Barney Fife: The Law

Saturday, April 29, AD 2017

 

Don Knotts was a comedy genius but he understood that his creation, the bumbling Deputy Barney Fife, needed depth to be an effective character.  Here he faces down two men, each far more physically powerful than himself, simply because his badge represents the Law and the people the Law represents.  It is an example of a character overcoming his fear and helps explain why Sheriff Taylor had Fife as his Deputy.  A bravura performance from the Silver Age of Television.

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2 Responses to Tarzan_Son of Man

  • Oh, the power to be strong
    And the wisdom to be wise
    All these things will
    Come to you in time
    On this journey that you’re making
    There’ll be answers that you’ll seek
    And it’s you who’ll climb the mountain
    It’s you who’ll reach the peak
    Son of man, look to the sky
    Lift your spirit, set it free
    Some day you’ll walk tall with pride
    Son of man, a man in time you’ll be
    Though there’s no one there to guide you
    No one to take your hand
    But with faith and understanding
    You will journey from boy to man
    Son of man, look to the sky
    Lift your spirit, set it free
    Some day you’ll walk tall with pride
    Son of man, a man in time you’ll be
    In learning you will teach
    And in teaching you will learn
    You’ll find your place beside the
    Ones you love
    Oh, and all the things you dreamed of
    The visions that you saw
    Well, the time is drawing near now
    It’s yours to claim in all
    Son of man, look to the sky
    Lift your spirit, set it free
    Some day you’ll walk tall with pride
    Son of man, a man in time you’ll be
    Son of man,
    Son of man’s a man for all to see.

  • I had this soundtrack a few years back. All in all, it was very good.

Requiescat In Pace: William Christopher

Tuesday, January 3, AD 2017

“But I’m not Catholic Father.”

“None of us are perfect my son!”

Father John Patrick Mulcahy to a patient in an episode of the MASH television show.

 

During my misspent youth I wasted too many hours watching the old MASH sitcom set during the Korean War in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.  I really didn’t even like the show, especially after Alan Alda transformed the character of Hawkeye Pierce into an insufferable liberal know it all, but back in the seventies television loomed larger than it does now, being about the only home electronic entertainment available, and as long as people were awake the TV sets were on.  One part of the show that I did like was the character of Father John Patrick Mulcahy, the unit chaplain, played by actor William Christopher who passed away on New Years Eve.  I was annoyed that Mulcahy didn’t get more screen time and that he sometimes came across as something of a weak sister, not at all like the actual priests I knew who had served as chaplains in the military.  Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts has done some digging about Christopher and his battle to give a more realistic treatment to the priest he portrayed:

 

 

As if 2016 needed one more victim, only hours before the year ended, William Christopher died.  To fans of the TV series MASH, he was the quintessential television padre.

It’s worth noting that Christopher was also an early advocate for autism.  This came from his own child’s condition.  Dustin Hoffman stayed with him to research his role in Rain Man.

As an actor, Mr. Christopher didn’t often revisit the TV series that made him famous.  Part of it was the frustration he had as an actor.  He replaced the original actor for the part of Fr. Mulcahy because, according to the producers, Christopher had a ‘quirky’ way about him.  Initially he was a sideline character, a third tier without being listed on the opening credits.

As an actor, and as a person with bills to pay, he wanted his character to be more.  He researched by going to local Catholic churches and talking to army chaplains.  He did what he could to make his character, a Catholic chaplain, more believable.  But his main adversaries were Alan Alda and the writers.  Being generally non-religious and dismissive, if not outright hostile, toward religion, the writers had nothing to give to the character Christopher played.

In the interviews he did give over the years, he talked about the struggles he had making the role three dimensional.  A big obstacle was in openly non-religious Alda.  During development of the series, Alda came to play a bigger and bigger role in the show’s creative direction.  During that time, Alda came up with the character of Dr. Sidney Freedman, an army psychiatrist who would help unpack some of the psychological traumas of war.

Christopher protested.  That’s what a chaplain is for.  Alda and the writers didn’t listen.  They couldn’t conceive of a religious figure being anything other than fodder for jokes.  The low point for Christopher came early on.  In a particular episode, the camp was alerted to Major Margaret Houlihan’s tent, only to find her and Frank Burns together.  The running gag was that they were having an ongoing affair they believed was secret, when everyone knew.  Fr. Mulcahy , however, was supposed to show up and deliver the line: “What could they be doing in there?”

Christopher howled.  He said it was almost degrading to think an army chaplain, or anyone, would be so stupid.  The writers stood their ground.  They insisted he deliver the line.  Christopher acquiesced, but at shooting time, he added an eye roll.  If you see the episode, you see him do it.  In other words, the good chaplain knew darn well what they were doing.  It was a big turning point according to Christopher.  He realized he played a religious character surrounded by writers and producers who had nothing but contempt for religion.

Over the years, he fought to get more meaningful stories.  Finally, they agreed to center more on his character.  In one episode, he and corporal O’Reilly had to bring a seriously wounded soldier back from the front line aid station.  On the way, the soldier began choking because his tongue had swollen.  Using the radio, the surgeons guided Fr. Mulcahy through an improvised tracheotomy.  Good, but not good enough. As Christopher said, it could have been anyone, and it had nothing to do with the religious nature of his role.

Finally he began to get his way.  As the later episodes became less comedy and more drama, he used that fact to get roles delving into the spiritual, and his own character’s ability to minister accordingly.  The role of Sidney Freedman diminished in later years as Christopher demonstrated that psychological training is part and parcel for chaplains in the army.  They didn’t have to call Seoul for counseling and psychological help, they had someone there already.

But he didn’t try to make his character into a superman.  He looked at the flaws that come with religious service as well.  The later episodes aren’t usually considered the best, being heavy handed and preachy.  But there are some gems, especially where developing the characters of Fr. Mulcahy or Charles Winchester are concerned.

In one, Fr. Mulcahy is all aflutter.  His superior, Cardinal Reardon, is in the country on inspection.  Mulcahy fears that he is irrelevant in the camp, and that the camp is awash in decadence and immorality.  This is driven home by several scenes showing everyone acting as they will, without considering Mulcahy ‘s dilemma.

Meanwhile, a young Patrick Swayze plays a soldier who has just been told he has leukemia.  Alda’s character Hawkeye is devastated by having to deliver the news.  The day comes and Mulcahy’s superior arrives, only to find gambling, sleeping around, tomfoolery and licentiousness of all types, much to the chagrin of Mulcahy and camp commander Colonel Potter. Mulcahy storms into the mess tent and sits by Hawkeye, letting loose his frustration about how unfairly he’s being treated.  Nobody in the camp cares about what he is going through!  Hawkeye only politely listens.  Getting no response, Mulcahy lashes out at Hawkeye for being so dismissive.  That’s when Hawkeye explains the leukemia situation.

The morning then comes for the big service.  Everyone is going to hear Cardinal Reardon, but Fr. Mulcahy is supposed to introduce him.  The entire camp turns out in a show of support.  They do care after all.  But no Mulcahy.  Panicking, they look around and find him, sitting at the edge of Patrick Swayzes’ bed, the two comforting each other.  Mulcahy is unshaven and still in his bathrobe.  Quickly they rush to the mess tent where everyone, including the cardinal, is gathered.

What follows is one of the greatest sermons I’ve ever seen in any fictional account of religion, ever.

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14 Responses to Requiescat In Pace: William Christopher

  • I never liked Mash’s liberalism in general, or Alan Alda specifically. Mike Farrell was interviewed on FOX concerning the Trump election. What idiocy! Please tell me why we should care what these actors and actresses think or believe? Really! Let them stay in California and let California secede from the Union and go to Mexico.

