ODDBALL Californian controversey view

Nov 30, 2000
397
0
146
Get a load of this, my friends:

"To bridge historical distance in these ways is to recast oneself as an actor in a great event."

O-kay.

"Perhaps this explains the vehemence with which some buffs throw themselves into the Californian controversey, where marshaling evidence to convict or vindicate Captain Stanley Lord of negligence in not coming to the Titanic's rescue is to become a character in the disaster's ongoing narrative."

Say what? I almost fell asleep back there.

"It is, in other words, to enact a transformation from being a historical object (the modern world is alienating and debilitating) to being a historical subject. Participating, however vicariously, in the Titanic disaster is a protest against powerlessness-an assertion of autonomy."

HUH?!

This is from Steven Biels "cultural" history of the Titanic disaster, "Down With The Old Canoe", Chapter 6, "Enthusiasts", page 185.
Biel's hair (and beard! :) ) were for some reason set on fire when he came up with a theory that Titanic buffs A. embrace a "myth" about the Titanic, and B. are hobbyists who use the Titanic to escape real life. The above gems are part of this argument he postulates in his book.
Needless to say, I disagree with alot of what he implies about us point-blank, and this is one of them.
Perhaps I AM a player in the ongoing narrative of the Titanic saga because of my keen interest in ol' Stanley Lord and his ship, but I didn't do it just so I could escape real life. I'm interested in it because I LOVE HISTORY, and things like the Californian controversey FASCINATE me.
The reson for some buffs being quite adamant in their views is that this is a case of IF LORD WAS RIGHT OR WRONG, and cases like his can excite strong emotions. Just look at the Lindbergh kidnapping case and all the controversey surrounding Bruno Richard Hauptman. The same thing can certainly be said about Captain Lord and his case.
Beil's clear as mud talk about "historical objects" and "historical subjects", IMHO, is just that. Clear as mud.
Just my two bits worth, and I confess I found it just plain fun to write, too! :)

Richard K.
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,086
5
198
Richard; Did you manage to actually finish that book? I couldn't....not only was it dull, but I had the impression that I was reading extracts from a series of term papers, rather than a series of essays. That section you highlighted was certainly a case of over-analyzing the obvious (and coming up with an odd answer), wasn't it! But, at least in the Titanic field the good books still outnumber the unreadable- unlike the Lindbergh case where, aside from Mr. Fisher's book, there has never been a properly researched work.
 
K

Kathy Savadel

Guest
I'm in the middle of reading _Down With the Old Canoe_ right now, and so far it is frightfully dull. I have the same impression you did, Jim, in that it seems very disjointed -- as you said, like snippets from a series of term papers. (I am in a hurry to finish, because "Last Log of the Titanic" is next up!) I'm just now coming up on the "Enthusiasts" section, which on the basis of your post Richard looks like it might be a bit more, um, interesting. :)

Best regards,

Kathy
 
Nov 30, 2000
397
0
146
James,

I did manage to read all of it, but I was so disgusted by some of his comments that I elected not to keep it with my other Titanic books. Biel's work sure is a crash-course in "acadameia", and then some.
Speaking of Lindbergh kidnapping writing, Joyce Milton in "Loss Of Eden", her biography of Charles and Ann Lindbergh, takes a pretty good look at the kidnapping.
The excerpt I read in "Vanity Fair" from A. Scott Bergh's bio of Lindy dealing with the kidnapping
was pretty good, too. Can't wait to read the whole enchilada! :)
What is the book by Mr. Fisher called, btw.?

Mike,

Maybe Mr. Biel needed a shrink himself? :)


Kathy,

Look out. The chapter called "Mission To Destiny", the one after "Enthusiasts", is REALLY stupid, and what he says about Bob Ballard is, in a word, CRAZY (but still clear as mud). One of the many reasons why I wonder if Mr. Biel isn't "an eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay" (thanks once more, Steve Early and Harry Truman, for that GREAT saying! :) ) and that those ulcers compelled him to say what he did in the forward and the chapters making up part two of his book. Eithier that, or he wrote all that hooey in a bid for some non-ulcer money, for off-the-wall and controversial statements can boost book sales, after all.

Richard K.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,582
372
283
Easley South Carolina
Richard said "Maybe Mr. Beil needed a shrink himself ;-)"

Mmmmmmmmm....could be. That or he gets a kick out of over analyzing things. It's not as if this would be the first time in history it's happened.

Kathy, if what I'm getting here is any indication, you'd probably be better off going to The Last Log and save Mr. Beil's work for times when you need to put yourself to sleep. Down With The Old Canoe sounds like a perfect tranquilizer.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,086
5
198
The Perfect Tranquilizer about sums it up.

