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creative writing / literatureWhen you think of writing most people imagine a solitary philosopher, an ivory tower, or something of the kind. However, there are some, who for commercial and practical reasons, create stories in a group. These are the showrunners, the men and women who build the stories behind our TV series with detached and sometimes cynical eye. I have talked with one such man, Arne Berggren, whose resume in Norwegian and Scandinavian TV drama is too long to mention here. I thought writing was a solitary job? I thought it depended on the genius of individual minds? Why am I wrong? Berggren: “For for most writers their job is a solitary one. Those who write fiction, for instance, are almost loners, I guess. How many of them that are geniuses, I cannot say, but there is definitely something dysfunctional about many of them. Something that perhaps makes them less suited for teamwork, that is my belief. Many writers consciously try to remedy some personal flaw through writing, or try to discover things about themselves. Often people like that have strong egos and like to follow their own train of thought and impulses, rather than conforming. But many writers also find that it is liberating working with others. No matter how smart or brilliant you may feel, they see that more minds can achieve more together than on their own. If you want to write for TV, the process is so centered on deadlines that it becomes an industry or a craft. Volumes of pages need to be produced in a short period of time. Some get a little kick out of the fact that they share this responsibility rather than taking on the burdens themselves. In a group you can produce TV scripts fast , and I suppose that is why the whole idea of so-called Writers’ Rooms emerged. TV is an industry, and that implies process and teamwork.” How exactly does the writing process work, do you sit around a table and brainstorm? When is the actual writing done? Berggren: “All Writers’ Rooms are different, and there isn’t an extensive tradition for this kind of work in Europe. When you write comedy, however, it is quite common to sit in groups and brainstorm. But in drama too we see more and more of this kind of work. In our company, Shuuto, we have a joint session in the preliminary stages, in which we test vague ideas. It is important that we move beyond brainstorming at this point, and when there’s a pitch, something that resembles a dramatic premise, we try to work our way to potentially interesting characters, look at the longer storylines and so on. What, for instance, are the worst things to which our characters may be exposed? Eventually we get round to the actual writing of the scripts. On those occasions we are generally four writers in a full-day session, once a week. We delegate, and the script producer decides on shorter meetings, if they are needed. So the actual writing process is still solitary, but the script producer or the showrunner are never far off. There might be daily deadlines for scripts that are reviewed and then rewritten. It is a very organic process, but the workload may be heavy. We like to take our time in the preliminary stages, but then we produce scripts for one episode a week.” There have been many story factories in literary history. Some say Shakespeare might have run such a factory. Dumas is another example. Still, both Shakespeare and Dumas got top billing. Isn’t there sometimes a clash of egos? Berggren: “Where there are writers, there is always a clash of egos. But you won’t last long in the TV-business if you create a lot of conflict wherever you go. As manager I have learnt to compromise, I think. I am looking for writers and a staff that are productive, with an ability to work things through. This creates positive vibes, I think. I must admit that I haven’t always been a role-model in this regard myself. But one learns by making mistakes, and I try my best to help others. Some of the most famous American showrunners have been strong egos. Even so, they have created environments in which others could flourish. There aren’t any showrunner academies in Scandinavia, so it is a trial by error process. You need to search out people with a certain set of qualities, and create a relaxed work environment with as few egos as possible. The writers need to understand that this is not about them, but about getting the job done. Their job is simply to assist the showrunner or the script producer, to make his or her life easier. So they are free to return to their “ivory tower” as long as they deliver on time.” So how should the public think about you? Are you a company executive, a writer, a brand? What? Berggren: “I am slightly schizophrenic, I guess, split between being a writer and an executive producer. I still write books and theater, but as a TV-guy I am first and foremost a producer. If there is a brand, it must be Shuuto, our company. We don’t really concern ourselves with core values and strategies of communication. In fact, we have a hard time defining what we do, except for the fact that we produce script-based content in a slightly different way than the larger production companies and book publishers.” What does it take to make it as a writer in TV, do you think? Berggren: “You need to write, write and write. And in between read and watch tv. Sometimes I must admit I am a little shocked by young writers who want to get into television, and who produce nothing. You cannot wait for a break. In fact, it’s all about actual writing experience. Even if it is difficult to write something without seeing the final product, this exactly what you need to do. Write in all genres, and get as much feedback as possible, if only from your mother or someone you know. And you need to watch a lot of TV, in all genres, several hours a day. You need to analyse how the the skilled minds think. Sometimes you can learn even more by watching half-decent drama. You see what’s wrong, notice the way they think, and when it doesn’t suit your palate you imagine what you might have done if you had written the story yourself.” Norway is a small country, yet recently our TV series, actors and directors have made it in Hollywood. Are there international opportunities for script writers? Berggren: “Yes, I think this might happen soon. Already a select few have been offered seats in writing rooms in LA. Some might get a job, and it’s much harder than you imagine. You need to be proficient in English, and this is where many Norwegians tend to over-estimate our own skills. I think you can get an entry into the US market if you become a co-producer on remakes of Norwegian TV-series, or work on developing new series for the international market. Or you could move to LA or England, get your education there, network, become a part of the scene, as much as you’re able. We have had foreigners with Norwegian as a second language in our writers’ rooms here in Norway, and I can tell you this wasn’t easy. No matter how great they think their language skills are.” Let’s say I were a 20 year old who desperately wanted to write something for TV or film. What would be my best option for achieving my goals? Berggren: “I would be very patient. Try to get a foot in the door anywhere on set. Be a runner. Make coffee, sweep the floors. Staple the scripts and so on. I would have done it for free, even if our unions might object. Once you have access, relations are built, gradually trust is gained. If you’re the sort of fellow who listens to criticism, thrives on it, more responsibility will eventually come your way. But in terms of cognition, you need to remember that the 20 year old brain is, in fact, not fully mature. That doesn’t happen until you reach 25, I think. What you believe the world to be as a 20 year old might be false. A 20 year old is impatient, and wants to been seen and recognized. They think things revolve round them. I have seen plenty of 20-year-olds who were presented with great opportunities, but who were swiftly disappointed, told everyone to go to h.. and moved on to what I assume were greener pastures. I guess, I once was a little like that myself. I have missed out on opportunities myself, you see. But “patience”, “networks”, “relations” and “trust” are the keywords. Most people are hired by someone they already know. And of course networking among people your own age is crucial. Someone that you know is sure to make it, and they will be searching for people their own age to join them. It is , in my view, almost impossible to predict who makes it. But their shared characteristics are gaining work experience, building relations and networks. So if you know “a mingler”, latch on.” As the head of a writing group, you must have seen many mistakes, and many who lacked the skills. What are the most common mistakes of the rookie writer? Berggren:…….. “They’re impatient. Afraid of criticism. You think that your way of thinking is the only one. Some lack humility. Some are lazy. Some are thin-skinned. Some jealous. Some believe themselves to be smart and that they deserve to be discovered. This is fact typical of 9 out 10 writers that we encounter. Great ego, inflated view of their own skills.” I am going to ask you a difficult question that concerns most writers and artists at one time or another. How should one deal with rejection? Berggren: “This might sound like BS coming from some one with one foot in the grave, but embrace your rejections. The people I truly admire have one thing in common. They have been rejected more than most. You’re fired. You’re humiliated. And every time you learn something that makes you a better writer and better person. Rejection is the scariest thing I know. It hurts like hell, it hits us right in the gut. Still, it is the key to progress. If you manage to put on a brave smile and move on. Rejections are not about You. The person rejecting you might be looking for something completely different. Often you will be offered new jobs from the very same person who once rejected you. As an employer I am looking for someone who is able handle themselves professionally. Patience. Humility. This can only be achieved by coming to terms with rejection. I know it sounds like crap, but this is something I know to be true. I have experienced plenty of rejections myself.” Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby J.-H. Rosny published and translated by Santa Fe daily New Mexican. September 22, 1894. y first marriage, said Jacques Ferveuse, was of but a few hours’ duration and did not break my betrothal to her who afterward became my true wife. It was nevertheless a legal wedding and without doubt the best action of my life. I have pardoned myself for many faults on account of the happiness I gave to her who was my bride for a day. At the time of which I speak I used sometimes to dictate notes on a philosophical work to an old copyist who lived in Rue de l’Estrapade. He was one of the best men in the world, but had been brought to poverty by an unusual series of misfortunes which he had a weakness for recounting to all comers. I used to listen to him willingly, for his voice was charming and his words well chosen. While he spoke his daughter, a timid blonde, would sit near us copying papers. I found her alone two or three times and could not help remarking that she semmed greatly agitated in my presence. As she was quite pretty and I saw a look of infinite tenderness in her beautiful eyes when they met mine, I felt some vague inclination toward her, but I quickly stifled it. Yes, I often spoke kindly to her that she might see I did not think her displeasing. My gentle words impressed a soul so profound that I would have shrunk back afrightened could I have guessed its depth. We had known each other for some time when I was suddenly called away from the city, and during my absence I fell in love and became betrothed. The very morning of my return to Paris some one knocked at my door, and my old copyist entered. His thin figure was yet more meager, his face pale, his temples hollow and his eyes red with weeping. “Sir,” said he, “I trust you will excuse my coming thus, but you have always been so good – my daughter – she – I fear she is about to die.” “Indeed!” I responded with more politeness than emotion. “She is at the hospital, sir. I have come to ask you – to say to you” – He interrupted himself, stammering, incoherent, his eyes full of entreaty, and said abruptly, without further prelude: “My daughter loves you! Before her approaching death I believed you might be able” – And without giving me tim eto recover from this strange declaration he commenced a story of love which, though prolix, was so strange and pathetic that, when he ended, my eyes were wet with tears. “Will you see her? It would make her so happy! She has but a few weeks to live.” Three-quarters of an hour I was at the young girl’s bedside. Her face shone with that ineffable beauty with which coming death sometimes transfigures the features of the young. At seeing me there her great dark eyes lighted up with a joy that touched me to the heart. Almost at once she guessed that her father had revealed her girlish secret, and she commenced to tell me the sad, sweet story of her love; the pathetic romance of a poor little maiden resigned to death – a tale of infinite tenderness; how first she had known she loved me, then her fear that her love was not returned, then her illness and her wish to die. For an hour she talked thus., her blond head lying upon the snow white pillow, her beautiful eyes gazing into mine. Finally she asked in a trembling voice: “And you – Did you ever – ever?” What should I say? Should I play the cruel executioner by telling her the truth or mercifully console her with a lie? Pity moved me: “I? I have loved you long!” “Is it true?” “It is true indeed.” A look of joy such as I will never see again in this world – the joy of the despairing – overspread her face, and in that moment, if I loved her not, there was something very sweet in my soul- an atom of that boundless compassion which is the closest kin to love. I know not what led her during the following days to doubt me, but one afternoon she asked: “But will you ever marry me?” I swore to her that I would. She smiled up at me with adoration. She prayed aloud, thanking God for his great goodness. One day I was so moved by the depth of her love for me that I wished to give yet more happpiness, it would cost me so little. Alas! Was she not irredeemably condemned? “I am going to publish the banns,” I cried. Her joy was almost terrible in its intensity. Her face shone with a marvelous splendour, and while she drew down my face to hers, while she laughed and cied in reciting to me in broken words the prayer of her love while she spoke to me as fervent devotees to God, I felt that I had given to one human being the equivalent of a lifetime of happiness. I will not tell you how I arranged to obtain the consent of my guardian. I did not ask that of my fiancee I knew she would pardon me afterward. The banns were published, and I made all the preparations for a regular marriage. During the weeks which followed she lived in ecstasy. Her malady seemed relenting. A miraculous beauty seemed to shine about her like an aureole. She dazzled me; she filled my heart with a sad love, like that of mothers for frail, beautiful children who cannot live. I had her placed in a special room at the hospital, where she received the care of the best physicians and had a sister of charity to watch over her night and day. I passed the greater part of my time with her. I could not satiate myself with that adoring gaze, with that beatitude with each word, each gesture of mine bestowed. How well I remember the twilight hours when I would sit beside her, watching her pale face blend harmoniously with the shadows, while she murmured to me her words of love like the verses of a song: “Better than God! Better than the Virgin! Better than my life and the life of the universe!” Thus time flowed by, and the wedding day came. After the civil marriage they set up an alter in her chamber and dressed her in rich bridal robes. She seemed to live in an atmosphere of perfect bliss. She was as beautiful as a day in springtime when it draws toward sunset and a misty glory rises over the hills and lakes and the drowsy flowers droop their heads in sleep. She lived 20 years in that hour. I have but to close my eyes, and I see her again. Her eyes were so large and bright that they seemed to efface her pale visage. A saintly smile played upon her lips. Her little hands were clasped as she listened to the voice of the priest. Our fingers joined, and she trembled when, at last, she prnounced the great “Yes,” for she put in it all her religion, all the force of her being; then sank back, her strength exhausted. But what delicious fatigue, what blissful weariness! Tenderly she whispered as she dreamed and drew me near her lips. The murderous shadow of death crept rappidly onward. Her spirit wandered in the faroff land of twilight. I saw her cheek grow leaden hued and her temples hollow. She felt not the approach of death, but continued to love, to be happy, to forget herself in her dream divine. Her head was pillowed on my arm, and I watched her dark eyes grow wider, wider yet. Her hair shone upon her pillow like a mesh of gold. The silken bridal robe envoloped her like a cloud. The sun had set, and the daylight was fading, when she murmured: “Thou lovst me, Jacques? Thou lovest the poor girl? Mon Dieu! We will live long. I feel that I cannot die. I cannot die now.” Her voice sounds as if she had turned back at the entrance of that mysterious land to call to me once more – it is like bells heard far off upon the sea. Her body grows cold in its rich winding sheet, but she no longer suffers. She repeats: “I cannot die!” A vague smile hovers over her face, which always wears that look of infinite love, of happiness without a shadow. My heart is still. At that moment I am all that loves in the world – I am a mother, a father , a lover. She murmurs again: “I love thee. We will live in the country – the violets” – Her lips part with a smile of ineffable joy, and she is at rest forever. It is evening, and I gaze through the gathering shadows at the outline of the slender figure in its bridal robe. My sorrow is as profound as it is sweet, for I feel that much will be pardoned me because I have soothed one poor, loving little heart and sweetened with happiness the bitter cup of death. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history1876, the year Mark Twain published his novel Tom Sawyer, and Queen Victoria, now 57, adopted the title empress of India. In the history of science, one often remembers this as the year of the first telephone call. There were, however, some other events which took place that year which would influence generations to come. In Britain and in France, new scientific reviews dedicated to psychology were founded. In the UK, it was the Scotsman, Alexander Bain, who took it upon himself to finance this new innovation. London was in the middle of the Darwinian revolution, and the new quarterly review, entitled Mind, would become the preeminent medium for discussion in the decade, yes even century, that followed.   We talked with professor Cairns Craig, a specialist on Bain, and asked him why no one had ever written a biography about this vastly influential philosopher.  Alexander Bain founded one of the most influential journals within psychology. Why has there been written so little about him? Professor Cairns Craig: Because he was seen as the continuer of empirical psychology as developed by Hume and J.S. Mill and as the precursor of a new kind of psychology, based on a material understanding of the nervous system. He was neither regarded as a contributor to the ongoing discipline of Philosophy nor as any more than a precursor of the new discipline of psychology. He is often mentioned as prefiguring the future of psychology but his own works dated rapidly, in part because they were based on empirical dated that was rapidly overtaken by new studies. When we refer to «psychology» in Victorian times, we are not talking about modern clinical psychology. How would you briefly describe the psychological thinking of the Victorian age? Professor Cairns Craig: it was divided between British empiricism – the mind is a tabula rasa which learns from experience – and Kantian notions of the mind as shaping the world through the categories by which it organised its perceptions. In the second half of the nineteenth century, determined effort were made to combine these two views, culminating in James Ward’s article on ‘Psychology’ in the ninth edition of the Encyc Britannica, which attempted to show that Kantian categories were in fact the product of experiences laid down on the tabula rasa of early human experience. When and why did Bain come up with the idea for a psychological journal, and how did he set about creating it? Professor Cairns Craig: Bain has always been an intellectual entrepreneur, writing books that fitted with school curricula and university disciplines. I believe he saw the journal as a means of challenging Kantian notions of the mind by insisting on empirical study, and since Kantianism was dominant in late-nineteenth-century Britain through the influence of the Cairds and T.H.Green, the journal was a way of fighting back on behalf of empiricism. There was another journal, Brain, founded a little later, and of course Ribot’s La Revue philosophique in France. Why did Mind become more influential than these, do you think? Professor Cairns Craig: Because it combined traditional philosophical empiricism deriving from Hume and developed by J.S.Mill with the new empirical psychology that sought material causes of mental experiences. Bain hired George Croom Robertson to edit his journal. When and how did the two meet? Professor Cairns Craig: Croom Robertson was one of Bain’s outstanding students and Bain invited him to edit the journal because he did not feel himself up to a task which would mean engaging with the wider British philosophical and psychological community – he was happy to be established in and to remain in Aberdeen. Bain wrote a book about John Stuart Mill. In what way did his own thinking depart from Mill’s? Professor Cairns Craig: Bain was a follower of both Mill and his father (James Mill) in terms of their philosophy and their psychology, but he was profoundly disappointed when J.S.Mill appeared to give up their materialist commitments for some kind of ‘spiritual’ version of humanity. Bain wrote biographies of both father and son in the latter years of his life and was very unflattering about J.S.Mill’s ‘apostasy’ from the cause of empiricism and materialism. Bain and Mill were both of Scottish descent. In what way were they indebted to the Scottish enlightenment? Professor Cairns Craig: this is a difficult question, for there was no such concept as the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ in the nineteenth century – it did not come into existence till the 1960s. In the nineteenth century Scottish philosophy was deeply divided between the adherents of Hume – sceptical, irreligious – and the adherents of Reid – believing and committed to a Christian conception of the world. There could be no ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ till this opposition faded, which it did not do till Norman Kemp Smith’s book on Hume in the 1940s, which allowed Hume and Reid to be seen as sharing a very similar philosophy despite their asserted differences. There was a Canadian science journalist called Grant Allen, a proponent of Herbert Spencer, for the most part. In his early work Allen used Bain to balance out what he saw as dogmatism in Spencer’s theories? What was the relationship between Bain and Spencer? Did they know each other? Professor Cairns Craig: I believe that Bain and Spencer shared a similar empirical approach to the human mind but that Spencer had taken on the Darwinian perspectives which were barely available to Bain when he was writing his major works. Bain’s associationist psychology was eventually pushed aside by the Darwinian revolution. Bain lived a very long time. How did he meet the new questions raised by Darwin? Professor Cairns Craig: It is a profound mistake to think that associationist psychology was made redundant by Darwinism; in fact, associationism EXPLAINED the mental processes of Darwinism (associations are adaptive behaviour that help species survive) and associationism flourished in the Darwinian environment of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – it is as fundamental to J.G. Frazer’s The Golden Bough as it is to Freud’s account of latest and manifest meaning. Is there a lasting legacy of Bain’s own psychology today, except for Mind of course, which continues to survive as a journal? Professor Cairns Craig: Bain is almost always cited as the first modern psychologist but there is little in his work that would be considered relevant to modern psychology. His influence is the indirect influence he exerted through his students – some of whom helped shape early twentieth-century psychology ­– and through Mind, which was the medium by which philosophy and psychology established a new discipline that combined the self-reflexive analysis of the mind (that was to become phenomenology) with the acceptance that the mind existed only in and through the body and the nervous system. Listen to a reading of Alexander Bain’s 1882 Rectorial speech Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyIn 1789, the revolution swept the old aristocracy from power in France. A few years later, Napoleon Bonaparte, the legendary Corsican, emerged as the new strong man. Through conquest he became the scourge of the nineteenth century, a man both feared and admired. His armies set foot in most countries on continental Europe, and whatever the outcome, change followed. After his defeat, nothing would ever be the same.  But what should we today think about a man who in some ways modernized a reluctant Europe through victories on the battlefield? We asked professor Michael Broers of Oxford University, an expert on Napoleon. For those of us who do not know the details of Napeoleon’s life, could you tell us why he is different from a more familiar conqueror of Europe, Adolf Hitler? After all, Hitler emerged from a period of crisis, just like Napoleon? Michael Broers: The comparison is inevitable, given their territorial conquests, but there is no significant similarity. Napoleon had no racist agenda, nor did he have a clear plan for expansion. They both invaded Russia, but for wholly different reasons: Hitler to conquer and exploit; Napoleon to force Russia back into the alliance against Britain and to knock out its military threat. Napoleon rose to power by an insider coup; Hitler through democratic election. Your biography of Napoleon relies on new source material, how has your view of Napoleon’s character changed? Michael Broers: He was usually very measured and more controlled as a person than I had imagined; he was a very good committee chair, seeking out the views of others; he had  a capacity to forgive and to apologise I had not seen before. A very good sense of humour. Why did Napoleon set out to conquer Europe? Michael Broers: He didn’t. he sought to defeat his enemies – don’t forget he inherited the was from the French Revolutionaries; he did not start it. He dealt with each defeat as it occurred, by reordering certain parts of Europe to suit France. The only time when there was an overall plan was between 1807 and 1811, when he annexed as much of the North Sea Coast as he could to enforce the anti-British Blockade. There was no master plan. He was of course a military genius. What was his chief advantages on the battlefield? Michael Broers: He delegated well to his commanders, and chose them well. he trained his troops very thoroughly when he had the chance. His troops moved very quickly, along well planned routes. He usually had clear battle plans, but we very quick to adapt in a crisis. Napoleon has long since passed into myth in paintings of him horseback, and in films like Abel Gance’s silent epic (or his later color feature about the battle of Austerliz.) How much truth is there to these idealized versions of the man? Michael Broers: This is impossible to answer, as there are so many and varied images of Napoleon, from the comic and contemporary (eg Gilray) to the heroic (eg Byron) to the demonic (Tolstoy). He divided contemporaries as much as he has later generations. There is one undeniable part of the physical image: All who knew him commented on his bright, clear eyes and his penetrating look. The conquest of Spain and Russia were particularly brutal. Why did he not simply retreat from those campaigns? Michael Broers: He wanted to retreat from Spain, but could not abandon his brother Joseph, whom he had placed on the throne. Once the British established themselves in Portugal and Galicia, by 1809, it was too dangerous to withdraw – when he had to pull out large numbers of troops in 1812 to fight in Russia, this decision to stay was proved correct, as the British pounced on the weakened French and drove them back to France. Russia was very different: The campaign was to last only 3 weeks. Its goal was to catch the main Russian army, knock it out and go home. He did catch it a couple of times and inflict damage, so he preserved. Once lured as far as Moscow, and not finished the Russians off, he did actually retreat. After his first defeat, he was banished to an island, but returned. Why wasn’t he simply shot after he was first captured? After all, a lot of people died in his campaigns.   Michael Broers: They were all guilty of war mongering, so it would have been impossible to pin such a charge on him. To have shot him would have placed the allies on the same level as the French revolutionaries who guillotined people out of hand; they equated Napoleon with them, so it was not ‘the done thing’. They also knew he had enough support left in France that it would have been dangerous to make a martyr of him. Overall, it was an unprecedented set of circumstances. The French has had a varying relationship with Napoleon. How is he viewed in France today? Michael Broers: This is too varied to answer properly. For many, he is seen as a military dictator who destroyed the Revolution; for others, he made France great. Most educated people know he laid many of the institutional foundations of the modern French state. What about the rest of Europe? Michael Broers: Again, hard to answer. Russians actually admire him, Tolstoy not withstanding; he tends to be despised in the UK. Italians look to him as having helped set them on the way to unification. In Spain he is a demon. etc How would you say Napoleon changed the face of Europe? It wasn’t all bad, was it?  Michael Broers: Most of it was positive, once the wars were over. His military and diplomatic edifice was swept away without trace, but his legal and administrative, and educational reforms have been adopted over most of continental Europe, even in countries like Spain and Portugal which opposed him tooth and nail. In many key ways, it is a positive and fundamental legacy.     Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureHappy new year to all the listeners of! We have collected some of the darker stories in our blog and radio stream, and published them in a free ebook. It will be much easier to read, on any device you may choose. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / moviesWhen we read speculative fiction, our minds conjure up the most fantastic creations. Through writers like H.G. Wells we are able to transcend time and space, even envision the most terrifying aliens. How these creatures look, however, is entirely dependent on our own imagination. Ed French is an Oscar nominated and Emmy Award winning special effects make-up artist whose job it is to bring such dreams into the realm of reality. He has worked on some of the most successful science fiction franchises, Star Trek and the Terminator series, and now, more recently, on Westworld. We asked him some questions about his job in the entertainment industry. How does one become a special effects man in Hollywood? Ed French: Talent and perseverance. Luck plays a part. I think you have to love the whole process of film making . Most of the people I know that do this for a living dreamed about working in movies from an early age. How much of what we see on TV and cinema is produced by make-artists and special effects men (and women), like yourself, and how much is the vision of the director Ed French: On T2, James Cameron had a very clear, specific vision about every aspect of his him. He made his own drawings. When I worked on Star Trek VI, Nicholas Meyer wouldn’t micro-manage. He gave me complete freedom to create the alien characters the way I saw them. I’ve often worked on projects where I was contracted to create a character based on a drawing by an art director or rendered by a production artist. In the end though, when that character arrives on set, the finished work of the makeup artist will determine if the “vision” has succeeded. Do you have a particularly well-developed imagination? Ed French: I think that as A Special Effects Makeup Artist I’m a conduit for other people’s imagination. I’m a creative person. I feel as though I’ve come up with some imaginative ways to make characters or certain effects believable to the camera’s eye. Interesting question. Quite often I’m required to create an effect such as say, an autopsy makeup with an actor lying in a morgue with a closed, sewn up “Y incision” scar and 3 bullet holes in the chest. That should appear exactly the way the audience EXPECTS it to look. How do you know if an alien is realistic on not? Are you inspired by creatures in nature? Ed French: I don’t consider most of the aliens I ’ve done to be “realistic.” Star Trek is to realistic aliens as “The Wizard of Oz” is to realistic lions…perhaps the most “realistic aliens” were the ones in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” They were mysterious entities beyond our comprehension and Kubrick depicted them as such. Sometimes the alien makeup concepts I do will integrate elements from a creature in nature. I try to make them appear somewhat plausible. Organic. Some of the make-up work is extremely elaborate. What is the longest make-up session you have had? Ed French: “White Chicks.” It took almost 5 hours to turn Sean Wayans (an African-American comedian) into a white woman. And after that, constant touch-ups were required. I was trying to maintain a “beauty” makeup over prosthetics that transformed a black man into a hot young white woman. I would start at 3:30 AM and work till 7P.M. And then I had to clean the prosthetics and body paint off, which usually took about an hour. There were a few shooting days when the turnaround was about 6 hours. You have worked with some pretty famous actors. Do you ever get star struck? Ed French: I’ve worked off and on for 15 years creating the autopsy and “scene of the crime” trauma and casualty make-ups for N.C.I.S. spending a lot of time in “Ducky’s” forensics lab in scenes involving David McCallum. When I was kid, his early TV appearances on The Outer Limits and The Man from U.N.C.LE. made a huge impression on me. I’m always a bit in awe when I’m working around him. He was Illa Kuryakin! What is your favorite type of job? Do you prefer regular make-up, aliens, monsters or period drama? Ed French:  I like my job because I get to do all those makeup categories. I particularly enjoy creating historical look-alikes. I like to feel like I’m an entertainer. It’s magical when you make someone up to look like Albert Einstein or even the Frankenstein Monster. Everything stops on the set and everyone wants their picture with the character. How much has CGI and computers affected the special effects make-up business? Ed French: It has eliminated a lot of “creature effects” that use “practical” makeup, prosthetics or creature suits, animatronic puppets and so forth. A lot of my colleagues have reservations about CGI being used to “touch up” their makeups or replacing makeup altogether. I think its fabulous if it can correct a prosthetic makeup that NEEDS a touch up. In the series Westworld, the characters are human robots. Did this pose any special challenges? Ed French: This is where C.G.I. hasn’t quite taken over completely. We had robot actors that required full body makeup. In cases where the robots went back for repairs we would apply prosthetics simulating the effects of massive trauma injuries. Chests ripped open, skulls partially blown off, arms missing, etc. There were some fun challenges. We did authentic period makeup for the “old West.” Facial hair and Beards for the men and cowboys. Native American makeup too. There were a few days when I got to do a Samurai makeup with a bald pate. You are also blessed with a wonderful reading voice, and publish audio narratives on youtube. How did you get into audio production? Ed French: Thanks. Through a circuitous route. I was a radio announcer for a couple of years back in the 70’s. I would have been more at home with radio during its golden age. Radio drama and comedy, all that stuff was long gone by the time I sat behind a microphone. I abandoned radio for theatre and as that career sort of fizzled out I found a niche in Special Makeup Effects just as it was gaining momentum in the 80’s. It was fortuitous. However, I never lost the urge to want to perform. I think it was 9 years ago (?) I discovered that the equipment to make professional audio productions at home was available commercially. When I was in radio everything was analog. We recoded on big magnetic Ampex tape reels. There was a learning curve with the digital software. I’m still astounded by what you can create with just a lap top, and audio box, Audacity WAV editor and a microphone . It has enabled me do my “Day Job” and play the storyteller on the side. What is your favorite piece of speculative fiction? Ed French: H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine comes to mind when you ask that. Or The Invisible Man. There’s a man with imagination. He wrote before the cinema invented, or at least before the techniques of film story telling had moved beyond the “staginess’ of the early silent movies. His work, particularly The Invisible Man is cinematic. When I was recording it I could see vividly how every scene would be filmed. Close-ups, wide shots, shock cuts. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literature«He is about as much the English Toltoi as Mr Maeterlinck is the Belgian Shakespeare», raged the English feminist M.G. Fawcett. Grant Allen wrote one of the most controversial books of the nineteenth century, a cheap novel that everybody hated, but which they simply had to read. Wolf Island, the small island where Grant Allen’s father worked as a clergyman, is located at the north-east end of Lake Ontario. His mother was of aristocratic descent. Allen was one of seven siblings in a happy and well respected family. But then his father ran into difficulties with his local bishop, and Allen followed his parents to Massachusetts, and from there to France and England. His father made sure he had a proper education. The travels provided Allen with experience and a unique understanding of language, and in the end he studied Latin and Greek at Oxford while his parents returned to America. He married early to a sick woman who lay paralyzed in her bed for two years, and even if he later found the love of his life, he never forgot her. His most famous book, written two decades later, was dedicated to her. Professor in Jamaica The sun never set on the British Empire in the middle of the 19th century. It was the heyday of Social Darwinism and the ideas of Herbert Spencer. In Jamaica at this time a small college was established to teach the natives to be white, well, at least culturally. Grant Allen left university in 1871. For a time he «took perforce to that refuge of the destitute, the trade of the schoolmaster. To teach Latin and Greek at Brighton College, Cheltenham College, reading Grammar School, successively, was the extremely uncongenial task imposed upon me by the chances of the universe. But in 1873, providence, disguised as the Colonial Office, sent me out in charge of a new Government College At Spanish Town, Jamaica» Suddenly he was offered a position as a professor of Moral and Mental Philosophy in Jamaica. Allen gathered his old chums, and celebrated what was to become a journey of disillusionment. The treatment of the local population shocked him, and he eventually came to despise British upper class morality. It was perhaps not so strange because there circulated rumours in the Jamaican press that he had fathered an illegitimate child. A fan of Herbert Spencer His professorship opened his eyes to philosophy, and Herbert Spencer’s evolutionary thoughts in particular. His father had most certainly introduced him to the ideas of the man who, even if he was a quintessential Brit, had become America’s favorite contemporary philosopher. At Oxford Allen’s interest had grown. At Jamaica his interest began bordering on admiration, and he wrote a poem in honor of Spencer, which he mailed to him. On his return to Britain he decided to pay the philosopher a visit, and this became the beginning of a permanent friendship. Allen wrote a thesis about the effect of evolution on aesthetics and he specialized in the link between perception and different physical characteristics in different species. Allen had a unique ability to explain difficult theories in such a way that they became accessible to everyone, and he was therefore warmly received by contemporary greats, like Darwin, Wallace, Huxley, Hooker and Spencer. Almost a biologist At the end of the 1870s Spencer had already followed his only love interest to the grave, and Darwin had become a private and revered authority that controlled the scientific societies from his Down House just outside London. The struggle for control of the science societies was over, and this seemed promising for young evolutionary biologists. But in order to make a living from science you either needed to come from a wealthy family, like Darwin, or you would have to be awarded an academic position, like Huxley. Even Wallace struggled financially. As a newly converted follower of spiritualism Wallace had lost scientific prestige, and he now survived almost exclusively on Darwin’s limitless generosity. If Allen was to provide for his new-born son, he needed to write something that brought him cold cash. Almost a writer Grant Allen settled in Dorking in Surrey, not far from London. His writings had already resulted in several literary friendships, so it was only natural that he would give it a try himself. But he had no illusions about the extent of his own talent: it paid a great deal better than scientific journalism» he wrote ten years later «I decided me that my rôle in life henceforth must be that of a novelist. And a novelist I now am, good, bad, or indifferent». Allen did create several memorable characters, such as Colonel Clay, a precursor to Sherlock Holmes, and for a decade he surrounded himself with writers like Meredith and Gissing. He was a familiar face at all the contemporary news desks, and established himself as one of the most prolific journalists in the business. The age of queen Victoria was now drawing to a close, and new and more challenging cultural movements were taking hold in the thriving cities. Decadence, for instance, dismissed contemporary moralism and socialism challenged the aristocracy and the upper class. Workers and women marched, and the tabloid press constantly pushed the boundaries of what what could be submitted to the newspapers. Allen was caught up by these new movements. In 1892, Allen moved from Dorking to a larger house at Hindhead. His old student friend Edward Clodd was a frequent visitor, and Allen was popular among the people of the press. Even if he suffered from chronic chest pains, he and his wife, Ellen, seemed like the perfect couple. Every Sunday he went for bicycle rides with his neighbor, Arthur Conan Doyle, and every Tuesday he would lunch with Frank Harris, the infamous tabloid editor. Spencer popped in now and again, but he eventually understood that Allen had outgrown him. There was no love lost between Spencer and the Fabian socialists. There was an unspoken disagreement between Spencer and Allen that would not become known until they were both dead. From a distance Spencer observed the developments that would transform the man who had been his closest ally into the most controversial man in Britain. Scandal It all started when Allen, at the end of the 1880s, began to take an interest in the question of women’s rights. Women’s liberation had created a new kind of female who did not care for traditional values and who was often shunned by the elite. She was often an intellectual, something which, in the eyes of the establishment, reduced her femininity and made her sterile. When Allen wrote an article about «The Woman of the Future» the responses were immediate. Both female socialists and conservative Christians reacted to his many references to biological science. Even an ardent socialist like Wallace thought it was too much, and argued against Allen’s view of women because, as Wallace put it, sensuality was an important cause for the downfall of civilizations. Allen had taken an interest in Darwin’s theory of sexual selection already in the 1870s. In his own articles he tried to show that emotions served an important function in the evolutionary process. This resulted in a deep-seated fear of any tampering with traditional gender roles and anything that might upset the natural order. In 1893, Allen went on one of his many trips to the North of Italy. He spent the spring writing a novel called The Woman Who Did, a short but controversial story about a woman who refuses to marry the man she loves because she sees marriage as an oppressive institution. She is brought down by her own convictions, and sacrifices her own biological needs. In the end, not even her only daughter respects her, and she commits suicide. Financial success On his return to England Allen tried in vain to find publisher. He was about to burn the manuscript when John Lane, who had an eye for controversy, decided to take a chance. There was a huge commotion from the get-go. Was his protagonist realistically portrayed, or perhaps the writer was insane? The novel was a bombshell. Did the writer try to defend women’s rights as he himself claimed, or was he a conservative? Was he defending promiscuity or marriage? Or did he, as one reviewer claimed, try to undermine the very foundations of civilized society? The debate continued as new editions were printed. Booksellers in Ireland wanted nothing to do with the infamous blasphemer. Then the novel was published in America, and Grant Allen became an international celebrity. Also, he became wealthy. Satirical parodies such as The Woman Who Wouldn’t by Lucas Cleeve and The Woman Who Didn’t by Victoria Cross were published. In a very awkward way, Allen made himself a public enemy at the same time as he finally achieved a little prosperity. One of his closest friends, the historian Fredrick York Powell, lost patience with him: «Is Allen still frightened over his book? I tried to reassure him. There is nothing new or startling in it, but he has managed to catch the Philistine’s ear: it is silly to bother about answering his critics and he does not do it well. He is such a good fellow and so earnest, and so deaf to the comic side of things that he always has an open place to be attacked in- and it hurts him» The hardworking Grant Allen was never able to rest on his laurels. The disease that had haunted him throughout his life gradually worsened. After a long illness with chronic pains Grant Allen dies in October 1899. He left behind one of the most talked about and least understood novels in English literature. Michael Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story“A Balloon Seller” by Takane Kiuchi (published here with the permission of the translator, Toshiya Kamei) n a certain town there once was a curious man who made his living selling balloons. The man lived at the top of a large tree in a park. During the day he would stroll around the town selling balloons of various colors, such as blue, red, green, and purple. When evening arrived, he would return to his home up in the tree. On his way home the balloon seller would buy himself something for dinner in the first store he stepped into, whichever it might be. For that reason, sometimes he would end up buying nothing but odd things. Also, he was careful to eat as light as possible because of his line of work. So he would buy only two things at each time. Depending on the store, he would buy only a caramel and a cracker at times, only a fig fruit and a bunch of grapes at other times, and only a carrot and an onion at another time. Even so, the balloon seller found all this funny. He would stuff his purchased items into his pockets and go home with a smile on his face. His home was the largest and tallest tree in the park. It was a magnificent tree, indeed. The balloon seller would always whistle his way back. Also, he would think about everything that had happened that day. He would remember every one of his customers, pretty girls and lively boys who had bought his balloons. As he walked while whistling and smiling, his heart would gradually become lighter. By the time he had reached under the tree, his body had become fluffy and light, so he would be able to fly up to his home with the floating power of the balloons he hadn’t sold that day. That’s why he was able to live high up in the tree, where there was a branch that had grown in the shape of a soft bed among the thick leaves. He would lay down his tired body there. He would tie his balloons tightly to a branch, and then eat slowly what he had bought earlier. Whatever came out of his pockets, he would savor his dinner with a smile. When he lay on his back, the stars would shine brightly above him. While humming or whistling a tune, the balloon seller would feel cozy and doze off into sleep. In the morning, a chorus of chirping birds would wake him up. Then he would loosen the strings of his balloons from the branch, hold half of them with each hand, jump off the tree, and land softly on the ground. Then he would walk up to a nearby food stand and eat his breakfast. After that, he would spend the whole day strolling and hawking his balloons. Day after day passed, without any incident. However, one night, the balloon seller was no longer able to go back to his home in the tree. What on earth happened? This is a story of how he lost his ability to fly home. * * * The day had been sultry since the morning. The wind blew hard, raising dust. It was a dreadfully unpleasant day. The whole town had become cranky, irritable, and spiteful. Even though the balloon seller headed for home as usual, he couldn’t think of anything pleasant. Earlier that day a little girl had stamped her feet and burst into tears, complaining that her mother had bought her a green balloon, instead of a blue one. A little boy got angry and kicked another boy, who said, “My balloon is bigger than yours.” Two boys, who were brothers, fought over their balloons. When both of them let go of the balloons, which floated up to the sky, they cried. None of the other children who had bought balloons did a good thing. While remembering such things, the balloon seller, too, felt angry and disgusted. On that day, he, who hardly stopped grinning all day, from morning until night, didn’t crack a smile at all, not even once. On top of that, the mean-spirited wind tried to blow his balloons away in all directions. The balloon seller fell into a terrible mood. In addition, the balloon seller marched into a hardware store by mistake when he went shopping for diner. Now he was in a fix because he had decided to buy in the first store he entered. “Uh, let me see… Please give me a couple of nails,” he said reluctantly. But suddenly he changed his mind. “No, I want a nail and a rivet.” Even though they were too hard for dinner, he would rather have them both. He then put them into his pocket and started trudging along the darkened path. “I wanted to eat something delicious to cheer myself up, but I have nothing but a nail and rivet. What did I do to deserve this?” the balloon seller whispered. He couldn’t see a single star when he stood under the tree. His heart became heavier and heavier. He couldn’t even bring himself to whistle. Unlike other times, his body didn’t become light. No matter how hard he tried to jump, his heavy feet dropped back to the ground. The balloon seller pulled the nail from his pocket and threw it away because he wanted to make his body lighter, even a little. But nothing changed. His feet were stuck to the ground, not willing to fly. Having no other choice, he tried to climb the trunk of the tree. However, it was so thick that it would take three or four men, each with arms outstretched, to encircle the tree. He just dropped to the ground and banged the tip of his nose. “Ah, darn it!” the balloon seller said, quite upset. “I can’t go home ever again. Balloons, why don’t you pull me up with more force? Is it really too much to ask you to lift me up?” Then the balloons pulled him up with all their might. But the balloon seller’s body felt like lead. Finally, the strings snapped and the balloons glided away in every direction. “Ah, this is the end of everything!” the balloon seller said, hurling himself to the ground. Then he began to pluck weeds as if tearing out his hair. “Oh, what’s the use of doing that?” Startled by the voice, the balloon seller looked up at the tree and saw an owl whose face was familiar to him. “So what should I do?” “You should go look for the balloons.” “Why? It’s impossible to do that.” “On your way home, you weren’t whistling, like always. Now, that’s a problem.” “But I don’t feel like whistling. I feel so bored, worried, and disappointed that I don’t know what to do.” “Why are you feeling that way? That’s what’s the matter with you. People got upset because you were in a bad mood. That’s why you have lost your balloons and can’t go home,” said the owl. “Why don’t you whistle now?” The balloon seller got back to his feet. But he still wasn’t in the mood to whistle. Even so, in the end only feeble sounds came out of his mouth. They were so frail and weak that he would have burst into laughter if he weren’t in such a bad mood. The balloon seller whistled again. This time it was better. “You’re getting better at it,” said the owl. Then as the balloon seller started to whistle one of his favorite tunes, his heart began to feel lighter. “I bought a nail for dinner! How silly of me!” He burst into a loud chortle. “How come I didn’t find this funny before?” The owl joined the balloon seller in laughter. And then they picked up all the balloons together. Before he realized it, the balloon seller’s body had become light and afloat, so he was easily able to return to his home in the tree. * * * After that, no matter how bad the day had gone, the balloon seller would always whistle his way home. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
animation / literatureRobert E. Howard (1906-1936) created a sophisticated sword and sandal fantasy more than  decade before Tolkien published his stories. In novels like The Jungle Book (1894), the late victorian writer Rudyard Kipling stripped away the trappings of civilization from man. In Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan (1912), man stripped of his culture became a realistic hero. But in Conan and the works of Robert E. Howard, this primordial force becomes a driver of history, affecting the rise and fall of civilizations.  Conan comes drenched in blood and gore. talked to Mark Finn, Howard’s biographer, in order to understand the continuing attraction of the muscular barbarian. Robert E. Howard only lived till he was 30, yet he created a new genre before he committed suicide. Was he a very hard-working writer?  Like most pulp writers, Howard was serious about his craft. He also needed the money. It wasn’t uncommon for him to put in a twelve-hour day at the typewriter, working on stories and poems. He also wrote letters to his friends and correspondents, including H.P. Lovecraft, and some of those letters are thirty pages long. Despite all of that, he wrote over 300 short stories and around 700 poems in a ten-year period. He was a Texan. Do we know how and when he came up with this prehistoric character? It seems so remote from the kind of life he would have led? Howard has a famous quote that Conan was an amalgam of various gambler, oil field roughnecks, boxers, etc. that he’d met. Remember, too, that Howard was a student of history, and he read about the subject extensively. So even though Howard had never killed a panther with a spear, it was easy for him to imagine what that would be like. How was it that he ended up as a writer in the first place? He had an early aptitude for words and language. When he was fifteen, he decided to try his hand writing stories. It took him three years to get published, in Weird Tales, no less. We should all be so lucky. After that it was a lot of long, hard hours writing at a breakneck pace. He published his first work in magazines. How important were these magazines to literary culture at the time? Pulps weren’t important to “literary culture” at the time, even though they sold tens of millions of copies and fostered generations of writers, and gave us so much in terms of American Literature. But at the time, pulps were considered trashy, beneath the notice of certain folks.  There wasn’t really anyone like Conan at the time. That’s not to say there weren’t other rough characters, but part of what makes Howard’s work so unique is that it straddles genres and slips out of any easy labels.  The Viking sagas may have had some influence on the creation of Conan. Yet, few of the Vikings looked like bodybuilders. Where do you think he found the inspiration for the physical look of Conan? Howard himself mentions boxers and roughnecks and the like. The bodybuilding aspect is part of “pop culture Conan,” which includes the comics, the images of Frank Frazetta, and of course, the movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Howard is known as one of the first great world builders. How particular was he about the details of the Conan universe? His details were intended for the reader to picture clearly what was going on and when and with whom. His world itself was based on the idea of a forgotten epoch in recorded history, and so Howard wrote lots of indicators to the readers that this was supposed to be a precursor to, say, India, or Britain. Those choices he made were actually very deliberate. Given that Conan is a violent, sometimes ruthless, killer, why do you think he is so attractive as a protagonist? Conan is a killer, but not without reason. He keeps his own moral compass on who dies and when. This is something that grows throughout the Conan stories. But any character willing to do the right thing, apart from the popular or expected thing, will always be attractive to readers.  What sort of literary style would you say Howard uses? He was a muscular writer, to be sure, but his language was quite poetic, leading to a style that looks effortless, but is actually quite difficult to master. And no one has been able to do so since. “Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars ………… Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.” (“The Phoenix on the Sword”, 1932)  There was a psychological subtext to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Does Howard’s writing have any literary qualities beyond entertainment? Is there a message in the Conan stories?   Oh, yes. Lots of messages. Most of them relating to the arguments he was having with H.P. Lovecraft about Barbarism versus Civilization. The Conan stories are all about Howard’s concept of what a barbarian would be like in a civilized world. He felt that our world, in the 20th century, had peaked, and was due for a downward slide, so that the new barbarians could come over the walls and kill everyone. Then they would build their civilization up, up, up, until THEY became fat and lazy, and the new barbarians would come and tear them down. That was Howard’s view of history and it plays out in several Conan stories. What, in your opinion, is the best Conan story that Howard wrote? My all time favorite is “Beyond the Black River,” but I also love “Rogues in the House,” “The Tower of the Elephant,” “Red Nails,” and “The God in the Bowl.”   Pulp refers to inexpensive fiction magazines that were published between 1896 and the late 1950s. They were printed on cheap wood pulp paper, hence the term pulp fiction. The publications were the successors to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short-fiction magazines of the 19th century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, the magazines were best known for their lurid, exploitative, and sensational subject matter. Modern superhero comic books are sometimes considered descendants of “hero pulps”; pulp magazines that often featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters (source: wiki)     Listen to “Gods of the North” (a.k.a “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”) by Robert E. Howard. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyA lot has been said about the movies made by the German director Uwe Boll. But in spite of much opposition he has been at his post since 1991, writing, producing and doing what he loves. asked him a few questions about the types of films he has made, and why he made them. Some of the movies relate to various historical periods, while others seem to be mere entertainment.  Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be a film director? Uwe Boll: Since I was 10 years old I wanted to be a film director. I started with super 8mm and BETA Video and short films and documentaries when I was in my teenage years. German Fried Movie was the first real movie I could do 1991 with a budget of 50.000$ on 35mm and it started my career.  You have a PhD. in literature, what was the subject of your thesis? Have you used any of this knowledge in the movie making business? Uwe Boll: I wrote about the development of storytelling in novels and series, and went deep into the history of that form. Directly using for my movies was not necessary but its always good to have a deep background in literature, film and TV history. Unfortunately a lot of young filmmakers have no idea….. their knowledge starts at Star Wars …or E.T.  You have based many of your films on video games. Why did you choose this particular approach? Uwe Boll: I made House of the Dead in 2003 and it made very good money and so I could only raise money for video game based movies…that was the only reason I made so many of them.  What is the difference between adapting, let’s say, a novel, and adapting a video game? Uwe Boll: A novel is normally pretty much clear about the story, emotions, storytelling etc. A game leaves a lot of that open. So you fill it in yourself and then the fans flip out on you because you CHANGED something. But in reality you filled the voids.  In your career you have worked with some very famous actors: Christian Slater, Jason Statham, Ray Liotta and others. What is your approach to directing, are you a hands off guy or do you micro-manage? Some of these actors would be very experienced? Uwe Boll: Most of them had a lot of experience and I let them do their job. They should show me in the first run through how they approach the scene or their character, and then if necessary I correct something.  This is a blog about history. So I have to ask you about your World War II movie about the nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz (2011). Why did you make this film? Uwe Boll: I felt that in times of fake news and after truth bullshit we need a real film showing what the holocaust actually was. Not the hero stories etc…just the killing. Because that was Auschwitz. 50% of the people who came with a train in were dead within 2 days. There is a lot of holocaust denial and I think those who watch my movie will get the reality stuck in their face.  You also made a film about the situation in Sudan called Darfur starring Billy Zane. There is an interesting dilemma presented in that movie: two journalists have to choose between reporting or helping victims. How and when did you get the idea to make this film? Uwe Boll: I felt that after Rwanda where the West didn’t help that in Sudan we should stop the genocide, but as always nobody did anything. No NATO troops stopped the genocide. 450.000 women, children, old people got hacked into pieces ….and nothing happened …. A crime.  You made a film called Tunnel Rats (2008) about soldiers during the Vietnam War. Don’t you think it is strange that there is so much focus on the perspective of the American soldiers, and  so little on the lives of the ordinary Vietnamese? Uwe Boll:Yes, I tried to show both sides in my film and also showed why America really lost the war. You could bomb the tunnels, but they were structurally sound….and of course the Vietnamese were fighting for EVERYTHING and the Americans had no clue why that war actually happened.  You are no stranger to controversy. You have gained a reputation as a sort of cult director. What would say has been the hardest part of the movie making process? Uwe Boll: Raising money and getting good distribution. To shoot the movies was always the fun part.   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyBy Aleister Crowley atricia Fleming threw the reins to a groom, and ran up the steps into the great house, her thin lips white with rage. Lord Eyre followed her heavily. ‘I’ll be down in half an hour,’ she laughed merrily, ‘tell Dawson to bring you a drink!’ Then she went straight through the house, her girlish eyes the incarnation of a curse. For the third time she had failed to bring Geoffrey Eyre to her feet. She looked into her hat; there in the lining was the talisman that she had tested—and it had tricked her. What do I need? she thought. Must it be blood? She was a maiden of the pure English strain; brave, gay, honest, shrewd—and there was not one that guessed the inmost fire that burnt her. For she was but a child when the Visitor came. The first of the Visits was in a dream. She woke choking; the air—clear, sweet, and wholesome as it blew through the open window from the Chilterns—was fouled with a musty stench. And she woke her governess with a tale of a tiger. The second Visit was again at night. She had been hunting, was alone at the death, had beaten off the hounds. That night she heard a fox bark in her room. She spent a sleepless night of terror; in the morning she found the red hairs of a fox upon her pillow. The third Visit was nor in sleep nor waking. But she tightened her lips, and would have veiled the hateful gleam in her eyes. It was that day, though, that she struck a servant with her riding-whip. She was so sane that she knew exactly wherein her madness lay; and she set all her strength not to conquer but to conceal it. Two years later, and Patricia Fleming, the orphan heiress of Carthwell Abbey, was the county toast, Diana of the Chilterns. Yet Geoffrey Eyre evaded her. His dog’s fidelity and honesty kept him true to the little north-country girl that three months earlier had seduced his simplicity. He did not even love her; but she had made him think so for an hour; and his pledged word held him. Patricia’s open favour only made him hate her because of its very seduction. It was really his own weakness that he hated. Patricia ran, tense and angry, through the house. The servants noticed it. The mistress has been crossed, they thought, she will go to the chapel and get ease. Praising her.True, to the chapel she went; locked the door, dived behind the altar, struck a secret panel, came suddenly into a priest’s hiding-hole, a room large enough to hold a score of men if need be. At the end of the room was a great scarlet cross, and on it, her face to the wood, her wrists and ankles swollen over the whip lashes that bound her, hung a naked girl, big-boned, voluptuous. Red hair streamed over her back. ‘What, Margaret! so blue?’ laughed Patricia. ‘I am cold,’ said the girl upon the cross, in an indifferent voice. ‘Nonsense, dear!’ answered Patricia, rapidly divesting herself of her riding-habit. ‘There is nohint of frost; we had a splendid run, and a grand kill. You shall be warm yet, for all that.’ This time the girl writhed and moaned a little. Patricia took from an old wardrobe a close-fitting suit of fox fur, and slipped it on her slim white body. ‘Did I make you wait, dear?’ she said, with a curious leer. ‘I am the keener for the sport, be sure!’ She took the faithless talisman from her hat. It was a little square of vellum, written upon in black. She took a hairpin from her head, pierced the talisman, and drove the pin into the girl’s thigh. ‘They must have blood,’ said she. ‘Now see how I will turn the blue to red! Come! don’t wince: you haven’t had it for a month.’ Then her ivory arm slid like a serpent from the furs, and with the cutting whip she struck young Margaret between the shoulders. A shriek rang out: its only echo was Patricia’s laugh, childlike, icy, devilish. She struck again and again. Great weals of purple stood on the girl’s back; froth tinged with blood came from her mouth, for she had bitten her lips and tongue in agony. Patricia grew warm and rosy—exquisitely beautiful. Her bare breasts heaved; her lips parted; her whole body and soul seemed lapped in ecstasy. ‘I wish you were Geoffrey, girlie!’ she panted. Then the skin burst. Raw flesh oozed blood that dribbled down Margaret’s back. Still the fair maid struck and struck in the silence, until the tiny rivulets met and waxed great and touched the talisman. She threw the bloody whalebone into a corner, and went upon her knees. She kissed her friend; she kissed the talisman; and again kissed the girl, the warm blood staining her pure lips. She took the talisman, and hid it in her bosom. Last of all she loosened the cords, and Margaret sank in a heap to the floor. Patricia threw furs over her and rolled her up in them; brought wine, and poured it down her throat. She smiled, kindly, like a sister. ‘Sleep now awhile, sweetheart!’ she whispered, and kissed her forehead. It was a very demure and self-possessed little maiden that made dinner lively for poor Geoffrey, who was thinking over his mistake. Patricia’s old aunt, who kept house for her, smiled on the flirtation. It was not by accident that she left them alone sitting over the great fire. ‘Poor Margaret has her rheumatism again,’ she explained innocently; ‘I must go and see how she is.’ Loyal Margaret! So it happened that Geoffrey lost his head. ‘The ivy is strong enough’ (she had whispered, ere their first kiss had hardly died). ‘Before the moon is up, be sure!’ and glided off just as the aunt returned. Eyre excused himself; half a mile from the house he left his horse to his man to Lead home, and ten minutes later was groping for Patricia in the dark. White as a lily in body and soul, she took him in her arms. Awaking as from death, he suddenly cried out, ‘Oh God! What is it? Oh my God! my God! Patricia! Your body! Your body!’ ‘Yours!’ she cooed. ‘Why, you’re all hairy!’ he cried. ‘And the scent! the scent!’ From without came sharp and resonant the yap of a hound as the moon rose. Patricia put her hands to her body. He was telling the truth. ‘The Visitor!’ she screamed once with fright, and was silent. He switched the light on, and she screamed again. There was a savage lust upon his face. ‘This afternoon,’ he cried, ‘you called me a dog. I looked like a dog and thought like a dog; and, by God! I am a dog. I’ll act like a dog then!’ Obedient to some strange instinct, she dived from the bed for the window. But he was on her; his teeth met in her throat. In the morning they found the dead bodies of both hound and fox—but how did that explain the wonderful elopement of Lord Eyre and Miss Fleming? For neither of them was ever seen again. I think Margaret understands; in the convent which she rules today there hangs beside a blood-stained cutting-whip the silver model of a fox, with the inscription: ‘Patricia Margaritæ vulpis vulpem dedit.’ Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storypublished  in All-Story Weekly September 7, 1918 Francis Stevens (real name Gertrude Barrows Bennett, 1884–1948) t was upon the waterfront that I first met her, in one of the shabby little tea shops frequented by able sailoresses of the poorer type. The uptown, glittering resorts of the Lady Aviators’ Union were not for such as she. Stern of feature, bronzed by wind and sun, her age could only be guessed, but I surmised at once that in her I beheld a survivor of the age of turbines and oil engines—a true sea-woman of that elder time when woman’s superiority to man had not been so long recognized. When, to emphasize their victory, women in all ranks were sterner than today’s need demands. The spruce, smiling young maidens—engine-women and stokers of the great aluminum rollers, but despite their profession, very neat in gold-braided blue knickers and boleros—these looked askance at the hard-faced relic of a harsher day, as they passed in and out of the shop. I, however, brazenly ignoring similar glances at myself, a mere male intruding on the haunts of the world’s ruling sex, drew a chair up beside the veteran. I ordered a full pot of tea, two cups and a plate of macaroons, and put on my most ingratiating air. Possibly my unconcealed admiration and interest were wiles not exercised in vain. Or the macaroons and tea, both excellent, may have loosened the old sea-woman’s tongue. At any rate, under cautious questioning, she had soon launched upon a series of reminiscences well beyond my hopes for color and variety. “When I was a lass,” quoth the sea-woman, after a time, “there was none of this high-flying, gilt-edged, leather-stocking luxury about the sea. We sailed by the power of our oil and gasoline. If they failed on us, like as not ’twas the rubber ring and the rolling wave for ours.” She referred to the archaic practice of placing a pneumatic affair called a life-preserver beneath the arms, in case of that dreaded disaster, now so unheard of, shipwreck. “In them days there was still many a man bold enough to join our crews. And I’ve knowed cases,” she added condescendingly, “where just by the muscle and brawn of such men some poor sailor lass has reached shore alive that would have fed the sharks without ’em. Oh, I ain’t so down on men as you might think. It’s the spoiling of them that I don’t hold with. There’s too much preached nowadays that man is fit for nothing but to fetch and carry and do nurse-work in big child-homes. To my mind, a man who hasn’t the nerve of a woman ain’t fitted to father children, let alone raise ’em. But that’s not here nor there. My time’s past, and I know it, or I wouldn’t be setting here gossipin’ to you, my lad, over an empty teapot.” I took the hint, and with our cups replenished, she bit thoughtfully into her fourteenth macaroon and continued. “There’s one voyage I’m not likely to forget, though I live to be as old as Cap’n Mary Barnacle, of the Shouter. ‘Twas aboard the old Shouter that this here voyage occurred, and it was her last and likewise Cap’n Mary’s. Cap’n Mary, she was then that decrepit, it seemed a mercy that she should go to her rest, and in good salt water at that. “I remember the voyage for Cap’n Mary’s sake, but most I remember it because ’twas then that I come the nighest in my life to committin’ matrimony. For a man, the man had nerve; he was nearer bein’ companionable than any other man I ever seed; and if it hadn’t been for just one little event that showed up the—the mannishness of him, in a way I couldn’t abide, I reckon he’d be keepin’ house for me this minute.” “We cleared from Frisco with a cargo of silkateen petticoats for Brisbane. Cap’n Mary was always strong on petticoats. Leather breeches or even half-skirts would ha’ paid far better, they being more in demand like, but Cap’n Mary was three-quarters owner, and says she, land women should buy petticoats, and if they didn’t it wouldn’t be the Lord’s fault nor hers for not providing ’em. “We cleared on a fine day, which is an all sign—or was, then when the weather and the seas o’ God still counted in the trafficking of the humankind. Not two days out we met a whirling, mucking bouncer of a gale that well nigh threw the old Shouter a full point off her course in the first wallop. She was a stout craft, though. None of your featherweight, gas-lightened, paper-thin alloy shells, but toughened aluminum from stern to stern. Her turbine drove her through the combers at a forty-five knot clip, which named her a speedy craft for a freighter in them days. “But this night, as we tore along through the creaming green billows, something unknown went ‘way wrong down below. “I was forward under the shelter of her long over-sloop, looking for a hairpin I’d dropped somewheres about that afternoon. It was a gold hairpin, and gold still being mighty scarce when I was a girl, a course I valued it. But suddenly I felt the old Shouter give a jump under my feet like a plane struck by a shell in full flight. Then she trembled all over for a full second, frightened like. Then, with the crash of doomsday ringing in my ears, I felt myself sailing through the air right into the teeth o’ the shrieking gale, as near as I could judge. Down I come in the hollow of a monstrous big wave, and as my ears doused under I thought I heard a splash close by. Coming up, sure enough, there close by me was floating a new, patent, hermetic, thermo-ice-chest. Being as it was empty, and being as it was shut up air-tight, that ice-chest made as sweet a life-preserver as a woman could wish in such an hour. About ten foot by twelve, it floated high in the raging sea. Out on its top I scrambled, and hanging on by a handle I looked expectant for some of my poor fellow-women to come floating by. Which they never did, for the good reason that the Shouter had blowed up and went below, petticoats, Cap’n Mary and all.” “What caused the explosion?” I inquired. “The Lord and Cap’n Mary Barnacle can explain,” she answered piously. “Besides the oil for her turbines, she carried a power of gasoline for her alternative engines, and likely ’twas the cause of her ending so sudden like. Anyways, all I ever seen of her again was the empty ice-chest that Providence had well-nigh hove upon my head. On that I sat and floated, and floated and sat some more, till by-and-by the storm sort of blowed itself out, the sun come shining—this was next morning—and I could dry my hair and look about me. I was a young lass, then, and not bad to look upon. I didn’t want to die, any more than you that’s sitting there this minute. So I up and prays for land. Sure enough toward evening a speck heaves up low down on the horizon. At first I took it for a gas liner, but later found it was just a little island, all alone by itself in the great Pacific Ocean. “Come, now, here’s luck, thinks I, and with that I deserts the ice-chest, which being empty, and me having no ice to put in it, not likely to have in them latitudes, is of no further use to me. Striking out I swum a mile or so and set foot on dry land for the first time in nigh three days. “Pretty land it were, too, though bare of human life as an iceberg in the Arctic. “I had landed on a shining white beach that run up to a grove of lovely, waving palm trees. Above them I could see the slopes of a hill so high and green it reminded me of my own old home, up near Couquomgomoc Lake in Maine. The whole place just seemed to smile and smile at me. The palms waved and bowed in the sweet breeze, like they wanted to say, ‘Just set right down and make yourself to home. We’ve been waiting a long time for you to come.’ I cried, I was that happy to be made welcome. I was a young lass then, and sensitive-like to how folks treated me. You’re laughing now, but wait and see if or not there was sense to the way I felt. “So I up and dries my clothes and my long, soft hair again, which was well worth drying, for I had far more of it than now. After that I walked along a piece, until there was a sweet little path meandering away into the wild woods. “Here, thinks I, this looks like inhabitants. Be they civil or wild, I wonder? But after traveling the path a piece, lo and behold it ended sudden like in a wide circle of green grass, with a little spring of clear water. And the first thing I noticed was a slab of white board nailed to a palm tree close to the spring. Right off I took a long drink, for you better believe I was thirsty, and then I went to look at this board. It had evidently been tore off the side of a wooden packing box, and the letters was roughly printed in lead pencil. “‘Heaven help whoever you be,’ I read. ‘This island ain’t just right. I’m going to swim for it. You better too. Good-by. Nelson Smith.’ That’s what it said, but the spellin’ was simply awful. It all looked quite new and recent, as if Nelson Smith hadn’t more than a few hours before he wrote and nailed it there. “Well, after reading that queer warning I begun to shake all over like in a chill. Yes, I shook like I had the ague, though the hot tropic sun was burning down right on me and that alarming board. What had scared Nelson Smith so much that he had swum to get away? I looked all around real cautious and careful, but not a single frightening thing could I behold. And the palms and the green grass and the flowers still smiled that peaceful and friendly like. ‘Just make yourself to home,’ was wrote all over the place in plainer letters than those sprawly lead pencil ones on the board. “Pretty soon, what with the quiet and all, the chill left me. Then I thought, ‘Well, to be sure, this Smith person was just an ordinary man, I reckon, and likely he got nervous of being so alone. Likely he just fancied things which was really not. It’s a pity he drowned himself before I come, though likely I’d have found him poor company. By his record I judge him a man of but common education.’ “So I decided to make the most of my welcome, and that I did for weeks to come. Right near the spring was a cave, dry as a biscuit box, with a nice floor of white sand. Nelson had lived there too, for there was a litter of stuff—tin cans—empty—scraps of newspapers and the like. I got to calling him Nelson in my mind, and then Nelly, and wondering if he was dark or fair, and how he come to be cast away there all alone, and what was the strange events that drove him to his end. I cleaned out the cave, though. He had devoured all his tin-canned provisions, however he come by them, but this I didn’t mind. That there island was a generous body. Green milk-coconuts, sweet berries, turtle eggs and the like was my daily fare. “For about three weeks the sun shone every day, the birds sang and the monkeys chattered. We was all one big, happy family, and the more I explored that island the better I liked the company I was keeping. The land was about ten miles from beach to beach, and never a foot of it that wasn’t sweet and clean as a private park. “From the top of the hill I could see the ocean, miles and miles of blue water, with never a sign of a gas liner, or even a little government running-boat. Them running-boats used to go most everywhere to keep the seaways clean of derelicts and the like. But I knowed that if this island was no more than a hundred miles off the regular courses of navigation, it might be many a long day before I’d be rescued. The top of the hill, as I found when first I climbed up there, was a wore-out crater. So I knowed that the island was one of them volcanic ones you run across so many of in the seas between Capricorn and Cancer. “Here and there on the slopes and down through the jungly tree-growth, I would come on great lumps of rock, and these must have came up out of that crater long ago. If there was lava it was so old it had been covered up entire with green growing stuff. You couldn’t have found it without a spade, which I didn’t have nor want.” “Well, at first I was happy as the hours was long. I wandered and clambered and waded and swum, and combed my long hair on the beach, having fortunately not lost my side-combs nor the rest of my gold hairpins. But by-and-by it begun to get just a bit lonesome. Funny thing, that’s a feeling that, once it starts, it gets worse and worser so quick it’s perfectly surprising. And right then was when the days begun to get gloomy. We had a long, sickly hot spell, like I never seen before on an ocean island. There was dull clouds across the sun from morn to night. Even the little monkeys and parrakeets, that had seemed so gay, moped and drowsed like they was sick. All one day I cried, and let the rain soak me through and through—that was the first rain we had—and I didn’t get thorough dried even during the night, though I slept in my cave. Next morning I got up mad as thunder at myself and all the world. “When I looked out the black clouds was billowing across the sky. I could hear nothing but great breakers roaring in on the beaches, and the wild wind raving through the lashing palms. “As I stood there a nasty little wet monkey dropped from a branch almost on my head. I grabbed a pebble and slung it at him real vicious. ‘Get away, you dirty little brute!’ I shrieks, and with that there come a awful blinding flare of light. There was a long, crackling noise like a bunch of Chinese fireworks, and then a sound as if a whole fleet of Shouters had all went up together. “When I come to, I found myself ‘way in the back of my cave, trying to dig further into the rock with my finger nails. Upon taking thought, it come to me that what had occurred was just a lightning-clap, and going to look, sure enough there lay a big palm tree right across the glade. It was all busted and split open by the lightning, and the little monkey was under it, for I could see his tail and his hind legs sticking out. “Now, when I set eyes on that poor, crushed little beast I’d been so mean to, I was terrible ashamed. I sat down on the smashed tree and considered and considered. How thankful I had ought to have been. Here I had a lovely, plenteous island, with food and water to my taste, when it might have been a barren, starvation rock that was my lot. And so, thinking, a sort of gradual peaceful feeling stole over me. I got cheerfuller and cheerfuller, till I could have sang and danced for joy. “Pretty soon I realized that the sun was shining bright for the first time that week. The wind had stopped hollering, and the waves had died to just a singing murmur on the beach. It seemed kind o’ strange, this sudden peace, like the cheer in my own heart after its rage and storm. I rose up, feeling sort of queer, and went to look if the little monkey had came alive again, though that was a fool thing, seeing he was laying all crushed up and very dead. I buried him under a tree root, and as I did it a conviction come to me. “I didn’t hardly question that conviction at all. Somehow, living there alone so long, perhaps my natural womanly intuition was stronger than ever before or since, and so I knowed. Then I went and pulled poor Nelson Smith’s board off from the tree and tossed it away for the tide to carry off. That there board was an insult to my island!” The sea-woman paused, and her eyes had a far-away look. It seemed as if I and perhaps even the macaroons and tea were quite forgotten. “Why did you think that?” I asked, to bring her back. “How could an island be insulted?” She started, passed her hand across her eyes, and hastily poured another cup of tea. “Because,” she said at last, poising a macaroon in mid-air, “because that island—that particular island that I had landed on—had a heart! “When I was gay, it was bright and cheerful. It was glad when I come, and it treated me right until I got that grouchy it had to mope from sympathy. It loved me like a friend. When I flung a rock at that poor little drenched monkey critter, it backed up my act with an anger like the wrath o’ God, and killed its own child to please me! But it got right cheery the minute I seen the wrongness of my ways. Nelson Smith had no business to say, ‘This island ain’t just right,’ for it was a righter place than ever I seen elsewhere. When I cast away that lying board, all the birds begun to sing like mad. The green milk-coconuts fell right and left. Only the monkeys seemed kind o’ sad like still, and no wonder. You see, their own mother, the island, had rounded on one o’ them for my sake! “After that I was right careful and considerate. I named the island Anita, not knowing her right name, or if she had any. Anita was a pretty name, and it sounded kind of South Sea like. Anita and me got along real well together from that day on. It was some strain to be always gay and singing around like a dear duck of a canary bird, but I done my best. Still, for all the love and gratitude I bore Anita, the company of an island, however sympathetic, ain’t quite enough for a human being. I still got lonesome, and there was even days when I couldn’t keep the clouds clear out of the sky, though I will say we had no more tornadoes. “I think the island understood and tried to help me with all the bounty and good cheer the poor thing possessed. None the less my heart give a wonderful big leap when one day I seen a blot on the horizon. It drawed nearer and nearer, until at last I could make out its nature.” “A ship, of course,” said I, “and were you rescued?” “‘Tweren’t a ship, neither,” denied the sea-woman somewhat impatiently. “Can’t you let me spin this yarn without no more remarks and fool questions? This thing what was bearing down so fast with the incoming tide was neither more nor less than another island! “You may well look startled. I was startled myself. Much more so than you, likely. I didn’t know then what you, with your book-learning, very likely know now—that islands sometimes float. Their underparts being a tangled-up mess of roots and old vines that new stuff’s growed over, they sometimes break away from the mainland in a brisk gale and go off for a voyage, calm as a old-fashioned, eight-funnel steamer. This one was uncommon large, being as much as two miles, maybe, from shore to shore. It had its palm trees and its live things, just like my own Anita, and I’ve sometimes wondered if this drifting piece hadn’t really been a part of my island once—just its daughter like, as you might say. “Be that, however, as it might be, no sooner did the floating piece get within hailing distance than I hears a human holler and there was a man dancing up and down on the shore like he was plumb crazy. Next minute he had plunged into the narrow strip of water between us and in a few minutes had swum to where I stood. “Yes, of course it was none other than Nelson Smith! “I knowed that the minute I set eyes on him. He had the very look of not having no better sense than the man what wrote that board and then nearly committed suicide trying to get away from the best island in all the oceans. Glad enough he was to get back, though, for the coconuts was running very short on the floater what had rescued him, and the turtle eggs wasn’t worth mentioning. Being short of grub is the surest way I know to cure a man’s fear of the unknown.” “Well, to make a long story short, Nelson Smith told me he was a aeronauter. In them days to be an aeronauter was not the same as to be an aviatress is now. There was dangers in the air, and dangers in the sea, and he had met with both. His gas tank had leaked and he had dropped into the water close by Anita. A case or two of provisions was all he could save from the total wreck. “Now, as you might guess, I was crazy enough to find out what had scared this Nelson Smith into trying to swim the Pacific. He told me a story that seemed to fit pretty well with mine, only when it come to the scary part he shut up like a clam, that aggravating way some men have. I give it up at last for just man-foolishness, and we begun to scheme to get away. “Anita moped some while we talked it over. I realized how she must be feeling, so I explained to her that it was right needful for us to get with our kind again. If we stayed with her we should probably quarrel like cats, and maybe even kill each other out of pure human cussedness. She cheered up considerable after that, and even, I thought, got a little anxious to have us leave. At any rate, when we begun to provision up the little floater, which we had anchored to the big island by a cable of twisted bark, the green nuts fell all over the ground, and Nelson found more turtle nests in a day than I had in weeks. “During them days I really got fond of Nelson Smith. He was a companionable body, and brave, or he wouldn’t have been a professional aeronauter, a job that was rightly thought tough enough for a woman, let alone a man. Though he was not so well educated as me, at least he was quiet and modest about what he did know, not like some men, boasting most where there is least to brag of. “Indeed, I misdoubt if Nelson and me would not have quit the sea and the air together and set up housekeeping in some quiet little town up in New England, maybe, after we had got away, if it had not been for what happened when we went. I never, let me say, was so deceived in any man before nor since. The thing taught me a lesson and I never was fooled again. “We was all ready to go, and then one morning, like a parting gift from Anita, come a soft and favoring wind. Nelson and I run down the beach together, for we didn’t want our floater to blow off and leave us. As we was running, our arms full of coconuts, Nelson Smith, stubbed his bare toe on a sharp rock, and down he went. I hadn’t noticed, and was going on. “But sudden the ground begun to shake under my feet, and the air was full of a queer, grinding, groaning sound, like the very earth was in pain. “I turned around sharp. There sat Nelson, holding his bleeding toe in both fists and giving vent to such awful words as no decent sea-going lady would ever speak nor hear to! “‘Stop it, stop it!’ I shrieked at him, but ’twas too late. “Island or no island, Anita was a lady, too! She had a gentle heart, but she knowed how to behave when she was insulted. “With one terrible, great roar a spout of smoke and flame belched up out o’ the heart of Anita’s crater hill a full mile into the air! “I guess Nelson stopped swearing. He couldn’t have heard himself, anyways. Anita was talking now with tongues of flame and such roars as would have bespoke the raging protest of a continent. “I grabbed that fool man by the hand and run him down to the water. We had to swim good and hard to catch up with our only hope, the floater. No bark rope could hold her against the stiff breeze that was now blowing, and she had broke her cable. By the time we scrambled aboard great rocks was falling right and left. We couldn’t see each other for a while for the clouds of fine gray ash. “It seemed like Anita was that mad she was flinging stones after us, and truly I believe that such was her intention. I didn’t blame her, neither! “Lucky for us the wind was strong and we was soon out of range. “‘So!’ says I to Nelson, after I’d got most of the ashes out of my mouth, and shook my hair clear of cinders. ‘So, that was the reason you up and left sudden when you was there before! You aggravated that island till the poor thing druv you out!’ “‘Well,’ says he, and not so meek as I’d have admired to see him, ‘how could I know the darn island was a lady?’ “‘Actions speak louder than words,’ says I. ‘You should have knowed it by her ladylike behavior!’ “‘Is volcanoes and slingin’ hot rocks ladylike?’ he says. ‘Is snakes ladylike? T’other time I cut my thumb on a tin can, I cussed a little bit. Say—just a li’l’ bit! An’ what comes at me out o’ all the caves, and out o’ every crack in the rocks, and out o’ the very spring o’ water where I’d been drinkin’? Why snakes! Snakes, if you please, big, little, green, red and sky-blue-scarlet! What’d I do? Jumped in the water, of course. Why wouldn’t I? I’d ruther swim and drown than be stung or swallowed to death. But how was I t’ know the snakes come outta the rocks because I cussed?’ “‘You, couldn’t,’ I agrees, sarcastic. ‘Some folks never knows a lady till she up and whangs ’em over the head with a brick. A real, gentle, kind-like warning, them snakes were, which you would not heed! Take shame to yourself, Nelly,’ says I, right stern, ‘that a decent little island like Anita can’t associate with you peaceable, but you must hurt her sacredest feelings with language no lady would stand by to hear!’ “I never did see Anita again. She may have blew herself right out of the ocean in her just wrath at the vulgar, disgustin’ language of Nelson Smith. I don’t know. We was took off the floater at last, and I lost track of Nelson just as quick as I could when we was landed at Frisco. “He had taught me a lesson. A man is just full of mannishness, and the best of ’em ain’t good enough for a lady to sacrifice her sensibilities to put up with. “Nelson Smith, he seemed to feel real bad when he learned I was not for him, and then he apologized. But apologies weren’t no use to me. I could never abide him, after the way he went and talked right in the presence of me and my poor, sweet lady friend, Anita!” Now I am well versed in the lore of the sea in all ages. Through mists of time I have enviously eyed wild voyagings of sea rovers who roved and spun their yarns before the stronger sex came into its own, and ousted man from his heroic pedestal. I have followed—across the printed page—the wanderings of Odysseus. Before Gulliver I have burned the incense of tranced attention; and with reverent awe considered the history of one Munchausen, a baron. But alas, these were only men! In what field is not woman our subtle superior? Meekly I bowed my head, and when my eyes dared lift again, the ancient mariness had departed, leaving me to sorrow for my surpassed and outdone idols. Also with a bill for macaroons and tea of such incredible proportions that in comparison therewith I found it easy to believe her story! Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history  Long before Bob Dylan, the 18’th century Scottish poet and song-writer Robert Burns published an anti-war anthem. Surprisingly modern sounding (video below), the song rejects contemporary war mongering and focuses on the human suffering caused by conflict. However, in order to understand the historical context of the song, we do need an expert. We asked George Mcclellan, a director of the Robert Burns Association of North America, to set the scene. Why was “Ye Jacobites by Name” written”? Originally to condemn the Jacobite cause. It’s necessary to understand the period following the Reformation when Great Britain became firmly anti-Catholic after years of conflict. There were two periods of Catholic rebellion, The Jacobite risings, or the Jacobite rebellions or the War of the British Succession, 1688 thru 1748, the intent of which was to return Catholic, James Stuart II and VII, to the British throne and, their last attempt with “Bonnie Prince Charlie’s (Charles Edward Stuart) ending with his loss at Culloden in 1746. Jacobite is Latin for “James.” Do we know who wrote it? I believe the original tune was written by Hector Macneill titled: My Love’s in Germany. He was probably referring to the German House of Hanover who became the sovereigns of Great Britain following the reign of William and Mary. Robert Burns re-wrote the song as an anti-war anthem? What sort of changes did he make? Actually, Burns borrowed extensively from other authors, as well as fill in fragments long lost of many old songs. He did not plagiarize but rewrote or reframed ideas expressed by others to fit tunes from traditional Scottish folk songs, before they became lost forever. Burns borrowed only the first verse from the original version of Ye Jacobites By Name that attacked Catholics from the political point of view of the conservative (and Protestant) British government, aka: the Whigs. Burns rewrote his version in 1791 with an anti-war outlook. His is the version that most people know today. The tune for the lyrics was from a song titled Captain Kid (one ‘d’) and may have been a version of Put in All in ‘Pills’ written after The Battle of Falkirk Garland in 1746. Before Burns was born. Many tunes were written and published comforting the failed Catholic efforts and most were published in Ewan MacColl’s collection titled Personal Choice. Burns wrote for two publishers, Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum and James Hogg. Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum, with Burn’s version was published in 1793. How was the song received when it was published by Burns, with the tune added? Little remark has been recorded as to the songs first appearance. Enough Catholics still existed as neighbors to have been offended when publicly sang. The pro-monarchy pub crowd probably liked it, as they did most things Burns did. The song has a pretty strong political message, at what sort of events would it be performed? Except it be in a pub or ale house, it would not be performed like we understand performers do today. In your face songs would have been punished not glorified. Politics of the time could be deadly if one stood against the Crown. So, public demonstrations of the tune, outside of pubs, etc. ,simply didn’t occur. Burns wrote it. It was published in Johnson’s Scots Museum and received little notoriety except to confirm Britain’s religious conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism. In Scotland in Burns time, it was the Calvinism of the people vs. Anglicanism (Church of Scotland) of the Govt. Would you say the song has had any influence on Scottish history? The song, No! Culloden (Protestant government forces vs Catholic pretender) had the greater influence on Scottish History by killing all pretense that a Catholic Stuart would return to the throne of Great Britain. It also killed the Highland Clan system, mostly Catholic, forever. Clarifying why such a song should be important is to understand the Jacobite cause. Charles Stuart’s Jacobite army, largely composed of Catholics and Episcopalians, but mostly Highland Clans, with a small detachment of Catholic Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment, plus some Irish, represented a return to old feudalism. Charlie’s effort was supported by France, with some Irish and Catholic Scots military units in French service, to support the Stuart claim. The British Governments Hanoverian forces were Protestants, English with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and some non-Catholic Highlanders. The results of that complete and disastrous rout are well known, but it ended the Clan system and took Scotland out of the past and pointed it into the future. But deeper economic motives however, lie hidden as causal effects. England and the Scottish Lowlanders were moving into an industrial age of unprecedented prosperity and growth. A return of the Stuarts would mean a return to feudalism and they weren’t having any of that. Advances in agricultural production and world trade was enriching even the crofters in the Lowlands and the Industrial Revolution was just around the corner. No, a return to feudalism would have ended all that. Culloden’s aftermath did arouse strong feelings for a long time and the original song contributed to that so Burns rewrote the lyrics to temper down ill feelings because he recognized all Scots as kinsmen, “Brothers be for a’ that,” not enemies because of religion. Remember too, Burns had his own private religious war (with words) against the Scottish Kirk too. Too, Burns was more than emphatic to the lost Jacobite cause as revealed in several pieces he wrote on his first tour to the Highlands. Burns understood his own family’s history in the religious conflicts that preceded him, and was proud that his ancestors sided with the persecuted rebels of the Covenanters on his mum’s side and the Jacobites on his fathers side. Burns was particularly aware that the final results of the Scottish religious wars, and the collapse of Catholicism, rendered his fathers family near the poverty level. Burns referred to it as Jacobite “Ruin”and, it did adversely affect his fathers course through life. Burns was also proud that his father recovered, gained an occupation (Gardner) and survived. It was an awful period of time for the people of Scotland. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureIn Nepal every school boy knows the name Laxmi Devkota (1909-59), author of the short Napelese epic Muna Madan. All over Himalaya his works are revered as classics, yet in Europe and the West his folk inspired narrative poems remain largely unknown. In a special interview one of his two surviving sons, Padma Devkota, explains the continuing attraction of his father’s stories, and why a tale like Muna Madan still fascinates today, almost 100 years after it was written. Why has Muna Madan become such a central work in Nepalese literature? Professor Padma Devkota: Muna-Madan remains a central work in Nepali literature for several reasons. Briefly, it is the first major Romantic work in Nepali literature which revolts against the age-long Sanskrit classical tradition and seeks to tell the story, as Professor Shreedhar Lohani observes in “Life, Love, and Death in Muna Madan,” of real people through lives of fictional characters, and to fictionalize real geographical space. This is the first work in Nepali literature which elevates the jhyaure song, an otherwise neglected cultural space, to a significant literary height. Next, it tells a story of the common Nepali people which remains realistically contemporary in the context of the international labor market which still attracts many indigent Nepali workers. It is a heart-rending tragedy written in a simple diction which even the illiterate people of Nepal easily understood. They found their own lives written all over the pages of this book. Even then, Poet Devkota himself was criticized by elitist writers as having done something that would mar his literary career. Muna Madan deals with issues like poverty and caste, to what extent are these issues in present day Nepal? Professor Padma Devkota: The caste system is not a central theme of Muna-Madan. It is mentioned only once in the course of the story when Madan’s overwhelming gratitude to the Good Samaritan figure, the Bhote, causes Madan to mention his own caste. Furthermore, the caste system itself was efficient at the time it was created. Later practices cast a slur on its original intent, which was simply a division of labor within a small, ancient community. Quite obviously it has outlasted its use in contemporary societies and the Government of Nepal has taken efficient action against all caste discriminations. However, even as poets and thinkers point up the correct path, human habits die hard. We now fear the rise of economic castes such as those that encrust capitalistic societies. I believe Nepal, especially after its secularization, has been more successful fighting the discriminatory caste system than it has succeeded in fighting poverty. Tell us a little about your father, Laxmi Prasad Devkota. What sort of man was he? Professor Padma Devkota: Laxmi Devkota is popular as Mahakavi (Great Poet/Epicist). The public was quick to recognize the exceptional qualities of a poet whose fifty-ninth book, The Witch Doctor and Other Essays, a collection of thirty essays written originally in English, appeared on November 11, 2017. There are several other documents waiting to be published. He wrote in practically all the genres of literature and excelled in poetry and essay. Initially, he wrote under the influence of his Sanskrit background and English education. He started out as a Romantic poet in the Nepali tradition but continually grew as a poet to a literary modernity which the bulk of his writings have shaped. As an intellectual, he participated in the socio-political life of the nation, which he loved with all his heart. As a writer, he had vision, imagination and mastery over the medium. He also raised his voice against colonialism, imperialism, discriminations and injustice. As a thinker, he asserted the necessity of scientific and logical thinking to counteract blind faith and orthodoxy which hindered progress. As a human being, he had the gift of compassion and empathy. Legends continue growing around the life of the poet. What kind of reception did Muna Mudan receive when it was published? Professor Padma Devkota: Muna-Madan is a long narrative poem written in the lyrical form called jhyaure in which learned people of the time found, as Devkota himself explains, “a low standard of rural taste, an inkling of distancing from civilization or of showiness or trace of ill-manners of the hills.” He tells us how the pundits “started wrinkling their nose” at the mention of jhyaure. For them, the merits of literature were with Kalidas and Bhavabhuti, the classical Sanskrit poets. For Devkota, they were not national poets and their literary output was not the Nepali national literature. So, he compares his situation to that of his predecessor, Bhanubhakta Acharya, the Adi Kavi or the First Poet of Nepal. During Bhanubhakta’s time, the elitists asked if it was possible to write poetry in Nepali. But Bhanubhakta used the Sanskrit classical meter and produced wonderful poetry in Nepali. Similarly, in Devkota’s time, the elitists asked if it was possible to write poetry in jhyaure. Devkota elevated the status of jhyaure by writing serious literature in this rhythm of the common heart. Quickly, Muna-Madan gained popularity and it still remains the best-seller even to this day.  There is a movie version of the novel, is this film faithful to the original text? Professor Padma Devkota: I would have to look at the movie again to tell you just how faithful it is. When I watched it for the first time years ago, I thought it was sufficiently faithful to the original text, but that is just a passing claim. Gaps, additions and interpretations of the movie need a more serious revisiting. Watch the movie trailer  Could you describe the literary style of that your father uses in his narrative? Is he a realist writer, a naturalist? A modernist? Professor Padma Devkota: Muna-Madan is a long narrative poem written with the ballad in mind. It uses a lyrical form called the jhyaure which was popular among people at work, especially in the paddy fields where young boys and girls teased each other with songs and fell in love. Although Devkota’s poem is tragic in essence in keeping with the eastern view of life, he insists on the importance of action, which alone can give significance to life. Throughout the poem, there are reversals of the imaginary and the real, of gender roles, of situations, and so on. The poem is romantic in vision, emotionally well-balanced and under full control of the writer. It uses fresh metaphors and images that have a lasting impression upon the mind of the reader. The work is popularly acclaimed as being simple, but simplicity of diction is counteracted by the poet’s imaginative flights that trail the syntax behind them. It is as if my father wanted to apply William Wordsworth’s famous poetic declaration in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads to Nepali literature: to write about real people in their own tongues. In trying to select a “language really used by men,” Devkota strikes gold and achieves a simplicity which stands in great contrast to the complexity he was later able to achieve in the epic language of Nepali Shakuntala, for instance. In terms of its revolt against the classical tradition and its attempt to speak in the simple language of the common people, Muna-Madan is modernist too. It does make a very powerful statement against discriminatory caste practices.  