Tagged: British

Mindy Newell: War Is Not Healthy…But It Makes For Great Movies

“There is a savage beast in every man, and when you hand that man a sword or spear and send him forth to war, the beast stirs.”

George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

So today is Memorial Day, which is the wind-up of Memorial Day weekend, which is the unofficial start of summer. Which means that if, like me, you’re from the part of New Jersey that’s north of Exit 11 on the Garden State Parkway, you “go down the shore.” For those of you not from the Garden State, the translation of “down the shore” is “to the beach.”

This also means spending most of the weekend stuck in traffic on the aforementioned Parkway before you get to Belmar or Seaside Heights or Long Beach Island or Wildwood and places in-between, but The Boss’s Born To Run will be rocking out through your car’s speakers, so it’s cool and anyway it’s all just part of the Weekend. Capiche?

Memorial Day is also the day we as a country are supposed to remember and honor the men and women who have died while serving their country in wartime. It was started as a way to honor Union soldiers who died during the Civil War – the North “borrowed” the South’s custom of decorating the graves of dead soldiers with flowers, ribbons, and flags, and so was called Decoration Day. It was held on May 30th, regardless of which day of the week it fell. It wasn’t until after World War II that Decoration Day became Memorial Day, and it wasn’t until the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed in 1968 that it became attached to the Monday of the last weekend in May as part of the government’s desire to create three-day federal holiday weekends. However, it took another three years (1971) for all the states to universally recognize it.

War movies are a conundrum – War is hell, as General William Tecumseh Sherman said, but in telling stories of war the writers, the actors, the directors and the producers can portray great tragedy, great comedy, great conflict, and great drama. Some war movies are outright jingoistic, others are totally anti-war, but all say something about armed conflict.

Here’s a short list of some of my favorites, with dialogue and/or quotes that have stuck with me through the years:

Stalag 17 (1953): Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring William Holden, Otto Preminger, Peter Graves, Don Taylor, Harvey Lembeck, Robert Strauss, and Neville Brand. Based on the Broadway play, it is the story of American POWs in World War II Germany who start to realize that there is an informant planted within their bunk.

Memorable dialogue:

Duke: (referring to Sefton’s safe escape with Dunbar) Whadda ya know? The crud

did it.

Shapiro: I’d like to know what made him do it.

Animal: Maybe he just wanted to steal our wire cutters. You ever think of that?

The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957): Directed by David Lean. Starring William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa. From the book by Pierre Boulle, it is loosely based on historical fact. British prisoners of war in a Japanese prison camp in 1943 Burma are sent to work building a bridge for the Burma-Siam railroad. The British Colonel is horrified to discover that his men are sabotaging the construction, and persuades them that bridge should be built properly as a testament to British honor, morale, and dignity under the most brutal of circumstances. Meanwhile a team of Allied commandos is planning the destruction of the bridge.

Memorable quote:

Colonel Saito: Be happy in your work.

Major Clipton: Madness! Ma, madness!

Apocalypse Now (1979): Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, and Robert Duvall with a young Laurence Fishburne and a cameo by Harrison Ford. During the Vietnam War a special operations officer is sent on a mission to find and terminate, without prejudice, another special operations officer who has gone renegade.

Memorable quote:

Willard (voice-over): “Never get out of the boat.” Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin’ all the way… Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fuckin’ program.

The Great Escape (1963): Directed by John Sturges. Starring Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Garner, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson, Angus Lennie, and others. Based on the true story of the mass escape of Allied POW’s from Stalag Luft III in Germany, and adapted from Paul Brickhill’s first-hand account. All the characters are either real or composites of several POWs.

Memorable quote:

Hilts: How many you taking out?

Bartlett: Two hundred and fifty.

Hilts: Two hundred and fifty?

Bartlett: Yeh.

Hilts: You’re crazy. You oughta be locked up. You, too. Two hundred and fifty guys just walkin’ down the road, just like that?

Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949): Directed by Alan Dwan. Starring John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, and Adele Mara. The film follows a group of Marines from basic training to the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Memorable quote:

Sergeant Stryker: Saddle up.

Coming Home (1978): Directed by Hal Ashby. Starring Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, and Bruce Dern. The story of three people affected by the Vietnam War – a wife, her Marine career officer husband who is serving in Vietnam, and a paralyzed veteran of that war whom she meets while volunteering in a VA hospital.

Memorable quote:

Captain Bob Hyde: (Yelling at Sally after discovering her infidelity) What I’m saying is! I don’t belong in this house, and they say I don’t belong over there!

