WRITING DEAD

Another participant on WordPress, Dan Altorre, has wondered and ask why Walking Dead has any audience at all. His blog was posted. I read it, and wrote. Rather than comment on his short blog and the shorter comments, I’ve decided to post my comments.

I can’t believe there is any attraction of zombies who are bipedal and sometimes kill people (kill because that’s what zombies do). Amongst those people zombie hunters want to live a norm life of a 1950s sit-com, perfect if the zombies weren’t around. It is pure dualism, us versus them, the most elementary of messages.

Perhaps, but unlikely normal viewers, can rid the world of all the dead and bad people, like Wyatt Earp did. Do everything that can’t be done. Shoot them; knife them; toss them off cliffs. Essentially Walking Dead scripts are easy to understand, written to soap opera standards. Toss in cliches to bring emotion for the fore. If you got caught up watching the Soaps as a kid, you’re ready to join the Walking Dead audience. This is real formula: On page 30 of the script is a “turning point.” On page 38 there is a crisis of character.” Sadly the whole world knows what is going on, except ME.

Other than the soap opera aspects, death in Walking Dead is carved into our brains just like it’s part of the TV news. Killing Zombies relieves us of shock value as statistics of real killings of human beings mount. Zombie may take the place of the boogie-man like Don Trump. The whole world is watching. Human traits of empathy and grief become less meaningful and in the end are a waste of time.

These mind sets are detrimental to the rainbow society everyone likes to advertise. In history, countries, societies and cultures have lived through eras of death. In the last century pre-World War Two Japan was such a place. Life and human existence became cheap; Japanese generals sacrificed soldiers and sailors and civilians. That trait of the Japanese is no longer part of that vibrant country and its people.

I do not understand the lure of Walking Dead. It is not supported by any of the world’s major religions. It is neither penetrating and deep, psychologically or philosophically. Its substance can be mastered in an afternoon’s reading to learn all the nuances of zombies, the undead, vampires and other violent imaginary characters. It is probably this last point which makes Walking Dead a primary attraction.

P.S. This explains why audience members have learned Klingon but don’t know a speck of Spanish. Why people use Friends to support lifestyle choices, but are always running out of money. Why living on a desert island is a drag because there is no professor and no Internet.

 

 

 

 

 

MEIN KAMPF -General comments

MEIN KAMPF, Adolph Hitler

There is no way to review this book at once. The author’s strength is speech, specifically oratory. The first thing to know, the purpose of oratory is not to be reasonable and sensical. It is directed to the emotions of human beings, as though humans are being entertainment and are captured by the art of the speech before them. Hence, this author purposefully avoids attempts to explain anything in English or German.
It is not unusual for the modern reader to find any more of interest in the text than I did: 6.5 pages of 686 pages, less than one page of interesting text out of 100 pages. One poignant set of sentences explains why Adolph believes in Catholic priest celibacy. (p. 432) Adolph also likes to talk about syphilis and prostitution. (pages. 251, 254-55)

How hard is it to upset emotional prejudices, moods, sentiments, etc. and to replace them by others, on how many scarcely calculable influence and conditions success depends, the sensitive speaker can just by the fact that even the time of day in which the lecture takes place can have a decisive influence on the effect. The same lecture, the same speaker, the same theme, have an entirely different effect at ten o’clock in the morning, at three o’clock in the afternoon, or at night. (page. 473)
Sunday morning at ten o’clock. The result was depressing, yet at the same time extremely instructive: the hall was full, the impression really overpowering, but the mood ice cold; no one become war, and I myself as a speaker felt profoundly unhappy at being unable….
This should surprise no one. Go to a theatre performance and witness a play at three o’clock in the afternoon and the same play with the same actors at eight at night,
encroachments upon man’s freedom of will…(p. 474)
 In the morning and even during the day people’s will power seems to struggle with the greatest energy against an attempt to force upon them a strange will and strange opinion. At night…they will succumb more easily to the dominating force of a stronger will.
…mysterious twilight in Catholic churches, the burning of lamps, incense,
goal of oratory is “illiterate common people.” (page 475)

Since organization in the text is lacking, I write what Adolph says why organization is not important – in books or in politics. His first point made a few hundred times throughout the book: Adolph does not want anyone suspecting it was written by anyone academic, intellectual or disciplined. It necessarily stands to reason that Adolph prizes the superficial, craves spontaneity and revels in the nonsensical.

