Thursday, May 30, 2013

Seek the Original: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

78.9% of everything Hollywood does is adapted from a book, or short story, or comic. Never settle for an adaptation. Seek the original!

Here's a tough one, but too good not to attempt. I didn't know the 1988 film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" was based on a book until very recently, when I watched it again as an adult. I had to wonder how it was possible to write this story as a book. It's such a visual thing, cartoon characters in the real world, that it didn't seem possible to make it interesting as a book.

I should have known it wouldn't even be the same story.



Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
by Gary K. Wolf


In this world, cartoon characters are a race of people, and they get jobs performing for comic strips and comic books. The "artists" responsible for such strips are actually photographers who frame their actors, complete with the word balloons.

Roger Rabbit plays second fiddle to Baby Herman. When he was hired by his syndicate boss, Rocco DeGreasy, Roger was promised a starring role in his own comic strip. But he's still playing the fall guy to Baby Herman's antics. He hires private eye, Eddie Valiant, to find out why.

Things go awry when Roger is shot dead, and so is Rocco on the same night. Acquiring an unexpected partner, Eddie continues investigating the case.

He interviews the various players, Roger's wife, Jessica, a voluptuous toon resembling a human, Rocco's brother, and a multitude of others caught up in overlapping scams and subplots, all intersecting Roger.

It's a detective story. A genuine, hardboiled mystery. Eddie Valiant is the stereotypical (read: archetypical) private eye. He drinks too much, is short on cash, isn't on good terms with the real men of the law, etc. Although to his credit at least he doesn't have a gambling problem.

The mystery is absurd, but the world it creates is fun. Humans and cartoon characters living side by side. They're not animated cartoon characters though. It's all about comic books and the syndicated comic strip industry. Toons speak with word balloons appearing over their heads. Some learn to speak with voices, and still others learn how to speak in voice only and suppress their word balloons. Dealing with these balloons provides great narrative gags.

Eddie does little but travel around town talking to people. That's the majority of the book. Interviews. Talking. But it's not boring. The mystery he tries to piece together is complicated, and he comes up with multiple scenarios for whodunit, and all make perfect sense, which keeps the reader guessing right up to the end. The book is a very easy read, and it succeeded in making me forget I was reading a book. I haven't felt that in a very long time.

It's both a spoof of the detective story and a serious installment thereof. The world it creates is ridiculous, but it somehow manages to pull you in with the complicated and well-constructed mystery. To say anything more about the story would give away too much.


Compare that to...




Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
starring Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd


Here's another movie that's so far from its source material it shouldn't even be called an adaptation. The book is all about syndicated comic strip characters. Blondie and Dagwood, Hagar the Horrible, Dick Tracy, etc., etc. They are all mentioned in the book.

The movie takes the idea a step further and makes the whole thing about animated cartoon characters. Not Hagar, but Bugs Bunny; not Dick Tracy, but Donald Duck. These are the actors who live as real people among us. It's such a good idea it makes me wonder why Wolf himself didn't write it that way. Maybe he figured comic strips were more fitting to the atmosphere of a detective story? Cartoons bring to mind happy, bouncy, musical, colorful characters. Comic strips conjure up gritty, sketchy, monochrome imagery... Maybe I'm reaching.

Anyway, while the book is a bona fide detective story, the movie is an action/comedy. Someone must have read the book, and it inspired them to take the basic idea of cartoon characters living among us as actors and run with the idea. They ran in a totally different direction, but a good one! Really the story isn't that important, or complicated. It's just the excuse to put all these cartoon characters in the same place at the same time.

The story is nothing like the book. The book is entirely made up of interviews. Eddie talking to the many players, trying to figure out who's lying and who's telling the truth; who has something to hide and who doesn't. All about Eddie trying to unravel the mystery of who shot Roger Rabbit and Rocco DeGreasy. Although it is little more than interview after interview, the book's mystery is so complicated I had to know who did it!

The movie is an action/comedy about an evil madman who wants to destroy Toontown (the part of LA where most of the Toons live) as part of a business venture, framing Roger for the murder of the man who owns the property. The movie's mystery is very thin. More like a few bullet points inserted between all the action sequences in the screenplay after the fact, but it's just enough to hold the movie together. And it's interesting to boot. Still absurd, still funny, and still a surprise all the way up to the end. You can safely watch the movie first and then read the book later with no spoilers, because the two stories have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

Even though the mystery isn't nearly as complicated, just seeing all these cartoon characters from competing studios interacting is enough to carry the film. It creates its own logic, and it works very well. In many ways I wish the book had been more like the movie.

I like each for what it is. The absurd mystery of the book, and the visual spectacle of the film. Reading what inspired Hollywood to create such a movie in the first place was an eye-opening experience. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Went Wrong? - Knuckles Chaotix

If there is one game I wish The Angry Video Game Nerd would rip apart, it is Knuckles Chaotix. A genuinely bad game that should never have been made.

Released on the 32x in the mid 90's, it was Sega's answer to the Super FX games Nintendo was cranking out. Chaotix was pretty much a tech demo to show off what the system could do: realtime sprite scaling, increased RAM capacity, and maybe some of that BLAST PROCESSING we'd heard so much about.

The game features a strange mechanic in the sonic world. You play as one character tethered to another by a band of ring energy. Essentially rubber band physics. You're supposed to bounce and snap across each level.

Actually, it's more like ascend each level, which leads to the first problem with the game. The level design. No matter which zone you're in, every level is exactly the same. You start at the bottom, and work your way up to the top.


(Not my video. I link to it to show you the gameplay.)



Second problem: the rubber band mechanic is unused. The developers had this interesting new game mechanic, but didn't have a clue what to do with it. Sure, you use it to reach platforms and open doors you otherwise wouldn't be able to, but otherwise it serves no real function.


Third problem is the music. It's terrible. Here, let me show you the BEST song in the game, which happens to be level zero:



Now imagine the entire soundtrack is just like this. Stuck on those high notes with the same vocabulary, barely any melody or variety, just like the levels they accompany. It sounds like Sega took the sound chip from the Game Gear and stuck it in the 32x! The Genesis had better quality than this!


Fourth problem: where are the enemies?! I went through the ENTIRE GAME and only died once, and that was on the final boss. Through all the levels, I hardly ever saw an enemy. There's nothing in your way from the bottom of the level to the top.


What went wrong?

It looks like it was thrown together in a rush to show off the 32x's capabilities. There might've been a couple good ideas at the core, but there is nothing in here that's well-executed or fun.

Knuckles Chaotix is a rushed mess. The only remotely good thing about this game is the characters it introduced. I like Vector the crocodile's design, and I'm glad Sega took him and the other best characters and saved them for a return in Sonic Heroes.

Other than that, Chaotix is a boring, repetitive waste.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New story: Pain is Revenge

"What is your name?"

I lift my head from the padded floor. A pair of eyes is staring at me through the slot in the door. I'm used to this. For many years now humanity has been nothing more than different sets of eyes staring at me. It has been a long time since I saw a human face. If I had been born and raised in this room, I would have grown up believing human beings existed as pairs of eyes at this door slot. These eyes are unfamiliar.

"Valerie," I say

"Hello, Valerie," say the eyes.

They sound too interested to be a doctor's eyes. Like they are genuinely interested. Like they care. Like they have just seen something that surprised them. The eyes look me over from head to toe.

"What happened to your feet?" say the eyes.



Part of the Under the Knife anthology from Cruentus Libri Press.

Print edition
Kindle

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Seek the Original: M*A*S*H

64.2% of everything Hollywood does is adapted from a book, or short story, or comic. Never settle for an adaptation. Seek the original!

I had no idea M*A*S*H was a movie before it was a TV series. And then I learned it was a book before it was a movie!

MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors
by Richard Hooker


Colonel Henry Blake calls the General and demands two more surgeons for the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital near the Korean front line.

Hawkeye Pierce and Duke Forrest are transferred to the place to care for the wounded of the Korean War. In their tent is Major Jonathan Hobson, who is creepy about praying. Very creepy. So Duke and Hawkeye ask Blake to get rid of him, and get them a chest surgeon while he's at it. They're seeing more chest trauma here than they know how to handle, so they need a specialist.

Blake of course refuses, so Hawkeye and Duke kick the guy out of their tent and into the snow. Blake reads them the riot act, but in the mess hall, Blake is treated to fifteen solid minutes of prayer from this soldier. It annoys him so much he ships the doctor home and manages to get them a chest surgeon. Enter Trapper John, the best chest specialist the Army can get them.

