Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yet Another Blue Jasmine Review

Everyone else is reviewing it. Why not myself?

“Blue Jasmine: Surface and Depth” is up:

It’s only Part I of a two-part review, but read it anyway!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Carlyle on Kings

Here’s another quote from Thomas Carlyle:

“Time was when men could (so to speak) of a given man, by nourishing and decorating him with fit appliances, to the due Pitch, make themselves a King, almost as the Bees do; and what was still more to the purpose, loyally obey him when made.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Carlyle on Academia

Thomas Carlyle on the French academy circa 1788:

“Alas, the Sorbonne still sits there, in its old mansion, but mumbles only jargon of dotage, and no longer leads the consciences of men: not the Sorbonne, it is Encyclopedias, Philosophic, and who knows what nameless multitude of ready Writers, profane Singers, Romancers, Players, Disputators, and Pamphleteers, that now form the Spiritual Guidance of the world.”

He could be talking about today!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Carlyle and the Folly of Man

What I like about Thomas Carlyle’s The French Revolution is its sarcastic tone. The way he illustrates with example after example the foolishness of Man as Rational Being.

We see this with our politicians and legislators today. Instead of accepting nature, the complexity and anarchy of nature, and allowing for it, channeling it, we have instead politician Professors who believe they can order and regulate everything, all parts and activities of society. They, themselves, with their smugly intelligent rationalistic brains.

Reading Carlyle gives perspective on monstrosities like Obama’s 2800-page health care act intended to control every minute aspect of health care throughout this gigantic country—2800 pages of law culminating in 20,000—give or take—pages of federal regulations to implement and enforce such unwieldy rationalistic mess.

Like so much else coming down from on high, the premise is an absurdity on the face of it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thomas Carlyle

I’ve been reading Carlyle’s massive masterpiece The French Revolution, the idea being that we need to study other times in order to understand our own time. One conclusion I’ve already drawn is that, present in any age is a great deal of irrationality. Yet, conversely, the greatest danger comes from those who believe they’re acting rationally. We’re flawed creatures, liable often as not to be wrong. The first step toward true enlightenment is to recognize that.

Anyway, here’s an interesting quote from Thomas Carlyle, with echoes of today:

“But of those decadent ages in which no Ideal either grows or blossoms? When Belief and Loyalty have passed away, and only the cant and false echo of them remains; and all Solemnity has become Pageantry; and the Creed of persons in authority has become one of two things: an Imbecility or a Machiavelism?”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bureaucratic Necessities

I was in a quick online exchange a while back when the term “bureaucratic necessities” came up. I pointed to “bureaucratic necessities” as a major problem with our culture. Yes, it is, the person responded—but that’s why you can’t attack anyone.

Well, then I’ve certainly done things wrong, which is why I’m blackballed. Still, as William Holden says in The Wild Bunch, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

I was raised on America’s myths. Then-realities and myths which are quickly vanishing in this detestable New Age. One of those myths is that being a man means being unafraid to speak honestly. To call out corruption and deception wherever one sees it.

It’s what it means to live in a free country.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Swordfights and Gunfights

NOW UP at American Pop Lit: “Four Classic Movie Swordfights.”

(If you want to read about classic Western movie shootouts, purchase for only 99 cents! my ebook, ABOUT WESTERN MOVIES, available thru Kindle or Nook.)

Friday, August 09, 2013

Literature Living in the Past


The centerpiece of The New Yorker’s August 5 summer fiction issue is a story by Shirley Jackson named “Paranoia.” In style the short story reads like any other New Yorker short story published over the past year. Being from Shirley Jackson, it’s more entertaining than the run-of-the-mill New Yorker story. The biggest difference between “Paranoia” and other well-crafted New Yorker stories is that the story “Paranoia” by Shirley Jackson is 60 years old.

Did the run-of-the-mill New Yorker reader notice?

Likely not. In the first place, fiction appearing in The New Yorker is never read, A.) because the magazine’s purpose isn’t to be read, but to sit upon refined coffee tables in upscale residences from Manhattan to Newport Beach (but not very much in Newport Beach) as a marker of breeding and good taste—the unique cover announcing the week’s message; and B.) because the pieces that are actually read when an ambitious subscriber decides to read the magazine are the movie reviews and show listings, maybe the week’s big think piece, but never—never—the fiction. That the magazine still publishes “fiction,” even if no one reads the fiction, is all that’s required. “Oh, the fiction,” a person responds, looking at the Table of Contents. “Still there. Good.”

