Quick Roundup 496

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hitler's "Human" Side

Oliver Stone's idea of providing historical context would appear to be to drop moral context:

"Stalin has a complete other story," Stone said. "Not to paint him as a hero, but to tell a more factual representation. He fought the German war machine more than any single person.

We can't judge people as only 'bad' or 'good.' Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and its been used cheaply. He's the product of a series of actions. It's cause and effect...


"He's not saying we're going to come out with a more positive view of Hitler," emphasized professor Peter Kuznick, the lead writer on the project. "But we're going to describe him as a historical phenomenon and not just somebody who appeared out of nowhere."

Stone said that conservative pundits will dislike the show.

"Obviously, Rush Limbaugh is not going to like this history and, as usual, we're going to get those kind of ignorant attacks," said Stone...
Hitler and Stalin were responsible for millions of deaths within their respective countries. Much is known (and already easily-enough learned) about the lives and intellectual influences on each.

Stone's denigration of moral judgment as "scapegoating" and "ignorant" are a direct result of determinism. Of course "we're [not] going to come out with a more positive view of Hitler." How could you have a positive view of anyone if, like Stone, you see the common (and correct) view of Hitler as an evil monster as foolish?

The creation of a historical account shares with fiction the element of selectivity, except that, because the ideas men accept and and act upon drive history, the historian's criterion for selectivity is which facts best illustrate what ideas motivated one historical figure or another.

Stone's rejection of the normative aspect of his job as a historian will lead him to dwell on nonessential details and create an account that will hinder a proper understanding of the people and events he covers. And, his prattling to the contrary notwithstanding, he will portray Hitler in an undeservedly positive light. Even to paint him an an ordinary human being is far better than he deserves.

There is a reason certain details about Hitler and Stalin are not more widely discussed: They're insignificant -- just like Oliver Stone's contribution to the field of history will prove to be.

Well, at least it isn't Avatar!

Eric Raymond makes some interesting comments on Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes:
The Holmes we have become used to from later interpretations is sort of Holmes-as-Vulcan, the Mr. Spock of the gaslight era; cool, cerebral, controlled, a bit disdainful. Forgotten in the Holmes-as-Vulcan version is that the original Holmes was an eccentric drug addict who went to pieces in the absence of a degree of mental stimulation ordinary life could not afford him.
I am not terribly familiar with the literary character or the Spock-like movie portrayals, but this Holmes sounds closer to Gregory House.

Raymond gave it a positive view overall and he disliked Avatar, which sounds abysmal to me. That's not saying much, but still...


The Teenager Audio Test - Can you hear this sound?

Because I haven't posted the results of a silly quiz here in quite a while.

Objectivist Roundup

Amy Mossoff hosts last week's edition. Hopefully, I will have recovered by Tuesday from my post-vacation backlog/adjusted to my new daily routine enough to submit a post for this week's edition.

Blah! Blah! Blah!

And speaking of catching up, I found the below observation spot-on:
My final thought on the comment that I find appropriate is the capitalization of "BLAH." In netiquette (i.e. network etiquette), capitalization is typically used to indicate a shout. This completes the perfect image of the modern leftist: a lout with nothing to say . . . and shouting it to drown everybody else out.
But that's just the summary of SB's analysis of a comment consisting of the word, "Blah!" repeated 262 times. Be sure to read the rest.

-- CAV


@golfmage said...

Spot on.

Mike said...

You don't say whether you have seen the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie, but I'm going to guess that you haven't because it is an absolute delight for anyone of an Objectivist mindset. That movie gets an "A" from me, no caveats, no qualifications. It is simply well-realized on every level. You will probably find the Holmesian "great reveal" of the plot very satisfying.

As for Avatar, it has received much deserving disdain from the Objectivist community, but there are aspects of the movie (and I don't just mean special effects, but conceptual aspects) that are excellent and worth further scrutiny. If you have already seen the movie, I hope you'll take a moment to look at my analysis of it linked here. Hope you don't mind the self-link.

Jennifer Snow said...

Gregory House IS based on Sherlock Holmes! Granted, the characterization of Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his stories is not perfectly consistent, but characterizing Holmes as more than a bit eccentric and surprising is the way to go. He's intensely logical and cerebral only where it comes to *investigating crime*.

And shame on you for not reading those excellent books/stories, Gus! Put them on the list!

Andrew Dalton said...

