Universal Classic Monster Movies – An OCF Classic Movie Review – Part 5 – The Mummy

So far in this review, I have gone over the “Big Three” of the Classic Monster class.  Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman coexisted in a European setting even showing up in each other’ movies.  Very cozy.  Maybe almost too much of a good thing.  I mean after you have the Daughter of Dracula and the Bride and the Son of Frankenstein what’s left, the Wolfman’s Gardener’s Chiropractor?  It would almost be a relief to escape from foggy, chilly Central Europe and head for a warmer and dryer climate.

Egypt?

The Mummy presents an intersection of interesting subjects.  At the time, it was made (1932) less than 10 years had elapsed since the real-life discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb and the golden artifacts it contained.  This discovery along with the supposed “Tutankhamen’s Curse” upon all those who desecrated his tomb re-invigorated the public’s interest in Egyptology.  Add to that the fascination with a strange and exotic world such as the Middle East would have presented to Westerners of a century ago.  And finally mix this together with a mythical love story to produce a strange fantasy to lure the public with.  And the movie was very popular, even in Britain, where the colonial setting was probably of interest.

The story goes like this.  A British archeological dig in Egypt uncovers an unspoiled burial site that contains a mummy that was not embalmed but rather buried alive.  Markings on the tomb warn any grave robbers that the occupant is a cursed individual and anyone who reads the  Scroll of Thoth will perish and unleash an undead horror on the world.  So of course, they read the scroll.  This activates the long dead mummy of Imhotep, the priest who was punished for trying to use the Scroll of Thoth to revivify his lover  Anck-es-en-Amon, the princess whose untimely death brought about this whole tragedy.  After driving one of the expedition mad and sending him to an early grave, Imhotep (played by our old friend Boris Karloff) escapes with the scroll and disappears.  Ten years later Helen Grosvenor, the daughter of one of the surviving expedition members, is discovered by Imhotep to be the reincarnated spirit of Anck-es-en-Amon.  By this time Imhotep has assumed the identity of a modern-day Egyptian named Ardath Bey.  He plans to ritually slay Helen, mummify her and use the Scroll of Thoth to revivify her and make her his bride.  Pretty creepy.

Helen’s friends and family attempting to foil this plot are laughably ineffective.  At the end it takes Helen’s returned memory as Anck-es-en-Amon to appeal to Isis (whose votary she was) to put a stop to the ritual murder.  Imhotep is blasted by divine intervention and everyone (who is still alive at this point) lives happily ever after.

One interesting addition to the cast is our old friend Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Muller.  In this movie his effectiveness is somewhere between the high competency of Van Helsing in Dracula and the incredible incompetence of Dr. Waldman in Frankenstein.  Let’s give him a B- in the Mummy for at least putting up a fight.

I’ve always enjoyed the Mummy.  But I limit myself to one viewing every ten years.  Let’s face it.  A Mummy, even one with a scroll that bestows the power of life and death isn’t that scary.  For all it’s flaws the 1990s reboot with Brendan Fraser has a lot more chills in it with man eating scarab beetles and a Mummy that revivifies himself by stealing organs from the living.  But the 1930s version is solid entertainment well worth seeing, at least once.

Universal Classic Monster Movies – An OCF Classic Movie Review – Part 4 – Wolfman

Nowadays urban fantasy has gotten all highfalutin with a bunch  of flavors of wolf creatures.  There are werewolves and lycanthropes and loup garous and lycans and blutbaden and all other sub-categories of wolf metamorphosing humans.  Back in the day there were just werewolves.  And the most famous case was Larry Talbot.