In which way does his novel fall into the narrative of Nepalese literary history? Professor Padma Devkota: Nepali derives from Pali, which derives from Sanskrit. Very early Nepali writers wrote devotional poetry in Sanskrit; but Bhanubhakta Acharya decided to freely translate Ramanyan into Nepali using the classical Sanskrit meters. He also wrote a few poems about the political and social issues of his time. Then came Motiram Bhatta and introduced the Urdu gazal and wrote many love poems. Lekhanath Poudyal stuck to the Sanskrit tradition but wrote a Nepali that gleamed with polished language. Balakrishna Sama, a playwright and a poet, looked westward and to science and philosophy. Laxmi Prasad Devkota introduced Romanticism and Modernity to Nepali literature. Briefly again, my father’s poetry is spontaneous, deeply felt, sincere and honest, and has a touch of spirituality in it. He loves his nation, but goes glocal. He finds his inspiration in the histories and mythologies of India, Greater India (Bharatvarsha), Greece, Rome and Nepal. For him, mythology offers a proper window into the hearts of the peoples of the world. For the human being must stand at the center of the universe. The human being is the only significantly worthy object of worship. And the poet remains a liberal humanist.  Why do you think Muna Madan is so little known in Europe? Professor Padma Devkota: No serious attempt has been made by the Nepalese Government to introduce its culture and literature to the Europeans, who don’t read Nepali anyway. And why should they? Nepal is not an economic or military giant. So, its richest cultural mine awaits discovery by individuals who wander in search of the best in world literature. Some such as Dom Moreas who met Devkota at his death-bed and reminisced him in Gone Away: An Indian Journal or David Rubin whose translations of Devkota’s poems appear under the title Nepali Visions, Nepali Dreams or Michael Hutt of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, who translated Muna-Madan are examples of Western scholars who have discovered him. More recently, international scholarship has grown around Devkota’s work. One such study, though peripheral to Muna-Madan, is that of Anna Stirr’s on “Sounding and Writing a Nepali Public Sphere: The Music and Language of Jhyaure” (Asian Music 46, 2015). Although Devkota himself started the tradition of translating his own works and those of his colleagues’ into English, and although he also started the tradition of writing serious literature originally in English, we have not been able to publicize it beyond the frontiers of our immediate neighbors.  Are there many foreign translations of the story? Professor Padma Devkota: Not as many as or as good as we would like to see. Some Nepali translators have attempted rendering Muna-Madan into English. Among them are my father’s brother, Madhusudhan Devkota, and Tirtha Man Tuladhar both of whom attempted a translation of this work in 1970. Ananda Shrestha’s rendering into English appeared in 1995. Foreigners, too, have tried to translate this work in their own ways. A. M. Syangden and Ganga Singh Rai form India attempted translating Muna-Madan in 1994 and 1996, respectively. Their major problem is with the language itself. Michael J. Hutt’s translation appeared in 1996. It remains the most noted version to this day. Liu Xian translated it into Chinese in 2011. Portions of the text have been translated into Russian, Korean, French, German and other European languages, too. All of them have translated from the original text of Muna-Madan, which is shorter by 399 lines from the text revised by the poet in 1958. This one remains to be translated by someone.     Click to buy an English translation “Muna Madan follows the life of Madan who leaves his wife , Muna,  and goes to Lhasa to make money, and while returning he becomes sick on the way. His friends leave him on the road and come back home saying he has died. The story also shows the life of a poor woman who suffered much without her husband and later dies because of grief. Finally he is rescued by a man who is considered to be of lower caste in Nepal. That is why it is said that a man is said to be great not by caste or race but by a heart full of love and humanity. When Madan returns to Kathmandu after regaining his health, he discovers that his wife is dead and becomes grief-stricken. Madan comes to realize that money is of no value at that point. In this poem, Devkota has written about the biggest problems in Nepalese society at the time.” (Wiki) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story“An Unequal Marriage” by Vicente Riva Palacio (1832-1896) (published here with the permission of the translator, Toshiya Kamei) It was starting to get dark by the time we reached Covadonga. A crescent moon was almost halfway across the sky, and its weak light was mixed with the last hints of twilight, giving a fantastic aspect to all objects, amplifying their proportions with indecisive silhouettes. For days we had been dreaming of Covadonga. With a feverish impatience to visit that historic place, we revived its traditions and chronicles in our minds and expanded the legends that sprouted from each one of the cantos inspired by those rocks, sacred for the Spaniards. Thus, as we arrived and descended into the ravine at the mysterious hour, our imagination was piqued, and we thought we were hearing the shriek of the Moors and the hoarse cry of the Christians; and we gazed at those soaring crags in wonderment, and Covadonga seemed like an enormous granite shell that had closed its huge valves to shelter a band of heroes like a pearl, and opened them later to disperse the seeds of a people who would grow stronger every day, reconquer their homeland, and wave their flags triumphantly over half the world in the sixteenth century. * * * We took shelter in an inn and, at eight in the evening, we sat to eat with the few pilgrims who were there. The after-dinner conversation took on a pleasantly informal tone, because there were only a few of us and we all had come in search of the impression the place produced in us. Across the table from me sat a young German man, who looked about thirty-five, and at his side a woman of about fifty-five. It was impossible to tell at first sight whether she was his mother or wife. The two spoke correct Spanish and were tactful enough not to say anything in German to each other, for fear that we wouldn’t understand it, thus proving to us, though indirectly, they were persons of distinction. Halfway through the meal, we already knew the woman was the wife of the German, whose name was Leopoldo Schloesing; but to our surprise, his wife called him Guillermo, while he was Don Leopoldo to us. Perhaps Leopoldo came to notice that we were amazed by this, besides their great age difference and their deep affection for each other, as, turning to me, he said, “Do you think my wife is older than I am?” I didn’t know how to answer him, because saying no was a lie that my eyes would have given away; yet saying yes was a lack of manners toward the woman, who gave a sweet smile when she heard her husband’s question and looked at him with a deep tenderness. “Well, no, señor,” continued the German. “I’m at least eight years older than she is, and I can assure you of that on my word of honor.” None of us dared say a word. Had he said it in jest, even though laughing at it would probably have offended the woman, we would have given way to laughter; but as he said it, his features assumed a solemn expression, his voice had prophetic vibrations, and he looked beyond us, his eyes lost in infinity. “It’s not a secret, nor do I want to make a mystery out of what I’m going to tell you. Surely you will take me for a madman and feel pity for my poor Margarita, but it’s true.” The woman squeezed her husband’s arm, laid her head on his shoulder, and we saw her eyes well up in tears. It seemed as though we were dreaming, and even a servant and two girls attending to the table stood thunderstruck with the plates and cutlery, which they washed in a basin at the back of the dining room. The lamps seemed to have dimmed. The man had begun to move us, even fascinate us. “I was twenty-eight years old; I was honest, hardworking, and intelligent; with all my heart, I loved Margarita, who was then twenty and lived with her kind mother in Hamburg; not rich, but not destitute either. Her father, at his death, had left them income, well invested, enough to cover the needs of the two women, who had no other relative. “Our love had grown when we were children, and I was waiting to make my fortune to marry Margarita; well, for that, I not only had her mother’s approval, but the kind woman also loved me like her own son. “In those days a brilliant enterprise in America fell into my lap, which would take too long to explain but, after a year’s absence from my country, it would quadruple my investment; but I didn’t have the capital, and it came to worry me so much that Margarita and her mother noticed something was wrong with me, and they urged me to reveal my secret. How could I have refused? They were my only loved ones on earth! When I told them everything, they tried to comfort me; but I was inconsolable as I felt a fortune slipping through my fingers and, with it, my happiness, because the realization of my marriage depended on it. “A few days later, on arriving at Margarita’s house, the two women flung themselves into my arms, shedding happy tears. They had sold everything they owned and were offering it to me for my enterprise. “I adamantly refused to accept it, but they begged, cried, and insisted on it, making me understand that we were all part of the same family, that we had to share one another’s joys, sorrows, and hopes, and if that money was lost, Margarita and I would marry penniless, and I would support the family with the blessed fruits of my labor. I couldn’t possibly refuse the offer. I accepted it: the day for my departure arrived; I said goodbye to Margarita and her mother, and set sail for America.” * * * The German remained silent for a while, during which all eyes were fixed on him. “I already know,” he continued in a solemn tone. “There’s no need to ask you if you believe in metempsychosis, the Pythagorean theory of the transmigration of the soul, or the doctrine of reincarnation, which has been upheld with such vigor by apostles of Spiritism like Allan Kardec and Juan Renau, because all those theories must be nonsense to you. I was convinced of the same thing. “On the sixth day of the voyage, we were enveloped in one of those dense fogs prevalent in the northern seas. We sailed among reefs as the captain took precautions: a large lamp high above one of the masts; a bell ringing all the time; the steam engine letting out a long and loud groan every few minutes, and sailors keeping watch on the spars. “But all was in vain: I was on deck and suddenly saw the fog before us grow dark; enveloped in the fog, as if rising from the bottom of the sea, an enormous steamer came crashing against us, making a terrible noise I can’t explain. Our ship split, and I don’t know what happened next, because I felt faint, and vaguely sensed murmurs, music, and distress. “I recovered my senses, but I wasn’t who I had been. I felt myself light; suspended in space, I saw the scene of the catastrophe far away, just a patch of fog on the vast sea, because the earth, without dragging me along, was floating dizzily in infinity. Then I realized I was dead. I began to acquire the marvelous perfection of the spirit: I could see a great distance, and among many cadavers floating on the waves I recognized mine. “I suffered the most terrible sorrow, thinking of Margarita and her mother, their pain, their solitude, the miserable life ahead of them, and decided to return to the world to help them.” Leopoldo became quiet again, and no one dared look at the others, for fear of seeing a mocking face. We didn’t believe this story, but we were so drawn in that we wanted to believe it. “A year later,” continued Leopoldo, “I had reincarnated in the body of a child, the only son of an affluent businessman in the city where Margarita lived. “Until I turned seven, my memories were dormant, but they awoke clearly and brightly with the awareness of the mission I had imposed on myself. “It was time to give her proof so that she would believe me. I searched for Margarita as well as a child could, who was only taken to parks for fresh air. “Fortunately for me, one afternoon, while I was playing with other children, she passed where we were, and the moment I saw her, I went to her and lavished her with caresses. She was taken aback by that sudden display of affection, and even more when I told her, ‘Come tomorrow at this time, because I have something very beautiful to tell you.’ “No doubt she thought these were the things of a child, but the following day she was there. We sat on a stone bench while my governess, on another bench farther away, was completely absorbed in reading a novel. Then I told Margarita that I, young Leopoldo, was Guillermo: I thought she was going to go mad, because to prove that truth, I repeated our conversations word for word and the most insignificant details of my past life, but trying to hide my plans for the future. I learned that Margarita’s mother had died of grief on hearing the news of the catastrophe, and that she, always sad, supported herself by giving music lessons. “From that time on, Margarita recovered her cheerfulness, worked harder, saved to buy me a toy, and tried to see me everywhere: I felt the tenderness of a mother. “I was twenty-eight; my father and mother had died, and I possessed a considerable fortune. I proposed marriage to her; she refused, citing our age difference, but I forced her: we have been together for eight years, and we are as happy as the first day of our marriage. Good night, señores, and each of you will have to judge my story for himself.” “Good night,” we all said. And Leopoldo, leading his wife by the arm, slowly left the dining room. * * * Without making any comment, we all went to bed then, but I could hardly sleep a wink, wondering whether there was any truth in that story, whether they were both mad or a madman and a martyr. When we got up the next morning, the Germans had already left Covadonga. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyThere lived an old retired major in the hills of central Europe. No one knew in which armies he had fought, or which battles that had disfigured his wrinkled face. Some took for granted that he had supported the Nazis during the war. They barely knew his name, and only referred to him with contempt as “the grumpy old major”. His home was a log cabin, overlooking a valley that was often covered in mist. And when the rains and the wind darkened the evenings, the light from his window was a solitary gleam – like the eye of the mountains themselves – peering down on the village below. The major was thoroughly disliked because of his ferocious temper. He arrived in the afternoons, unshaven, stinking of sweat and alcohol, and then he would be very rude and cold – if he indeed he said something at all. The only creature on this earth that seemed to be good enough for the old major was his dog. No one knew the age of the creature, or even of the of the major himself. The dog walked with a proud skip in its steps, and he showered it with luxury and food. In the evenings the major would silently ponder the landscape from his vantage point. What his thoughts were, not even the dog could tell. There was never a visitor to the old cabin, but the major sometimes sobered up and cleared the path. He worked into the afternoons with a pick ax and shuffle. When he was done he would take a seat in a chair outside, and drink whiskey and smoke until he fell asleep where he sat. The evening chill would wake him and then he would withdraw to his bed. Sometimes when the major slept he would kick and scream, as he was struggling for his life. Then the dog would jump down from the bed, and lie down in a corner until he quieted down. When the major woke, he would be sweaty and confused, and then he would drink coffee, and then read a book til dawn penetrated the morning mist. The landscape around the village was vast and wild, and the major would limp up and down those isolated paths followed by his mute companion. In winter, blizzards would descend upon his outpost with terrifying violence. A lighted fireplace and piles of wood kept him warm. He stored canned food of various kinds, beans, spam, fish, and he salted meats to comfort himself. When the water froze he opened the door and collected snow in a bucket which he melted by the fire for his coffee. Sometimes, when he was in the mood, he dug deep into a wooden chest and found an old battery powered radio, and he would sit quietly, intensely concentrated, trying to move the antenna back and forth in order to make out those almost imperceptible voices that penetrated into his dominion from the world outside. But sometimes this proved impossible, and therefore he did not receive advance warning of the horrific storm of 1973. On 21 of October that year the heavens gave birth to the worst winds and heaviest snow fall seen in those parts. The other villagers never talked to the old major because they did not like him, and by the time storm had arrived, and he entered their thoughts, it was too late. They thought that the cabin on the hill has stood there for hundreds of years. Like the major himself it seemed carved out of the hillside. If he just sat quiet where he was, no harm could befall him. And they were right, and the old major knew it. He did what he normally did during winter storms, lighted his fire. The flames flickered, and when the shutters were secured, they filled the room with comfort, light and heat, while the Day of Judgment brewed outside. The old major was used to this, it had been his life, in every sense. He got up a bottle of whiskey, and sipped from a glass. His dog, however, was utterly terrified. It crawled under the table, and whined. The old major tried to reassure the creature, calm it with offers of treats, but the howl of the winds, the creaking walls and what seemed like an inexplicable drone from the heavens above frightened it, and it would take no food. The old major then got down on his knees under the table and sat next to the dog with his glass of whiskey. He looked at the dog, and for a while dog was calm. But then suddenly a tremendous gust blew the door open, filling the room with swirls of snow. The old major rushed to his feet, and struggled against the wind to shut it. When that was done, he noticed that the dog had fled into the night to seek refuge among the trees. First, he was overwhelmed with grief when the room was quiet. He looked at the empty space where the dog used to lie. Then his eyes were suddenly filled with defiance, an old soldier was returning to battle. He put on his thickest coat, and hat and scarf, grabbed an oil lamp and unlocked the door. So it was that the old major decided to take on the very spirits of the mountain to fight for his dog. He waded to his ankles in snow for a few hundred meters up the hill. He shouted, but his voice was inaudible. As he became removed from his cabin, he saw its light extinguish in the storm. And not soon after, the old major was overcome with fatigue and sat down under a tree. That is where the men from the village found his frozen body two days later. They did not have much sympathy for him because he had always been mean and yelled at them. The dog, however, was found alive in the shed outside. Everyone thought that this was the most faithful creature on earth which stayed so loyal to such a terrible person. It was brought down from the mountain, and given to a breeder, who made sure that it produced many litters, whose offspring still run around on the meadows in those parts. They say old majors die, but their dogs live on forever. by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... 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history / movies  Despite the hardships of war, the 1940s are usually considered a golden age of British cinema. TV was not yet introduced into the homes, and during the worst fighting the audience flocked in their millions to see the Noel Coward films of David Lean, the collaborative work of Powell & Pressburger or Gainsborough melodramas (1943-49). After the war there were of course Ealing comedies (1947-57) to cheer you up. How did the British manage to maintain such an output of quality productions during a period when sacrifices were so great? We had a brief chat with movie historian Charles Drazin.  How were films financed during the war? Charles Drazin: Dominating production at this time was the Rank Organisation, which provided the lion’s share of financing for most of the prestige films that are still remembered today. (The Rank Organization was the media empire founded by J. Arthur Rank, and owned everything from studios to the cinemas where the movies played.) Was there much censorship? Charles Drazin: Mainstream movies had to respect the British Board of Film Censorship and, if they wanted to get into the profitable US market, the Hollywood Production Code, and also of course any wartime regulations relating to national security, but I think what was more notable was the freedom that film-makers had to express themselves. A good example is Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). Churchill wasn’t able to prevent the film from being released although he disapproved fiercely of its content. Were movie people exempt from military service in any way? Charles Drazin: They could be if they were in a “reserved occupation” deemed to be necessary for the furtherance of the war effort. How do British wartime movies compare with the similar productions in Germany? Charles Drazin: Filmmakers were “free” in the sense that no higher government authority was telling them what to say. Obviously film-makers were encouraged to make films that support the war effort, but there was a diversity and authenticity of spirit that comes from free expression. The British film industry was of course engaged in a kind of propaganda but it was soft propaganda as opposed to the hard propaganda of the Nazis. I like the comment someone made about the great British documentary film-maker Humphrey Jennings that he was making “propaganda for the human race”. Were the movies distributed among the troops? Charles Drazin: Most certainly. What about availability of raw film? Certainly that would have to be rationed during the war? Charles Drazin: Yes, very significantly. Like so many other things at this time raw film was rationed. How did the moviegoers during WWII react to the realism of some films, such as One of our Aircraft is Missing? Charles Drazin: The critics thought such realism was the crowning glory of a British film renaissance – what made it stand out from the phoniness of Hollywood – but of course over time audiences grew tired of it. In the second half of the war the most successful movies were the escapist Gainsborough romantic melodramas. These melodramas were very much aimed at women. (The men were mostly off to war, or perhaps home on leave.) Did the army have any role in the production of the film like In Which we serve (1942) or One of Our Aicraft is Missing (1942)? Charles Drazin: The armed forces would provide support in the form of men and equipment to films that the Ministry of Information considered to be in support of the war effort. What would you say were the major forms of innovation in British cinema during the war years? Charles Drazin: The major achievement in my view was breaking away from formulaic, genre cinema to say something important to a mass popular audience. There were all sorts of style innovations, but it was the coming to age of the cinema as a serious medium in Britain that made such innovations possible. One of Our Aicraft is Missing (1942)  Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyIn 2008 Radio Prague covered the publication of a new Czech book about Jean-Paul Belmondo (1933-2021, he passed away a few days ago). Their brief report described Belmondo’s unique standing in the old Soviet-bloc country; the only major, western action star to gain a foothold behind the iron curtain during the Cold War. Through him a generation of Eastern Europeans got to experience capitalist action flicks. Among hipsters around the world today Belmondo is sometimes elevated to a rugged icon of snobbish intellectualism, through the early films of the Nouvelle Vague-movement. But in Eastern Europe he is remembered as B-movie royalty, the macho man with a twinkle in his eye. Of course, it was Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (1960) that became his break-through, but in many ways his collaboration with Phillipe de Broca (1933-2004) was just as important for his future career. De Broca had been a film photographer during the war in Algeria, and became so disillusioned by the events he witnessed that he decided to make more cheerful and uplifting movies. He started out as an assistant for a few Nouvelle Vague directors, but changed paths and made comedy farces when he established himself as a director. His two producers, Alexandre Mnouchkine and Georges Dancigers, suggested Belmondo for the role of the brash swashbuckling Robin Hood-character Cartouche. A few years earlier they had produced the adventure classic Fanfan la Tulipe (1952) with the legend Gérard Philipe in the lead, and now de Broca bet on Belmondo to revive the swashbuckling genre. Cartouche (1962) was an instant box-office hit, and two years later that success was followed by L’homme de Rio (1964) – an action-packed contemporary adventure about a soldier (played by Belmondo) who pursues the men who kidnapped his girlfriend from Paris to the Amazonian jungles. The Oscar-nominated movie features a series of spectacular action-scenes, and de Broca declared in an interview that the movie was made because “he needed a hit”. His producers had only been reluctantly swayed, and he had spent five months finishing the script. The result was satisfactory, even to himself, but the film was by no means a favorite for de Broca among his own productions. He said: “This was the kind of movie I longed to see when I was 14”. As a director, de Broca often took a hands-off approach to his actors, and Belmondo tended to follow his instincts. “Belmondo will always be Belmondo. You cannot change him. You cannot hide his personality. When he plays a drunkard, he is a drunk Belmondo. When he is in love, he is Belmondo in love.” (de Broca in Gardner 1969-70: 153-157). Belmondo’s charismatic self shone through, especially in B-movies like Tendre voyou (1966), Flic ou voyou (1979), Le cerveau (1969) and L’as des as (1982). The two latter were action-comedies by Gérard Oury, France’s pre-eminent comedy director, most famous for his collaboration with the hilarious genius Louis de Funès. In the 60s and 70s, Belmondo became affiliated with the commercial side of French cinema. Godard and Truffaut ruled the film festivals and the student-bodegas, but ordinary Frenchmen rushed to the cinemas to experience the shenanigans of Louis de Funès and the hazardous stunts of Jean-Paul Belmondo, his broken nose and seductive smile. To critics like Pierre Maillot, however, Belmondo represented the “disillusionment” of French identity because so many of the models for genre movies were American. Two of the great “golden ages” that have supported the self-esteem of French cinematic culture have been the poetic realism of the 30s and 40s and the Nouvelle Vague (“New Wave”) of the 50s and 60s. As a major star and the leading man of the Nouvelle Vague Belmondo therefore became the natural successor to Jean Gabin, the icon of the 30s. But where Gabin had acted tempered and cool – often under dire circumstances – Belmondo would burst with joie de vivre. There was a generational gap between parents in the 1950s and the new rebellious youth. The young wanted more than traditional French values, they needed happy endings. The vulgar neon-lights of Hollywood and Las Vegas beckoned in the distance. Belmondo grew out of the Nouvelle Vague into a new commercial reality. The Armenian-born Henri Verneuil (1920-2002) was a director unconvinced by new wave-ideology. The Belmondo we witness in Verneuil’s movies was rougher, the soldier in the second world war, the tough criminal and the uncompromising cop. The inspiration for Peur sur la ville (1975) was probably Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry. Belmondo plays a policeman pursuing the serial killer Minos through the streets of Paris – in stylish cinematography. The Belmondo we see in this movie is not his usual careless self, the lives of young women were at stake. A contemporary reviewer called it “a tough and ruthless movie”. The newspaper stated that “It was impressive to see Belmondo dangling in a rope from a building, jumping between roof-tops several floors above the asphalt and making subway journeys on top of the cars. Because Belmondo has no stuntman…” (Aftenposten, 06.02.1976) Belmondo also kept a serious face in the gangster movies Borsalino (1970) and Le voleur (1967). The latter was directed by Jacques Cousteau’s old cameraman, Louis Malle, today one of the major names in the history of French cinema. In Le Voleur (1967) Belmondo shines as an actor. He penetrates the mind of a professional thief. He persuasively portrays nerves of steel and deliberate theft. According to the contemporary press Belmondo used all his tricks, “his whole range of charm”. Like Belmondo, Malle would transcend Nouvelle Vague conventions, and create a memorable genre movie aimed at the masses, based on a novel, quite contrary to contemporary ideas about the “auteur”. Belmondo was therefore not only an actor who drifted from art into commercialism, he was a personification of a suppressed part of French cultural history. There existed another France alongside Godard and Truffaut and the other Cahiers-directors, a cinematic culture unashamedly modeled on Hollywood. Belmondo, that first ingratiating face of the Nouvelle Vague-movement, became the major box-office draw of this “other” France. He was just as charming as Roger Moore, and – at his best -adventurous to the level of Harrison Ford. by Michael Wynn editor * Sources: Philippe de Broca and Paul Gardner, «Philippe de Broca: talking to Paul Gardner», The Transatlantic Review, no. 33/34 (winter 1969-70), p. 153-157 Aftenposten (a major Norwegian newspaper), 06.02.1976, s. 6 (signed O.T.) Note: This article was originally published in the Norwegian movie review by Michael Henrik Wynn 30. januar 2014. It has been translated by him and published at this site with the consent of   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureIn the second week of February 1949, 3 men were charged with provoking the death of over ten people in Ecuador. The method of their crime: creating a radio play based on H.G. Wells and then letting it loose on an unsuspecting public. It was an incident far more sinister than the panics that followed the 1938 broadcast in America when Orson Welles had first dramatised H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on radio. Not even the effect of a similar 1944 radio broadcast in Chile could compare when it came to the number of deaths and the level of devestation. On the fateful night of February 12’th, writers for Associated Press and Reuters reported back to the US and Britain: «The mob attacked and burned the building of the newspaper, El Comercio, which housed the radio station and killed fifteen persons and injured 15 others.» Fake news The radio broadcast was the brain child of Leonardo Paez (top photo), director of art at Radio Quito and Eduardo Alcaraz, the station’s dramatic director. The two had become familiar with the 1938 incident in America and the 1944 incident in Chile, which both caused widespread panic, but which also exposed the power of radio. In both those cases, it was announced ahead of schedule that the broadcast would be a fictional dramatisation. Leonardo Paez, a native of Quito, was not only a journalist, but also a singer, composer, poet and producer of radio. In an interview with El Dia, Alcaraz later said that he begged Paez to announce at the beginning of the broadcast that what followed was a dramatisation, but that Paez had dismissed him. Even so, someone had planted bogus UFO reports in the newspaper El Comercio in the weeks before the broadcast. At 21.00 the night of February 12’th, the normal musical broadcast began. Halfway into a song, the news team interupted without warning stating that an attack on Ecuador was underway. Panic erupted in the streets and police were dispatched to the alleged location of a martian invasion, the town of Cotocollao. The imaginary invasion was gradually to proceed from the town of Latacunga, 20 miles south of the capital Quito, where a poisonous gas cloud was reported to kill everything in its path. Actors immitating well known authority figueres then appeared on radio confirming the crisis. Appology not accepted When the station realised that chaos was breaking out, they announced the hoax on radio. The crowd then gathered outside the radio station throwing stones and setting fire to the building. According to the Associated Press there were over a hundred people in the building. Some escaped through the back door. Others sought refuge in the top floors, where some of them jumped from the roof to escape the flames. The army was then called in with teargas and tanks to disperse the crowd and allow the firemen to do their work. At the end of the evening, bodies lay silent in the street, and the injured were shipped off to hospital. The station managers protested their innocence saying they had been unaware of the planned hoax, and the minister of defense himself was called in to investigate the incidence. Punishment Ten people were detained the night of the riot, and several were later charged, among these Leonardo Paez, Eduardo Alcaraz and the actor Eduardo Palace. Eduardo Alcaraz had fled Quito, but was arrested later in the town of Ambato. Paez, however, had escaped that night from the burning building. Seeing that his route of retreat was cut off by an angry mob and the police, he found a way of escaping via an old conservatory. A truck then took him a property near Ibarra, and he laid low until his legal difficulties were solved. 6 years later he left Ecuador and made his way to Venezuela. Paez lost his girlfriend and his nephew to the chaos created by his own radioplay. They died in the riots. He would never return to Ecuador or be convicted of anything, but in 1982 he published his account of the radio play he broadcast on that Saturday evening in 1949. His book is called Los que siembran viento (Those who sow the wind). How could it happen? There has been much speculation about the causes of the panic that erupted after so many broadcasts of War of the Worlds, in the US, in Chile and in Ecuador. Just a year after the Welles broadcast the psychologist Hadley Cantril conducted a study of the effects of the radioshow in which he claimed that the cause of the confusion following the broadcast was the standards of judgment that people applied to the information they heard on radio. They simply trusted the new media of radio, and couldn’t believe that someone would deliberately lie to them. Seing the effectiveness of the broadcast as perhaps being too calculated, the writer Daniel Hopsicker even speculated that the 1938 broadcast was a psychological experiment funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, a conspiracy theory which was dismissed by Orson Welles. Michael Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureIn the 1980s, a new academic discipline became popular in western academia: Postcolonial Studies. New theories emerged from the former colonies around the world about how they would deal with their shared past. Postcolonial Studies emerged from an attempt to give a voice to writers and thinkers that had been marginalized. Suddenly the original ideas of the colonial diaspora and the African universities became visible. As it turned out, even in places as far afield as Papua New Guinea intellectuals had something to say. This new branch of studies became immensly influential, and the first textbook on the subject was called The Empire Writes Back (1989). We contacted one of the authors of that work, professor Bill Ashcroft, and asked him a few questions about what postcolonial studies is and how he and his co-authors came to write this first book. You have worked with postcolonial theory all your career, how and when did you become interested in the subject? Professor Ashcroft: My interest in postcolonial studies originates in the field of Commonwealth literature, which began with the establishment of the Association for Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies (ACLALS) in the 1960s. By the 1970s new terms were emerging such as “New Literatures” and by the late 1970s I became increasingly dissatisfied with the untheoretical and New Critical approach of Commonwealth literature. In 1978 I edited and issue of New Literature Review (later New Literatures Review) on postcolonial literature. By the 1980s the term postcolonial had taken over from other descriptions of the field and my focus at this time was on the transformations of language particularly in African literatures.  