Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cross Captain America with Wonder Woman...

Cross Wonder Woman with Captain America and you get Timely Comics’ Miss America, who was created by writer Otto Binder and artist Al Gabriele for the company that would become Marvel Comics.
In Marvel Mystery Comics 49 (Nov. 1943), when a scientist’s device was struck by lightning, plucky Washington, D.C., heiress Madeline Joyce gained the powers of Miss America. Her super strength faded over time, but she continued to fly.
Quality Comics had previously featured an unrelated character named Miss America in Military Comics in 1941 and 1942. Marvel’s version was part of a wave of female superheroes that included DC’s Black Canary, Quality’s Phantom Lady, EC Comics’ Moon Girl and Timely’s Venus, Sun Girl, Blonde Phantom, Golden Girl and Namora.
Here, in the March 1944 Marvel Mystery Comics 53, she fights the Flaming Hate. The art’s by Charles Nicholas. Miss America teamed up with other 1940s Marvel superheroes (and met her future husband) in the All-Winners Squad over in All Winners Comics, and also starred in her own title. The second issue featured a photo cover of a unknown model dressed in the Miss America superhero costume, and introduced a long-running teen-humor character called Patsy Walker (who remains alive and well on the Netflix TV series Jessica Jones).

William Manchester on Not Breaking in Half

Thirty-five years later, writing his World War II Pacific combat memoir Goodbye, Darkness, historian William Manchester ticked off the Marines he had known well and seen killed.
“Shiloh Davidson II, Williams ’44, a strong candidate for his family’s stock exchange seat, crawled out on a one-man twilight patrol up Sugar Loaf. He had just cleared our wire when a Nambu burst eviscerated him. Thrown back, he was caught on improvised wire. The only natural light came from the palest wash of moon, but the Japs illuminated that side of the hill all night with their green flares. There was no way that any of us could reach Shiloh, so he hung there, screaming for his mother, until about 4:30 in the morning, when he died.
The Battle of Sugar Loaf on Okinawa
“After the war, I visited his mother. She had heard, on a Gabriel Heatter broadcast, that the Twenty-ninth was assaulting Sugar Loaf. She had spent the night on her knees, praying for her son. She said to me, ‘God didn’t answer my prayers.’ I said, ‘He didn’t answer any of mine.’’
Recalling Okinawa, Manchester wrote, “I was in the midst of satanic madness: I knew it. I wanted to return to sanity: I couldn’t. All one could do, it seemed to me, was to stop combat from breaking you in half, to keep going until you reached the other side of your immediate objective, hoping it would be different from this side while knowing all the time, with the weary cynicism of the veteran, that it would be exactly the same. “It was in this mood that we scapegoated all cases of combat fatigue — my father’s generation of infantrymen had called it ‘shell shock’ — because we felt that those so diagnosed were taking the dishonorable way out. We were all psychotic, inmates of the greatest madhouse in history, but staying on the line was a matter of pride. Pride was important to young men then. Today it is derided as machismo. But without that macho spirit, California and Australia would have been invaded long before this final battle.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