Catch-22 (1970): Directed by Mike Nichols. Starring Alan Arkin, Jon Voight, Martin Balsam, Bob Newhart, Charles Grodin, Art Garfunkel, Anthony Perkins, Paul Prentiss, Martin Sheen, and Orson Welles. Based on the book by Joseph Heller, Catch-22 is the satirical anti-war story of Captain John Yossarian, a B-25 bombardier stationed in the Mediterranean during World War II who is expecting to be sent home after completing his required number of missions until he discovers that the commanding officer is continually raising that number. Desperate to go home, Yossarian tries to get out by claiming to have gone nuts, but there’s a catch was sane and had to.”

Memorable dialogue:

Yossarian: Is Orr crazy?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: Of course he is. He has to be crazy to keep flying after all the close calls he’s had.

Yossarian: Why can’t you ground him?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: I can, but first he has to ask me.

Yossarian: That’s all he’s gotta do to be grounded?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: That’s all.

Yossarian: Then you can ground him?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: No. Then I cannot ground him.

Yossarian: Aah!

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: There’s a catch.

Yossarian: A catch?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: Sure. Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat isn’t really crazy, so I can’t ground him.

Yossarian: OK, let me see if I’ve got this straight. In order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy anymore, and I have to keep flying.

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: You got it, that’s Catch-22.

Yossarian: Whoo… That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: It’s the best there is.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970): The story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Directed by Richard Fleisher. Featuring an ensemble cast including Martin Balsam, James Whitmore, So Yamamura, Joseph Cotton, E. G. Marshall, Takahiro Tamura, Tatsuya Mihashi, Jason Robards, Richard Anderson, and others.

Memorable quote:

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto: I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

Saving Private Ryan (1998): Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Jeremy Davies, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns, and Giovanni Ribisi, with a cameo by Ted Dansen. After landing in Normandy on D-Day in 1944, an army squad is ordered to find and bring back the last survivor of four brothers.

Memorable dialogue:

Old James Ryan: (addressing Capt. Miller’s grave) My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.

Ryan’s Wife: James?…

(looking at headstone]

Ryan’s Wife (looking at headstone): Captain John H Miller.

Old James Ryan: Tell me I have led a good life.

Ryan’s Wife: What?

Old James Ryan: Tell me I’m a good man.

Ryan’s Wife: You are.

(walks away)

Old James Ryan: (stands back and salutes)

So while you’re lazing on the beach this weekend, or in the park or in your backyard grilling up some dogs and burgers, or at a ball game or just hanging around the house, try to remember, if even for a moment, those who never returned home from those bloody fields of glory.

For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

Elie Wiesel

Tweeks: John Allison’s Bad Machinery

bad machinery halloweenieThe Tweeks love anything British, they love comics, and they love groups of kids solving mysteries so of course they were freaking out over John Allison’s Bad Machinery series where a group of 6 preteens in Tackleford, England not only solve cases, but spazz out over unicorns in video games.  Watch our review of Volumes 1 and 2 and see why this is kind of like  a younger Buffy without the vampires or British cartoon-y Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys only better.

Mike Gold: Peter Capaldi as the Ultimate Evil

Peter Capaldi Musketeers

This is the second part of a two-part look at the actor who has taken over the lead in Doctor Who. The first part discussed his work in Hotel!, In The Loop, and in the Oscar®-winning Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life. This week, we focus on another upcoming performance.

There must be a law somewhere that mandates an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers every several years. Punch it up on IMDB and your computer will explode. Some of these movies and teevee series are quite good, others, well, suck… although I’m quite partial to the movie version that starred The Ritz Brothers. The latest version, The Musketeers, went up on the BBC earlier this year – it will be on BBC America in June – and it’s as rip-roaring as any. I’ve seen the first five, and I enjoyed them. Political and religious intrigue, swordfights, gunfights, fistfights, buxom femme fatales, handsome leading men… what’s there not to like?

Particularly when there’s a great villain in the mix. Only Ming the Merciless tops Dumas’ Cardinal Richelieu when it comes to great movie villains. And when it comes to great Cardinal Richelieus (Cardinals Richelieu?), Peter Capaldi is among the very best.

That’s saying a lot. Recently, Christoph Waltz played the part and Waltz could read off a bowl of Alpha-Bits and make it seem insidious. Other Richelieus include Stephen Rea, Ben Cross, Tim Curry, Charlton Heston, Vincent Price and, arguably, Michael Palin. That’s quite a club.

