Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle (1963)
is an alternative history novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. Set in 1962, fifteen years after an alternative ending to World War II, the novel concerns intrigues between the victorious Axis Powers—Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany—as they rule over the former United States, as well as daily life under the resulting totalitarian rule. The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963.

I haven't read the novel, and we had resisted dipping into the TV (Amazon) series loosely based on it, until a few evenings ago. We dipped, but not very deeply. Two hour-long episodes convinced us that we didn't want to waste any more time on such a gloomy, terribly depressing, often disturbing, not to mention gratuitously violent, piece of dystopian fiction. Although there's a resistance community in the story, standing up to two ruthless authoritarian governments, without prior knowledge of outcome, a viewer can feel as hopeless as the film's characters themselves.

I did find many of the events in those first two episodes to be almost carbon copies of events in certain World War 2-type movies and novels I can recall, just changes in location, period and characters' names. In those earlier films, though, I knew that it was always going to be "alright in the end".

Main characters in the TV series: a young woman, probably in her mid-twenties and a couple of young men, also around that age would not have many memories of their world before Nazis and Japan took over. Other, older, characters had needed to adjust. Life had to go on. The terrifying sight of abhorrent iconography on buildings, flags, vehicles, along with such alien ideals being normalized is the central discomfiture.

In the TV series the USA, as we know it, is split. The eastern half, as far west as the Rockies is under rulership of the Nazis, while the west coast, and eastward as far as the Rockies is ruled by Japan. There is a rather unwisely planned (but necessary for plot growth) neutral buffer zone around Colorado and the Rocky Mountains area.

I understand that the series compares to the novel only in its broad original premise, and in names of some of the characters. P.K. Dick's original idea was an interesting concept to explore, and while the novel's style and detail must have needed some modification in order to appeal to a 21st century audience, less of the viewer manipulation I've read about in commentary would have been preferable. Viewer manipulation appears to have become the norm these days!

Though I'm unlikely to continue watching Amazon's version of The Man in the High Castle, I do remain curious as to where it seemed to be going with the plot. Rather than subjecting us to more dystopian discomfort, I spent time reading articles and commentary around the net from those who had watched the whole of season 1 and most of newly released second season. A few hints follow - beware, though - they could spoil it for anyone who plans to watch the series in future.

The I Ching is used, in the TV series by one of the more sympathetic of its characters, a Japanese official: Tagomi, the Trade Minister.

[Philip K. Dick] was enamored of the cleromancy of the “I Ching,” and in addition to having his characters in “Man in the High Castle” utilize it, he used it himself to plot the novel, in a kind of extravagant commitment to the themes of his own story.

From Variety HERE
.... reels of banned film [newsreels etc] circulating around the world, depicting alternate [alternative!] histories of what could have happened or might still happen to the world. It is not so different from movies in general — but these films are widely held to be mystical depictions that are absolutely real, not just clever fiction made by someone in the basement. To be fair, they do have chilling real elements that even Hollywood can’t quite produce. In “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,” the reel that becomes the Magical MacGuffin of the first season, San Francisco is depicted being razed by an A-bomb, and a few of the characters see themselves and people they know onscreen, either dying or murdering others.

The first season introduced this supernatural device without, apparently, having much of an idea of where it would go.........The second season lays an interesting foundation and builds up quite a head of steam by the final few episodes — but you can feel the projector sputtering with a kind of desperation as the final hours spool out. Season 2 produces more answers and more action than Season 1 — but those answers are curiously flat, following what has been hours and hours of little more than texture. And it ends with a bait-and-switch that is both too expository and too frustrating, the exact kind of twist you hope a show will not pull.

I've read, regarding the end of the second series, that one of the more troubling aspects of the way the finale plays out is the villainization of the Resistance. (See HERE;) though a commenter at that website thought differently:
The villain-ization of the resistance was actually probably the best thing this show did. American exceptionalism almost always has full permeation of entertainment media. The idea that Americans, especially in "rebel mode" could actually be "bad" never gets explored. Yet we take it for granted with almost all other rebellions everywhere else that it can happen.

Should any passing reader be interested to see Phlip K. Dick's natal chart and a run-down on another movie adaptation of one of his short stories, take a look at an archived post HERE.


mike said...

Just the title alone is too close to home for comfort, as we now have the Great Orange One soon to take the coronation. Oh, woe is me.

I realize that the Great One's followers are diverse and varied, but I've been taken aback by the appalling comments on virtually all left-leaning articles on the internet. Michelle Obama was recently interviewed by Oprah and she made a comment about loss of hope right now, which sums it for me, too. I read this on several standard, internet news sources and the comments were disgusting. Like you observed, the same nastiness was noted in comments on articles about Bernie. I mentioned here prior that the comment sections on gay, political sites are full of the right and alt-right creepy comments. The conservatives tended to stay away from the gay sites before Trump's election, but now gay sites are targets. Trump's win has given these foul individuals a license to kill with their keyboards. There has always been foulness in the comments sections, but it's striking nowadays. Typically, the nasty comments are of 5th-grade mentality, with no valid argument being made, and full of argumentum ad hominem.

