Books, Pop Culture

Monarchial Legitimist Assails the Throne of Gondor

Thus demonstrating that it is not possible to reach a ne plus ultra of nerdiness. (h/t Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit)

Gondor’s own laws and rulers even recognized how ridiculous Aragorn’s claim was. Arvedui, the last king of Arnor before he drowned in a shipwreck, once claimed the throne of Gondor, but the Council of Gondor rightly rejected him, saying the royal line of Gondor was descended from Anárion, not Isildur. Aragorn, like a many an illegitimate dictator before him, was only able to seize power due to the breakdown of law and society during the great crisis of the War of the Ring. Even then, with the doom of Gondor looming, Denethor the Steward of Gondor told Gandalf he wouldn’t bow to Aragorn, “last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity.” (Denethor may have been Middle-earth’s Worst Dad Ever, but he had a point there: Aragorn came from royal stock, but the only thing his family had administered for a thousand years was a forlorn wilderness full of ruins, wolves, and trolls that talked like Victorian gutter urchins.)

This is, of course the claim of monarchial legitimists, who seem to think that monarchy depends upon nothing but descent. They miss the key point, that monarchy depends upon descent from divinely-favored persons. Monarchy is sacral. Always has been, always will be.

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History, Politics, Pop Culture

Trumbo Should Not Be Seen By Anyone

As my wife belongs to SAG, we get SAG screeners. One of them is the new Bryan Cranston movie Trumbo, a biopic of one of the Hollywood Ten. I’ve decided that I’m not watching it. Yes, that’s right, I’m judging a movie before I’ve seen it, phillistine that I am.

Here is why:

  1. How many Blacklist pietas Does Hollywood Need to Make? Joe McCarthy is dead. The blacklist is over. It was over almost as soon as it began. Anyone who was aware of the blacklist while it was happening is old enough to be collecting Social Security. So why does Hollywood need to keep going back to this well? Are they this desparate to testify to their martyr’s righteousness and political relevance?Keep in mind, this schtick whs already become risible, and was so even a decade ago. Back in 2005, Iowahawk responded to the ocean of self-congratulation released by Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck with a satirical stab at how Hollywood was planning to rebound from terrible box office numbers that year with more smug, preachy dreck, such as:

    Silenced Wood: George Clooney stars and directs in this drama about the climate of fear among ventriloquists during radio’s notorious Charlie McCarthy era.
    Fearful Silence: Courageous What’s My Line? contestant (Leonardo DiCaprio) refuses to answer panelist questions in this gameshow drama set against the McCarthy-blacklist era. With William H. Macy as Bennett Cerf and Kevin Spacey as Kitty Carlisle.
    Fearful Deadly Fear: Blacklisted 1950’s screenwriter Damon Runyan (Tim Robbins) writes a secret screenplay about the the McCarthy-era blacklists, in this 1950’s blacklist drama set against the background of the McCarthy era blacklists.
    Silence 1984: Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris interviews the survivors of Hollywood’s notorious Reagan era ‘Year of Fear,’ when only three McCarthy-themed movies were released.

    How many different cuts of the same bloody shirt are they going to wave?

  2. Trumbo was No Martyr for Free Speech. Ron Radosh, co-author (with his wife, Allis) of Red Star over Hollywood, has documented that Dalton Trumbo had no problem silencing others for ideological reasons. He was more than prepared to use his influence to prevent films and books that attacked the Communist Party from being distributed.

    As he explained in 1954 to a fellow blacklisted writer, the Communist party had a “fine tradition . . . that whenever a book or play or film is produced which is harmful to the best interests of the working class, that work and its author should and must be attacked in the sharpest possible terms.”

    Goose. Sauce. Gander. Some assembly required.

  3. Even Trumbo got over the Blacklist. According to Radosh, Trump broke ranks with the Party – and the orthodox narrative of the blacklist —  not long after the blacklist went down. In a 1958 unpublished article, he contradicted much of the established story on why the blacklists happened:

    He concluded that the blacklist took place not only because of the Committee, but because of the antics of the CP itself. In this article, he wrote that “the question of a secret Communist Party lies at the very heart of the Hollywood blacklist,” which is why Americans believed the Communists had something to hide. They lived in the United States, not Stalin’s U.S.S.R., and should have openly proclaimed their views and membership so that the American people could judge them for what they believed. Instead, they formed secret Leninist cells. The CPUSA should have been open and its members all known, he wrote, or the Communists in Hollywood should “not have been members at all.”

    Moreover, Trumbo also wrote that his fellow Red screenwriters failed to get work not because they were blacklisted as Communists, but because they were “mediocrities,” who failed to show “competence, ability [and] craftsmanship.” And as for the informers shown as pitiful reactionaries in the movie, he acknowledged that many of them in fact testified against the Communists because the Party tried to “meddle with the ideological content” of their screenplays, which gave them good reason to oppose the Party.