When Dinosaurs Fly Through a Hole in the Sky

When I was a boy in the early 1960s, my heart belonged to the superheroes. But my favorite title outside that genre was probably editor Julius Schwartz’s Strange Adventures, then its heyday at DC.
The menaces were outsized and outré, but the attitude was a sunlit can-do American optimism, brotherhood of man stuff. The clean lines and lyrical stylization of the art by Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Sid Greene and Murphy Anderson reinforced that unshadowed atmosphere. Even a post-nuclear war dystopia like the Atomic Knights series seemed to have its cheery aspects, such as friendly giant riding Dalmatians. And for a small child, that was reassuring.
The title really hit its stride from about 1957 through 1963. Perhaps coincidentally, its optimism seemed to end at about the same time America’s did — on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas.
My favorite issue, No. 121, had arrived on the newsstand earlier, cover-dated October 1960. The stories by Gardner Fox — The Wand That Could Work Miracles, a “Space Museum” tale called The Billion-Year Old Spaceship and Invasion of the Flying Reptiles — all offered science fictional wish fulfillment.
A hole opens in time and releases invulnerable pteranodans from a hundred million years ago over Washington, DC. Yikes. But luckily, a plucky husband-and-wife team of scuba-diving scientists, Jim and Rhoda Trent, have found a plesiosaur frozen in ice (Schwartz’s titles were always resolutely feminist, their female characters smart, stylish, cool-headed and brave). Befriending the revived dinosaur, whom they nickname Ol’ Pleasure, the Trents — by offering themselves as bait on water skis — are able to use the plesiosaur to defeat the pteranondans. My favorite part was the last panel, with the Trents happily tossing fish to their plesiosaur pal at a seaquarium.
The story was probably popular, because the Trents returned to help giant undersea frog people in Strange Adventures 130. And the cover idea — flying dinosaurs coming through a hole in a sky — was recycled for Green Lantern 30, cover-dated July 1964. 

Fairly Unbalanced: Here's a News Quiz for You

Obama is inviting in “the barbarians at the gate.”
“Everything that the president is doing seems to benefit what ISIS is doing.”
Obama’s “hatred of America” may be “because he’s part black … He does not wish America well.”
Obama’s willing to expose the U.S. military to “the Ebola virus to carry out this redistribution of the privileged’s wealth.” Can you guess what “news channel” aired those “journalistic” remarks? Oddly, I’ll bet you can.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Those Embarrassing Capes and Masks

Dr. Solar tried superheroics without a costume in 1963...
In the comics, particularly those with relatively crude art, the costumes served to easily identify and dramatically focus attention on the protagonists. But that function is served, in movies and television, by the looks, manners and stage presence of the stars, so garish costumes are superfluous.
Superhero costumes were probably not quite as odd-looking in the 1930s as they are today.
After all, American audiences were accustomed to seeing bold colors, capes and tights that emphasized the breathtaking bodies of men and women who could perform astonishing physical feats that even defied gravity. They were circus performers, acrobats and trapeze artists, and their garments must have seemed a natural fit for fast-moving four-color individuals like Flash Gordon and Superman.
But circuses have faded even as superheroes have flourished, and nobody dresses like that anymore. And that makes costumes problematic when popular characters are transferred to the screen.
In the 1930s, the superhero costume wasn’t quite the fetish it became. Superman, for example, would go into action without it when he had to in his early comic book exploits. Oddly, he did wear the costume in his radio adventures, even though he took care that no one could see him acting as Superman for the first few years of his show.
But the costume convention took a firm hold of the popular imagination during the 1940s and 1950s. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby tried to defy it in the fresh approach they took to their 1961 title The Fantastic Four, only to find that the readers demanded costumes. And by the third issue, they got them. Gold Key tried the same thing in 1963 with their Dr. Solar, the Man of the Atom, holding out until the fifth issue before giving their nuclear-powered hero a costume, mask and dual identity.
...But found that he finally had to surrender to comic book convention
In the comics, particularly those with relatively crude art, the costumes served to easily identify and dramatically focus attention on the protagonists. But that function is served, in movies and television, by the looks, manners and stage presence of the stars, so garish costumes are superfluous. And also, talented comic book artists can cast costumes in the light of thrilling, flowing romanticism, but on TV and in movies, real people have to wear the things.
TV, in particular, is a medium comfortable with the mundane, and not so comfortable with the outlandish. TV’s Superman had a costume in the 1950s, but that was clearly a children’s show. The costumes in 1966’s hit Batman TV show only helped to emphasize how campy and absurd the whole idea of superheroes was, and that parody element was echoed in the superhero sitcoms Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific in 1967. The one show that tried to take costumed heroes seriously, 1967’s Green Hornet, only lasted one season.
And it wasn’t that TV audiences of the era didn’t care for superheroes — they proved that by making hits of the non-costumed Six Million Dollar Man in 1974 and its spinoff The Bionic Woman in 1976.
Lynda Carter was successful as the flag-costumed Wonder Woman in 1975 in part because her show initially had a nostalgia angle, pitting her against Nazis in World War II. And The Incredible Hulk was well received in 1978, but didn’t have a costume, just green skin. The companion series Spider-Man featured a costumed hero and failed in 1977, in part because it was so poorly executed.
Producer Stephen Cannell had a hit with a costumed superhero in The Greatest American Hero in 1981, and he managed it by being clever in his approach. Cannell required from the beginning that the hero’s super powers would be contained in his caped alien costume. So he’d have to wear it, and could still play against it.
Then came 1990’s The Flash, a costumed superhero who lasted only a season. Then 1993’s successful Lois & Clark, which deemphasized the costumed hero even in its title. Then 1997’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who needed no costume. Then 2001’s Smallville, which gave us Superman without a costume (and became the longest-running Superman TV series). And then 2014’s Gotham, which gave us Batman’s world without Batman, kind of the ultimate cheeky TV move, I’d say.
The costumed superhero has been successfully revived on TV with Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl. In 2015, Marvel’s Daredevil redeemed the costumed superhero on TV, even though the character’s full costume is seen only at the end of the first season. And now we have Marvel’s Jessica Jones, which astutely uses the costume as a metaphor. The super-powered heroine — alliteratively named as a wink at all the Bruce Banners, Clark Kents, Billy Batsons, Peter Parkers and Sue Storms out there — is presented as once having tried to be a costumed hero, or its equivalent. But Jessica, whom I like to call Supergoth, learned the hard way that her world is too dark and cheerless for fancy dress.