  • The early episodes of MASH were the most enjoyable. Col. Blake, Trapper, who are both gone now, Col. Flagg..when Larry Gelbart was a writer….those were funny.
    Alda could not contain his insufferable leftism and some of the later seasons are almost unwatchable.

  • Thanks for this article. Fascinating. Mulcahy was a bit of a soft character, but unfailingly human and decent. The earliest look behind the scenes at a clergyman’s life on TV that I recall, and they didn’t make him a hypocrite (unlike practically every other authority figure on the show).

  • Of interest to you Don is that one of his son’s also had Autism.

  • I really didn’t even like the show, especially after Alan Alda transformed the character of Hawkeye Pierce into an insufferable liberal know it all,

    Supposedly, Richard Hornberger, who’d written the original novel, was disgusted with what Alda had done to his character. The character was autobiographical to a degree. In my circle, people of a certain age who enjoyed the program as entertainment made it a point to remark on the degree to which Alda’s Hawkeye was an anachronism.

  • Hornberger was a conservative Republican and despised the show.

  • I liked the Father; he was nice.
    Heck, even Alda’s character did some worthwhile stuff– it taught me to never be impressed with guys who act like that, even if everyone else is acting like they walk on water, they’re poison.

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  • I didn’t say this here, because it was about one of the best characters on the show. But my boys, after watching MASH for the first time, remarked that it was the meanest, most immoral show they had seen. They said the doctors were bullies cubed. They terrorized and intimidated, they lied and threatened and used their medical knowledge to scare people and blackmail them. The show also – and I loved this – has its priorities wrong. My oldest said that the doctors on MASH talked about the United States the way that the prisoners in Hogan’s Heroes talked about the Nazis. I think that’s what makes Christopher’s portrayal that much more meaningful. It stands in such stark contrast to so much of the surrounding show.

  • If my memory serves me, Alan Alda graduated from Fordham university in the Bronx. He was educated by Jesuits. Now if that doesn’t explain his liberal elitism, nothing does.

  • I never thought of the show as being about the Korean War. I mean, the show was obviously set in Korea, I know, but it was an open secret that they were really talking about Vietnam. Now, think about those innocent villagers they always depicted, the ones who didn’t care who won but just wanted everyone to stop bombing their villages. Some of them ended up in North Korea, the worst slave state in the world, with rates of malnutrition that would make Africa blush. Others ended up in South Korea, with the 11th largest economy in the world and the first country with fully high-speed internet. Suddenly war doesn’t seem so pointless.

  • agree Pinky- “Some of them ended up in North Korea, the worst slave state in the world, with rates of malnutrition that would make Africa blush. Others ended up in South Korea, with the 11th largest economy in the world and the first country with fully high-speed internet. Suddenly war doesn’t seem so pointless.”

  • RoK- one of the few places where “republic” in the name doesn’t mean “horrific dictatorship,” and makers of really good budget vehicles.

  • The liberal blather was pretty much limited to the Hawkeye character (abetted, to some degree, by the BJ character). (Mike Farrell in mundane life is a Hollywood liberal without a trace of ironic detachment). I wonder to what extent the other actors playing supporting parts tangled with the writers the way you describe Wm. Christopher doing.

October 30, 1938: War of the Worlds

Sunday, October 30, AD 2016

How little it took to panic the country 78 years ago!  The War of the Worlds broadcast on Halloween Eve 1938 by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater demonstrated the power of radio and how edgy the country was.  Or did it?  Recent studies have contended that the panic was not widespread and that relatively few radios in the country were tuned to the broadcast.  At any rate there was enough of an uproar that CBS called a press conference the next morning at which Welles appeared and took questions:

MR. WELLES: Despite my deep regret over any misapprehension that our broadcast might have created among some listeners, I am even more bewildered over this misunderstanding in the light of an analysis of the broadcast itself.

It seems to me that they’re our four factors, which should have in any event maintained the illusion of fiction in the broadcast. The first was that the broadcast was performed as if occurring in the future, and as if it were then related by a survivor of a past occurrence. The date of this fanciful invasion of this planet by Martians was clearly given as 1939 and was so announced at the outset of the broadcast.

The second element was the fact that the broadcast took place at our weekly Mercury Theatre period and had been so announced in all the papers. For seventeen consecutive weeks we have been broadcasting radio sixteen of these seventeen broadcasts have been fiction and have been presented as such. Only one in the series was a true story, the broadcast of Hell on Ice by Commander Ellsberg, and was identified as a true story in the framework of radio drama.

The third element was the fact that at the very outset of the broadcast, and twice during its enactment, listeners were told that this was a play that it was an adaptation of an old novel by H. G. Wells. Furthermore, at the conclusion, a detailed statement to this effect was made.

The fourth factor seems to me to have been the most pertinent of all. That is the familiarity of the fable, within the American idiom, of Mars and the Martians.

For many decades “The Man From Mars” has been almost a synonym for fantasy. In very old morgues of many newspapers there will be found a series of grotesque cartoons that ran daily, which gave this fantasy imaginary form. As a matter of fact, the fantasy as such has been used in radio programs many times. In these broadcasts, conflict between citizens of Mars and other planets been a familiarly accepted fairy-tale. The same make-believe is familiar to newspaper readers through a comic strip that uses the same device.

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October 14, 1908: Cubs Win the World Series

Friday, October 14, AD 2016

 

 

Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States when the Cubs last won the World Series on October 14, 1908, defeating the Detroit Tigers 2-0.  Just barely within human memory, about one hundred Americans are still alive now who were alive then.  It was the second World Series win for the Cubs, their first being the year before in 1907.  Why the Cubs have had this championship drought, other than bad ball playing, has been a matter of much speculation.  The most popular explanation is the Curse of the Billy Goat.

In 1945 Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, was attending game four of the World Series being held in Wrigley Field, once again the Chicago Cubs facing the Detroit Tigers.  This being Chicago where odd characters are as common as blustery politicians, he brought his pet goat Murphy with him to the game.  Other patrons complained that the goat stank.  Sianis was thrown out.  As he was leaving Sianis was heard to say,“Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more!”.

When the Cubs lost the series, Sianis sent a telegram to P.K. Wrigley, the owner of the Cubs:  “Who stinks now?

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Bear Growls: Green Acres World

Wednesday, September 21, AD 2016

 

 

I can’t tell you how many hours I wasted as a child watching the sitcom Green Acres.  Even in retrospect the show still strikes me as one of the funniest series broadcast by a national network (CBS).  I loved the patriotic, and usually conservative, speeches by Oliver Wendell Douglas, the successful lawyer who, with his wife Lisa, portrayed by Eva Gabor, has traded the life of a New York City attorney to be an unsuccessful farmer in the Hooterville countryside.  Eddie Arnold played Douglas to perfection as the straight man to all the zanies around him.  Our bruin friend at Saint Corbinian’s Bear believes we now live in a Green Acres’ world:

The Bear knows that Green Acres was coded by time travelers to tell us, here in the blighted 21st century, everything we need to know.

Oliver Douglas is a New York lawyer who fulfills a life-long dream to leave the big city and become a farmer. He drags his socialite wife Lisa to the bucolic setting of Hooterville, and they try to make a go of it. Ironically, it is the ditzy, game, unflappable Lisa who fits in, not the lawyer turned farmer, Oliver. Oliver has a romanticized idea of farming, and often breaks into little speeches about “the little green shoots,” which no one wants to hear.

You see, everyone in Hooterville is one wheel short of a tractor.

The county extension agent can’t finish a sentence without contradicting himself. An old couple treat a pig as a child. Twin carpenters can’t even hang a door. (No matter how many appearances the carpenters make, the house is in the same incomplete state at the end of the series as at the beginning.)  The Douglases have to climb a pole to use the phone; connecting the last forty feet to the ramshackle farmhouse a seeming impossibility. A peddler always happens to show up with his dubious and overpriced wares just when Oliver happens to need something.

