Quotulatiousness

January 13, 2018

Actors and public morality

Filed under: History, Media, Religion, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jonah Goldberg on the differences in the way actors were viewed historically and today:

It may be hard for some people to get the joke these days, but for most of human history, actors were considered low-class. They were akin to carnies, grifters, hookers, and other riffraff. In ancient Rome, actors were often slaves. In feudal Japan, Kabuki actors were sometimes available to the theatergoers as prostitutes — a practice not uncommon among theater troupes in the American Wild West.

In 17th century England, France, and America, theaters were widely considered dens of iniquity, turpitude, and crapulence. Under Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan dictatorship, the theaters were forced to close to improve moral hygiene. The Puritans of New England did likewise. A ban on theaters in Connecticut imposed in 1800 stayed on the books until 1952.

Partly out of a desire to develop a wartime economy, partly out of disdain for the grubbiness of the stage, the first Continental Congress in 1774 proclaimed, “We will, in our several stations, … discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse-racing, and all kinds of gaming, cock-fighting, exhibitions of shews [sic], plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments.”

[…]

The most recent Golden Globes ceremony has already been excoriated for being a veritable geyser of hypocritical effluvia, as the same crowd that not long ago bowed and scraped to serial harasser and accused rapist Harvey Weinstein, admitted child rapist Roman Polanski, and that modern Caligula, Bill Clinton, congratulated itself for its own moral superiority.

The interesting question is: Why have movie stars and other celebrities become an aristocracy of secular demigods? It seems to me an objective fact that virtually any other group of professionals plucked at random from the Statistical Abstract of the United States — nuclear engineers, plumbers, grocers, etc. — are more likely to model decent moral behavior in their everyday lives. Indeed, it is a bizarre inconsistency in the cartoonishly liberal ideology of Hollywood that the only super-rich people in America reflexively assumed to be morally superior are people who pretend to be other people for a living.

I think part of the answer has to do with the receding of religion from public life. As a culture, we’ve elevated “authenticity” to a new form of moral authority. We look to our feelings for guidance. Actors, as a class, are feelings merchants. While they may indeed be “out of touch” with the rest of America from time to time, actors are adept at being in touch with their feelings. And for some unfathomably stupid reason, we now think that puts us beneath them.

January 8, 2018

Mark Steyn reviews Darkest Hour

Filed under: Britain, History, Media, Military, WW2 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The latest screen depiction of Winston Churchill gets the once-over from Mark Steyn:

Churchill tends to the Churchillian, which is to say the epic. Darkest Hour, by contrast, is very finely focused. Joe Wright, director, and Edward McCarten, writer, confine their two dark hours of screen time to a couple of critical weeks in May 1940, when Hitler’s invasion of Norway precipitated Neville Chamberlain’s retreat from Downing Street. Aside from some rather elaborately choreographed overhead shots and a lush grandiose score, Darkest Hour is filmed claustrophobically, too – in poky sitting rooms, Downing Street basements, attics, Westminster ante-rooms, and chilly lavatories; the lighting is crepuscular. The fate of the world is being determined, but we never glimpse the far horizons, only the dingy backrooms.

What happened that month was a showdown between the two principal contenders for the Prime Ministership, Mr Churchill and Lord Halifax. Stephen Dillane is excellent as Halifax, the vulpine cadaver looking down (in every sense) from the Commons gallery at Churchill’s turns at the dispatch box. Unfortunately, aside from skillful deployments of his inscrutable yet condescending eyebrows, he gets somewhat short shrift on screen, so as a Churchill vs Halifax cage match it never quite comes off – presumably because the third Viscount Halifax is entirely unknown in Hollywood. (“Third Viscount Halifax? Hey, let’s see what the first two gross before we commit to that…”)

This is a pity, because the two men were on opposite ends of the seesaw, and, capacious as Churchill’s own bottom is, most of the other players – the King, Chamberlain, the parliamentary party, defeatist generals, Dominion prime ministers around the globe – were inclined to park their own butts down Halifax’s end. On May 10th, the day Winston became PM, the Germans invaded Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Ten days later, Hitler’s army reached the Channel, and was within reach of throttling the 300,000-strong British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk, and seizing the entire French fleet. In that dreadful month of May, Churchill wanted to fight on; Halifax preferred to use Mussolini’s “good offices” to sue for a “peace” that would leave Britain and its empire more or less “intact” – save for East Africa, Suez, Malta, Gibraltar and sundry other places that would have to be addressed, per the Italian ambassador in London, “as part of a general European settlement”.

