AN IRISH SURVEY

MODERN IRELAND
by R. F. Foster

This books tells the politics, economics and general status of Irish society through the seventeenth century in an efficient and an excellent telling.

The author leaves politics and goes onto literature, beginning with Irishmen being in London, Swift to Sheridan. It is an impressive production of words, few about Ireland with little Irish influence. Most of those words were directed toward Britains, but they did not affect British policy toward Ireland. The author cites a source which he says is the best book on the literary production and subjects.

Next came chapters of cultural/sociological politics which is interesting. The British parliament made serfs of the Irish which the Americans no doubt knew and revolted beginning in 1765. British law had reduced Irish ownership to five percent of that island by the middle of the Eighteenth Century. There was a permanent underclass for the British to work on.

On the underclass were British owned estates of Lords, noblemen, genre and businessmen. Many estates were deeply in debt and administered separately from properties elsewhere: no profit, no investment, no improvement. For decades estates sat.

For a tedious, dull two centuries of life were a waste of time when rulers did nothing except quibble, harrumph and drink to the glories of the British Empire until the Twentieth Century. The British Parliament was talking about Home Rule for Ireland throughout July 1914. The death of the Austrian Archduke was not a significant event. The British prime minister liked long weekends when he could fish. British politicians were as petty as they could be. Forced into World War I unaware, the British left Irish issues to be unresolved.

The Irish had another way. By 1921 they had negotiated Free State borders with Northern Ireland and Britain.

This survey books tells all, but not in complete detail. It may suffer from flaws found in most surveys, but overall this book is an excellent place to begin studying Irish history.

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THE NEXT OPERA

Cinderella & Company, by Manuela Hoelterhoff

This excellent book about the inside of the world of opera is amusing, well-written, to the point and short.

Initially, an impression comes to the reader. The book is a story of antedotes – the opera in the 1990s and in the past – but there is more.

A growing realization comes that the author has written the outline for a new opera libretto: Singers of all sexs, shapes and ages are themselves; most have great talent but do not want to sing. Every singer in a libretto based upon this book can sing a few bars from a famous aria and quit, as if to say, “see I know the whole thing.” In the songs of the opera singers sound out their excuses, reasons, or disgust why they will not perform. NOTE: Sets for the new opera cost zero because everything is backstage. It is all in this book including the ending where some singers mature and otherwise grow up, getting over their juvenile, wanton ways in order to return to the silly world of the opera stage. There’s a lot of money at stake.

Read this book to be entertained, or to write a libretto.

SHERLOCK – Season 4

This series has begun the slide into fantasy and surrealism. Points are blocked out and seemingly follow one another. But do the blocks make sense? A headline from Favorite Internet Site leads to Sherlock and Watson to follow a line; a note discarded in the Underground on the other side of London stirs them in other directions.

The cartoonish coincidences of blocks mock the whole Sherlock idiom. Most of Season 4 is taken up with the future crimes predicted by past bad guys, James Moriety, killed in Season 2. Note that a few years or more have passed by Season 4. The dead man has joined forces with Sherlock Holmes brilliant sister, who supposedly has not been released from confinement for 30 years.

According to the cartoon story she knows everything. She’s more brilliant than either of her brothers, although she is severely mentally retarded. She keeps that handicap in check while having her brothers jump through her hoops. Episode three of Season 4 is not good science fiction, science fantasy, detective fantasy, etc. It’s more like a pseudo-psycho story with gaps, and the audience is to fill in the blanks while trying to follow improbable actions: A cross between Survivor and Alien [the original].

The Sherlock Holmes idiom presents a man who is different from other human beings. Note that Sherlock is not in a different setting. In the settling that is known to the audience, what delights readers and viewers is Sherlock’s observations of the unknown and unnoticed. When Sherlock pursues criminals, he does not leave reality, the setting the audience is in. When using fantasy leaps, grand coincidences and changes of setting in SHERLOCK – Season 4, the Sherlock idiom is lost. [Robert Downey Jr. movies came close but did not cross this line.]

What the audiences and the writers lose? Nobody cares about Sherlock or how the crimes are solved. Most of the crimes are obvious {cereal (serial) killer}and solvable by the cops; Sherlock isn’t needed. SHERLOCK – Season 4 lost its strongest human being when Mary, John Watson’s wife, is unnecessarily killed. If the truth be known the original Terminator movie has more human beings in it (including Arnold) than SHERLOCK – Season 4.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN

I finally finished reading 13 Ways of Looking At The Novel by Jane Smiley. In it she twice mentions Mark Twain’s novel, Huckleberry Finn; she claims the book is boring  and she mentions her 1996 piece in Harper’s magazine.

When Jane Smiley becomes more broadly read and her reading comprehension improves, she will believe Huckleberry Finn is the best novel she has ever read.

