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Belmont Club

Is Less More?

May 4th, 2014 - 8:04 pm

The old ball and chain has reportedly been replaced by the mobile device. People are complaining from the stress of being unable to escape from the smart phone in their hip pocket.  But the portability of modern electronic devices is not to blame for their inescapability. It’s the connectivity that’s oppressive.

The mobile device unconnected to anything is as much a ball and chain as short link stapled to nothing. I found myself completely unable to read on the computer until I bought the cheap Amazon Kindle device. It’s portable, stays charged for weeks and best of all does nothing more than display the books you’ve downloaded. There’s no distracting temptation to check your email or get incensed by the latest news stories because you can’t.

You can’t. The best thing about the Kindle is it constrains you. It does one thing and nothing else, which frees you to do other things. It is now perfectly possible to tramp around for miles and stop by some tree stump and continue with Memory Hold-the-door: The Autobiography of John Buchan, which I am currently reading, much as Buchan himself did a hundred years ago except he had to lug around a book made of heavy paper.  The smart phone is still sits in the hip pocket, but is switched low, held only against emergencies.

I can read again with less.

My next read is probably going to be Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941, which I came to after re-discovering Gary Cooper’s Sergeant York, which I remember watching in black and white back in my teen years.   I realize now that Sergeant York was not about World War 1, though the action is set in that period. It was about World War 2 which led me to Those Angry Days.
The themes of the movie were pacifism versus the need to oppose tyranny. On the one hand the widespread disillusion following the Great War held people back. And on the other was the goad of necessity. Sergeant York settled nothing.  It was still playing in first run when Pearl Harbor was bombed and Wikipedia says many viewers went straight from watching it in the theater to the recruitment depot.  Gary Cooper’s famous classic was actually the biggest grossing film of 1941.  The screenplay clearly shows it was produced in the middle of an unresolved national debate over whether to stay out or join the Next One.  As such it reflected the contest between the isolationists and the interventionists, an argument never actually settled, until the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor settled it for all time. To the question: who decided whether America should join World War 2 the answer is ‘Hirohito’.

Funny that. For all of our thinking, history comes and drags us off by the hair. But how do we think? The literate man of Buchan’s day lived in a world where the classical idiom was alive and vigorous. You could quote Plato, Virgil, Homer and every educated man knew what you meant.  In Sergeant York the characters debate in terms of references to the Bible.  In what terms to they think today?

In terms of popular culture, probably. But I wouldn’t know what the terms are because I haven’t watched any TV in 20 years and wonder if I’ve missed anything.

Mrs Wretchard has been trying to get me to watch what she refers to as “long form” TV, which she says is driving the current Golden Age of TV. She mentions the Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Homeland, The Wire etc as examples. She says “this rage for telling long stories on TV has hooked everybody and spread globally. As demand for actors heats up, we’re seeing the same American, Australian and British faces on our screens juggling various characters and confusing the poor hapless viewer.”

So there’s a global culture, I just don’t know what it is.  She ticks off the names and believes the demand for talent is now so great “more new faces are needed ASAP.”  Intrigued, I asked her where to start and she suggested “24″.  That 2001-2010 series, she says, set the pace. “It also created modern icons like Chloe, ‘the geeky girl’, which now populates virtually every police procedural e.g. NCIS, even superhero adaptations e.g. Arrow.”  That list of shows was all greek to me and word that  24: Live Another Day is back in a new series starting today left me scratching my head.

The last long form I probably watched was the Republic Serials.

I guess it marks a change of idiom. And now I guess we think in terms of Arrow, Thor, Iron Man and the Black Canary.  Times change, but I wonder if people do.



Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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Top Rated Comments   
Our nature doesn't change but our environment has.


The issue is that everything is artificial.

What have we now is artifice and not authentic.

-Artificial whiskey (Paxil, Xanax, Prozac)

-Artificial culture (TV and Hollywood)

-Artificial sports (steroids and other PED’s)

-Artificial Judaism and Christianity (liberation theology)

-Artificial women (Botox and surgical enhancement)

-Artificial men (Viagra and Levitra)

-Artificial concern for "the children" (should they make it past the abortionist, that is)

-Artificial parenting (“bubble-wrapping” until 21 and then expecting a kid to thrive after that)

-Artificial maturity (basement boys living with their parents until 40)

-Artificial public education (female teachers trying to emasculate boys and teaching hatred for Christianity)

-Artificial post-secondary education (political correctness passed off as knowledge and wisdom)

-Artificial marriage (gay marriage, “no fault” divorce, cohabitation)

-Artificial socialization of youth (hookup culture instead of courting)

-Artificial statesmen (Obama’s Nobel Prize)