Larry was a British ex-pat living in America.  He left home after a disagreement with his father.  His father was a titled Lord living on the family estate.  But when Larry’s older brother died it was time for the prodigal son to return and take up his family responsibility as the heir apparent.  As luck would have it, Larry’s arrival home coincided with the arrival of a troop of gypsies outside of the local village.  And it was at the gypsy camp that Larry would begin his personal exploration of nocturnal non-domestic canine/human feeding habits.  Larry is attacked by a werewolf who during the day is Bela the gypsy fortune teller (interestingly played by Bela Lugosi).  Bela wounds Larry but is himself killed by Larry using a silver headed walking stick.  The head of the stick is, of course, shaped like a wolf’s head.  Larry is carried back to his home where he survives his wound which heals in the shape of a pentagram (the sign of the werewolf!).  The killing of Bela becomes part of a police investigation and Larry is suspected but being a nobleman, he is not pestered by arrest or even having to appear before a magistrate.  The police inspector is forced to come visit him at the manor and all deference to his status maintained.  Meanwhile Larry is starting to feel funny and the next night he turns into a werewolf and goes on a killing spree.  After this he is desperate to believe that he is only suffering from nightmares and delusions but the evidence starts mounting up against him.  At one point during one of his nocturnal hunts, he is caught in a leg trap.  And here he is saved by Bela’s mother.  The old gypsy lady feels responsible for Larry’s plight and recites a spell over him that turns him back into a man and allows him to escape the trap.  Finally, Larry reaches the end point of his despair when he knows that his next victim is the woman he loves.  Luckily (sort of) his father manages to kill Larry with the same silver wolf headed walking stick that Larry used earlier for the same purpose.  So, the story ends on this somber scene of father looking down at the son he has just killed.  The gypsy woman recites her spell again and we’re supposed to realize that this was the merciful release and the best-case ending for poor Larry Talbot.

In terms of range of acting ability and style the Wolfman is probably the most varied of the Universal Classic Monster Movies.  On the one hand we have Claude Rains playing Lord Talbot, Larry’s father.  Rains is an excellent actor and also a very polished individual who easily can play a nobleman in a movie.  He was also rather short and slight of build.  Then there’s Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry.  Chaney was an indifferent actor and a very large and tall man with a booming rough voice.  He was more at home in a broad comedy such as the pictures he did at Universal with the comic duo Abbot and Costello.  In fact, he reprised his role as the Wolfman in the monster spoof, “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”  It might be assumed that he would be out of his depth trying to portray a nobleman’s son but he plays the part as a self-made man who grew up in America and reflects the manners and outlook of his adoptive land.  He employs a working-class diction and style of speech and comes off as a personable individual with maybe a slightly hot temper.  The relation between father and son seems to be cordial, warm and in the spirit of a mutual rapprochement after a youthful revolt against parental authority.  Before the disaster occurs to Larry, the atmosphere is of a joyful family reunion.  So, these two actors almost exact opposites in appearance, acting style and talent level manage to do a convincing job of portraying themselves as family.

The other important portrayal is the old gypsy woman played by Maria Ouspenskaya.  Since her son Bela was a werewolf she understands Larry’s plight and realizes what his fate will be.  And being a gypsy of course she has witch-like powers (and a really cool accent).  When Larry needs to escape from his wolf form she could recite the following spell to revert him to human form.

“The way you walked was thorny, though no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Now you will have peace for eternity.”

She is the coolest aspect of the movie and provides the atmosphere (along with the fog machine that must have been working overtime for this film) that allows you to think 20th Century England could be infested with werewolves and gypsies.

And finally, the other notable aspect of the movie is the tradition spawned of werewolves transforming during the full moon.  Or did it?  Actually, in this first Larry Talbot outing the full moon isn’t explicitly mentioned:

Even a man who is pure in heart

and says his prayers by night

may become a wolf when the wolfs bane blooms

and the autumn moon is bright.

Later they change the final line to “and the moon is full and bright.”  So here we can see that autumn and wolfs bane is part of the equation.  Maybe this restricts it to the Hunter’s or Harvest Moon.

So, do I like the Wolfman?  Only parts.  I like the beginning and I like the end.  But the middle where Larry is fretting over whether he is going crazy isn’t all that good.  So, I recommend seeing it at least once but it’s not my favorite for sure.