I am an enemy of too rapid and too pedantic organizing. It usually produces nothing but a dead mechanism, seldom a living organization. For organization is a thing that owes its existence to organic life, organic development. Ideas which have gripped a certain number of people will always strive for a greater order, and a great value must be attributed to this inner molding. Here, too, we must reckon with the weakness of men, which leads the individual, at first at least, instinctively to resist a superior mind. If an organization is mechanically ordered from above, there exists a great danger that a once appointed leader, not yet accurately evaluated and perhaps none too capable, will from jealousy strive to prevent the rise of abler elements within the movement. That harm that arises in such a case can, especially in a young movement, be of catastrophic significance.
…it is more expedient for a time to disseminate (p. 579)

This poorly constructed paragraph has three topic sentences; none are developed; none are related. For instance while arguing with himself about the value of organizing, he calls it dead but preferably a living development. What is being developed, dead or alive, organic or inorganic is not explained.
He next complains about the weakness of men, “resisting superior men.” Adolph includes himself among the superior minds. He always complains about people who read to gain knowledge, stiff intellectual types. Instead the best knowledge comes through oratory.
It is impossible to use oratory to extend wisdom or intelligence. It should be pointed out that during his life time, no one in Germany believed it necessary or worth while to memorialize any of Adolph’s words in stone. And note, Adolph was an absolute dictator in a totalitarian system.
Adolph’s third topic sentence demonstrates the jeopardy of this non-organizational approach. If the group leader does not know why he is doing, if he’s not on the ball and he’s wet behind the ears, and he is likely not the leader.
This is the ever-present fear existing in a movement: Following one path without realizing a different path needs taking, is catastrophic.But if a leader does not have the mental, social and acuity to advance the movement, it is time to choose anew.
Adolph believes wrongly that organization can be achieved by propaganda – use slogans, express fears, advance wants. Solutions should seem simple, however impracticable Adolph gives pages of propaganda notes, most of it is ridiculous and simplistic, except to a German.
Yet most political organization cannot survive on propaganda – use slogans to support an entire party, express policies of fearsome offer and advance hope based upon hate. Adolph omits the germs of ideas which stick with people into the future. It is the future sale of politics that Adolph finds tedious, boring and completely unpredictable. That was the history of him and his party. The Nazis were never the majority. Circumstances let them take executive offices, and Hindenburg’s death allowed Adolph to take all power.

The text of the MEIN KAMPF and subsequent events should not be considered inevitable, yet the readers and students frequently look at each and consider the book prescient. At best the text shows the sort of crank Hitler was when he became involved in German electoral politics, and it projects how he played to a exceptionally unsophisticated political people.

A note about the text in English. I’ve seen two English translations, 1943, and the most recent published as late at 1999. In each Edition are 686 pages; pretty much the words from page to page and the pages are also the same. Hence the page numbers above and in subsequent comments are from the 1943 edition.

NEW WRITER, OLD WRITER

Young and inexperienced, I once started stories and quickly put down 5-10,000 words (17-35 pages). I would next wonder where to go and how to get there.

Starting a story now might take a month or more to produce 5,000 words. The difference?
Production and enthusiasm depend upon the story, whether the setting, story or character may be emphasized, and how the writer (I) feel about any of it. But the primary difference is in the author’s (my) outlook. Enthusiasm and impulse remain the same today as it was, but I am more deliberate: I know it will be a slog, write every damn word about every perceived point covering each conceivable concept. The first draft is the one time the author has the opportunity to take this overall view: think freely and make every expression idiotic, moronic or nonsensical as well as completely, profound and experimental.
All later work pares the manuscript by rewriting within the parameters of the givens of the story; next comes editing and proofreading.
The slower launch today may mean energy is not marshaled; doubts linger about the quality of the plot and confidence might be fleeting. But confidence will build throughout a writing, doing 1,000 or 2,000 words a day, and feeling content having produced 20,000 words, 50,000 words, a first draft, and the next draft. It is that build of confidence, a building of ego, which allows a writer to finish a writing.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

Englishman Matthew Arnold wrote criticism about criticism in the last half of the nineteenth century. In an essay The Modern Spirit, Range of Modern Criticism, Arnold observes:

Philistinism! – we have not the expression in English. Perhaps we have not the word because we have so much of the thing…The French had adopted the term epicier (grocer), to designate the sort of being whom the Germans designate by the term Philistine; but the French term, – besides that it casts a slur upon a respectable class, composed of living and susceptible members, while the original Philistines are dead and buried long ago, – is really…in itself much less apt and expressive than the German form.