Oliver, the who who  wanted to come here, after all, spends his days in exasperation at the incompetence and sheer weirdness that only he seems to notice. Although Lisa misses her glamorous life in New York City, she fits right in with her gowns and signature marabou trimmed robe.

Hooterville is sort of a first-rate third-world country. It has everything we take for granted, except not quite. The loopy inhabitants have all found their niches and are happy. All except Oliver. The only sane man in a mad world.

The Bear bets you get this. He bets you are Oliver. He bets that you look around and are amazed at the insanity that has engulfed the West. Weirdest of all, you seem to be the only person that notices.

Is the Bear right? When a Muslim shouting Allahu Akbar rampages through Sam Drucker’s general store and kills Uncle Joe, the sheriff solemnly announces he is “searching for motives.”

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Florence Foster Jenkins

Friday, August 19, AD 2016

 

One of the more curious cultural artifacts in the history of this country is the very odd musical career of Florence Foster Jenkins.  A rich heiress, she loved music.  She was a talented pianist in her youth but stopped taking lessons when she married in 1885 at age 18 Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins.  The marriage was a rocky one, characterized by her contracting syphilis from him.  They parted after three years.  He passed away in 1917, but she retained her married name for the remainder of her life.  Moving to New York with her mother in 1900, she founded the Verdi Club in 1917, to share her love of music.  It was through this venue that she embarked upon her career as a singer, giving recitals to small groups of fans, with musical critics carefully excluded.  Jenkins was convinced she was a great singer.  In truth she was an an appallingly bad singer, with virtually no sense of rhythm or pitch.  She was a generous patron of various causes, most of them musical, and her audiences treated her with kindness, any titters being drowned by applause.

She would be forgotten today but for a memorable concert she gave for charity at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 1944.  The tickets for the event sold out immediately and about 2000 people were turned away the night of the performance.  Ticket prices were $20.00, the equivalent of $274.00 today.  (Privates in the US Army, with combat pay, earned $50.00 per month in 1944.)  Many celebrities attended.  As in her past outings, her fans covered over laughter during her performance with applause.  Alas music critics were among the crowd and their reviews were scathing.  She passed away a month and a day later of a heart attack.  She had been crushed by the bad reviews but, considering that she was in the tertiary stages of syphilis her death may well have had nothing to do with her reaction to the reviews.

Remarkably, in the past two years there have been two films about Jenkins, one in French and the other in English, Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep in the title role.  I saw this film last Saturday with my family and the Godmother of my children and my review is below the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in full effect.

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2 Responses to Florence Foster Jenkins

  • She was a great singer because she sang with the gift of the voice that God gave her, God Don’t Make No Junk, and she shared His gift with many people; as we are all called to share the gifts He has given each of us to help Him bring others to Him forever, happy in Heaven. God bless all in this house, eveyone. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

  • Guy your comment is wonderful.
    I am touched and lifted to hear those earnest people singing near me who have no musical ear, but obviously a heart for God.
    I think of a saying – “how silent the woods would be if only the best birds sang”

Alfred Hitchcock and the Jesuit

Sunday, August 14, AD 2016

(Yesterday was the 117th birthday of Alfred Hitchcock.  That gives me an excuse to rerun this post from 2012 with new video attachments.)

 

 

When I was a kid I loved watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents, known in its last four years as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.  His sardonic wit and macabre sense of humor I found vastly appealing and no doubt had an impact on my own developing sense of humor.  Hitchcock was a Catholic, although some have claimed that he became estranged from the Faith later in life.  Father Mark Henninger in The Wall Street Journal relates his own encounter with Hitchcock shortly before his death.

At the time, I was a graduate student in philosophy at UCLA, and I was (and remain) a Jesuit priest. A fellow priest, Tom Sullivan, who knew Hitchcock, said one Thursday that the next day he was going over to hear Hitchcock’s confession. Tom asked whether on Saturday afternoon I would accompany him to celebrate a Mass in Hitchcock’s house.

I was dumbfounded, but of course said yes. On that Saturday, when we found Hitchcock asleep in the living room, Tom gently shook him. Hitchcock awoke, looked up and kissed Tom’s hand, thanking him.

Tom said, “Hitch, this is Mark Henninger, a young priest from Cleveland.”

“Cleveland?” Hitchcock said. “Disgraceful!”

After we chatted for a while, we all crossed from the living room through a breezeway to his study, and there, with his wife, Alma, we celebrated a quiet Mass. Across from me were the bound volumes of his movie scripts, “The Birds,” “Psycho,” “North by Northwest” and others—a great distraction. Hitchcock had been away from the church for some time, and he answered the responses in Latin the old way. But the most remarkable sight was that after receiving communion, he silently cried, tears rolling down his huge cheeks.

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3 Responses to Alfred Hitchcock and the Jesuit

  • Amen! Alleluia!!
    .
    See Luke 15:7.
    .
    Repent. It is never too late.
    .
    Finally (Thank God!), it would be such gracious articles that convinced me that the Wall Street Journal subscription price was worth the money.

  • “At the end however we are confronted with the stark reality of death and the time for illusion ceases…” I think it would be more appropriate, indeed correct, to say that the time for “self-delusion” not “illusion” ceases.

  • I know that Hitchcock had a well-formed Catholic upbringing in his school years, studying for a time at St Ignatius School (prep) in Stamford Hill, in London. (He had to leave, according to his biographers, about age 15, because his father died and the family was left in tight circumstances.)
    ..
    Of course, Jesuit training, especially by the English Jesuits in the then-pre WWI era, was something substantial and to be proud of,…then. That era of spiritual formation apparently stayed with him quite well and brought him home at the end.

Hills Are For Heroes

Thursday, August 11, AD 2016

 

My favorite TV show when I was a boy was Combat!  In 152 grittily realistic episodes from 1962-1967, the experiences of an American infantry squad fighting in France in World War II were detailed.  Most of the cast members had served in the military, several in World War II.  The men were not portrayed as supermen, but ordinary men trying to survive while doing a necessary, dirty job.  The series won accolades from World War II combat veterans for its unsparing look at what fighting had been like for them.  The series hit its artistic peak on March 1, and March 8, 1966 with the two part episode Hills Are For Heroes.  Directed by Vic Morrow who starred in the series as Sergeant Chip Saunders, the episodes detail the battle of the squad and the platoon of which it was a part to take a vital hill.  At the end of episode two, after incurring heavy losses, they succeed, only to heartbreakingly having to abandon the hill due to a German breakthrough.  As they march away from the hill, Second Lieutenant Gil Hanley grimly tells his men to remember every feature of the hill for next time.  Television does not get any better than Combat!

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6 Responses to Hills Are For Heroes

  • Must be a metaphor

  • Another mostly-fair (given Hollywood’s widespread perversion to depict Vietnam soldiers as psychopaths, losers, or baby-killers) early 1980’s TV series is “Tour of Duty.” I catch it on rare occasions on a secondary cable network.
    .
    Here’s a (unsolicited) book recommendation. A Shau Valor by Thomas R. Yarborough. The valley was famous/notorious throughout the VN war years for hill fights, sacrifices and uncommon valor. The movie “Hamburger Hill” comes close to getting it.
    .
    Hemingway: “War is a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead.” When you meet them, if you meet them, greet them ever with grateful hearts.

  • Thanks for the memories. One of my regular favorites, along with the “Victory at Sea” series.

  • Don,
    Agree on Combat!. I own the DVD series. Did you ever watch the 1990s series “Space — Above and Beyond”? I found it very enjoyable and it was often (fairly I think) compared to Combat!.

