Saturday, September 16, 2017

Say It

In the context of a proposed history podcast (because life continues), I have communicated some with a regular reader here who responded to the linked post.  We have been talking and this is something we're interested in doing.  It wouldn't be role-playing driven, though we might mention RPGs ... it would be the more difficult pretext of spitballing historical events, patterns and geography: either a particular moment, or a process that covers a lot of periods and cultures, or a specific cultural region.

We've been talking about an overview of the history of Korea, most likely from the late 1800s, in light of recent events ~ considering most people have little to no idea why or even when the peninsula was subdivided.

This reminded me of a Sam Kinison cameo in the 1986 film, Back to School, which was a fairly intellectual romp featuring Rodney Dangerfield.  Still a lot of fun.



No doubt about it.  I hold History sacred also.

6 comments:

Justin Kennedy said...

I liked this clip on youtube and subscribed to your channel.

However, as someone who suspects you disagree with on a great many political topics, I must ask this question: Besides the issue of taking history very seriously, don't you disagree with Monsieur Kinison's and Monsieur Dangerfield's take on history presented here? If so (as I suspect), why do you still find it humorous?

I'm sorry if I am asking you to explain a joke and therefore ruin it, but we here in America are going through a very strange political time which has me questioning all my assumptions of others' views. I would appreciate any clarification you deign to bestow, gentle blog writer.

Alexis Smolensk said...

As a matter of fact, I don't disagree with the take on history presented. Nor do I agree with it. History isn't like that.

It's funny because, traditionally, history is presented as dry and boring; Sam Kinison built his comedy career on being manic and it was a marvelous casting to give him this small part in the film as a university professor, exactly the sort that some students wish they would get and others (mostly poor scholars) hope they don't. The idea of watching a professor rip girls like the one Barbara Bosson plays in the film to shreds is delicious in a world where students are soft little snowflakes who can't handle the real world.

But, history. Consider Bosson's little speech: "The failure of Vietnamization to win popular support caused an ongoing erosion of confidence in the various American but illegal Saigon regimes."

That's not wrong. But it is also bullshit. It skips any real discussion of what Vietnamization was and that it was basically wishful thinking; there was never any confidence in the illegal regimes in the country so it can't be argued that confidence depended on the S Vietnam govt's popularity; S Vietnam existed solely on its willingness and success at subjugating its own people, which failed in the face of a full-scale, foreign-monetized guerilla war. But that is NOT the story told to the American public, who were led to believe that war was winnable.

The story told (and repeated in the clip) IS history, however. And parsing that story is the key to understanding why different factions believed different things even back then, as they believe different things now. There is never, ever, just ONE history; and those morons who think that "winners write the history books" totally fail to understand that everyone writes history books. All history, the study of history, is the perpetual argument, "Did the winners really win?"

(cont...)

Alexis Smolensk said...

Now let's go back to funny. Kinison describes his question as "interpreting one of the easiest events of the last 20 years of American history."

EASIEST? Are we kidding? Yes. We're kidding. It is called wry humor, brilliantly wry, not presented sarcastically, but facetiously, which is to say, glib, frivolous, playful. And look at Kinison's speech about his experience in Vietnam: "I was up to my knees in rice paddies with guns that didn't work, going up against Charlie, slugging it out with him, while pussies like you were back here partyin', puttin' headbands on, doin' drugs, listening to the goddamn Beatle albums!"

Do we want to completely ignore that the American soldiers IN Vietnam were also doing all the things Kinison just accused of kids back in America? Were the soldiers not partyin', puttin' headbands on, doin' drugs, listening to Beatle albums?" Virtually every film you've seen depicting the Vietnam war since the early 80s depicts the soldiers that way, as "the real experience." As early as '86, this clip is facetiously making fun of that, too.

Okay, last point. Korea. Kinison: "How come we didn't cross the 38th parallel and push those rice-eaters back to the Great Wall of China and take it apart brick by brick and nuke them back into the fuckin' stone age forever? How come?"

Dangerfield: "All right, I'll say it. 'Cause Truman was too much of a pussy wimp to let MacArthur go in and blow out those commie bastards."

Guess what. That is a little right. MacArthur did go completely off the Pentagon's leash in 1950, pushing straight past Pyongyang, wanting to go to China; the foolishness of which brought China into the war, overrunning the Americans, leading to the Hungnam evacuation. MacArthur insulted in the President by resisting a meeting at Wake Island, which got lots of press; and during that meeting MacArthur swaggered about how China's intervention would be a joke, etc., etc.

After the Chinese New Year's Offensive MacArthur wanted to use nukes, because he didn't give a shit, and Truman relieved him of command in April of '51.

And ever since, some have passionately argued that MacArthur should have been permitted to rain hellfire on Korea. That's history. A choice was made and we're faced with the question, was it the right one?

But some want to believe that history is made up of all "right" answers - and they'd like to shut up any knowledge that MacArthur might have been psychotic enough to deliberately want to turn Korea into a radioactive wasteland so long as he won. That has to be addressed, talked about, discussed: whether or not it was TRUE or MORAL or anything else.

The clip is addressing that every opinion has MERIT in a classroom, not just the ones that attach themselves to a socialized rhetoric.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Oh, I guess I should qualify: every evidence-supported opinion has merit. This is the internet, so that has to be stipulated.

Justin Kennedy said...

Goddamnit, Alexis. I've read this beautiful response at least 4 times and I still don't know what I would say in response to it. Well, I can at least fell comfortable saying "bravo."

(BTW, this is a common occurrence after reading your longer winded thoughts and, I have long suspected, a reason why your best posts so often suffer from a lack of comments. That this is also a symptom of lesser quality posts {internet wide, mind, as you quite rarely publish tripe} is a cruel trick of fate for your confidence and ego to deal with. Good luck with that.)

I absolutely missed Kinison's calling the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam easy to explain. Rewatching the clip after having you point it out, I descend into a laughing fit every time he says it (and I love the misdirecting and out of character awkward elbow-rest-on-podium Sam pulls while asking the question). Your answer to my question is multi-faceted enough that it will give me something to think about for a while. And no worries about me slacking off of studying what you wrote as I have quite the narcissistic tendency to read and re-read any comment of mine that gets posted and, by proximity, responses to those comments. I might pop from the woodwork in a few months time with some critique or agreement long after anything that might be considered timely or tactful.

Thanks for taking my question seriously.

Justin Kennedy said...

Unrelated to my previous comment or the post I am replying to, I have a question for you as it relates to a different RPG system.

I strongly consider myself to be in your camp of thought that it isn't the system that matters per se, but instead the consistency of the rules and the knowledge and trust of those rules by the players. However, there surely is still room in this hobby for certain novel ideas and procedures to be brought to light that can have an important effect on the quality of gameplay.

I have stumbled across a relatively new system called both Hillfolk and, less specifically, DramaSystem. As seen in the name, the creation and resolution of dramatic points is the primary goal of this system.

Having read through what I gather is enough of the rules to glean the intent of DramaSystem (as well as finding a very limited number of {painful} podcasts to at least hear the game and its mechanics in vivo), it strikes me as not terribly interesting by itself but relatively easily adaptable to a standard D&D campaign, especially as a means for focusing the minds of inexperienced players beyond the combat oriented rules of the core rulebooks.

The pdf is available freely online and if it seems worth your time to look into I would love to read a post or two about your thoughts on Robin Laws take on this aspect of RPG gaming, be it scathing, impressed, unimpressed, or otherwise.