COLLAPSE OF THE READER – Review

THE COLLAPSE OF THE THIRD REPUBLIC, William L. Shirer

The Collapse refers to World War Two. The Germans attacked in the West on May 10, 1940. The British finished evacuating Dunkirk by June 2, 1940. During the last third of June 1940 Hitler took his morning tour of Paris.

This is not Shirer’s best book. It is very journalistic. I cannot recommend it. Shirer attempts to tell the structural weaknesses of the Third Republic from its inception in 1871, 69 years before World War Two. And Shirer along with the reader becomes bogged down in sundry and many details, some of which could support stories and characters for an excellent miniseries: Investment and fraud schemes play out over a decade or decades. Witnesses and participants are murdered, one being tied to a railroad track. In all this Shirer’s point is the Third Republic never had a reliable Constitution and accepted legislative procedures in place to give the French people confidence in their government.

In 1936 as the Nazis carefully moved into the Rhineland, remilitarizing it and removing a 30-50 mile buffer between France and Germany, the French were indecisive. France hoped that the British would give them backbone. However, Hitler has moved on a Saturday because the Germans know that members of the British government depart for their country houses on weekends. The British are concerned…

“Eden made it clear to the French Ambassador in London that nothing could be decided in London until the following Monday, when the Prime Minister and his colleagues would be back. That would give the Germans forty-eight hours to consolidate their hold on the Rhineland without interference. Nowhere in his own account nor in the dispatches of the French Ambassador describing the meeting does the British Foreign Secretary seem to have given thought to the consequences of such procrastination. His only thought was to discourage the French from doing anything over the weekend.” (p. 263)

It behooves any country in a dangerous world to have men and women (policymakers) who are up to speed and ready to act at anytime. If someone with authority must be in the office over the weekend – not fly fishing, watching sports, bicycling, golfing – then be there, listen, consider and exercise authority.

The remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 was Hitler’s first step. Historians and later politicians generally acknowledge had the French Army marched into the Rhineland in response, the German army would have retreated. In fact the consensus among historians is that Hitler would have been finished in Germany, and there would have been NO World War Two.These historians and politicians know what the British and French politicians should have known in March 1936: The Rhineland escapade was a desperate gamble that the West ignored. Immediate decisions and action were necessary, but were put off. The chance for effective, decisive action did not arise without greater costs.

Undoubtedly, Shirer recounts in painful detail each and every poor ignorant decision made by the French, the British and others. I can no longer read of that incompetence and ignorance found in other books (French, English speaking authors). I know it happened.

GULLIGAN’S ISLAND

I follow the news closely, but on the whole I’d rather watch reruns of Gulligan’s Island than the PBS Newshour. Sometimes it is better to be stuck on an isolated, desert island where everyone has enough space, there is food for everyone, and clean water is plentiful. It is a much cheerier locale without Internet or telephone connections than the dismal, unchanging island and inhabitants advanced in William Goldman’s Lord of the Flies, an episodic novel much like a TV show.

It is important and improbable to appreciate Gulligan’s Island. On the week before Christmas who would have thought that Mary Ann’s photograph wold be printed on the first page of Not Born Yesterday – News for Smart & Savvy Adults. Mary Ann looks terrific. Anyone who is eighteen years or older should stand and salute.

The interview with Dawn Wells aka Mary Ann (have you ever noticed no woman is named Dusk) gives some personal details. Dawn Wells was athletic but had bad knees (not evident on the show). Her youthful activities were jettisoned except canoeing and archery (neither evident on the show or she alone would have rowed to other islands and gotten help). When growing up she wanted to be a pediatric surgeon (not useful on the show). She went to college and onto the University of Washington where she became a theatre major (which is what a lot of people in Hollywood do).

Dawn Wells has now co-authored a book What Would Mary Ann Do? A Life Guide. I hope its tales and advice comes from the real life experiences of Dawn Wells, and not from the TV show. In the interview Dawn Wells is frank about the show: “If you’re a ten year old kid watching…, there’s not much to date it ‘ a desert island is a desert island.'”

