CHOICE OF ART or DIVERSION

I heard great comments about the program, “The Wire.” It was available in the local library, so I figured to crush the whole five years over a month’s viewing. I’d finish by Halloween. Nope.

At the same time as picking up “The Wire,” I checked out The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck. During the first episode of “The Wire” I peeked into the novel. In two pages Steinbeck wrote about drought and wind (upcoming dust bowl). There was incredible movement, and an array of themes triggered in my head most of which would be pushed through the novel – ecology and the environment as types of characters, forces determining the behaviors and activities of human beings. Two pages, I was hooked.

And “The Wire?” Episode One is a set up. It was slow, and slow to make its point(s). Episode Two, also a set up was slow to make its points. I could not devote 23 hours to the first season. A story was being shaped, sort of and slowly. I returned “The Wire.” I may watch it when life has slowed, and I don’t have a novelist knocking me on the head with something completely immediate and approachable.

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BAD TV: Lord of the Flies

I got to the end of Lord of the Flies by William Golding and found the whole problem with the book in a few lines:

“We saw your smoke. And you don’t know how many of you there are?”

“No sir.”

“‘I should have thought,’” said the officer as he visualized the search before him, “I should have thought that a pack of British boys – you’re all British, aren’t you – would have been able to put up a better show than that…”

In the last analysis it is not the fault of Britain or the British boys on the island. It is the fault of William Golding who did not write a novel, but structured this book to support this phony conclusion, a condemnation of Britain or of something equally nonsensical.

Lord of the Flies is not a novel. It is a fable advanced as reflecting reality which is only possible on paper. How does a novel differ? There is setting, characters and what happens (story). There is an element of time – something happens before something else, and the reader understands that or the reader appreciates some order of events.

Lord of the Flies differs. The setting is a tropical island, I assume in the Pacific. The identified characters are primarily older boys, biguns Golding calls them. What happens on the island without adult input or supervision is questionable, inconsistent and in the end unreal. Time, the relations of events to one another, is scattered to the winds – the only means the reader can tell that something happens later than an earlier event is become it comes later in the text. It should be noted some events can be read before others, and it makes no difference to the reader’s comprehension or understanding.

The book begins with Ralph and Piggy, pampered fat boy with asthma, arriving on the island. They wonder how many boys survived the plane crash into the sea. As the reader learns at the end, no boy on the island has ever counted. Thinking back to my childhood, counting would be the first thing boys would do to know whether everyone survived each day. But Golding neglects this boyish whim; he wants no count. Indeed, he calls the young boys, littlums, and bigger boys, biguns. As events happen littlums and biguns are here and there when Golding needs them in increasing or decreasing numbers.

The island is explored, and the kids seem to know where they are going when they walk around, but no one knows how large the island is: Two miles, four miles, six miles long. The island is large enough to have remote areas and to support feral pigs which have not devastated all the plants. But it can only be inferred that it is small – there is one pit with a fire to cook hunted pigs [dead pigs are difficult for boys to move a great distance], and a signal fire. When Ralph is running for his life at the end, he thinks and acts like there is no place to hide (although the pigs hide pretty well) so the island is small. However, another boy Jack, breaks away from Ralph and Piggy and takes his “tribe” to another settlement on the island, so the island is larger. At best there are mixed signals about the size of the island.

Fat boy, Piggy, is on many pages but remains a mystery. Golding reports he has “brains,” but there’s little indication of them. It is suggested he is a bigun who likes to hang around with the littums, but I’m not sure how long that lasted. Piggy is fat because he is an orphan raised by Auntie who allows him to eat “sweets” and bon-bons all day from her candy shop. He also has asthma which limits his activities. Piggy remains fat throughout the pages, I suppose. His behavior doesn’t change. He is obstinate and obnoxious especially when his glasses are used to start fires [magnifying sun to get leaves and wood to burn].

It remains a question, how long are the kids on the island. Long enough to know hunting pig is real work; building huts is real work; maintaining a signal fire which always peters out [and Piggy’s glasses must be used again] is real work. Hair grows long; clothes are ripped, frayed and disintegrate. Golding doesn’t tell the reader how long, but it seems four months, perhaps six. Why is this important? Piggy. I was a fat kid once, and despite eating everything in sight at a one-week summer camp, I lost five pounds. Piggy is away from the candy shop for a time, and he’s eating fruit and occasionally pig but nothing else. [British kids are on an island and no one thinks to drop a line into the water to catch fish.] I figure after four months Piggy would lose 40 pounds, if he needed to lose that many. For a kid – lose weight, become more active, have more energy, perhaps the asthma symptoms are alleviated or eliminated – there is character development: “No one will call me Piggy, any more!” HOWEVER, William Golding has no sense of time or setting. Piggy is a person who is static, worthless, nonsensical and someone to kill, which Golding does.

Who is important in the book and disposed? Jack, the hunter, who invents the competing “tribe,” and who raises fears about the island “beast.” Somehow, Jack got most of the biguns and littums, how many no one knows (10, 12, 50) to join him. Activities Jack organizes include putting on paint (symbolizing primitive man) and dancing around a fire (when available), a primitive man activity. But how did Jack get the others to join him? Still no one knows; there is no reasonable or plausible explanation. What we know is the littums were worthless when work was necessary; they want to play, interacting with one another in that arena of a fantasy/reality world. Will they put on face paint and dance if there’s no Halloween candy? Will they abandon huts built in one place to go to another? None of this reality is spelled out in an organized, regular and straightforward manner. It seems Jack’s activities are planned but involve work, not play. A reader can infer elements of fear and terror are part of Jack’s tribe: Simon, Jack’s fellow hunter is killed, Jack raids Ralph and Piggy’s encampment, Jack organizes his encampment so it is defensible and Piggy is killed. There is no reason to stay with Jack’s tribe.