Harvey Weinstein’s Compassion

Back in 2009 when attempts were underway to extradite Roman Polansky to the US to try him for the rape of a 13-year-old girl, Harvey Weinstein defended the morality of Hollywood’s support of Polansky with the following quote “Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion.”  Well, it starts to make sense that Weinstein has compassion for a rapist.  I guess he’s hoping the favor will be returned by his community.  I don’t mean the community of rapists.  That’s too small a group to help him.  I think he’s hoping the Hollywood community will show him compassion.  But it doesn’t look like he’s going to get a pass.  A whole troop of former ingenues and struggling starlets are coming forward with staggering tales of a disgusting pig trading on his influence in a seedy industry to pressure young women into having sex with him.  Now the fact that Harvey is a repulsively fat and ugly creature only makes the act grotesque.  But even if he looked like Brad Pitt the cruelty and immorality of what he did is undeniable.  So, he’s going to be roasted over the coals.  And based on the latest reports he may also be liable for criminal charges.  Apparently three women are now claiming actual rape.  You know Whoopi?  Rape, rape?

Poor Harvey, things aren’t looking so good.  All his friends have deserted him.  What’s a rapist to do?  Where is his Polansky exception?  After all he’s a rich liberal donor.  Where’s the gratitude?  Where are the Clintons and Obamas when they’re needed?  People are saying it’s because times are changing and women won’t put up with abuse anymore.

Maybe.

But maybe it’s just Hollywood deciding that Harvey’s power and influence is slipping.  Maybe this is payback from some other power broker that Harvey rubbed the wrong way.  Maybe even the Clintons.  I read that the Clintons didn’t think Harvey was supportive enough.  Maybe this is more Arkansas Revenge.  Considering Bill’s proclivities, it would be ironic indeed if it came from him.  But regardless of the actual cause of the downfall the real question is where was the compassion for his victims?

Meryl Streep was a great friend of Harvey Weinstein.  She worked with him and gushed about his abilities.  But she still maintains that she knew nothing of his casting couch.  Apparently, she’s the only one in Hollywood who didn’t.  Unless she’s a moron, she’s lying.  And as much as I’d love to call her a moron I’m gonna have to go with liar.  And so, the question is, where was Meryl’s compassion for his victims?

And how about all the other actors and actresses and other studio types who helped Harvey procure his victims or else just kept quiet about their existence?  Where was all this great compassion?  What about the much-vaunted moral compass?  Did it merely point to fortune and fame?  These are the people who go on endlessly about gay rights and trans-rights and animal rights and veganism and climate change.  And these are the people who went insane because a woman didn’t get to be President of the United States.  And these are the people who marched through the streets with stupid pink hats on because a rich guy admitted “off the record” the deep dark secret that some women are greedy enough to let a lout have his way with them just because he’s rich.

Well, doesn’t that make them hypocrites and cowards?  If they really care about women’s welfare so highly then aren’t they therefore nothing but greedy cowards if they put their own monetary considerations ahead of these young people being victimized?  Seems so to me.  Sorry Meryl.  You stand convicted of being a greedy coward.  The only compassion you had was for yourself.  Same as Harvey.  Same as Polansky.  So maybe the Polansky defenders can explain why they have compassion for their sister actresses now finally after all these years of Weinstein’s harassment but not before.  And maybe they can explain why they still have no compassion for the 13-year-old girl that was abused all those years ago.  Isn’t she a woman too?

Universal Classic Monster Movies – An OCF Classic Movie Review – Part 3 – Frankenstein

If Dracula is the King of Monsters, monster royalty as it were, then Frankenstein is the People’s Monster, the Monster of the Proletariat.  Everything about him is working class.  He is outsized and strong to make him an able worker.  His clothing is a workman’s suit.  He is dull, brutish, inarticulate and ugly.  He recognizes beauty and strives after it but is rejected by the beautiful people and chased away.  He is the ultimate step-son.

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein’s creation as the ultimate act of human hubris, to pretend to be God.  And the Monster punishes Dr. Frankenstein for putting him through Hell.

Okay, so that’s the meta-story, now let’s talk about the movie.

Universal released Frankenstein in 1931.  The cast is mostly contract character actors who appeared in most of the B-movies at Universal.  Even Dr. Frankenstein was played by a minor star Colin Clive.  And of course, the real star, the Monster is an anonymous question mark (?) in the opening credits.  Boris Karloff made his name with this movie.  And as opposed to Bela Lugosi’s eternal submergence into the part of Dracula, Karloff prospered as the go to monster player at Universal.