I’m happy to learn that the rivalry between Ginger (Tina Louise) and Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) was only fable; Natalie Schaffer, Lovey Howell, was a real human being. Dawn Wells has credits in 150 TV shows and films and 60 theatrical productions since her Mary Ann role.

It is a Hollywood storied career with a book along the way – be positive, have friends, keep and generate new interests. That is good advice for every member of the human race. And for Dawn Wells, Mary Ann could have done much worse.

Dawn

IS THIS RIGHT?

Yep, but it is daunting. A few blogs ago, I mentioned that I was reading and came up with subjects for three new original novels to write.

I now know which one I’ll write first. Spotting the subject, I promptly staked my claim, but I wouldn’t worry about it until January. Unbidden waters rose, and I could not stop the flow. I had to control it, regularize my thinking, add rigor and rough it out. Write the general subject of each chapter. It took less than five minutes to write 50 words, also giving subsidiary issues within chapters.

That productivity was fun and elating: Family, profession, pressures, sibling rivalries and marriage, in-laws, children – all over a 40 year period. I did not finish the chapter subjects but I realized this isn’t 50,000 words. I sense it is 100,000 or more.

Yet the hooks of that story are in me. To get loose, I have to write it.

OIL AND ITS PRICE

On Thanksgiving Day OPEC declined to cut its production of oil. That means Saudi Arabia refused to cut its production whilst all other producers would maintain their production of oil and oil sales. The price of oil has declined since that decision.

One talking point, utterly stupid revealing a complete lack of understanding and knowledge about oil and production in the United States, is the Saudi Arabian move will affect oil production from fracking. These commentators are ignorant.

Most tracked oil is produced at the current market price. More wells are drilled to maintain pressure within a field, not always to produce. Wells must be drilled to maintain production. Many of the wells drilled in 2010 – 2012 produce oils at a lower cost per barrel than the current market price. Much of the expense in drilling involves the drilling rig and specialized employees. Costs of frack-drilling have declined since 2007.

As Americans have demonstrated this oil can be got at quickly, within a year or two. We have railroads to bring in heavy equipment and trucks to move it on site. Warren Buffet, Obama’s friend, owns the primary railroad.

It is a losing proposition for any country to believe it can diminish or stop American oil production through fracking. The UAE attempted to diminish tracking for natural gas by producing a misleading movie starring Matt Damon released in 2012. The UAE has loads of natural gas which it would like to deliver in liquified form to American harbors. Instead, that market is gone.

Who wants big liquified natural gas facilities in America’s harbors? All Americans should raise their hands.

The Saudi Arabians are much smarter than the TV and print people give them credit. They have a product, oil. They have a global market to get the product to. First question, will Saudi Arabia be around as a country?

The Saudis look at Iran, nuclear research and reactors leading to bomb making. Before the bomb became an issue there was a century of mistrust between the Arabs, largely of the Sunni sect of Islam, and the Irans, mostly of the Shiia sect of Islam. What are the Americans doing? Nothing. They just gave the Irans six or eight more months to negotiate a deal, which was supposed to be completed by 2014. A bomb may be forthcoming by the time Obama leaves office.

If Iran does not have money from oil, its nuclear program may slow a lot.

The Russians are the real target of the Saudi move. The Russians produce more than 9,000,000 barrels of oil a day. Much of that oil is produced of the large area of Siberia. It is ordinary oil.

Last month the Russians and Chinese agreed to build an oil pipeline from Russia to China. Who’s going to finance the pipeline? Who’s building it? Will it be built if there is not enough oil to transport? Will it be built if the price of oil is low?

A chunk of Siberian oil has been going west. Sanctions affect those sales. Sanctions affect that production: Maintenance cannot be effectively and efficiently performed on the wells in wide spread fields. The price of oil affects those wells. If it costs $80-90 a barrel to lift and transport Siberian oil, why do it if the oil can be delivered in a harbor with a refinery close by in China for $70?