If the new film covered any of this, it would be a welcome reappraisal of the old tired morality play. Since it doesn’t, it’s selective reading of history can be dismissed as mere propaganda. As P.J. O’Rourke put it, the dog is dead but the tail still wags.


Pop Culture

How do you Know Star Wars is Back? Because You Can Critique it and Still Love it.

I’m going to discuss the film at length in the next podcast, but here’s a point dependent on my memory:

A gulf in tone lies between the reviews about The Force Awakens and those that greeted The Phantom Menace sixteen years ago. Then, the critics were numb and bored with the exercise of finding something to say about the film. It wasn’t a question of the movie getting a good review or a bad review; it was as much of a chore to review the film as it was to view it.

Now, even the critics who have never felt the charm of Star Wars are unable to resist this one. They point out the weaknesses – and those are fair. I don’t feel obligated to defend The Force Awakens from these critiques, as I did – fanboy in denial that I was – with The Phantom Menace.

Because ten years ago, when I walked out, shrugging my shoulders, from a late-night viewing of Revenge of the Sith, I thought that was it. Star Wars was dead. But the old girl just jumped back to life, and that in itself is a joy that no one can deny.

Pop Culture

Star Trek Beyond Trailer Causes Trekkie Rage

J.J. Abrams Executive produced this one, and, as the trailer indicates, it was directed by the guy who did Fast & Furious 8.  So, there’s that.

In the comments, they are NOT taking it well. And I definitely see why they wouldn’t. Star Trek was not supposed to be an action-movie franchise. It was supposed to be a serious rumination on humanity’s future in space.

But it hasn’t ever really been that. At least, not on the big screen.

Let’s look at the Star Trek movies, shall we?

Star Trek: the Motion Picture (I) – Decent but unexciting trip through the dark heart of the future as-imagined in the 1970’s. It’s like a long “Space 1999” episode with a poignant ending.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Star Trek as Moby Dick, with Kirk as the Whale and Spock as Vulcan Jesus. Lots of violence and brainworms.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – In which we resurrect Vulcan Jesus, and we blow up the Enterprise. Also, Kirk gets a good reason to hate Klingons, which will be important later. Much later.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – Many Trekkies actually like this one a lot, because it bears the closest resemblance to a Trek TV episode, right down to the lame time-travel plot. It’s also suitably weird, and seems to involve whales saving Planet earth. Whatever.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – Spock has a brother who’s a creepy mesmerist/cult leader looking for the location of God in space. Hilarity ensues.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – My personal favorite, and more of a political intrigue/murder mystery than anything else. I suppose it fits the ideal, though.

Star Trek: Generations (VII) – Indescribably ridiculous first foray to the Next Gen series. Not even Malcolm McDowell can rescue it.

Star Trek: First Contact (VIII) – Straight-up militarist action Borgwar movie. Even has a tiresome time-travel plot and a Moby Dick reference. I remember Trekkies complaining about this one for the same reason they dislike this new trailer, even though it was miles better than the previous film.

Star Trek: Insurrection (IX) – A long TV episode, and in fact, a rip-off off an actual Next-Gen episode, except this time every character does the opposite of what they would normally do. And then Picard does some swashbuckling.  Watch this Mr. Plinkett takedown for further elucidation.

Star Trek: Nemesis (X) – In which the Next Generation goes full Goth in order to slip several plot devices from Wrath of Khan past us in the hopes that we won’t notice.

We tally this data together, and how many of these fit the Rodenberry mold of what Star Trek was to be about? And how many of those are worth watching?

Maybe Star Trek should leave the movies to Star Wars. Just a thought.


Letters, Pop Culture

Why Can’t You Idiots Read? Camille Paglia and Taylor Swift

In an otherwise blandly professorial discussion of “girl squads” for the Hollywood Reporter, Camille Paglia sent some shade at Taylor Swift:

In our wide-open modern era of independent careers, girl squads can help women advance if they avoid presenting a silly, regressive public image — as in the tittering, tongues-out mugging of Swift’s bear-hugging posse. Swift herself should retire that obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props, an exhibitionistic overkill that Lara Marie Schoenhals brilliantly parodied in her scathing viral video “Please Welcome to the Stage.”

It’s vintage Paglia, with sensible advice hiding behind the tartness, and perhaps an unstated annoyance that she has to talk about these current stars rather than barbering about Madonna for the 8,000th time. But because the media is populated by semi-literates, the Google page for “taylor swift camille paglia” currently looks like this.


It’s exhausting to have to point this out, but at no time did Taylor Swift get called a “Nazi Barbie”. Let’s go back and read the sentence:

Swift herself should retire that obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props…

In this sentence, “Nazi Barbie” is a phrase modifying the word “routine”, which is the object of the verb “retire”. The subject of the sentence is “Swift”, and she is advised to do something. What is she advised to do? She is advised to retire something. What something? A routine. What routine? A routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props. This is the routine that is is acidly attacked as “Nazi Barbie”.

