Favorite Science-Fiction Films: 2: Metropolis

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Metropolis is a brilliant science-fiction film (1927) directed by Fritz Lang. This movie, recently restored to its entirety, is a disturbing look at the world of the future through  the eyes of visionaries in the 1920s. It is based on the novel of the same name by Thea von Harbou (1925). The book deals with a city created on the backs of exploited workers and run by the capitalist upper-class. It is also a love story, and it is set in the year 2026.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Metropolis offers a powerful and damning social commentary on the effects of the ruling class, the capitalist industrialists who rule the world by using and crushing the ordinary people who build and fuel their wonderland. While the workers live underground in squalor and destitution, the upper-class live literally in palaces high above the ground. There they explore and indulge in numerous amusements including those sexual and athletic. This film is not a simple polemic but drives its message through a compelling story that shows the love between the Master of Metropolis’ son Freder and Maria, who lives in the underworld and serves as a kind of saint to the oppressed.

Frankenstein, 1931, owes a cinematic debt to the mad scientist in Metropolis, Rotwang, and his equipment. There he creates a robot woman, using the life force of Maria. Clearly the novelist, Mary Shelley and her book, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, first influenced this movie.

Lang’s cinematic vision is exquisite and deeply influential to filmmakers who followed him in exploring the idea of future cites. His soaring towers and buildings, high bridges with fast cars, and aircraft flying near the buildings are based on the designs of the modernists and futurists, and this concept is a clear model for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Certainly an argument can be made that Metropolis is a foundation for many other science-fiction movies.

This film is extraordinary, and the full version is now available on DVD/BlueRay. It is an important piece of cinematic history, and I give it my highest recommendation.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

Quotations on Dictatorships

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“Every dictatorship has ultimately strangled in the web of repression it wove for its people, making mistakes that could not be corrected because criticism was prohibited.”

                                                                     John F. Kennedy

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy.”

                                                                     Jorge Luis Borges

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“You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police … yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.”

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“Dictators are cowards and bullies. They control others through abuse, weapons, and fear, but they are the ones who are truly afraid, as they should be. They should be terrified of those who oppose them, who are willing to stand up against them, and are willing to fight them.”

                                                                              Charles F. French

A Few Books We Need

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Some books speak to a specific time, and some reach across eras with their messages. Some include a message for a definite audience, while others span a more general readership.  And some times call out for certain books to be read.

Books are one form of the Media, which must remain free if freedom itself is to survive. Given the turmoil of our present time, I am suggesting these books as crucial reading for today’s world:

1984

 George Orwell

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

Night

Elie Wiesel

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(http://night2011.wikispaces.com)

It Can’t Happen Here

 Sinclair Lewis

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Martin Luther King, Jr Day — 2022

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Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I would like to offer a few of this extraordinary American’s quotations as a tribute to him. He was one of the finest, most decent, and empathetic people in the history of the United States of America. We should all remember him and honor his teaching, his legacy, and his call for justice for everyone.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Quotations on Bigotry and Taking Action

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“What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”

                                                                     Albert Einstein

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

                                                                     Martin Luther King Jr.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

                                                                     Elie Wiesel

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“Wherever and whenever bigotry and oppression exist, we must oppose it. We must not remain silent–tyrants, fascists, and oppressors count on our not speaking out.”

                                                                     Charles F. French

 

Quotations on Justice

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

                                                                      Elie Wiesel

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“No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency.”

                                                                      Theodore Roosevelt

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?”

                                                                       Eleanor Roosevelt

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“An injustice to one person is a crime against everyone, and we must always try to achieve true justice in the world.”

                                                                     Charles F. French

A New Addition To The U.L.S., The Underground Library Society: Ashley Clayton and her book of choice, Jane Eyre

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I want to welcome Ashley Clayton as the newest member of the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society. This is an unofficial organization dedicated to the preservation of books, and it was created in one of my First Year College Composition Classes at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.  It is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrentheit 451.  To join, a writer creates a post about a book he/she would become if they needed to in order to save it. They do not actually have to memorize it though.

When I first watched Jane Eyre[1] by Charlotte Brontë several years ago, I felt I had stumbled upon a pearl necklace left on a tree branch. I had never heard of the novel before, surprisingly—and I still wonder why it wasn’t included on my school reading lists, alongside The Scarlet Letter and Crime and Punishment. Jane is a protagonist I closely relate to, while still finding her differences complex and intriguing. We’re both introverts and artists, we tend to observe humans from afar and would prefer our own company over most people. Jane is also compassionate and does not let her circumstances overcome her fortitude—qualities I greatly admire in other people.