Pro-Trump articles are full of adoration by most commenters. There are far fewer anti-Trump comments and those are of more intelligent and less offensive verbiage. There are some offensive comments, but not like the anti-left commenters.

This country is swimming in hatred of various brands, which has global counterparts. Most countries have divided ideologies.

I'm not drawn to this type of war-fiction, but perhaps someday I'll read the book. I must be of quality, having won the Hugo in 1963. Strangely, even Hugo has fallen to right-wing discredit, with the "Sad Puppies":

mike (again) said...

Last paragraph - "I" should be "It"..."It must be of quality...". A typo changes the meaning...LOL.

Twilight said...

mike ~ It's unfortunately coincidental that this post is up on a day we have to swallow the news that Donald Trump will actually ascend to the US presidency - no more chances for a turn-around. I hadn't expected to be sure of the electoral college's result until early January.

As "High Castle" is set in the early 1960s its characters didn't have the internet and its often questionable benefits to deal with. As imagined by the TV producers things hadn't moved on much from the 1940s. That didn't seem quite right to me. There would have been no benefit to Germany and Japan to simply keep the USA like huge work camps or prison camps. The TV people (and perhaps Philip Dick) were thinking along the lines of how things were in East Germany, after the war I guess. That would not necessarily have been the case for the USA had the Axis won the war though.

Agreed - about comment threads online. I sympathise with you on what you're finding at some of your regular blog-stops. I've lost patience with the majority of sites and blogs I'd followed for years - not due to right-wing comments, but due, in most cases, to rabid Clintonites who cannot accept that it was the fault of the DNC campaign strategies and personality of Herself that lost them the presidency...again!

I arrived in this country just as G.W. Bush had been elected for a second term. What goes around comes around - often in worse guise! The internet back then wasn't as rabid as now - Facebook and Twitter, twin ugly sisters, hadn't arrived. I liked it better, back then.

But...darknesses before dawns an' all that.

mike (again) said...

Here it comes:

“In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon,” Gingrich said. “It’s a totally open power. He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period. Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”

Excerpt from "Gingrich: Congress should change ethics laws for Trump"

I guess it's time we learn to bend over.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ I guess so. We can still make a fuss about it though.

Bob said...

Cross-post or self plagiarism.

In doing progressions 99.99999999999999999999999999999999 % use solar arc or Naibod rate to progress the angles. That is ok if you want to get an idea of how things fit on a yearly basis but if you want to see what is happening on a daily basis you must use Mean Quotidian angles and with that I choose the Q2 rate. That progresses the MC about 1 degree per day and yields the 289°27′ MC for the progressed Sibly chart at the White House that hits the Feb 26 solar eclipse Pluto at 290°08′ and is squared by eclipse Mars at 20°05 and Uranus at 20°33′.

If located in it’s home in Philadelphia the progressed Sibly MC sweeps transit Pluto which is squared by transit Uranus on the 25th that square then triggered on the 26th by transiting Mars. Progressing trump’s chart in DC the same way has his progressed Moon/Saturn midpoint on the progressed Asc in the evening of the 26th. But, I expect that trump will try to bury reality and attempt to justify the situation with his usual bluster. Don’t let the media help him.

If we can have no success in obtaining government of, by, and for the people, from the Congress, we must hurt them and their supporters by massive, enduring boycotts, hitting them where they will feel it. In the wallet. Purchase less, buy, cheap, buy off brands, buy used, roadside and farmers markets, second-hand stores because they are local. Use the VA, free clinics, barter what you can at every opportunity. Doing these things will expand your circle of friends or acquaintances, perhaps help to form or expand coalitions.

If jobs are lost because of such practices it must be broadcast on every social media that they are being used because the Congress is not doing the people’s business. Keep the Congress in the crosshairs of future elections and broadcast that what happened in 2016’s election can happen in any or all future elections at every level of government to get rid of self-centered, self serving, members. We can and we will take back our country by restoring fair and representative government. Step by step, election by election. Upcoming astrological aspects are showing dissonance, power struggles, change, and a rough road for trump and his band of thieves.

Slowly we turn.

Twilight said...

Bob ~ Hi! Thank you for this. Yes, "hitting them where they feel it" is a good plan - it would also have been a good plan had the sainted Hillary been president-elect too. Don't let's kid ourselves that all would have been rosy had Clinton beat Trump.

This country is sorely in need of a proper left-wing in politics. Democrats are NOT the left, they have morphed into what seem to me to be centre-right conservatives - apart from Bernie Sanders of course, and a couple of others who have allied themselves with the party because there has been no other way to be effective.

mike (again) said...

I would have preferred Clinton's brand of "not rosy" to Trump's, but too bad. My comment, above @ 8:10 PM, regarding Newt's wanting rules changed for Trump is only the beginning. I have contempt for Clinton, but I've never viewed her as a sexist, racist, fascist pig about to perform some very bad voodoo on the USA and global nations. Trump's cabinet is beyond anything Hillary or any other Republican would have dared. Bernie or Hillary would have had an insurmountable congress to contend, so Hillary would have been managed, unlike our soon-to-be.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ We must just trust that the universe knows what it's about! Perhaps the USA needs to be taught a lesson.