Arnold goes on to argue that the English should adopt philistinism, as the literary term he believes appropriate. The French word is not precise. In fact it conjures many meanings. Someone might be offended especially French grocers.

Arnold misspeaks. The French know epicier is the correct word because of the varied meanings it carries. The French know food; they know what to buy and where. The French themselves see no disrespect to any part of their business community. The French know there are many, many, many, many, many epicier ordinaire in France.

I stumbled across this criticism on criticism, and if Matt Arnold is the sort of person generating this sort of malarky plaguing everyone, everywhere we should be careful not to call anyone a Philistine, or an Etruscan or a Druid.

VARIOUS MOVIES

A SINGLE SHOT DON’T SEE. Appalachian man, Sam Rockwell, at the beginning of a divorce, goes hunting. He uses a rifle that looks like a shotgun. Aiming at a deer, he hits a woman in hiding. He’s shocked he killed the woman. He does not know who she is; he does not know she was living in his woods. There is no explanation about it in the movie. Sam is a moron mountaineer although he easily finds where she’s been staying and discovers a stash of cash which he appropriates. He conceals her body.

Next Sam Rockwell has to keep his cool, but he becomes a retard. He spends freely; he seems incredibly social, considering his house which looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since 1998. The boyfriend of the dead girl comes to town seeking revenge. He kills Sam’s dog’s. Since there are two strangers in the one-horse town Sam does not know who is the bad guy. Sam’s house is burgled. The body of the dead girlfriend is put into Sam’s freezer. Sam wonders who is plaguing him.

He wants to resume relations with his wife. Nope. A teenage daughter of a local diary farmer has the hots for Sam. There is a New Age scene where Sam shares a meal with her.

The film gets worse.

This movie need not be filmed in the backwoods, anywhere. It could be filmed in the front woods or along side a road. It might have been filmed in Frisco or in Westwood among the homeless. Sam Worthington would be noticeable by the sign hanging around his neck reading, I’m the biggest moronic, retard-fool on the planet.

The Canal (2013). The film is unnecessarily dark, with a poor story, mediocre dialogue and ill defined characters.

The International – Clive Owen, Naomi Watts. This is a predictable film with an excellent scene of dialogue (four minutes) between Owen and bad guy, Armin Mueller Stahl, which makes those opponents allies. At the end there are also good rooftop scenes of Istanbul.

After Hours – Griffin Dunne, Roseanne Arquette, Linda Floretino, Teri Garr, Martin Scorsese (Director). WATCH. This is as delightful and true a film as when I first saw it.

THE COMING WAR WITH JAPAN

George Friedman and Meredith LeBard

This book came into my possession in late April at a bag sale at a library book sale. So it cost a dime or perhaps eight cents. It was new and unread. It has a naval ship on the cover that looks of World War Two vintage. I was overjoyed. A book written in the 1930s about the American War with Japan. In a red banner across the top of the cover read in white letters: The #1 Bestseller in Japan. Wow, I was truly amazed at my luck. A book about World War Two written before that war and read by both sides.

NOPE. The book was published in 1993. The Coming War between Japan and the United States will have to wait, forever. What can be said about the hackers, George Friedman and Meredith LeBard. Like Richard Nixon, they’re selling used cars. Would you buy a used War from these tricks? Don’t bother buying a used book. On Amazon there are a few hundred at a penny a piece. These authors are emblematic of the 1990s – speculative, fantasy laced makers of drug ridden nightmares, and liars: “I did not have sex with that woman…” If Monica is coming back because she needs to be paid again, bringing back The Coming War is justified.

Note the book’s comments on the back:

Tight logic, superb research, clear writing. Friedman& LeBard don’t bask in the warmth this side of the cold war; they look ahead to the chilling possibilities that can follow [including Martian invasions and galactic explosions]. Lt. General Anthony Lukeman,, Executive Director, Marine Corp Association.