In no time, this trio of doctors forms a club of sorts in the 4077th: The Swamp, because with the booze and gambling, their tent looks like one of those seedy places you have to go to a bog to find.

Such is the first episode. In another, the Catholic chaplain, John Mulcahy, seems to be better at curing near-dead patients than the doctors. For a brief time, patients miraculously get better after Malcahy performs rites. So one day, after a few drinks, the Swampmen decide to give Malcahy a human sacrifice as a thanks offering: the Protestant chaplain, Shaking Sammy.

They bound and gag him, toss him in the middle of a pile of old mattresses and make like they're going to light it on fire. It's all a gag, of course, but it's enough to get the MP's called on them. They weasel their way out of it by pulling rank on the officers, and it's back to patching up the wounded.

Then their resident dentist, "Painless" Waldowski, plans to commit suicide, so the Swampmen set up a mock living funeral for him, complete with placebo suicide pill to hold him over until he comes out of his depression cycle.

Each chapter reads like a self-contained episode. A problem resolved in some sort of comedic manner. With the hell they have to go through, who can blame them? Trapped in the middle of nowhere Korea, faced with death and carnage every day, and having to be the cleanup boys, they gotta let loose somehow.

I confess I could not read this without reading Alan Alda's voice as Pierce, even though in the book he is married with two kids and from Maine, not Boston.

Duke is a bit annoying, not because of anything he does, but because of his use of the word "y'all." It sounds wrong, like the author threw it in there because he didn't know any other way to establish Duke is from Georgia. Just have him say y'all in all the wrong places. It doesn't work, but oh well.

Some of the situations they get themselves into are funny. Apparently the Army assigns someone to inspect the soldiers for venereal disease. Hawkeye and Duke pay someone else to "inspect the weapons" instead. It's great!

But it's a narrative. There's no sense of being there while it's happening. It's a story told instead of shown, which is a bit disappointing because these little episodes could be funnier if they were told while they were happening instead of explained as this happened and that happened. It works well enough, but a lot of humor was lost to me because it was so passive.

The football game lasts two chapters though, and I couldn't follow it because I didn't understand the footballspeak at all. My problem, not the book's.

Tempers run short, people get on their nerves, but they get the job done. It paints quite a picture of what being in a MASH unit was like during the Korean war, and how some people dealt with the stress. It seems made to be a movie and a TV series.

Compare that to...





M*A*S*H (1970)
Starring Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland, and Tom Skerritt


A book that contains such obvious farce comedy is begging to be acted out. Really, Richard Hooker's book has quite a bit of comedy routine that is told instead of presented, and it needs to be acted. What could go wrong when all the material you need is already written and you just have to show it happening? Ugh...

I know it was a hit in the 70's, but I don't get it. I didn't laugh.

The book tells both sides of the story: the horrors of what they have to face patching up the wounded of war, juxtaposed against the stuff they do to cut loose from it. Cause and effect. The movie focuses only on one side, the broad comedy. It makes the people of the 4077th MASH look like a bunch of idiots instead of military doctors on the front lines. A horny teen comedy set in Korea instead of High School. It shows some surgery, but no sense of how it affects anyone.



In the first half of the movie our three main characters (Hawkeye, Trapper John, and Duke) act more like middle school bullies than grown men. The jokes they play aren't funny. They're just mean, especially to Captain Burns and Major Houlihan. The book tells us why they deserve to be the target of the Swampmen's pranks, but the movie barely touches on it, so it just looks like the gang is picking on them. It doesn't make them look like good guys at all.

The book is full of deadpan funny dialogue. The movie doesn't do anything with that. It doesn't bother with anyone talking to each other. It's a farce comedy. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. I like farce comedy when it's done well, but MASH? I didn't think it was funny at all.

Even the bits they borrowed directly from the book are not funny, such as the suicide of Painless Waldowski. Reading about his mock funeral and last rites is funnier than watching it, and the reason he wants to commit suicide is more sophisticated in the book than in the movie. In the book, it's just a depression cycle. In the movie, it's because he thinks he's gay. I didn't expect that.

I liked the gag that Painless is the "best equipped" dentist in the Army, and men line up at the tent while Waldowski is showering to glimpse it. That was funny, and it's also in the book. Him thinking he might be gay is a bigger reason to want to end his life, yes, but watching them save his life is not as funny it should be. It's... dull.