What does that mean? Well, we could ask Paglia what she meant, but this is the internet, so let’s decide that for her. What do girls do with Barbies? They play with them, dress them up, create adventures for them, etc. Is there a connection between this activity and what Paglia depicts Swift as doing with her friends and compatriots? Do you see it? Do you then see that “Barbie” is not being used as a perjorative to describe Swift?

As for “Nazi”, it’s just there for spice. In her author bio, Paglia complains of Swift’s “twinkly persona” that evokes “fascist blondes” from her youth. Paglia has a thing about blondes, emotionally and sexually, so she’s vulnerable to making pedestrian aesthetic connections of blondes and fascism. When she uses these words, she’s operating under the deconstructed definition of “fascism” as “something not desired”, as Orwell noted in 1946. For that reason, I think it fair for Jewish anti-Defamation groups to take her to task for connecting the Third Reich with a nondescript pop singer. Godwin’s Law is what it is, but professors should know better.

Everyone else is misconstruing Paglia’s remarks for clicks. It happens every day, and I sometimes wonder if the dogs of the press even notice that they’re doing it anymore.

Pop Culture

Unsatisfied With Being Wrong About Star Wars, George Lucas Decided to be Wrong About John Wayne

He keeps remembering things creatively:

Lucas says Han shooting first in the Mos Eisley cantina — which is what happened in the original edit of 1977’s debut Star Wars film — ran against the character’s principles. “Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, ‘Should he be a cold-blooded killer?’” Lucas asks. “Because I was thinking mythologically — should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, ‘Yeah, he should be John Wayne.’ And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first] — you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.”

Because I’ve read The Secret History of Star Wars, I have a hard time believing that George knew that Han and Leia were going to get together in 1977. When they made the first movie, Leia wasn’t Luke’s sister. When they made the first movie, Darth Vader wasn’t even Luke’s father. That all got added later.

The reference to John Wayne is also nonsense. In the first place, I don’t know what John Wayne movies Lucas is remembering, but it’s not El Dorado:

Note that in this scene, The Duke isn’t even about to be attacked. He shoots first to stop somebody from killing someone else that he doesn’t even know.

Because heroism means taking risk to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Sometimes that means shooting first.

But even that’s irrelevant, because Han Solo is nothing like a John Wayne character. John Wayne sometimes played guys who were morally solid, sometimes guys who were morally questionable, but always guys who cared and had a code. Solo, in the first movie, cares about nothing but his own neck. He is clear an unequivocal about that. He’s not actively malevolent, but morally neutral. His arc, over the course of three films, is him coming to realize that there are in fact things he cares about more than his own life. But his big character surprise in A New Hope – doubling back to save a friend – is the same thing the Man With No Name does in A Fistful of Dollars.

Solo isn’t the hero. Luke is the hero. Solo is the anti-hero who gets redeemed.

And George Lucas is the guy that has been retconning Star Wars for so long, he doesn’t know where to stop.

Pop Culture, Uncategorized

Anyone Who’s Offended by Anyone on Red Eye is Too Stupid to Watch Star Wars

Knock it off, nerds.

More than a month ago, I made some jokes about Star Wars on Red Eye, a satirical political comedy show that airs at 3 a.m., and it has resulted in me being verbally abused and told to die by a mob of enraged fans for the past four days now.  The capital-offense comments were: “I have never had any interest in watching space nerds poke each other with their little space nerd sticks, and I’m not going to start now.

I don’t need to prove my Star Wars fan status, just hit the tag attached to this post. And if I did need to prove my status, then I wouldn’t because that’s deeply lame. But as a fan, the line about space nerd sticks is funny. It just is.

Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

So maybe instead of posting a ten-minute video about how ANGRY you are  that someone on Red Eye made a joke about your fandom, maybe just laugh it off and go back to making excited speculations about why Luke isn’t in the trailer.

Is this what being a Star Wars fan means? That we have to pretend that Star Wars is the most important thing that ever happened? That we have to send people death threats? Death Threats? Really? (Yeah, I know Beardy the Wonderfan offers the obligatory denunciation of death threats. But we shouldn’t have to denounce death threats made by Star Wars fans)

What do you do when you encounter someone who was born in say, the 1990’s, and never saw the Original Trilogy? Do you strap them down, peel back their eyeballs and give them a Ludovico viewing? BECAUSE STAR WARS IS A POP CULTURE INSTITUTION AND ALL MUST KNOW IT AND ALL MUST LIKE IT AND I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING.

The whole point of Red Eye is to engage in forbidden, non-PC humor (that’s why it’s on Fox). Nothing they say on that show should ever be taken at all seriously. If you can’t understand that, you’re too dumb to watch Star Wars, because you probably think that if you concentrate hard enough you can use the Force to make the Thrawn Trilogy better than mediocre (yeah, I said it. Come at me, nerds).

This is the kind of pedantic dweebery I expect from Trekkies. We’re supposed to be cooler than that. Come on.