Non Civil War Books and Movies

Matt McKeon

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Everest: Beyond the Limit
This is a reality show, where veteran guide Russell Brice and his team of guides and Sherpas, conduct a group of amateurs up the highest mountain in the world.

I asked my family: do all reality shows make the participants somehow more ugly, false and unlikeable, or is that reality: we are actually ugly, false and unlikeable?
 

Matt McKeon

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who
This is a reality show, where veteran guide Russell Brice and his team of guides and Sherpas, conduct a group of amateurs up the highest mountain in the world.

I asked my family: do all reality shows make the participants somehow more ugly, false and unlikeable, or is that reality: we are actually ugly, false and unlikeable?
Like all reality it thrives on conflict, the "heel" is the brash Tim, who can't follow the leadership of the wise old Russell. The other trekkers included a guy with no feet, an asthmatic who insistings on no oxygen, and others less memorable, who try to sell their commitment to climbing the Big E.

However, the impression of the viewers is that the experience of climbing Everest is lost on this gaggle of incompetent rich tourists. The ones that make the summit crow and take selfies, while the ones that don't are crushed, but really if it wasn't for Brice's team, especially the Sherpas, none of them could find their way out of the parking lot at the base.
 

Matt McKeon

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Like all reality it thrives on conflict, the "heel" is the brash Tim, who can't follow the leadership of the wise old Russell. The other trekkers included a guy with no feet, an asthmatic who insistings on no oxygen, and others less memorable, who try to sell their commitment to climbing the Big E.

However, the impression of the viewers is that the experience of climbing Everest is lost on this gaggle of incompetent rich tourists. The ones that make the summit crow and take selfies, while the ones that don't are crushed, but really if it wasn't for Brice's team, especially the Sherpas, none of them could find their way out of the parking lot at the base.
The footless guy gabs about his triumph over his disablity, but we see six men help him descend, and finally one of the Sherpas actually carries him on his back for the final descent to base camp.

But that what Everest seems to be to these guys, and its all guys, is a bragging point for when they return home. Everest is choked with hundreds of these idiots lined up in crowds and long columns, jostling past each other, a conveyor belt of morons struggling in the thin air, tended like children on a trip to the zoo by teams of Sherpas, kicking aside the mounds of trash, sobered momentarily by the frozen corpses they see along the way.
 

O' Be Joyful

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as he loses his grip, and finally resorts the most American option of all: going to the handy gunshop, buying an arsenal for his last day at work, and getting even with all the bastards who had been humiliating him, and plotting against him.

Reminiscent of the old--80's-90's--, maybe now current term of "going postal" when USPS workers were supposedly all goin' whacko due to working conditions. But, it is sadly far more ranging that that.
 

Joshism

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do all reality shows make the participants somehow more ugly, false and unlikeable, or is that reality: we are actually ugly, false and unlikeable?
A little of both.

Reality TV has a lot of selection bias: the type of people who get selected by the producers, and the kind of people who try to get on the show in the first place.

But humans are kind of awful.
 

Matt McKeon

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Abyss: The Cuban Missile Crisis
by Max Hastings

Hastings is well known for his military history books about the Second World War, although the first thing I read of his was his book about the Falklands War, where he was a war correspondent.

Here he quotes Robert McNamara's assessment that the Cuban Missile Crisis, for all the missiles, troops, naval blockades, nukes and planes, was essentially political, not strategic in nature.
 

Matt McKeon

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"Abyss" is written in a weirdly breezy style. Hastings uses profanity(not quoted, part of his prose), and carries a lot of his argument in his adjectives. He calls Gen. LeMay's assessment of bombing the missiles as"idiotic" Khruschev, having unwisely aroused American rage, "a desperate fumbling for the an exit." Castro a "meglomaniac" who is in love with the bright lights, and otherwise incompetent.

Hastings has a couple of themes:
a. The American nuclear force dwarfed that of the Soviets, and the Soviets wouldn't go to war. However, nuclear weapons were on the knife's edge of being used, either because of misread events, and stressed out local commanders were readier to use nukes, then is generally known.

b. The Americans assumed, and forced that assumption on the rest of the world, that Latin America was ours, and not anyone else

c. Both sides had a lot less control over their military forces, and less knowledge of what their opponents reasoning, then is comforting to think about.


d. The Crisis was Kennedy's finest hour.
 

rittmeister

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That seems to be the consensus about the entire Cold War. Washington and Moscow repeatedly misunderstanding the actions, motivation, and goals of the other.
doesn't vladolf's special military operation show that's still the case?
 

Joshism

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doesn't vladolf's special military operation show that's still the case?
Putin-on-the-Fritz seems to have crossed over from misunderstanding into delusion. Nothing exemplifies that more than he, a quasi-fascist, claiming he's invading Ukraine to destroy fascism.
 

Matt McKeon

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Memoirs of Stockholm Sven
This is a debut novel by Nathaniel Ian Miller. The narrator is Sven, based on an historical figure, who trapped and hunted on the northern coast of Svalbard, or Spitzbergen, from 1910 to 1940. Sven was a coal miner, disfigured in a brutal accident, who removes himself from humanity for the punishing and demanding life above the artic circle. Its not a Robinson Crusoe tale, but focuses on Sven's mind and personality, maintaining his humanity and relationships with the few people he comes in contact with. A remarkably fast read, never flags.
 

Joshism

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The U-boat War: A Global History
by Lawrence Paterson
Osprey Publishing (2022)

An overview of U-boat operations in World War II from start to finish. Not just the famous North Atlantic convoy battles, but the South Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and Black Sea operations too. The author has written several previous books related to U-boats. It's a surprisingly pessimistic analysis of U-boats, including early war torpedo problems not unlike those experienced by the US Navy.

While I found the subject matter pretty interest and the writing was generally decent, better editing was really needed. There are a number of sentences in the book that are overlong or confusing. I think the author Examples...

"On 17 June, U94 contacted ON1012, bringing U590, U406, U96 and U124 into action, the U-boats repeatedly forced to submerge and both U94 and U590 depth charged for hours, returning with damage and causalities."

"Although Canadian escort group C3 possessed neither Type 271 nor HF/DF gear, U-boat transmissions were intercepted [how?], and anboard destroyer HMCS Saguenay the escort commander Dickson Wallace aggressively maneuvered convoy and escort, complicating U-boat pursuit, U588 sunk with all hands by corvette HMCS Wetaskiwin and destroyer HMCS Skeena.

"The only ship carrying HF/DF was merchant Bury, the equipment used for locating lost or damaged ships, but detecting a radio burst from U569 and reporting it to Gleaves."

These three examples particularly stuck out because they all occurred within the space of two facing pages.

I guess there was a period shortage due to pandemic-induced supply chain issues. It fascinates me that Paterson has an unhealthy fetish for commas, but doesn't use Oxford commas.
 

Matt McKeon

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On a Kurosawa movie kick.

Ikiru currently being remade as "Living" A mid level bureaucrat gets the news he is got terminal liver cancer. Looking back at his long life of shuffling paper, while accomplishing nothing, and his strained relationship with his son, he decides to start living, and makes cleaning up a toxic spill, and creating a children's park his goal. The last we see of him, he is swinging gently in a snow fall in the park he founded. At his subsequent funeral his colleagues attempt to steal credit for his accomplishments, and make unconvincing promises to be inspired by him.
 

Matt McKeon

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Red Beard A young careerist doctor is forced to work at a ill equipped clinic, run by the belligerent Dr. Niija, known as "Redbeard"

Redbeard becomes his mentor, in toughness, and compassion. Gritty as doctors try to cope with desperately ill people. The real cause of the illness and injuries is poverty, but Redbeard bulls ahead: he's a doctor and will help the people in front of him. Operating with primitive instruments(the year is 1860), laying down the law to a self indulgent rich man, strict with his staff, endlessly patient with a traumatized child, he becomes the model the young doctor wishes to follow.

Funny lines: Redbeard: (to a abused woman who stabbed her husband) "It was an accident. Happens all the time. I'll talk to the magistrate and he'll let you go. I know him." Pause..."I know things about him."

Redbeard takes a 12 year old girl from a brothel. Confronted by four bouncers, he breaks their arms in short order. "I really shouldn't do that. I'm a doctor."
 

Matt McKeon

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Yojimbo A masterless samurai enters a bleak town. The first thing he sees is a dog running across the street with a human hand in his mouth. The town is riven by two rival factions of outlaws and thugs. The samurai manipulates them against each other, and then massacres the survivors. "Now we'll have some peace and quiet in this town," he remarks as he strides away amid the bodies.
 

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The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome: The History of a Dangerous Idea
by Edward J. Watts
Oxford University Press (2021)

As the American Colonies were breaking away from the British Empire, Edward Gibbon was finishing one of the most influential books in the history of the Western World. Mussolini openly wanted to Make Rome Great Again by rebuilding an Italian Empire around the Mediterranean.

The author, an ancient history professor at UC San Diego, looks at how Rome and Constantinople spent 2000 years in a perpetual cycle of decline and renewal, real and perceived, with fingers being pointed since the days of the Roman Republic. Blame for decline was frequently assigned for dubious self-serving political reasons, often accompanied by slandering predecessors and persecution of minorities. And once Christianity entered the picture the empire couldn't decide from reign to reign whether this was the cause or solution to all of the empire's problems. And if so, which version?
 

Matt McKeon

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We're watching old movies at our house, focusing especially on movies we should have seen, know all about, can quote lines, yet somehow never have seen.

The Great Dictator: Charlie Chaplin's take on Adolf Hitler. Very good in parts, especially Chaplin's lustful dance with a floating world globe.

In the Heat of the Night. They call him MR TIBBS!

Guess Who is Coming to Dinner? White girl lucks into marrying Dr. Perfect played by Sidney Poitier Earnestness ensues.

Big Country. An epic western where Gregory Peck combats toxic masculinity.

Saturday Night Fever. A gritty tale of young Italian Brooklynites going nowhere, seeking fulfillment and escapism by strutting and performing in a rundown disco. More toxic masculinity.
 
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