“…demonstrates with surprising thoroughness why their interests with diverge more and more…the underlying analysis of why Japan and America will change from their current partnership to more and more open rivalry may well seem prescient [for people who are maxed out on drugs]. James Fallows, The New York Review of Books.

“Friedman & LeBard make a persuasive case for the startling proposition that the U.S. and Japan are on a collision course leading to war within a generation. In an exegesis all the more chilling for its understated scholarship and wide angle perspectives, they predict an honest to goodness shootout…A thoughtful and thought-provoking what-if audit of the price of domination.” Kirkus Reviews. As always Kirkus says the most and says nothing. Kirkus Reviews uses big words – exegesis. What is a “what-if” audit. What-if the Yellowstone volcano erupted? Kirkus would be toast.

While President Bush prepares his series of high-flown speeches on the new world order…his advisers are reading a more down to earth analysis on the chances for world peace…The Coming War With Japan…” Peter Stothard, The Times of London. I know that President Bush was more low-down with the Japanese. Didn’t he toss his cookies into the lap of the Japanese President?

“…one of the most thorough and systematic analyses in recent years of the diverging interests of these two Pacific Basic superpowers. Peter Wiley, San Francisco Chronicle. This may be the most intelligent sentence the Chronicle has ever printed.

In one impressively researched section, they detail the ways in which the air, sea and land forces of Japan have been shrewdly and carefully built up, exploiting ambiguities in the country’s anti-war constitution. Christopher Hitchens, Newsday. Let’s hope Christopher Hitchens is correct.

There is a new book with the ominous title, The Coming War with Japan. It’s thesis is that Japan and the United States are victims today of the same historical forces that were at work in the 1930s and that another military clash is unavoidable. Lee Iaccoca, Chairman Chrysler Corporation, Los Angeles Times. In his imperious position at Chrysler, Iaccoca ignorantly misunderstands that totalitarian Japan of the 1930s differs greatly from the democracy there in 1990, and flourishing today.

Note the appalling quality of criticism. In this country criticism – this is wrong, that is correct – is not the point of the blurbs of any book. Instead the American public is delivered highfaluting, overstuffed phrases from names who likely have not read the book. Non-fiction criticism should be direct. It is not. It suffers from the same inept, poorly read, ignorance that is frequently found in the books themselves. Write a review, attach your name. Then, the next sloppy book by that set of reviewers will be favorably reviewed.

Schrunk & White, Elements of Style

In the late 1940s EB White wrote about Will Schrunk, his professor at Cornell. White was asked by the publisher of Schrunk’s book to revise it for a new edition. Hence, Schrunk & White, Elements of Style

In a 1957 letter and in White’s other essays and stories, it is obvious he departs repeatedly from Schrunk’s rules. The exception is when a rule is followed. It demonstrates that most of Schrunk & White came from Schrunk, not White. It reveals why White’s essays, letters and reports are second-rate, and cannot be read for knowledge, insight or inspiration. It explains why White’s criticism is not well written.

It also explains why White was a sell-out: Witness rambling rumination on Henry Thoreau, Walden, and White’s excuses for flaws: “To reject the book because of the immaturity of the author and the bugs in the logic is to throw away a bottle of good wine because it contains bits of cork.” A Slight Sound at Evening, Summer, 1954.

Take a specific problem first, coming from White’s pen and limited imagination. He refers to Walden being inmature which can mean anything and having bugs in its logic. Once a book is launched, it is usually unchanged. Walden has be immature and buggy since 1854. Thoreau’s only salvation is the residency in New England. If he had been from Tennessee or Nebraska, the book would be appropriately forgotten. Of course White is from New England and always supports the homeboy.

Next, if a good wine has cork in it, it can be filtered, and the cork removed. But no one can filter immediately bugs from wine. It is best not to drink the bottle with the cork in it, although in New England the natives may swill anything and swallow. Hence, White’s simile is wrong, and it’s wrong in real life. Law books report cases when critters like bugs get inside bottles and containers. The expert advice is, don’t consume them.

The greater problem is when White extols immaturity and bugs in logic. How much of that ineptness must a reader endure? If a human being reads poor writing and decides to write, then the consequent output will be poor quality. Human beings only learn if they read, comprehend and understand good writing – saying something in five words rather than 20. Knowing that five words can state the full thought [concept, idea] makes the writer more adept – five words makes the writing easier and more pleasant to read.

