Yet Murrow’s broadcasts highlighted the grit and resilience of most Londoners in the face of catastrophe: the blown-out shops that remained open for business, the families grown accustomed to the daily pilgrimage to bomb shelters, the firemen and ambulance drivers who stood at their posts as incendiaries fell around them. “We are told today that the Germans believe Londoners, after a while, will rise up and demand a new government, one that will make peace with Germany,” Murrow reported. “It’s more probable that they will rise up and murder a few German pilots who come down by parachute.”
The walking, talking microagression that is James Bond is getting a remake:
In a new book, however, James Bondwill be getting a dose of modern morality, asauthor Anthony Horowitzreveals the tricks he used to drag the spy kicking and screaming into the era of political correctness.
But he has introduced a cast of new characters to point out the error of his chauvinistic ways, including messages about smoking causing cancer, women who give him a run for his money, and an “outspoken” gay friend.
Because if there is anything James Bond needs it's an "outspoken" gay friend. Apparently a character who is both gay and not "outspoken" would be unimaginable. The novel is set in 1957 so it would be interesting to imagine how many "outspoken" homosexuals were working for MI6 at the time. Since homosexual conduct was - in theory - a fireable offense in every intelligence and military organization in the world for years afterwards, I suspect that any outspokenness exists only in the author's exquisitely sensitive imagination.
Please keep in mind that the above refers to the Bond novels, NOT the films which are in many ways an entirely separate enterprise. Something like half of all the people on earth have seen a Bond film, very few of those have read Ian Fleming's original novels or the subsequent "tribute" stories that have been written in the half-century since his death. This is something of a pity. While I haven't read, nor do I plan on reading, any of the pseudo-Flemings I have read some of the originals. Ian Fleming was a master prose writer, as was his now largely forgotten brother Peter.
Ian Fleming isn't the only one to get the post-mortem ghost-writer treatment. The same has been done to Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. Back in the early 1990s Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind was mated with a much hyped sequel, Scartlett. I think the two-time Bond actor Timothy Dalton was in the TV film version. I'd look it up on IMDB but I doubt anyone cares. These are examples of marketing going to war with art. A fair fight it is not.
Not being modern enough with an appropriately gay friend, James Bond has in this new novel also acquired a live-in girlfriend. In the early Connery films Bond was paired with a girlfriend named Sylvia Trench. You can see her at the very beginning of Dr No and From Russia With Love. The character was dropped from the later films. Since no one remembers Sylvia Trench, Bond is instead being paired with no less a Bond girl - sorry Bond woman - than Pussy Galore.
Now imagine living with a woman like Pussy Galore. Heck, imagine living with the actress who immortalized her, Honor Blackman. You're thinking action, adventure and wild nights of passion! And you'd be wrong:
Trigger Mortis sees the new couple living in 1957 Chelsea and irritating one another over their boiled eggs, with “an uneasy silence full of dark thoughts and words unsaid”.
Given the flaccid nature of what I've read so far, I'm certain the thoughts aren't dark enough. The author explains himself with the brazenness you'd expect:
“My first duty, my first responsibility was to be true to the original feel of the book, to be true to Ian Fleming: his creation, his world and his ideas.
"What I was trying to do was wrap myself in his mantle and write a book that would be worthy of him.”
Ian Fleming was for his time an unusual enlightened and far sighted man. Perhaps if he was writing a Bond novel in 2015 there would be an outspoken gay friend. Fleming, however, didn't live long enough to experience the New Jerusalem that has subsequently been built in England's green and pleasant land. Instead this pseudo-Fleming is using the real article as a puppet for his personal views.
Perhaps if Mr Horowitz's version of Fleming's version of Bond was set-in 2015 then adaptations should be made. But it isn't. The novel is set six decades in the past but with modern sensibilities slipped in under the guise of a dead writer. The Bond of the novels was a man of his times. He smoked like a chimney and shagged anything that moved.
Trigger Mortis is the sort of sophomoric re-writing of literary history you'd expect from a militant feminist, the type that likes to re-imagine Queen Elizabeth I as a lesbian being oppressed by the Tudor patriarchy. An attempt at cleverness that becomes wearily predictable. Even the novel's title, Trigger Mortis, has the feel of a failed attempt at mordant wit.
James Bond isn't real. Even by the standards of the novels - which were far more realistic than the films - he is a creature of fantasy. To imagine a politically correct Bond is to imagine Merlin as a research chemist or Prospero as a climatologist. Even in a world of pure fiction we cannot be left alone. Our imaginations must be made to conform to the dictates of our pedantic times.
This recent story from Slatewas definitely a shocker:
It seems like a crazy urban legend: In China, drivers who have injured pedestrians will sometimes then try to kill them. And yet not only is it true, it’s fairly common; security cameras have regularly captured drivers driving back and forth on top of victims to make sure that they are dead. The Chinese language even has an adage for the phenomenon: “It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.”
This 2008 television report features security camera footage of a dusty white Passat reversing at high speed and smashing into a 64-year-old grandmother. The Passat’s back wheels bounce up over her head and body. The driver, Zhao Xiao Cheng, stops the car for a moment then hits the gas, causing his front wheels to roll over the woman. Then Zhao shifts into drive, wheels grinding the woman into the pavement. Zhao is not done. Twice more he shifts back and forth between drive and reverse, each time thudding over the grandmother’s body. He then speeds away from her corpse.