The Name Is Olsen. James Olsen

The comic book industry was always alert to popular trends, including the 1960s superspy craze inspired by the success of James Bond 007.
Marvel Comics offered us Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, with his nemesis Hydra. Charlton turned Sarge Steel from a private eye into a special agent. Tower Comics crossed superheroes with spies in THUNDER Agents. Even Archie Andrews pitched in as the Man from RIVERDALE.
And DC gave us a guy named Olsen.
James Olsen.
“Now, you can probably see the problem here already,” the Silver Age blog observed. “James Bond was suave, cultured, handsome and the epitome of cool. Whereas Jimmy was naive, unsophisticated, homely and as square as the Bizarro World.
“The story (from Jimmy Olsen 89, Dec. 1965) starts with Jimmy and Lucy on a date to see a movie featuring ‘Jamison Baird, Agent .003.’ As was common in the DC universe, things were changed just enough to avoid lawsuits, although it seems a bit odd in this case. DC had published a story featuring James Bond only a few years earlier (Showcase 43).” Agent Double-Five (the number of letters in his name) returned in Jimmy Olsen 92, along with his seemingly superfluous gadgets. After all, Jimmy had long possessed the one special device that would be the envy of any secret agent — his Superman signal watch.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Meet Bob Phantom, Just a Regular Guy and the Scourge of the Underworld

I always suspected that Bob Phantom, an early MLJ superhero, added the friendly, aw-shucks “Bob” just so he wouldn't seem too fancy.
 “However silly his name might be, Bob Phantom debuted in Blue Ribbon Comics 2 (Dec. 1939), only a year and a half after Superman had founded the superhero genre in comic books, and just a few months after others had started populating the newsstands,” Don Markstein observed.
“In fact, he was the very first long underwear guy published by MLJ Comics. (The Wizard would have tied Bob, but the Wiz's original superhero suit consisted of a tuxedo. Other very early ones, such as The Shield, The Comet and Steel Sterling, didn’t reach the public until the first couple of months of 1940.)
“The publisher demonstrated its lack of practice at crafting super-powered crime fighters by not explaining how Bob managed to do what he did. In his first 6-page story, which was probably written by Harry Shorten (Tippy Teen, There Oughta Be a Law) and definitely drawn by Irv Novick (Captain Storm, Batman), he demonstrated an ability to appear out of (or disappear into) nowhere, survive a gunfire attack unharmed, and know things he had no way of learning.”
“Bob” was secretly Broadway columnist Walt Whitney, who goaded the police to arrest criminals. So he was Walter Winchell as a superhero? I must say, the mind reels.
Actually, it seems likely that Bob got his silly name simply because people had run out of variations on the evocative mysterioso term “Phantom.” By the late 1930s, you had Lee Falk’s comic strip superhero the Phantom, the pulp magazine superhero Phantom Detective, Gene Autry’s Phantom Empire movie serial and so forth. Even in the current Mickey Mouse newspaper comic strip story (running from May 20 to Sept. 9, 1939), the redoubtable rodent was busy battling the Phantom Blot.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