But White cherishes homeboy, Henry David, massively imperfect, boring and probably using drugs while dwelling in his pond shack, polluting the pure waters and uttering Wow, all the time. Thoreau wrote about simple, mundane events and impressions, things any high schooler might believe significant. We don’t keep those immature writings full of bugs around – even the students themselves toss them. And we don’t put those writers on postage stamps.  Drugs are a possibility explaining why Thoreau was immature and infested, but drugs are not an excuse to read him. It remains mystifying why White defers to Thoreau and likes him (except EB White also paid no attention to the rules in Elements of Style). 

ONE MAN’S MEAT IS NOBODY’S WRITING

ONE MAN’S MEAT, E.B. White

If the author sounds familiar, he authored Elements of Style. At a library sale I found this paperback book and put it into my dollar bag. Hence, the cost was perfect, $.03, plus inside the cover was a bonus, a note from girlfriend to boyfriend: “Dear Dayton [wonder if he races cars] – I enjoyed this very much this summer. White has a way with words! Merry Christmas! Love, Sally”

The book had been read once; there were pages turned down. I wonder if Sally did anything cheesy like give Dayton the copy she had read over the summer. She uses entirely too many exclamation points. If so, I don’t think he read it. I wonder if Sally and Dayton ever married. Probably not. The book was given after 1978. They would be in the late fifties now, and this book would be a keepsake. Divorced? Probably not. Dayton or Sally probably would have removed the note. It’s easy; it’s in there with scotch tape. Dayton had the book, never read it and this year gave it to the library.

Most of the book is properly written, but it is not well written. There is no sense the writer knows how to dramatize a point, an event or a description. He is a poor journalist. Of 304 pages about 30 are engaging and a few are excellent. The remainder is dull, a lot of the writing is about seed crops and animal husbandry (the animals have no names). Examples: 

1) “Removal” is about moving. White’s line should be, “I didn’t like the old mirror. Each time I looked at it, I appeared tired.” INSTEAD, White described his toils trying to rid himself of the mirror and ended the paragraphs with: “A few minutes later, after a quick trip back to the house, I slipped the mirror guiltily in a doorway, a bastard child with not even a note asking the finder to treat it kindly. I took a last look in it and I thought I looked tired.”

2) “Progress and Change,” an article about the El Sixth Street train removed circa 1938. White describes veterans and visitors’ reactions to the train coming into a station. EB mentions the suddenness of the training stopping, and the visitors always being unsettled. But EB does not write it: EB’s spotlight is on the New York City residents who feels superior because he does not wince, but he does not give enough facts to allow the reader to understand why wincing is not necessary.

3) White had very bad hay fever, throughout his life. He went to the New York World’s Fair in 1939 while suffering a bout of hay fever. He wrote, “When you can’t breathe through your nose, Tomorrow seems strangely like the day before yesterday.” Tomorrow is the theme of the fair, but “seems strangely” is a seemingly strange verb and adverb combo. White should complete the simile with a direct verb – “is”, “smells”, or since he’s a mouth breather that day, “tastes.” 

I’ve read most of George Orwell’s essays; they are impossible to remove from my memory. I will say EB White’s writing about totalitarianism is wrong and childish. He reveals he is absolutely ignorant, and poorly read and out of step with thinking and knowledge. Before his death in 1935 Will Rogers told America about Hitler, We’re going to have to watch this guy. ON THE OTHER HAND, White is engaged by The Wave of the Future, Anne Lindbergh, circa 1940. The Lindberghs were pro-Nazi until the United States had to declare war on Germany on December 10, 1941; they then shut up forever. The Lindberghs received medals from the Nazis; they overlooked Crystal Nacht; they disregarded reports of plunder and murder in recently German occupied countries in Europe. Nothing the Lindberghs wrote was worth reading, yet White devotes an article to Anne although is slightly uncomplimentary. In 1941, White gets around to reading Mein Kampf. 