There is no part of Lord of the Flies which represents reality. There are holes, lacunae; there is no character development; after Jack breaks away and lives in his own camp newly invented biguns (Roger, Robert and Maurice) show up. The tale is myth and fantasy. What does it have to tell us about human beings? There are better novels, studies and histories to read to learn about the stuff which William Golding conjectures.

There is a curious feature about the book. The characters are set and remain the same throughout; the setting is the same although undefined; the activities don’t differ greatly from one another; one activity does not progress easily from one chapter to the next. The dialogue is very mediocre and somewhat repetitive. Early in the book I had the sensation that each chapter was a episode of a TV show: Arrival on the island. Getting organized. Signal fire. Hunting – hut building. Looking for the beast. Successful pig kill. Painting bodies, dancing, tribalism. So episodic are the chapters that they suggest the reality TV shows today, whether set on a tropical island or in a house. What William Golding has written is a TV show for a season.

There are novels which are episodic and can be told in a series of episodes. Lord of the Flies is not one of them. In those books an episode is presented, and a second episode set out, adding to, developing and telling of the characters, although the time and the setting may be static. When I read that the biguns were searching for the beast, I thought, they have no memory, no experience and no knowledge of where they came from[British society] and what they learned there. They and the story are contrived. None of those kids has ever heard of a snipe hunt. Lord, this is a bad TV show.

Another static fixation at the beginning is the conch. Piggy and Ralph find a conch shell which Ralph learns to blow and make sounds. Island Rule One: When the conch sounds there will be an assembly; the person holding the conch has the floor. Golding sets this rule into cement for the remainder of the text, but in reality any group, even biguns and littums will change or modify the rule. The rule in cement is a reason why Jack splits, forming his “tribe.” The group psychology of that is not part of the text. Golding is interested in making an unsupported fantasy point. He does not want to represent reality. He is remarkably unsightful about the politics and the psychology of anyone or any group on the island, an extraordinary coincidence considering that the whole mess is coming from his mind. This is a bad TV show.

There is one setting, transplanted to the island, that might support Golding’s story: A private British Boarding School. I sense a lot can be written about those schools and those places, the horrors that are perpetrated and the demented boys they matriculate. They are not best represented by “Good-bye Mr. Chips.” Possibly, Golding wrote but didn’t want to identify the school. He thought, I’ll drop the kids on a tropical island. They won’t know why they are there, just use the word “evacuate,” like World War II. There will be no adult supervision; the kids can go hog wild. Using those bases the book is incomplete and imperfect. It is bad TV.

I suspect the boys are not British, despite Golding’s nationality and identification at the end. Nowhere among the thousands of words is “queue” mentioned. The world knows (especially in the 1950s) that queue and queuing were part of the genetic makeup of every person living on those islands. This omission gives the book no anchor, leaving the words adrift seeking the safety of land. Golding maybe writing about Latin American boys, or Chinese or Russian but certainly not British. He is not writing about Americans who are trained to numbers: 68. Look at the counting-box, 36. That’s a long wait, but the solution is obvious. As the clerk finishes one customer, he looks ahead and asks, Who’s next? Someone points to the counting-box, and everyone waiting learns the clerk can read and count: “37, 38, 39…61.” Suddenly life becomes more sensible and manageable.

There should be more sense and order in Lord of the Flies. 

PREPOSITIONS

I’ve not written about this subject, but I’ve seen blogs and more needs saying.

Prepositions AT THE END OF THE SENTENCE. When one of his sentences was corrected on this point, Winston Churchill responded: “This type of arrogant pedantry up with which I will not put.”

There is a common usage in American to ADD A  PREPOSITION to indicate direction, although the direction is inferred from the verb; the preposition is not necessary. The usage should be “stand,” rather than “stand up.” Likewise, usage should be “sit” rather than “sit down,” unless you’re giving instructions to an obstinate dog or a troublesome kid.

Prepositions can simplify paragraphs especially when giving the RELATIONSHIP of a thing, a person or a place to another. Consider: below, above, behind, ahead, under, with, beside. Prepositions can be used LIKE A VERB to connote motion or activity: up, through, from, along, over, to  and toward.

In University studies of FOREIGN LANGUAGES (French, German), I learned that this preposition was used only with this verb. Other prepositions used with that verb were wrong. English is more relaxed. I’ve never seen a list or a reference book. The rule apparently is, just like the controlling rule for all writing in this language, use which ever preposition that makes sense and conveys the meaning you want.

Tender is the Night – 1

I’m currently reading for another criticism, and it’s tough going. Who would have thought Tender is the Night is heavy lumber? I bought the book at an estate sale. The people were moving from California to the East Coast (cheaper). They packed and took what they wanted and left the remainder to the public: 17 boxes of books. No one needs Tender is [anything] in their library. Indeed nothing in California is tender except people’s feelings and sensitivities.

