Fictional Histories

I like reading history books especially ones about very particular things–particular persons, places, crimes, and engineering projects.  I’d really rather read about an individual train station than the history of the island of Manhattan. Unfortunately, problems arise when finding history books worth reading.  As I complained about Eric Larson’s The Devil in the White City:

Larson devotes a couple chapters to Holmes murdering young women. If you take the time to read over the end notes (who does that?), you’ll find the admission that these scenes are almost completely fiction.

An author is bound to take certain liberties with an historical subject; it’s impossible to know everything.  But the more “popular” a book tries to be the more the author seems to lose sight on the fact that what he’s supposed to be writing about is something that actually happened.  It is quite possible to make a work exciting and interesting without resorting to writing something almost indistinguishable from a novel both in style and fact.

I began, today, to read a book called The Year of Fear by Joe Urschel.  It’s about gangsters, the 1930s, the FBI… seemed like a good follow on to Killers of the Flower Moon.  I didn’t make it past the first page of chapter one.  It begins, however, with an introduction and the line:

As J. Edgar Hoover lay asleep in his home in the early morning hours of July 22, 1933, he was fitfully aware of the tentative hold he had on the job he had come to know and love.

Never mind that one generally isn’t “aware” of anything while asleep, how does the Urschel know what J. Edgar was thinking on any particular morning in 1933?  It is simply a hamfisted way of getting across that Hoover might not have been sitting pretty at that moment in time. One often sees authors claiming that someone thought this or that in order to segue into relevant information. It’s not a bad enough line to stop one reading right there but it isn’t good.

Then in the third paragraph of chapter one we have this describing Kathryn Kelly getting dressed:

When she finished tucking and smoothing, she snapped the waistband closed with a definitive click, like the sound of a .38 slug sliding into its chamber.

I confess some ignorance on the matter of women’s clothing, especial that of the 1930s, but do skirts usually “click”?  Well, maybe there’s some type of super clicky snaps or whatever.  I don’t know.  But I do know what .38s sound like and I don’t think the author does.  We have gone beyond taking liberties in the realm of absurdity.  Urschel is making crap up and then describing it as if he’s writing a potboiler.  I wouldn’t want to read this if it were fiction.


Ratings and the Context of Violence

It was with no little horror that I heard the pastor of my parish declare within his recommendation of Unplanned that, while it had an R rating, the movie would be appropriate to take a ten year old child to.

Well.  I saw Unplanned last week and it was not exactly a fun movie to watch.  I would not take a ten year old to see it.

As R rated movies go, Unplanned is not that bad.  It could have been far more explicit and gruesome given the subject matter.  Perhaps as people claim the R rating is unwarranted, merely a way to sabotage the movie because of its message.  But there is gruesome and then there is gruesome.  The level of gore is not necessarily directly correlated to how disturbing or inappropriate for children a movie is.

I can watch a man jump head first into a wood chipper and laugh because, though it ought to be stomach turning, the context in which the act happens is so absolutely absurd (i.e. Tucker and Dale Versus Evil).  An abortion viewed on an ultrasound with the only blood being shown fulling up tubes of medical equipment is sickening.  The former is clearly not for children but neither is the latter simply because it has less blood.

What isn’t shown can be ten times worse than something that is.  The Korean movie The Man from Nowhere has some extremely violent knife fights where the main character is deliberately slashing his opponents’ wrists, but the movie is about children being kidnapped and used for black market organ harvesting.  The Man from Nowhere shows very little of what is done to the children.  It could have been far more explicit; instead it leaves it to our imaginations.  Even had the blood letting been removed, this would have been an extremely disturbing movie.

Even a movie which is incredibly mild in terms of content, like Love with a Proper Stranger (1963) wouldn’t be appropriate for a ten year old to watch necessarily.  You’d have to explain what the main characters were doing for the first half of the film, that is trying to procure an abortion, something which would be absolutely clear to any adult watching.  Without that context, the movie deflates.  There would be no tension as the characters get closer and closer to killing their child.  (And once their decision is made the tension does evaporate and the move is just increasingly stupid from then on out, but that’s a different problem…)

Unplanned could have been much worse.  But it doesn’t need to be worse to deserve its rating.  Maybe you think babies are just blobs of cells and won’t mind them writhing in agony as they’re suctioned into pieces.  In that case, maybe you’d just be put off by the squick of women bleeding profusely down their legs.  You don’t usually see that in PG-13 movies.  I understand why some people think it shouldn’t have gotten an R rating; they want it to get a wider audience.  Wider audiences are all well and good but they shouldn’t include children.