Production of high priced Russian oil will decline. There will be no drilling and no maintenance. How long will the Russians lose money? The Russians can shut-in the wells, but that means restarting them after maintenance. Sanctions eliminates that possibility. Within a few years Russian production might fall 3,000,000 barrels, not to come back for decades.

Giving the Chinese access to Siberia by way of building a pipeline is a great danger for Russia. In the nineteenth century the Russians Czar compelled the Chinese emperor to hand over a million square miles of Asia. The Chinese want that land returned; to my knowledge Mao was the last Chinese leader to make that claim public. Of course, the Russian Far East is lightly populated, not much opposition for hundreds of millions of Chinese.

Putin is not much of a chess player. He does everything for a minimal gain tomorrow or sometimes next week. He’s becoming buddies with the Chinese much like Stalin got cozy with Hitler in August 1939. That did not turn out well for the Russians.

The Saudi Arabians are not acting maliciously or from hatred or contempt. They are acting according to their national interests, and because they are most affected, the Russians are affected most.

 

READING

I know how to stir myself to write something original. Read, read everything, read a lot. Garbage in, garbage out. Last week I came up with three ideas to write into new separate novels.

Most of this year has been devoted to advancing manuscripts toward publication. Concentrating on previous efforts of originality has presented a problem: Will I ever write anything new and original again?

If I can’t write, my life is over. I may as well die. That thinking didn’t get far. I went to library booksales and bag sales at the end. A dollar for all the books that would fit into a grocery bag. Three cents a piece for each book was fantastic.

What to do with that bag of books, plus 20 others purchased and unread over the year? From October to today, I’ve read, sampled and surveyed texts. Here’s a list, out of order:

Ghandi, William L. Shirer, not compelling but of interest.

History of the Ottoman Empire, vol 1, Shaw, very interesting passages – Shia/Sunni sects, the Ottoman Empire suffered greatly from a complex, fixed social structure, explained in 50 pages of detail. I skipped over most of that.

The Sleepwalkers, Clark, a fantastic book about the 20 years in Europe leading up to World War One. I recommend it strongly.

A Short History of Medieval Philosophy,  Weinberg, looked good but I’m no longer interested.

Trafalgar, Rene Maine, read another history, not this one, about that navel battle.

Brighton Rock, Graham Greene, It is readable, but not as interesting as the promos on the back cover.

Force and Freedom, Jacob Burckhardt, I know Burckhardt wrote an excellent book about the Renaissance, but this book is heavy wood and labored.

Galapagos, Michael Jackson, technical, detailed – why feathers on this bird vary from feathers of birds on nearby islands – the sorts of thing Darwin saw plus more. If I were going to those islands, I’d take the time to read it, but I’ll never make it.

Old Rail Fence Corners, compiled ancedotes, tales from early Minnesota. I had hoped for a bunch of Lincolnesque stories. There wasn’t much that was funny about any of them.

West Coast Journeys,  Carolyn Leighton, young woman travels from east coast to west coast in the 1860s. The volume tells of  her experiences, few of which are engaging or interesting.

The Fist in the Wilderness, David Lavender, excellent book well worth reading. About the fur trade among and between the French, Indians, British, Spanish and Americans on the North American continent.

The Atlantic Essays, compiled essays from the Atlantic magazine from 1930-1950s. Like any compilation there are a lot of duds and a few beauties.

The Composite of Acting, Jerry Blount. I knew the author. I like the book and recommend it.

The Quiet American, Graham Greene. I read this long ago. It is the best novel about Vietnam although it was written 10 years before American became engulfed in that country.

Wartime, Paul Fussell, excellent book, well worth reading about the home fronts in Britain and the US.

The Mexican War, 1846-1848, excellent book about that war. I recommend it, and the earlier book it disagrees with. I read this book some time ago and bought it for my library.