Jane is orphaned as an infant and grows up in an emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive home. Her Aunt Reed is jealous of the girl and tends to overlook her plights while doting on her three spoiled and vindictive children. After Jane is struck by her older cousin John and she defends herself, she is sent to the red-room in the mansion—a scene which introduces the supernatural theme found throughout the novel. This is the room reportedly haunted by Jane’s dead uncle, and she begs to be released. Abandoned and injured, she falls ill and faints from her panic.

An apothecary is called to the home to see to Jane. Actual physicians, you see, were reserved only for the immediate family—Jane and the servants only saw the apothecary. The man recommends Mrs. Reed to send Jane away to Lowood Institute—an act disguised as charity while tidily securing the girl’s education and ongoing care, and thus eventual livelihood. This is the turning point of Jane’s young life.

Lowood was a harsh and cold place, the food poor and scant, but here Jane is given a chance to learn and develop her talents and abilities. Jane would adapt well and excel in her studies, while learning to survive within the austere school. Jane was already a resilient child from living with her aunt and cousins, and this trait became sharper at Lowood. After her classmate (and only friend) Helen dies, Jane is left alone to navigate the rest of her years at the school.

After Jane finishes her education and teaches at Lowood, she advertises for outside employment and is accepted to work at Thornfield Hall as a governess— “a fine old hall, rather neglected of late years perhaps” as Jane is told. Here she meets the estate’s proprietor, her master—a Mr. Edward Rochester. His life parallels in some ways to Jane’s: he lost a parent (his mother) early in life, his now deceased father was distant and neglectful, and he only inherited the estate after his elder brother’s untimely death. He is also the ward of a Ms. Adèle, a young French child who becomes Jane’s pupil—the third central orphan of the story.[2]

Jane Eyre is a story of injustices, sorrows and resiliency—a story filled with complex moral decisions and vulnerabilities. It is a story of characters struggling along in unfortunate circumstances, trying to find an existence where some sliver of hope and light might be found. Mr. Rochester and Jane find this hope in each other, but only after fire, tragic death and mutual forgiveness. The ending of Jane Eyre is not perfect—the author does not allow for a perfect ending. But the reader is left with a glimpse of a hopeful future and a sense of redemption for mostly everyone involved. And Jane considers herself “supremely blest” at the close of her story.

Jane Eyre is often categorized as a romance novel. While romance is a central theme of the story, I do not believe that is all Jane Eyre should be considered as. And perhaps that is why the novel was not included on my school reading lists. No, Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece is, I believe, one story about what it means to be human and to find yourself in imprisoning circumstances, and ultimately how to live through continued suffering, albeit imperfectly. Charlotte knew these things well herself—her mother, too, died when she was a child and two of her elder sisters died from tuberculosis contracted at school, just as Helen did at Lowood. Jane Eyre is a story of one woman’s strength as she discovers what love, grace and forgiveness truly entail. It is a novel I want alongside me in my life, preserved always for future generations. It is, by no exaggeration, one of the greatest works of literature ever written, and greatly appreciated by myself.

Thank you for reading.

[1] Specifically, the 2006 BBC miniseries starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.

[2] It is unclear who Adèle’s father is and whether he may still be alive. Her father may be Mr. Rochester, or more likely, another man who Adèle’s mother was involved with during (or shortly after) she was Mr. Rochester’s mistress. Either way, I still consider Adèle an orphan, if not legally, then spiritually.

Thank you to Ashley Clayton for joining the U. L. S.

Please be sure to visit her website A. R. Clayton.

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A New Addition to the U.L.S., The Underground Library Society: Andrew McDowell and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

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I am delighted to welcome Andrew McDowell to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society! This is an unofficial organization dedicated to the preservation of books, and it was created in one of my First Year College Composition Classes at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.  It is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrentheit 451.  To join, a writer creates a post about a book he/she would become if they needed to in order to save it. They do not actually have to memorize it though. 