Color Was a Mistake

Welcome to the Punch 2013The main thing I remember about Welcome to the Punch (2013) besides the incoherent message about guns is that it was blue. Extremely pointlessly blue all the time. This is a symptom of movies which try to be arty. They think it’s clever to give the film a one or two color palate.

Color in film has been around a long, long time. Some early films were actually hand colored but various color processes like Technicolor date back to the very early 1900s. Early technicolor films like The Wizard of Oz (1939) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) appreciated that they had something more to work with. The older films had a tendency to use vibrant and contrasting colors. The black and white of Kansas against the violent colors of Oz. The green of Robin Hood with the red of Sir Guy.

The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938

But then what happened? What did Hollywood do with color? Well, not much and that’s the problem. In most movies, color is just there. There’s absolutely nothing special about. It’s not used artistically at all. And when it is, we get stupid uses like Welcome to the Punch and its pointless blue filter.

Like the Hayes’ Code’s restrictions on content forcing filmmakers to be more creative, black and white’s limitations forced a very creative use of light and shadow. Not every B&W film is a masterpiece but even B films frequently had beautiful chiaroscuro lighting used to great effect. You’ll notice also the early color films held over some conventions especially in the use of shadows, something that almost never appears in film today.  The lessons learned with B&W were forgotten and laziness sets in.

Color was a mistake. Black and white is beautiful.

Richard Basehart in He Walked By Night

2018 Reading List

This list is chronological rather any organization which would make sense. Anything that I have read before is marked with an asterisk.

The Man in the High Castle — Philip K Dick
The African Queen — CS Forester
Thunderball — Ian Fleming
The Island of Doctor Moreau — HG Wells
*Before Midnight — Rex Stout
Laura — Vera Caspary
A Bullet for Cinderella — John D MacDonald
The Big Clock — Kenneth Fearing
L.A. Confidential — James Ellroy
Casino Royale — Ian Fleming
The Black Echo — Micheal Connolly
Last Call — Tim Powers
I Am Legend — Richard Matheson
The Yellow Band — Maxwell Grant
The Red Blot — ”
The Voodoo Master — ”
The Whispering Skull — Jonathan Stroud
Turned Earth — David T Good
*The Black Arrow — Robert Louis Stevenson
Skinwalkers — Tony Hillerman
Listening Woman — ”
A Thief of Time — ”
The Hollow Boy — Jonathan Stroud
The Blessing Way — Tony Hillerman
Dance Hall of the Dead — ”

The Search for the Manchurian Candidate –John Marks
Conquering Gotham — Jill Jonnes
SJWs Always Double Down — Vox Day
The Last Battle — Stephen Harding
An Essay on the Restoration of Property — Hilaire Belloc
The Badge — Jack Webb
Prisoners of Fear — Ella Lingens-Reiner
One Summer: America, 1927 — Bill Bryson
Killers of the Flower Moon — David Gran
Black Mass — Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill

Last year I had seven books which were rereads.  This year it’s only two but they don’t really count.  I’d read them both so long ago that I barely remembered them.  In fact, in the case of Before Midnight, I was quite sure at first I hadn’t read it before thanks to the fact that the blurb on the back was written by someone who only had a vague and mostly incorrect idea of what it was about.

Having kept these lists for a couple years now, I’ve noticed a pattern in how I read things.  Try a new author?  If I like it, I will frequently go straight to two or three more of his books.  Obviously this will be affected by how easy it is to get another book.  For example, Ian Fleming, James Ellroy, Michael Connolly, and Tony Hillerman were all new to me.  Neither Connolly’s nor Ellroy’s books were such that I regretted reading them but they just weren’t my thing.  Fleming I read mostly out of curiosity (and because I found Thunderball at a thrift store).  I was actually not expecting to like it based on how I feel about the movies but was pleasantly surprised.

I had no set goals for number of books read so of course this year I easily hit my previous goal of 24 novels read without trying.  I had sort of intended to read more nonfiction and got four more than last year which still doesn’t seem that much.

Eight authors for fiction were ones I hadn’t read before, seven of the nonfiction.  No goals again this year but I’d like to maintain about this level in terms of numbers.

Out of 2018

The take away for 2018–in the realm of blogs anyhow–is that conflict drives traffic. My other blog Antelope Games surpassed it’s 2017 traffic back in March thanks to my kicking a hornets nest in the form of crazed feminists attacking a small Catholic College. Antelope Games ends the year with more than twice the page views despite having less than half the number of posts of the previous year. While there’s other people involved in it, the blog is mostly mine and Verity’s and neither of us were in a good place to be posting very much in the latter half of the year.