Capaldi’s performance is more nuanced than most. He can say more with a slight turn of his head than by eating the scenery, befitting a villain who’s in a British television series and committed to the long haul. Richelieu’s lurks over every scene, even in those episodes where he’s only around for perhaps five minutes. He is as smooth, as powerful, and as controlling as a true top-rank villain should be.

Coincidentally, The Musketeers was developed initially to fill the Doctor Who slot (in part) during the latter’s off-season. The Musketeers’ producers did not know Capaldi got the part as the Doctor until… well, until you did. Now they have to plan for a second season without Peter, and without Richelieu.

I find myself of two minds. The Musketeers is great fun and well-made, shot in the Czech Republic with an internationalish cast (mostly British, but many of the leads are from western Europe) and a costume budget that could feed a small nation. Capaldi is so good here that I’d be perplexed if I was the one who had to decide to leave the show for Doctor Who.

After going though all this material, I can understand why Steven Moffat and friends chose Capaldi for the part in Who. I believe he’s likely to bring back a bit of that crusty edge that most of the earlier Doctors possessed while interjecting his own unique quirkiness, just as the eleven – or is it twelve – performers who previously had the job.

Besides, the Millennials deserve a punk rocker Doctor.

Particularly one who will play the part with a genuine Scottish accent.

Mike Gold: Who Is Peter Capaldi?

When Peter Capaldi was presented to us as the new lead in Doctor Who, a tiny bell dinged in the back of my brainpan. I recalled his appearance on Craig Ferguson’s show; he and Craig were in a couple punk rock bands in the 1980s and had remained very good friends. I thought that was amusing as Ferguson is a big Who fan – he’s had a TARDIS on his teevee desk for many years now.

Capaldi’s casting was praised from hither to yon, and initially I dismissed all that for typical showbiz “sincerity.” But this wave expanded and seemed genuine. Since I’ve had little I could do the past month or two outside of annoying my daughter (and I already was pretty good at that), I decided to track down some of his work and determine his worthiness for myself. (more…)

REVIEW: A Chorus Line

A Chrous LineYou may not have seen A Chorus Line but most everyone knows the song “One” thanks to its endless use in other productions (think Treehouse of Horror V, Phineas and Ferb, Scrubs) throughout the years. Since the play debuted Off-Broadway in 1975, it has gone on to become one of the best known musicals of the latter 20th Century. One reason it endured a run of 6137 performances on Broadway was its emotional honesty, bare bones set, and soul-bearing songs. As conceived by Michael Bennett, it was brought to life by Marvin Hamlisch (music), Edward Kleban (lyrics), and James Kirkwood Jr. (book) at a time when everyone was doing a little soul searching.

By the time the 1985 film adaptation from director Sir Richard Attenborough arrived, it was heralded as a return of the musical to the movies. Unfortunately, the so-so movie failed to ignite that revival and was mostly rejected by those who adored the film.

The main reason the movie, out now on Blu-ray from 20th Century Home Entertainment, doesn’t work is that the presence of film acts as a barrier between audience and performer. In live theater, you see the ensemble audition, you see them sweat and struggle and can see them in your personal field of vision. With the variety cinematic techniques brought to bear, it becomes less about a class of people (performers) and about a series of individuals all vying for a chance at stardom. Their interactions with the direct, Michael Douglas, is more intimate than it should be.

Bennett was resistant to a film adaptation and didn’t participate and eyebrows were raised when a British director was hired rather than someone who would appreciate the nuances of American theater. He also instituted a series of changes that brought down deep criticism from theater-goers, notably the substitution of the lesser songs “Surprise, Surprise” and “Let Me Dance For You” in place of “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” “Sing!,” and “The Music and the Mirror”. Whereas the stage production had raw language in its lyrics and had Gay members of the ensemble, the film scrubbed the later elements away, weakening its realistic feel.

Attenborough claims he rejected Madonna, who auditioned to be in the film and instead with a cast filled with largely unknown singers and dancers although today we know Audrey Landers and Janet Jones from the ensemble. They do a fine job but are ill-served by Attenborough, who attempts to replicate the raw stage setting, shot at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, but fails to translate it to film. What he needed was a radical reinterpretation or something to make the story hold up as a feature. Instead, this is a mildly entertaining muddle.

In addition to the desperate performers is the romantic story of Cassie (Alyson Reed), a dancer who left for Hollywood a year ago and failed. Back and hoping to start over, she’s auditioning for her former lover. As a result, Attenborough disastrously repurposes “What I Did for Love” from a story about sacrifice to perform to a paean from dancer to director. What worked as a spine for the stage production has been turned into soapy subplot.