In on-line blurbs for the issue, The New Yorker hearkens back to a previous New Yorker story by Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery,” which received more mail response than any story they’ve ever published, before or since. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson was published in 1948!

With today’s establishment-produced “fictions” we’re not talking about a healthy art form. There’s not been a lot of change in it. Over 60+ years of presenting the same thing, the few remaining publishers of literary short stories have lost their audience. Renowned-but-little-read short story writer Charles Baxter acknowledges as much in a Daily Beast interview this week, with hardly a shrug. No attempt to understand the reasons. No desire to create something strikingly new. Charles Baxter has been writing the same kind of short stories for thirty years (not a long period from The New Yorker’s perspective). One thing we can bet about the short stories Baxter has published then and now is that they haven’t changed one iota. Since no one reads them, beyond dutiful writing students eager to learn how to duplicate them, does it matter?

A healthy art form—think of rock music from 1964 to 1967—is engulfed in explosions of creative discoveries everyplace, new trails blazed, the standard centerpiece of the art (the pop song) presenting radical new experiments and experiences by the week.

In literature, we get the unchanging literary story. As unchanged in 60 years as the proverbial generic McDonald’s hamburger left on a plate that never changes, always looking the same.

But The New Yorker is happy, and if they’re happy, the unthinking unblinking literary herd is also happy. Yes. A good year for the short story. 1948!

Maybe next they’ll bring back Joe DiMaggio to play for the Yankees.


(To see my attempt to present readable, entertaining, non-workshop short stories, purchase my e-book, TEN POP STORIES.)

Monday, August 05, 2013


Tired of how shitty this world is right now?

So am I. I’ve decided to escape from it for a moment, via a classic review of a classic monster movie—the appropriately named King Kong Escapes.

Note the advanced special effects. Everyone’s tired of CGI gimmickry anyway.

(PLEASE NOTE! I had the wrong link posted, to the wrong review: "The Swarm." Did anyone notice? Right one now up.)

Friday, August 02, 2013

Men Behaving Badly Part III

Have we had enough yet of political correctness, “sensitivity training” and the like?

A major goal of America’s media and culture the past forty years has been to attack, discredit, and maybe destroy that most deadly of all animals: the white male. Blamed for all ills. The thought being that this society would be better without his existence. Ignoring, of course, that this civilization is almost entirely the product of the vision and ambition of said creature.

I address this question  in my new ebook, ABOUT WESTERN MOVIES, in my essay on the Sam Peckinpah classic, The Wild Bunch, starring William Holden. A couple excerpts:

“The last outlaw. Also the last man, if what has defined men for millennia is now outlawed. Namely, his macho ethos and his uncompromising violence. His need to impose his will upon the world. In Holden's performance is the heritage of the West, and of the white male, long since deemed by academics and experts to be the walking embodiment of cruelty and oppression. With this film, director Sam Peckinpah defiantly embraces that cruel and glorious legacy.”


"The Wild Bunch is the end of the Western. Peckinpah's characters, in their presence, carry the myth; as their actions display the genre's psychotic violence. The aging heroes immolate themselves in an orgy of movie violence. Take away the West, take away their freedom, and no other path for them is left. No place remains for their kind of male.

“The West, in this scenario, equates with freedom-- absolute freedom.”

It’s as if Peckinpah saw what was coming and reacted to it. Surely at one point in this culture, a dose of p.c. liberalism was the right medicine. I celebrate it in my ebook’s essay on the 1960 masterpiece, The Magnificent Seven. In 1960, liberalism reached the peak of its relevance. Today it’s a very different animal.

Now political correctness has become a double standard used merely as a power lever, a way for some classes of people to bully another class of people; no fairness about it; no equal application anywhere. Please don’t tell me what I can or can’t say unless you put those same restrictions on yourself.

Sam Peckinpah’s message might be that restrictions, brainwashings, and controls can be pushed too far. In America, freedom is the ultimate value.

ABOUT WESTERN MOVIES contains provocative writing and is available at Nook and Kindle.