In other words, we are at the great hinge moment of the twentieth century: Had Halifax prevailed, there would have been a neutered Berlin-friendly British Empire directly bordering America on the 49th parallel and all but directly the Soviet Union in Central Asia. There would have been no potential allies for Moscow in the event of war with Germany, thus incentivizing a successful conclusion in late 1940 to Molotov’s talks in Berlin to join the Axis; and no allies whatsoever for Washington, assuming Japan still felt the need to bomb Pearl Harbor the following year. Instead, Churchill prevailed – and Britain and its lion cubs fought on, playing for time until first the Soviets and then the Americans joined the war against Germany, Italy and Japan. That year in which the moth-eaten Britiish lion and its distant cubs stood alone is, more than any other single factor, the reason why the world as ordered these last seventy years exists at all.

[…]

As with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, one’s admiration for the film is tempered by a terrible profound sadness – for a people who “won the war, and lost their country anyway”. To anyone old enough to remember an England where one could “walk into any pub in the country and ask with perfect confidence if the major had been in”, the sense of loss can bring tears to the eye. Unlike Iron-Man 5 and Spider-Man 12 and Cardboard-Man 19 and Franchise-Man 37, this is the story of an actual, real-life superhero: You leave the theater with the cheers of the House ringing in your ears …and return to a world where quoting Churchill in his own land can get you arrested.

December 22, 2017

Learning To Be Yourself With Buddy The Elf

Filed under: Economics, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Foundation for Economic Education
Published on 7 Dec 2017

The classic holiday film Elf offers a lot more than a good time and a bunch of laughs. It teaches you how to get the most out of your life by finding your comparative advantage – the intersection between what you’re good at and what people need.

After watching this video, download our free ebook “Your Life, Your Work” to learn more about how to find your own comparative advantage and build a life you’re excited about.

Get it here: https://info.fee.org/your-life-your-work

December 21, 2017

William Gibson: The 80s Revolution – Extra Sci Fi – #7

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

Extra Credits
Published on 19 Dec 2017

Start your free 1-month trial for The Great Courses Plus! http://ow.ly/3iLM30egcfR

After Star Wars, the science fiction genre suddenly became a pop culture darling, and a flood of schlocky imitations followed. William Gibson led the charge to reclaim space in the genre for his concept of future history – one that, in turn, eventually launched cyberpunk.

December 16, 2017

What? There’s another Star Wars movie? Did the Death Star regenerate itself?

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

My level of excitement for new Star Wars movies probably peaked just before the release of The Revenge of the Return of the Bride of the Jedi, and now has fallen and can’t get up. I’m perhaps not alone, as David “Iowahawk” Burge kindly illustrates:

December 2, 2017

Great Movie Fighting Techniques as illustrated by Helen of Troy

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

Lindybeige
Published on 31 Jan 2014

This video played fine within Sony Vegas Studio, but very oddly in Windows Media Player. On YouTube it seems to be part way between the two. I just wish my videos would look and sound the way I set them in the editing software. No matter – this will have to be good enough. I have delayed uploading it too long already.

This feature film (also broadcast as a mini-series) has I think enough commentable material in it for one more video.

November 26, 2017

Fire-arrows!

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

Lindybeige
Published on 10 Jun 2016

Fire-arrows – did archers really use them in battles? We see them in the movies, so presumably not.

This is the most-anticipated video of all for this channel, which naturally makes me a bit nervous. Will people be hideously disappointed? I mentioned two and a half years ago that I would make a video on this topic, and this video shows that I am as good as my word, and not over-hasty either.

My thanks to the three people who pointed out quite correctly that when I said ‘Francis Bacon’ (1561-1626) I meant Roger Bacon (1219-1292).

November 8, 2017

QotD: The second coming of SF’s depressing and neurotic “New Wave”

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

Back in the mid to late 70’s the “New Wave” was in full force. Downbeat endings, “black and gray morality” (which can be good if handled well, at least as a change-up from more clear cut items) or worse “black and black.” Those were the tone of Science Fiction.

Then, fairly close to each other, two movies came out which took an entirely different approach: Lucas’ Star Wars and Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The rogue was given back his heart of gold. The callow youth could be the hero of the piece, not ground down by the world weary cynics. Heroes who are actually heroes fighting bad guys who weren’t so “sympathetic” that you couldn’t tell hero from villain.

It was a refreshing change. And the result was that, for a time, it became OK to have good guys who were good guys. Bad guys who were actually bad and not just “oppressed” or “victims of their backgrounds”. You didn’t have to wonder who to root for.

Today we’re kind of in a similar position. One of the best selling series, for young people is The Hunger Games. Black and Very-Dark-Gray morality, little really to choose from in the sides, and (no spoilers) that’s shown pretty clearly in the ending. And in printed SF? So much “humanity is a plague” stuff. Bleah.

David L. Burkhead, “Star Wars and the Human Wave”, The Writer in Black, 2015-10-21.

October 13, 2017

Casting swords in the movies – forging a lie

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

Lindybeige
Published on 11 Nov 2015

Casting swords in moulds is something often seen in the movies, and is rubbish. Here I tell you why.