The film is beautifully transferred to high definition so the performers dazzle amidst the stage gloom. This is well matched with the lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track so the music and lyrics are sharp.

Despite a wealth of available material about the show’s legacy, the disc comes without a single extra feature, not even the Marvin Hamlisch feature that was including on the initial DVD release in 2003.

Two Doctor Who Episodes Found, Released Today!

patrick_troughtonThe BBC has confirmed the recovery of nine episodes of th Patricke Troughton era Doctor Who, a complete set of The Enemy of the World, and all but part three of  The Web of Fear.  Both adventures are available now from iTunes, with DVD releases to follow. Part three of Web of Fear, still missing, is included with a restored audio track and a series of telesnaps.  It’s unknown if it may at some time receive the animated treatment that many past adventures have gotten.

The rumors circulating around fandom since the early summer have ended up being truer than many assumed, but not as true as most hoped.  The episodes, hailing from Nigeria (not Ethiopia, as the rumor claimed) and ended up falling far short of the outlandish tales of a hundred or more episodes.

While it was standard practice to record the broadcasts onto 16mm film, those films (And those of many shows, both British and American) were lost as stations wiped tapes and destroyed films as a cost cutting measure. In the early days of television, most assumed there’d be no desire to re-watch television programs, also resulting in the lack of residual agreements for so many stars of early American TV.

The episodes were sold to foreign markets after their initial broadcast, and many times the episodes were passed on through several countries as they continued to be sold.  The tapes/films usually came with an order to return or destroy the masters upon broadcast.  It’s only through that ordered being ignored that allows these episodes to be found today.

It can only be hoped that more episodes may be found in TV station vaults, but as time passes, the possibilities dwindle.  Unless more episodes were found here and are secretly awaiting restoration, this may be the last big score we’ll see in quite a while.

Until the discovery of time travel of course, which will likely first be used to recover our recent history than ancient history.  Yeah, it’s be nice to record the Sermon on the Mount, but I for one would rather get all those Ernie Kovacs Shows back.

Pulp Fiction Reviews and the Scarlet Jaguar

Cover Art: Mark Sparacio

New Pulp Author/Publisher Ron Fortier returns with another Pulp Fiction Review. This time out Ron takes a look at The Scarlett Jaguar by New Pulp Author Win Scott Eckert.

By Win Scott Eckert
Meteor House
136 pages

Graced by a sensational, totally pulpish cover by Mark Sparacio, this little novella chronicles the second action packed adventure of Doc Savage’s daughter, Pat.  Well, not exactly Doc as created by pulp master Lester Dent, but rather his Wold Newton clone as envisioned by the late sci-fi author, Philip Jose Farmer.

For the uninitiated, Farmer postulated this fantastic idea that all the famous heroes and villains of the 19th and 20th Centuries for related by blood tracing their common ancestry to a dozen English men and women who had become exposed to a strange meteor’s radiation when it crashed by their carriages in a place called Wold Newton.  From that beginning these men and women became the originators of incredible heroes to include Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, the Shadow and the Spider, Captain Nemo, the Avenger, Phineas Fogg and the list goes on and on and on.  Well, you get the idea.

Whereas most of these fictional personages were licensed properties, Farmer could not use them in his fiction.  He solved this problem by giving them different names while clearly describing them so as to be recognized by readers.  Thus Doc Savage in the Wold Newton universe became Doc Wildman; he married and had a daughter named Pat.  Farmer had begun to write a Pat Wildman novel, “The Evil of Pemberley House,” but passed away before completing it.  That task was left to his loyal and talented protégé, Win Scott Eckert.  That book met with both public and critical success.  Now Eckert takes over the reins with this new tale and Pat Wildman couldn’t be in more capable hands.

Looking like a very alluring female version of her famous father, complete with a near perfect physique of a bronze hue and gold-flecked eyes, Pat and her British partner, Peter Parker own and manage Empire State Investigations using her inherited Pemberley Mansion as their headquarters. Soon after a very distraught young woman arrives on their doorstep asking their aid in finding her missing father, a British envoy to a small South American country, they are attacked by a bizarre menace that turns people into red glass and then shatters them.  Soon Pat, Peter and their client are winging their way to upstate New York where she plans on arming herself with some of her father’s powerful weapons before moving on to their final destination, the country known as Xibum.

