The Long View 2004-07-12: Updates, Millennials, Failures, Zap Guns

It will be interesting to see if Strauss and Howe's generational model comes to anything.

Updates, Millennials, Failures, Zap Guns

A helpful reader saw my comments last week about the new, unsuccessful film, King Arthur, and sent me some information on the historical model the film uses. The gist of it seems to be that characteristic features of the Arthurian mythos were of north Iranian origin, and were introduced into Britain by Roman soldiers from the east. The argument is set out in detail, apparently, in From Scythia to Camelot: A Radical Reassessment of the Legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the Holy Grail. You can get current with the scholarship by visiting The Heroic Age. Search for articles by Linda Malcor and Scott Littleton. (Thanks, Jamie!)

Frankly, I am suspicious of diffusionist scenarios of this sort. They are like conspiracy theories in which every chain of contact, however long, is necessarily an exchange of key information between the ends of the chain. Still, that's my personal taste, and not a considered assessment of the evidence.

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Speaking of suspicious chains of influence, on July 10 The New York Times published a review by Edward Rothstein entitled Those Who Were Inspired to Hate the Modern World. The review is about Mark Sedgwick's Against the Modern World. Visitors to my main website will know that I put a review of the same book online just a few days earlier, here.

The view the Times takes of the book is not so different from mine, except the reviewer seemed quick to jump to conclusions about Islamist connections. I did not do that in my review. I did it here.

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And on the subject of unsuccessful movies, over the weekend I viewed the DVD of Secret Window. I liked other Johnny Depp horror movies, such as The Ninth Gate and From Hell. This one was an adaptation of a Stephen King story, with music by Philip Glass, so what was not to like?

Two hours without suspense, actually. I can hear the pitch to the producer now: "It's Fight Club with a stalker plot." The problem is that it is obvious within the first ten minutes that the Mississippi dairy farmer who claims Depp's character stole his short story is actually the Depp character's alter ego. The arson and the axe murders, tactfully committed off-screen, add no interest to the film's clockwork inevitability.

The film preens itself on its ending. That's when we find out how the murderer disposed of his wife's body. The ending is repeatedly alluded to as the story progresses. The problem is that nothing in the story turns on the disposition of the body; we are just told again and again how clever the ending will be when we get there.

And it is clever. It just is not worth the price of a DVD rental to find out what it is.

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Yet more reports are appearing that tout the Strauss & Howe model of history as it applies to today's youth. The latest is It’s Morning After in America, by Kay S. Hymowitz in City Journal. In all their books, but particularly in Millennials: The Next Great Generation, William Strauss and Neil Howe predicted that the generation born after 1981 would be better behaved, harder-working, and generally more respectful of authority than its predecessors. On the whole, surveys have borne these predictions out. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the "Millennials," at least to a Babyboomer, is the collapse of the generation gap:

When they’re asked ‘Do you trust your parents to help you with important life decisions?’ they don’t see parents as meddling or interfering,” Howe concludes. “They’re grateful.”

One may doubt whether teenagers are more docile to their parents than they ever were. The big thing that was different in the 1960s was that the larger culture was telling young people that they were right to disregard their elders' advice, indeed their whole past. Prize nitwits like Margaret Mead said then that the relationship of the generations had become unique, because for the first time in history children understood the world better than their parents did.

In reality, neither then nor now did parents necessarily know what was going on. Thing are better today, however, because we know that the Millennials are at least as clueless.

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Fans of Nikola Tesla (not a small group, I know) have long been aware that he had various devices that could immobilize electricity-using internal combustion engines at a distance. Latterly, we heard more of effects like this in connection with the electromagnetic pulse that nuclear explosions emit. There are supposed to be non-nuclear EMP bombs in the US arsenal. If there are, though, they may be stored next to the Ark of the Covenant for all we hear about them. Imagine my delight, then, in learning that machines of this sort could soon be in the hands of your friendly local police:

When the radio waves hit the targeted car, they induce surges of electricity in its electronics, upsetting the fuel injection and engine firing signals. "It works on most cars built in the past 10 years, because their engines are controlled by computer chips," said Dr Giri. "If we can disrupt the computer, we can stop the car." A prototype is due to be ready by next summer.

Zap guns: it's about time.

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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