Although the story of how Hot-Lips Houlihan got her name is much better in the movie. The soldiers sticking a mic under the bed while Houlihan and Burns are having sex is a much better reason to give her that nickname. In the book, it's not established whether or not they actually had sex; just the suspicion earns her the nickname.

Later, the soldiers want to find out if she's a natural blonde, so they wait until she's in the shower and tear the tent wall away, exposing her naked body to the entire camp. This is a much better reason for her to freak out and threaten to resign. In the book, she does this only because she's tired of being called Hot Lips.

These are the only two improvements on the book's material, but again it just feels mean-spirited because neither Hot Lips nor Captain Burns deserves it. We're told they kinda do, but it's not enough to make the Swampmen seem like heroes dishing out justice. Instead, they look like childish bullies picking on the nerd.

The movie also has a couple plot lines that go nowhere. For example, Pierce gives their Korean tent boy, Ho-Jon, drugs to keep him from being drafted into the military. But the Korean doctors see through it and keep him for more observation. And that's it. That's the last we hear about Ho-Jon!

In the book, that boy is drafted and comes back to the 4077th a few weeks later gravely wounded. The Swampmen patch him up and arrange to get him out of Korea by sending him to college in the states. The movie doesn't go anywhere with this, and there was potential to show how the war affects these people by having Ho-Jon die from his injuries! It would have at least been an attempt!

The whole going to Japan to perform chest surgery on a congressman's son is in the book, too, and it reads exactly like an episode of the MASH TV series. It sounds just like something they would do, go to operate on some kid just to play golf in Japan for a week. You'd think it would be funny to watch it happen. It's not. The story is barely told, the reason they're going there is barely established, so the absurdity of doing it just for golf is lost.

And the football sequence... It lasted long enough in the book, but in the movie it's painfully long and not funny at all.

Something is missing from the film adaptation. There's no sense of knowing these people, and they're not characterized very well. Far be it from me to dislike these actors, but I think the TV series cast portrayed the characters way better than the film cast did.





M*A*S*H (CBS, 1972 - 1983)

The movie was popular enough to merit a TV series spinoff. Even though the book and the movie end with Pierce and Duke going home, the series continues as though the movie never really happened. Burns is back in the camp and chaplain John Mulcahy is now named Francis for some reason. There are some new characters, like Klinger, who dresses as a woman trying to get kicked out of the Army. He's not in the book, but the idea of someone trying to get kicked out of the Army just to go home is mentioned in the book.

I can't say anything about the TV series that hasn't already been said a thousand times before. The series does everything the movie does not: humor from dialogue and character interactions, not just broad physical comedy. The series also shows the horrors of war and how it affects the doctors in the 4077th MASH, which gives them a reason to lash out in various, goofy ways.

Alan Alda's portrayal of Captain Pierce is perfect. His deadpan delivery of absurd dialogue matches his voice in the book. The Hawkeye in the movie is so generic he's not even there. Alan Alda's Hawkeye stands out no matter where he is, and that's exactly what he's supposed to do. The Hawkeye in the TV series frequently playacts and dramatizes, like a Shakespearean actor breaking into a huge speech in the middle of normal conversation, which is much more befitting the character than the movie's dry, laid-back depiction. It shows he's compensating for the stress of being a war surgeon. That connection is lost in the movie.

The TV series is the definitive version of the characters. It does what the book does, and what the movie should have, which is show the stress these people are under, and how they handle it by raising hell. The characters interact with one another, they have depth, we see them go through good times as well as tragic times. The movie leaves all of that out and tries to get by with pranks.

The movie's humor is dated, just like its visual style. (Yeah, just keep zoooooooming in on everything.) The series lasted 11 seasons, concluding in 1983, and it's still funny today.

It all started with a book. Check it out sometime, because it reads just like a sequence of TV episodes. Read why it made such a good series.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Seek the Original: Communism

Never settle for someone else's interpretation! Seek the original!

There's been a lot of anti-communist talk since Obama was elected. But how many people have actually read what Karl Marx proposed? How many actually know what Communism is? I decided to find out.


The Communist Manifesto
by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels


Does he say people should be stripped of all freedom and live in a police state to keep the peace? No. Does he say everyone should work as hard as he can but only be paid according to what he needs? No. Does he want religion to be abolished? No.