There is a method of making a sword, often depicted in the movies (I give three examples in this video, but there are MANY more), whereby glowing orange iron is poured into a huge mould, and we the viewers see the fiery liquid taking the shape of the hero’s blade-to-be. The snag with this is, it’s rubbish.

Lindybeige: a channel of archaeology, ancient and medieval warfare, rants, swing dance, travelogues, evolution, and whatever else occurs to me to make.

October 10, 2017

Crap archery in Helen of Troy

Filed under: History, Humour, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Lindybeige
Published on 9 Jan 2014

This film continues to be a mine of errors, and there were so many on archery, that I thought I could do a whole video on this one subject.

On the speed of arrows, I was assuming the belly of the horse to be 12 feet above the archers. The first arrow to arrive took 20 frames to get there, which is 4/5 second (PAL 25 frames per second), and 5/4 of 12 is 15, so they were travelling at about 15 feet per second.

On opposed landings, I could give the example of the British liberation of the Falkland Islands. Even though there were not vast numbers of Argentinians on the Islands, and the British had air and sea superiority, the British still chose to land unopposed the other side of the islands and walk all the way across, rather than risk an opposed landing. In the ancient world, I do not know of a successful attack on a fortified place from the sea. When the Romans cleared the Mediterranean of pirates, they did it by landing troops away from the pirate strongholds, and then marching to the strongholds overland.

www.LloydianAspects.co.uk

October 5, 2017

Out of Frame: The Real Life Wilson Fisk

Filed under: Government, History, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:00

Foundation for Economic Education
Published on 5 Oct 2017

Wilson Fisk is one of the most terrifying villains in the Marvel universe. Good thing he’s just fictional, right? Wrong!

In this episode of Out of Frame, we explore the real-life Wilson Fisk, a central planner from America’s not so distant past.

Learn more about Robert Moses and his greatest nemesis, Jane Jacobs at FEE: https://fee.org/articles/jane-jacobs/

September 26, 2017

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution … sorta #TheDeathOfStalin

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

Entertainment One UK
Published on 11 Aug 2017

In Cinemas Oct 20.

The internal political landscape of 1950’s Soviet Russia takes on darkly comic form in a new film by Emmy award-winning and Oscar-nominated writer/director Armando Iannucci.

In the days following Stalin’s collapse, his core team of ministers tussle for control; some want positive change in the Soviet Union, others have more sinister motives. Their one common trait? They’re all just desperately trying to remain alive.

A film that combines comedy, drama, pathos and political manoeuvring, The Death of Stalin is a Quad and Main Journey production, directed by Armando Iannucci, and produced by Yann Zenou, Kevin Loader, Nicolas Duval Assakovsky, and Laurent Zeitoun. The script is written by Iannucci, David Schneider and Ian Martin, with additional material by Peter Fellows.

#TheDeathOfStalin
www.deathofstalin.co.uk

September 22, 2017

Fifteen years later

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Craig Tomashoff talks to several of the cast and crew of Firefly:

In the Beginning

Minear: I knew this show felt special and important, but I didn’t realize what it was going to be at that early stage. It really wasn’t until we were into the making of it that it hit me. Once the show was cast and the spaceship (Serenity) was built, then it was a different story. It has been a very complicated process up to that point because Fox didn’t like the pilot. They made Joss go back and add some humor. He did what he could without damaging the pilot, but they never really understood what Firefly was and never loved it. This was all happening right before the 2002 upfronts, and the network was trying to decide if it was going to go for another season of their sci-fi show Dark Angel or pick up this Joss Whedon space show. They couldn’t see in their head what an hour of this show would look like and told us they weren’t sure we’d get a pickup. Joss and I said we’d write a first episode over that weekend before the announcements and they said OK. Then we asked ourselves, “Are we crazy? Can we do this in two days?” But we spent two days at Joss’ Mutant Enemy office, where we broke the story and each wrote half of the episode. And by Monday morning, we had written the “Train Job” episode [which was written as the show’s second episode but aired as the pilot Sept. 20, 2002] and the network liked it. And we got picked up.

Berman: Firefly had an incredibly good pilot script, very ahead of its time. I remember it generating a lot of excitement inside the company and we were hopeful it was going to be a brand-new franchise for us. And when it came to casting, Joss was also very forward thinking as he always was. He put together a remarkably intelligent and diverse group.

Getting to Know You

Gina Torres (Zoe Washburne): I was given an outline, but no script, when I auditioned. It was a detailed outline from Joss, and it ran through the big strokes and pieces of scenes that would potentially be in the actual script. I remember thinking, at the very end of reading the outline, though this was a sci-fi show, there were no aliens and no mutants. It was an intriguing take, a sci-fi Western. So I said, “OK, I’ll meet.” Buffy and Angel weren’t a part of my world, but I knew that the guy who created them had had great success. When Joss called me in to read, he said I was just coming in to see producers. Right from the beginning, this show was unlike anything I had experienced. There was no script and one guy auditioning me.