  • I have it on DVD Mike! I love that series.

John Wayne Films For the Fourth of July

Thursday, June 30, AD 2016

 

This Fourth of July long weekend is made for a trip down American history courtesy of John Wayne films.  Wayne was an American original.  Thirty seven years after his death, in the annual Harris poll of favorite actors, he ranks number four overall, and number one among men voting.  In his day he was never shy about declaring his love of country, and he did so when patriotism was fashionable and when it was unfashionable.  An American icon, the deathbed convert to the Catholic Church is a symbol of this nation, instantly recognizable around the globe.  Here are some of his films set in the history of this land.

 

 

 

 

  1. Allegheny Uprising (1939)-The film tells the true story of the Black Boys Rebellion against the British in 1765, with Wayne portraying James Smith the leader of this proto-American Revolution.

 

 

 

2.  The Fighting Kentuckian (1949)-John Wayne costars with Oliver Hardy, yeah, that Oliver Hardy, in a tale of veterans of the War of 1812 helping French settlers battle land swindlers in Alabama.   Very loosely based on actual events.  In one scene Wayne explains that his family never had money due to his father’s health being ruined after he spent a winter at a place called Valley Forge.

 

 

 

 

 

3.  The Alamo (1960)-The epic story of the battle for Texan Independence.  Wayne’s love note to America and freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958)-One of the more successful American diplomats of the Nineteenth Century, Townsend Harris, a native of New York City, became wealthy in the China trade in the early part of the century.  He then turned to public service, serving as the President of the New York City Board of Education from 1846-1848.  He founded the Free Academy of the City of New York, later renamed as the City College of New York, in order to provide college educations to low income people in New York.

In July 1856, Franklin Pierce named him the first American consul general to the Empire of Japan.  He opened the first American consulate in Japan in the city of Shimoda.  Overcoming enormous difficulties, in two years he negotiated what has become known as the Harris Treaty, which established full diplomatic and trade relations between Japan and the US.

On the hundredth anniversary of the treaty in 1958, John Wayne, in one of the oddest films of his career, starred as Townsend Harris in the film The Barbarian and the Geisha.  Few men could have been more unlike John Wayne than Harris, and Wayne appears uncomfortable in the role of the diplomat to me.  The film played up an alleged romance between Harris and Okichi, a 17 year old housekeeper, which has long been a tale told in Japan.  Unfortunately, this aspect of the story is untrue.  Harris fired Okichi after she worked for him for three days due to the fact that he considered her to be an incompetent housekeeper.  However, the look of the film is splendid, even if the film is the usual Hollywood mix of lies and half-truths.

 

 

 

5.  The Horse Soldiers (1959)-In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid.

Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg.

John Wayne gives a fine, if surly, performance as Colonel Marlowe, the leader of the Union cavalry brigade.  William Holden as a Union surgeon serves as a foil for Wayne.  Constance Towers, as a captured Southern belle, supplies the obligatory Hollywood love interest.

Overall the film isn’t a bad treatment of the raid, and the period.  I especially appreciated two scenes.  John Wayne refers to his pre-war activities as “Before this present insanity” and Constance Towers gives the following impassioned speech:

Well, you Yankees and your holy principle about savin’ the Union. You’re plunderin’ pirates that’s what. Well, you think there’s no Confederate army where you’re goin’. You think our boys are asleep down here. Well, they’ll catch up to you and they’ll cut you to pieces you, you nameless, fatherless scum. I wish I could be there to see it.

Both scenes ring home with authenticity.  Not a bad effort from the usual history manglers of Hollywood.(Although there are still errors enough, including Union soldiers worrying about being captured and sent to Andersonville prior to the POW camp being constructed by the Confederates in 1864.)

 

 

 

6.  The Searchers (1956)-Set in Reconstruction Texas, John Wayne gives the performance of his career as embittered Confederate veteran Ethan Edwards and his vengeance ride against Comanches who slaughtered his family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.  True Grit (1969)-Set in Reconstruction Arkansas, True Grit is the only film for which Wayne won an Oscar.  An accomplished actor, Wayne throughout his career made it all look so easy that he was always badly underestimated.  In this film, a skillful mixture of comedy and drama, Wayne was able to give life to Rooster Cogburn, one of the great literary creations of the last century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.  Rio Grande (1950)-The final installment in Ford and Wayne’s cavalry trilogy was picked for inclusion due to the above rendition of Down by the Glenside.  The song of course would not be written until 1916, but any viewer with a drop of Irish blood will forgive the historical anachronism.

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6 Responses to John Wayne Films For the Fourth of July

  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of my all time favorites…..nuanced and full of symbolism….a true work of art.

  • I would also like to cite ‘Fort Apache’ and ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,’ both spectacular films about the American cavalry in which Wayne gives home run performances, especially in the latter. The scene where he says good-bye to his men is a standing rebuke to anyone who doubts his acting chops.

    One of my favorite bits in ‘Yellow Ribbon’ comes when one of the cavalry officers is killed in an Indian raid and Wayne has one of the camp ladies sew a Confederate Flag for the ex-rebel to be buried under; a glorious moment of honor among soldiers.

  • The actor who portrayed Trooper “Smith”, erstwhile Confederate general, Rudy Bowman, was a friend of Director Ford. He had a throat injury from a shrapnel wound during World War I which made speaking very difficult for him and which made this scene a major achievement for the actor:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzivmKx20Wg
    https://dukewayne.com/index.php?thread/1905-she-wore-a-yellow-ribbon-1949/&pageNo=6

  • I was unaware of the Allegheny Uprising movie or the story it is loosely based on. It turns out that much of the original story took place in central Pennsylvania. Western Pennsylvania was, in the mid 18th century, claimed by Virginia. Colonel Bouquet led his troops on the Forbes Road, the predecessor of today’s US 30, to take Fort Duquesne, as the previous attempts led by Generals Braddock and Washington were unsuccessful. There were no significant settlements in the Allegheny Valley at that time. George Washington owned land very close to my house.

    Another movie that is an entertaining period piece is Unconquered, with Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039931/ for more.

  • Unconquered is one of my favorites PF!

  • Mr. McClarey, it’s one of my favorite old movies, too. It is entirely fictional, and Gary Cooper’s character covers more territory on foot than a dozen UPS truck drivers would today. I love the part of the film where Ben Franklin argues with the Virginia contingent over who owns Pittsburgh. Still, it’s a better movie than what Hollywood usually produces today.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Thursday, January 14, AD 2016

 

The movie 13 Hours:  The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is being released tomorrow.  From what I have been hearing from people who have had access to advance screenings, it is a gripping tribute to the CIA operatives, former members of special forces units, who during the attack on the American consulate on 9/11/12 in Benghazi, Libya, on their own initiative and against orders from higher ups, rescued 32 Americans from the consulate and then stood off the terrorists at the CIA compound until the people they rescued could be evacuated.  Their urgent requests for air support went unanswered, the Obama administration, paralyzed due to the attack spoiling the mendacious campaign slogan of the Obama campaign that Al-Qaida was finished, was unwilling to make the story larger by sending military units to support the brave men holding the compound.  In the fighting, two former Seals, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, were slain. It is outrageous that the effort to award each of these heroes the Congressional Gold Medal has been stalled in Congress, but that pales to insignificance in that the villains who left these two men to die have incurred no penalties for the betrayal of  the fundamental duty owed by a government to those who fight our enemies:  to render them every assistance possible.

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15 Responses to 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

  • What is of value sufficient enough to give one’s life for? Is it today’s morally corrupt politicians who would have you die to protect their political behinds, as at Benghazi? is it for a nation that long ago turned from freedom and officially destroys millions of innocent lives for political gain? Is it now reduced to just protecting your fellow warrior? But isn’t that what even the evilest of enemy combatant might also do?
    There was a time when one never had to ask if one should serve. No longer is that the case.