The story follows Dr. Frankenstein, first as he creates the Monster and later as the Monster attempts to destroy him.  During this we meet the doctor’s fiancée and his aged father “The Baron.”  And, of course, there is his lab assistant and part time grave robber Fritz.  The hunch-backed sadist (played by Dwight Frye, the same actor who was Renfield in Dracula by the way) is the archetype for every Igor act-alike henchman in every monster movie that ever followed.  And there are all those other memorable characters, the Burgomaster, little Maria the girl drowned in the pond, Maria’s father and of course Doctor Waldman played by Edward Van Sloan.  If you read the previous post in this series you may remember Van Sloan as the brilliant Dr. Van Helsing the scientist and vampire hunter.  In this movie unfortunately, he’s not quite as successful at monster eradication.  In perhaps the most inept example of obsessive compulsive behavior ever filmed, we witness Dr. Waldman bungle the job of monster euthanasia.  In the preceding scene the Monster, tired of being tormented by Fritz, hangs the hunch-back with a length of chain.  Drs. Waldman and Frankenstein immediately suss out the necessity of subduing the Monster before he carries forward this new policy of interpersonal simplification on them.  Working together they barely manage to tranquilize the Monster with a hypodermic before he could finish throttling Dr. Frankenstein with his bare hands.

Dr. Frankenstein, now convinced that his creature is too dangerous to live wants to put him down himself but his father and his fiancée arrive in time to interrupt the program.  Dr. Waldman convinces him to leave and assures him that the deed will be performed without delay.  So far so good, capable older scientist and biologist will dispatch the Monster with a good swift stroke to the carotid or the aorta or whatever, right?  Wrong.  We are about to witness film history.

The next scene opens on Dr. Waldman in operating room garb standing over the Monster lying on an operating table, seemingly unconscious.  Dr. Waldman fiddles with some scalpels, checks the Monster’s vitals and turns aside to make an entry in his journal!  I can’t recall the exact words but the paraphrase is something like, “sedation is becoming less and less effective, I must quickly euthanize him before he regains consciousness.”  Of course, as soon as he finishes this diary entry and turns back to the job at hand, the Monster awakes and breaks the good doctor’s neck.  What the hell!  I mean, come on!  Forget medical school, how did this guy get through middle school without a body guard?  Instead of putting him in charge of monster execution he should have been assigned to spittoon polishing back at the baronial estate of Papa Frankenstein.  What a loser.

Well, the story proceeds with the monster going on a killing spree that inexplicably leads him to Dr. Frankenstein’s location.  The Monster arrives just in time to disrupt the wedding and harass but for some unknown reason not kill the doctor’s fiancée.  Roused by this threat to his planned for wedded bliss, Dr. Frankenstein joins the village mob and follows the Monster’s trail back to the obligatory windmill.  Here the tables turn and the Monster kicks his creator’s butt and tosses him off the top of the windmill.  One of the windmill’s vanes breaks his fall and he is transported back to the manor.  The incensed mob sets fire to the mill and the last we see of the Monster he is trapped under a falling beam and surrounded by flame.

Miraculously the doctor makes a complete recovery and in the last scene the household staff are drinking a toast with the Baron to “a Son of the House of Frankenstein.”  Looking at sequels as children, this toast seems to have been amply fulfilled.

So, what’s my conclusion?  It’s incredible fun.  With so many semi-comical characters it’s hard not to take the movie for what it’s meant to be a wild fantasy.  And in that guise, it succeeds.  It even somehow cobbles together a happy ending which completely ignores the actual ending of the book.  The fact that the main characters are obviously British but are supposed to be a German noble family is inexplicable.  The fact that there are no legal or personal repercussions from the Doctor’s creation murdering so many friends and neighbors is equally unexplained.  But taken as a fairy tale it works.  Silly, yes.  Enjoyable, sure.  See it if you haven’t already.

Universal Classic Monster Movies – An OCF Classic Movie Review – Part 2 – Dracula

Dracula is the King of Monsters.  He is obviously royalty.  He has all the trappings.  His castle, his formal evening attire, even his diction and good manners.  He is called Count Dracula in the Universal film but his legend descends from a real prince.  Vlad III (the Impaler) was ruler of Wallachia in present day Romania.  He was called Dracul (Dragon) for his defense of Christians against the Turks but his cruelty against just about anyone he came in contact with was legendary.  The legend of the vampire (nosferatu) is central European in origin and goes back very far into the imagination of primitive people huddling in the dimly lit hovels and fearing the long winter nights for all the real and imagined terrors that lurked right at their doorsteps.