I made the mistake of glancing at the Introduction. Sentence One: “To the end of his life Fitzgerald was puzzled by the comparative failure of Tender is the Night, after the years he spent on it and his efforts to make it the best American novel of his time.” I decided to read something else. Chapter One. My first thought – Fitzy has to stop writing about the lives of Ivy League trash, their troubles and tribulations. His books have Yalies, Crimson boys and Tiger Tims. He should write about a car mechanic instead of killing in in Gatsby. Write about a minister, mining engineer, but no more of good-for-nothing-Ivy-League-brats, people and characters that are indistinguishable in Fitzy’s mind, identical characters in his books and a uniform lump of mush. After all, Fitzy doesn’t want to write a string of romance novels. He’s purportedly writing “the best American novel of his time.” So the Ivy League is why he failed.

It’s difficult to go to a clumsy sentence after a nonsensical line of dialogue. The problem is voice – narrative, third person, third person familiar, stream of consciousness, etc. Fitzy mixes voices and voice. Sometimes the voice isn’t consistent from participation to participation.

Continue reading

LIFE AND FRIENDS

When Fat Man in the Middle Seat came out, I was interested. I liked Jack Germond. I saw him on TV, and he always tried to be honest. The viewer knew where his opinions were. A friend at the time (1999) said the book wasn’t very good. That friend, no longer, was not well read but politically oriented. He was and is living a life I really don’t understand. But a few weeks ago I found Fat Man in the Middle Seat at an estate sale and bought it.

It is of interest especially for persons engaged in medias and newspapers before then. There are human beings in this world destined to become newspaper people. The public doesn’t see them today because journalistic standards have changed for the worse. However, Jack Germond tells of these standards, of suggestions, of compromises, of agreements in form and now somewhat the lack of oversight by news organizations. Frequently, today there is no pretense to abide by journalistic standards – choose any cable TV news channel. The two thousand words from a reporter or an anchor will rearrange the one thousand words from a picture.

After Jack Germond got on TV, he had the following experiences,

“College students stopped me in airports and asked earnestly how I could stand being on the same panel with that fascist [Robert] Novak. And when I would explain that, despite our different views, Novak was one of my closest friends, they would walk away in disbelief.”

That was published in 1999, and perhaps today the country is more divided. A neighbor may not lend a tool next door because that person is a Democrat. Or the neighbor may not ask for its return, getting a profuse apology and a smile and an offer to help with the garbage or a pile of yard waste due to political differences. If that is happening today in America, we are in trouble. Republicans forget to return stuff too. Sometimes it’s hard to tell because neighbors don’t declare party affliction. 

Society, acquaintances, friends cannot be formed solely among the 100 percent agreeable, more likely to be toady subordinates or placating minors. Yet that is what the youth challenging Jack Germond believed. Live and see “only your own people.” Everyone else makes me tired; everyone else is challenging; everyone else makes me think. Seeing “only your own people,” is the first step to having no friends at all.

I like my friends because they have and use talents that are apart from mine, and they perform those activities well. [Not everyone tells of every failure.] When they talk they are articulate and interesting. They enrich my life and provide outlooks that I would otherwise not have. In short they stimulate me to think beyond my experiences and to enjoy their perceptions vicariously.

I have a chance to meet a woman from my high school class. I hadn’t talked to her for decades. I introduced myself; she knew my name and said, “Of course. Hello.” Someone came up and asked her, “You went to the Galapagos [Islands], didn’t you?” This woman’s response was, “Yes, and I next went to Machu Picchu.” No more about the islands; I was amazed. This was someone not to know. What was the segue from Galapagos to Machu? I walked away thinking the next sentence would give her next itinerary destination, Rio. Obviously the highlight of her trip would be the fourth stop in the fourth sentence, “In the Amazon I saw a villager being devoured by piranhas.”

By in large friendship depends upon the person you are. Are you comfortable with achievement and life. In one way,  friendships help individuals get along in life. It was Socrates who said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” This year I’ve had someone I know say that she wouldn’t change  a thing about her life – past, present or presumably the future. She is financially successful, but is she perfect or has she shut down and is coasting? If perfection is the answer to meditation, introspection and reflection, she is not doing that correctly. Perhaps she should take a class to understand life. Perfection is a boring existence. Friends bring energy, activity and insight.  They bring humor and perspective to push a person off the pedestal of perfection – nothing I’ve done, nothing I’ll do will ever need changing. I can’t imagine a more boring human being, one thoroughly insincere and utterly incapable of understanding any other human being.

So why were Jack Germond and Robert Novak friends? Each man recognized himself in the other – stubborn, articulate and intelligent. What did friendship do for each of them. They were contemporaries; they had reason and opinions. Sometimes it’s good to listen. They kept one another honest, not just with each other but within each man. There are few people in the world any one person will meet who is capable of engendering such honesty, who is willing to take the time and whose communication will let a person grow from the experience and hearing.

For me it is difficult to imagine strangers at an airport coming up to Germond and walking away disillusioned: He’s friends with Novak. What were these people thinking? What sort of human beings have they become since 1999?

 

CONSIDERATIONS

1. Being the world’s oldest human being is an achievement, I suppose. It also means you’re next to die.

2. I don’t know whether this makes a restaurant good or bad: There are no free breath mints on the courtesy table at the entrance.