  • This nation is every bit as worth fighting for as it was on July 4, 1776 when it was tainted with slavery. The ills that beset America will never be solved by giving up on the country in despair, and I never will do that, and I will always honor and support those brave Americans who go in harm’s way against our foes.

  • Patriotism, without asking hard questions, can also become a diabolical virtue (as in the WWII German allegiance to “the Fatherland) of, course, fighting to keep America “worth fighting for” is not so much despair as it is calling for a course correction. No man could argue with fighting for the principles upon which this great nation was founded (Is that what Benghazi was about?) nor can one ever not fully support our warriors in harms way. (That was what Benghazi was about)

  • “Patriotism, without asking hard questions, can also become a diabolical virtue”

    Patriotism of course consists of more than fighting for one’s country, but being willing to do so, absent some sort of religious belief that requires pacifism, at least for men, is an essential part of being a patriot. In regard to Benghazi the men on the ground were not policy makers but warriors who reacted to save American lives. Purer patriotism I would find hard to conceive.

  • This is more more thing that shows why liberal progressive Democrats are utterly loathsome.

  • “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

    ― George Orwell

  • My kid (airborne ranger) is there because of 9/11, which hit when he was in high school. In Afghanistan and a;ways, he carries a NYC subway metro card with 9/11 and some important names written thereon.
    .

    Men may enlist for Babe Ruth, Mom or apple pie. When the bullets and shells start hitting, they do it for the men next to them; to not let them down.

    .
    In the “dead” of a black, snowy night, Mother and I drove the man to the post for a deployment. As we drove out of the troop area (in his car), one of the troopers passed and called out, “Victory!”
    .
    Greet them ever with grateful hearts.
    .

    The feckless dastards ruining the country are the tip of the iceberg. Look at the Iranians seizing two riverine PB’s. Were the sailors allowed to defend their vessels and themselves?
    .
    The rules of engagement (ROE) are troublesome. I know that air strikes were denied for BS reasons.
    .
    .
    Finally, the subtitle for the movie should be “TRUTH.”
    .
    .

  • One of the most closely held secrets of this administration is what the President was doing during those 13 hours.

  • This might have been Obama’s Watergate, but for the fact that this nation’s
    journalists, presstitutes all, opted to collectively shrug and look away. Obama
    left those dozens of people to die in Benghazi not because it was best for our
    national security to do so, but because it was better for his own political
    career– and our worthless press let him reap the rewards of his cynical calculation.
    .

  • This might have been Obama’s Watergate, but for the fact that this nation’s
    journalists, presstitutes all, opted to collectively shrug and look away.


    Half of them are married to administration officials. Most of the editors are pleased to deploy the limited manpower of their imploding businesses elsewhere. The few that actually report (see Sheryl Atkisson) are subject to government harassment. It does amaze me that the identity of those giving and transmitting the stand-down order have never been made public.

  • One of the most closely held secrets of this administration is what the President was doing during those 13 hours.

    He flew off to a fundraiser the next day.

  • It does amaze me that the identity of those giving and transmitting the stand-down order have never been made public.
    .
    I’m inclined to take the administration at it’s word when it says there was never a stand-down order since I doubt that there was ever a stand-to order in the first place.
    .
    He flew off to a fundraiser the next day.
    .
    So we’re guessing his beauty sleep couldn’t be interrupted here or what?

  • “I’m inclined to take the administration at its word when it says there was
    never a stand-down order since I doubt that there ever was a stand-to order
    in the first place.”

    .
    Wednesday’s issue of the Washington Examiner quotes Congressman
    Trey Gowdy, chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, saying that
    a number of witnesses had confirmed a stand-down order was given to our
    military stationed near Benghazi on the night of the attack. Such an order
    could only have come from the very highest levels in Washington.
    .
    As per our military’s protocols, US Army General Carter Ham, then commander
    of The US Africa Command (AFRICOM), upon receiving emails from our consulate
    in Benghazi requesting help in the attack, readied a rapid response unit and
    contacted the Pentagon awaiting orders. General Ham received the order
    to stand down. General Ham decided he would help the legation anyway, and
    within a minute of moving to respond, was apprehended by his second-in-
    command and relieved of his command.
    .
    Woods and Doherty were not military, but rather were former members of
    Special Forces who were contracted to work for our government. Thus, their
    decision to go to the consulate was not a matter of disobeying orders, as
    they were civilians. It is only because they chose to intervene that the death toll
    was 4 and not 34, for the Obama administration never lifted a finger to help
    our people.
    .
    And yes, President Obama flew out to Vegas for a fundraiser on the morning
    of the 12th.

  • the Obama administration never lifted a finger to help our people.
    .
    And I for one would like to know what was so damn important that they couldn’t be bothered.
    .
    What? Was Sports Center on and POTUS couldn’t be bothered to make a decision?

  • Ernst, if I was working in an embassy or consulate under this administration,
    I’d be looking very, very hard for another line of work. Clearly, to this
    president embassy personnel are about as expendable as a kleenex.

Happy New Year 1958

Saturday, January 2, AD 2016

Something for the weekend.  Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians playing Auld Lang Syne.  The first year I spent on this globe was in 1957.  The above is the New Year’s Eve broadcast on CBS by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians on December 31, 1957.  Born in Canada, Lombardo became a naturalized American citizen in 1938.  For 48 years, until his death in 1977, Guy Lombardo and his band ushered in the New Year with broadcasts, first on CBS radio and then on CBS television.  The first televised broadcast was in 1956.  Guy Lombardo and his band managed the feat of remaining popular, and highly profitable, for half a century, a difficult feat in as fickle an enterprise as the entertainment industry.  Lombardo was the heart and soul of the operation, his band surviving his death only by two years.

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4 Responses to Happy New Year 1958

  • Compare a ball drop to that sweet romantic nostalgia. When the Lord creates everything new, the ball drop will be one of the things forgotten.

  • Guy Lombardo lived in Freeport, Long Island, New York, where he kept his cabin cruiser in the canal in his backyard. He often played at Jones Beach Marine Theater, which is still popular for concerts – different name. He would go to Jones Beach by boat from his home. Mr. Lombardo’s last Jones Beach production was Finian’s Rainbow in 1977.

    I live about 30 minutes away from Freeport. Have been there many times over the years. It’s waterfront is known for seafood restaurants and pleasure boating.

  • In Kentucky in the ’50s my cousins, a few acres away, were crazy about Guy Lombardo, and everything he played, especially a song about some Mounties capturing Dangerous Dan McGrew. Since I loved Mounties I felt kindly toward The Royal Canadians but at the age of ten I was already hooked on Beethoven and Toscanini. But this did sound rather velvety today, to ears dinted by years of other hideous sounds which can in no way be called music.

  • Kmbold calls to my mind something I had wrong in the first place. I’ll tell it with a dutiful correction at the end. My father’s best friend’s father had in his youth an infatuation with opera singer Ernestine Schumann-Heink. He would leave flowers by her dressing room door at the Met. That is doubtless true but I thought it was Toscanini who said to a rehearsing orchestra,” Louder! Louder! I can still hear the Heink.” A bit of fact checking corrects me that it was actually Richard Strauss who said that. Now, how did I get that wrong? Perhaps Toscanini engaged in a little playful plagiarism.

Star Wars-Part 375!

Friday, December 18, AD 2015

 

Well at least that is the way I felt about the series half-way through the mid-point of the misbegotten second trilogy.  Leaving aside the fact that it created the most annoying fictional character, runner up Dobby the House Elf, Steppin Fetchit Jar Jar Binks in the past half century, (Oh Dobby, Jar Jar!   The woodchipper is jammed again.   Could you please use your remaining hands to unjam it once more?), the writing was terrible, the plots puerile and the acting very bad.  A major disappointment for me after the magic of the first trilogy.