William Manchester: A Fanfare for Failure

The wreckage of a Kawanishi H8K2 Seaplane in Butaritari Lagoon during the Battle of Tarawa
One perverse irony of war, William Manchester found, is how it sanctifies bloody disasters while underrating undramatic military victories.
“Time (magazine) trumpeted the defense of the American tactics: ‘Last week some 2,000 or 3,000 United States Marines, most of them now dead or wounded, gave the nation a name to stand beside those of … the Alamo, Little Big Horn and Belleau Wood. The name was Tarawa,’” Manchester wrote in his 1979 memoir Goodbye, Darkness. As a sergeant, he’d been in the middle of that 76-hour battle in which roughly 6,400 Japanese, Koreans and Americans died, mostly on and around the small coral island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll.
“That made everyone on Betio stand tall, but it deserves second thoughts. The Alamo and Little Big Horn were massacres for Americans, and the Fifth and Sixth Marines had been cut to pieces in Belleau Wood. Time’s comment may be attributed to a curious principle which seems to guide those who write of titanic battles. The longer the casualty lists — the vaster the investment in blood — the greater the need to justify the slain. Thus the fallen are honored by hallowing the names of the places were they fell, thus writers enshrine in memory the Verduns, the Passchendaeles, the Dunkirks and the Iwo Jimas, while neglecting decisive struggles in which the loss of life was small.
“At the turn of the 18th century, the Duke of Marlborough led 10 successful, relatively bloodless campaigns on the Continent, after which he was hounded into exile by his political enemies. In World War I, Douglas Haig butchered the flower of England’s youth on the Somme and in Flanders without winning a single victory. He was raised to the peerage and awarded 100,000 pounds by a grateful Parliament...”
“Similarly, in World War II, Anzio and Peleliu are apotheosized, though neither contributed to the defeat of Germany and Japan, while the capture of Ulithi, one of the Pacific’s finest anchorages, is unsung since the enemy had evacuated it, and Hollandia, (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur’s greatest triumph in that war, is forgotten because the general’s genius outfoxed the Japanese and limited his losses to a handful of GIs.
“In the Pacific, we received ‘pony’ editions — reduced in size, with no ads — of Time and the New Yorker. The comparison of Tarawa with great battles of the past didn’t impress most of us; we saw it for what it was: wartime propaganda designed to boost the morale of subscribers, a sophisticated version of the rhapsodies about the Glorious Dead who had Given Their All, making the Supreme Sacrifice. Our sympathies were with those who protested the high casualties.”
From his vantage point on the battlefield, Manchester immediately saw through military myth-making, but years would pass before he could bring himself to cast a cold eye on other hypocrisies of war. “At the time it was impolitic to pay the slightest tribute to the enemy, and Nip determination, their refusal to say die, was commonly attributed to ‘fanaticism,’” he recalled. “In retrospect, it is indistinguishable from heroism. To call it anything less cheapens the victory, for American valor was necessary to defeat it.” 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mercury Man: Superman Meets Klaatu