3. We’ve all heard, “My Country right or wrong.” In times when we’re debating whether to bomb another country, it must be noted and reconsidered. George Orwell made the choice less obvious and more personal: “My mother drunk or sober.”

4. Mark Twain observed, Clothes make the man. He explained why: “Naked people have little or no influence in society.” But I believe today it is different for women. It seems the fewer clothes a woman can wear, the more influence she is apt to have.

SEE EVERYONE, DO A LOT

SEE EVERYONE, DO A LOT

Over the summer I read four volumes by William L. Shirer: Berlin Diary, and Twentieth Century Journey(three volumes). I liked all four books. I recommend them, especially the ones recounting events before World War Two. Of all four the first, Twentieth Century Journey: A Start (1904-1930) is the most varied. Shirer goes to Paris and gets a job on a newspaper. He mets everyone in Paris and tells.

Shirer is by no means correct or accurate about everything. Who is? Most of his shortcomings can be overlooked. In Berlin Shirer respected and was fond of Ambassador Dodd and daughter Martha, a communist. There Martha dated an agent from the KGB or its predecessor agency; summaries of her Soviet files of 1930 activities make very funny reading, an evaluation of a real spy. Her father, the ambassador, had many screws loose and at best was naive. Most notably, the Ambassador wrote Mission to Moscow about Stalin’s purges (1936-1939). When Stalin and his cronies watched the movie, “Mission to Moscow,” they couldn’t stop laughing.

If Shirer knew nothing, he felt free to criticize it liberally – Ronald Reagan and Star Wars, “a hoax.” I wonder if the Israelis think their Iron Dome is a hoax. Shirer’s naiveté and ignorance cannot be excused. He tells about living in horse and buggy days, watching early air flights, using Trans-Atlantic flights to cross that ocean, seeing men visit the Moon, and benefiting from medical advances to prolong his life on Earth. Yet for Shirer there was no scientific progress. We know nothing is a hoax, if science and math can reduce its mysteries to possibilities, to probabilities and to certainties. However, Shirer is selective with some beliefs.

When Shirer was preparing to go to the Soviet Union (1982), he was asked, “What do you think of the Soviets?” He answered, “I don’t know. I haven’t been there.” Shirer’s response is disingenuous on a number of grounds. First, does anyone like Shirer go to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and not read about the place, so he has no opinion because he’s never seen the country for himself? Second, without reading did Shirer (former foreign correspondence/hard news addict/historian) form any opinions about the Soviets before he went in 1982? If he didn’t have an opinion, his whole life and life’s work is a lie. Third, did Shirer read only books of popular/non-fiction (friend-Harrison Salisbury) and read nothing from academia; the best writer of many books on the Soviets by 1982 was Adam Ulam.

One cannot answer this third question yes or no, which is a failing of the Memoirs. The idea of preparation before going someplace and knowing is attractive: the tourist knows the history, culture and society, and can understand the social significance of what is seen and what is said. It is an enriching experience, rather than arriving and flying-by-the-seat-of-his-pants, as Shirer would have the reader believe. These latter chapters of volume three of A Native’s Return are incomplete and sketchy. We learn nothing about Shirer, himself, except he wants to avoid subjects and certain embarrassment.

Volume three, A Native’s Return, presents a gross inconsistency, academia and the Ivory Tower. And Shirer was correct in his reaction to that. When The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was published, many professors disparaged it. One ground was it was a best seller. The book was one of the first on the subject, and overall, it is not as bad nor better than most books on the subject. What most historians, professors and intellectuals didn’t like was Shirer’s familiarity on many subjects and a sense after reading documents about the people and their acts, persons he once knew and observed, he describes results accurately and authentically.

Shirer was invited to participate in a seminar at Harvard. Shirer writes:

I was troubled by the practice of …young academic historians of drawing historical conclusions from their detailed studies of a tiny part of the picture. …too young to have known Nazi Germany at first hand…kept dodging important questions…more interested in their data…

The last day…an elderly man,…, a refugee from Nazi Germany and for many years a distinguished professor of history at the University at Paris. I knew him by reputation, and the day before he had said he admired my own works on Germany.

“This is all so unreal,” he whispered to me. “Let’s ask the chair if we can interrupt the program for a few minutes and tells some of these young historians what it was like to live in Nazi Germany and just what happened to bring a calamity on the German people. We can tell them how the people really behaved, which is quite different from what the dry data tells them. He got at attention of the chair…and explained that much of the talk over the weekend seemed to him to be so lacking in reality…

The presiding academic historian listened patiently, a little bemused,… and said, “Thank you very much,” and promptly without batting an eye, called on the next speaker on the agenda.
(A Native’s Return, p. 402)

Because of academia and the Ivory Tower, the public can now understand why Martin Gilbert, an academician, has written stark, long histories of the Nazis without the fluff of data points or eye-balling this event, or magnifying incidences as revealing a theory or a postulation, all typical Ivory Tower stuff, especially when analyzing great disasters, gross problems or gutteral practices.