Here is Andrew McDowell’s post:

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and one Christmas story I’ve always enjoyed is Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, written and published in 1843. I’ve seen many movie adaptations, from the Muppet version starring Michael Caine to the 1951 and 1991 versions starring Alastair Sim and Patrick Stewart, respectively. My favorite is indisputably the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. I even starred as a Cratchit kid in a theater production in high school (though I really wanted to play Jacob Marley). Throughout it all, the story has struck a chord with me.

Ebenezer Scrooge cares for no one and nothing beyond advancing business and hoarding money. He dismisses the poor, his own nephew, and his clerk Bob Cratchit, whom he lets have Christmas Day off with the greatest possible reluctance. But on Christmas Eve, the ghost of his deceased business partner, Marley, who is suffering and carrying a ponderous chain in death for having lived the same life of greed and selfishness, comes to tell him he has a chance to escape the same fate.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come respectively show Scrooge how he came to reject the world and his own heart, how those around him—including Bob and his sickly yet beloved son Tiny Tim—are sharing love and affection through Christmas, and what will happen to them—and himself—if he does not change. Finally Scrooge proclaims he is not the man he was, and that he will honor Christmas in his heart and remember the lessons he has learned.

Simply put, A Christmas Carol is about redemption. Scrooge acknowledges men’s courses will result in certain ends, but those ends will change if their courses do. This story shows us no matter how far we have fallen, if we choose to change, we can still be redeemed. Scrooge rebuilds his relationships with his nephew and Bob Cratchit, and he becomes a second father to Tiny Tim, who is really the heart and soul of the book. Scrooge is described as thereafter knowing how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

A Christmas Carol may not have Santa Claus, Christmas trees, cards, or presents, but it does have many essential blessings that are essential to Christmas: home, food, family, love, and charity. This book has been credited as redefining Christmas for the modern world. It is said that an American businessman, after hearing Dickens read it, decided to give his employees Christmas Day off. A Christmas Carol teaches hope and faith. It shows the best in humanity, what humanity is capable of, and reminds readers that the well-being of all is everyone’s business.

Thank you to Andrew McDowell for this post! Please visit his website: Andrew McDowell An Author of Many Parts

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Quotations on Bigotry

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“What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”

Albert Einstein

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

                                                                 Nelson Mandela

 

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“There should be no discrimination against languages people speak, skin color, or religion.”

                                                                         Malala Yousafzai

 

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“Bigotry of all kinds is intolerable, unjustifiable, and immoral. We, as human beings, must always be willing to stand up against any kind of bigotry.”

                                                                       Charles F. French

 

The Sleep Of Reason Breeds Monsters, and It Can Do That In The United States of America

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(Francisco Goya ~1799)

This image is one of Francisco Goya’s most well known and important. It has been debated if its meaning lies in the personal for Goya or on commentary on society. We can never be sure of what the artist intended.

It is possible, however, to see how when people abandon reason and analysis, that horror follows. Fascism arose in the 20th Century as people in Germany, Austria, and Italy primarily abandoned reason to follow the emotional cults of personality that would lead to the worst evil the world has ever known.

In the United States, which has a terrible history of bigotry, nationalism, and violence, driven by right wing forces that abandon reason and, using tactics of Hitler, such as blaming others through scapegoating and pull people to their worst impulses and the use of the big lie, in which an untruth is repeated loudly and often, we must recognize that such evil is here.

The United States, on January 6th, experienced an attack that was directly against the sovereignty of the country, against freedom, and against democracy. This was the worst attack against the foundation of our nation since the Civil War. This was not a riot gone terribly wrong; this was a planned insurrection, an attempt to overthrow the government of our nation, and those responsible should be held to account for their actions. The insurrectionists responded to a President who used Hitlerian tactics of the big lie about the “stolen election”, which was fair and secure and not stolen, and scapegoating members of Congress as the enemy rather than members of a different political party. These actions were real, and they were horrific and abominable.

Americans, of any party, who believe in democracy must repudiate such beliefs. If as some suggest, we simply move past this insurrection, then we are agreeing once more, to abandon responsibility, analysis, and reason. The consequences of such ignoring of the enormity of what happened can be devastating to our nation and our democracy.

White power groups are an extension of the evil that Hitler manifested. Let there be no mistake about it. They represent bigotry and evil and dictatorship. And they are a direct threat to our freedom and democracy.

We must not fall into a national sleep of reason. We must stay awake, otherwise, the fate of this nation, of the United States of America, for which so many fought and died in many wars, will be at risk.