Bram Stoker took this legacy and created a gothic novel that followed the conventions of his time and populated it with upper class British characters right down to the damsel in distress and the square jawed leading man ready to save her from a fate literally worse than death.  It cried out for a stage adaption and of course it got it.  And then some.  Several productions were launched and in 1927 a company opened the play in the United States.  And interestingly enough three of the lead male parts reprised their roles in the Universal film, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Edward van Sloan as Dr. Van Helsing and Herbert Bunston as Dr. Seward.

Let’s now look at the film.  What are its chief characteristics?  It’s an early talkie.  The sound is not perfect.  Whether an artifact of the age of the prints used or of the original production there is considerable background noise.  The sets for the most part are the studio versions of city streets and upper class drawing rooms.  The sets used for the village and castle in Transylvania are unconvincing but highly evocative.  My one pet peeve with Castle Dracula is that while showing all the creatures crawling around in the cellar we are given a good look at some armadillos.  These are New World creatures and what they would be doing in central Europe is very hard to imagine.  The set for Carfax Abbey is equally entertaining and in fact is probably built on the set for Castle Dracula used earlier.

With respect to the actors, they are exaggeratedly and understandably stagey.  After all, most of them were stage actors.  They exaggerate their words and gestures to such an extent that sometimes it appears to a modern audience as parody.  This is probably the result of both the stage and silent film legacy of most of the cast.  Probably the most entertaining performance is given by the Cockney Orderly who watches over the madman Renfield.  He is an exaggerated lower-class everyman who adds comic relief and a really terrible accent to the film.

And finally the special effects.  At one point, Renfield looks out the window of the stage coach he is travelling in to Castle Dracula and sees a bat flying above the horses.  It is hard to minimize how laughably pathetic it looks to anyone used to the magic that CGI can perform today.  I think the strings are actually visible, but maybe it was just my scornful imagination.  There is at least one more bat flyby in the film and it doesn’t improve over the first.  ‘Nuff said.

Okay, now I’ve run down everything about the film.  It sounds like a hot steaming mess.

 

Well, it is and it isn’t.  All that I’ve said is true.  But it still remains an entertaining experience.  It is a time capsule of what our great grandparents looked on as theater.  The British basis of what was considered civilized and urbane is on display.  And you can see the tension between reason and science on the one hand and the instinctual and irrational forces at work in the universe.  And it’s interesting to note how young women are the weak point in the rational structure being undermined by the powers of darkness.  Really the story isn’t that different from our own morality tales about the dissolution of the world of light into the abyss.  It’s only different in that it has a happy ending.  Today the forces of darkness would win and we would cheer them because of how cool they dress.  And the characters get to mouth some very entertaining lines.  In one exchange between the main protagonists Dracula declares in his best Transylvanian English, “You are wise for one who has not lived even one lifetime, Van Helsing.”  For me that’s worth the price of admittance right there.

Lining up the Climate and Selenology

“Even a man who is pure at heart

And says his prayers by night

May become a wolf when the wolfs bane blooms

and Autumn moon is bright”

 

This being October and me celebrating all things weird and Halloweenish, I figured I’d share my annual lycanthropic calendar check.  I have a small patch of wolfs bane (Aconitum napellus, also known as monkshood) in one of our gardens and most years it’s in full bloom sometime in August.  But this year has been a very slow season for some plants owing to all the rain and lack of sunny days and warmth.  I went out today and found that the buds on the wolfs bane were just beginning to form true blooms.

 

Wolfs Bane Coming Into Bloom

 

Looking at my Lunar Calendar I noted that the Hunter’s Full Moon was October 5th.  A full moon is a point of time but reckoners of lunar time assign the three days before and after the actual point as the full moon.  Therefore, tonight is the last night of the full moon and the wolfs bane is actually in bloom.  Hmmm.