The best article White has in at the beginning, “Removal,” and only part of it: (Written in 1938)

“…Radio has already given sound a wide currency, and sound “effects” are taking the place once enjoyed by sound itself. Television will enormously enlarge the eye’s range, and, like radio, will advertise the Elsewhere. Together with the tabs, the mags and the movies, it will insist that we forget the primary and the near in favor of the secondary and the remote. More hours in every twenty-four will be spent digesting ideas, sounds, images – distant and concocted. In sufficient accumulation, radio sounds and television sights may become more familiar to us than their originals. A door closing, heard over the air; a face contorted, seen in a panel of light – those will emerge as the real and the true; and when we bang the door of our own cell or look into another’s face the impression will be of mere artifice. I like to dwell on this quaint time, when the solid world becomes make-believe, McCarthy corporeal and Bergen stuffed, when all is reversed and we shall be like the insane, to whom the antics of the sane seem crazy twistings of a grig”

White is entirely correct that television has contributed to depersonalizing human society, and that it will allow broadcasters and governments to be and promote dishonesty: “…sights may become more familiar to us than their originals.” One would expect that human beings with less intelligence would have the most difficulty determining what is “the real and the true,” and what “will be of mere artifice.” HOWEVER, White himself {Ivy League, Eastern Establishment} amply demonstrates in One Man’s Meat that he is completely befuddled. He is dwelling “on this quaint time,” but neglecting to use his powers to examine it. 

White quotes excellent passages from Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, about the weaknesses and annoyances of the spoken word, but upon reading Mein Kampf, White writes and quotes in “Freedom,” 

“…it is not the written word but the spoken word, which in heated movements moves great masses of people to noble or ignoble action. The written word, unlike the spoken word, is something which every person examines privately and judges calmly by his own intellectual standards, not by what the stand standing next to him thinks, ‘I know,” wrote Hitler, ‘that one is able to win people far more by the spoken than the written word…’ Later he adds contemptuously, ‘For let it be said to all knights of the pen and to all the political dandies, especially of today: the greatest changes in this world have never yet been brought about by a goose quill. No, the pen has always been reserved to motivate these things theoretically.'” 

White properly reports what others have said about the spoken versus the written word, but where is the further analysis from the  Eastern Establishment, Ivy League great mind? White says of himself in the same article, “Luckily, I’m not out to change the world…” The best that could be said of White is he is lazy and vacuous. The worse justifiable conclusion is, White is intellectually dishonest. He complains about mass media changing human behavior and society, yet he is unable to cope with the confusion, so sticks his head in his salt water farm on the Maine coast.

 

 

WAR AS I KNEW IT, George S. Patton

Seven months after the end of World War Two in Europe Patton was seriously injured in an auto accident. Two weeks later he died.

For his family he wrote a brief memoir of his commanding experiences, and the “dash” across France in a chapter entitled: Touring France With an Army. That chapter is the best account of rolling the German Army out of France: The Germans had no time to plan and burn Paris. It took less than a month for the Third Army to go from Normandy to Lorraine with a detour west through Brittany.

Because “Touring France” is short there is no good account of that month’s campaign and the decisions – day to day, tactical and strategic which Patton made. At one time he determined that German occupied France did not mean the German Army was there. Patton left his flank open to attack figuring that any Germans would be subject to air attack followed by ground forces. He swept the enemy east. To a field commander Patton challenged: “Why haven’t you taken Chartres?” “There are Germans there.” Patton didn’t know but said, “There are no Germans in Chartres! If you aren’t in Chartres by 5:00 p.m., you’re relieved of command.” Patton left. The field officer gathered available forces and drove into Chartres which had been evacuated by the Germans.

It is important to know the highlights of Patton’s campaigns because this book also has command and military guidelines: How to fight in a forest, in town, etc. How his army command was organized. How he ordered everyone to do their work. These 80 pages of management and business techniques are informative if one can extrapolate from the military and war to business. OR, if a writer can, by analogy, use military tactics to attack and write a novel. It is entirely feasible that writing a book is a type of war, waged by the writer who strives for perfection. (Patton says perfection is not possible, only victory.) How a writer approaches the subject and how to go about expressing ideas through the characters, or whether an idea can be carried from character to character. Write efficiently, write effectively, write economically. The three “Es” are all military concepts which will make writing better and more perfect.

I have yet to figure out and understand the military campaign in France in August 1944, but I know Patton’s management instructions and tips are of value beyond their military specificities.