Does he advocate abolition of private property? Yes. Does he advocate government takeover of private industry? Yes. Does he preach equality among labor? Yes. Does he want free education for all children by the state? Yes.

So many people react to these ideas and communism in general out of hand, but they don't take the time to listen to where he's coming from. Part one of this manifesto is the reason he advocates these things.

Exploitation.

Karl Marx lived during the rise of industrialization. He saw the early titans of capitalism, and what they were doing to entire nations, and he observed it was the same thing the nobles of old did to the serfs they owned. Exploitation of human beings for person gain.

That's what Karl Marx was against. He didn't want to take away the wealthy man's money and give it to people who didn't deserve it. He wanted to end the centuries-old practice of one human being using another human being for personal gain. He saw capitalism as just the newest incarnation of the cycle of human civilization. One group of people rises to the top to become the nobility, keeps the commoners in slavery and exploits their labor to make themselves rich. Marx observes that's the only reason anyone gets rich, by taking what someone else has and keeping them poor.

Part one outlines his grievances with industrialization and capitalism: how it moves in by force, selling its goods to people and forcing them to become part of their production. In doing so, capitalism strips people of identity, heritage and culture, remolding these civilizations into its own image, all for the purpose of using the people to produce cheap goods for resale. The competition among the upper classes drives them to push the workers further and further into poverty, and the longer this goes on, the more inevitable revolution becomes.

He mentions the economic cycle capitalism has created: it is dependent on perpetual growth. Always growing, always finding new markets, always expanding, always increasing capital. This is done because of competition between businesses, putting one another under pressure to reduce prices. The best way to reduce prices is to increase production, and this forces industry to do things like increase worker hours, decrease benefits, reduce pay, etc. But overproduction always leads to a surplus of goods, which leads to a recession. Poverty hits because production must scale back. People are kept in bondage to this, and he argues it has raised nobody's standard of living, only lined the pockets of the factory-owners.

He even outlines exactly how the (then) current elite class rose to power, and has used its influence to get the government to look out for them, and not for the people its supposed to represent.

In Marx's view, the pursuit for personal property is the very heart of all class struggles in every civilization throughout history. In a utopian society, one man does not enslave another. Remove the need to acquire personal property, and society will be free of class strife. Communism is not an attempt to force everybody to be equally poor. It's an attempt to end this exploitation of human beings.

He then addresses various criticisms of communism in part two. Here's one:

The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois [the nobility's] property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.

We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man's own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence. Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of the petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily. Or do you mean modern bourgeois private property?
...
The average price of wage-labour is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence, which is absolutely requisite in bare existence as a labourer. What, therefore, the wage-labourer appropriates by means of his labour, merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labour, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labour of others. All that we want to do away with, is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the labourer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it.
...
In bourgeois society, living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour. In Communist society, accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer.

The irony is that Marx himself is all for the working man working for himself! He says so right here! He wants to end the practice of men using other men's labor for their personal gain, and return to working for himself. That was the original goal of communism, and that surprises me! The idea arose as a direct reaction to the industrial revolution and unrestricted capitalism.

You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society. In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

Marx is speaking to the ruling class. The well-off decry the end of personal property, but the only reason they have property is because the rich man has taken everything from the poor, so to be against anyone calling for the end of personal property is hypocrisy.

He's calling the rich parasites on the poor, which is what makes them poor to begin with. It's the counterargument that was so blatantly missing from Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand called the poor parasites who feed on the rich man's hard work. Marx describes the true nature of a parasite: it drains the host of all nutrition, leaving the host emaciated, weak and defeated; while the parasite itself grows fat and happy. He makes the exact same point as Rand, but directing the blame on the rich.

Considering the time period in which he lived, this observation makes sense. Capitalism was unregulated back then, and business-owners really did work people to death just to make more money. Workers suffered while the factory-owners thrived, and there was no hope of getting a job somewhere else where things were better because there was no better place to work. People with jobs made so little money they went hungry. They couldn't afford housing in the cities, and there was no transportation back then, so they were crammed into tenements, living in filth, and these were people who had jobs!

This was what capitalism looked like until laws were passed that limited what employers could do to people. Marx was appalled by the systematic destruction of entire nations in this way.