Now here’s the thing.  I live next to a wood that contains what is charitably called a pond.  It is home to a very annoying and highly vocal Barred Owl and a band of coyotes whose musical stylings would be accurately described as blood chilling.  Some nights I sit in bed thinking I’d welcome the good old serenade of urban gunfire, ambulance and police sirens.  My point is that, for all I know, there’s a werewolf living out there already.  But anyway, if there is a werewolf in the neighborhood tonight is his first and only chance this full moon to terrorize us.

But think of all the pressure on this poor schlub.  He’s got to go to work tomorrow and he’s probably watching Sunday Night Football (assuming he’s a democrat which of course all monsters are).  And just to complicate things the weather has turned rainy and there are a lot of leaves in the grass.  I mean if he’s a suburban lycanthrope and let’s assume he’s getting up there, forty-five or fifty years old, he’s not in the best of shape.  Suppose he goes running toward a victim and slips and face plants.  Not only is this embarrassing but potentially catastrophic.  Suppose he knocks himself out and his erstwhile victim thinks he’s a neighborhood stray and brings him to the vet for treatment.  Well in addition to binding his wounds these ministering angels of the animal world are liable to give him a flea bath and neuter him for good measure and put his picture in the Penny Saver adoption section.  He wakes up the next morning squeezed into some dog crate in the vets’ office naked and without the family jewels.  I mean, that’s not right.

So tonight, I plan to put out a pan of beer (probably a cheap domestic) loaded up with vodka.  With any luck, the poor bastard will conk out behind my shed and wake up tomorrow with nothing worse than a hangover and really bad breath.  I mean, we’re neighbors.  It’s the least I can do.

Universal Classic Monster Movies – An OCF Classic Movie Review – Part 1

A friend of mine at work is a movie fan.  But being a Gen X aged guy he hasn’t been exposed to the full gamut of classic Hollywood films from the ‘30s and ‘40s.  Recently he’s begun a systematic review of these films.  For instance, he just finished up an exhaustive viewing of all Alfred Hitchcock’s films in chronological order.  He even watched the early silent films Hitchcock made.  Now that is dedication.  On the whole he seemed impressed by Hitchcock’s body of work.  While he recognized weaker efforts he also felt that Hitchcock was an extremely competent craftsman who produced quality work.  And he noted that Hitchcock innovated over the course of his career and broke new ground in several ways.  He did chide him for birthing the slasher films with Psycho.  But all in all he was a great director.

This month he started on a smaller project.  He’s watching the Universal Classic Monster films.  He just finished up on Dracula, Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein.  When I spoke to him he was surprised and disappointed at what he judged a lack of quality.  I told him I predicted he’d really be shocked once he’d watched the Wolfman.  He is soldiering on but I could see he was let down.

After my comment, my friend questioned whether I disliked the Universal series.  I told him I have a fondness for them but have no illusions about the artistry they represent.  My exact words were, “Peter, they were made to scare children and simple people.  They were wildly successful at doing this.  And if you watch them in the right frame of mind they still can entertain.”  I’m not sure if I convinced him but it got me thinking about what those movies could say to an audience today.

First off, let’s see how they do with today’s kids.  I have a 13-year-old grandson who has been fed a steady dose of these films from about the time he was five.  Now, they may have become tame fare for him now but he still likes watching them.  He probably recognizes the relation to such modern fixtures as the Count on Sesame Street and Hotel Transylvania.  And basically kids are still kids and monsters are great fun for kids.  So, one audience still exists for these movies.

For those of us who grew up watching these movies their charm although thinned by use still survives.  They’re like old relations who diminish in importance as we grow up but still are fondly regarded and maintain an association in our minds with the happiness of childhood (if your childhood was happy).  This audience is shrinking but is still a large population.

And finally, there are those who are fans of all things fantastic.  If you are a SF&F fan then how can you not, at least, have a curiosity about the origin of all those First Blood and Underworld stories?  Sure, the 1930’s models were vastly less cool, what with their crosses and holy water, but even if just from an historical perspective, they should be viewed and discussed.

Being solidly in the second and third camps I feel entitled to give my opinion.  And that’s what I’ll do.  I’ll plow through the canon and give the pluses and minuses as honestly and objectively as I can.  It should be fun.  Stay tuned.