It is equally anonymous that professors, critics and intellectuals would complain about the length and authority of The Rise and Fall. Indeed, the whole East Coast intellectual establishment seemed offended:

“Some American reviewers were declaring that they would no longer read books with an array of footnotes. My God, I thought, my book must have at least a thousand. I had tried to document each fact and had noted it in a footnote.” (A Native’s Return, p. 239)

Without notes that can be checked and the source that can be authenticated, it seems the modern practice for historians, intellectuals and others of the scribbling class to write crap, call it the product of vast, deep thinking and sell it to others of their ilk, and the unsuspecting. Having no or few notes is dangerous. Most writings from that scribbling class which have notes merely refer to previously published writings from the scribbling class.

Why have facts at all? Shirer researched and wrote about the fall the France 1940, The Collapse of the Third Republic. The military disaster was accompanied by political ineptitude. Indeed, the last two Presidents of the Third Republic had mistresses who ran things, gave instructions, interfered and/or counseled their masters in 1940. In 900 pages Shirer devoted four (4) pages to the mistresses. The Ivory Tower screamed! Salacious, irrelevant, misleading. Once again the Ivory Tower got it wrong, but it has a lot to defend: Woodrow Wilson, one-time professor and then President of Princeton. In one hundred years have academic researchers given the American people the low-down of Mrs. Wilson’s presidency? NO! It seems entirely appropriate for Shirer to write four pages about mistresses, when France was falling apart, the government was in disorder, the army would not fight, the President of the Republic was wearing pjs and his mistress was cracking the whip.

It is easy to dismiss the flaws. Overall William L Shirer’s Twentieth Century Journey and Berlin Diary are memorable and worth reading. 

HONESTY AND TRUTH FOR ONCE

This blog is both promotion of my own novel, Bitch., of which I’ll write more in other posts, and criticism of Radical Son by David Horowitz. Bitch. ($10) is published on the iBookstore. It is about events in Berkeley during the Nixon years (1968-1974) from the standpoint of five first year students.

Horowitz attempts to soft-pedal those years in Berkeley; he lives on Northside, the safest part of town. He is reasonable; he did everything reasonably; he made rational decisions; he understood everything; he was noteworthy enough to write a memoir. Reading his book, Horowitz sounds so plausible and sometimes reasonable, 30 years old, innocent, working for good against evil, using the purest motives while striving for justice and never being critical or judgmental of a thought, an act or plan. Everyone liked David Horowitz. He’s oblivious to dates, short on details, unaware of events, and unwilling to be honest. Horowitz and others of his ilk were phonies, or perhaps they were mentally ill.

Horowitz was part of the Berkeley radical circus, in a coterie of radicalness, a radical party cadre – the people who were responsible for ripping up Berkeley for five years. How do I know this? Bitch., 215,000 words, reading more than 3,000 books including Horowitz’s, years of writing, and having lived through it.

After reading Horowitz’s book, Radical Son, the public will understand why I entitled my book, Bitch., a period not a dot, a verb not a noun. Other than running a magazine called, Ramparts, Horowitz and his buddies colluded with “people” in Berkeley. Throughout Bitch.I call Horowitz and his pals “white radical shits.” The public can understand that term, too – mentally deranged dumb shits who constructed idiot scenarios for “street people” to perform street theater [riots].

Horowitz returns to Berkeley in January 1968 and tells of his Road to Damascus Conversion to the radical cause and its revolutionary ways. He took his son to a local elementary school, where they heard a rock band (Purple Earthquake) perform. Horowitz “felt: A new world is possible.”

Why is that is bull shit and an outright lie? Horowitz has told the reader how smart he is, and that he is well-connected with the left-people in Berkeley. He has come from London, where there is no shortage of electronic instruments and excellent rock music; he has undoubtedly heard the best rock music there. Has anyone ever hear of the Purple Earthquake ever again? [They didn’t become Creedence Clearwater, did they?] Did the band play so loudly that Horowitz broke a blood vessel in his head? Horowitz’s son, a youngster, did not have the same epiphany as his father. Horowitz did not say that he was sober or straight at the performance.

There is another explanation, somewhat goofy but with Horowitz one never knows. It comes from Charles Reich, The Greening of America, p. 260: “Music has become the deepest means of communication…When someone puts a dime in the jukebox…there is a moment of community. [P]eople begin to move, some nod heads, some drum fingers, others tap feet, others move their whole bodies…many sing…” This explanation is improbable because it suggests creativity and art, yet there is nothing in Radical Son which is creative or artistic.

Horowitz was well-connected with the left-people in Berkeley. His manner was agreeable; he was calm and voluble. Throughout Radical Son Horowitz tells about meeting wealthy people, outsiders to Berkeley, and getting money. Horowitz was the “money guy,” for that Berkeley clique as well as for Ramparts. In another book (The Destructive Generation), Horowitz tells about picking up Jane Fonda at the San Francisco Airport and getting her to Alcatraz Island. Why did Horowitz drive? Money beyond taxi fare.

Horowitz rightly criticizes Todd Gitlin’s book, The Sixties, but at least Gitlin tried. He observed the pervasive, on-coming influences from the street and hippie, youth culture including drugs. The Leftists, New Left, Weathermen and others couldn’t manage all that, and Gitlin couldn’t describe it. Horowitz avoided those agency-setting effects completely and disregarded the influences: He lived a normal middle class family life, doing middle class stuff in an upper class neighborhood. His job was a plaything; his ideals and principles – did one need ideals and principles? He was so remote and detached he never understood revolution was not possible and one could not write about it well, if loaded on drugs, blasted by iron-rock, trashed by women and among people whose business acumen didn’t extend beyond the street mantra: “grass, speed, acid.”