You published the first textbook on postcolonial theory in 1989. Why did it take so long before postcolonial studies appeared as an academic discipline in the West? Professor Ashcroft: During the period after WWII when colonies were gaining independence ‘post-colonial’ meant post-independence. The emergence of Commonwealth literary studies dominated the field of English literature in the 1960s until the term ‘postcolonial’ began to gain strength in the 1970s. The Empire Writes Back was written to bring together the textual attentiveness of Commonwealth literature and sophisticated approaches to contemporary theory that could evolve a way of reading the continuing cultural engagements of colonial societies. In fact the conversations in which the book began occurred in the early 1980s. Where did you meet your co-authors for The Empire Writes Back? Professor Ashcroft: We had had known each other in the late 1970s but the project took shape when we met at an AULLA (Australian Universities Language and Literature) conference in 1980. You must have done a careful selection of thinkers to reference. Which ones would you say were the most important ones for you? Professor Ashcroft: Our aim was to highlight thinkers from the colonized societies as much aspossible. Of course Colonial Discourse theorists such as Bhabha, Spivak and Said were prominent in the landscape at that time but contrary to popular belief they were not a major influence on the book. Said’s Orientalism was a well known analysis of Europe’s representation of its others but none of these theorists had a prominent place in our work at that time. This is surprising to most people since I later wrote a book on Edward Said with Pal Ahluwalia, but at that time he featured very little in the book. Our aim was to distil the theoretical insights from postcolonial writers themselves. Postcolonial Studies became quite popular in the nineties. Has it lead to any improvements for the cultural life in the former colonies? Professor Ashcroft: I was struck by the statement by a Dalit woman at a conference in 2006 that The Empire Writes Back “gave us a voice.” Any ‘improvement’ in colonized cultures is represented in this statement through the voice that colonized people were able to use. However a greater and more important improvement has been made by postcolonial writers themselves, who appropriated English, the language of the coloniser, and used it represent their own culture and society to the world. To choose a language is to choose an audience and choosing English ensured a world audience.  Isn’t there a point in history when the colonial period becomes irrelevant, when too much time has passed for it to be used as an excuse? Professor Ashcroft: This question is based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the postcolonial. The idea of a chronological stage ‘after colonialism’ was the way the term was used in the 1960s, after the surge of independence. But from the publication of The Empire Writes Back the situation changed radically. ‘Postcolonial’ refers to neither a chronology nor ontology but a way of reading. It is a way of reading the cultural resistances and transformations of colonised and formerly colonised cultural producers. Sometimes this was anti-colonial but more often it was transformative as transformation proved to be the most powerful and productive form of resistance. Postcolonialism has continually transformed itself to provide strategies with which to analyse global power. We live after colonialism but never without it. There is a local scholar here in Norway, Dag Herbjørnsrud, who recently wrote a book in which he argued for the establishment of a new global Canon. Is this in line with what you were trying to do in the 90s? Professor Ashcroft: I don’t think so. Postcolonial studies have always been suspicious of canons, which arise when those with cultural power determine what is best. Postcolonial studies rejected the idea of a canon of ‘great works’ because these invariably marginalized the non-European writers. If we dispense with the idea of a canon, however, then certainly the significance of writers around the world needs to be recognised.  There has been some debate here in Norway about epistemology, and alternative ways of acquiring knowledge. This may seem harmless in literary studies and philosophy, but it would seem to contradict much of what has been achieved in the natural sciences. In what way was postcolonial theory, as it appeared in the 90s, relevant for the hard sciences? Professor Ashcroft: In our next edition of The Postcolonial Studies Reader we are including a section on Postcolonial Science. Postcolonial theory is relevant for the hard sciences because it proposes that indigenous and non western ways of knowing the world, and particularly ways of knowing and caring for the natural world, are of equal importance. As the climate crisis approaches the need to consider alternative ways of knowing the world is increasing. You have read many postcolonial novels in your long career as a literary scholar. Which one would you say was most influential for postcolonial studies? And why? Professor Ashcroft: This question smacks a little of canonical thinking, but one book that stands out is Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children written in 1980. This is because it deconstructs so many forms of imperial discourse – the discourse of nationalism, the discourse of history itself within which nations come into being; the discourse of language; those of race and ethnicity and their embedding in language. All these offer a picture of the range of Rushdie’s radical dismantling of the myths of identity that surrounded that fateful midnight when India became a nation, taking over the architecture of the colonial state. What Rushdie is dismantling is not so much the idea of nation as the wider ranging tyranny of borders within which such concepts come into being. The book reminds us of the many ways in which societies unthinkingly take on the model of western society.  Sometimes when you read literary text from around the world, there are great surprises. Is there a literary culture today that you feel is neglected, that is just waiting to be discovered and recognized? Professor Ashcroft: At this stage of my career there are few surprises. I don’t know of a culture that’s being neglected, especially since publication, and particularly publication in a world language is a form of recognition. There are many books that could be better recognised by critics. I will mention just one: Agaat by the South African writer Marlene van Nierkerk. You have traveled the world as an academic. What sort of issues are universities in Africa and elsewhere concerned with today? Professor Ashcroft: Universities in Africa face the same issue as those around the world, only to a greater degree: the marginalization of the humanities and the struggle for funding. Corrections: the introduction to this interview has been edited due to some technical problems during publication.  Further reading: Ashcroft B;Griffiths G;Tiffin H, 2013, Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts (3rd ed), 3, Routledge Press, London Dag Herbjørnsrud, “Beyond decolonizing: global intellectual history and reconstruction of a comparative method” in Global Intellecural History Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyIn the shadow of the dying Hapsburg Empire a new treatment that focused on conversation was invented: psychoanalysis. However, who would benefit from Freud’s new method and what end would it finally serve? Sigmund Freud saw himself as part of the supercilious materialist wave that reduced men to Darwin’s apes. He was part of the liberal bourgeoisie of Vienna around 1900 and was educated in the neuro-physiology of Brucker and the hypno-theraphy of Charcot. Some time between 1895 and 1900, he broke with his old mentor Breuer and produced psychoanalysis. Like his role model, Charles Darwin, whom he praised in a 1917 essay*, he benefited greatly from his privileged background, and like him, he was sometimes haunted by his historic limitations. While Darwin swore by his own observations, Freud based his ideas on conversation and analysis. At the turn of the century, Freud was tested in a way that would expose the difficulties of psychoanalysis, the case of Dora. Privileged patients Psychoanalysis was the outcome of Freud’s conversations with women who could not survive in their social straitjackets. So it was with Dora, or Ida Bauer, as her real name was, an 18 year old who was sent to Freud by her wealthy family. She had been abused by an older friend of the family as a 14-year old, and as a result she had developed several symptoms, such as continued arguments with her father, fainting and the writing of suicide notes. «In their nature women are like feeble, exotic green house plants» Stephen Zweig joked. The contemporary ideal was, according to Zweig that «A young girl from a good family should not have the faintest idea about what a man’s body looked like; not know how children are conceived, they were innocent angels». Freud never denied the fact that he benefited from family power structures and that the psychoanalyst borrowed his authority from the father figure. But because Freud saw himself as the as a prophet of psychology, he never understood the ways in which he came to rationalize oppressive conditions in his own society. Ida Bauer was told that she denied her own sexuality when she described her fear of her abuser, «Mr K», and this qualified her to the obscure diagnosis «a hysteric». However, there were many women who claimed to be sexual victims, and Freud may have had some reason for doubt. Even so, the diagnosis becomes incomprehensible without  understanding the social and historical context. Vienna at the time At the start of the 1900s Freud was an ambitious doctor who had struggled long in the shadow of positivist physiology; he was well established with a large family which, excluding himself, included his wife Martha, as well as relatives, colleagues and a brood of children. From the safety of his home at Berggasse 19 he could defy the medical establishment and acquire the clinical experience that brought him- after several detours- to a better method of treatment. In addition, he developed a new theory about dreams and the structure of the mind. In spite of progress, Freud failed to rise in the academic hierarchy at the university of Vienna, where he had been employed as an assistant professor for years. Vienna was the center of a conservative empire. According to Stephan Zweig there was only one thing that could shatter the social neurosis and liberate the creative forces: Art. «all these social strata existed in their own own circles and even in their own neighborhoods, the aristocracy in their palaces in the center of the city, the diplomatic corps in a third area, industry and merchants around Ringstrasse, the petty bourgousi in the inner parts, the proletariat in the outer. But they all met in the theater». Anti-semitism flourished in the wake of various financial scandals and the French Dreyfuss affair. The right wing mayor Karl Leuger had been elected in spite of massive protest from the aristocracy and the powerful Jewish bourgeoisie. Barring the foul mob that rose from the gutter, few had the power to force through moderate reforms. Upper-class liberals like Freud now turned their back on politics and sublimated their own rebellions. A rigid society therefore seem to wither from within. Complicated by social factors Freud was among the first to develop a theory about how human dialogue can solve mental problems. A bi-product of this was an unsentimental description of the power structures in this conversation, both how they prevented and contributed to communication. When Dora one day slammed her door and shut Freud out, Freud saw it as a sign of weakness. Posterity, and a few literary scholars and theoreticians in particular, has compared Dora to Ibsen’s famous heroine, Nora.* To other thinkers like Hélène Cixous, Dora became the woman who exposed Freud as a chauvinist. Women, like some religious people, have discovered that the more you criticize psychoanalysis, the more you seem to confirm its diagnosis. In the essay «On femininity» Freud declared that psychoanalysis doesn’t ask what a woman is, but how she is made. Psychoanalysis is seemingly impervious to any attack, and raises itself high above women, the religious and other so-called pathologies. More humane after all On the other hand, Freud took an important step away from the macabre laboratories of neuro-physiology and the institutionalized sadism that preoccupied many contemporary institutions. He communicated with his patients and wasn’t afraid of touchy subjects, like sex, death and aggression. But perhaps because Freud developed a theory to penetrate the defenses of the self and unveil hidden motives, he was later seen as the architect of a state sponsored invasion of the private sphere. In the doctor-patient relationship, historical positivism and its wave of materialism became a social tool of the establishment. The power of definition Of course, this spurred a host of counter-theories. Freud’s studies revealed that all women at some point in their childhood discovered that boys have something which they apparently lack, and that leads to “penis-envy” and supposedly causes neurosis later in life. Freud never accepted that this was in some ways a description of, if not a rationalization of, contemporary attitudes. Later psychologists like Karen Horney understood that women needed to justify fundamental needs. They need to find a response to the old language of power. The feminist Susan Gubar begins one of her articles with the question «Is anatomy linguistic destiny?» Such a fate seemed inevitable to early feminists who suggested that penis-envy be replaced by “womb-envy”, or the stage in a boy’s life when he discovers that he is unable to give birth and consequently develops neurosis. It is not hard to see that this theoretical tug-of-war masks a power struggle. Psychoanalysis in a vacuum? Darwin had won his victory by gradually placing his followers in strategic positions within the scientific societies. The psychoanalytic movement followed a similar pattern, and spread throughout Europe after 1906 through intrigues and personal animosity. The totalitarian side of psychoanalysis became increasingly more apparent as Freud clamped down on heretics within his own movement: Fleiss, Adler, Jung, Reich and others. This is a fate that psychoanalysis shares with Marxism. Where Marx saw exploitation, Freud saw neurosis, and the twentieth century seemed to follow these two in their search for hidden agendas. Whether Freud was a positivist is debatable. However, he did write texts in which he saw himself as part of an accumulating corpus of knowledge. He also clung to scientific objectivity, and is consequently often scolded for his arrogance. Yet, it seems like posterity has blamed him for not being able to bring conversational analysis into a social vacuum. Can we really predict human behavior as reliably as the laws of Newton or describe them as eloquently as Darwin’s finches? It is not without reason that the great Karl Popper labeled both evolution and psychoanalysis as «metaphysical research programs». Such unreasonable demands may also have also influenced Freud’s view of himself. However, in 1914, after a heated debate over psychoanalysis, the world experienced a series of irrational tremors that swept the old bourgeoisie and their prejudices aside: the shell shocks of the first world war. The immense tragedy of that conflict secured both women and psychoanalysts a better position in society. Michael Wynn * “A difficulty in the path of psychoanalysis” Sigmund Freud 1917. * A simple search in google scholar revealed serveral who made the comparison.  Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literature / moviesCrime novelist Gunnar Staalesen is one of few Norwegian authors who have managed to establish a viable movie franchise based on a fictional gumshoe. He has even ventured into comic books. Varg Veum, the hard-boiled P.I., is now a household name in Norway, and Staalesen’s books have been translated into twenty languages. Staalesen joins us at to reflect on his long career, his movies and that strange and fashionable term «nordic noir». According to Wikipedia you introduced social realism in Norwegian crime fiction, but how realisic is your hero, Varg Veum, really? Gunnar Staalesen: I was one of many who followed the lead of the Swedish writers Sjöwall & Wahlöö and began writing crime novels that were more «realist» than previous publications which placed more emphasis on entertainment. Writers like Jon Michelet and I described realistic milieus and conflicts from Norwegian every day life in the 1970s. We zoomed in on individuals and settings in order to make them come alive and appear as vivid and believable to the readers as possible. Varg Veum’s profession, that of a PI, is of course not very realistic, at least not in Norway of the 1970s, and he solves puzzles that never would have occurred in real life. This is the entertainment part of the novels. But the conflicts that form the backdrop of the books, the environments and the people I describe, are all very realistic. In this way, I suppose there is some truth to wikipedia’s claim. How important is the city of Bergen in your books?  Gunnar Staalesen: Almost all crime fiction has an attachment to particular cities or settings. Sherlock Holmes and London. Maigret and Paris. Philip Marlowe and LA. When I began writing my series, it seemed natural to place Verg Veum in Bergen, which after all is my home town, and which I know by heart. Bergen is also a spectacular and visual city, surrounded by mountains 400-600 meters tall on several sides, as well as a fjord that leads to an ancient port with buildings that date back to the 11’th century. The weather is perfect for a noir city, lots of rain, dark winter evenings, narrow alleyways and streets, cobblestones- in short, a city with plenty of atmosphere. Bergen has been essential as the backdrop for the entire series of 19 books published in Norway. That is, book number 19 will be published in September! Your books have been translated into many languages and almost all the Veum novels been filmed? Are you a visual writer, do you think? Gunnar Staalesen: Yes, I have always regarded myself as a visual writer. I try to portray settings and people the way they would appear to readers, as clearly as if they were facing them or visited the places I describe. I do hope the translations do justice to this. The movies that have been based on my books only loosely follow the original stories. Some only share the title with the original novel. But the cinematography offers stunning views of Bergen, at least in most of the films. Which of the Veum films is your favorite? Gunnar Staalesen: I don’t know if I have a favorite among them. They are pretty uneven and quite different, depending on various script writers and directors. But most of them have worked well as movies, and have been popular both here in Norway and abroad. You started out as a so-called «serious» writer. What made you change to genre fiction? Gunnar Staalesen: I guess it was fate. After my first two books, there was a period when none of my works would be accepted by a publisher, neither my novel nor my collection of short stories. It was at this time that the opportunities offered by crime fiction became apparent to me, especially after I had read Sjöwall & Wahlöö, Hammett, Chandler and Ross Macdonald. My Norwegian publisher, Gyldendal, organized novel writing competition in 1974. I wrote a script which I submitted, and it won second prize. But already during the writing of that text I thought: I have finally found my place in the Norwegian literary scene. A crime novelist I am, for god or bad. Since then there has been no looking back. Are you a meticulous plotter or do you write on instinct? Veum seems to stumble upon the solution sometimes, like Philip Marlowe? Gunnar Staalesen: I am not a thorough plotter, but I sketch out the main storyline quite clearly, what the puzzle should be and who is guilty. But then all sorts of things happen during the writing process. Characters you thought you had pinned down change, new ideas emerge, you notice connections between different aspects of the plot and new dimensions to the story. But usually, I end up where I originally intended. Veum applies his intuition, of course, like all detectives, with the assistance of the writer. Sherlock Holmes may not have solved a single crime if it were not for Conan Doyle. The most flattering thing for a writer is to have his characters and fictional universe outgrow their creator. Will you kill off Veum in the end, or will you allow him to grow, perhaps into a franchise without you? Gunnar Staalesen: I will write about Varg Veum as long as I live. I don’t care much for writers who adopt the literary creations of others and write new stories about old characters. You can never beat the original. As a matter of principle, I feel that authors should have the imagination to create their own characters. In other words, I suppose Varg Veum will follow me to my grave, at least his fictional incarnation. Yet, he might still find a life beyond death in films and on TV, and hopefully in new editions of my novels. What is your take on the phenomenon «Nordic Noir» ? Why do you think Scandinavian crime novels for a while enjoyed such immense popularity? Gunnar Staalesen: It is difficult for some one who is himself a part of the «nordic noir» craze to answer this question. We must assume- or at least hope- that some of the popularity is simply due to the high quality of the works produced. Sjöwall & Wahlöö initiated a a golden age of Nordic Crime fiction, and here I will include all my colleagues, both Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Finnish, who all form part of this new wave. We have seen a period with a lot of great novels, and, in all modesty, I hope I have made a small contribution. The term “nordic noir” is somewhat deceptive as it includes a wide range of books, anything from classic who-done-its to police procedurals, espionage thrillers and PI novels. But they originate in the Nordic countries, and are indebted to both the ancient Icelandic Sagas, as well as Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Simenon and all the other great names from foreign countries. Is there a particular Norwegian way of writing crime fiction? Gunnar Staalesen: No, I don’t believe there is. But there is much more scenery in Nordic literature, since we live so close to it, and politically most of us are social democrats. But apart from this, I don’t think we are much different. That is the great thing about crime fiction. As a genre, it is international, and easily recognizable, whether it is written in Japan, Brazil, England or Norway. You were once rejected by Norwegian publishing legend Brikt Jensen. Do your editors still give you a hard time, even now that you are a veteran, so to speak? Gunnar Staalesen: Well, it wasn’t Brikt Jensen who rejected me. He was head of the publisher, and it was probably his consultants that rejected some of my early work. Actually, I have never argued with my editors. We have had a great partnership all these years. They offer sound advice and input, and I benefit greatly from this, even now as a veteran writer. What is the best crime novel you have read? Gunnar Staalesen: How Like An Angel av Margaret Millar. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyThe crowds waited in anticipation as the pompous fanfares marked the opening of the red carpet, a crowd of slick journalists rushed to the front fence. An even larger crowd consisting of “common men” were held back at the perimeter – like some reserve force. And then they arrived, the dashing superstars in their lavish costumes. The simultaneous flashes of hundreds of cameras enlightened the long expected arrivals from constantly shifting angles. Some of them sweated, others blinked, but they all kept their faces. They smiled because they were used to it, and they lifted their arms and waved. They paraded along the marked lines giving autographs, and they were all in a splendid mood. “The film was excellent, Mark Thompson! How did you feel upon receiving the award”“It was a great honor, of course.”“How do you feel about being nominated as the most sexy man in the business”“I appreciate good taste when I see it”, the middle aged actor said and put on his best grin.Those who heard him – and there were plenty of these – roared with laughter. They would have escorted him to his limousine, but sunglassed guards – probably picked or perhaps even bred for size and grim appearances – blocked their way. Strangers struggled, they shouted after him, and for their sake Mark Thompson stopped, walked over to the fence where they stood and signed several autographs. Then he moved on to the next fence closer to the parking lot. There were three of them along the way, and Mark Thompson radiated even more humor and wit at the two next ones. He was warming up. Only the last two hundred meters did he walk a little faster when he noticed an open limousine waiting for him. He sighed when the car doors slammed shut behind him, because he now was protected from a multitude of stares by bullet proof colored glass. But a sigh was all he could manage because even if they could not see him, he was able to see them, the vast moving crowd, an organism by itself, twisting and turning, giving off sounds of hysteria, of admiration and sometimes – more often than people realize – of disgust and resentment. The car navigated through the streets of the city center, and stopped by the venerable Grand Hotel. The door opened, and again he was exposed. But there was that million dollar, tastefully bleached smile that had melted so many hearts, and there was that sharp tongue that always knew how to dodge awkward questions. It had served him so well, and it only became more and more efficient with age. It ripened like a fine wine. At the reception, men and women he had never met and sometimes not even knew existed told him from a mahogany podium about how he had completely altered their lives, sometimes saved them from bad marriages, improved their sex lives and prevented suicides. Of course, he had no choice but to be humbled by his enormous power, such good fortune that life had bestowed upon him. He was obliged to tell them of his own struggles, and how thankful he was that he had made it, arrived at his station, and how they too could make it if they just followed their dream. Ever onwards and upwards. There was fine dining, exquisite cuisine, which he enjoyed in silence, while hum and chatter, and toasting glasses sounded over his head. Then he got up, excused himself and rushed through the velvet corridors for the bathroom. But a young blonde had made it passed the guards, was blocking his way and was flashing her excellently sculpted breasts. Then, there was a bizarre situation in which a gigantic two meter black body guard chased the tiny creature down the corridor. Mark Thompson walked by and smiled.“They never stop”, he told the guard, “they can’t help it. You’re doing a great job, thank you, but be gentle on her. She is drunk and very young.”“Yes sir”, said the giant bodyguard. He did his thing in the toilet, washed his hands in the gilded sink, and returned to his seat. His agent was on the phone, several radio stations wanted his views on some matter. He found a quiet corner, and called them. He preferred these brief phone interviews. No one could see his face, he could even do them in the nude at home, if he wanted. But somehow it never seemed right. Even in their voices, he could sense their eyes. At ten o’clock that evening he called it a day. He had been at it since morning. Then there was the routine of leaving the building, the choreographed exit, the waiting door. The relief of departure, the oddness of seeing those ordinary people walking along the bar strip as his limousine passed. The loud music, the distant laughter. He had been 18 once, hadn’t he? He had not always had this life. Many many years ago, he too could walk down that strip, and no one would even look twice at him, a pimpled mumbling nerd. The girls had even giggled at him with pity, the pathetic boy who would never get laid. The cortege struggled through traffic, but as they entered the more affluent areas, people and vehicles magically dispersed. He was left with majestic glass and steel constructions, all polished and glimmering, fancy restaurants with private entrances and then the villa area: well kept gardens with pools hidden by carefully landscaped residential palaces. As dusk fell, the stars had come out and they hung over his home, stretching endlessly towards a million dollar horizon and view. Below them lay the vast pulsating metropolis. On top of the hill stood his isolated palace, his marble columns, his tiled walkways. Another open door was waiting for him, and he rushed towards it. He had made sure that it had been made of the most quirky wood he could find. It stood out because it had the texture of an English cottage door. The faces that met him, his servants, were friends at least, he thought. He paid them enough to fake it.“Is she still awake?” he asked as the maid took his coat.“Yes, sir. She is awake”He then stopped by the stairs, and wondered whether he would he would be brave enough to enter her room. But the memories overwhelmed him, and he bit his lip as climbed the steps.There was the door he dreaded. He leaned his forehead against it as he knocked. It squeaked open, and the silhouette a huge bed and a dying woman was visible against the moon light from a half open window. He walked those final steps to the vacant chair, and an imperceptible breeze silently swung the door shut behind him. by Mchael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyBy Margie Harris, Racketeer Stories, February 1931 (Courtesy of John Locke. His collection of her stories is available from Amazon) It’s a hell of a thing to be waiting for the rubber hose in your B.V.D.’s and suddenly see yourself looking into your cell at you, with blood all over your face! horty Breen, get-away driver for the Bull Coleman gang, was keenly alive to the trouble hunch which had been riding him all afternoon. So it needed but the touch of heavy fingers on his shoulder to send him jerking, leaping, twisting through the crowd on Fourteenth Street. His first spring carried him through a group of chattering women. In a few seconds more he was clattering down the steps of the subway. Behind him was the usual chorus of “Stop, thief!” but over all resounded the bull-like roar of Police Captain McGrehan. An express train was standing in the station. Shorty dropped a nickel in the turnstile, dashed aboard as the doors closed. Damn McGrehan anyway. Two nights before he’d caught Shorty in a dark corner and given him purple hell for playing with Bull’s gang. “Damn ol’ goat,” Shorty growled. “Where’s he get ‘at stuff? You’d think he was me ol’ man, instead of him being just a guy ‘at wanted to marry Mom w’en she was a goil!” At Thirty-fourth Street he slipped from the train and cast a furtive eye over the crowd. Hell’s fire! There he was, getting out of the last car! There was no mistaking the blue uniform with its captain’s bars and stripes in gold, nor the heavy, squared jaw above it. Shorty dashed up the stairs two at a time, made the first half block at a rapid walk. Then he slowed, but no police uniform showed behind him. At Eighth Avenue he turned south, stopping for a final survey of his back trail. He was safe. McGrehan had lost him. Heaving a sigh of relief, Shorty started to stroll along toward Finnegan’s café and Bull’s headquarters above it. For the moment his underworld guardian angel was not on the job. He stopped at the curb to light a cigarette in the lee of a parked Checker cab. He gave the cab and driver no attention until he sensed a flurry of movement. He started to turn but it was too late. A blue clad arm shot forth, clamped iron fingers on his shoulder, dragged him, struggling, into the cab. A split second later he heard the order. “Down to Center Street, lad; drive right intuh the garage.” Shorty didn’t need to see his captor’s—McGrehan’s—face. He couldn’t, had he wanted to. His face was jammed into a corner of the seat, his knees were on the floor. The pressure relaxed; Shorty heaved himself erect, only to suffer the shame of being shoved back, slowly, relentlessly into his former position. “You’re a tough guy, Clyde!”