billion in 2013, less than one-third of 1 percent was shared with the writers and directors of the works created. A peculiar definition of “fairness,” you might say.

Under French law, filmmakers should be paid a fee for their work plus an ongoing remuneration proportionate to the exploitation of their creation. In reality, less than 3 percent of French writers and directors receive anything more than the initial payment of that minimum guarantee. And 70 percent of all European film directors are asked to defer a proportion of their original fees (as we, the creators of This is Spinal Tap, originally agreed to do).

The Europeans are simply following Hollywood’s lead; however, Spinal Tap‘s rights are determined by US law. In fighting for creators’ rights against a French conglomerate, Spinal Tap is simply pursuing a legal path well-trodden by our American creator peers. The well-known science-fiction “flop” of a film, Return of the Jedi, has apparently never gone into profit despite earning almost $500 million worldwide. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, apparently “lost” almost $170 million.

A Man For All Seasons – Giving the Devil the Benefit of Law

Filed under: History, Law, Liberty, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Aug 8, 2012

From Robert Bolt’s classic A Man for All Seasons (1966), directed by Fred Zinnemann, starring Paul Scofield as Thomas More, the famous English lawyer, philosopher, and Renaissance humanist.

Alice More: “Arrest him!”
Sir Thomas More: “For what?”
Alice More: “He’s dangerous!”
Margaret More: “Father, that man’s bad!”
Sir Thomas More: “There’s no law against that.”
William Roper: “There is: God’s law!”
Sir Thomas More: “Then God can arrest him.”
Alice More: “While you talk, he’s gone.”
Sir Thomas More: “And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!”
William Roper: “So, now you’d give the Devil the benefit of law!”
Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”
William Roper: “Yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”
Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

March 27, 2017

2017 – the year of the Great Dissatisfaction

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kevin Williamson says that “our world is full of wonders, but not everyone finds a place in it”:

Once, the question the ambitious and dissatisfied asked themselves was: “How do I climb that ladder?” Current tastes run more toward smashing the ladder and the hierarchies for which it stands in the name of … whatever: feminism or anti-feminism, black liberation or white nationalism, global justice or national sovereignty.

We spend our days surrounded by great miracles and minor irritations. My friend Jay Nordlinger recently recounted how Joseph Stalin allowed the film The Grapes of Wrath to be shown in the Soviet Union, believing that to see an indictment of capitalism from within the beast itself would be salutary for the proletariat. The proletariat took another lesson from the film: The Joads, apparently the poorest people in America, had a Ford, a luxury no working man in the workers’ paradise could dream of. A similar story is told about the television series Dallas: The Soviets thought their subjects would recoil from the mischief of J. R. Ewing and his Texas oil cronies, but all the poor Russians could see was that American servants lived better than Soviet doctors and professors. If we could share our daily tales of woe with our great-grandparents — e.g., my complaints about the Wi-Fi on airplanes — they would not take from that the conclusion we intended.

We do not have a problem of privation in the United States. Not really. What we have is something related to what Arthur Brooks (“the most interesting man in Washington,” Tim Alberta calls him) describes as the need for earned success. We are not happy with mere material abundance. We — and not to go all Iron John on you, but I think “we” here applies especially to men — need to feel that we have earned our keep, that we have established a place for ourselves in the world by our labor or by other virtues, especially such masculine virtues as physical courage and endurance. I suspect that is a big part of the reason for the exaggeratedly reverential, practically sacramental attitude we current express toward soldiers, police officers, and firemen. Of course they are brave and deserve our gratitude, but if we had felt the need to ceremonially thank everyone for their service in 1948, we’d never have done anything else with our time. In 2017, there are many more jobs for courtiers than for soldiers, and the virtues earning the highest return are not bravery or toughness but conversational cleverness, skill in social navigation, excellence in bureaucracy, and keenness in finance.

[…]

And there is the paradox within our paradox: The world is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, and many of us have trouble finding our place in it, in part, because it is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, so much so that we have lost touch with certain older realities. One of those realities is that children need fathers. Another is that fathers need children.

But these are what my colleague David French calls the “wounds that public policy will not heal.” Our churches are full of people who would love to talk to you about healing, but many have lost interest in that sort of thing, too. And so they turn to Trump, to Le Pen, to Chavismo (which is what Bernie Sanders is peddling), and, perhaps, to opiate-induced oblivion. Where will they turn when they figure out — and they will figure it out — that there are no answers in these, either?

And what will we offer them?

February 14, 2017

Fanfic – from grubby, subversive literary backwater to big bucks and recognition

Filed under: Books, Business, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In Forbes, Hayley C. Cuccinello traces the early beginnings of the fan fiction community from Kirk-slash-Spock to Fifty Shades and beyond:

For the uninitiated, fanfiction is fiction written by a fan that features characters from a particular mythical universe such as a TV show or book. Its cousin, real person fiction (RPF), portrays actual individuals — typically celebrities — such as Harry Styles from One Direction.

Though the Fifty Shades itself has been dismissed by many as “mommy porn” and “the Great Idiot American Novel,” James is the most commercially successful fanfiction author of all time. After removing references to Twilight from Master of the Universe, a practice known as “filing off the serial numbers,” E.L. James published the renamed Fifty Shades of Grey with Writer’s Coffee Shop, an independent Australian publisher that was created by fans to commercially publish their work.

The results were astonishing. To date, James has sold over 70 million copies worldwide, including print, e-books and audiobooks. In 2013, Forbes named E.L. James the highest-paid author in the world, with $95 million in earnings, thanks to her massive book sales and a seven-figure paycheck for the first movie adaptation. In 2016, E.L. James was the eighth highest-paid author in the world, earning $14 million in 12 months, which brings her four-year total earnings to a whopping $131 million. With Fifty Shades Darker now showing in U.S. theaters – and hitting the international box office on Valentine’s Day – James’ fortunes will only continue to grow.

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“Kirk and Spock are the granddaddies of slash fanfic, which goes all the way back to when fans were writing it out and handing it to each other at conventions,” says Andi VanderKolk, co-host of the Women At Warp podcast. Some authors collected their works into fanzines that were typically sold at cost.

Many fanzine authors would later find professional careers. Lois McMaster Bujold, writer of sci-fi series the Vorkosian Saga, contributed to numerous Star Trek fanzines in the late 1960s. Sci-fi and fantasy author Diane Duane, who has authored over 10 Star Trek novels, previously wrote fanfiction.

There are many other examples outside the Star Trek universe. Darkover author Marion Zimmer Bradley not only allowed fanworks but published a few of them in official Darkover anthologies. Television writer and producer Stephen Moffat, a former Doctor Who showrunner and current showrunner for Sherlock, previously wrote fanfiction. “I refuse to mock [fanfiction], because I’m a man who writes Sherlock Holmes fanfiction for a living,” Moffat told Entertainment Weekly last year.

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