But if an author recognizes “a new world is possible,” shouldn’t the author develop the point – observe, do, influence, watch? On which bases was “a new world possible?” Horowitz raised the point and let it rot, in intellectual venality. He didn’t bother to wonder how people, culture and society were divorced from the narrow confines of selective, opportunist Leftist politics whose financial supporters were deceived with every check. Toward the end of his “radical” days, Horowitz met a backer who asked, “Is the revolution possible?” Radical Son proves that Horowitz is the last person in the world to know whether the revolution was possible. Strangely enough, Horowitz does not have the self-reflection and the wherewithal to phrase the setting of that meeting and the question as a joke.

Supposedly, Horowitz had a defining moment in his life when a friend with a job at a Black Panther run school in Oakland was murdered. Throughout the first half of the book Horowitz was chummy with the Panthers, visiting the Party big-wigs. He accepted Huey Newton’s statement that Eldridge Cleaver was too violent for the Party. Horowitz lied about Bobby Seale fleeing Oakland to get away from Huey Newton. Before and after the murder Horowitz casts allegations and theories about who did what, when, where and how. When he tries to talk to the pigs [police], they don’t believe him.

Horowitz was the money man. He liked talking to the top people, but everyone else wasn’t worth a shit and was a trifle. Horowitz initially recommended his murdered friend work at the Panther school. Why? He doesn’t say, but probably so he could have input, influence and control over things there, and the money. The Panthers didn’t need him; they didn’t need the woman who could have been fired and sent packing, not murdered. There is no answer, but it is a scenario which arises from circumstances. It is entirely possible that Horowitz pressed his case too hard, revealed too much and made threats. Horowitz didn’t say this in the book, but he may as well have written he was responsible for the woman’s murder, a personal message to him. [This assumes the Panthers were as irrational as Horowitz claims. They knew if he broke with them, there would be no more money, but they also knew he couldn’t prove anything. Why murder the woman?]

The murder and Horowitz’s role in pre-killing activities were a final revelation for Horowitz after being deaf, blind and mute for a decade. The Panthers had an unsavory side, and everyone but Horowitz knew it. The cops saw the street activities, gang style. Indeed the son of the murdered woman, not a cop, warned his mother. Apparently Horowitz had greater influence, and she worked for the Panthers. In books Black leaders wrote with distrust about the Panthers; Horowitz was illiterate. Black student groups kept their distance from the Panthers who were so entwined with white radical shits to become self-destructive. While Chancellor at San Francisco State, S.I. Hayakawa said, publicly, “The black radicals want a better America. And they may use revolutionary methods at moments, but they are willing to give them up as soon as it’s clear that the administration is willing to do something to improve the quality of their education and their opportunities within the system. White radicals, like the SDS, don’t want to improve America. They just want to destroy it and louse it up in every way possible. So I have nothing to offer them.” (Orrick, William, Shut It Down! A College in Crisis, Washington DC, 1969, p. 147.)

It is obvious that Horowitz would not change from his Mommy-and-Daddy brainwashing to get away from white radical shitism. And he wouldn’t support Black organizations which were trying to improve circumstances in 1968-1969. Instead, he liked the Panthers, isolated friends so long as they could be useful. He liked and likely laughed at their jiving – Martin Luther King was Martin Luther Coon. Radical Son, p. 161.

Essentially, Radical Son, is about Horowitz’s retarded progression from Pinko-Commie to Fascist. He was raised by educated Communist parents, and he believed their crap like it was Gospel. The book does not admit whether he kept his Communist rooting from parental love, or whether he was just an idiot. I’ll go with the latter. Unlike many kids of the Sixties, Horowitz never told his parents they were full of shit, which they were. A reviewer’s comment on the outside of the book says, “A courageous book, full of self-revelation.” That is erroneous. It is more accurate to say, A cowardly book, full of slow-revelation. More accurately, the book should be entitled, Memoirs of a Moron. Horowitz chooses not to be honest, to tell the truth and give a fair portrayal of himself. Instead, he displays an imbecilic rigor, revealing a lack of intellectual discipline and an idleness when seeking the truth.

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READ ORWELL – I

I’ve mentioned that George Orwell is the best writer of the twentieth century, and most people never get past thinking, ANIMAL FARM(condemning Stalin) and 1984(condemning shrinking communications in a tri-polar world). Those are excellent books, each driving in demonic ways their points.

But Orwell wrote novels and books before World War II, and most of those make excellent reading. I recommend those. Where Orwell excelled was in preparation for the novels: essays. He wrote about almost everything with certainty and accuracy. He touched psychological and sociological issues beyond those found in novels and essays. Essays also discuss writing, business and politics. I wish I could write as well today, as topically, forcefully, completely and truthfully.

“The Prevention of Literature,” January 1946 is about the forces affecting writers and publishing. I’ll give background and a smattering. It’s the 300th anniversary of John Milton’s Areopagitica pamphlet in defense of freedom of the press celebrated by the group of British writers called PEN. Orwell is disappointed that this group of leftists are so far removed from reality they are dishonest. He’s a leftist himself but believes in personal liberty. The speeches at the PEN gathering include: Freedom of the Press in India; general comments on the goodness of liberty; no obscenity laws; and defending the Russian purges (1936-1939).

