WHY ARE THEY SO POPULAR?
The lively zombies of “I am Legend” (2007) are never clearly visible.
The zombie is one of our most enduring monsters. Why do we keep telling stories about dead people who come back to life? We see a wide range of them, from the super-slow and easily-killed (Night of the Living Dead) to the fast-moving and super-powerful (I Am Legend, the 2007 version). What is the deal with zombies? Here are four thoughts on the answer to that: Continue Reading
NARRATIVES OF SUSPICION
All Our Heroes are Detectives
Mistrust of authority has always existed, I’m sure, but it seems to have blossomed in the twentieth century. Now it is everywhere, and the hero who can cure it – the detective – is, too. In her recent book, The Metanarrative of Suspicion: in Late Twentieth Century America, author Sandra Baringer discusses the wide range of stories we have invented in which we suspect that the truth is being withheld from us. Stories of suspicion include everything from Harry Potter to The X-Files to Independence Day and all the CSI television shows. What connects tales from quaint Sherlock Holmes puzzles to the epically paranoid The Matrix to the routine worries of Law and Order is this premise: someone is trying to scam us, and something (usually something really important) is not at all what it seems. Narratives of suspicion give us an outlet for our deep doubts about who is really in charge of the hopelessly complex world we live in. They support the idea that if we could just see through the clever masks of the people around us, we would see what unfair treatment is being dished out.
The detective is a hero with his Continue Reading
LEADERSHIP: ISRAELI MILITARY AND INDUSTRY USE THIS
MAYBE YOU SHOULD, TOO
Every organization has a leadership style, and a structure. Many companies have a “chain of command” structure, with wisdom and decisions coming from the top down. Follow the orders from your superiors.
Israeli solder and tank in Gaza Strip. Photo: Xinhua
Would you like to be able to disagree with your boss? Tell your commanding officer he’s dead wrong and then show the regiment that your idea is better? That is the reality of the Israeli military, where a “group command” concept has taken hold and seems to work well.
The study of leadership isn’t an inexact science – we are not really sure how it works, and leadership can be tricky Continue Reading
EACH PRESIDENTS DEALS DIFFERENTLY
WHAT TEDDY ROOSEVELT’S BIGGEST BLUNDER REMINDS US
We need to remember that all presidents make mistakes – some large, some small.
In a recent interview, Barack Obama told Diane Sawyer that he makes a mistake “every hour, every day.” His speech about drone warfare essentially looks at his own administration’s policy and questions it, looking for ways to correct it.
This is a good sign.
We all make mistakes. The worst thing to do is Continue Reading
The Changing Vampire
EACH GENERATION HAS A NEW VERSION
Why do we like being scared by vampires so much?
“Every age embraces the vampire it needs,” writes author Nina Auerbach in her book
Our Vampires, Ourselves. Vampires were extremely alien and extremely deadly monsters when they first appeared in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula.” Bram Stoker would not recognize the friendly teen vampires (like Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” series) of today. Why have we changed the way we imagine vampires? What is their basic appeal? Here are four concepts that have been applied to this topic: Continue Reading
Two episodes can remind us that the complex, through-a-glass-darkly relationship between China and America didn’t begin with the Beijing Olympics.
Some time ago, a prominent American Presidents visited China – Tientsin and Peking to be exact – and was asked to settle a thorny issue between China and its Asian rival, Japan. In 1877, Ulysses S. Grant had just left the White House when he embarked on a two-year trip around the world. He and his small entourage were received with great ceremony in capitals across Europe. In March of 1878, they arrived in Peking, where General Grant met the Chinese Viceroy and politician Li Hung Zhang. Here is how J.F. Packard describes their first meeting in his epic account, Grant’s Tour Around the World: Continue Reading
SOME HEROES TAKE A LONG TIME TO EMERGE
An historian named Dominic Capra writes that it takes a century for the full truth to come out. A battle, an election, a book – it sometimes takes the passage of time (a lot of time) for us to understand the real stories. This is partly because we see what we want to see, or what we are conditioned to see.
“Easter morning, T/5 William E. Thomas and Pfc. Joseph Jackson.” March 10, 1945. 1st Lt. John D. Moore.
This general idea is illustrated by the story of Lieutenant John R. Fox.
In 1973, a woman named from San Francisco named Solace Wales was walking in Italy. She was walking along a hillside above a little town called Sommocolonia when she noticed a stone marker, half-hidden in the grass. Here is what it said (in Italian):
John Fox, U.S. Army Lieutenant, Dec. 26, 1944
She had no idea what it meant. Who was John Fox? What did he do?
She asked people in the town, and soon uncovered the epic story of Lieutenant Fox, and his remarkable Continue Reading
ALL NATIONAL HISTORIES ARE CONNECTED
If you haven’t read America’s Civil War Was A Global Event, read that first.
The American Civil War.
Germans started it. So did the Dutch. Definitely, the Dutch.
Africans and Irishmen fought it.
Britain helped finance it.
Canada and Cuba watched its every advance and retreat with the rapt attention of hiding rabbits watching a family of foxes.
Brazilian reporters sent dispatches home to readers waiting eagerly for news.
A Frenchman’s invention became its primary weapon.
Russia hoped to Continue Reading
FOUR THOUGHTS ON BAD GUYS
Panel from Jack Kirby’s “The Demon”
How is an American villain different from a Russian villain, or a West African villain? What is “evil” to us? Why are some villains really powerful characters with deep grips on our imagination, and others just seem annoying? These may be worthy questions, since villains can make or break a story: “Each film is only as good as its villain,” declares film critic Roger Ebert. “Only a great villain can transform a good try into triumph.”
Four ideas on the subject: Continue Reading
A NEW CYCLE OF FOOD PRODUCTION IS COMING
A really big dam has risen half a world away. Its shadow is falling on your kitchen table, warns Evan D.G. Fraser.
Seven thousand feet in length and 610 feet tall, the colossal hydroelectric Three Gorge Dam across the Yangtze River in Province dam looms like a sentinel from another age. It signals that things are about to change, and that includes you.
“The Three Gorges Dam will shape the way we eat for the next generation.” Evan D.G. Fraser, Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and co-author with Andrew Rimas of the brilliant book Empires of Food, is not exaggerating when he points to this single civil work as the marker of a new (and troublesome) era of food production. Continue Reading