No sooner do they land in the states then they are set upon by mercenary killers working for a twisted villain known as the Scarlett Jaguar.  Pat soon discovers this fiend has threatened to destroy the Panama Canal with his mysterious ray unless the entire country of Xibum is ceded to him by the British government.  Now their quest to find the missing dignitary becomes a deadly race against time.  Once in Xibum, Pat begins to learn long lost secrets of her renowned sire’s past adventures.  But can she take on his heroic legacy and save the day?

Eckert skillfully whips up a truly fun tale that blends both the sensibilities of classic pulp fare with some wonderful seventies James Bond touches that the savvy reader will recognize instantly.  It’s a heady mash-up that works extremely well.  “The Scarlett Jaguar” is a terrific new pulp actioner you do not want to miss.


ePulp Sampler e-Unearthed!


 A newly released action packed ePulp anthology unleashes 5 new tales inspired by the pulp magazines of the 1920s – 1940s. They are not for the faint of heart. Things will get intense and stuff on these pages can’t be unread.
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Get ready to explore strange worlds, visit forgotten pasts, and delve into parallel histories. Prepare to encounter an eclectic mix of heroes walking the line between life and death.
* Duck as Rurik’s blade carves demons in the Celtic landscape of dark fantasy.
As a rite of passage young Rurik faced a Demonhound. During his trial the creature’s flaming tentacles scarred Rurik leaving a mark coiling up his arm, shoulder and chest. After he triumphed in battle, Rurik carved a bone from the slain creatures body then sharpened it into strange looking sword. Now he patrols the badlands for more monsters and slays them with the very remains of their dead brethren. As the man grew so did his and legend.
* Witness the Dead Reckoner, a battlefield ghost looking for absolution in a weird war tale.
Anaxander Jones enlisted in the British Imperial Army when he was 18. That was in 1876. While assigned to the colonial troops in darkest Africa he found himself embroiled in the Zulu Wars. Armed with superior firepower and roman pride, the British war machine outclassed the savages toting spears and superstitions, but something misfired. Anaxander was infected by a Zulu curse, resurrected as the Dead Reckoner and damned to atone for the sins of empire. Now he’s yanked from battlefield to battlefield throughout history to witness the horrors of war, over and over again.
* Face Nazi occupation of USA with Wild Marjoram in an alternate history.
Wild Marjoram is a blonde haired blue eyed mechanic with a locket that holds the key to her past. This perfect Aryan specimen lives in hiding from the Nazi occupation. If they discovered her, she’s be condemned to the fate of a broodmare. But she’s not the type of girl to give up without a fight.
* Race through the Great Depression on an errand of mercy with Pandora Driver, a noir superheroine.
Pandora Driver was the relentless avenger of the common man. She sifts right from wrong in a realm where the villains were the local gentry and the heroes were outlaws. Pandora was a mistress of disguise who used sly audacity and an unstoppable Car-of-Tomorrow to unleash chaos into the halls of wealth and power.
* Fly across the universe with the Skyracos in a retro sci-fi adventure.
Skyracos are winged warriors who struggle to keep their humanity while executing unsavory missions on alien worlds. Though they hail from the planet Centrus, their technology is based in WWII with a hint of alien super-science. They operate on the frontier of the known and unimagined where they are forced to interpret crises and dispense justice on their terms, or so they think.
Whether you’re a nostalgian, dieselpunk, pulp fan,  sci-fi and fantasy aficionado, or ebook spelunker, there’s something in this collection for you to explore. However, I suggest you sample them all.
They ain’t Shakespeare. They’re  pure Pulp!

“ePulp Sampler Vol 1” is currently available on your favorite eBookstores. Download your free copy before it’s too late!

Barnes and Noble (*.99)
Google Play
Project Gutenberg

Get Your Name in the Scarlet Jaguar by Win Scott Eckert! But Hurry!