-Artificial charity and compassion (the welfare state)

-Artificial concern for fairness and justice (garden variety envy trying to pretend it isn’t what it is)

-Artificial national borders (illegal immigration which our ruling elite encourage)

-Artificial foreign policy (“red lines” never enforced)

-Artificial stock market (propped up by ridiculous money printing)

-Artificial clerisy (incomes sustained by union and government thuggery instead of actual value)

-Artificial financial industry (based upon skimming off the number of transactions processed rather than their quality)

-Artificial captains of industry (blue-state model giant corporations currying favor with giant government)

-Artificial party of the people (Democrats)

-Artificial opposition to all of this (the current Republican leadership)

It’s all a game of “let’s pretend”. It shouldn't surprise anyone that new forms to match this artificial environment should arise.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
People change Wretchard, but unwritten in the paradigm is that we are supposed to change for the good or the better. If someone has to ask about what might represent the good, then they are lost. They are essentially omni-directional clouds of dust, waiting for the wind to proscribe their course.

The movie is almost 75 years old. The same biblical platitudes thrown about by the Captain and responded to by York are offered without the context of a real reading of scripture. I’m sure that was done back then because much of the country knew all of those Biblical platitudes. But the striking thing today is that it is almost verbatim to the discussions you hear today, where unable “pastors” try to convince unwilling converts. It is, unfortunately, the same meager understanding of passages when you hear those with a little understanding of scripture duel with those with the same five passages used to “refute” the message of the bible. However, I think folk back then were smarter than they are today because they were steeped in logical thinking, whereas today our youth have become unquestioning sponges. They are lazy sycophants who broke the code and gain points by agreeing with their brain washers. They do that today for two very understandable, but bad reasons: First, their grade depends upon that fawning approach. Second, like the movie “God Is Not Dead” shows us, a professor bent on destroying your educational reputation is a real threat if he doesn’t like your position – or your ideology. To disagree is to fight with the “God of the classroom” as Kevin Sorbo makes clear in the movie. People back then were probably educated over a much shorter period of time than the youth of today, however, they were expected to know vastly more than the average high school student of today.

What did they have that we don't have today? Well they were grounded in reality much more than we are today. They had pride in whatever little part of the earth was theirs, and they fought for it. The depression made a huge impression on them about the reality of the world, and it taught them about scarcity. The war taught them about loss and the preciousness of the family that our kids willingly rank second to their friends. The silliness of the Mad Magazine we used to love to read because the characters were so goofy or unmotivated has unfortunately morphed into our younger generation who do not have a care in the world because they have been told, "What, you worry?"

In a few years, they are going to be very angry when they wake up, because they will realize they were lied to and worse – that they voted for what they now have. If they don’t wake up, they will eventually end up like the “undead” or THX-1138., because that is where this road leads.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment

We all think in terms of what we remember. I have not watched a television series for at least thirty years, preferring to limit my viewing to where they keep score. My thinking is conditioned by my possible misunderstanding of the present and the past, and not liking the present political situation very much. My mystery writing was formed long ago by Raymond Chandler and my science fiction writing by Ray Bradbury, so everything I write is dated, and so, very likely, is every thing I think. In the fifth grade I was told tin was the principal export of Bolivia, and I believed it then and I believe it now. For me, and I expect for most of us, our worldview is conditioned by what we knew or were told or what we experienced in our growing up years, and the contemporary world merely adds a patina, positive or negative, on our preconceptions.

For those of us who grew up when the radio was king
The world is now a very different place
A place where saying love of country is the only thing
Now brings a sneer and laughter in our face
We lived in towns and cities where the doors were never locked
And kids were free to roam the neighborhood
But nowadays those places are long gone and harshly mocked
By people who have never understood
That just because we grew up in a world now in the past
That maybe we had something new to say
That maybe we know something new about the play and cast
And see we’re not so far from yesterday
That things we saw as growing up we’re seeing yet again
The world it changes not nor do the times
For history remains the same except for where and when
There’s no repeat as Twain said but it rhymes

43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (80)
All Comments   (80)
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Let's get serious here and stop all this light-hearted stuff. Here's something related to the title that may help:

Here lies Lester Moore,
He took 6 rounds from a '44.

No less. No more.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
SOLD! And via your link too!
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
SwampMan was dead set against E-readers. He then complained about my 13 floor-to-ceiling bookshelves (he is also a reader and has a similar number of bookshelves). I pointed out to him that with an E-reader, I could shelve a similar number of books on one device, and no carrying ten or twelve books on each vacation! I had a Kindle on my birthday. Then he needed to borrow mine to read on because he couldn't locate a book, so he paid for and immediately downloaded it to my Kindle. He bought himself a Kindle Paperwhite and hasn't purchased his mysteries and thrillers except electronically.