HINT: Begin with the most widely read book in the English language.

HINT, HINT: Determine what “These spiritual gifts” from chapter Three of Finn refer to.

CONCEDE: Samuel Clemens has been laughing at you since you wrote your article for Harpers.

NO NOVELIST HERE

I bought 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley, and wondered if it was also overblown and overwritten. Yes, it is. The laudatory sentence on the back cover underneath the author’s photograph has errors in it. It states that Smiley possesses a mastery of craft. Mastery is difficult to justify and not complimentary. Stating there is a facility of craft suggests an acuity and uniqueness unmatched in others; they are essential traits in all literature: Every story has its own style and its own way of telling – the characters, the setting and the events are different. Having a facility means the author tells one story from another without effort. If mastery is the standard, there is trouble e.g. A Thousand Acres, derived from King Lear by William Shakespeare. Did old Bill got a lot of stuff wrong or loose in the original?

Next buyers of the book learn Smiley has “an uncompromising vision.” Is this the same uncompromising vision held by that politician, aka the orange turd? The word vision needs no adjective, no adverb, no particle modifying it. Visions are brain images which the brain uses to compile and put together persons, settings and events, essentials to a story. Saying that a story is uncompromising, or a vision is so wrong. The effort is not in its adamancy. Work accomplished by visions are sustained. Visions become continuous, prompting the imagination to prolong them.

When critics like authors use adjectives to puff a piece, inflate a book or aggrandize a writing, the language should be exacting and specific. Otherwise, persons reading the outside of the book [like in the movie Tropical Thunder] may infer an improperly put comment may reflect the author’s abilities, masteries and visions.

In The Tall Grass

Stephan King, Joe Hill

I have no idea why this story appeared in Esquire four years ago, and it is written by more one author. It does not appear difficult to write; it is poorly conceived and not well written.

At the end as a throw away thought to fill the space, a character thinks, I bet all of Kansas looked that way before people came and spoiled it all. NOPE! Before people came to Kansas at least 5,000,000 bison went north and south over that state every year eating all the grass. When Native Americans came, they set prairie fires to make hunting and traveling more convenient. There was very little tall grass in Kansas before whitey showed up. [Note Native Americans also set forest fires east of the Mississippi River to make hunting and agriculture easier. Those lands became “park” lands.]

In The Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper by Mark Twain, the critic itemizes many paragraphs involving characters in a novel which offend literary sensibilities. Likewise these authors fail [which one I don’t know]. At any time during a story, the reader should be able to guess what a character will do. Not in this story. That is an impossibility.

Man [Cal] and woman [Becky] have been friends since childhood. They grow up. She becomes pregnant, but the child is not his. They decide to cross the continent by car when they stop in Kansas. By accepting Becky Cal becomes the biggest protagonist sap in all literature.

They stop at dilapidated buildings. The story does not add mystery or unsettle the reader by noting that settlement is no longer on modern maps. They hear a voice beseeching help, coming from an adjoining field. Cal and Becky want to help. They each venture in, at different times, and each gets lost, I think. They chase Tobin, a native Kansan who easily makes his way around because he uses tunnels constructed by the mole people of whom he is related. Throughout the hike there are many statements: The grass is tall. Becky and Cal yell at one another but have no idea where the other is. They don’t know where Tobin is. In one sentence the voice sounds like it came from a Manitoba mine 1000 miles north. It is a poor simile. Having read to that sentence I did not care if they ever left the field, or if they found one another, in Manitoba or Kansas. Essentially, the authors are not writing about real or representative human beings.

I suppose there are items (a red rock) to use for metaphors, like Dorothy’s Ruby Red shoes in The Wizard of Oz. If any reader does not believe the ending of The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home,” no reader will be happy with the red stone derivation in this story.

There is no reason given why Cal or Becky decide to stop and follow the voice into the tall grass. Following the observations of each character the reader can guess: The characters are morons, idiots, imbeciles, retards and simpletons. Readers are exposed to one nonsensical action after another; none amounts to an effective novella. A big question arises: Do either Becky or Cal have search and rescue work as a life experience? NOPE. Never once is Tobin told to stay where he is and yell. Most search and rescue work personnel have an internal compass – north, south, etc. They would estimate the metes and bounds of the area to be searched and go no further, keeping track of how many footsteps (or time) have been taken in one direction. Most search and rescuers will not look in very dense vegetation, a natural setting sounding more like Vietnam than the prairies of Kansas. It also is reminiscent of the nineteenth century United States Army in very similar terrain trying the round up and placate the Native Americans in Florida.

Somewhere, there may be a great psychological twist in the story. I don’t know where it is, and I discount it as a contrivance.

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.