Tomorrow the family will be picking up my son at the train station, fresh from the finals of his third semester in law school, eat a nice meal and then go to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  A review will doubtless follow unless I am arrested for assaulting someone attending the film dressed as Jar Jar.  For your amusement, here is the classic parody of the series from 1978, Hardware Wars:

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5 Responses to Star Wars-Part 375!

Twas a Dark and Stormy Cthulhu

Saturday, October 31, AD 2015

Something for a Halloween weekend. Hey there Cthulhu.  A minor vice of mine is a love for old pulp science fiction and fantasy.  One of the authors I treasure is H.P. Lovecraft, best known for his cycle of horror science fiction\fantasy stories centering around the Old Ones, evil supernatural entities that lurk in dark dimensions, waiting to unleash unspeakable horror on unsuspecting humanity.  The best known of these demonic creatures is Cthulhu.  I have always found these stories gut-bustingly funny due to the fact that Lovecraft, in these stories, has to be the worst writer of fiction, at least fiction that does not contain phrases like “Love’s Savage Unending Fury”, “The Davinci Code”, “Based On A True Story”, and “Stephen King”, since Bulwer-Lytton shuffled off to the world beyond.  Some things are so spectactularly bad that I find myself liking them due to how hair-raisingly inept they are.

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13 Responses to Twas a Dark and Stormy Cthulhu

  • Derleth? Derleth can’t hold a foetid tallow taper to Lovecraft. Derleth’s work always sounds like an imitation of HPL, his writing some how neater, tidier, lighter. Lovecraft’s work is thick, dark, dripping like the beings it described. His writing oozes over you, every sentence another heavy step, every phrase rumbled up through catarrh-wracked lungs, every paragraph bespeckled in fungus. So what that there’s no characterization, that character growth is measured in leaden paces toward the mad-house, that plotting is a thing he tried and cast aside. To read Lovecraft is to spend time in a world where it’s always an overcast day in early autumn, where healthy growth is a concept never seen in man, beast or plant, and where the only reason you have kept your sanity till now is that They haven’t taken notice of you. Good stuff! 😉

  • Don, have you ever seen the two movies made by the HPLS of “Call” and “Whisperer In The Darkness”? Both should be available though Netflix, and here creepyclassics.com

  • I wouldn’t say that Lovecraft is a bad writer, only that he wrote one story over and over. Some writers are all about dialogue, or characters; some write for the perfect kiss or the moment that the hero says “I love you”. Lovecraft writes for the moment when the lead character’s sanity is crushed by the unutterable. Everything else in his stories is in service to that moment. I think he does a great job of it most of the time, but after a while it loses all its impact, because you should never be able to expect the incomprehensible.

    He’s also the most racist writer I’ve ever read. I know, these days it’s stylish to accuse dead white male writers of racism, but wow, he was racist. Everything good and wholesome is embodied by New England whites, and evil creeps forward from places occupied by minorities with unappealing faces (usually sailors). You start to realize that the realm of humanity is whiteness, and the scary unfathomable is any other culture.

  • “character growth is measured in leaden paces toward the mad-house”

    Nice.

  • “A writer who is a poor writer is a waste of time to read, right?”

    Not necessarily. It depends on how one defines “poor writing”. If it means “not High Literary Art worthy of the Nobel Prize for Literature and not likely to be included in future English Lit classes,” then about 99.99% of the fiction currently in print fits that description — including numerous books that we have probably enjoyed reading and maybe even learned something from.

    If it means “written in such an obtuse or muddled fashion that it becomes more of a burden than a pleasure to read,” then it is IMO a waste of time — and there are a number of works hailed as “classics” and even taught in English Lit classes (e.g. James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake”) that fit this description. And actually, even this type of bad writing can serve a useful purpose if it inspires one to say “Heck, I could do better than that” and start cultivating one’s own literary talent.

  • Lovecraft was the first of many authors in this vein for me. When I got my Kindle, I began downloading a bunch of authors of early “weird” and “horror,” such as:

    1. Algernon Blackwood
    2. Arthur Machen
    3. M.R. James
    4. Robert Hugh Benson
    5. Bram Stoker
    6. H.R. Haggard
    7. William Hope Hodgson
    8. Clark Ashton Smith

  • “but wow, he was racist”

    Pretty much. For most of his life Lovecraft adopted the pose of an upper crust Tory who thought this country went to Hell in 1776. Then FDR was elected and he flip-flopped to become a socialist which I guess fitted in at least with his life long atheism.

    “As for the Republicans—–how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.”

  • “Don, have you ever seen the two movies made by the HPLS of “Call” and “Whisperer In The Darkness”? Both should be available though Netflix, and here creepyclassics.com”

    Not yet.

  • “When I got my Kindle, I began downloading a bunch of authors of early “weird” and “horror,” such as:”

    It’s an interesting genre Jonathan, chock full of striking personalities. Their lives are often as interesting as their writings.

  • “Heck, I could do better than that”

    Which is precisely how James Fenimore Cooper got into writing after his wife challenged him to make good on his claim that he could write a better novel than the one they had been reading.

  • I actually wrote an artcle (see blog search function) about how the immediate and maddening terror of Cthulhu was a superior reaction to the deity than the careless service and banal hymns we give to the Holy Trinity. At least that’s how I remember it.

  • We also had many memorable role playing games of Call of Cthulhu. Elder Sign may be the best Cthulhu games: not too hard, or long, but lots of meaningful choices and flavor. It’s even available as an iPad game. Good group game in the boxed version. Fantasy Flight, I think.

  • He wasn’t much of a writer, but he was GREAT at painting with words. I read the bit that you quoted and I can see it. (I don’t like horror, but I can see it, and it inspires the desired reaction.)

September 10, 1945: Mike the Headless Chicken

Thursday, September 10, AD 2015

History relates many a strange event, but few stranger than Mike the Headless Chicken.  Intending a five month old Rooster for dinner, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita , Colorado cut off the bird’s head on September 10, 1945.  Much to his surprise, the chicken did not die, but continued to walk around.  (Scientists examining Mike would later find that the jugular vein had been missed and  that a quick forming blood clot prevented him from bleeding to death.  Mike’s brain stem was intact, which controlled most of his reflexive behavior.)

Olsen, stunned by all this, did not finish his job of putting Mike to death, but instead fed and watered the bird by squeezing water mixed with powdered chick feed down the esophagus of Mike.  It was inevitable that Mike would end up on the freak show circuit, earning the equivalent of approximately $47, 500  in today’s currency.  Thought by many to be a hoax, at least until scientists of the University of Utah verified that he was a living headless chicken, he was photographed thousands of times including by such major publications of the day as Time and Life.

After 18 months of a headless existence, during which he gained 2.5 pounds, Mike departed this Vale of Tears while on tour, choking to death at a motel in Phoenix during the night. 

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4 Responses to September 10, 1945: Mike the Headless Chicken

The Man in the High Castle

Monday, August 17, AD 2015

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

 

The late Philip K. Dick, paranoid, left-leaning, mentally ill and drug abuser, was nevertheless a science fiction writer of pure genius.  His book The Man in the High Castle (1962) introduced me as a boy to the genre of alternate history, with his unforgettable evocation of a United States divided by the victorious Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  One of the main plot devices in the book is a novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which posits an alternate reality in which the Allies won World War II.  Like most of Dick’s work, the book suggests that the dividing line between alternate realities can be very thin.

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17 Responses to The Man in the High Castle

  • I thought the book was beautiful, which is not a term I often use for science fiction. But, yes, a faithful adaptation would not translate well to the screen. Too much of the narrative involves the characters’ thought processes.