The Economy of Early Renaissance Europe, 1300-1460, Miskimin, a good economic survey of the Europe before the age of discovery expanded the European wealth.

Selected Short Stories, Hawthorne, read the short ones. The long ones are difficult because Hawthorne’s nineteenth century style puts many, many words on a line in this Fawcett Premier edition.

Australian Short Stories, Penguin, the dialects are difficult to fathom. I read some and looked at many stories but I gave up.

The Rights of Man, Tom Paine, very readable political science. It affirmed my impression that Paine is the second best writer from the American Revolution. The best writer is Franklin; third best Jefferson.

The Ancient Civilization of Anghor, Christopher Pym, well presented, somewhat dated (1968) and certainly out of my areas of historical familiarity.

The River and I, John Neihardt, not very good. 1908 journey down the Missouri. I had a grandfather canoe down the Wisconsin a few years later. There isn’t much detail; historical decryption is lacking.

The Maltese Falcon, Hammett, see the 1941 movie of the same title.

The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford, I got to page three and wondered why I was reading the same points that were on the first page. I stopped.

The Other Californians, Heizer/Almquist, excellent book about Native Californians and their slaughter – Spanish, Mexicans and mostly in the Central Valley and inland area, Americans. It was heartbreaking.

Houdini On Magic, Edited, picked up at three cents and after reflection I realized I won’t read it.

The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, does not give much text from those gospels, but the interpretation of the author. I wanted to see the text.

J.S. Bach, vol 2, Albert Schweitzer, thought I was interested but no.

Civil War Stories, Ambrose Bierce, recommend. Some of the stories edge toward horror.

The French Navy in World War Two, Auphan/Mordal, a 50 cent book that is offered for sale on Amazon for $10-15.

Blockade Runners of the Confedercy, Cochran, Somewhat of interest, but not for the library. It has a story of a Union navel officer falling in love with a captured Confederate spy, female on a blockade runner. He died in 1865, so it wasn’t a long romance and a shorter marriage.

The Devil In France, Feuchtwanger, excellent book about a prominent novelist who fled Hitler and Germany being put into a French Concentration Camp during the first year of World War Two. The French realize they have imprisoned many opponents of Nazism and try to make amends, but author and wife still have to elude the police and escape to America.

Power in the Blood, Sabean, about deviancy in Renaissance Germany. It details a very complicated social structure of those times. I got half way through and stopped.

The Experience of Defeat, Christopher Hill, what happened to the Puritans in England after the Restoration of 1660? This book categorizes the Puritans and tells their stories. For the modern reader it does not say what the experience of defeat was, but it explains that experience from the view of the seventeenth century.

The Sixties Unplugged, Degroot, like all books about the Sixties its story is incomplete but it contains many salient tales and historical points.

Orlando, Virginia Woolf, another novel from this mentally ill author which I cannot read.

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, Bird, something bought on vacation and mildly interesting but not a keeper.

Honky, Conley, from a library sale, UC Press, I believed it was set in California. I was wrong. I didn’t want to read it.

Democracy During the American Civil War, DP Crook, excellent book detailing the relationships between the British and Americans during that war. The larger, longer book by the same author on the same topic is not that much better.

Above are the books currently in my possession, in my rooms, to be moved. There are others I don’t remember. I won’t read so devotedly for a while because I’ll write the three stories that have come to me.

I’LL COME RUNNING (AWAY)

I watched 40 minutes of this movie, I’ll Come Running. The script is on par with TV teleplay writing, low level incidents and ordinary dialogue in bad need of canned laughter.

Three Danish men, early twenties, travel in Texas. They eat in a restaurant, where they are loud and boisterous while speaking Danish. No one understands their rudenesses. That is a point Danes should understand – being rude works only if the words are understood by everyone. But no one in the world speaks Danish. They are so obnoxious they offend the Latina waitress.