Orwell writes, “Of…several hundred people, perhaps half of whom were directly connected with the writing trade, there was not a single one who could point out that freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.”… “There was nothing particularly surprising in this.”

The writing trade “is under attack from two directions…it’s theoretical enemies, the apologists of totalitarianism, and…it’s immediate practical enemies, monopoly and bureaucracy…”

Orwell goes on to define and tell why writers are the most exposed artists – not painters, musicians, poets, sculpturers. He has choice words or criticism about poets and poetry, which go beyond Mark Twain’s, “Poets are too lazy to write complete sentences.”

About the monopolies and bureaucracies affecting writers, in 1946 Orwell writes,

“…apart from newspapers it is doubtful…whether the great mass of people in the industrial countries feel the need for any kind of literature…Probably novels and stories will be completely superseded by film and radio production. Or perhaps some kind of low-grade sensational fiction will survive, produced by a sort of conveyer-belt process that reduces human initiative to the minimum.

“It would probably not be beyond human ingenuity to write books by machinery. But a sort of mechanizing process can already be seen at work in the film and radio, in publicity and propaganda, and in the lower reaches of journalism. The Disney films…are produced by what is essentially a factory process, the work being done partly mechanically and partly by teams of artists who have to subordinate their individual style. Radio features are….So also with the innumerable books and pamphlets commissioned by government…Even more machine-like is the production of short stories…Papers such as the WRITER abound with advertisements of Literary Schools, all of them offering…ready-made plots….algebraical formula…packs of cards marked with characters and situations…to be shuffled…”

Orwell wrote this in 1946, and for the most part the world has seen literary production fall off since World War II. A friend of mine wrote read the first Best Seller of well-known author a few decades ago. She read the second book, and stopped a third of the way through. It was the first book rewritten; that author was writing FORMULA: This happens on page 24; that happens on page 67; crisis by page 189.

Has anyone ever gone to a film class or tried writing a screenplay. First advice: Read this book which is complete nonsense, unreadable by anyone with any ability to understand this language and any readingcomprehension. All the screenplay books are poorly written and full of crap. FORMULA for film is everywhere; there’s even a preferred word processing “format.” Yet, FORMULA is killing film. Every year Entertainment puts out the same films, different titles, different actors, different production people. Advertisements and promotion rely on the people involved in the production, not on the quality of the production, an expensive experiment. Entertainment is also trying to mine TV programs for films which fortunately has been unsuccessful. They’re going after the comic books. Except for characters in costume on Hollywood Boulevard I want everyone to know that Superman, Spider Man, Batman, Iron Man, and others I don’t want to know of, are NOT REAL. No one will fly through the air and save you, not Matt Damon playing Jason Bourne in Tangiers, not James Bond, not the next sequel hero. 

Orwell talks about totalitarianism and shrinking liberty of thought and action, and in his day the Soviet Union was a target just as been Nazi Germany. Today the Russians are flirting with that type of government and certainly the Chinese are living with it. But people of other nations are  confined within limits or norms whether it be from a strict religions doctrine, from social controls, from ignorance, from commercial controls and financial limits. Many of the latter countries are obscurantist, which will put back human beings there 1000 years. The tragedy is the rulers of those latter countries, sometimes aided and abetted by the totalitarian regimes, have no concern for their own people of their futures.

I want to know whether someone among the powers that be, dropped George Orwell into the Twenty-First Century, let him look around and take all the notes he wanted. He was to return to his time to warn people: This is not the best use of human and physical resources to produce what’s coming (in society called civilization). Orwell is focused on the tradition he came from – Western Culture. He uses it as an example. In another essay he identifies obscurantist forces affecting us in “Pleasure Spots.” It is a short essay, January 1946. I’ll quote,

“The music…is the most important ingredient…The radio is already consciously used for this purpose by innumerable people. In very many English homes the radio is literally never turned off, though it is manipulated from time to time so as to make sure that only light music will come out…I know people who will keep the radio playing all through a meal and at the same time continue talking just loudly enough for the voices and the music to cancel out. This is done with a definite purpose. The music prevents the conversation from becoming serious or even coherent, while the chatter of voices stops one from listening attentively to the music and thus prevents the onset of that dreaded thing, thought….It is difficult not to feel that the unconscious aim…is a return to the womb…

“The question…arises because in exploring the physical universe man has made no attempt to explore himself. Much of what goes by the name of pleasure is simply an effort to destroy consciousness…” 

Orwell describes more than half the people I know – whether they have the radio turned, whether it is DVD, whether it is a TV, whether it is at home, in the car, at the office or on the sidewalk.

Read Orwell.

 

GOT THROUGH EPISODE 16, ONLY

I’ve never seen 24, the TV program. I like Kiefer Sutherland and especially his dad, Donald Sutherland. Last week I saw the first season of 24, four DVDs which I got at the library. There may be a fifth DVD, but I won’t watch Number 5. I won’t watch any more of the series.

FIRST SEASON: Black Senator running for President, is in California on primary day. (California is not his home state, but I’m not sure.) INTELLIGENCE comes in: Senator will be assassinated perhaps by people within the Intelligence Agency. Kiefer and his working group is assigned to investigate the assassination and to prevent it. At home is a wife with whom he has resumed life together after a separation, and a teenage daughter whom they learn has just off during the early morning hours on a school day.