Over here at Nixon Now, I got about a third of the page views that AG got, which is better than last year, but visitors were significantly less. That means, actually, that views in generally are much less. The only reason that they’re as high as they are stems from a couple weird spikes in traffic which made no sense–a couple visitors accounting for several hundred views over a week’s time back in September. Then all my top posts are the ones related to the stupid Brian Neimeier spat. So Nixon Now’s views are most likely illegitimate or people that hate me.

Last January I talked about how 2017 was such a weird, mixed bag with something good for ever bad thing that happened. This year? I honestly don’t remember. My brain turns into a sieve when I’m depressed. The first half of the year I was sick. Then July was back problems. Then it’s just depression. Stuff happened but I need someone to remind me.

I wrote practically no fiction (or I don’t remember writing any). Wrote more blog posts than I thought I did but I didn’t write even more. I’ve got twenty-five in various stages of completion which will probably never be finished because I don’t remember what I was going to say. Well, nobody but Verity reads in anyway.

I went into 2018 thinking it would be what it would be. I’m not going to treat 2019 the same way. 2019 is going to be better because I’m going to make it better if only in a small way. Back in 2016, I decided that I was sick of being a flabby little nerd.  While there was very little to be done about little or nerd, I could certainly do something about flabby.  The effort wasn’t exactly organized or well thought out and I didn’t need to lose weight, more like gain muscle.  By the end of the year, I’d accidentally lost five pounds and felt great. Then I got sick and that put an end to it.

It’s going to be significantly more difficult this time but I did it before, I can do it again even if it kills me.  I’m certainly not making anything better by sitting around and doing nothing feeling bad.

The Murder of Old Versions

Anthony over at Superversive looks at the horror that is a live action remake of Cowboy Bebop:

But we shouldn’t be okay with this, any more than we should be okay with remaking Casablanca. The spin is already beginning. “If it’ll introduce the show to people who wouldn’t pay attention otherwise, what’s the harm?” Well first, who cares if people don’t want to pay attention, and second, the problem is that time and attention is being given to THIS and not original works…or at LEAST some sort of story that could actually justify a remake.

People are so strange that they think that a new version someone expands the audience for a work.  When you remake a movie or TV show, it doesn’t introduce a new audience to the work, it destroys the work and replaces it.  Time and time again if you talk to other people, you will find that they have not seen the original version nor in most cases even know there is an original.  The original ceases to exist in a society which has the cultural memory of a goldfish.

This is not to say that all remakes must necessarily be bad.  The Maltese Falcon (1941) is a remake.  The 1931 version is okay but does not come close to quality of the classic.  The Glass Key (1942) is also a remake.  While I personally am torn about which I like better, you can’t say that the ’42 version is bad.  In both those cases, however, these movies are adaptations of books.  Remakes become different adaptations and often have scenes left out of or changed in previous iterations to work with.  That only works if a book doesn’t get adapted a thousand times.  After the nine hundredth, there is nothing to justify another version of a work which has been done over and over again.  Perhaps why they’ve resorted to such idiocy as adding zombies to things or the always attempted “edgy” remake.  But that’s just a less subtle way that the destruction presents itself.  Something must be changed and the soul of the original snuffed out


Generally I’d rather not talk about purchases or crowd funding backing for a couple different reasons but this makes me furious:

Your transaction to ALT-HERO:Q on Indiegogo has been refunded!

Indiegogo’s Trust and Safety Team determined this campaign didn’t comply with our Terms of Use. You’ll no longer receive any perks associated with this transaction. Please visit our help center for further information on how Indiegogo protects users.

Oh, you know better than I do how to spend my money, do you Indiegogo?  Oh course it’s SJW shenanigans but I don’t think I’ve ever wanted Vox Day to turn something in a smoldering crater quite so much.

But beyond simply the annoyance of having an innocent comic order cancelled for no reason, this transactions and money business is very, very worrisome.

People talk about regulating big social but this kind of stuff is where it really needs to happen. VD has talked a lot in the past about getting yourself “antifragile” but doing so is near impossible if at any moment all your money and all your sources of income can be snatched from you in an instant. There’s no point at which you can exist economically without some input from an institution. I’d love to keep all my money in mason jars in the backyard but it’s not easy to exist without a bank and a credit or debit card of some sort. My last three jobs didn’t even offer paper checks as an option anymore. It was either direct deposit or here have a card with your money loaded on it.

The internet offered a wonderful expanse of other possibilities for people make a living. It’s more than clear at this point that those options are all drying up for those of us who don’t toe a certain ideological line. Established platforms kick off the undesirable and new platforms are killed by payment processors before they even have a chance.

It’s not “censorship” if the government doesn’t do it, stupid people claim.  But you can’t have bad opinions if the man who holds the money won’t let you.