Forums on Orion’s Cold Fire

I’ve been meaning to set up forums but the technical aspects seemed problematic to a cyberphobe such as myself. But problems with trying to embed photos in the comments gave me the push to start up the forums. Currently the biggest problem is that the edit button for the posts doesn’t work right. So take your time and check twice before publishing posts because otherwise the work around is deleting the post and starting over. I’ve posted some instructions I found on a bbpress site on embedding photos. Hopefully they’re helpful but think of this right now as a work in progress. Your patience is appreciated by management during this difficult transition.

Thucydides, Again!

When someone is looking for an example he usually goes to his favorite source. So, a religious man goes to the Bible. A patriot might consult the Founding Fathers. I suppose a Hip-Hopper would quote Jay-Z. Me, I’m a classics nerd, so I go back to Athens and Rome.

Thucydides’ history is mostly very dry but there are a few passages that resonate even down to our time. Corcyra was the name of an island now known as Corfu in the Ionian Sea. When the Athenians and the Spartans were dueling for the supremacy of Fifth Century Hellas, Corcyra became a proxy in the battle between democracy and aristocracy. The two parties alternated in escalating the violence and ruthlessness when either had the upper hand. The description of the revolution in Corcyra concludes with a discussion of how partisanship became completely radicalized.

“Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal supporter; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question incapacity to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In short, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was lacking was equally commended, until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations sought not the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition to overthrow them; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime.”

When I first read this many years ago I immediately thought, he’s talking about propaganda. A party line to rouse the true believers. But recently I started thinking about how this relates to our world. These people were living through bloody revolution. The recent version (well, relatively) would be the French Revolution. Here two factions of countrymen devolve into fratricidal foes. By the end, all humanity is stripped away and any atrocity can be rationalized into a necessary and in fact patriotic act.

The point is once you have decided that the genie is out of the bottle it becomes a matter of existential necessity to neutralize your enemy without possibility of recovery. Because after each side gets the upper hand the level of violence is increased by an order of magnitude. At some point it is decided, by one side or both, that it’s reached the point of no return and the only recourse is annihilation. That is the nature of civil wars. Rwanda and Yugoslavia are multicultural versions and therefore even worse.

The terms Thucydides used above are surprisingly familiar. They sound a great deal like the pundits on both sides. Hell, sometimes I sound like that. The good news is we are nowhere near Corcyra’s state of affairs. But we are already working our way down the path. The first salvos have been fired. First came Occupy Wall Street, then BLM. Now we are seeing the Antifa grow into a threat. Some on the right are attempting to answer this challenge. Clashes have already cost lives. If this is allowed to escalate it will. When the government’s control of violence weakens partisans will appear to fill the vacuum. This is extraordinarily dangerous. And it is where I see the slippery slope to serious unrest. An America, where ordinary citizens feel threatened by partisan mobs, will no longer enjoy the inherent stability it has for the last hundred years.

Now some say that open strife is inevitable. I currently don’t believe that. I fear it but I am not convinced of its inevitability. I think our current problems stem from an anti-American bias adopted by large swaths of the population that displays itself in anti-white policies. I include in this category affirmative action laws, attacks on traditional cultural institutions like religion, tolerance and even encouragement of illegal immigration and the promulgation of outrageous practices such as recognizing aberrant behaviors as normal and the encouragement by schools and media of speech codes targeting traditional cultural mores and beliefs.

I believe if these practices were ended it would go a long way toward stabilizing and improving the situation in this country. That is my belief and my hope. I would far prefer to believe that, than to think we are fated to follow Corcyra’s fate. Just to finish the story, when the Corcyran democratic faction finally achieved total control, they massacred their enemies to the last man and sold the women as slaves. The only ones who survived were the ones who had fled the island and never looked back. Not such a happy ending. Let’s see if we can sidestep that.

Las Vegas

Not much can be said.  Starting to look like a left leaning man who was in serious debt decided to kill a lot of people that on average didn’t agree with his politics.  So he was escaping from a crappy life and taking a bunch of innocent (and mostly younger) people down with him.  And I guess trying to force gun control laws on us.  Reminds me of that guy who shot up the Republican Congressional Softball league.  I wonder how many more of these losers there are.  Maybe Trump can get the FBI to look into any links.