RICHARD: I did the same thing! I was looking for my copy, so that I could avoid generalities in my initial posting, and it wasn't anywhere to be found. I think I might have bought it as a vacation read (BAD choice) and left it wherever I was when I gave up on it. Yes, Loss Of Eden was well done. Jim Fisher's book, The Lindbergh Case is really remarkable......though it won him few friends in the Scaduto/Kennedy/Anna Hauptmann/Dershowitz circles. Mr Fisher began with no set opinion as to guilt or innocence, and reviewed virtually all of the remaining evidence and (except for Mrs Lindbergh) figures from the case. The resulting book is great for history lovers even as it is a sore point for conspiracy theorists. From the introduction, in which he openly blasts the cruelty of Mrs Hauptmann and her people in begging Mrs Lindbergh (1991) to "set the record straight before it is too late" with its ugly implications, I knew that I was onto a winner when I read this one. But, as this is a Titanic site, I'll leave it at that. If you want to talk about it off board, contact me at jakwesternswing@yahoo.com

KATHY: Enjoy the book! I don't know if you have ever had to spend a couple of hours with someone who JUST WON'T SHUT UP and who goes on at great length just for the pleasure of hearing his/her own voice and marvelling at his/her own brilliance, but that was of what the book reminded me. That claustrophobic "will this EVER end?" feeling hit me by about the mid-point of chapter one and stayed with me until I gave up. Let's face it, you REALLY have to work at it to make the Titanic dull, and this book (in that regard) is a remarkable achievement.
 
K

Kathy Savadel

Guest
RICHARD -- You've got me even more curious to read more of the book now to see what Biel says about Dr. Ballard, but MICHAEL -- I thought you brought up a good point in that I'm sure "Last Log" will be a more worthwhile read.

JIM -- Your last post made me laugh out loud. Yes, I got that "will this EVER end?" feeling, too, and at about the same point (i.e., halfway through Chapter 1). That's never a good sign!

I did actually start "Last Log," and now I cannot put it down.
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,086
5
198
I'm saving "Last Log" until I have time enough to read it straight through. From what I gather, it is a winner.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,582
372
283
Easley South Carolina
James said " Let's face it, you REALLY have to work at it to make the Titanic dull, and this book (in that regard) is a remarkable acheivement."

Well, I can see YOU were impressed, OM!
proud.gif


You could always try The Sway Of The Grand Saloon, by John Malcolm Brinnin. In fairness, it's actually a useful source of information, but it's a tough read. As to The Last Log of the Titanic, might I suggest you make the time? It's worth it!

Karen, good for you! once your done, we could renew the discussion on the book.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
A

Allison Lane

Guest
Hey, Richard!

(snickering) "Down With The Old Canoe" just happens to be one of the few Titanic books I haven't yet liberated from the downtown library. Maybe it should stay that way. :D

Michael--The Sway of the Grand Saloon was, incidentally, one of the books I happened to glance at along with The Only Way To Cross (which I did go back and get, and am reading now) the last time I was at the downtown library. Looked pretty ponderous to me.
happy.gif
I do remember photocopying a page out of it for some reason or another. Probably had to do with Captain Rostron.


-Allison L.
(P.S. Richard--I miss Ainsworth. Where is he?
happy.gif
)
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,086
5
198
Michael: Sway Of The Grand Saloon. Again, I got the impression that the author was more impressed with his own erudition than he was with his subject. Talk about striving for poetic imagery and instead burying ones self under a ton of pseudo-Victorian verbiage! He had some good ideas, and in some cases his stilted style actually worked well given the subject matter (for instance his negative review of the France) but for the most part it seemed as if he were being paid by the word. Altogether, I prefer The Only Way To Cross. Right now I'm struggling my way through "Morro Castle: Die Sterbestunde eines Schiffes" which was published in Germany (1935) and which, from what I have figured out, is a pulp piece with emphasis on heroic George Rogers. Lurid cover art.
I'll be reading log within the next week or so, and thanks for the recommendation.
 

Tracy Smith

Member
Apr 20, 2012
1,646
0
66
South Carolina USA
I agree with the rest of you. The Biel book was, at best, laughable, and, at worst, offensive. I'm not going to apologize for my interest in Stanley Lord, no matter what Biel thinks of it.
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,086
5
198
What kind of made me laugh about that book (the ONLY enjoyment I got out of it) was his rather offensive dismissal of Titanic buffs/ Lordites/ ETC as being obsessive.....while writing about it in belabored, some would say obsessive (and I'd not contradict them) detail!
 
