Questions for the GOP

Specifically these are some of the questions that I think the GOP needs to ask itself, it is not meant as a pile-on or as an option for others outside of the GOP to smugly assert their superiority. (And trust me questions aimed at the Democratic party would yeild people acting just as smugly. As I have head ‘self-righteousness is an addictive drug.’)

 

Why are neo-Nazi’s attracted to your party?

Why would neo-Nazis believe that they were welcome in the GOP?

Why do the racists and ethno-nationalist brand themselves as alt-right?

What actions and or policies have the GOP enacted or attempted to enact that may have welcomed the neo-Nazi?

Are there line of discourse that you have pursued that welcomed the neo-Nazis?

Why was a political novice and outsider able to become the leader of your party?

Which is more important victory or principles?

 

A serious and dedicated study and answer to questions I think are vital to the survival of your party.

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My Fictions and Fading Empires

The military SF novel that my agent is currently shopping around has two core concepts baked into its world building; that the nationalism does not die away and that the United States becomes a faded empire.

(Let’s set aside the entire debate over the word empire and the evilness of the United States. I am using the term ’empire’ in a generic sense for a vast and dominate political entity.)

All empires fade. This is a fact history has repeated over and over so the fading of the American Empire is hardly going out on a predictive limb. In my world building I decided that the United States took a wrong path in the early 21st century, never recovered it senses, and began a downward spiral that among the interstellar nations reduced it to a second rate power. My principal character in the setting is an American who serves as an officer in the European star forces.

Should the publisher that is currently considering the novel decided to buy it and in 9 to 12 months you end up holding a paperback copy that I think is likely to produce an interesting and false conclusion; that the novel is a critique of American politics as they stand now and in particular Donald Trump.

My agent read the manuscript and we became partners in the literary endeavor two years ago, long before anyone dreamt that a TV reality star might take the presidency. The idea is even older than that. I first began working on the concept, early short stories and th basic world building back in the mists of early time, 1988.

(I can pinpoint it even though I usually have a terrible sense of when an event in my past happened because its creation was at the same time that Star Trek: The Next Generation started its first season.)

A lot changed in the world building for my Nationalized Space setting. The world changed, I adjusted ideas but the two core concepts remained the same. So when you read a book, any book, you may find parallels to the world around you but that doesn’t mean that was the specific intention of the author or that work. Sometimes it really is just coincidence.

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Going on Vacation

Soon, Saturday, I will be heading out on vacation to see my family. I do not know how often I will update this blog. I will try to stay on top of it but there are no promises.

Given that flying coast to coast will be a five hour affair and that I am traveling solo for this trip I should at least be able to get some writing completed. (There are few vacations from writing.)

One project I hope I might get started and finished during the trip is a new horror short story. I shared the central premise with some of the writers of my writers group and it was well received, giving me encouragement that the conceit is new enough to be worth pursuing.

If I do get that story completed I’ll do a public reading of at the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival next month. I will be attended as part of the literature horror panel along with a number of horror authors.

I am also working a big blog post, something else I may compose on the flight, going into detail as to why I find Star Trek: Insurrection the most offensive of all the Star Trek films.

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It’s Worthless

Trump’s belated and forced condemnation of the virulent ugly racism from some of his longest supporters is as worthless as any of his promises. As many others around the web have noted when Trump is genuinely angry there is very little that can be described as moderation or carefully considered. He lashes out with vitriol, hate, distortion, and lies. None of that was present in his forced condemnation. We know it, he knows it, and most important of all the racists know it.

They can see the political calculation as clearly as anyone else. Trump has their back, they know that. Trump employs their own, they know that. Trump has picked a side and it theirs.

Too many people in the Republican part thought that they could uses Trump to achieve their ends. The naïve believed that such tools still allowed them to produce pure results; the cynical didn’t care willing to use anything to achieve their personal petty ambitions. We are hurtling towards crisis and it may the crisis that defines this nation for generations. It is a crisis of the soul and it will define what it means to be an American.

 

Choose wisely.

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Sunday Night Movie: Seconds

The third in director’s John Frankenheimer’s paranoia trilogy, the previous two films being The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May, Seconds turns the attention from external threats to questions of identity and conformity.

The main character of the story is Arthur Hamilton an upper middle-aged man, white, Protestant, wealthy, and entirely dissatisfied with his life. Mysterious communication from a ‘deceased’ friend leads him to a company that services men as himself, creating for them new identities, new lives, in younger, stronger bodies. Arthur undergoes the processes and is reborn as Tony Wilson, now played by leading man actor Rock Hudson. Arthur, living as Tony, is relocated to California and given a life that is designed to fulfill those emotional voids from his previous ones, but they do not. Despite a reignited sexual drive and capacity, a young exciting woman professing her love, and absolute freedom, Arthur/tony remains deeply unhappy. Questioning his choices and seeking solutions puts Arthur/Tony on a disastrous course that he may never recovery from.

There is no doubt that Seconds is a science-fiction story without the intense and complex procedure to take an old man and transform him into a young one the story simply falls apart. The movie is tough, brutal, and disturbing. By brutal I do not a bloody festival of violence, but rather that the handling of the characters and their issues are not softened by sentimentality. Arthur Hamilton is not a particularly likeable man and his transformation does not change this aspect but his journey is intellectually challenging and emotionally wringing which I found compelling and fascinating. The philosophical questions raised, by the film and left unanswered I might add, concerning the conflict between the individual and what society expects of an individual, are deep and powerful. This is an SF movies with a point, it is not a pretty film, it is not a feel good film, and it is not an adventure film, but it is an adult film with adult problems and an adult resolution, Filmed with techniques that were terribly difficult before the advent of SteadyCam, and with distorting lenses, Seconds can be difficult to watch and perhaps even physically uncomfortable for those susceptible to motion sickness.

This was the first time I watched Seconds and with the benefit of historical knowledge Rock Hudson’s performance takes on greater depth, meaning, and nuance, In 1966 Rock Hudson was at the top of his game as a leading man in Hollywood. Young, tall, and handsome he played vigorous, virtuous, and virile men that reflected back to America and the world the illusion of the man that men should strive to be and he did this while living a deeply closeted life. Normally I do not consider an actor personal life or orientation when watching their performance but in this case I think it transforms the acting into a sublime achievement. Taking on the role of ‘Tony Wilson’ Hudson plays a man who is hiding his core identity, who is living a lie, Hudson gives a performance that is layered with its own hidden truth. Frankenheimer wisely doesn’t spoil the subtlety of the Hudson’s acting with cheap close-up of things like a single tear, but lets many of the scenes play out in uncomfortable long takes

Produced when science-fiction cinema was truly becoming an adult art form Seconds is about as far from escapism as a move can get. It is a story unconcerned with heroic gestures, preening villains, or simplistic clashes of good and evil but rather it attempt to plumb the depth of the human soul and what it finds is deeply unsettling. It is a classic film from a master filmmaker, but by far it is not for everyone.

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It’s Getting Uglier

The events last night and this morning in Virginia are terrible signs of the dark evil current running in our culture.

Yes, I said evil.

If while marching by torchlight you wave Nazi flag, give the Nazi salute, shout racist and anti-Semitic epithets, and proclaim Nazi slogans ‘Blood and Soil’, then you are a flippin’ Nazi and you are evil.

That these people are shouting praises top Trump should give ever single member of the GOP serious pause. These are the evil men you have wedded your movement to in order to secure political power. Do you remember when the GOP proudly stood as the ‘moral’ party? What morality are you defending today? What virtue?

The ends do not justify the means.

When the Republicans embraced torture I foreswore all association with that party. You cannot do evil to achieve good and sadly in the dozen years that have passed they have only gotten worse.

I agreed with President Reagan when he named the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire.’ That was categorically true, and now the GOP are becoming their enemies. Not the Democratic Party, and not liberalism, those are not the enemy of Conservatism, the toxic, deadly, and evil ideology of ethno-nationalism, racism, and authoritarianism are the enemies of the Enlightenment, the enemies of true western civilizations. Not that forgery that is nothing more than naked racism behind a modern mask of ‘alt-right.’

This is not about spending bills, and this program or that program; this is a fight for our cultural soul.

Will be you proud of your party, of your movement, of your personal stand?

 

(There are reports that a car, perhaps intentionally, has plowed into a packed crowd protesting our American Nazis. If it was an attack, and one should always wait and watch as early reports are terrible in the reliability, it will not be the last. Overseas we have seen repeated use of cars and truck as weapons are cars are far easier to obtain than firearms. Once the spectacular coverage begins the technique spreads.)

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The Artist’s Most Important Trait

In a post some time ago I argue that the most important skill a writer could master was finishing. An uncompleted project moves no readers and sells no copies. Today I’m going to talk about the trait all artist’s should prize above others. That trait is not inspiration, creativity, or being a keen judge of human nature.

Above all else an artist needs to be honest.

Now, I do not mean that you tell cruel truths to people at parties. I do not mean that you argue and try to dominate all who disagree with you. There are light-years between honest and asshole.

What I mean is you must not self-censure. You must not silence the voice in your art. That is you voice and it is literally the only thing that separates you from everyone else in the art. Your viewpoint, your take on the world is the point of your art, it is your art. When you self-censor you decapitate your art turning it into nothing more that talented copying. It becomes a self forgery.

Always listen to your inner voice. Always know what it is you what to say and always, always say it.

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In Praise of the Long Take

The long continuous take has been with cinema since the very beginning. In fact one could argue that cinema started with the long take since editing movie into separate takes was a development that came along after the invention of the medium. However it is the existence of the edited narrative film that gives the long continuous take it’s meaning and it power.

Alfred Hitchcock composed an entire film, Rope, in nothing but long unbroken takes. Moving the massive refrigerator sized color camera around the set in a detail dance allowing him to craft long shot, medium shots, and close-ups without cutting at all. Rope is not remembered as part of the director best films but I like it and it was an example of an artist experimenting with his craft.

In 1958 Orson Well used the technique to establish the setting and tension for his noir Touch of Evil. Following a bomb from the moment it is planted in a car through several minuets as the car moves about the town this continuous take is one of the films’ most famous.

With the advent of the steady-com the long take took on a new life as now filmmakers were freed from bulky dollies and massive cranes and able to follow their subjects though a living set. Two examples that leap to my mind; first the ferry sequence in Spielberg’s Jaws where the city council comes to prevent Brody from closing the beaches, and follow Henry Hill and his date into the club in Scorsese’s Goodfellas.

A close relative to the long continuous take is the sequence where two of more shots are editing together to create the impression of a single take. Joss Whedon uses this technique in 2005s Serenity to take the audience through the entire ship during the films opening scenes, reminiscent of Touch of Evil‘s use in scene setting. Daredevil season one presented the ‘hallway’ fight in a single take, allowing the audience a chance to experience the combat’s fatigue.

A film currently playing uses the effect masterfully and that is David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde. Without going into spoiler territory I want to discuss the long take in this movie. Like Daredevil Atomic Blonde uses the long take during a particularly grueling and brutal fight sequence. Starting in a stairwell the fight ranges through a number of rooms, several floors, and even incorporates a car chase in the single shot. (Though of course this is an example of several shots seamlessly blended to the appearance of a single take.) Again, this help the audience experience the bodily toll the combat takes on all the characters but I believe that the long take severed another purpose beyond that physical empathy,

A cut in film can act as a release, an escape. We understand from a life time of movie watching that a cut means we are leaving the current moment, the current point of view for another and if that previous moment was unpleasant then cut allows us to distance ourselves from that unpleasantness. (Paragraphs and scenes breaks can do the same thing in prose.) I said that the ‘stairwell fight’ was grueling and brutal, those aspects are heightened by the lack of cuts. We are never allowed to escape the life and death fight, like the characters we are following, we are never given a chance to escape. The length of the take takes us from observers to unwilling participants. When the sequence finally ends the audience utterly empathizes with the surviving characters. It is masterful filmmaking and that bit alone is worth the price of ticket.

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A General Bob Update

Sorry that there was no blog update yesterday but Tuesday turned out to be an interesting day. For several days I have been experiencing a decidedly odd symptomology. Sporadically I would have the strong sensation of smoke in the back of my throat, as though I had been in a club full of tobacco users and coughing nearly always followed the smoke sensation. It was worrisome and I decided to make an appointment with my primary care doctor. That appointment was yesterday.

The x-rays showed that I have the early stages of walking pneumonia, a small section in one lung on the frontal lobe. The doctor has prescribed two antibiotics to run over the next ten days so recovery should be completed and rapid.

By the time I got home yesterday from work – because the doctor had not ordered bed-rest — I was pretty ragged and as the evening wore on that only got worse. I decided that it would be best to take a couple of days off and spend as much time as possible resting. So that’s where I am today, home, coughing, and taking drug. (Not the fun kind those have never been a part of my general lifestyle, but you like it knock yourself out.)

I shall endeavor to continue working on my novel but we’ll see how well that works out.

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Sunday Night Movie: Cleopatra Jones

Last night’s feature, Cleopatra Jones, was the third, following Black Caesar and Blacula, in my experiencing the genre of Blaxploitation cinema. It was interesting watching this movie on the same day that I went out with my sweetie-wife and watched Atomic Blonde. Though separated by four decades the two films have very similar elements. Both films are centered on strong females characters who are agents for their government, dress in fantastic fashion, who are sexually liberated, deadly in combat, and who operate in a venue where ally and enemy are deadly categories to confuse.

Cleo (Tamara Dobson) is a United States Special agent whose jurisdiction extends from Ankara to Watts Towers as she tried to shut down the drug trade poising the youth of Los Angeles during the early 1970s. After destroying a poppy field worth 30 million dollars, Cleo angers the L.A. Crime lord, Mama (Shelly Winters) and Mama declares an all out war on Cleo. Manipulating her contacts with the police department Mama fixes it so that a facility dedicated to getting kids off the hard drugs is raided and incriminating evidence (planted) is found, provoking Cleo’s return to L.A. The film follows Cleo’s attempts to clear the anti-drug house, keep the residents from exploding into violence against the racist, oppressive police, and ending Mama’s criminal empire.

Cleopatra Jones was a fun film that wasted very little in terms of time or momentum. There are a number of film makers that need to learn these filmmakers lesson in economy of storytelling. With stronger elements of wish fulfillment that either of the other two film I have watched, Jones, fulfills one of the purposes of fiction, displaying for people a world that can be better, a world that can be made into reality, even while dealing with the subject matter in a never-lose James Bond method.

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