  • I watched the pilot a couple of months ago. Very slick. It was immediately apparent that it is “based on” instead of “faithful to” the book, which was, along with McKinlay Kantor’s seminal work of roughly the same time, the story that sent me careening into science fiction-alternate history instead of more noble pursuits of erudition. Alas.
    .
    Nonetheless, I hope the series is produced. It will be interesting to see if the media muggles can capture the subtleties that make AH so addicting.

  • By defeating the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese, we have only delayed the rise of freedom-stifling fascism by decades – not even a century. The fascism overtaking us might be different in flavor and color – pin liberal progressivism – but it is the same ruthless, murderous fascism as had siezed Germany and Japan. Think about it: we daily murder thousands of innocent – little babies – and promote the most sterile of sexual practices to neuter our God-given liberty. We do things that would make Hitler green with envy.
    .
    In th work place people never talk about traditional values except in hush whispers, afraid of offending someone who will report to human resources to get the “hate-speaking” person fired. Training courses about sexual diversity and open-mindedness about throughout corrporate culture. No one dares say a word aloud against Obama in the presence of another co-worker, whether at work or at an extra-curricula non-work-related activity. Indeed, one doesn’t even talk with one’s neighbors any longer lest they find one’s orthodox Christian religion or one’s conserrvative politics offensive. This is happeneing now. Almost everyone accepts gay rights and reproductive riights and the whole godless litany of sickening putrid liberalism. And soon one day (maybe a month from now, maybe a year, maybe two years) we will be given papers at work to sign affirming that we believe in this crap or face unemployment. And that is only the beginning. These people will soon jail those who won’t sign, and then evenutally torture and kill them. It happened under Plutarco Elias Calles in Mexico in the 1920s though the themes were different. It will happen here. A Republican never election may forestall it, but this is on the way. The science fiction of yesterday is the science fact of tomorrow. 🙁

  • “By defeating the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese, we have only delayed the rise of freedom-stifling fascism by decades – not even a century.”

    Baloney! I am so sick of gloom and despair, always a constant temptation on Catholic sites I have noted. The easiest way for evil to triumph is to convince good people that something evil is inevitable. I am having none of that recipe for defeat. Free men have stood up successfully to longer odds in the past than confront us today. Man up!

  • Donald, in a former company I discovered that it had an arm which engaged in embryonic stem cell research (it was a large international corporation with one branch doing nuclear, another health care, another jet engines, another natural gas, etc). I questioned this research via the normal channels. Within weeks I was called into HR and questioned about my own non-work related internet activities done on non-company resources. I was told that my views did not reflect the company’s vision. When I left that company, it accused me falsely of trying to take company information. Its lawyers pursued me to my next company and tried to convince that company to dismiss me. There was nothing to the allegation so my next company told the first one to take a hike.
    .
    Then at a different company we received one of these on-line indoctrination training videos with the usual interactive test questions. It was on diversity and a great deal of it was devoted to LGBT rrights. The correct answers to the test questions were always in support of such perversion. I continually failed the exam because I refused to give the right answer. I left the course undone. Fortunately I was never questioned on this. I think the company did it as an experiment. But I see this happening now in corporate culture. You may say it’s doom and gloom, but soon people will be made examples of.

  • “Free men have stood up successfully to longer odds in the past than confront us today. Man up!”
    Donald McClarey: It was the concession speech by Emperor Hirohito and its mentions of “subjects” and “loyal servants of the state” in all its glamorization of servitude and object servitude and Obama’s overreach for an empire that really scares the pants off me.

  • I am still wondering ” what if”…Japan and Hitler had won the war. Emperor Hirohito and Adolph Hitler would have had to face off. Another science fiction tale. Not either one had any virtues or courage or common sense. It was all about domination. A free people will not be dominated.

  • Paul Primavera you are right.
    Worse is on the way. We need to prepare. This is prophesied in Sacred Scripture.
    cf Matthew 24; Revelation 13, & 14

  • Yes I agree there will be Trouble but I also think 1) we are not helpless against it – God gave us intellects and will- not just to save ourselves
    But also 2) We are called to communion – not just in Love with God, but also in Love with His people – we are our brothers keeper. As Catholics we have a certain noblesse oblige. 3) God is not going to rapture us out of it so…

  • Don, I have to agree with Paul. Some form of totalitarianism is coming to this country. Our secular educational system is controlled by Marxists. Too many of our religious leaders, even in the Catholic Church, have embraced leftist ideologies, especially that guy in Rome. Our politicians likewise. The growing number of people on welfare won’t embrace freedom, they will embrace the state, especially those who have been on the dole for generations and those who are in the US illegally. The fact that an open Marxist like Obama was twice elected POTUS should tell you where we are heading. And don’t think the Goofy Old Party is going to save us. The top leadership of the party of Lincoln is merely Demo Light, and the candidates in the running for presidency are the biggest bunch of flakes I’ve seen, outside a box of Kellogg’s. As for Trump, at least he’s saying the right things, whither he can deliver if he gets into office is another thing.

  • A completely incorrect assessment Stephen. The welfare state is dying around the globe, and the churches that embrace it rapidly shrink to insignificance. The Republican Party that you deride is doing good work on the state level and has not been stronger nationally since the days of Calvin Coolidge. Your gloom and doom analysis couldn’t be more mistaken.

  • Donald, I hope you are right and I am wrong. But I can only tell you what I see and experience every day in korporate Amerika. Company executive go out of their way to ingratiate themselves with government mandated diversity and inclusivity of anythiing except Judeo-Christian Tradition. Those who are conservative speak in hush whispers if at all lest someone overhear. We see bakers and hotel owners who refuse to coddle the redefinition of marriage run right out of business. And few politicians and fewer Catholic clergy are willing to speak out against this. Yes, there are notable exceptions (some good priests and bishops do speak out) and yes, there are (contrary to what Steve wrote) some good GOP candidates (Trump not being one of them – a caricature of a free enterpise entrepeneur). But even my neighbors and co-workers accept the rightness of gay marriage and reproductive rights and wealth redistributionism (so long as it isn’t theirs).
    .
    So yes, I pray your optimism is right and my pessimism is wrong. But I know what one company tried to do to me and what another’s training courses on diversity and inclusivity were like, and I work in an industry very regulated by the federal govt, so compliance with the govt agenda is just about mandatory.

  • Don, where’s the proof the GOP is so strong on the state level? All I have is your say so. Real proof please! Your fellow Republican Joe Walsh doesn’t seem to share your optimism about the Party. Since he was an elected official, I think his perspective is more realistic than yours. http://walshfreedom.com/
    The welfare state is dying? It might be dying in some places around the globe, but this benighted country re-elected Mr. Gimme-That Obama twice.
    What Paul says about corporate America is true. When I worked at Caterpillar Inc. , we were given the same line of leftist bull on social issues. I remember particularly how they talked to us about sexual harassment . What a joke! Most of the guilty were Cat Executives, not hourly stiffs like me!
    Paul, while there may be some good candidates, how effective would they be once they be, (if that actually happens) once they got into office? The various government agencies are now staffed with leftists up to the wazoo. Because of the civil service laws, unless they can be found guilty of corruption, incompetence, or treason, it will be next to impossible to remove them. And lets not forget the lackluster GOP leadership in Congress. They might as well be Democrats for all the good they can do.
    Don, you have made the claim that the GOP is strong on a state level and a national level. Well, I’d like to see some real proof, not glittering generalities. You can either post a few articles on TAC, or give your audience a few links to offsite articles. And please, no propaganda pieces! Just analytical pieces that give us a fair assessment of the local and national GOP strengths and weaknesses.