Thursday July 11th is the deadline to order the The Scarlet Jaguar by Win Scott Eckert, and have your name appear in the book on the acknowledgments page. Baring a mass of last minute orders, this book will be a Signed Limited Edition of only 225 copies!
The Scarlet Jaguar will be released at FarmerCon VIII (held in conjunction with PulpFest, July 25 – 28) and there is no telling how many copies, if any, will be left after that weekend.
When we last saw Patricia Wildman, daughter of Doc Wildman, the bronze champion of justice, six months had passed since the main events of The Evil in Pemberley House. She and her associate Parker, an ex-Scotland Yard Inspector, had set up Empire State Investigations at her Pemberley House estate—and she just received a mysterious phone call from her supposedly late father . . .
Several months later, Pat receives a visitor, a young girl named Emma Ponsonby, whose father, a British diplomat to a small Central American country, has been kidnapped by the Scarlet Jaguar. Pat, following in her father’s footsteps of righting wrongs and assisting those in need, agrees to help, but before they can set off on their quest the Scarlet Jaguar sends a gruesome warning.
Undeterred, the investigation takes Pat, Parker, and their young charge from Pemberley House in the Derbyshire countryside . . . To New York, where they battle agents of the Scarlet Jaguar and meet Pat’s old friend, the icy, pale-skinned beauty Helen Benson, who agrees to join them on their quest . . . To the small nation of Xibum, where the Scarlet Jaguar’s reign of uncanny assassinations threatens to expand to the rest of Central America—and beyond!
Now, it’s a race against time deep in the wilds of the Central American jungle, as Pat Wildman and her crew search for Emma’s father, and confront the Scarlet Jaguar’s weird power to eliminate his enemies from afar, marked only by a wisp of crimson smoke—smoke resembling nothing so much as the head of a blood-red screaming jaguar. But who—or what—is the Scarlet Jaguar? A power-mad dictator determined to reclaim power? A revolutionary movement bent on taking over the country, and the rest of Central America?
Or a front for something even more sinister . . .?


John Ostrander: We Have Met The Enemy

Ostrander Art 130623Finally got around to seeing Iron Man 3 this week (which I enjoyed). Yeah, I know. We’re way behind on our movie viewing at this url. At the rate we’re going, we won’t see Man Of Steel until Labor Day.

In any case, I was struck by the underlying premise of the movie and certain events of the past week. (SPOILER ALERT: To discuss this, I’m going to have to tell things about Iron Man 3. If you are even more behind in your movie going than I am but still intend to see it and want to be unspoiled, you may want to avert your eyes.)

Central to the whole plot of Iron Man 3 is the idea of creating a terrorist threat to provoke a reaction in the American public and justify certain acts. In the news in our so-called real world this week, it’s been revealed that the NSA has not only been reading our emails but is creating a massive building to store and analyze everything they read. All in the name of “National Security,” of keeping us safe from terrorism. The idea is that we trade in our freedoms and we are safe from the hands of terrorists.

Except we’re not. To quote Rocket J. Squirrel to Bullwinkle J. Moose who was trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat, “But that trick never works.” Not completely. Of course, the justification becomes that the measures the government is taking makes terrorism more difficult, that some plots are stopped even if you can’t stop all of them, that some American lives are saved. Doesn’t that make it worth it? If it saved your life or the lives of those you cared about, wouldn’t the sacrifice of those freedoms be justified?

I think of the British people during the Battle of Britain in 1940. To break the ability of the UK to defend themselves in the air after the fall of France, the German Luftwaffe launched massive air attacks that escalated, finally, to terrorist bombing missions against the civilian populations in key British cities, notably London. Everyone has seen the photographs and newsreels, especially of the aftermath – the burning buildings, the shattered homes, the struggling people.

The purpose of the terrorism was to drive the British government to an armistice or even to surrender. That’s one of the key things to remember about terrorism – the acts of violence are not the purpose in and of themselves. As terrible as they are, the purpose is to achieve some other goal.

The Germans failed in 1940. The British people stood defiant. They did not break.

The purpose of the acts of violence on 9/11 was not the death and destruction alone that they caused. The purpose of the architects of those acts of terror was to change us, to make us destroy ourselves, our values, our way of life. We’re doing that.

For an illusion of safety, we seem to be willing to trade in at least some of our freedoms.

When we allow the government to tap our phones willy-nilly, to spy on us, to even kill some citizens deemed hostile combatants without any pretense of due process of law, the terrorists win.

The alternative is to live with the threat of destruction, of death for ourselves or those we love, of more horrific, terrifying images such as we saw on 9/11. To stand firm as the British did in the face of Nazi terrorism and not surrender.

In hard boiled fiction, the “tough guy” is defined not so much as the one who can hand out punishment but take it and not give in. Today, we seem more interested in someone who is “bad ass” – who can hand out the blows. Personally, I’ll take a “tough guy” over a “bad ass” any day of the week. They show more character.

So, gentle readers, what do you think? Do we trade in some outdated “freedoms” and maybe sleep better at night or do we take some chances in the interests of being who we are or are supposed to be?

You tell me.