Sean Maher (Simon Tam): The material I was given was the scene from the pilot where Simon explains to the crew what had happened to his sister — the “I am very smart” speech. Given that there wasn’t a script, my first question when I met Joss to audition was, “Can you tell me about the show?” He proceeded to paint this extraordinary picture of this wonderfully unique world he had created. I was sold.

Alan Tudyk (Hoban Washburne): I was doing a play in New York when my agent sent me a description of the pilot. I had a friend who’d done a Buffy episode, and when I asked about Joss and if I should go in for a show of his, the answer was the most emphatic “yes” you could get. I did a test on DVD but then forgot about it. Then, I ended up out in Los Angeles for another audition and was about to come home when my agent said they wanted to test me for this show Firefly. I’d forgotten what it even was at that point, figuring that if my audition DVD wasn’t in the trash it was at least trash adjacent. But a week after I went in, I got the part.

Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb): I knew nothing about the show until I auditioned. I loved Westerns and shoot-’em-ups when I was little. I would watch them with my dad, so that was great. I put on a grumbly voice in my audition, kind of like in those old movies, and they let me just go with it in the show.

Why I DON’T watch (most) TV Documentaries

Filed under: History, Media, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Sep 2017

I get asked quite a lot about TV documentaries either which I recommend, like or watch. Well, here are the main reasons why I usually avoid them like the plague.

September 20, 2017

In the 60s and 70s, “Confederate Chic escaped the modern odium that often had been accorded the Lost Cause revisionism”

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Victor Davis Hanson on the era when the progressive left embraced the “Lost Cause” imagery of the South:

Leftists love Johnnie Reb in movies and songs. But statues? Not so much. How exactly did the Left romanticize the Lost Cause Confederacy, and by extension its secession and efforts to preserve slavery? To use a shopworn phrase, “It’s complicated.”

Good Ol’ Rebels

Well before the end of Jim Crow, post-war leftist Hollywood still largely continued its soft mythologies of the Confederate Lost Cause. Perhaps the cinematic romance arose because of the lucrative fumes of earlier Gone with the Wind fantasies, which themselves might’ve come from an understandable desire to play a part in “binding up the nation’s wounds.”

[…]

The supposedly left-wing 1960s and 1970s, in fact, were the heyday of Confederate Chic. True, there were plenty of In the Heat of the Night portraits of the now-familiar racist white Neanderthals, but with the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the end of Jim Crow segregation, the romance of the Old South reappeared, updated and tweaked for the era of counterculture protest.

The contemporary hippie style of long hair, beards and mustaches, resistance to government authority, twangy folk-song strains, and hard-edged metal all fed into the rural, down-home Confederate romance. Notions of slavery, segregation, and secession mysteriously disappeared. Southern attitude was no longer Bull Connor but airbrushed Sixties-era resistance, at least at the superficial level of pop culture.

In Walter Hill’s post-Vietnam The Long Riders (1980), the murderous Jesse James gang morphs into a sort of mix of Lynyrd Skynyrd with Bonnie and Clyde — noble outlaws fighting the grasping northern banks and the railroad companies’ “Pinkerton Men.” David Carradine and his siblings, playing members of the gang, appear like Woodstock rockers, with exaggerated southern accents, long unkempt hair, hippie buckskin, and a don’t-give-a-damn Bay Area resistance attitude.

[…]

The unlikely common denominator that brought together left-wing Sixties popular culture with Confederate cool was a mutual hatred of a supposedly big, square, soulless, and powerful Washington, hated for its insolence in Vietnam and for stifling the individual — as if the poor lost South had been once as defenseless as the Vietnamese in the face of such a godless steamroller, or as if the Carradine clan were like the Allman Brothers with six-shooters.

Southern pop-music angst, hard metal, and crossover country and western channeled southern and Confederate themes, supposedly adding authenticity to mostly mainstream northern suburban American pop. Were rockers from the South popular versions of the 1920s and ’30s Southern Agrarians (“I’ll take my stand”) critics?

Few pop icons (but see Neil Young’s “Southern Man”) dared in the 1980s to suggest that southern chic was somehow blind to the racism of the Confederacy rather than just defiant and anti-government. The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Sweet Home Alabama”), the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels (“The South’s Gonna Do It”), Confederate Railroad (“Summer in Dixie”), and even REM squared the circle of grafting old-style Confederate attitudes with hip counterculture, even if superficially and often nonsensically.

In other words, Confederate Chic escaped the modern odium that often had been accorded the Lost Cause revisionism sweeping the country from 1890 to 1920, in part fueled by rising nativism and renewed commitment to Jim Crow.

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