One Dane, the protagonist (mostly English speaking now), decides to go home. His friends drive off leaving him in Austin. He has flight reservations in a few days. He can’t find the hostel – he sits around outside the restaurant doing nothing. Latina waitress leaves work and invites him to a party. One thing leads to another, episodically – the story is weak or nonexistent. Dane and Latina end up in bed; I don’t know why e.g. she doesn’t like his 10-day growth; the next day she insists he shave, a mistake!. He looks much better when he hides his face.

She cuts work to spend the day with him (She’s a working stiff – that all the film shows.) although the job is important to her. What do they do? Very little. She wants to go out; he wants sex. A local parade passes her house. He takes out his camera and films as people pass by. A Texan doesn’t want pictures being taken, grabs the Dane and moves him 20 feet into a fountain, pushing him in.

A writing point making for a better story: Texan grabs Dane who begins speaking Danish. Texans realize this guy isn’t speaking my language. Texan lets go. DANE (in English) “Pictures for Copenhagen!”

However, the fountain dunking puts the Dane in the shower, where Latina begins taking film of him. They get to film and touch each other, etc., etc., look at various and sundry sites on the Internet.

The next morning he leaves to return to Denmark. No tears, but many hugs and much smug satisfaction. Taxi drives off. Going down the highway Dane decides to turn around and go back. Why? The movie has to be longer than 40 minutes.

I realized the movie was over. For these two characters as the old saying goes, “We’ll always have Austin.” I don’t need to see more of their adventures in Texas and going to Denmark, is not like being in Austin.

ENOUGH ALREADY

Review of THE IMITATION GAME

No one should hurry out to see The Imitation Game, the new British production about the World War Two program surrounding intelligence involving the Enigma machine.

Previous British movies and TV productions have centered on the Enigma machine: Enigma (2001) and Bletchley Park (2011). There is a little known British movie: Men are trained and become transvestites to be dropped into Germany and to get employed in the factory making Enigma Machines, steal the machine… The last movie is cute and complete shameful.

The Enigma machine provided the British and Americans with intelligence, Ultra, knowledge of German military maneuvers and planning. Before June 21, 1941 the British told the Russians invasion is upon you. The Russians ignored it. Montgomery and his planners ignored Enigmas intercepts before invading Belgium and the southern Netherlands in September 1944. It is a reason that military operation failed.

Enigmas is credited with winning the Battle of the Atlantic, safeguarding convoys. That is wrong. The reason the British needed intelligence was their own codes were being read, almost in real time, by the Germans. The intelligence advantage of Enigma was mostly a wash. What won the Battle of the Atlantic was equipment and men. Much of the equipment and weapons, radar/sonar were of British origin advanced further by the Americans. The primary equipment was ships, American produced destroyers and especially escort carriers. The British had the best submarine hunter, Johnnie Walker whom they did not promote. The Americans were very aggressive. That’s why a full U-boat is on exhibit in a museum in Chicago.

Before World War Two the Americans had decrypted the Japanese diplomatic code in real time. Those intercepts were called Magic. The Americans were working on decrypting the Japanese Navel Codes, one intercept leading to the first complete allied victory of the war: Midway. The Americans started from scratch.

With Enigma the British started at the 50 yard line in the 100 yard dash. Poland and the Polish people. In mid-August 1939 Polish intelligence invited French and British intelligence over to the office and said, “Look what we have.” During the previous decade the Poles had workers in the Enigma factory; they had a machine in Warsaw; they had analyzed it operations and its potentialities. The British and French both said, We want it. The Poles shared, and when they were losing and were conquered in the next six weeks, the Poles erased all trace of their enigma intelligence operation: equipment, papers, people. Some Poles ended up in France and later England.

To my knowledge the French have been considerate and gracious not to claim credit in movies or on TV for any Enigma feats. No so the British who won the War by decrypting Enigma intelligence. I’m tired of British hero movies about Enigma. It’s time for the Brits to fess up. The Poles did it.