Smelling a story that was too interesting to be true, I texted a friend who lives in China. He read the article and texted back that every word was correct. This behaviour was so common that it was a kind of dark joke. The phrase "drive to kill" was considered practical life advice for young and old alike. These are not members of some obscure and barbarous cult. China is one of the oldest and most accomplished of human civilizations.
The legal explanation for this - a moral explanation I suspect is impossible - is a combination of a weak insurance system and easily bribable courts. An injured pedestrian can become a lifetime financial liability for the driver. Murder convictions, even in cases with clear video evidence, are still unusual. Faced with a choice of becoming a bankrupt or a murderer the popular choice seems to be the latter.
Homo homini lupus est. Man is wolf to man.
Mainland China is, of course, a dictatorship. It seems likely that in a functioning liberal democracy, such as those of the West, very basic legal reforms would long ago have been implemented to remove these quite literally perverse incentives. The rulers of China have deigned it beneath their notice to make such minor improvements.
Keep in mind that private cars were virtually unknown in China until late 1980s. In about a quarter of a century the culture of an ancient nation has adapted itself to accept vehicular manslaughter as a matter of course. Before we start searching for some special perversity of the Chinese soul, let us remember that every civilized nation has tolerated small and great acts of barbarism. We shudder today at horrors our grandfathers accepted without notice or complaint.
Reading this story placed me on edge. It was a reminder how much of civilized and humane life rests on social consent. In the world of the theologians and philosophers we each have a moral compass, some infallible device that - if we listen to it - will drive us away from gross evil. Running over small children with SUVs requires no subtle moral judgement. It is murder albeit with little premeditation. For many people, I suspect, Jiminy Cricket died a very long time ago.
What we tolerate is often what others tolerate. Perhaps it's fear of falling out of line, perhaps it's that beyond our own kith and kin we don't really care about others. We try to navigate life by following social cues and don't much delve below the surface. If we don't get caught then what really is the problem? The angels of our better nature are usually other people, those with enough moral awareness to speak out when necessary.
Edmund Burke never said: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." It's the sort of thing he should have said. It's the sort of thing we need to remind ourselves of from time to time.
When even The New York Times is questioning the value of a Master of Fine Arts, you know something has happened:
It depends on where you’re coming from. If you are one of the truly privileged, you will probably do well with an M.F.A., locking into a publishing system fine-tuned to reward those already rewarded, those without debt, with cultural cachet, with the rent paid for. If you happen to be below that level, with just enough privilege to fool yourself to take on debt, you will probably use your M.F.A. to carry out the “shadow-work” of the creative economy, giving the successful their veneer of success. You will talk about their books, attend their readings, blog and tweet about their work, hoping to ascend to their level one day. And you might.
Yikes. That stung just a little bit and I avoided graduate school like the plague. I'm not sure at what point the MFA transformed itself from academic stepping stone into a pseudo-credential for non-academic jobs. From something you needed to teach to something you needed to work. Hovering over this shift is a very obvious question: What are they teaching you in an MFA that you couldn't learn yourself?
That an MFA is indispensable to learning the writing craft is absurd. The vast majority of successful writers have never been anywhere near an MFA program. These programs have a reputation, rightly from where I sit, of training the young writer to produce little more than uneconomical literary pedantry. The unpalatable nonsense that emerges is subsequently doused in whatever variety of political correctness then in season.
The oldest of writing cliches is to write what you know. This begs the obvious question of most MFA candidates: If all you've known is school, then what do you really know? Imagine taking all the money sunk into an MFA and doing something interesting: Start a business. You want to know how ordinary people live? Understand the gritty reality of the common folk of America? Work with them and for them. There's a better view of the American working class from a lunch truck than any seminar room.
The persistence of this strange degree - which is neither a professional designation nor a proper academic field like literature or history - can't be chalked up simply to stupidity. Those attempting graduate work, even at less prestigious schools, are not lacking in raw intelligence. Nor is it quite a failure of common sense. The MFAs I've known have understood, at least at some primal level, that what they're doing is crazy.
The appeal of the MFA is ultimately emotional. One half it's the romance of the thing. Hanging out with other aspiring writers, able to say that you knew them when. Playing Hemingway or F. Scott in your mind, hoping that the fantasy somehow becomes real. The other half is less charming: Fear. That piece of paper you get at the end is like a magic shield. Out you go into the terrifying void of real existence not alone - with nothing but whatever talent the good Lord gave you- but with your magic paper shield!
I'm a writer. It says so right here!
We can laugh at this only so much. The magic paper shield is everywhere in the modern world. It just seems more absurd when talking about a craft like writing, as opposed to hairdressing or light engine repair. Government regulation played a huge role in creating our over credentialized society. The fear of going into the world with nothing but your wits plays its part too. When we mock masters degrees in puppetry or government issued licenses for manicurists, what we mock is a deep human desire to be saved from the trials and tribulations of life. The magic paper shield is an expression of a very old yearning.
Just remember to come inside when it rains. Those degrees aren't waterproof.
Rachmaninoff was buried here, in a town with a distinctly Wagnerian name, about 25 miles outside New York City, after his death 72 years ago. The plot is on a hillside in a cemetery with other notable graves, including those of the peerless Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig, the actress Anne Bancroft, the bandleader Tommy Dorsey and the author Ayn Rand. A three-bar Russian Orthodox cross stands behind Rachmaninoff’s tomb.
The dispute over his burial place started last month, when Russia’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, said that Rachmaninoff’s remains should be exhumed and sent to Russia. “The composer dreamed of being buried in Russia, that’s why returning his remains to his motherland would be a great deed,” he said, according to a report on the ministry’s website.