He just bought me a Kindle Fire. I dunno. I think I like my old Kindle better, but I haven't given it a chance yet.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
At the risk of bringing down the tone of this discussion, let me say a few words in favor of anime.

One of the great benefits of being "connected" is that internet services like Netflicks, Amazon, and allow one to see what the Japanese see -- which at its best is a whole lot better than "American" (it is actually mostly made in Canada these days) TV or those pretentious British period dramas.

To be fair, a lot of anime is silly stuff -- teenage male fantasies about big-breasted women and pre-teen female fantasies about slips of girls packing the punch of a World War I battleship. But the gems hidden in the dross can be truly thought-provoking and moving. Anime can provide an astonishingly effective medium for old-fashioned long-form story telling, wrestling with the eternal questions of good & evil and human reactions to situations where there are no good choices.

Some of the better animes I have seen include Requiem for the Phantom, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Darker than Black, Broken Blade. They are best watched in the original Japanese with subtitles, avoiding the corrupting influence of western dubbing.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Look for the films of Hayao Miyazaki, head of Studio Ghibli. I'm such a putz, I've frequently worked in studios and companies where 60 - 80 hour weeks were not uncommon.

When I did have breaks, I needed something completely different.
I combined music and camping in silly clothes (Historical Recreation groups...)

Always too busy to pay attention to things going on in the field. Now that I'm teaching a lot, my students have expanded my horizons.

A few outstanding Miyazaki works:

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Princess Mononoke

Kiki's Delivery Service

Howl's Moving Castle


These I have seen, although some so long ago I couldn't tell you much about them. After four decades as animation designer, I can tell you there's lots of stuff that repels me. Miyazaki humbles me and makes me want to keep animating.

His latest North American release was last year: The Wind Rises
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
The protagonist in the O'Brian novels is...ahem...AUBREY. Guy had a singular facility for naming his heroes.

WRT York and his commander and their talk. There was a village in rural France which hid and saved thousands of Jews in WW II. I believe it was Le Chambon. I got the book to see what happened to the inevitable troublemaker who would squeal to the Nazis. Wasn't one. Shocker.
According to the book, the pastor had been a soldier in the French army in North Africa when he got to thinking about being a CO. His commander had a decent chat with him, probably referred to timing and whatnot. And off the pastor went to be a CO and take horrendous risks to his own life and that of his family and anybody who listened to him and did the right thing.
I recall the phenomenon of the CO medics in Viet Nam. Hard old Infantry noncoms would get practically teary-eyed over their courage and compassion.
Different strokes as they say, as long as you show up at the right time.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Noted, thank you.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wretchard, the television series format is really remarkable in that it is so well suited to the novel. 40 to 50 minutes of TV time is perfect for dramatizing an individual chapter with as much detail and plot development as you could want. Put four or eight or ten of these chapters together and you tell a novel-sized story better than any feature film ever could.

Among the series recommended by Mrs. Wretchard I recommend The Wire. Each season in this series is like a separate novel with the five or seasons comprising a series of novels. There is political bias in these series that may be off-putting to some of your readers but the quality of the story telling is superb.

My recent favorite is True Detective. This is a complete story in eight episodes. It does have some flaws such as a pointless housing project shootout, but overall it is an engrossing story ending with the possible salvation of a protagonist.

Watch one of these series, preferably on of the better ones, and you may be surprised at how the novel, which has never worked very well in feature films, can work beautifully in a HD television series.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would second the recommendation for The Wire. I was living in the Baltimore area at the time, and knew a couple people that had bit parts in the show. It is entertaining and wickedly smart, and a fairly accurate (for a "Hollywood" production) depiction of the soup of the drug trade, law enforcement and metro politics and government. Certainly not for everybody. Watch a few short clips on Youtube and you'll get an idea whether it's for you.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some of the best stuff ever made is the 1 hour serials available on TV (or a computer near you). The movie is akin to a short story and the serial to a novel (as already noted). Many of the great novels were written for serialization in magazines (Dickens, Tolstoy ect.). The Wire was very good - my favourite season was the one set on the Boat docks. The Sopranos probably one of the best of them all. Breaking Bad, Homeland, 24 and, I've heard, the new variant of 24 starting tonight, is quite fine. Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Justified, True Detective - the list goes on.

No, there isn't much utility to burying one's head in the sand and being a luddite. I do, however, encourage my kids to read, and read widely.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Justified and True Detective are awesome TV. Rome, Deadwood, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones.... all great stuff.

