The Great Terror

(by Robert Conquest) It is hard to understand why so many intelligent people admired the socialist experiment of Soviet Union c. 1934-1940.  These useful idiots defended and lauded systematic mass slaughter on an industrial scale.  Conquest’s book, originally appearing in 1968, helped convince those still impervious to, inter alia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.  The case is made, with solid and well sourced evidence, that Stalin basically topped anyone who looked at him sideways, or didn’t look at  him, or whatever. Nor were the good and great spared: my battered 1971 Pelican edition has, as Appendix D, a list of Full and…

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, HISTORY, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, USA History |

(dir. Sergio Leone) (1966) The western as grand opera, with a poke at the Civil War thrown in. See in particular the late Eli Wallach scrambling about for the grave with the buried treasure.  

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The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress

(by Beryl Bainbridge) An odd, slight, oddly touching and slightly naff story of a road trip to oblivion, culminating in the death of RFK; but is the dysfunctional, libidinous Rose ‘the girl in the polka dot dress’ who exclaimed, ‘We shot him!’ as reported in the LA Times on 6 June 1968?  Bainbridge’s last, almost finished novel is, unlike The Original of Laura, worth reading.  

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The General Strike

(by Julian Symons) 13 May 1926 – the General Strike in Britain ended this day.  People thought Marxism was through in Britain as a result but like Mao in exile, it would return. Calling a strike requires keen judgment because the reaction of the public as a whole might be sympathetic, hostile, or mixed. One example is the pilots’ strike in Australia in 1989, which resulted in the pilots, and their union, being blown out of the sky.  Another famous campaign was the Miners’ strike of the mid 1980s in England, when organized labour found out that the majority of the…

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Asoka

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, HISTORY, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir.Santosh Sivan) (2001) Surreal Bollywood biopic of the great Indian King who eschewed violence after his campaign to conquer Kalinga in Madras, circa 250 B.C.  Shah Ruk Kahn as Asoka smoulders, swivels eyes and bleeds from the nose with all the subtlety of Rudolph Valentino; vivid scenes of robust battles (of conquest, family strife and romance); not a lot of H.G. Well’s Outline of History.

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