Thursday, July 2, 2015

“Men of War” and “Terminator Genisys”

•Alex Rose’s book Men of War: The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima is out this month, and it should appeal not just to history and military buffs but to the increasingly prevalent gamer mind (I suspect the future will not understand how we could have thought these were all separate disciplines).

With conservative respect for fighting men but anarchic awareness that tidy master-narratives are usually baloney, Rose sets out to document not just the heroic high points but the chaos and confusion of battle, the feeling of being on the ground and in many cases not having the slightest idea who’s winning, who’s losing, who’s in charge, who’s over the next hill, or even who’s twenty feet to your left.

I think it’s still legal to sympathize even with hapless Confederate soldiers caught in the fog of war, but you’ve got multiple armies to study and learn from here, even if you come away convinced combat is more about happenstance than honor.

•Rose is the author of Washington’s Spies, on which the AMC series Turn is based and has just announced he’ll soon be the author as well of Twilight of the Gods, about men linked to the Hindenburg disaster and the decline of German aviation dominance. I told him it’s good timing that Marvel is releasing Thor: Ragnarok in a couple years. I make intellectual contributions like that.

•Men do not always fight other men, of course. Take for example the harrowing, or at least embarrassing, “Emu War” fought in Australia between man and bird, with machine guns and everything (h/t Matt Yeackel).

•Maybe Terminator Genisys, out yesterday, is a glimpse of what our final war will look like, much as we might wish Facebook, the military, or whoever else is playing with A.I. fire out there knew what they were doing. Of course, in the Terminator movies, if you destroy the world, you get a do-over (and yet another sequel) thanks to time travel, which makes it unfortunate I didn’t quite get this week’s blog entries written during my official “Month of Revisionism” in June.

Oh, well. As Sonny Bunch rightly notes, this fifth installment in the Terminator franchise does less to advance our understanding of time travel and robotics than to give the female co-writer (who has also been a Bionic Woman producer and union website editor) a chance to throw a feminist/pro-choice revision into what most of us thought was already a pretty badass mama-bear sort of story. Now we know that if only Sarah Connor had been taught to fight earlier on, she not only would have fared better against SkyNet, she wouldn’t even really need to have a legendary son. She’d have “choice.”

Alas, despite the fighting spirit of people like one or more Connors, the real end of the world may still be sparked by something as dumb as these chatbots (hilariously) learning from each other’s conversation (h/t Jim Melloan).

•If we must celebrate any element of war this weekend, though, let it be the Declaration of Independence, which turns 239 on Saturday. I have big declarations of my own to make in the next couple days as well.

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