There are some terrific villains on offer in these modern serials.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Is Less More?"

I should suppose that, more or less, that's true.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of the key reasons for American pacifism in the 1930's and 1940's was a visceral reaction against stories told about supposed German atrocities against Belgians during WWI that were actually British fabrications. It was rather like the “boy who cried wolf”. There is an unfortunate tendency on both sides of the Atlantic to presume that pacifism among Europeans is laudable while regarding the very same pacifism among Midwesterners as execrable “Isolationism”.

The two strategic reasons to be worried about Europe is (1) the tendency of a European war to suck outsiders in as if it were a black hole and (2) the possibility of a European colossus bent upon invading North America as well as the rest of the world. Russia ought to be equally concerned about getting sucked into Europe as the USA ought to be but it appears that Putin can't help himself.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can confirm - from my year-long project to read the archive of a major newspaper from 1935-1945 when I was in college. Americans in the heartland were considerably bitter about how they had been sold a pack of lies about so-called German atrocities on the Western front - many of which later turned out to have been made from whole cloth. (There were quite a few real atrocities, though - like the burning of Louvain, and the wholesale executions of civilians in Belgium.) But still - it was the sense that they had been played for suckers leading up to America entering into WWI - that resulted in Americans being really resistant to reports of Nazi atrocities about the Jews leading up to WWII. There was this sense, that I gleaned from the editorials and the letters-to-the-editors that yes, they would not be fooled again when it came to wartime propaganda.
And then, of course - as was revealed in May, 1945 - as the Allies discovered the evidence - that what had really been going on with regard to Nazi extermination and labor camps was about fifteen degrees more horrific than had ever been imagined by the most dedicated anti-Nazi propagandist with the most perverted imagination, dedicated to coming up with accounts of the most vile Nazi atrocities. This did, I thing, a real number on the western intellectual mind - possibly more than the number done on the western intellectual mind by WWI. YMMV, though.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
One should not Bowdlerize the past. In the history of warfare, well disciplined soldiers who keep their hands to themselves tend to be the exception rather than the rule. One wonders if the glaring defects of cousin marriage promotes war for the purpose of rape (and expanding the gene pool) in endogamous societies such as Islam. For that matter, the principal cause for a breach between Tito and Stalin was Stalin's refusal to listen to Tito's complaints about Russian soldiers raping Serb girls.

It has become fashionable in some quarters to vilify Americans by accusing American soldiers of raping foreign women, particularly during World War II. Rapes did happen, but they were not the policy of the US government – as opposed to how other powers (such as Russia) did have a policy of using rape as a weapon of war. Those who idolize Napoleon Bonaparte have a lot to answer for.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of the more colorful characters of Napoleon III's attempt to impose a puppet emperor on Mexico was Colonel Jean Charles Dupin, also known as “The Hyena of Tamaulipas”.

Those who condemn rape should not be selective about it. It sends a chilling message to complain about the rape of French women while celebrating the rapes of Arab women, Mexican women, and German women at the hands of French troops.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wonder what Sgt. York - or the people who made the film - would think of the court upholding the school order that forbids students from wearing US flags on Cinco de Mayo?

I wonder if any of the kids thought of wearing Captain America symbols or perhaps the star insignia used on US aircraft?

I wonder what the school would say if the kids showed up with Confederate Battle Flags on their T-shirts? They could claim they were Dukes of Hazard enthusiasts.

As for TV - I have a problem. I don't watch that much but I record a lot more. I have got stacks of DVDs, both store bought and home recorded, that I have not watched. I have whole seasons of shows that i have recorded but have not watched. I finally went through my stacks of VHS tapes and culled out what I wanted and copied them onto DVDs - but I am still not quite done with that effort.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have a small decent television w built-in VHS vcr still in the box 10 years old. My brother after a stroke recorded hundreds of VHS tapes from broadcast, most of which are un-labeled. I imagine a scenario much like the old Twilight Zone episode in which Burgess Meredith's mild librarian is performing some errand deep in a fifth-level sub-basement when the world above is obliterated by the Nuclear Holocaust we all knew was coming.

He quickly realizes he can finally indulge in reading all the wonderful authors he's had to defer because of his duties... then... "KRUNCH" and quickly "GASP!"

... stepped on his eyeglasses...

Rod Serling really was a BASTARD!
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
My wife always walked around with a book in her hand. Then she got a Kindle, so she walked around with it in her hand. I got her an Ipad, and that largely replaced the Kindle. She finally got an Iphone to complete the Holy Trinity.

Her attention to these various devices used to bother the crap out of me until one day I realized, I don't have to talk to my wife anymore...

Just joking, dear...
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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