I have a fondness for obscure superheroes, finding something charmingly incongruous in the very idea. And you’d be hard-pressed to find one more obscure than Mercury Man, an alien scientist superhero who appeared in only two issues of Charlton’s Space Adventures (44 and 45, early in 1962).
I’ve always suspected he was intended as a replacement for Steve Ditko’s Captain Atom, whose adventures had ended in Space Adventures 42.
Drawn by Rocco “Rocke” Mastroserio, sporting the fashionable pointed ears of a Namor or a Spock, Mercury Man was a combination of Superman and Klaatu, hoping to help Earth avoid the nuclear war that had wiped out his civilization on the planet Mercury. He had survived by transforming himself into a living metal, and displayed superhuman strength, telepathy, indestructibility and the ability to project disintegration rays as well as fly at 50,000 miles per hour.
He arrived on Earth in time to save the United States from a nuclear attack. In another adventure, he transported world leaders to his home planet to let them see the effects of nuclear war firsthand. Perhaps they should have appeared to be more impressed, because the frustrated hero left them stranded there.
Made of the metal mercury, from the planet Mercury, and bearing wings on his ankles just like the Roman god Mercury’s talaria or flying sandals, this superhero was created by somebody who really knew how to underline a theme.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Artist Who was a Powerhouse

I remember being particularly entranced by this tale from Charlton’s Strange Suspense Stories 48 in 1960 because it combined science fiction and super powers and sprang an alien invasion on us at the end. Even at 5, I could recognize and appreciate the distinctive, shadow-loving angularity of the art, although I didn’t know the artist’s identity then. I wouldn’t read the odd name of Steve Ditko until a little later, in Marvel Comics credits.

Paladin: Am Superhero Will Travel

Have Gun Will Travel was a CBS western made successful in part because it slipped the conventions of the superhero story into TV’s version of the Old West. The star, Richard Boone, was a descendant of Daniel Boone. The hero was an erudite gunfighter based in San Francisco who had a secret identity (Paladin was only his nom de guerre), a symbol (a chess knight) and tricky devices (like a hidden Derringer). When he rode forth to help those in need, he even wore a kind of costume (all black). Inevitably, he was also a comic book hero (Dell’s Paladin comic books were published from 1958-61, with art by Alberto Giolitti).

Friday, November 13, 2015

Nice to Have You Back, Mr. Bond

Spectre is the James Bond film I had hoped and expected to see after Casino Royale in 2006, one that retains the dark edginess of the 21st century 007 but is peppered with the crowd-pleasing conventions accumulated in a half-century of films about Ian Fleming's Cold War counterspy.
The sexy winks at the previous films are too numerous to count, but subtle enough not to get in the way of the action and the angst. Daniel Craig is as good as ever, less driven this time and therefore relaxed enough to echo some of Sean Connery's welcome wryness. SPECTRE itself, of course, is a long-lost adversary from Fleming’s novels and Connery’s films. It stands for the Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, an acronym I’ve had memorized for a half-century.
Christoph Waltz and Andrew Scott are terrific super villains, with Waltz archly expert at the cat-and-mouse game and providing us with a menace as timely as the possibility of nuclear blackmail was in 1965. The credible nightmare for the 21st century global police state surveillance, which was also the looming threat in the last Captain America movie.
But like most Hollywood action films now, the emphasis isn’t on the public menace, but on the personal vendetta. Heroes and villains in fantasy adventure films used to fight simply because the lives of millions were at stake. Now they invariably do so because of daddy issues or mommy issues or sibling rivalry issues. The fate of millions seems to be a distinctly secondary consideration, when it’s not entirely irrelevant. If the world is blowing up or Godzilla is attacking, many of these 21st century heroes are solely concerned with saving their child, and everybody else can go to hell. This, I suspect, is yet another result of having an American culture that has preached me-first and me-only for decades.
However, Sam Mendes' direction is lush and romantic, with scene after scene like a succession of paintings, though I sometimes wish he'd work on his pacing. All in all, a completely enjoyable afternoon out with Bart Rettberg, Matt Mattingly, Jake Cole and Paul Beals.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Joan Crawford, Dragon Lady

Thanks to David Goode for pointing out this photo to me.
Milton Caniff, the creator of the “Terry and the Pirates” and “Steve Canyon” newspaper adventure comic strips, presents movie star Joan Crawford with a sketch of the Dragon Lady in this 1964 photo. Caniff cited Crawford as one of his inspirations for his famed femme fatale character.