  • The GOP controls 69 of 99 state legislatures, the most ever for the GOP:

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/10/gop-holds-more-state-legislatures-than-ever/

    In addition 31 states have Republican governors:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_United_States_governors

    24 states have both Republican governors and legislatures, as opposed to 7 states for the Democrats. As recently as 1977 the Republicans completely controlled one state to 29 for the Democrats

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/all-gop-controlled-states-outnumber-all-democratic-states-24-7/article/2557023

    Joe Walsh is a buffoon who got tossed after one term in Congress.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Walsh_(Illinois_politician)

    “The welfare state is dying? It might be dying in some places around the globe, but this benighted country re-elected Mr. Gimme-That Obama twice.”

    Yep, and handed Republicans the Congress in 2010 and increased their majority in 2014. Compare and contrast with the electoral strength of FDR. Obama is not a sign of the strength of the Welfare State. His failed administration is its last gasp.

  • The state level electoral successes of the GOP are empirically undeniable, as Donald lays out. It is also borne out in a sense by the pathetic state of the Democratic presidential field. With Hillary flailing, the names being bandied about as potential rescuers are: Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Al Gore. At this rate it wouldn’t surprise me to see Walter Mondale’s name come up. The weak state of the Democratic bench is a sign of how poorly they have done on the state level.

  • the pathetic state of the Democratic presidential field.

    Looked at dispassionately, it’s a much better bench than they’ve run in the last five elections. Martin O’Malley’s tenure as Mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland incorporated a number of obtrusive failures (the crime control hype and the disaster that is the Baltimore City Jail foremost among them). I’m not sure there’s a similar rap on any of the other candidates. Webb, Sanders, and Chaffee have all held executive positions, and none of them have any dirt sticking to them. If they have a history of buffoonery, it’s more modulated than that of Joseph Biden or Howard Dean. Look to the recent past: BO, Hildebeast, John Edwards, John Kerry, the decaying Albert Gore, and the Hot Springs Lounge Lizard. Webb, Sanders, or Chaffee would be an improvement on any of them.

  • The state level electoral successes of the GOP are empirically undeniable, as Donald lays out

    Bully. However, as we speak, fully half the Senate Republican caucus voted to re-authorize the Export-Import Bank, and the Senate Majority Leader arranged for this vote in the course of lying to dissenting members of his caucus. It’s a small issue but a telling one. The are no decent arguments for maintaining the bank; it’s just candy for Boeing.

Of Mockingbirds and Consciences

Friday, July 17, AD 2015

They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

 

As I slave away in the law mines, I take my flashes of amusement where I can find them.  One thing that has often amused me is the bizarre names that people these days often curse their children with.  I often find when questioning the mother that the name was from some television show, film, video or song, often with a spelling variant to ensure that the child will be a special little snowflake and have his or her name misspelled for the remainder of the time God allots the child in this Vale of Tears.

Naming kids after a fictional character has always struck me as bizarre:  real people always being so much more interesting than two-dimensional fictional puppets.

An example of the drawbacks of naming a child after a fictional character has been illustrated this week by an interesting little literary-morality tempest being played out this week.  Harper Lee, a one book wonder, To Kill a Mockingbird, has released another book, Go Set a Watchman.  The story behind this book is perhaps more interesting than the tome itself.  Ms. Lee, 89 years old, lives in an assisted living facility, and is perhaps in her dotage.  Go Set a Watchman was written in 1957, the year of my birth, before To Kill a Mockingbird.  It was rejected by a publisher at the time as showing promise but not ready for publication, an accurate assessment I think.  That the book is now being published 58 years later might cause some to suspect the motivations of those now in control of Ms. Lee’s affairs, since for more than a half century she made no effort to have this early work published.  No doubt a book about the behind the scenes machinations that led to the publication of Go Set a Watchman will be forthcoming eventually, doubtless not written by Ms. Lee, alas.  More on this below the fold, with spoilers in regard to Go Set a Watchman.

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8 Responses to Of Mockingbirds and Consciences

  • “Questions 0f conscience” that is, the application of admitted moral principles to concrete situations may be far from easy to solve.
    One recalls the well-know episode of Napoléon’s marriage to Marie-Louise, Archduchess of Austria. Cardinal della Somaglia told M. Emery, Supérieur of St. Sulpice and a notable moral theologian that he could not attend without wounding his conscience. M. Emery told him that, in that case, he should on no account do so, for any consideration whatsoever. It transpired that M. Emery had been consulted by a number of the other 18 cardinals, then in Paris, and he had told them he thought they could attend the ceremony with a clear conscience.
    In response to a letter from Cardinal Fesch, the Emperor’s uncle, M. Emery explained this apparent inconsistency. He personally saw no harm in attending, but he had given his advice to Cardinal della Somaglia on the basis that one should never act against one’s own conscience, even if it were erroneous [qu’on ne devait jamais, agir contre sa conscience, même erronée]. He also made an important observation and, I believe, one of general application: “Not that the inconveniences could authorise an assistance that was illicit, but these inconveniences are the strongest reason [une raison très-forte] to consider the more attentively whether it is possible, whether assisting is really illicit and whether the conscience one has formed on that subject is not, perhaps, an erroneous conscience.”
    In the event Cardinal della Somaglia kept to his view, contrary to M. Emery, and did not attend the marriage ceremony.
    Both men, we may suppose, shared the same principles on the indissolubility of marriage, the jurisdiction of the Holy See, remote material cooperation and the obligation not to give scandal; they differed on the application of these principles in the particular case and who is to say which of them was right?

  • Why is anyone surprised?
    Atticus Finch has been dissected over the years by critics of TKaM as a racist.
    But even a racist defense attorney is bound to do his best for his client which Atticus does admirably, trying to prevent a legal lynching.
    Nowadays we are loath to admit there are gradations of racism but I imagine Finch as an “enlightened” racist for his time; against lynching, in favor of better schools for Negroes but pro states rights and dead set against integration and voting rights.

  • I saw a Mockingbird yesterday, and its “song” was a croaking sound, not very pretty.

    The novel also exalts empathy as a central axiom of morality–“walk a mile in their shoes” thing; would walking a mile in Joseph Goebbels’ shoes do anything to mitigate his heinous crimes?

  • Of course Atticus, as he was portrayed in the book and in the 1962 film on the novel, which I greatly enjoyed, bore about as much resemblance to most white southerners of the time, as Sidney Poitier did to the average black. The realities of both groups were both more complicated and ultimately more interesting.

    I’d recall Flannery O’Connor’s remark that literature deals with the possible, not the probable (and Sidney Poitier is who he is, not fictional, and Lee’s work has been semi-autobiographical). While we’re at it, neither Atticus Finch nor his social circle are presented as racial equalitarians. To the extent their views are elucidated, race relations are understood as occurring between patron and client. (The Heck Tate character doesn’t quite work, though). The distinction between the white Southerners in the book does not concern those questions, but whether social order requires innocents be sacrificed and pride requires artifice with really ugly consequences

  • I didn’t know anyone else called them the law mines 🙂 I always thought he was the embodiment of a noble calling: the criminal defense lawyer. It might have been a notorious white murderer, though not as pregnant with dramatic possibilities, perhaps. As someone who limited his practice to murder and child sex abuse cases, I had several Atticus Finch moments of my own. (And may yet! Count down starts… Now.)

  • “Besides, it could be a lot worse. One could have been named Adolf, for example. After World War II, Adolph, the more common American spelling, never regained its prewar popularity.”
    I’ve read that the only other name to drop so precipitously droped in the 1990’s: Hillary

  • To be fair, in Hillary’s case even people who liked her didn’t use the name, because they didn’t want people to think they were naming their daughter for her. (We’ve passed over some names for the same reason– they’re currently in use elsewhere in the family.)

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