—Jeez! how he hated that pansy name Mom had given him—“But I’m tougher than all of you gaycats. Now sit you down and listen to me.” The big hands heaved again, slammed him back onto the seat. Captain McGrehan’s eyes were blazing; steely fingers were digging into Shorty’s shoulder muscles. Shorty tried to out stare the cop; his eyes fell first. “What th’ hell?” he growled. “This a pinch?” “What does it feel like—a swimmin’ lesson?” “Aw, what have I done? You got nothin’ on me.” The old formula between cop and crook the world over. “I have me hand on you, which’ll do for the present,” McGrehan responded with heavy wit. “It looks like a tough night for you, Clydie.” Shorty winced again at the hated name. “Clyde!” for the speedball who drove the chopper car last week when Bull Coleman’s rodmen shot it out with The Yid’s organ grinders, hijacked two trucks of alky. Uh-huh. Two cops had been killed, but that was their hard luck. “You don’t take kindly to th’ name a good mother gave you, Clyde.” There was contempt in the Captain’s sarcastic drawl. “Well, it’s a hell of a name for a gangster—and it’s a hell of a gangster you’ll be after this night.” Shorty stirred uneasily. Jeez! Suppose some of Bully’s scouts saw him riding with McGrehan. They’d be calling him “Canary” and tomorrow taking him for a ride. Yet he hated a “chirper” worse than anyone, almost. “Lissen, Cap,” he pleaded. “Lemme go. Jess because you’n Mom went to school together’s no reason fer youse to get me put on the spot.” “The spot, is it now?” The reply was a bellow of derision. “You’ll be wishin’ for the spot before tonight’s over. It’s the Third we’re fixin’ up for you.” Shorty’s blood turned cold within him. The dreaded “third.” And at the hands of this ramping, raging old Mick on whom he’d always looked, though from a distance, as a family friend! “Yuh can’t give me no hosin’,” he said. “Whaddyuh think you got on me?” McGrehan’s lips didn’t move; his hand did. It slid down to a point on Shorty’s arm between elbow and shoulder. The fingers tightened, dug into the nerve center under the biceps. Shorty tried to jerk loose. The movement brought a howl of pain from his lips. McGrehan was pitiless. Slowly the grasp tightened. Horrible searing pains flashed down the arm to the finger tips, up over the shoulder. “Enough?” The Captain growled the word. Shorty nodded in mute agony. “Listen to me, then. Don’t you start tellin’ me what I can or cannot do this night. In five days more I retire on pension. Nobody can change that. Them five days is to be given to runnin’ down some rats that killed two brave men recent—and to makin’ a man out of Mary Ann Breen’s lousy brat—or killin’ him.” Shorty sunk down in his corner. Suddenly he felt terribly alone. McGrehan he knew was tough, iron hard. It was said he preferred a billy to a rubber hose—and followed his liking. “Yes, Clyde,” the Captain’s tones were silky now. “It’ll be a tough night, and here we are ready for it to start.” The cab swung across the curb, into a big room filled with riot cars, prowl cars, the fast buses of the strong arm squad; the big racers in which the Commissioners and Brass Collars buzzed to danger points. McGrehan handed the driver a bill, pointed over his shoulder with a big thumb. “Out,” he growled. As the automatic doors closed, he spun Shorty about, crossed his pile-driver right to the button with a snap. Shorty went limp. McGrehan caught him, did not let him fall. “Poor, dumb lad,” he half whispered. “Spoiled as he is, I wish he was mine.” Two plainclothes men came from the shadows, took the drooping form, carried it to the silent cells where there is only silence. While Shorty still was unconscious, the detectives stripped him of coat, hat, shoes, collar, trousers, hat and tie. “Cap said to leave him his cigarettes and matches,” one of the searchers said. “Yeh?” his mate replied. “The ol’ boy’s gettin’ soft. Wouldn’t be surprised to come down here in a day or two an’ find he’s been getting drinkin’ water.” II Doubling for Shorty “McGrehan speaking, sir. I have the lad. May I come up?” “In five minutes, Captain. I’ll ring.” The Commissioner’s voice was curt but friendly. “Any trouble?” “For him, not for me, sir.” McGrehan sensed the beginning of a chuckle as his superior hung up the receiver. Commissioner Van Voort turned back to the stockily built, severe faced man opposite him, Captain Michaelson, Chief of New York’s Secret Police. “That was McGrehan,” Van Voort said. “Reporting he’s turned in the Breen boy. Dammit, Michaelson, I don’t like the thought of Springer and Haddon taking such chances.” “Nor do I.” Michaelson’s face was granite hard. “McGrehan’s plan to save this little Breen rat is apt to spoil it all. But we’re ready—checked and rechecked on the plan.” “Yes, we’re too deep in now to change,” Van Voort replied. He drew a map toward him. “We’ll go over it once again; then you can get your crew together. Here’s the district, with the route marked in red arrows. “The point marked ‘J’ is where the truck will be, with tools, tear bombs, extra ammunition; whatever’s required. When Bull’s third car passes, the boy who’s been trying to start the engine will slip around the corner and signal Lieutenant Henry. The signal to close in will be a burst of blank cartridge machine gun fire. Right? All clear?” “Perfectly, Mr. Commissioner. And in the meantime the other group will surround Bull’s headquarters over Finnegan’s. When the word is passed that the warehouse raiders have been mopped up, we’ll hit Bull from all sides and the roof.” “Good, Captain. Goodnight and good luck.” A touch on the button brought McGrehan from downstairs. “Good work,” the Commissioner said. “Anyone see you get him?” “Not a chance, sir. I snatched him offen the sidewalk before he could squawk. He was goin’ to Bull’s; thought he’d ditched me in Thirty-fourth Street. I hopped a cab, beat it the other way and copped him on Eighth Avenue.” The Commissioner stared for a moment at the stubborn old face before him. “See here,” he said. “It’s a devil of a thing you’ve made me ask of Springer—to gamble his life for a crook like that.” “Wait ‘til you’ve seen Springer in his clothes. They’re enough alike to be twins, except their eyes is different. Springer has painted a couple of fine blue bruises on his lamps to take care of that. You’d swear he’d been in a pip of a fight.” “It’s a terrible chance—” The Commissioner paused. “No worser’n any other man of the Secret Squad’s takin’ every day, sir. No more than the other boy we shoved in on Bull’s gang. It’s all risky; that’s how we’re cleanin’ up on the tips they get.” “I hope you’re right, McGrehan. Anyway, after tonight there’ll be no more cop killings by the Coleman gang.” “Which’ll be a blessin’ in a wicked world, Mr. Commissioner.” McGrehan saluted, about faced and departed. Thirty minutes later the lookout at Bull Coleman’s headquarters opened the peep panel, recognized Shorty Breen and admitted him. “Where th’ hell youse been, punk?” the lookout demanded. “Bull’s been askin’ for youse.” “Aw hell! I had a fight wit’ a guy over a pool game,” Shorty replied out of the corner of his mouth. “I got a pair uh shiners.” “Damn if you ain’t—an’ maybe Bull won’t slap youse down fer that.” Shorty did not reply. Instead he shambled across the room and, dropping into a chair commanding a view of both the office and entrance doors, he seemed to doze. III The Stage Is Set Sharp at 10 o’clock Bull Coleman opened the door of his private office to crook his fingers at four of the loungers. Shorty followed Ginger Olsen, Chopper Allen and Sid Haddon into the room. “Shut the door, kid,” Bull growled. “All of youse set down and hang out an ear. Everything’s set. Sid’ll drive the lead car wit’ two roddies an’ Chopper wit’ his grinder. Shorty’s to drive the guard car. He’ll take two more rods, an’ Ginger wit’ his Tommy. “On th’ way youse’ll pick up the third car, which’ll run between lead an’ guard. That one’ll back into th’ shippin’ alley beside the warehouse. Shorty pulls down th’ street half way of th’ block, headin’ east. Sid heads back west and pulls near to the corner. That way, if they’s a ruckus, they won’t burn each other down. “Now lissen. That gives a guard car headed whichever the dope buggy heads when it comes outta the alley. The other one’ll swing an’ follow. Get me?” All nodded, but Bull, himself a strategist, duplicated the scene of a few moments before in the Commissioner’s office, when he produced a rough map of the route to show the course to be taken. To one man in the room the scene had its element of humor. It was his second view of the maps—one down in Center Street, the other in Bull’s office. For Sid Haddon was the “other fellow” mentioned by McGrehan—a member of the Secret Police, planted on Bull’s gang through clever plotting. Something warned Haddon. He looked up, caught the burning eyes of Chopper Allen studying him intently. Instantly he let his face go blank, gazing back almost stupidly at the other. This simply wouldn’t do. Allen never had been friendly. Just now it is possible the man had caught the half grin on his face. Bull’s bellowing voice brought the duel of glances to an end. “Everybody out now,” he said. “But stick around. Youse know th’ rules. I’ll tell youse when it’s time.” That was Bull’s method. At the last moment he outlined his plans in detail. After that no one was allowed to leave the hangout or to telephone. Even then the exact hour was kept secret until the moment of departure. At the door, Chopper turned back. “See you a moment, Bull?” “Yeh. What youse got on your chest?” Chopper saw to it that the door was closed. He returned to the desk and leaned forward. “It’s that guy, Haddon,” he half whispered. “Lemme knock him off, chief; he’s poison. Don’t ask me how I know. I just feel it. I’ve seen him in my dreams putting the cuffs on me. Every time he comes near me I smell the cops.” “Aw cripes, Chopper, you’re nuts,” Bull answered. “He was sent to me by Mickey the Harp from Chicago after he got into a jam there. I had him watched plenty, and I know he’s all right. Just because you’re a damned old woman’s no reason for me to lose a guy with th’ kinda guts he’s got. He’ll go down intuh hell if I send him—’n come back wit’ a bottle of pre-war in each hand.” Chopper shrugged, started for the door; turned back. “Lissen, chief—” He was bitterly, insanely angry now. “When this guy sends you to the Big Squirm up in Sing Sing just remember that I told you to get rid of him.” Bull’s heavy face crimsoned, turned purple. “Get th’ hell outta here, you damned croaking louse,” he shouted. “When anybody sends me to the Hot Seat it’ll be some rat like youse, afraid of his own shadow. Mebbe you’re th’ one ‘at needs his horns knocked off—” Chopper shivered involuntarily. “Forget it, chief,” he said placatingly. “It’s you I’m worryin’ about; not me. When do we start?” “When I send you, rat,” Bull snarled. “That good enough for youse?” Chopper slouched to the door, white-faced, humiliated. The stage was set for the third act of the drama of Secret Police versus the Coleman dusters. IV The Attack Zero hour was 1:30. Bull strode into the main room, followed by Ginger and Chopper, each carrying his favorite sub-machine gun. “Smitty and Shuffle!” he barked. “Get your rods and go wit’ Ginger. Dutch and Ike, you go wit’ Chopper. He’ll tell youse what to do.” “Come on, punk; get your driving eye alive,” he snapped, halting before Shorty’s slouched form. He stopped and peered under the boy’s hat brim. “Jeez, you would pick a night like this to get slapped up,” he snarled. “One slip-up from you, gaycat, and I’ll knock youse off myself. Kin you see well enough to drive?” Shorty spat nonchalantly. “Sure!” he responded. “What’s a shiner got to do wit’ steppin’ on th’ gas?” “Hell! Get goin’,” Bull demanded. “Ginger’s grinder in your car. If he tells you to drive offen a dock—do it.” Quietly the four slipped through the outer room, down the rear stairs to the alley garage where waited a stolen Packard touring car. Shorty wriggled under the wheel, touched the starter, listened for a moment to the motor’s purr. He cut the switch, looked about him tranquilly. The outer door opened. Sid Haddon entered, followed by Chopper and the two rodmen. Beside the opposite wall stood a Buick. Half way there, Haddon whirled and said to Shorty: “Slip us a pill, kid, I’m all out.” Shorty obligingly extended a package of cigarettes to Haddon. Before returning it, the other snapped his pocket lighter and set the fag going. Stepping close to the side of the Packard he handed the package back to Shorty with his right hand. At the same time, with a deft twist of his left, he tucked a squat automatic between the padding of the front seat and Shorty’s leg. “Thanks, kid—see you in church,” he said nonchalantly, turning back to the other car. Shorty’s eyes flashed to the rear vision mirror. Had Ginger or the other two seen Haddon slip him the rod? It was Coleman’s rule that drivers of get-away cars must not be armed. Thus, if they started any treachery, they’d be at the mercy of the other gunmen. Seemingly Haddon’s sleight-of-hand had gone unnoticed. Dutch Schmaltz, who had been standing at the right of the car, slipped in beside Shorty. He inspected his automatic, lighted a cigarette and wriggled to a comfortable position. “All right—let’s go,” Ginger said in a moment. “Follow Chopper half a block behind, When we pick up the other car on Eleventh Avenue slide back a little further; don’t want it to look like a parade.” The garage doors swung open on oiled hinges. In another moment they closed behind the two dark cars. The side curtains were up on both, but a touch on the bottom buttons would open them for the death-spewing choppers. Otherwise there was nothing to distinguish them from the other motor-cars of the night. Shorty kept a watchful eye on the red tail light of the Buick. He speeded up when the other driver found a hole in traffic; slowed when the lights caused a temporary jam. On Eleventh Avenue, where traffic was light in the early morning hours, a dark shape curved out of an intersecting street, buzzed up alongside the Buick, then dropped into line. It was the raiders’ car. Shorty slowed down to give it room behind the lead car. “All set now,” Ginger barked. “Remember, when we get to the warehouse, you pull east and stop about fifty feet past where Sid turns and heads west. Let the engine run and be ready for a quick lam.” “Gotcha!” Shorty grunted. “Second corner, ain’t it?” “Yeh. What th’ hell’s that ahead of us?” At the curb ahead the lights had picked up an unlighted black shape. As Ginger spoke he saw the twinkle of a flashlight and lifted the grinder from the floor. Shorty gave the engine more gas, swung so that his lights also lit up the scene. By the curb stood an ancient Model T Ford, seemingly broken down. The hood was up and an elderly man, overall clad, was looking on as a youth tinkered with the engine. “Breakdown,” Shorty called over his shoulder. “ ‘Sall right.” “It is—like hell,” Ginger growled “It’s punks and old apple knockers like that who’ll remember seein’ three cars come along and turn the corner.” Grumbling, he glared back through the rear window. Shorty swung his car on the trail of the other two. He cut his lights as he saw the first car turn west. The second was backing into the loading area. Fifty feet farther on he drifted to a silent stop, jazzed his engine to blow out the last vestige of carbon, then let it purr sweetly while they waited. In the rear vision mirror he could see the outlines of the Buick at the opposite curb behind them. He grunted as he reached for a cigarette and remembered the orders were: “No smoking.” As he sat there in the darkness, he felt his nerve tauten as he visioned dark forms creeping through the warehouse, stalking the watchmen, ready to hijack the trunkful of cocaine and hyoscine Snuffles Thornton had stored there three days previously. Wriggling about as though he tried to see farther up the street behind him, Shorty succeeded in getting the automatic under his coat and thence to the holster under his armpit. Ten minutes passed, fifteen, twenty. Still there was no sound from the warehouse, no movement in the street. “Looks like a pipe,” Ginger whispered. “They’ve got the watchman by now, an’ if there’s any dingdongs, they’ve beat ‘em. Pink Tiernan’s the best man in the world on alarm systems.” Another five minutes dragged by. Suddenly three bird notes sounded shrilly. It was the “Get Ready” signal—a special whistle carried only by lieutenants in charge of a job. It meant that the raid had succeeded, that the others were coming out. In a minute or so the trunk would be tossed into the rear of the raiding car. In thirty minutes it would all be over. “Hold ‘er, Shorty,” Ginger warned raspingly. “See which way they turn. Only one man knows. That’s Bull’s system.” With the last word every man in the car stiffened to attention. From somewhere in the distance came the muffled tac-tac-tac of a machine gun—a sustained burst which ended as suddenly as it had begun. “W’at th’ hell?” Ginger growled. Shorty unlatched the door and looked back up the street. When he resumed his seat he saw to it that the latch did not catch. “Sounded like a grinder to me,” he said. “Long ways off, though.” He let his eyes probe the darkness ahead. There were shadows, he thought, shadows in the heart of shadows out there; flitting forms, or did his eyes play him tricks? He turned his head, spoke over his shoulder to the others. “Prob’ly somebody else turnin’ a trick,” he said. “This’ll be a damn good part of town to get away from quick.” Ginger grunted assent, moved uneasily. A shot crashed somewhere near at hand. Then it seemed that the whole world went mad. Orange and blue streamers of flame sprang out of the night everywhere. Ginger howled curses, thrust his weapon out through the curtains. “Now or never,” Shorty whispered to himself. He gathered his body into a compact ball, slid the door open another inch; fell against it and to the ground. As he struck, instead of leaping to his feet, he rolled under the body of the car, lay there quiet. Fifty-feet distant Sid Haddon was executing a similar maneuver, warned by the crash of the first shots. Now the two cars were driverless, helpless until one or another of the rodmen took the wheel. Heavy feet scraped the pavement in the darkness nearer and nearer at hand. From doorways service guns were belching streams of death. Ginger, still howling curses, shifted his grinder to the left door, sprayed the shadows with red-hot bursts of fire. Somewhere in the darkness a moan told of a stricken man’s agony. A pistol fell to the pavement, followed by the thud of a falling body. Over the staccato barking of the rods and the deeper growl of the Tommy guns, grew a new sound. Motors were dashing up from every hand. It was but the second minute of the attack but already scores of blue-clad cops were out of hiding, converging to add their share to the death din. Bullets were thudding now into the body of the car above Shorty. Something wet flowed along and soaked his coatsleeve as he lay hugging the pavement. A strong odor assailed his senses. Gasoline! A cop’s bullet had punctured the gas tank. Shorty dragged himself a bit to one side. It wouldn’t do to soak up a lot of that stuff and then get in the way of a pistol flash. The body of the car above him swayed and groaned. Someone put his weight on the running board, dragged something from the tonneau, pattered across the sidewalk. A moment later Ginger’s chopper began chattering from a recessed doorway where he had taken up his position. The value of his strategy was proved instantly. Entrenched as he was, he could hose death at the compact group of police across the street. Wounded men shouted, fell. The group melted, tried to re-form; melted again. Viciously Ginger swept the muzzle of the chopper right and left. Bullets from service guns slithered off the brick walls of the entryway, ricocheted. Ginger stopped only to change clips, then resumed his firing. “Dammit—get that guy!” The command was bellowed from somewhere near at hand. Shorty swung crosswise under the car, lifted the muzzle of his rod; tried to peer back of the spitting flashes to get a bead on Ginger. It was no use. Another agonized shriek came from the ranks of the attackers. Shorty loosed two shots from his rod at a point beside the spitting muzzle of the chopper. His answer was a burst of slugs which spun from the pavement near his head. Ginger was not to be caught that way. Shorty raised his hand to rub his dust-filled eyes. The odor of gas was strong again. That was the way! He lay for a moment, trying to think clearly. Yes, he could do it—provided the cops did not kill him the first second or two after he had acted. Rolling out from under the car he came to hands and knees. Overhead was the sound of the passage of swarms of giant bees. The smashing impact of slugs against the car’s riddled sides was nearly deafening. The roll of pistol fire was thunderous. Shorty snapped his gat back into its holster. His right hand felt for and brought out his pocket lighter. Holding it within his cap, he spun the wheel. The first spark failed—and the second. Then the wick caught. Deftly he skidded the metal box across the pavement, then dropped flat, rolling rapidly toward the opposite curb. Almost there he collided with someone’s legs. A great weight descended on him; throttling hands caught at his throat. “Springer—headquarters!” he gasped. The hands still held for a split second. The flame from the lighter snatched at a drop of gasoline. Instantly the opposite curb for a distance of twenty feet burst into flames which eddied and danced, making the scene light as day. Whoever was holding Shorty loosed his grasp. A tongue of fire ran along the pool, under the tank, leaped up and enveloped the container. The force of the outpouring liquid was too great as yet to permit the fire to enter. With the lift of the blaze an exultant shout rang out. “There he is—that doorway! Get him, men!” Shorty stared across the way. Ginger and his chopper were outlined as on a motion picture screen. For a second he squatted there, staring dully at the blaze. Police guns barked. Ginger instantly fell prone, sending his stream of death back full in the faces of the attackers. It was a moment of intense drama. Outnumbered, knowing that he could not escape—that the infuriated police would stop shooting only when he was dead, Ginger lay there coolly, firing methodically into the shadowy groups across the street. The car’s body was burning now. Flames burst from underneath the hood and chassis, climbed up the sides, caught at curtains and top. One of the rodmen, badly wounded, pitched out through the flaming curtains, his clothes smoking. Police guns rattled. Dust spots billowed from his clothing in a score of places. He twitched, died. As the curtains burned away, another huddled form could be seen in the tonneau. Death had been merciful to one gunman. Ginger was still in action, but he was firing jerkily now. A passing gust of breeze made the light lift, grow stronger. It showed a hate-twisted, bloody mask, little resembling a human face. A dozen police pistols crashed simultaneously. No one possibly could live through that storm of lead. Expectantly the cops held their fire. There was a moment’s pause, then an unbelievable burst of shots from the doorway. “Tac-tac-tac-tac-tac!” Twenty-five, thirty times the grim chopper sang its song of menace. Silence at last. The police guns roared again. One man, braver than the rest, charged into the doorway, firing as he ran. In a moment he was out, waving his hands excitedly. Others rushed to him. “He’s dead!” they shouted after a moment. “Croaked with his finger on the trigger.” They dragged the body into the light, marveled that one so torn and mutilated could have the spirit to continue fighting. “All right, men.” It was a captain calling. “That mops up this bunch. The others are inside yet. We’ve got ‘em from above and from all sides. Get in there. Don’t let one get away.” Shorty turned dazedly, walked a few steps toward the Buick. He realized now that the firing there had stopped long before. In the darkness he collided with someone in civilian clothes. “You, kid?” the other asked. “Haddon!” There was joy in the tone. “You got through all right, too!” “Yeh—just a few scratches. Better duck now. You know the orders—under cover with cops as well as civilians. They’ll mop up this mess, and anyway I want to be in on the raid on Bull.” Together the two Secret Police melted into the darkness, caught a nighthawk cab and speeded back to the vicinity of Finnegan’s. “I had to tell a flattie I was from headquarters after I’d touched off the gas,” Shorty said after awhile, “but he didn’t get a good look at me. Everything’s jake.” “Nice party,” Haddon said reflectively. “Wonder what the real Shorty’d have done in your place!” “That fuzz-tail!” Springer’s voice was hard. “He’d be dead back there with the rest of ‘em. Wonder why McGrehan wanted to save him?” “Damfino! Hell with that. If you want something to fret about, figure what the newspapers are goin’ to say about half the department layin’ for a bunch of thugs and knockin’ ‘em off. Them and the reformers. Hooey!” “I can see ‘em now,” Springer answered. “And I’m damn glad I’m on the Secret Police instead of the regulars.” The taxi rounded the last corner, skidded to a stop. Uniformed police blocked the way. “Broadway or Tenth,” they chanted monotonously. “Don’t turn up Seventh or Ninth.” The trap was being sprung at Finnegan’s then, according to plan. Haddon and Springer, ex-Shorty, dropped out and paid the driver. For two blocks the avenue was free of moving traffic. At the corner nearest the hangout stood several armored motorcycles, police prowl cars, and two of the big armored trucks used by the riot squad. One of the flatties came over to them. “What’re youse guys hangin’ ‘round here for?” he demanded truculently. “Sixty-six,” Haddon replied, giving the code word which in the department on that particular night meant “on special duty.” The word changed nightly. Only men within the department could know it. It was whispered to each relief on leaving the station. “Oh, yeh?” the policeman said. “Well, youse guys better crawl intuh th’ ol’ tin vests if youse’re gonna stick aroun’ here. Know what’s doin’?” He leered at them craftily, with the curiosity of the harness bull as to what the plainclothes men were doing. “No, handsome; what is it?” Haddon’s reply was like a slap in the face. “Ahrrr, nuts!” the cop replied. “Kiddin’ somebody, aintcha?” Turning, the two scurried along the darkened store fronts. A rhythmic pounding, somewhere ahead, came to their ears. “Smashing down Bull’s steel door in the middle of the stairway,” Haddon said. “That’s a tough spot,” Springer replied. “Be plenty hell when they finally get through.” His words were prophetic. Guns were in action now, their spatting sound curiously muffled by the building’s walls. From higher up came a crashing, rending sound. The roof detail was smashing a way through to the upper floor. Across the street someone opened a window on a fire escape. Two cops with a machine gun stepped out onto the landing, trained the weapon on the windows opposite. The armored motorcycles made a crescent before the open doorway. Each carried a passenger in its protected tub; each passenger carried a Tommy gun. The men in the saddles crouched forward behind their shields, automatics ready for business. The shooting, which had died down after the first few shots, crashed forth again. A policeman, his right arm dangling loosely, blood dripping in a stream from his fingers, staggered from the doorway. “They’re givin’ us hell in there,” he said through set lips. “Door’s down but they’re hosin’ the stairs with a rapid fire from back of a steel shield set on the second flight. Never get ‘em this way.” Springer turned on Haddon, jerked his head. Haddon nodded. “Try it, anyway,” he said. They raced toward the front of the place but were stopped by a captain. “Sixty-six,” Springer whispered. “My friend thinks he knows a way in through Finnegan’s. There’s a half balcony there and a doorway that’s been boarded up. We’ll signal through the window.” “Good! The other way’s suicide. See what you can do, boys.” In the rear of the hallway, under the old-fashioned stairway, was a descending stairway leading to the Finnegan half of the basement. Haddon clicked on a pencil flashlight; inspected the lock. Springer flicked out a bunch of skeleton keys, turned the lock with the second. In a moment they stood in the cellarway. A heavy partition divided the two halves of the basement from left to right. Along this stood a table where peelers prepared the vegetables. At the left, at the wall, was a narrow stair—hardly more than a ladder. Springer led, tried the door at the top. It was held by a bolt on the other side. “Hold my feet so I don’t slip,” he said. Swinging as far back as he dared, he launched his wiry shoulder against the barrier. It creaked but did not give. A second thrust splintered a panel. Three or four driving blows with his palm made a hole big enough to admit his arm. The bolt clicked back. They were in the café now. Outside the Captain stood shading his eyes, peering into the window. Springer seized a bill of fare, wrote on it; ran lightly to the front. “hallway. through cellar and back up here,” the Captain read by beam of his hand torch. He nodded, ran to the doorway, beckoning others to follow. Springer looked about. Haddon was at his side. “Boost,” he demanded. “Right, kid,” the big fellow said, catching the smaller man by the cloth at his hips; boosting him straight up as one might raise a chair. Springer’s hands caught the cross-piece; pulled him up. “Go up the stairs,” he whispered. “Feel along the wall from the stair head toward me. I’ll work back. There’s a boarded up door somewhere.” They met, but without result. “It’s farther back,” Haddon said. “I remember now.” It was almost at the back corner. They ripped away the light deal casing. “This won’t get us anywhere,” Haddon whispered. “They’re still on the floor above us.” “Old building,” Springer grunted. “I’m gambling the stairs are built all the way up on a scaffolding. You know the old system. Four-by-fours, with two-by-four supports; like a grandstand. Get under there—shoot hell out of the choppers from underneath.” “Sure’s hell something there, or there’d be no door,” Haddon replied. “Cripes, listen to those flatties stumble up the stairs!” Springer said. “Good thing everybody’s shooting.” He flashed his torch to outline the way to the stairs. Three men accompanied the captain. One carried a chopper. The other had a sawed-off shotgun and a net of tear bombs. The third attacked the door slit with a jimmy. The old wood gave readily. Back of it, as Springer had surmised, was a dark passage which led toward the rear of the building under the stair supports. One of the flatties produced a long-beam flashlight, disclosing twenty feet back, the outlines of the second floor landing. “I’m going up,” Springer said quietly. “When I find which step they’re on we can shoot ‘em loose in two seconds.” He dropped his coat, set the pencil flash upright in his vest pocket; shinned up to the first cross support. From there he swung like a monkey, up and back to a point a score of feet above the others’ heads. Their flashes revealed him as he balanced on a two-by-four, clinging with knees and one hand. With the other he felt of the risers and treads until vibration told him where the gunmen rested for their shooting down the stairway. Still clinging precariously, he took out his flash and counted the stairs. It was the seventh. A moment later he dropped to the floor, dripping with sweat, his palms bleeding from a score of sliver wounds. “The seventh stair,” he said, “but there’s no use shooting them out of there until the cops are set for a rush. Get word out to be ready.” “That’s the dope,” the Captain replied. “I’ll send word for the boys to be ready. Here, Wilkins, get out and tell ‘em what we’re doing. When they’re ready to rush, wig wag me with a light and when you hear my whistle, you other boys blow them rats to hell outta there.” The police machine gunner took up his place back in the darkness, found a rest; set his weapon with the rays of a flash so he could spray his death hail through the rotting wood of the stairway. It was stifling in the narrow passage. The minutes dragged terribly. At intervals firing was resumed in the stairway. Also there was firing at some distant point; probably the roof crew fighting their way downward. Below, in the rear, were other smashing sounds as the basement was occupied. Haddon, his nerves ragged from waiting, started toward the balcony. Before he had taken three steps, a shrill note cut through the medley of other noises. Springer and the harness cop threw their flashes upward. The gunner’s finger compressed on the trip and the Tommy-gun began its death chatter. Its barking roar smashed on their ears like the turmoil of a boiler shop. Orange flames spurted in a continuous stream from its blunt muzzle. The tread of the seventh stair seemed to lift under its smashing blows. Men bellowed in agony and a heavy object clattered downward. The stairway creaked. The tread flew apart; became a mass of splinters. Springer touched the flattie’s shoulder; mentioned for him to sweep the remaining six steps to blot out any lurking thugs. He obeyed. Other yells of pain or anger burst out in answer. He hosed every nook and corner where a gunman might be hiding. “Hold it!” Springer barked the word. Heavy footed men were pounding up the stairway from the ground floor. It wouldn’t do to shoot down any of the attackers. The cops had gained the hallway now, but were being fired on from within the gang’s assembly room. From farther back came the chatter of guns as well. “Bull’s holed up in the office,” Haddon muttered. “He’s cornered, but it’ll take a hell of a lot of lead to get him out. He’s shooting from behind the big safe; that’s a bet.” Springer shrugged. “Let’s get going,” he said. They slipped back through the café and cellar, into the hallway. The heavy fumes of cordite made it almost impossible to breathe. The stairs were heavy, slippery with broken plaster, pools of blood. At the top the cops stood massed out of range of the death hail from inside. As they watched, Springer and Haddon saw three men raise the steel shield from behind which the defenders had held the stairway. Others fell in behind it, pushed it through the open doorway of the clubroom. The others thrust forward. Springer nudged Haddon, pointing. Three dead men lay at the foot of the second flight of stairs. Another sprawled grotesquely over the splintered tread. “Must have got them with the first burst,” he said. “Wonder if we can drive Bull out the same way?” “Nope. Safe’s on a steel plate about seven by four feet. It stands across the corner. Anyone behind it, with the doors open might as well be shooting from a battleship.” “I’ve got it through the wall.” Springer rushed back along the stairway, returned in a moment, cursing. “Hall only goes part way back; they’ve built a partition there,” he said. “Above then,” it was Haddon’s turn now. “There’s some way for us to get at that rat.” They ran up the stairs, shoving the body of the dead gangster aside as they went. Springer leaped to the door at the head of the stairs, opened it, slammed it again—dragged Haddon down flat on the floor. Lead smashed in a stream through the panels at the height of a man’s chest. More of the defenders were in there, holding back the crew attacking from the roof. A battered broom stood in one corner. Springer tiptoed over to it, tore loose the cord of a droplight and wound it about the handle, leaving one end free. “We’ll pen ‘em in there,” he said. “Door opens inward. When it comes time for them to smash us from the rear, they can’t get out.” Silently he slipped to the door-casing, laid the broom across horizontally, motioned for Haddon to hold it level. He wound the wire several times about the doorknob, then about the broom, tied a granny-knot. Purposely he jiggled the handle. More slugs crashed through, then someone tried to pull the door open from the inside. It held. “That’ll keep ‘em off our backs. Come on,” Springer barked. They ran to the rear of the hallway. The attic scuttle stood open. Back in the shadows he could make out the outlines of a face. “Up with them—I’ve got you covered,” a voice commanded. “Sixty-six,” Springer replied. “Drop a couple of men down here into the hallway to help smash into them from the rear. I’ve got the door barred from this side.” “How’ll that help,” the other demanded suspiciously. “Easy. They figure they can hold us off, while Bull stands your fellows off from back of the safe in his office. We’ve got to smash this bunch and then get Bull through the floor from above.” Long, blue clad legs appeared in the opening. The cop swung for a moment by his hands, fell to his knees. Another followed with drawn gun. “All right, Bob,” the first said. “Headquarters, special service men with the password.” “Get a grinder,” Springer interrupted. “We’ll never get anywhere with hand guns.” The second cop was still suspicious. “Say,” he demanded. “Who in hell are you anyhow, young fellow? You look a helluva lot to me like a punk that hangs ‘round with this gang.” “Yeh!” Springer snapped. “And if it means anything to you, I look a lot like my father too. Come on! Get busy. Introductions can wait.” Still surly, the copper went back and called to someone above through the scuttle. In a moment a third policeman swung down, holding by one hand while he passed over a Tommy gun. “How many in there?” Haddon asked. The policeman rubbed his nose reflectively. “Half a dozen anyway. We got into the attic all right, but they pumped so many holes around our feet that we couldn’t break through. Four of our boys are up there, shot up. They burned the hell out of us every time we started.” “What’s the layout?” “Two big rooms with a door in the center of the partition. Two rooms on this floor, three in the same space on Bull’s floor.” Springer pointed to the door with its broom-and-wire lashing. “By now they’ve found its barricaded,” he said. “That gives us a chance to surprise ‘em. Put the guy with the grinder on the stairs, with just the tip of the gun showing over the landing. You others plant back in the dark and knock over the ones he don’t get. I’ll loosen the bar and kick the door open.” The firing within was intermittent. It seemed that the gangsters were satisfied with a stalemate; glad to hold the raiders from the roof on the attic floor. Springer’s hands were working now at the wire lashing. Silently he released the broom but retained his hold on the doorknob. Flattening himself against the wall he waited for another burst of firing. When it came he nodded to the others, turned the knob and sent the door sweeping back against the inner wall. Someone inside loosed a scattering spray of shots from an automatic through the opening. The copper on the stairs withheld his fire for a second, while the others, waiting for his first burst, stood silent. Springer looked over his shoulder and unconsciously flinched aside from the doorway as the Tommy-gun went into action. He could feel the death-draught of the flying lead. A medley of cries came from within. A bullet or two buzzed through the opening, smashed harmlessly into the plastering. Haddon and his two supporting cops leaped forward, but Springer was first into the room. Four men were prone on the floor. A fifth, his legs shot from under him, was trying to crawl into the second room. Springer’s gun belched twice. The crawling gunny squirmed; lay still. Feet were thudding on the floor inside as the cops dropped from the low attic opening. Springer turned and ordered the man with the Tommy-gun to keep on firing erratic bursts so Bull and his group could not know that the cops finally had occupied the floor above him. “Give me a jimmy,” he gritted. “I want to tear up the floor in this corner.” He cast his eyes about the two rooms. Roughly they approximated the three of the gang headquarters below. Therefore the southeast corner would be directly above the spot where Bull was holding out against his attackers. One of the cops disappeared; returned almost immediately with a jimmy big enough to wreck the City Hall. Springer snatched at it hungrily; turned to the corner baseboard. His agile shoulders twisted. The baseboard came loose. Another wrench. The inside flooring board flipped back in splinters. Another. Another. Haddon slipped to his knees beside Springer. “Easy does it,” he warned. “You’re tipping your mitt. Can’t you hear? They’ve stopped shooting downstairs.” Springer stared at him, wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Who the hell cares?” he snarled. “I’m going to get Bull.” “Be smart,” Haddon said and caught at his wrist. “Don’t be a sap. We’ve got all night—but we’ve got to put this thing over or the Commish is sunk.” Springer nodded in understanding. He slipped the jimmy under the next board and levered it up carefully. It ripped loose at one end. Haddon slipped his fingers beneath the edge and wrenched quietly. Another board gave. Springer arose, wiped the sweat from his eyes. “Enough?” he said, indicating the opening. Haddon shook his head. “More,” he said. “At least three feet. Safe stands across the corner, you know.” Springer loosened two more boards, then a third. Haddon levered them out, keeping the nails from creaking. Then the firing started up again on the floor below, Springer motioned to the copper with the Tommy. “Lie down,” he directed. “Listen carefully and see if you can tell from the sound just about where he’s standing.” The cop complied, laid there a matter of moments, then arose, grinning. “Bet I knock a hole in his skull first thing,” he boasted. “Then