Dec 6, 2000
1,384
1
166
You people are making me real happy that I did not spend my money on Biel's book. Nor do I intend to borrow it from the library. Life is too short!
 
Dec 8, 2000
1,289
2
168
Oh dear.

Er, I actually quite enjoyed the Biel book on several levels. But don't worry, for I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
wink.gif


I agree with the comments on Biel's 'overwriting' and 'over-intellectualising'. A cutural history shouldn't be impenetrable to those whose cultural history it explores. After all, who is meant to read it? This is the area in which I believe Biel really doesn't succeed even if DWtOC introduced me to a lot of history of which I had no prior knowledge.

More importantly to me, his work sent me on hunting expeditions for more information on the various cultural interpretations such as the poems and plays cited. From Biel, I was inspired to track down a copy of Prechtl's novel and John Wilson Foster's excellent The Titanic Complex, which in turn made Richard Howell's The Myth of the Titanic essential reading. How is that a bad thing? Of course, my enjoyment (as such) of Biel's work is in direct relation to my interest in the subject matter, not everyone's cup of tea by any means.

As for the chapter on Titanic buffs? Well, rather than seeing insult I thought it interesting commmentary on the reasons that people become - and stay - involved with their, er, interests. Yes some elements were a hoot, some aspects I completely disagreed with, obessive obsession and obsessive writing to boot. It would be interesting to know what Biel would make of Titanic 'enthusiasts' now that there are so many internet groups: it would knock over his comments on the 'typical enthusiast' for sure. Not to mention the pre-Cameron and post-Cameron differences.
happy.gif


Every time I see a titanic clash of the internet warriors Biel immediately springs to mind. Think about it.
wink.gif


Ok, so it's not for everyone perhaps. But to each their own and if it's not for you, don't read it. (Or if you must, skip straight to Chapter 6, Enthusiasts to see what the fuss is about.) After all, so many other Titanic books, so little time!

Cheers,

Fiona
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,086
5
198
Fiona: Well said! Particularly aspects of the second-to-last paragraph. However (and PLEASE don't think I am pouncing on you, as I am not) did the book not strike you as being too unfocused, and too brief, to function as it was intended? I found that the chapters read more like a series of separate magazine articles (I found, and re-read the whole book last night, so the memory is still fresh) than they did a book. I'm not saying that the theme of "Old Canoe" was a bad one (in fact, certain aspects of it were thought provoking), but I feel that he was too shallow in his approach for "Old Canoe" to function as a scholarly work and too ponderous for it to function as a fun read. So, for me, it was dull on multiple levels.
 
Nov 30, 2000
397
0
146
Fiona,

Biel did bring alot of information to light that I didn't know of, so that's a good point. Stuff I might find myself searching for like you did with the things you were interested in learning more about.
Regarding the things I objected to, it was like he was subtly putting rabbit ears above the likes of Walter Lord, Titanic buffs, Robert Ballard, etc., in what he said about them.
His beefing about "popular history" REALLY spoiled the soup, too. Impling that such works as "A Night To Remember" weren't "scholarly" and that they all embraced a "myth" that was reworked from generation to generation and were not based on historical fact.
(YAWN!) "Mac, get a life." is all I say to that nonsense. :)
One more thing: it's absurd how he stuffs Titanic buffs into one "generation" before looking at the time of the ship's discovery and the "reworking"
of the "myth" at that time. Hey buddie! You can't just stuff us away in one tidy chapter of a book and dismiss us! There's going to be generation after generation of Titanic buffs, my friend, so I suggest that next time you don't try to pigeonhole us.
End of rant (for now at least). :)

Richard K.
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,086
5
198
Richard: His analysis of a Night To Remember was certainly a series of broad generalizations, which was actually pretty funny in the context of questioning Walter Lord's scholarship. What gave me the biggest laugh and simultaneous cringe, was the section (Pg162-163 paperback edition) in which he analyses Mr. and Mrs. Lucien B. Smith and their gender roles as defined by Edwardian society AND 1950s society, in the context of the TV version of ANTR.....it was like listening to an EXTREMELY overconfident third year Sociology student blathering. The man certainly has a flair for the obvious.....
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,582
372
283
Easley South Carolina
James, I'm trying to wade through the Grand Saloon right now. I agree that it's verbose, but some of the info is pretty decent. It's a shame the man liked his own prose so much. Boring your intended readership to tears is not a good way to gaurantee continued trade.

Fiona said;But don't worry, for I come to bury Ceasar, not to praise him

Good, the old boy was starting to get a bit ripe.(P.U.!)
proud.gif


Allison, for my money, Maxtone-Graham's book was the better one.

Bill; a wise decision!

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart