Archive | July, 2011

Elevator Boy, Where Are You Hiding?

Class Relations

My favourite part of Franz Kafka’s Amerika is the (dare I say Kafkaesque?) sequence in which the protagonist is fired from his job as an elevator boy; it’s a classic illustration of the impossibility of upward communication in authoritarian hierachies. (I recently reread it for a paper I’m writing on Othello, William Godwin, and the problem of other minds. Long story.) The 1984 movie version, titled Class Relations, is online in twelve parts; the relevant sequence (condensed, alas) is in sections eight and nine. (Couldn’t embed these, sorry.)

Who Said This

I don’t like the military, but I have so many friends in it. I say I do not kill, but then I exterminate thousands.

Easy question: who said this?

Harder question: in what episode?

Space Bat

Cool looking poster for the next Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises:

Dark Knight Rises poster

(CHT AICN.) Click for enhanced magnitude.

Ayn Rand in the Land of the Dinosaurs

Now that we know that the young Ayn Rand was a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s dinosaur novel The Lost World and used to play at being one of the pterodactyls from the book, it’s easy to see the likely influence on the following passage about Kira’s childhood from We the Living:

The Argounov summer residence stood on a high hill over a river, alone in its spacious gardens, on the outskirts of a fashionable summer resort. The house turned its back upon the river and faced the grounds where the hill sloped down gracefully into a garden of lawns drawn with a ruler, bushes clipped into archways and marble fountains made by famous artists.

The Lost World (1925 film)

The other side of the hill hung over the river like a mass of rock and earth disgorged by a volcano and frozen in its chaotic tangle. Rowing downstream, people expected a dinosaur to stretch its head out of the black caves overgrown with wild ferns, between trees that grew horizontally into the air, huge roots, like spiders, grasping the rocks.

For many summers, while her parents were visiting Nice, Biarritz and Vienna, Kira was left alone to spend her days in the wild freedom of the rocky hill, as its sole, undisputed sovereign in a torn blue skirt and a white shirt whose sleeves were always missing. The sharp sand cut her bare feet. She swung from rock to rock, grasping a tree branch, throwing her body into space, the blue skirt flaring like a parachute.

Jurassic Park raft ride

She made a raft of tree branches and, clutching a long pole, sailed down the river. There were many dangerous rocks and whirlpools on the way. The thrill of the struggle rose from her bare feet, that felt the stream pulsating under the frail raft, through her body tensed to meet the wind, the blue skirt beating against her legs like a sail. Branches bending over the river brushed her forehead. She swept past, leaving threads of hair entwined in the leaves, and the trees leaving wild red berries caught in her hair.

The first thing that Kira learned about life and the first thing that her elders learned, dismayed, about Kira, was the joy of being alone.

I wonder how many “people” other than Rand/Kira herself actually “expected a dinosaur to stretch its head out of the black caves overgrown with wild ferns.”

I still sometimes wish we could have the geeky teenage Rand with us today, to save her before she became the rigidified Objectivist Colossus.

How the U.S. Military Protects Our Freedom

When Worlds Collide

Science fiction and mystery author Philip Wylie sounds, from his Wikipedia page, like an interesting guy. His stories and novels (When Worlds Collide is the best known, and the only one I’ve read) have been credited with inspiring some of popular entertainment’s most famous characters – Superman, Flash Gordon, Doc Savage, and Travis McGee. He’s been both hailed as a feminist and condemned as a misogynist for his writings on women (I haven’t read the writings in question and so can’t render a verdict).

But my present concern is with the following rather alarming anecdote:

As early as 1939, [Wylie] had written a story about the Germans making plutonium bombs in a cave in Colorado. “The Paradise Crater,” written for American Magazine, was, as Sam Moskowitz points out, rejected as “too fantastic,” but later was accepted by Bluebook, which turned the magazine over to Washington for approval. When Washington balked, the editor of Bluebook returned the manuscript to Harold Ober, Wylie’s agent, who had “already been contacted by the CIA.” Wylie, who had been put under house arrest, was told by an aggressive major that he [the major] would take Wylie’s life if necessary, to plug the leak. Wylie agreed to tear up the manuscript. But the decision was made to hold back publication instead. According to Moskowitz, “Four months later, the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Bluebook asked to have the story back. It was published in the October, 1945 number.” Wylie, through his own research, had learned enough about atomic weaponry to become a security risk [John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding Science Fiction, went through a similar experience when one of his authors submitted a story featuring an atomic bomb].
(Clifford P. Bendau, Still Worlds Collide: Philip Wylie and the End of the American Dream, pp. 42-43; brackets in original. The reference to the CIA must be a mistake for the OSS.)

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