The Vietnam War in Military Science Fiction

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Sex and the Single Android up now at New Myths

In 2013, a survey of one thousand Americans indicated that 9% of them would have sex with a robot. A similar survey in 2014 of Britons reported that 17% would have sex with a robot. The same British survey reported that almost half of people thought the idea of robot sex was “creepy.” Of course, when we talk about human-robot sex, we are really talking about sex with an android–a robot in the likeness of a human.

Book Review: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

The Bank of England suspects that wealth financer, Auric Goldfinger, is a major-league gold smuggler. “M” as head of MI-6, the British Secret Service, also thinks that some of the gold Goldfinger smuggles goes to fund the Soviet Union’s anti-spy organization: SMERSH. So “M” sets his best agent, James Bond, 007, to following Goldfinger around Europe to ascertain precisely what Goldfinger is doing. Bond discovers a plan that is nearly impossible to believe: Goldfinger, with help from some of America’s biggest criminal gangs, is plotting to rob Fort Knox. The scheme is so outlandish it is nearly impossible to believe, but Goldfinger insists; Fort Knox is just a bank and no bank is completely secure.

Goldfinger is the seventh in the James Bond series by Ian Fleming and the reader may begin to detect some weariness in the writing. Certain parts of Goldfinger are reworked from the previous six books of the series. The gold smuggling description is similar to diamond smuggling description from Diamonds are Forever. The card game between Bond and Goldfinger is very similar to the card playing face-off between Drax and Bond in Moonraker. However, the reader may forgive Fleming for this bit of literary recycling as the book is just so darn much fun to read.

However, the book is now also showing its age, originally published in 1959. Frankly, some of Fleming descriptions and characters are cringe inducing for today’s readers. At one point Fleming likens Koreans to apes! Further, the two main female characters are merely props for the interplay between Bond and Goldfinger. The supposed main female is Tilly Masterson (she introduces herself as Tilly Soames) but she is so bland and does nothing to move the action forward. The other female character is the outrageously named Pussy Galore. In the book, Pussy is an open lesbian who is “converted” not only into being straight, but to working against Goldfinger, when seduced by Bond.

Goldfinger falls rather in the middle of the quality range for “007” books. While certainly a better book than Casino Royale, it is of much lesser quality than Dr. No or even Moonraker. This is primarily because of the scheme to rob Fort Knox; the plan is just so complex and silly it generates no tension at all and the reader will simply not be able to buy into it. The Bond books are so much better when the villain has obtainable goals and a real and logical way to reach them.

To sum up, Goldfinger despite some aged stereotypes and some unconvincing plotting, is still a rollicking good time and well worth a read.

Book Review: Water by Bapsi Sidhwa

Water by Bapsi Sidhwa is a poignant and often times very funny book about a child widow in 1930s’ British India. Ms. Sidhwa’s previous novels have told other stories set in the subcontinent from The Crow Eaters set in the early 1900 in the days of the Raj (British rule in India) to the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 with Cracking India (also titled The Ice Candy Man). She has also written about religious intolerance and Muslims in America in American Brat. “Water” is set in the late 30s in India when Mohandas K. Gandhi, later called Mahatma Gandhi, was already agitating for Indian independence from the British. He was also agitating for modernizing India at the same time.

The novel is based on the script for the film Water, the film was written and directed by Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta. Mehta had directed the movie Earth which was based Sidhwa’s Cracking India. Mehta asked Sidhwa to novelize the movie in about 4 months so the book and the film would be released at the same time. Sidhwa acceded to the task and succeeded at it as well with the book and film being released on the same day.

Water follows the story of Chuyia meaning “Little Mouse” who is engaged to be married at the age of 6, but her betrothed died and she is now a widow at the tender age of 8. In accordance with Hindu practice of the time, she is exiled to the local widow-ashram, a rundown two story house in the poorer part of the town. Her head is shaved and she is set to doing penitence for the bad Karma of having her fiancé die.

At the widow-ashram “Little Mouse” comes across a wide variety of personalities in her fellow widows, some accepting, some raging, all very human. Sidhwa draws all her characters out finely, so each widow has a real story of her own to tell. Chuyia is befriended by the beautiful and young widow, Kalyani, who earns money for the ashram as a prostitute. Kalyani loves a young Brahmin (upper caste) idealistic follower of Gandhi named Narayan. This kind of love is forbidden and upsets the arrangements of the ashram.

Sidhwa’s prose is bright and evocative; she draws scenes like a screenwriter and lets the reader fill in the action like a film director. Water is not a book to just be passively read, but rather it must be interacted with to be understood. Water concludes with a sign of hope for the widows in the ashram; as well as for all the other discarded and untouchables in India. Gandhi’s train goes through the village bringing that message of change and hope.

The Best Veterans’ Day Movies

“All Quiet on the Western Front”, the 1930’s film of the classic novel is by far the best. The plot revolves around Paul Baumer as a young draftee into the German Army as he tries to survive and adjust to the horrors of war. This is no clean and glorifying version of the war. In one memorable scene as the Paul’s unit storms through barbed wire, people are blown apart, one memorable and horrifying image is of two hands gripping the wire as the rest of the body is shot away.

1945’s “They Were Expendable” is another classic, starring the inestimable John Wayne and Robert Montgomery as the officers of a Motor Torpedo Boat (PT Boat) squadron in the early days of World War Two in the Philippines. Based on a book by the Medal of Honor Winner John Buckley, this movie is noted for its verisimilitude.