Not the Rights They Were Fighting For

The bored Marines stood at attention, listening to Buck Rogers describe homosexual sex acts.
In his WWII Pacific combat memoir Goodbye, Darkness, William Manchester recalled that his captain, “Buck” Rogers, would read aloud from Navy courts-martial arising from sexual indiscretions.
“As unsubtly as possible, we were being warned that no matter how horny we got, we couldn’t go down on each other,” Manchester wrote. “It mystified us. Youth is more sophisticated today, but in our innocence we knew almost nothing about homosexuality.”
“There was so much excitement (and apocrypha about) heterosexuality that we seldom gave homosexuality a second thought. Had we been told that practitioners of oral sodomy wanted to live together openly, with the approval of society, and insisted on being called ‘gay,’ we would have guffawed. That just wasn’t one of the rights we were fighting to protect. We weren’t exactly prejudiced. It was, literally, mindlessness. We hadn’t thought about it. That didn’t make it unique. We weren’t fighting for the emancipation of housewives, either, or for the right of blacks, who performed menial, if safe, tasks far behind the lines, to bleed alongside us. Like most soldiers in most wars, we were fighting for status quo ante bellum. And like the others, we were doomed to disappointment.”
All those bored Marines knew were that perverts were guys who lisped and longed to put on a dress. “Therefore the other NCOs and I laughed when our sergeant major told us, in a drunken moment (and an unusual one, because liquor was generally reserved for officers; enlisted men, including sergeants, got beer), that he had slept with men. Mike Powers was in the regular Marine Corps, a professional soldier; he had served in Nicaragua, Haiti and on Gibraltar. It was on Gibraltar that he had, by his soused account, violated Chapter Two Specification Seventeen almost nightly. His lovers had been civilians, he said, some of them distinguished European civilians.”
Powers told them that when he retired, he planned to write a book called Famous Cocks I Have Sucked.
“We didn’t take him seriously, partly because in the Marine Corps there was a constant rivalry to see who could be coarsest,” Manchester wrote. “His behavior was in many ways regrettable, but always in macho ways which, we thought, were the exact opposite of homosexuality. Six feet two, blond and virile, he was heavily muscled and deep voiced.”
Powers was tough and brave, but he had a flaw in combat. “Our strutting, bullying, powerfully built sergeant major just couldn’t stand the strain of concentrated enemy shellfire,” Manchester said. “He could take small-arms fire, and once he demolished a Nambu light-machine-gun nest with a hand grenade. But artillery turned his bowels to water.”
And so one night, when the firing stopped after a sustained attack from 81-millimeter mortar shells, Powers cracked up. The Marines knew that the silence was a tactic to draw them out in the open so they could relieve themselves, at which point they’d be caught in a fresh fusillade. Powers began ranting and yelling and ordering a charge that would have gotten them all killed, so Manchester was forced to relieve Powers and get him to a battalion aid station.
Manchester never saw Powers again, but he learned Powers’ fate much later, when Manchester, bedridden in a naval hospital, heard the officer of the day describe the court martial of one Michael J. Powers. Powers had been caught having oral sex with the young medical corpsman who had soothed and befriended him when Manchester left him at the aid station. And he’d been sentenced to 85 years in Portsmouth Naval Prison for it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Alan Watts: What Haunts the Present