get at it,” Springer snapped, passing the gun to the man’s waiting hands. “There’s a big safe across the corner that he’s using for a shield. Sponge out every inch behind it.” The cop up-ended the weapon, stopped to kick loose a sliver of board from a cross beam. He grinned over his shoulders at the others. “Watch this,” he said. He brought the trigger back; drew a jagged line of holes straight from the corner back almost to his feet. The slugs tore through the plastering as a knife cuts whey. He moved the muzzle patiently from left to right and back again, probing into every possible corner. Suddenly there was a dull crash followed by a white dust cloud. A square yard of the ceiling had fallen. Several slugs from automatics buzzed through the opening and crashed into the attic flooring but Haddon, unmindful, leaned forward to peer down. Springer shouldered him aside roughly. The top of the safe was heaped with fallen plaster, as was the floor beside it. Two huddled forms were slumped against the wall. Springer detected sudden movement and dragged Haddon back as one of the two fallen men jerked half erect and emptied a clip from his rod at the faces above him. Feet dashed across the floor below. Rods spoke their death word and the gangster, riddled anew, pitched forward; lay there quietly. “Come on—it’s the finish.” Springer snatched at Haddon’s arm and raced to the stairhead. In the club-rooms below they came upon a scene none of the living participants forgot for days. Five wounded or dead police lay in a corner where they had been dragged by their comrades out of the line of Bull’s murderous fire. The door and partition between the two rooms were splintered wrecks. The steel shield, used first by the defenders and then by the attackers, lay overturned near the doorway. Hardly an inch of its surface had escaped a scoring by flying lead and steel. Back of it lay one of the police, one side of his face shot away by a long burst of fire. Within the inner room the walls and furnishings had been torn to fragments by the hail of bullets. Bull had left open the big doors of the safe as an added protection against police guns. The drawers and pigeonholes were wrecked, their contents smashed and torn until they were mere heaps of waste paper and rubbish. Three dead gangsters lay in a corner back of a heavy oak table which they had up-ended to use as a shield. Another lay beside the safe, at the left. A policeman caught at a pair of feet protruding from behind the safe and dragged out a wounded man. His head was smashed, but he still breathed—horribly, bubblingly. Springer wriggled through the press and caught Bull’s inert form by the collar. The gang leader was badly slashed about the head, either by grazing bullets or falling plaster. Blood gushed, fountain-like, from a wound in his left shoulder. One wrist was smashed. The hand hung, grotesquely, like a wet glove. The movement roused the gangster to consciousness. He gazed, dazedly at first, at Springer. For a moment hope leaped into his eyes. Then he saw the police uniforms and realization came to him. Hate distorted his blood smeared features; his hand clawed at his trousers band for the spare rod he carried there. “You damned, stinking, lousy rat!” he whispered. “Turned stoolie—gave me up to the bulls, damn you! I’m goin’ out—but I’m takin’ you with me.” Bull’s great body surged forward, his right hand clutching at Springer’s throat. Then, forgetful of his wounds, he tried to put his weight on the smashed wrist. The bones grated against the floor; sent him crashing back onto his face. The others were gathering up the injured policemen, only Haddon standing by. Springer jerked Bull erect into a sitting posture again. The gangster’s eyes shifted to Haddon’s face. “Another—rat!” he whispered. “Stool! Snitch! And I—I was warned. You—Shorty—lice, both of you!” Springer leaned forward until his face was within inches of that of Bull. Hatred blazed in his eyes. “No, not Shorty, Bull,” he snarled. “His double. Eddie Springer, son of one of the cops you and your rods knocked off two weeks ago. Take that down to hell with you—and see how it tastes for a kid to make things square for his old man.” Bull’s eyes widened in utter unbelief. “Liar!” he mumbled. “You’re Shorty—and a stool.” He sagged back hopelessly. Springer shook him viciously. “Your mob’s gone,” he gritted. “Every one at the warehouse, everybody here. They’re all finished—like you’ll be in a minute.” Bull sighed. Suddenly his body went limp. The Bull Coleman gang was wiped from the roll of “men wanted for major crime.” V Shorty’s Awakening Daylight! Shorty Breen awoke, shivering in his underclothing in the silent cell. Slowly his mind grasped his predicament. He was A.W.O.L. with Bull. That meant he’d have to duck the town or take a one-way ride with some of his former pals. Damn old McGrehan! Just like a thick-headed cop to get a fellow into a jam like this. Feet resounded eerily down the corridor. Shorty strained his ears to hear. Then he leaped upright, gibbering with fear. His senses told him that he was sitting erect on the hard board in the cell, yet there he stood outside the locked door, dressed in his everyday suit, peering in through the bars at himself! For the first time in years, Shorty made the sign of the cross. The figure outside stood leering at him, wordlessly. Shorty tried to mouth a question—ended with a shrill scream. The words would not form in his mouth. His throat was a frozen waste. With the sound the other Shorty moved soundlessly aside, disappeared. Long minutes passed. Never ending minutes. Once Shorty thought he heard whispering in the distance. The boy fought to still the trembling which shook his every nerve and muscle. He lay back, eyeing the steel grating above him. It was a trick, a dream; something they were doing to crack his nerve. Well, damn them, he’d fool them. Then, while he promised himself they wouldn’t frighten him again, there was a loud click. He snapped erect, gazing in wide-eyed horror; burst into a shrill torrent of screams. The other Shorty—his counterpart—was back, unlocking the door—coming in after him. He covered his eyes with his arms, cowered back against the cold steel wall of the cell. The other was inside now; probably come to take him down into hell. A heavy hand clutched his shoulder, dragged him up, and out, and into the corridor. It was more than even gangster flesh and blood could stand. Convulsively, squirming like an eel, Shorty broke the hold, ran down the corridor at a shambling pace, rounded the cell block—smashed full into the burly form of Captain McGrehan. Clyde Breen, ex-speedball and gangster, burst into tears. He forced himself to look into the eyes of the double who now stood at his side. His face was bloody, his hands gory and torn. “Get goin’; the Commissioner’s waitin’.” Captain McGrehan was speaking for the first time. “Here he is, Mr. Commissioner,” said McGrehan, thrusting the half clad Shorty opposite the official. For a long moment the Commissioner stared appraisingly into Shorty’s eyes. Finally he spoke. “Of all the Coleman gang, Breen, you only are alive today.” Shorty stared at him, unbelievingly. The toneless voice continued: “We trapped them in the warehouse raid, surrounded Bull and the others over Finnegan’s in the hangout; killed every one of them. Captain McGrehan saved you—for your mother’s sake.” “Why? How?” The words were whispered. Shorty’s world had come tumbling about his ears. “Why did we clean them out?” The Commissioner’s tone was savage. “Well, you know why. You drove the chopper car on the raid on The Yid’s trucks. That night two policemen were killed. One of them was the father of Springer here—this boy who wore your clothes, pretended to be you tonight—and drove one of the cars to the warehouse.” Shorty turned and stared wonderingly at Springer. Within his mind he said one word. It was “Guts!” The Commissioner’s dead voice continued tonelessly. “Better men than you’ll ever be, died tonight, Breen. They’ll lie and mold in their graves while you go on living, breathing, maybe loving. “Captain McGrehan convinced me we should save you for two reasons. The first is to keep your mother’s heart from breaking. The other is that you’re going to sit down now and tell a stenographer about everything you know that the Coleman gang did in a criminal way, including the death of the two policemen. You hear me?” “I hope he says ‘no,’ Mr. Commissioner. I want a chance to slap him down until he’s only two feet high.” Captain McGrehan, fists clenched, was advancing from the doorway. “Get square, kid; start all over again—we’ll all help.” It was Springer who drove the clinching nail. “I’ll do it,” he said. Shorty saw the Commissioner but once more. That was the day when Mom and Captain McGrehan went before the good Father O’Grady and rectified the mistakes of their younger years. The Commissioner was best man. Shorty gave the bride away. At the end of the ceremony, the Commissioner said good-bye to Shorty last of all. “Keep your head up, boy,” he said earnestly. “You’ll make it all right.” “An’ damn well you know it,” his new father growled. “He’s ji’nin’ th’ Navy tomorruh.” “Uh—uh—why, sure!” Shorty replied. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureIn the 1930, when the United States was in the grip of the Great Depression, pulp magazines became immensely popular. The country had just been through the age of prohibition, and these were the days of Capone and Dillinger. In the 1910s, magazines had started to publish stories like Boston Blackie, an early gangster favorite. Later, pulp magazines that focused specifically on criminals emerged. One of these was Gangster Stories, Mobs was another. Among the most prominent pulp authors at the time was an individual writing under the name «Margie Harris». Little is known about her life, so we contacted the editor of a collection of her stories, John Locke, to find out more. What do we know about the life of Margie Harris? John Locke: Most of what we know about her came from a letter published in the June 1931 Gangster Stories. Readers had been speculating that the stories with her byline were so tough they had to have been written by a man. She put that rumor to rest, explaining how her career as a newspaper reporter introduced her to many criminals and underworld figures. She cited a number of notorious names which allows us to establish her career in two locales: the San Francisco Bay Area from about the turn of the century to the early 1910s, and Chicago in the early 1920s. Dovetailing with her reportorial background, in the mid-1930s, she wrote articles for a true-crime magazine. All were set within either Houston or a 250-mile radius. If she had been born circa 1880, then she would have been about fifty in 1930 when she started her fiction-writing career, an opportunity afforded by the sudden emergence of the gang pulps, magazines which presented a gangster-centric view of society. Beyond that, her identity couldn’t be independently identified. “Margie Harris” may have been a pseudonym. None of her newspaper reportage has thus far been found, which is not terribly unusual. Many reporters never see their bylines in print. Was she a prolific writer, how many stories did she write? John Locke: She published almost ninety stories in her ten-year fiction career from 1930-39. In the beginning, all were gangster tales. As that genre quickly faded from popularity, she turned to action-detective stories. Most of her stories ranged from 10-25 pages in the magazines. About ten were in the 40-50-page range. Her first published story was 39 pages, so she didn’t exactly ease into the pulp scene. Her only novel-length story was “Little Big Shot,” published in full in the May 1932 Gangster Stories. In the 1930s, pulp fiction was a penny-a-word business for most freelance writers. A 20-page story would run about 10,000 words, for which the author received $100. Margie’s best year may have been 1932, during which she published 14 stories, or about 500 pages of fiction, for which she would have received $2,500. That was at the very depths of the Depression. In 1932, the average hourly wage dropped from 50 to 40 cents an hour, or from $1,000 to $800 a year. How does she compare with Hammett, Chandler and the hard-boiled school of noir fiction? John Locke: She’s definitely hardboiled. Her stories are plenty violent, generally centering around gangland wars, police brutality, etc. She’s not shy about describing society’s soiled undersides. I wouldn’t label her noir since all of her fiction was published in the 1930s, and I associate noir with a post-WWII sense of traditional morality in decay. Gang-pulp stories didn’t show good people falling from grace. They immersed the reader in that depraved world from the outset. Hammett and Chandler are more polished, which is a function of time—and talent. Margie probably wrote her fiction like a reporter writes news stories, i.e. meet the editor’s expectations and move on to the next thing. That was the general approach for a pulp writer. The editors wanted genre thrills, not literature. They weren’t interested in detailed descriptions of settings, complex characters, or intricate plots. They wanted rapidly paced stories of action. Some writers discovered, to their chagrin, that the editors would strip the artful descriptions out of the text; the average reader didn’t want it so the editor wasn’t going to pay a penny a word for it. The seasoned pulp-writer learned the lesson. Hammett and Chandler were pulp writers, too, before they were considered better than that. But they had the advantage of writing for Black Mask which, unlike the majority of pulp magazines, encouraged a higher level of style. The editor of Black Mask, Joseph Shaw, flattered his contributors’ ambitions. Margie may simply have been writing for a living, the way she had in the newspaper business. How would you characterize her prose. It is quite good, isn’t it? John Locke: Yes, she’s a clever wordsmith. She’s writes in a near-steady stream of gangland lingo, most of which is very colorful, but some of which can be challenging to interpret today. She drops artful innuendo into her prose on occasion, as in one of my favorite gags from “Cougar Kitty.” Kitty is the hostess of a speakeasy who greets two mobsters with: “Come on in, both of you. The water’s wet—and we haven’t any.” That one stopped me short. She’s also frequently betrays her insider newspaper knowledge with details like this: “The afternoon papers had extras on the street when Gimpy went underground at a nearby subway station. The Journal’s headlines shrieked: ‘Vice King Sought for Death of Slum Worker.’ Monk Diller was named in the secondary headline. A two-column cut of his features centered the first page. The caption read: ‘$5000 Reward,’ while below it was an accurate police description.” Indeed, her working writer sensibilities seep into her prose in interesting ways: “Tac-tac-tac-tac-tac-tac-tac!” The “typewriter” in the street outside wrote its lethal message in seven stuttering blasts—with dead silence for the final period. She’s referring, of course, to the weapon of choice: a machine-gun. She is entertaining, why do think she has fallen into obscurity the way she did? John Locke: The gang pulps weren’t mainstream when she wrote for them, so the problem starts there. And they only had a few years of success, from 1930 through the end of Prohibition, about 1933. Virtually no authors used their success in the gang pulps as a springboard to something greater. It was a specialized field and, when the gang pulps faded, the careers of most of the authors withered with them. Margie fared better than most through the rest of the decade, but was only one author among many hundreds supplying short stories and novelettes to the detective and crime pulps. Additionally, popular culture is bolstered by a huge industry that constantly churns out new product. Most of the past gets buried in the avalanche. Only a small handful of things remain popular or get rediscovered. There seem to have been a huge number of very substantial writers who have emerged from these pulp magazines. Do you know of other writers whom you feel have been neglected? John Locke: In the gangster field, Anatole Feldman stands out. Like Margie, he had a knack for the underworld lingo, some of which was probably authentic, and some of which he probably invented, but you can’t tell the difference. What sort of circulation did Gangster Stories and Mobs have? John Locke: Most publishers held these numbers close and precise circulation figures for the pulps are hard to obtain. Most pulps were sold on newsstands and very few through mail subscriptions, so the national magazine distributors set the terms. There were about 100,000 newsstands in the country, in railway stations, on busy street corners, in drugstores, etc. Publisher Harold Hersey, who was most responsible the gang-pulp boom, probably had as many copies of an issue printed, hoping to sell at least half the run, which he probably did when the magazines were at their peak of popularity. The minimum circulation to be viable was probably about 30,000. I read once that the lone gunman of the old west was the literary precursor to the noir detective. Why do you think people are so fascinated by the lives of gangsters? John Locke: I think that gang life is a perversion of self-government. We all chafe to one degree or another at being directed, boxed in, or otherwise told what to do, and the man with the gun or, better still, the gang armed like an army, represents a twisted form of freedom. In the old west, we can imagine that protecting one’s prerogatives with a well-oiled six-shooter was actually virtuous, a necessary survival skill in a somewhat lawless frontier. Prohibition (1920-33) violated the social contract of the Constitution by trespassing into what most people considered a valid use of freedom: drinking. Instead of eliminating booze, what the law actually did was to create a set of shadow governments—the mob—organizations who, on one level of interpretation, defended freedom against its oppressors, law enforcement. It was as if the old west view of virtuous self-defense had been appropriated by vast criminal enterprises. For the reader, it’s wish-fulfillment to experience characters controlling their individual destinies through force of arms. The gang pulps emerged in the final years of Prohibition, after the unintended and shocking consequences of the law had become apparent. Many of the fans of gangland fiction, I believe, read the stories as a parody of American society. Reading them was an act of rebellion—they were undoubtedly popular with teenagers and other cynics—a way to say: Our wise elders have been exposed as fools. In that respect, Prohibition parallels the experience of World War I, another noble cause that quickly turned into human disaster on an epic scale. Indeed, the imagery of the gangland story draws upon that conflict, still fresh in the mind in the early ’30s: batteries of soldiers armed with machine-guns facing off in a ruthless fight to the death. It’s probably no coincidence that the gang pulps immediately followed a wave of popularity for pulps featuring WWI fiction, a trend that started in 1926. While the United States in the 20s and 30s turned to the noir and hard-boiled school of mystery, the UK produced writers like Agatha Christie who favored plot over style. Why do you think the two traditions became so different? John Locke: It might be as simple as manners, that is, the British have better manners and thus their crime fiction reflects that. It might be the long shadow of the frontier, as we explored above. Or perhaps it’s the influence of Hollywood on the broader American culture. The movies—especially the silents—favored action over the subtleties of human behavior, things in physical motion over things in thought. In a silent movie, it’s easier to show a conflict resolved by violence than one solved by deduction. Indeed, the gang pulps were clearly influenced by Hollywood. Films like Underworld (1927) and The Dragnet (1928) heightened interest in gangland, which the pulps were all too happy to capitalize on. The introduction of sound into film significantly altered the equation, but the idea of action remains at the core of cinema. What do you think has been the legacy of the gangster stories? John Locke: I think that they helped solidify the mythology of Prohibition: racketeers and gangsters, speakeasies, Tommy-guns, hoodlums shooting out of the windows of their speeding Packards, and so forth. I’m not sure the gang pulps had much of a literary legacy; their flavor is very much wedded to their brief window of time. The pulps returned to gang-fiction magazines at various times, but never with the same vigor. Later, interest in organized crime moved more into the nonfiction domain as awareness of the Mafia grew. In film and television, though, organized crime has remained a popular theme. For my tastes, the closest production to capture the spirit of the gang pulps was the great TV series The Untouchables (1959-63). If you were to recommend a Margie Harris story from your collection, which one would it be, and why?  John Locke: She was remarkably consistent in quality, so you can pick up any of her stories for a good read. I’m partial to the ones with female protagonists, as they break the mold. Most gang-pulp stories—and most of Margie’s—feature male protagonists, as we would expect. But occasionally, like in “Cougar Kitty,” it’s time for a woman to take the ultimate revenge on the men who have wronged her. Another heroine featured in our collection was Lota Remsden, the so-called Black Moll (she’s white), in “Understudy From Hell.” She gets ahead by being smarter than the dumb hoods who populate her mob. There actually was a pulp featuring gang-fiction with female leads, called Gun Molls Magazine. It lasted for nineteen issues from 1930-32 and is quite a scarce collectible today. Queen of the Gangsters: Stories by by Margie Harris is available from Amazon Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyThe ruins of Angkor were long hidden by the Cambodian jungle. Early explorers  such as the French artist Louis Delaporte (1842-1925) sketched the glory of what they found. Little did they know that the past was even more magnificent than they imagined. Just over a hundred years later, new laser technology, or lidar, is able to strip away the overgrowth of centuries, and bring to light a clearer outline of  that lost civilization. Now we can finally begin to understand what Angkor was and why the empire faded. Much still remains a mystery, but we were able to get some preliminary answers from dr. Damian Evans of the French Institute of Asian Studies (EFEO).  In what way does your new Lidar findings expand or confirm the view of Angkor presented by Zhou Daguan in his 12’ century travel narrative? Damian Evans: There has always been a degree of uncertainty about the urban context of the temples, because it was made of perishable materials which have rotted away. However Zhou Daguan mentioned a system of residence in which multiple households were arrayed around communal ponds. Using the lidar we have identified patterns in the ground surface that we can identify as remnant traces of ponds, and earthen occupation mounds on top of which people built their houses. We’ve mapped a vast network of these features, several thousand of them, which essentially confirms the account of Zhou Daguan as it relates to residential patterning. Marco Polo speaks of a great empire in Asia (not China), is there any chance he might have mentioned Angkor? Damian Evans: There’s no evidence for that unfortunately. The Khmer Empire was one of many large political entities which flourished in the region at that time, so it’s not necessarily the case.  What was the population of an average city in the Angkor Empire and what was the total population? Damian Evans: For population estimates we need to know two things: the spatial layout of the settlements, and the density of the neighborhoods. We have only just recently come to terms with the layout of the cities using lidar and other mapping techniques, and figuring out the density of inhabitants per hectare is the domain of household archaeology, which has really only just begun at Angkor. So we haven’t yet had the opportunity to sit down and make precise calculations, and we are still missing some crucial information. We can say though that figures in the one million rage for a population of Angkor are probably way too high, and I would say that there are several hundred thousand people at the capital, and some tens of thousands of people at each of the major regional centres.  What was the most surprising thing that you discovered? Damian Evans: There are still quite a few features that we discovered that we don’t understand. There are large grids of mounds covering several hectares, and strange geometric shapes carved into the surface of the landscape. They don’t seem to have had any agricultural or residential function, and when we excavate them there is nothing inside, so they are not burial sites. They may have some larger symbolic meaning as geoglyphs or something, we don’t know. Work on that is ongoing, as they have turned up everywhere and were obviously an important component of the built environment, and perhaps also of a kind of sacred geography whose meaning is obscure to us.  Has this form of archaeology uncovered anything new about the lives of ordinary people in Angkor? Damian Evans: Not directly, no, aside from confirming the residential patterning. One of the great values of lidar though is that it provides a very detailed and comprehensive picture of the built environment that allows field archaeologists to target excavations very precisely on areas that we know will deliver the most useful information. That work will now begin to deliver a wealth if information about the everyday life of the people. The insights from lidar are more orientated towards large-scale factors such as water management, landscape change, the structure of the urban environment, that kind of thing. One thing we can say is that people were living in a very densely inhabited space in the downtown area of Angkor, and with a lack of sanitation disease must have been an extremely serious issue. Why are there so few traces of this empire in the historical sources? Damian Evans: There is a local tradition of carving inscriptions in stone, and there is a corpus of around 1300 of those inscriptions. It is a rich historical record that informs most of what we know about the Khmer. In terms of accounts from outsiders, early sources are very few and far between so there are huge gaps in our knowledge. Later historical sources in the medieval period are very trade-centric, and are dominated by European accounts. Societies heavily engaged in commerce and/or located in coastal areas to take advantage of maritime trade are heavily privileged in these accounts. Angkor was engaged in trade to a certain extent, but it was most of all an inland agrarian empire and not of great interest to traders and trade emissaries, with the exception of Zhou Daguan.  Why and when did Angkor disappear? Damian Evans: It’s a complex question, there are many theories to do with war, overextension of the empire and so on, but none of the theories really stand alone as sufficient explanations. Increasingly we are seeing that their water management system evolved over centuries in a way that was problematic and ultimately unsustainable; because it was crucial for the success and maintenance of Angkor as the capital region, when the water management system ultimately failed – perhaps in the face of extreme climatic events – the royal court decided to relocate towards the coast and re-orient the economy towards commerce.  If Angkor had such extensive building complexes, canals and waterways, isn’t it natural to assume that they were advanced in the fields of science, mathematics and engineering? Do we know the names of any prominent scientists from the Angkor period? Damian Evans: Not really, no, although there are mentions of some specific professions like architects who seemed to be quite prominent within the royal court. The inscriptions in stone that are our main historical sources are not really informative on such kinds of issues, as they are mostly poetic dedications to the gods which glorify the rulers and list donations to the temples. So we know very little of the mechanics of how things were built and why, and by who. Looking at the extremely precise way that the temples were built however there would have been a cohort of professionals who were very skilled in these fields, and who had the benefit of thousands of years of technical knowledge inherited from China and India and beyond.  What sort of language did the ancient Khmer have, and are there any remains of their literature, either in their own language or in translations in other languages? If not, why not? After all ancient Greek sources often survived in Arabic translations? Damian Evans: They had their own language which is the ancestral language of modern Khmer, although they had no indigenous script and expressed it in writing in a script that was borrowed from India. The language is intelligible to scholars. The high language of religion and the royal court was also borrowed from the Indian tradition – it was Sanskrit, which of course can also be translated easily enough. The corpus of 1300 or so inscriptions has been mostly translated into French.  The lidar technology that you used has been applied most recently on the ancient Maya. Is there any room for improvements in the technology? What will be possible in the near future? Damian Evans: At the moment the technology is still very expensive. In the future, as lidar instruments become miniaturised and as UAV technology develops, we should start to be able to cover wide areas with that combination. For now though it is not practical to cover wide areas on the scale of Angkor for example with UAV technology. But that will come soon I think in the next few years. Unfortunately there are technical limitations which prevent high-resolution space-based lidars. But in a decade or two we might achieve that as well, which will provide cheap global coverage. The amount of archaeological material that will be uncovered then will be extraordinary. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyArchaeologists have discovered a treasure deep in the jungles of meso-America more valuable than any city of gold: a Mayan writing system that developed in isolation from Europe or the ancient cultures of Africa and Asia. However, due to the passage of time and our own brutality as colonizers only fragments remain. But what do we know about these sophisticated, urban people and their hieroglyphs?  As always, language offers rare glimpses into the minds of the defeated. contacted Brown University’s Anthropology department, and talked to Mallory Matsumoto, a Ph.d. student who is a specialist on Maya culture and writing. The Maya were one of the very few literate cultures in ancient meso-America, how common was reading and writing among their people? Did everyone know how to read and write? Mallory Matsumoto: As far as we can tell—from the quantity of texts we have, their contents and contexts, archaeological evidence for scribes, and comparison with other cultures—only a small minority in pre-Columbian Maya society would have been able to read or write. Moreover, these people probably would have been elites; some lower-status persons or commoners, who were the majority, may have been able to recognize the hieroglyphs as writing or even interpret a few signs, but probably did not engage with the writing system much more than that. Did the Maya use literature for personal entertainment like we do today? Mallory Matsumoto: For the most part, we don’t have direct evidence indicating in what context or for what purposes the Maya used their hieroglyphic texts—we must deduce this largely from text content and context, including where and when it was created. For example, some monumental texts were positioned to be clearly visible to people, in a space that would have been accessible to many; thus, these may have been intended to serve a broadcasting function. Their texts often record historical or biographical information about the dynasty and appear with images of the king or his allies. The relatively few surviving murals, like those at Bonampak, Rio Azul, or Xultun, would have only been visible to those who were able to enter the building or tomb in which they were painted, and in some cases, the hieroglyphs were small enough that the viewer would need to come up to the wall to read them. In contrast, writing on portable objects, like ceramic vessels or ornaments, is thought to have been intended for more restricted or even individual use. These texts may more directly address the object itself or a mythological narrative, for example, rather than political events. Do we know anything about what sort of literature they had? Is it possible to talk of any Maya literary style, for instance? Mallory Matsumoto: Unfortunately, it’s not clear to what extent the texts we have represent the entire breadth of Maya hieroglyphic writing as it was used in pre-Columbian times. Most hieroglyphic texts have not survived, because of a combination of preservation bias that favors materials more durable than bark paper or (probably) palm leaves, (intentional or otherwise), and random chance. Nonetheless, one key stylistic feature of Maya writing and orality for which we have ample evidence is parallelism, a strategy of articulating two or more comparable elements (words, grammatical forms, etc.) to add nuance or communicate additional meaning. In its most basic form, this strategy juxtaposes two elements (words, grammatical forms, etc.) in a couplet. But more elaborate examples can combine three or more elements to convey very subtle levels of nuance. We have examples of parallelism in hieroglyphic texts from pre-Columbian times, as well as in alphabetic writing and oral traditions recorded since the early colonial period, and it remains an integral component of Maya expression through the present. Many of the books were of course destroyed during the Spanish conquest by people like Diego De Landa? Do we know anything about what was lost? What do the sources tell us about what Landa destroyed? Mallory Matsumoto: Almost all pre-Columbian books have been destroyed or lost. Some simply decayed; painted and plastered bark paper would have needed extraordinary conditions to survive, especially in the hot, humid Maya Lowlands. In this context, it is unsurprising that the four books that we do have all date to within a few centuries of European contact. Archaeologists have found eroded remains of much older, pre-Columbian books, but they are illegible because they are so fragmentary. Most of those books that did manage to survive the stress of time, the elements, and general wear and tear, were abandoned or confiscated by colonial officials as part of cultural persecution under European colonialism. Because these books were written in a writing system completely foreign to the colonizers and many books were integral components of Maya spiritual and ritual practice, they were seen generally as threats to the Europeans’ civilizing and evangelizing mission. We do have records of Europeans seeing these books, but for the most part, their descriptions have proved to be unreliable for reconstructing the original books’ contents. More frequently, they refer to the documents in passing as exotic and impenetrable, if not outright threatening, objects. What about the remaining manuscripts, what sort of text are they? Mallory Matsumoto: Only four books or codices are known to have survived into the present. These books contain hieroglyphs and images painted on bark paper, and their contents are, as far as we can tell, largely calendrical, religious, or astronomical. However, many passages are still opaque, so there is plenty that these codices have left to tell that we don’t yet understand. Are there any significant literary texts inscribed in stone? Mallory Matsumoto: Almost all known hieroglyphic writing is preserved on more durable media, like stone or ceramic, although a handful of surviving texts were recorded on wood, bone, shell, or other, more fragile materials. Hence, texts inscribed in stone have been critical in decipherment efforts and in the ongoing development of our understanding of pre-Columbian Maya political history, among other issues. However, they are not, as far as we can tell, representative of all genres of Maya writing: those on stone monuments typically deal with politically, historically, or dynastically relevant information, whereas those on portable stone objects like jade celts or earspools are, necessarily, briefer, and tend to focus on the immediate context of the object itself and its user. What about the oral traditions of the Maya people, do they in any way reflect what you have discovered in manuscripts and in texts? Mallory Matsumoto: Many narratives known from later oral traditions probably would have been recorded in books and other media that have not survived into the present. We see hints of this in texts from the colonial period, most famously the Popol Wuj, that record community histories and cosmology. However, it’s likely that much content of known oral traditions would not have readily been written down during the colonial period, at least not in documents that were made available to those from outside the local community, because they could have been seen as incompatible with European (especially Christian) values. We have a small number of comparable texts from the pre-Columbian period as well, including the four surviving codices, but most known hieroglyphic texts are different in content and style from oral traditions that have been recorded since European contact. The Maya language system seems very difficult, does it bear any resemblance to any other language found in meso-America or elsewhere? Mallory Matsumoto: Mayan languages form their own linguistic family and are not known to be related to other languages in Mesoamerica, but there has been a substantial amount of contact and borrowing between Mayan languages and those spoken by their neighbors, including Mixtec, Zapotec, and Nahuatl. The language primarily recorded in hieroglyphic texts, now referred to as Classic Mayan, is no longer spoken today. Even at the time, it was probably an elite, literary language that was not spoken by most of the population. Around 30 Mayan languages are spoken now by several million people, although most of them are not directly descended from Classic Mayan. Do you know if the rediscovery of the Mayan script has influenced any modern mexican writers, or literary movements? Mallory Matsumoto: Research on pre-Columbian Maya contexts has certainly influenced contemporary literary and artistic movements. Artists are incorporating elements and motifs from pre-Columbian Maya culture into their paintings, sculptures, prose, poetry, etc. Growing interest, both locally and internationally, in (especially pre-Columbian) Maya society and culture has also generally inspired more pride and association in some contemporary Maya peoples with the heritage of the more distant past. One important, recent development in this context has been the revitalization of the hieroglyphic script itself, led by local and international intellectuals interested in reclaiming the ancient writing system in the present. In addition to hosting workshops to disseminate knowledge of the script, they have also created new murals, paintings, books, and monuments with hieroglyphic writing. What is the most surprising thing you have discovered after the Mayan scripts were deciphered? Mallory Matsumoto: One key realization, catalyzed by the work of Tatiana Proskouriakoff and Heinrich Berlin in the mid-20th century, has been that the content of hieroglyphic texts, especially on monuments, is overwhelmingly historical and biographical, rather than singly focused on esoteric, spiritual themes. This advancement had consequences for our view of pre-Columbian Maya civilization as a whole—as scholars have become able to read more and more and have interpreted them as historical sources, they have developed a more dynamic view of Maya politics and warfare, among other aspects of society. It continues to drive much current epigraphic and archaeological research as we have been able to reveal more of the complexities of pre-Columbian Maya society. For me personally, one of the more surprising aspects of studying the Maya hieroglyphic script has been the sheer diversity of the corpus—of the text forms and contents, of the objects on which they were created, of the manner of presenting the texts, of the materials used to produce them, of the contexts in which they were made and used, among other aspects. It continues to remind me just how many perspectives and corners of Maya epigraphy there are to be explored. Are there any remaining mysteries concerning the Mayan scripts? Mallory Matsumoto: Despite decades of intense and insightful epigraphic work, the Maya hieroglyphic script has not yet been fully deciphered; a number of glyphs cannot yet be interpreted, phonetically, semantically, or both. The early and late hieroglyphic texts remain some of the most enigmatic—to really understand the history and development of the script, we need to be able to read them, which will require the discovery of additional texts and more concentrated effort from scholars. We also know relatively little, for instance, about how much linguistic diversity that the hieroglyphic script records. Most texts seem to have been written in a relatively standard variant, now called Classic Mayan, but this elite literary language would not have been the primary language of everyone, certainly not most non-elites across the region who spoke any of many different Mayan languages. Scholars have found some evidence of local, vernacular influence on hieroglyphic texts, but we still do not fully understand the relationship of the writing system to spoken languages(s), and work on this topic remains ongoing. And these are just a few examples—there certainly plenty of issues waiting to be addressed by future generations of Maya epigraphers. Every discovery or advancement in Maya archaeology or epigraphy raises more questions. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history A crowd of millions cheered as Ghana became independent in 1957 (audio above). “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked-up with the total liberation of the African Continent”, Kwame Nkrumah boldly declared on the day of liberation. Yet a couple of decades later, Nkrumah has been toppled from power, has ended up in exile on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, and his pan African dream lies in ruins. In some ways, his own personal fate mirrored that of a whole continent. We talked to professor Jeffrey Ahlman, a specialist on the Ghanaian statesman, about what happened to Nkrumah, and what has been the lasting legacy of his ideas.  Let us begin at the end of Nkrumah’s life. He had quite a sad demise. He was ill, paranoid and afraid of western intelligence agencies. And he lived in exile. Did he have reason to be afraid? Professor Ahlman: There was significant reason for Nkrumah to have concerns about US and other western subversion in Ghana. In African history, the year 1960 is often remembered quite jubilantly as the “Year of Africa,” marking not only the independence of Nigeria and the Congo, but also the many states that comprised French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa. However, from the perspective of radical anti colonial figures like Nkrumah, the year opened not with jubilance, but with the troubling independence of Cameroon under a government viewed by many as an appendage of the French state. The rushed independence of the Congo and the political chaos that ensued—much of it the result of US and Belgian Cold War intrusion into Congolese democratic politics—only further added to Nkrumah’s wariness, especially as his government had committed a significant number of Ghanaian troops to the UN peace mission to the Congo. However, it was the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba’s assassination that dramatically shook Nkrumah as, for him, the assassination marked the extremes to which capitalist powers would go to subvert the autonomy of African independence. Meanwhile, in Ghana, Nkrumah survived a number of attempts on his own life. The most famous one being the bombing in the far northern Ghanaian town of Kulungugu in August 1962 in which at least two people were killed and Nkrumah himself suffered significant injuries—injuries that some Ghanaians argue was a cause of the cancer that killed him a decade later. Eyeing what had happened to Lumumba a year and a half earlier, Nkrumah and his government read the Kulungugu attack, among the others he endured, as at least in part efforts by capitalist countries like the United States, Belgium, and Great Britain to subvert his vision for Ghana and for Africa. Given this context in Ghana and Africa more broadly, yes, he did have reason to be afraid. How did he become involved with the struggle against British Colonial Rule in The Gold Coast? Professor Ahlman: In his autobiography, Nkrumah argues that he first became aware of the “wickedness of colonialism” while in the UK while waiting for a visa to the US as Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. According to him, the expressionless response from men and women on the streets as the newspapers’ headlines announced the invasion awakened in him a desire to “play my part in bringing about the downfall of such a system.” In the United States, Nkrumah attended Lincoln University and later UPenn, while also seeking connections to African student groups as well as a number of black political and cultural institutions during his time in the country. After a decade in the US, he traveled to the UK, where he joined the political network of the Trinidadian pan-Africanist George Padmore and played a key role in helping to organize the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Manchester—a congress that demanded an immediate end to colonial rule in Africa. It was approximately two years after the Manchester Congress that Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast at the invitation of the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a political party often maligned as being too moderate. During his time as the UGCC’s general secretary, he clashed with the convention’s other leaders before leaving the convention—or getting expelled depending on whose version one accepts—and forming his own party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), under the mantra of “Self-Government Now.” Why the CPP is so important to African history is that it was one of the first mass political parties on the continent, drawing supporters from a wide range of walks of life (educated, uneducated, farmers, urban dwellers, youth, women, etc) and, for many, providing a new sense of belonging in a period of rapid political and social change following WWII. Like Gandhi he was partly educated in Britain, in what way did this influence his ideas? Or were his years in the United States more significant? Professor Ahlman: I think the fundamental elements of his political education occurred in Great Britain as he came under the tutelage of George Padmore. It was here, I believe, where his ideas began to mature and gained their first coherent form in his 1947 pamphlet Towards Colonial Freedom. However, one cannot underestimate the role of his time in the US, for he arrived in the US in the midst of the Great Depression and stayed through the war years. During this time, he not only actively sought out readings by such people as Marcus Garvey and associated with Paul Robeson’s Council on African Affairs, among others, but was forced to live in the highly racialized social environment of the United States as a black man. It is hard to imagine that such an experience did not help shape his understanding of the world, colonialism, and race. Was he always a leftist? Professor Ahlman: I think in terms of his adult life, yes. When he became PM of the newly liberated Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) he was quite popular. How popular were his ideas of pan-African unity? Professor Ahlman: I think you have to add more nuance to the question. In principle, I think many Ghanaians were supportive of some sort of largely undefined pan-African unity, especially one that—like Nkrumah suggested—placed Ghana at the center of an emerging pan-African politics. Part of this was pride; part may have been—and still may be—an authentic hope for what unity could bring to the future of both Ghana and Africa. On the other hand, many questioned the resources spent in pursuing Nkrumah’s continental ambitions. This included the aid Ghana offered to other countries and liberation movements as well as the time Nkrumah spent away from the country. By as early as 1958, if not earlier, criticism of the resources spent on Nkrumah’s pan-African policies had become a potent critique of the government when marshaled by some opposition officials. Why do you think the idea of pan-Africanism failed? Professor Ahlman: I don’t believe it did, particularly because I don’t think we can talk about pan-Africanism in the singular. There were/are many different pan-Africanisms—diasporic, continental, political, social, cultural, economic, etc. What may have failed was Nkrumah’s particular vision of a United States of Africa. However, even Nkrumah shouldn’t be beholden to that singular definition of pan-Africanism, especially when answering rather normative questions like whether he succeeded or failed. In his life, Nkrumah came to influence, embody, interact with, and shape a number of competing, if not contradictory forms of pan-Africanism. His flirtation with Garveyism may not have meshed organically with his socialism and aspects of the Ghanaian nation-building project at home and the Ghanaian exceptionalism that seemed to follow in its wake does not easily fit within the continental vision he so famously articulated. He launched quite a lot of programs in those early years, how successful was he in modernizing Ghana? Professor Ahlman: Ghana has not seen a leader like him to date. He transformed the country politically, socially, culturally, economically, and infrastructurally. He shepherded in the development of the city of Tema, transforming a previously small fishing village into the industrial engine of the new Ghana. Similarly, he also ushered in the damming of the Volta River that, through the electricity it produced, electrified much of the country and still does so today. However, the greatest impact his government had was in its promotion of fee-free primary education. This program democratized education in the country, allowing untold numbers of boys and girls who may not have had the opportunity to go to school before gaining an education. When did his downfall begin? And why did he eventually lose his grip on power? Professor Ahlman: His downfall began with the 1966 coup. People were talking in unspecific ways about what Ghana might look like without Nkrumah prior to the coup. However, it was always in vague terms. He and his government appeared strong on the eve of the coup and the coup surprised many. This is not to say that many were content with the state of affairs in Ghana at the time. The reality was much more complicated. Instead, even as late as the month of the coup, many people had come to terms with a reality that the one-party political context created by Nkrumah and the CPP represented the reality that they must live with for the foreseeable future. In what way would you say the Cold War affected the idea of pan-Africanism? Professor Ahlman: I think it constrained the possibilities open to African thinkers and leaders as they sought to reimagine the new world created by decolonization. As individual countries and  liberation movements faced pressures from the US, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Soviet Union, many found it difficult to break from the bifurcated global model that so defined the Cold War in their efforts to make a reality the futures they imagined. How is Nkrumah remembered in Ghana today? Do they celebrate him, or lament his failings? Professor Ahlman: Nkrumah and his ideas appear to be gaining in popularity in Ghana again. However, Ghanaians tend to have a complicated relationship with Nkrumah, especially those who lived through his rule. Many truly appreciate how he transformed Ghana into a major player on the international stage during his tenure and, at the same time, built roads, schools, healthcare facilities, etc. Yet, many of the same people recall the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that accompanied a government that in many ways policed many forms of political and social expression, particularly those forms did not fit within the ideological confines of an orthodox decolonization-era Nkrumahism. What is the legacy of Pan Aficanism today? Professor Ahlman: I’m not sure how to answer this given that there are still pan-African thinkers today, both in Africa and the diaspora. They are actively trying to reflect on the legacies of earlier generations of thinkers like Nkrumah, Du Bois, Padmore, Stokely Carmichael, Malcom X, and others. At the same time, they are actively trying to construct their own pan-African visions that not only take into account contemporary realities in Africa, the diaspora, and the world, but are also experimenting with methods and ideas—small and large—to bring their visions for the future into a reality   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyThe actors were all on stage in front of an excited audience. Listeners everywhere, from soldiers in war zones to grandma in her rocking chair, were glued to their radio sets. The attraction of a media reality gone by is apparent in classic comedies such as Abbot and Costello’s Who Done It? (1942) and The Radioland Murders (1994). Historian Neil Verma joins us to reflect upon an art form, which, he says, will never go away. When were the first radio dramas broadcast? What are the oldest ones that survive? Professor Verma: This is hard to answer because you’d have to decide what counts as a “play” exactly. There’s a long tradition in the 1920s and 1930s of reading aloud from works of fiction, and there’s also a number of newspaper records we have of local theaters and dramatic societies playing scenes from ongoing stage productions for radio shows on stations such as New York’s WJZ and Chicago’s WGN in the early 1920s. And what about opera broadcasts? Aren’t they drama? When it comes to written-for-radio dramatic pieces, tradition says that the earliest radio drama in the US was a show called The Wolf, an adaptation of a stage play by Eugene Walter Based on a play by Charles Somerville that aired out of WGY Schenechtedy in 1924. In the UK, many point to Richard Hughes’ The Comedy of Danger, which aired on the newly commissioned BBC around the same time. Throughout the 1920s there are many accounts of dramas written or adapted for the radio ranging from Shakespeare to children’s programming, but it’s important to remember that this also took place against a backdrop of debates about how radio was undercutting theater ticket sales, and there was a tension between the two industries. Radio drama became a mainstay of programming formats with the coming of networks in the mid-late 1920s. By 1930, my colleague Shawn VanCour has established, the radio drama was about 14 percent of network programming. Many of the shows of this period that have survived are skit-like serialized shows that have a similar structure to vaudeville and racist minstrel shows (Amos & Andie) or comic strips (Clara, Lu and Em). What sort of recording devices did they use at the time and how was the radio show edited? Professor Verma: Most dramas were live shows, sometimes with a studio audience. Therefore recording devices were not required. Recording typically entered into the process for one of four reasons (1) rehearsals – many shows would record a rehearsal on a transcription disc of some kind prior to doing a live version (2) as a component of the broadcast itself – many shows used records of sound effects spun manually during the broadcast (3) as part of a transcription distribution system – local stations would very often “time shift” programs by buying recorded-to-disc shows that they would air to fill gaps in their programming or (4) as part of a record for the ad firm or sponsor who paid for the program. The kind of microphones they used were not dissimilar to the ones we use today in terms of design and pickup pattern. Initially much radio drama used carbon-based microphones but by the 1940s many used condenser type microphones, others used ribbon microphones, which were sometimes called velocity microphones. There are many old time radio enthusiasts in the US, why do you think that is?  Professor Verma: I don’t know. There is more and more audio drama being produced all the time, so it can’t just be nostalgia. Why was Orson Welles’ 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast  a turning point in radio history? Professor Verma: Welles made the most famous radio play of all time, it’s hard to pinpoint that for many other media. That said, much of the so-called panic of the broadcast is a production of the yellow press – virtually none of the mass hysteria that people think happened can be verified by any evidence. There’s a huge irony here – the “lesson” of the War of the worlds “panic” is supposed to be that you can’t trust what you hear on the radio, but it turns out you can’t believe what you read in the paper. For me, it’s a shame that the panic about the broadcast has occluded the play itself. There are hundreds of books and articles about the reception of the thing, but very little about what it sounded like, and how Welles, Howard Koch and the rest of the team evolved their art through it. For example, WOTW is one of the slowest radio plays I’ve ever heard. In a medium best known for loudness and action, it’s rather quiet and lethargic. That’s a really exciting mode of radiophonic art, an unusual one, and it can tell us a lot about the aesthetics of suspense in the mid-20th century. The legacy of Howard Koch, Bernard Hermann and Orson Welles is apparent in later productions, such as the historical drama series CBS is There (You are There) and even a local production, such as the 1970s zombie drama The Peoria Plague. Do you think an updated War of the Worlds would be as effective as a 1938 version?  Professor Verma: My feeling is that the whole War of the Worlds hoax is itself a hoax. So, what should we take from that? I think it’s a fascinating allegory for anxieties we have about the modern media, anxieties that persist today. At some point larger producers, such as NBC and CBS, turned away from radio drama, and began focusing on TV.  Have people in the US stopped listening to radio altogether? Professor Verma: No. The most recent report of the AC Nielsen company I’ve seen says that radio reaches 93 % of adults each week in the United States. That’s compared to 89% for TV, 83% for smartphones. Today there are many independent radio drama producers in the US. On this site we have featured, among others Blue Hour Productions, Atlanta Radio Theater and 19NocturneBoulevard. When did this subculture emerge? Professor Verma: Radio drama production has never really ended from the Golden Age. That said, I think the contemporary period can trace its roots to the Firesign Theater records, ZBS productions by Tom Lopez and Yuri Rasovsky’s works, along with the BBC’s Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy programs, which are still a gold standard for many of the audio dramas I listen to today. The quality of The Mercury Theater, The NBC University Theater and CBS Studio One, is still unmatched in modern radio. Why do you think that is? Professor Verma: I’m not sure I’d agree with that. These were shows that made sense for their audiences at the time, and created a kind of radio that was energetic about exploration and innovation. There are other traditions out there just as worthy. That said, I think it’s important that many of the authors and directors in the shows you mention could draw liberally on contemporaneous fiction for scripts, invent new vocabularies for sound effects, and work with actors who spent whole careers as voice artists. Being a radio drama professional – working at it day in and day out for decades – was a peculiar affordance of the classical period, at least in the United States. Advertising played an important role in the development of radio drama in the US. Every radio listener in the 1950s US would know the phrase “Lux Presents Hollywood” , the opening for the Lux Radio Theater. Tell us a little about the history of advertising in radio drama. Professor Verma: There are whole shelves of books on this subject. In general, advertising firms would bankroll programs and match them with sponsors, and a few firms (BBDO, Young & Rubicam, J Walter Thompson come to mind) had a particularly effective business model based on this. In general, many of the products that sponsored these shows were national brands. Think of the kinds of products we are talking about – soap, coal, boot black, soup, tea, yeast, cigarettes. These are not “niche” products exactly, and that suggests that these are plays that expected to be heard not by a particularly narrow segment of Americans, but by a very broad group. You should reach out to Cynthia Meyers from the College of Mt St. Vincent for more on this, she knows the ad firm history the best. Today everything is “on demand”. Netflix lets you chose what to watch and when. Sites like and the BBC let you select radio shows to listen at your convenience. Is there a future for linear broadcasts? Professor Verma: When people ask me for a prediction about the future of audio narrative, what historian Michele Hilmes calls “sound work,” I tell them that there will be more of everything. More linear radio drama broadcasts, more podcasts, more of things made in between. In the past few years I’ve heard incredible work from all sides of the industry, from Gimlet Media’s Homecoming podcast to Westdeuscher Rundfunk’s adaptation of The Neverending Story. In 2014 they used serialized radio dramas to promote awareness about Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The radio art world is also booming, with major conferences and installations at Radio Revolten in Halle, Germany and the Radiophrenia broadcasts in Glasgow. In the last year the BBC experimented with a nonlinear radio drama that you can listen to in different sequences, and it recently teamed up with Amazon to create an interactive audio drama on Amazon’s Alexa. Radio technology has always changed and will continue to change. Drama, I suspect, will always be a part of that change.   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby John Llewelyn Rhys (1911-1940) WHEN the Old Man came into the ante-room the young officers began to rise in their chairs, but he waved them back with an impatient gesture. It was warm and comfortable in there and the tenor of idle chatter continued. One could hear the crackle of a newspaper page and the sound of bidding from the four who were playing a Chinese game in the corner, their minds apparently intent on the little walls of white blocks on the table before them. ‘ Beneath the Wing-Commander’s arm were a number of files. On the outside of the files was a map. Robert recognised its shape and his heart kicked inside him. And now every pilot in the squadron was watching the senior officer, . watching him without movement of head, watching him while seeming to read, watching’ him while crying ‘Three Characters.’ The Old Man nodded, first at one, then another, and finally at Robert. Silently they rose to their feet, leaving their circles of friends, their reading, their Chinese game, and filed into ‘the neighboring room. The Wing-Commander stood by the grand piano waiting for them to gather about him. 1 IE looked suddenly older, Robert thoughts Now his hair, shone with grey, new lines emphasised the hardness of his features. But his voice was unchanged, harsh, imperious. ‘Gentlemen, the show’s tomorrow.’ He paused and looked ‘slowly at the circle of pilots. . . ‘The target, you know. Here’s the latest from Intelligence and a few other little details I want you to know.’ ? Robert heard his instructions and memorised them, with an ease born of practice, but the words seemed meaningless rattling like hail on the roof of his mind. ‘Any questions?’ But they were all old hands, and no naive youngsters among them wanted to make themselves heard. ‘Well … good luck! I know you’ll put up a good show.’ His voice was suddenly shy. ‘I wish they’d let me come with you.’ They went back to the ante-room, went on talking, reading, playing the Chinese game. Robert sat down by a friend. ‘If anything,’ Robert’s voice was quiet as be flipped the pages of a magazine, ‘if anything were . .] . to slip up . .; . tomorrow, would you attend to the odd detail?’ ‘Of course, old boy.’ ‘Tomorrow?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Tough show?’ ‘Tough enough.’ It was almost day as Robert walked over to Flights with the Squadron Leader, and cold, with the half light lying dead on the roofs of the camouflaged hangars and the wind sock napping drearily on its pole. Mechanics were beginning to start up the motors which clattered protestingly to life, back-firing and shuddering on their bearers. ‘Looks like a good day, sir?’ The leader of the raid looked up, then kicked his heel into the turf. ‘Yes; hope this frost holds off. I hope to hunt next week.’ When Robert got to his machine only the starboard engine had been started. Impatiently he watched -the efforts of the crews. If only they’d get that engine running, he thought, if only they’d get it running. He, went up to the fitter, ‘You haven’t over-doped?’ ‘ No, Sir. She’ll go now.’ Still she refused to start. He climbed up the ladder into the cock. ‘Got your throttle setting right?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said the corporal, ‘she’ll start in a minute.’ The second pilot was inside, busy at the navigator’s table. ‘All set?’ Robert asked. ‘Bombs, petrol, and everything hunkey-dorey, sir,’ the sergeant answered. If only they’d start that engine, he thought. If only they’d get it going and we could take off. At last the motor roared to life, and be climbed into his seat, ran up the engines, pulled up the ladder and waved away the chocks. As he waited on the aerodrome, his airscrews throwing long flickering shadows, he kicked the heavy rudder violently from side to side. Where were the others? Where were the others? They would be late off the ground and there would be a row. Then he glanced at his watch, and found to his surprise that it was five minutes to his zero hour. And now the other machines were taxiing towards him, huge, heavily laden monoplanes, grim against the dawn, moving fast over the close cut turf, beating down dean thick lines through the white frost. He glanced down at the controls, felt the various cocks, checked the cylinder head temperatures, the hydraulic and brake pressures. Then, when all was ready, he pushed open the throttles, the noise increasing till it filled the long, narrow compartment, beating mercilessly upon his ears, drowning the screams of the hydraulic gear. She was heavy with full petrol and a belly full of bombs, but as he felt her becoming airborne he brought the wheel gently back and she bumped up into the air. From time to tune Robert switched on his microphone and spoke to each gunner in his turret. They were alert and cheerful, and behind him the second pilot worked at his check navigation. Sometimes they saw fishing boats whose crews waved frantically, and minesweepers busy in their deadly task, and once a convoy with destroyers like sheep dogs on its flanks. The weather was fine, with high lumps of cumulus, and they began to climb. In a little while the second pilot came forward and held up eight fingers, Robert nodded. Eight minutes. He felt cold inside, his teeth were shattering, he wished they were in the thick or It, and grinned at his companion. The target came into view, a smudge on the horizon. The leader began to give his orders over the radio, and they started a big circle so as to attack from out of the sun. As they came up the sky filled with anti-aircraft fire. The second pilot had switched on his microphone and Robert could hear him jeering at the enemy gunners, for the shooting was poor, though some of the bursts were un comfortably close. They came over the target and released their bombs. Robert watched the sky unceasingly for enemy fighters, wondering if any aircraft were lurking in its glare waiting for the anti-aircraft to cease before diving to the attack. The second pilot was busy with the camera recording the hits far below, whistling as he worked. A burst of Archies off the port wing tip made the machine rock violently. Soon they were out of range of the ground guns, and Robert saw one of the other machines break formation ‘and rock its wings. He spoke to the gunners. ‘Keep your eyes skinned. There’s a fighter about somewhere.’ Then he saw it, a lone enemy machine, a single seater fighter with square wing tips. It came up quite slowly, lazily, lying on to the tail of one of the bombers. It was so simple a manoeuvre that it might have been a pupil on his circuit at a flying training school. As it turned off, short jabs of black smoke jerked themselves from the back cockpit to the bomber. The fighter turned slowly on to its side. First smoke, then flames poured from its engine, splashing down the fuselage. In the bright sunshine, against the blue sea, the machine fell slowly, twisting, turning, diving. ‘Here they come!’ said the second pilot; and Robert saw that the sky seemed to be filled with fighters. They broke up and began to attack. Robert watched two circling him from the front. As they turned the flank his rear-gunner switched on his microphone and Robert could hear him swearing. Tracer from the enemy streamed overhead, curved in a graceful trajectory, and dropped out of sight. Then the gunner was silent Robert heard the rattle of his guns and his voice, jubilant ‘Got him, sir.’ ‘Good. Keep you eyes skinned. Be patient,’ Robert said. Now a twin-engined aircraft came up on the beam, accompanied by one of the smaller fighters, which attacked from the rear. A burst of fire shattered the roof over the second pilot’s head. The front gunner coolly brought his guns to bear. The twin was an ugly brute, the first Robert had seen with extended stabilisers on the tail. He was frightened now. His mouth dry, his hands wet inside the silk lining of his gloves. Attack after attack came up, filled the air with tracer, turned lazily away. The middle gunner brought down another fighter before he was hit in the leg. Robert sent the second – pilot back- in his place. One burst of machine-gun fire shattered half the instrument panel, sent a shower of broken glass over his knees. Darkness filled his eyes, but in his mind he could still see the face of the enemy gunner, red and foolishly grim, as he fired from the rear cockpit of the fighter. The wheel went limp in his hands, the strain of months of war, the nag of responsibility, lifted from his consciousness… Then his vision cleared, and he – pulled the aircraft level. To his surprise the fighters had vanished, and at his side was the Squadron Leader’s machine, which he thought he had seen go down. He began to sing, thumping his hands on the wheel. They were separated from the others and flew in tight formation, the Squadron Leader turning his head from time to time and grinning and doing a thumbs up. They lost height till they were just above the sea, their patterned shadows sliding effortlessly over mile after mile of water desolation. On crossing the coast their senior officer altered course for base. They flew at a few hundred feet over the sleepy countryside, their shadows now vaulting hedge and haystack. As he looked, first to the north at the black rich earth of the fens, marshalled by dykes, then south to the loveliness of Suffolk, each feature of the country fitted into its place in his mind, each town he knew, each stretch of river. How familiar, he thought. How well I know it all. Truly, England is my village. Soon the little lake, shaped like an elephant’s trunk, appeared and they dived low over the hangars, then broke away, dropped their wheels, and came to land. There were no other machines about and the camp seemed strangely deserted. A little later they walked into the mess. It was warm and comfort able in there and the words and phrases of the many conversations jumbled themselves into a haze of sound. At the table by the fire there was an empty chair at the Chinese game. When Robert saw the other players he stopped in his stride. There was Nails, who got his on the first show, and Dick, who went down in flames, and Thistle, his second pilot and Badger, who was lost in the North Sea in December. ‘Come on’ Badger said. ‘We’re waiting for you.’ ‘But I thought …’ Robert said. ‘I thought …’ A VOICE from a distance interrupted him. A woman’s voice. There were no women in the room. Then the room and the men in it were gone. Robert was lying in a bed,, in a long, dim chamber With other beds up and down its length. The face of the woman whose voice he had heard was looking at him. . It was an *frg»foh face, plain and pleasant, framed severely in a familiar headdress. ‘What was it you thought?’ the nurse was saying to him. ‘You’re all right, you know. Home in England. The second pilot brought you in.’ Robert stirred fretfully in the bed, but the pain made him lie still again. The nurse put a hand to his bandaged head to quiet him. He closed his eyes and thought of the room he had left just a moment ago. He tried to will himself back into it, to be with Badger and the others. It bad seemed so hospitable’ there, so farm, so safe, so full of friends, so free of pain. He couldn’t reach it. Almost . . . Almost . . . Not quite. He couldn’t What h~d happened to him — that he had been there with them, the brave, admired dead, and come away and couldn’t get back to them again? In pain and bewilderment be thought: ‘I wish I knew— I— wish— I knew From The Mail (Adelaide) 22 February 1941 Like this:Like Loading... [...]