I'm still not sure how he expected people to work for themselves and enjoy the fruits of their labor without having personal property. I don't know how that would work... Marx is very vague on the details here. I would read Das Kapital to see if there is more information but HOLY SHIT that is not a book one should read just for the hell of it! It doesn't look like he addresses that topic at all, merely devoting his time to analyzing and deconstructing capitalism.

Part three mentions various misinterpretations of his idea and explains how they got it wrong, such as limited socialism that tries to make working conditions a little better for the workers but still allow the ruling class to remain in power; activists trying to please both sides; and deceitful variations that put on a front of being out for the people but are in fact little more than a public relations arm for the ruling class. Socialism, according to Marx, is a watered-down form of his idea and doesn't go far enough to kill the root of the recurring problem in human society: a class of Haves rises up and keeps the Have-nots down.

Alas he did not live to see the greatest misinterpretation of them all: Russia. From what Marx describes here, Russia was not communism. The point of communism is to get rid of the ruling class that oppresses the people and keeps them poor. The paradox is that Marx himself says various things must be turned over to State control to prevent those things from becoming oppressive (such as factories), which entails there being an administrative body above the people, which is--dun dun DUNNNNN!--an elite class.

Marx certainly had a noble cause, but his outline for how to implement it is open to interpretation, and that left room for various dictators to seize and use it to justify horrors such as forced state labor and the abolition of religion. Nope, Marx never says religion should be abolished. His intent was to get rid of the exploitation.

Marx first wrote this in the 1840's! Coming up on 200 years later, much of it still rings true today, and that's eerie! The recession of '08 brought a lot of things to light, such as the double standard of law. Businesses get bailed out for their actions, but the people are foreclosed. Businesses cut jobs, and then business-owners and the politicians they buy blame the people for being out of work. Laws are biased for the benefit of the businesses, not the workers. It happened in the 1800's, and it's still happening today, although in a much nicer form thanks to the laws that keep employers from outright enslaving us.

All Marx wanted to do was end the cycle of human civilization. I don't think even he knew exactly how to implement his idea, although he seems to favor man returning to work for himself, instead of being forced into a system where he must work for someone else. A system that rewarded the abuse of human beings. To people of the late 1800's who were victims of the nobility and the industrialist getting rich off their hard work, this must have seemed a perfect answer to all their problems.

As Orwell so eloquently showed in Animal Farm, the implementation of these ideals has not been so successful. It doesn't seem possible to create a classless society without creating an upper class to keep people from rising up too high.

It's plain to see where a lot of his ideas came from though, and where these ideas went wrong in the execution. Marx's concept that everyone should be allowed to have a job comes from capitalism's tendency to hire and fire people at will, thus controlling their means of survival. Marx wanted everyone to have a good job instead of being at the mercy of profit-hungry factory-owners and economic cycles, but when people tried to make communism happen, the State ended up forcing people to work against their will.

The concept that no man should be allowed to rise up and command the labor of others implies that everyone should be paid equally no matter what job they do. And since it's impossible to pay everybody high wages for even menial work, everyone gets paid a low wage, which has the effect of no incentive to do more work. This isn't in Marx's proposal, but it seems to be what happened when it was put into action.

Marx says there should be no private property, but he doesn't explicitly outline who property belongs to. It seems obvious it belongs to the State, but what exactly does that mean? If one can't have personal property, why have money? Why have factories? Why have work at all? It does seem to have the effect of forcing people to stay down, be meager subsistence farmers.

After all, if personal property is not allowed, how do you divide up the State-owned property equally among everyone? That would be too difficult, so it's easier for everyone to have nothing. This idea that no man should be allowed to become a rich nobleman implies everyone should be kept poor so nobody will ever be able to rise up and enslave the people.

None of this is what Marx really intended. Soviet communism was not Marxism. Chinese communism was not Marxism. Marx apparently counted on the people willingly going along with this, without a need to be forced into it. It's not supposed to be oppressive, but a mutual desire among the working people to end the practice of men using other men to make themselves rich. The idea behind it was to get rid of the nobility that keeps people down, and willfully live in a way that won't form such a ruling class again. But the pigs always end up becoming human.

My view of Marx is the same as my view on Bob Black's The Abolition of Work. Noble and dead on accurate in its analysis for what capitalism does to people, but impractical, idealistic bullshit without a solid proposal for an alternative system.