1959’s “Pork Chop Hill” also features a stellar cast, which includes Gregory Peck and Rip Torn. Also in the cast are several young actors that would later go on to be stars including: George Peppard, Harry Guardino, Robert Blake, Martin Landau, Gavin MacLeod and Harry Dean Stanton in a bit part. Based on the history book of the same name written by famed military historian S.L.A Marshall, the plot is about the bloody fighting on Pork Chop Hill at the end of the Korean War. Again this film is noted for its realism and attention to accurate detail.

1987’s “Hamburger Hill” was until “We were Soldiers” the best movie regarding Vietnam and it is still among the best. Featuring a cast that of then relatively unknowns that went on to become stars including Dylan McDermott, Steven Weber, Courtney B. Vance, Don Cheadle and Michael Boatman. The film tells the story of a platoon of infantry in the 3st of the 187th Infantry as they repeatedly assault the well fortified North Vietnamese position on ‘Hill 937′ or “Hamburger Hill”.

The number one best Veteran’s Day movie of all time has to be 1946’s “The Best Years of Our Lives”. A multiple Oscar winner, this movie follows three World War Two Veterans as they return to civilian life and try to adjust to post war America. The veterans and their families must cope with how the war has changed the men and how the men must now move on with their lives. Without a doubt “The Best Years of Our Lives” should be shown every Veteran’s Day.

Classic War Movies

It seems that every Veteran’s and Memorial Day popular cable television stations broadcast marathons of classic war movies. This of course raises the question of which movies are the true classic war films.

“All Quiet on the Western Front”, the 1930’s film of the classic novel is by far the best of all the film versions.

“The Battle of Britain” based on the book “The Narrow Margin” by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster features an international cast including and tells the story of “the Few” that saved Britain in the Fall of 1940

“They Were Expendable” based on a book by Naval Officer and Congressional Medal of Honor Winner John Buckley, this movie is noted for its realism.

“Wake Island” tells the story of the doomed defense of the American Outpost of Wake Island at the start of World War Two is a multiple Oscar Winner.

“Twelve O’Clock High” tells the story of the early days of the Daylight Bombing campaign of the US Air Corps in England. This film stars Gregory Peck as the hard driving Brigadier General Savage commander of the 918th Bomb Group.

Oscar winning “Saving Private Ryan” is well known for its first 27 minutes that depicts the harrowing landing of the 2nd Ranger Battalion on Omaha beach. The story follows eight Army Rangers as they search for the last survivor of a family of four sons; Private Ryan of the title, to send him home after his three brothers have been killed combat.

“The Best Years of Our Lives”. A multiple Oscar winner this movie follows three World War Two Veterans as they return to civilian life and try to adjust to post war America. The veterans and their families must cope with how the war has changed the men and how the men must now move on with their lives.

“Pork Chop Hill” is based on the history book of the same name, written by Brigadier General S.L.A Marshall, is about the bloody fighting on Pork Chop Hill at the end of the Korean War.

“Hamburger Hill” this film tells the story of a platoon in the 3rd of the 187th Infantry as they repeatedly attacked a well fortified North Vietnamese Army position on “Hamburger Hill”.

“We Were Soldiers” this film tells the story of the Battle of the Ia Drang valley in Vietnam, the first major clash between the American Military and the North Vietnamese Army.

Movie Analysis: Overlooked Horror Movies

Given the ubiquity of DVDs and Blu-Rays for sale and rent, it is difficult to believe that some of these fine gems of horror flicks have slipped below the of radar of many a horror fan. There is no particular rhyme or reason as to why these movies are widely unknown even among hard core scary movie fans.

So in alphabetical order:

“Bubba Ho-Tep”:

The award winning “Bubba Ho-Tep” released in 2002 stars Bruce Campbell, (the Chin himself), as Elvis Presley, (yes THAT Elvis) and Ossie Davis as the still alive former President John F. Kennedy. This is all explained in the movie. Based on a short story by Jon R. Lonsdale, “Bubba Ho-Tep” tells the story of the duo of Presley and Kennedy as they battle a resurrected mummy that is sucking the life out of residents of their retirement home.

“The Changeling”:

1980’s The Changeling is one of the best haunted house movies of all time, it rates at least has high as the more popular “Poltergeist” on the scare-o-meter. Starring the awesome George C. Scott as composer John Russell who movies into a empty house soon after the death of his wife and young daughter. This movie is not a gore fest but depends on a disquieting camera shots, weird music and pure mood to creep the viewer out.

“Dog Soldiers”:

A section of British soldiers on maneuvers in the Scottish Highlands are attacked by werewolves and are forced to fort up in a cabin in the woods. The most action oriented movie on this list, there is also plenty of gore and not some little pathos as the squaddies are taken out. Features Sean Pertwee, the son of the 3rd Doctor Who, Jon Pertwee.

“In The Mouth Of Madness” (1994)

In 1994 John Carpenter released this homage to H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King and the Hammer Horror movies of the 1950s and 60s. This movie has a stellar cast including Sam Neill as John Trent, an insurance investigator out to find Sutter Cane the most popular horror writer in the world. It also stars David Warner, Charleston Heston and John Glover. Playing a riff on the Lovecrafts Cthulhu mythos, the movie is weird, disturbing and surprising stylish.

“Something Wicked This Way Comes”:

1983’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” based on the novel by Ray Bradbury and with a screenplay written by the man himself, is a classy, creepy gothic movie with some genuinely outright scary moments. This movie also has a top notch cast with Jason Robards, Diane Ladd and Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark.