Worth Reading

Reader Jim somehow makes it through my broken email software to ask:  “I’d never hear of Alistair MacLean before, but I see he wrote quite a few novels.  Can you recommend just one, to start with?”

Absolutely.  HMS Ulysses is one of the best naval war novels ever written (along with Nicholas Monsarrat’s The Cruel Sea, another tour de force ).

Both the above should be required reading in high school.

Disturbing News

Following on from the above post:  I can see why someone at age 86 might not be interested in sex… but youngins?

A new poll found that Gen Z isn’t very interested in steamy sex scenes in their entertainment.

The survey of 1,500 respondents was conducted by researchers at UCLA. It found that almost half of Gen Zers aged 13 to 24 (47.5%) said sex “isn’t needed” for most TV shows and movies. A significant amount (44%) also said romance is “overused” as a plot device.

So what do they want instead? A majority of the respondents (51.5%) say they would like to see more stories about platonic friendship.

I can see why this is, though.  Back in the day soon after the wheel was invented (i.e. when I was at the age of the Gen Z group), if you wanted to see sex, you’d have to watch movies where a couple would kiss and the scene would cut to the next morning, showing them fully dressed and having coffee.

Or you could read a Jilly Cooper novel.

Nowadays, of course, PornHub or xHamster are but a mouse-click away for anyone to watch not just a single sex scene, but dozens upon dozens, until you are heartily sick of the whole thing.  (Or so I’m told.)

Under those circumstances, I can quite see why Gen Z doesn’t care about sex scenes in movies, and would prefer to see movies about platonic relationships.  They can have video sex anytime they want;  what they can’t get on any Internet channel is how to handle a friendship.

But platonic relationships? That’s almost as bad as “Young mother, who has just lost her only child to a terrible illness / car accident, goes back to her home town to rebuild her soured relationship with her aging father.”  Great Caesar’s bleeding eyeballs, that’s enough to make me venture over to yet another true-crime show on Discovery+.  Kill me now.

On the other hand, though, I have to defer to the late and brilliant novelist Alistair MacLean, none of whose popular novels had so much as a passionate grope in the story, let alone a full-ahead bonking.  MacLean put it quite simply:  “Sex scenes slow the story down.”  And he was quite right, of course, and the same is true for the movies.

Anyway, most sex scenes in movies are soft-core thrustings, which I’ve always found somewhat insulting.  And the ones that are “courageous” [/pretentious movie critic]  end up being horribly depressing, as though the director can’t get himself/herself to show sex as being actual fun, or loving.

And it’s still true that doing an explicit sex scene most often spells the end of the actor’s career (anyone seen a decent movie with Chloë Sevigny since Brown Bunny  was released?), so the best one can hope for is some wannabe / usetabe actor doing the dirty.

And who cares about that?  Not I and, it definitely seems, not Gen Z.

Reader Recommendation

From Reader and Commenter ChaddInFl comes this:

I recently finished the first and only series of a German Netflix series called Kleo. It’s set in late ‘80s/early ‘90s Berlin. The title character is a young Stasi assassin who is denounced and imprisoned after completing an important assassination in West Berlin. She is released from her East German prison in 1990, during the time between the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification… and boy is she pissed. It turns out that all the GDR big wigs have taken their ill-gotten millions and fled for balmier climes.

It’s a well-produced and well-written show. The main character and her primary antagonist (a West German cop) are both relatable and well developed. I’ve recommended this to everyone in my daily life, so I thought I’d send it to the author of my favorite blog.

Thankee Chadd for the kind words.  As it happens, I’ve seen the show and it’s as good as he says it is.  Please note, however, that it is more of a black comedy (cf. Tarantino) than realistic, and often veers into near-fantasy, especially in the flashbacks.

And tell me that Jella Haase is not an inspired bit of casting as the assassin Kleo:

Dead eyes, if ever I’ve seen them.

New Addiction

Okay, which one of you bastards mentioned author Mick Herron as a decent replacement for John Sandford in the “guilty reading pleasures” department?

Because I tried the first book of Herron’s Slough House series (Slow Horses), and then blew through the other seven in just over as many days, so much did I enjoy the story.

Just as background:  when agents of Britishland’s MI5 screw up, they aren’t fired, but sent into a backwater office (Slough House) to do horribly mundane jobs (e.g. “find out how many potential terrorists there are in the country based on their book withdrawals of [unspecified] dangerous books from public libraries”), the results of which are sent back to Regent’s Park (MI5 Head Office), and promptly ignored.

One might think that there are similarities to the eminence grise of espionage writers, John le Carré, but one would be wrong.  Compared to George Smiley, the head of Slough House (Jackson Lamb) is an anarchic bombthrower, implacably determined to defeat the country’s enemies (that would be MI5, the Foreign Office and MI6), and does so with a cunning, underhanded skill that would defeat Smiley in a single chapter.

As for the denizens of Slough House, they are a bunch of misfits:  alcoholics, gamblers, incompetents, psychopaths, hackers and malcontents, sometimes several in the same person.  As far as “the Park” is concerned, they could all quit or die tomorrow and the Service would be the better for not having to pay their salaries anymore.  And they would all quit or die, except that their boss (Lamb) looks after them and protects them from their feral attackers (that would be MI5) with a ferocity that would please any lioness with her cubs.

That doesn’t stop him from mercilessly torturing his employees (e.g. offering his recovering alcoholic secretary a glass of Scotch every time she walks into his office), and sending them out (against regulations) to do field operations (jobs) which he knows that they will screw up, and they do, often hilariously.  However, his hapless charges are still highly-trained agents, and they often end up doing the right thing by accident.  And some of them die.  And by the way, they all hate each other.

I’ve just finished the last in the series (Bad Actors), and I’m going to re-read them all after a decent interval (a week or so).  At one point, New Wife asked me why I kept bursting into fits of laughter, and my only response was:  “The dialogue.”

And by the way, the Slough House building is a character all to itself.

It’s seriously good stuff.  Read it at your peril.

Next up for me: the Oxford series, by the same author.

RFI: Kindle

Okay, I might have to break down and get me one of them Kindle thangs, because the storage / cost matrix looks like I’m going to be driven out of the actual-book-buying thing.

But seeing as I was last exposed to Kindle at about version 1.0, I need help from y’all to steer me towards the right one in terms of cost / facility / whatever.

The larger, the better, and the one most like a real book, the better still.  Kindle? Paperwhite?  Oasis?  What are the differences / benefits of each?

Fuck me, I just saw the prices.  I’m going to have to have a donations drive to afford one… unless I just get the cheapest for a hundred bucks — but with my luck, it’s going to be the same as my long-discarded v1.0.


Update:  okay, which tablet?

Is this one a good idea?

Worthwhile Read

…and quite possibly one of the best Modern European History books I’ve ever read.  It should be the foundational text for all college courses of European history  of the post-WWII period.

I speak of Tony Judt’s excellent work: Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

You don’t have to be interested in European history, or a history buff at all to enjoy this.  But if you ever look around at the total screaming insanity that has become a feature of our modern political and social era, read Postwar  and you’ll see exactly where it all came from.

And as one critic wrote, it reads with the pacing of a whodunnit, but contains all the detail and dispassionate analysis necessary for an outstanding study.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I wish I’d read it eighteen years ago, when it was first released.  I am most certainly going to re-read it within the next year.