Author and thinker Alan Watts
“The object of dread may not be an operation in the immediate future. It may be the problem of next month’s rent, or a threatened war or social disaster, of being able to save enough for old age, or of death at the last. The ‘spoiler of the present’ may not even be a future dread. It may be something out of the past, some memory of an injury, some crime or indiscretion, which haunts the present with a sense of resentment or guilt. The power of memories and expectations is such that for most human beings the past and the future are not as real, but more real than the present. The present cannot be lived happily unless the past has been ‘cleared up’ and the future is bright with promise.
“There can be no doubt that the power to remember and predict, to make an ordered sequence out of a helter skelter chaos of disconnected moments, is a wonderful development of sensitivity. In a way, it is the achievement of the human brain, giving man the most extraordinary powers of survival and adaptation to life. But the way in which we use this power is apt to destroy all its advantages, For it is of little use to us to be able to remember and predict if it makes us unable to live fully in the present.”
Alan Watts, “The Wisdom of Insecurity” (1951)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Going to War with Gary Cooper

“War monuments have never stirred me,” wrote author, historian and World War II Pacific combat veteran William Manchester in his memoir Goodbye, Darkness. “They are like the reconstructed buildings at Colonial Williamsburg, or elaborate reproductions of great paintings; no matter how deft the execution, they are essentially counterfeit.
“In addition, they are usually beautiful and in good taste, whereas combat is neither. Before the war I thought that Hemingway, by stripping battle narratives of their ripe prose, was describing the real thing. Afterward I realized that he had simply replaced traditional overstatement with romantic understatement.
“War is never understated. Combat as I saw it was exorbitant, outrageous, excruciating and above all tasteless, perhaps because the number of fighting men who had read Hemingway or Remarque was a fraction of those who had seen B movies about bloodshed. If a platoon leader had watched Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Errol Flynn, Victor McLaglen, John Wayne or Gary Cooper leap recklessly about, he was likely to follow his role model.
“In crises, most people are imitative. Soldiers received ‘Dear John’ letters copied from those quoted in the press. The minority who avoid Hollywood paradigms were, like me, people who watched fewer B movies than we had read books. That does not mean we were better soldiers and citizens. We certainly weren’t braver. I do think that our optics were clearer, however — that what we saw was closer to the truth because we weren’t looking through MGM or RKO prisms."

Saturday, November 7, 2015

What's Wrong With Being a Libertarian

So what’s wrong with the political philosophy of libertarianism? This. 
“The philosopher Charles Taylor explains in his book, ‘The Ethics of Authenticity,’ that the search for self-actualization is a noble and important enterprise in life,” wrote David Masciotra. “Authenticity is important, and people should not compromise their principles or passions to placate expectations of society. Taylor complicates the picture by adding the elemental truth of individuality and community that personal freedom is empty and meaningless without connections to ‘horizons of significance.’ That beautiful phrase captures the essentiality of developing bonds of empathy and ties of solidarity with people outside of one’s own individual pursuits, and within a larger social context.”
“Competitive individualism, and the perversion of personal responsibility to mean social irresponsibility, is what allows for America to limp behind the rest of the developed world in providing for the poor and creating social services for the general population.
“It also leads to the elevation of crude utility as a measurement of anything’s purpose or value. Richard Hofstadter, observed in his classic ‘Anti-Intellectualism in American Life,’ that many Americans are highly intelligent, but their intelligence is functional, not intellectual. They excel at their occupational tasks, but do not invest the intellect or imagination in abstract, critical, or philosophical inquiries and ideas. If society is reducible to the individual, and the individual is reducible to consumer capacity, the duties of democracy and the pleasures of creativity stand little chance of competing with the call of the cash register.”
“Opposition to any conception of the public interest and common good, and the consistent rejection of any opportunity to organize communities in the interest of solidarity, is not only a vicious form of anti-politics, it is affirmation of America’s most dominant and harmful dogmas. In America, selfishness, like blue jeans or a black dress, never goes out of style. It is the style. The founding fathers, for all the hagiographic praise and worship they receive as ritual in America, had no significant interest in freedom beyond their own social station, regardless of the poetry they put on paper. Native Americans, women, black Americans, and anyone who did not own property could not vote, but ‘taxation without representation’ was the rallying cry of the revolution. The founders reacted with righteous rage to an injustice to their class, but demonstrated no passion or prioritization of expanding their victory for liberty to anyone who did not look, think, or spend money like them.”