Heh, your post about Oliver Stone appeared at the exact time that mine did.

Gus Van Horn said...


That goes without saying about everything, but thanks for saying it anyway!


I should have made it clear that Sherlock Holmes does sound intriguing to me. I'm definitely going to see it on your and Jenn's recommendations.

And I haven't seen Avatar. If the wife brings it up again, I'll take a quick look at your analysis if I haven't done so already before deciding one way ot the other.


RE: GH being based on SH. Thank you! I was going to speculate as much, but as much pontificating from limited information as I do, that seemed to be stretching it even for me.

And thanks for the further book recommendations. Between that and PG Wodehouse, whom I recently discovered, I should be set for awhile!


Great minds think alike. Perhaps you should refer you commenter to SB's post on (Blah!)^262.


Steve D said...

Doyle is the best mystery writer I’ve read. One of aspects I most like about Sherlock Holmes is that the mysteries are (mostly) solvable using real logic which in the case of a lot of modern writers is simply not true. The answers were always very satisfying and reliable and as read more of the stories I was able to answer most of them myself - though not usually as quickly as Holmes. As far as Holmes character goes his eccentricity lessened to some extent with time and the change happened gradually in a very realistic manner. For example, he eventually quit the drug addiction, mostly due to the influence of Watson.

He acted exactly how you might expect a crime fighting genius to act and was one of the most realistic fictional characters there is.

I don’t watch a lot of movies but if this one is really as good as Mike stated it is probably worth the time.

Andrew Dalton said...

Here's a humorous take on how James Cameron came up with the plot for Avatar.

Gus Van Horn said...

"I don’t watch a lot of movies but if this one is really as good as Mike stated it is probably worth the time."

Oh, I don't doubt it. I'm happy to have something I actually WANT to see showing at theaters. It's been a while.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "I should have made it clear that Sherlock Holmes does sound intriguing to me. I'm definitely going to see it on your and Jenn's recommendations." Oh yes, great stuff! One of my favorite reads when I was about 9-13. The first batch of short stories is better; the later ones saw Holmes effectively resurrected, and they're not as inspired. The novels aren't so great (they're just stories with a Holmes mystery wrapped around them), except for The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is a work of genius.

A contemporary of Doyle whose stories are much less known but who's well worth seeking out is Arthur Thorndike. He was a medical doctor and examiner who turned to mysteries after he contracted incapacitating illness in Africa as part of the colonial service. He actually didn't like the cavalier treatment of scientific procedure in some of the Holmes stores, so he went out of his way to make his stories cientifically exact by the knolwedge of the day, and he also didn't think a character like Holmes could be stable enough emotionally to manage as a great detective, so his best hero, Dr. Robert Forsythe, is a more realistic figure of a medical scientist. I especially like the stories he wrote (there were a number of them) in which the crime is first described, as well as the criminal's thought processes as he tries to make a fool-proof crime; then in the second half Dr. Forsythe is called in and, following up on something odd that you don't realize is so in the heat of the first half, unravels in short order what most readers have been set up to think of an an unsolvable case. (His novels are not so successful, I think, alas.) Demmed good stuff, what?

Gus Van Horn said...


Thank you much for the additional recommendation and the elaboration on Holmes.

If there is any advantage to being late to the game, it's that one gets to spend his time wisely on the good advice of others!


Gus Van Horn said...


Apologies again for yet another delayed comment due to the Blogger comment system not playing nice with GMail. (How long has Google owned Blogger now?)

At any rate, nice!


Chuck said...

"He fought the German war machine more than any single person."

That one statement makes clear the out of context nature of this attempt to "humnanize" Stalin, and no doubt the same method is used for Hitler. For what reason did Stalin fight the German war machine? Was it to defend the rights of Russian citizens? Of course not. He fought them so that he, instead of the Nazis, could tyrranize his Russian subjects. Such are the ways of out of context minds, like Stone's.

As for mystery writers, while I also love the Holmes stories, I'm more a fan of Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason mysteries, of which he wrote something like 80 novels. Rather than a focus on scientific mystery solving, the focus is on the system of justice in a rational, just society. Perry Mason is one of the greatest fictional characters in the annals of world literature. And of course the tv show (the first four seasons are available on DVD) was outstanding, too.

Gus Van Horn said...

My thoughts on Stalin exactly. As if fighting off the Germans makes one good -- at least until Stone whitewashes Hitler!