In the sixteen episodes I viewed there is no backstory about reasons for the marital separation, the separation or reason to recouple. The wife is presented as uptight, tightly woven, right and righteous. 

Work crisis, home crisis. Wife waits at home until daughter shows up. Kiefer (Jack Bauer) learns from his supervisor that the Agency may kill the Senator: Find the traitor, find the assassin. Everyone who learns or knows of the assassination plan dies except Kiefer (good shot with acceptable high fighting skills) and most of Kiefer’s intelligence team.

While investigating, Kiefer spends a lot of time out of the office, while the team slaves away on computers and fields phone calls.

The Senator and his life are also part of the action. Senator’s son, who once killed someone by tossing him off a building, got a reprieve. That death was called an accident but the truth is emerging. Senator also learns there’s a heightened threat on his life. He refuses to change his schedule one bit, not one whit or an iota. The Senator is a sitting duck for anyone who wants to kill him.

The Senator seems powerfully naive and ignorant for someone running for president, but the American public has been this before. It will take a while before they vote for it again.

Back to the review. The Senator’s political story is predictable, shallow, preposterous and falls to the grade of a soap opera. Ditto the problems of the Senator’s family. The worse role (not the actor’s fault) is that of the Senator’s son, the sneaking murderer. He’s 20 years old, I suppose, but acts 14. He and his father (Senator) have never talked But have a heart to heart where they exchange cliches and thereafter feel better. But Senator doesn’t want son to leave. Son asks why. Senator: “Security” (not “Assassination. We have the faces. They will shoot me and members of the family today.”) Son leaves, sneaking out for a covert meeting with a tongue-happy political advisor.

I realized after 12 hours of episodes, that I didn’t care if the Senator was elected, or if the Son survived, or if the family ever escaped from Peyton Place.

It turned out Kiefer’s daughter [Elisha Cutbert] is being kidnapped; she thinks she’s going to a party. It’s a date gone wrong, a date every girl out to see and brace herself against. It’s the strongest part of the 12 hours. If there are bad dates in the teenage world for a girl, these early episodes show them well. Daughter’s dating-girlfriend gets hit by a car and is murdered later in the hospital. No one every mentions this murder although it is a salient plot and story point. 

Coincidence: Daughter is held by the very people who want to kill the Senator. They will use the daughter and the wife, joining daughter after a few episodes, to coerce Kiefer into position that he will be suspected of assassinating the Senator. Kiefer avoids that evil trap and investigates, using clandestine contacts within his intelligence group to learn where wife and daughter are being held: It’s a type of Charles Manson compound-ranch, 15-20 guys with big guns and with access to bigger guns.

TIME TO UNRAVEL SOME OF THIS BUILD-UP:

Problem 1:  When Kiefer calls in Rescue Mission from the Agency, assigned to take out the compound are three helicopters of early Vietnam days but gaily painted. Five guys get off one Chopper, 15 guys total against an equal number more heavily armed bad guys with evil faces. I hate seeing those guys on the street. This is a Let’s-Send-A-Rescue-Mission-To-Get-Hostages-From-The-American-Embassy-In-Tehran-A-La-Jimmy-Carter. For the TV show it worked.

Problem 2: Daughter wears red top while being chased by bad guys with bigs guns through the property. No one says, “Shoot at anything that’s red. Ask questions later.” Only after the helicopter ride to safety at Headquarters, does Kiefer give her a brown jacket to conceal her whereabouts.

Problem 3: Daughter has had date-from-hell, but she remains thick. (IQ 30 required for this part). One of the kidnappers wants out and helps daughter and wife. He escapes with them. Daughter has taken a shine to him. Daughter decides, I can protect him in the rough and tumble world, where I can’t protect myself. No one straightens her out. Also daughter is upset with mother/wife when she learns mother/wife is pregnant. She says something like, “You didn’t tell me you were getting pregnant!” [I’m sure all parents sit their existing kid down and say…]

Problem 4: Perception, Genetics, a family? When characters are usual height, it is all right to have kids be usual height, a little shorter or a little taller. Senator (Dennis Heysbert) is a big guy, tall and looks capable to taking out the left side of the University of Alabama offensive line. Wife is usual height. Son should not be five-six. — Kiefer is usual height; wife is lanky at (five-nine)? Daughter is no petite and appears (five-two)?

Problem 5: I’ve not learned anything from my experience, especially the recent on-goings five hours ago when people were trying to kill me. Kiefer’s wife is being debriefed by female agent who slept with Kiefer during the marital separation. Wife suspects and learns of this agent’s intimacy. She gets up and will no longer participate. Every chance it comes up, Kiefer and wife utter the hopes, aspirations and conclusions that “we have to look ahead,” “don’t get bogged down about our past failings; “feelings must be afresh from hereon.” Hence, despite that on-going, annoying clatter, wife suddenly becomes irrationally enraged at someone who’s trying to investigate and protect her. It makes no sense from the wife’s perspective. I no longer cared whether she lives or was captured and taken off forever.

If it isn’t apparent, I saw no growth or little reaction to circumstances and experience by the characters. And I haven’t mentioned the bad guys. They aren’t interesting either. Most have thin or no lips, narrow eyes, tight skin with close-cropped hair and are obviously going to get a bullet diet.

There are too many good movies to see; there is also good TV to see. But it is not 24.