Archive for the Arts & Private Life category

January 16th, 2013

Roots of Fascism:
Hesse’s essays on Dostoevsky

Two odd essays, from 1919, the year of Demian, are interesting re the roots of what we’ve come to call fascism.

I’ve copied the first here — on the Brothers Karamazov.

April 6th, 2012

20 Years After:
Two Trips to Sarajevo
1993-94

Last year Minka Prolic, in whose home I stayed during wartime visits to Sarajevo, passed away.

Here then is some old journalism — Two Trips to Sarajevo — about private life in the city under siege, focused on Minka, her husband Hazim, their son Haris, and their extended family.

Comments about the stories and photos may be placed here below.

Many photos — enriched with comments from Sarajevans — may also be found on my Facebook page, in an album open to the public, whether Fbook members or no. Search there for William Ney, New York, N.Y., with education refs at CUNY Graduate School and St John’s College.

July 25th, 2011

344 sq ft = 24 rooms

Posted in Arts & Private Life by ed

Remarkable use of apartment space

March 16th, 2011

Fascism in Michigan and the Weimar Republic

Provoked by bizarre and anti-democratic events in Michigan — Rachel Maddow (must see) with help from Amy Goodman seems to broken this story nationwide — I’ve been laboring thru William Sheridan Allen’s The Nazi Seizure of Power (1965), a conglomeration of newspaper reports, interviews and other local info that paints the rise of the Nazi party in a single German town, Northeim, during the Weimar Republic’s last years and Hitler’s first two. 1930-35.

The Social Democrats in coalition with the Catholic Center party were the ruling block of the republic and its last defenders as the global depression took root and undermined confidence.

Even so, in Northeim Nazi candidates attracted only a hundred some votes in 1930. But escalated to many thousands and 62% of votes cast by autumn 1932.

Why? It seems, in a nutshell, that the depressed life of the postwar decade left the generation of relatively educated Middle-classers then coming of age resentful of the political power of the Social Democrats — the party of less educated laborers.

Would-be Yuppies, expecting and expected to do better than their comfortable parents, in despair in hard times about getting ahead, are abruptly inspired with hope by a romantic (re German national spirit) vision of violently breaking the status quo left behind by the failed war and now preyed upon by international capital.

And yet the great enemy, as the political battle that put Hitler in power develops, is the party of the lower working class. Destroy that class’s only potent institution (the Soc Dem Party) and … and somehow things would begin to improve.

This of course resembles the new patriotic war of Tea Party governors and legislators on what’s left of America’s unions.

That Germany’s democracy itself would go as the Nazis (or the Communists, who also gathered more votes as things got worse) came to power seems to have been understood by the educated young adults who put Hitler in power.

Apparently their despair was such that it just didn’t seem important. Gilded Age cultural history re the glories of Wilhemine Germany, combined with the republic’s poor economic performance — as it tried to pick up the pieces of King Willie’s failed world war — just left Weimar with no love, it seems.

The Nazi Seizure also makes use of the voting records, which clearly show newly registered voters inspired by and flocking to the Nazi candidates in the early 30s.

This picture syncs perfectly with Albert Speer’s own extended account of how and why he joined the party in his first memoir: Inside the Third Reich.

In both books the generation gap is rather clear. Speer’s party membership was something his successful father never approved, even at the wild height of Albert’s own success. Once, Speer writes, his father agreed to attend an event with Hitler & co — but there refused to make conversation, and to shake the Fuehrer’s hand, and quickly departed.

( Speer’s mother, on the other hand, DID join the Nazi party — in secret, without telling her husband or her son, until she discovered that the latter had also secretly joined.)

Speer’s family had been wealthy during his childhood, but the hyperinflation of the early postwar years forced them to sell off the heirloom family factory and leave their high social place in the city for cheap country living.

Like his father and grandfather Albert took to architecture. But his new single-shingle practice was going nowhere as the Depression took root, and he had to get ahead before he’d be permitted to marry his sweetheart.

He begins teaching on the side, 25 years old circa 1931, and his students are the ones who persuade him to attend local Nazi meetings. Then he sees Hitler speak and immediately signs up, and years later struggles to say why, saying mostly, repeatedly, that Hitler inspired hope when no one and nothing else did.

Viewing it from our distance, it all seems so immature, and blind to the actual causes of distress — Industrialism and high finance badly out of whack in the wake of the first war. It seems the ill-advised reaction of youth — unbridled, gone off half cocked — to a bad time.

The patience of the parents if effective would have better served both Nation and society. Let alone Europe.

January 30th, 2011

Egypt

Ed Note: See comments below to follow events into the third week of the Egyptian revolution culminating in the resignation of Mubarak and assumption of power by the so-called Supreme Council of the armed forces on February 11.

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An amazing month, week and weekend.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed El Baradei this Sunday evening in Cairo took leadership of the … revolution and told the world — Washington — there will be no going back to the status quo ante.

Here is the streaming Al Jazeera English. The only way to go:

The Egyptian demonstrations that began on January 25 were inspired by the Tunisian revolution, itself inspired by revelations in the first huge batch of Wikileaks US diplomatic cables.

The Likud Lobby is surely telling Obama that Israel and the West cannot tolerate a democracy in Egypt — a fortiori in light of the Palestine Papers and the continuing stream of Wikileaks diplomatic cables.

Quite a pickle for the American president, a man of words and little action.

But if he continues to sit on his hands and allows Mubarak to enforce a crackdown, sympathetic eruptions seem certain to occur thru out Arab lands.

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Mub’s appointment of intelligence chief Sulieman as vice president on Saturday seemed a step toward Mub’s departure. But now it’s now clear.

The regular army has been supportive of the demonstrations — which is to say they have not attacked. The violence of Thursday and Friday was initiated by various secret police forces. Al Jazeera reports that the elite Presidential Guard troops number 22,000. I wonder if that’s true. And wonder where the loyalties of all these forces now lie and how they’re divided.

Ayman Nour, another top opposition leader, speaks today of negotiating with the army and other leadership figures, to form a “national unity” government to cross the interregnum to the scheduled 2011 elections. Not clear if he sees Sulieman an acceptable interim leader.

Tourism is essential to Egyptian life. The current status quo cannot go on forever. It’s clear that el Baradei is calling on Washington to pull the plug on Hosni and move forward. We shall see.

January 28th, 2011

Shatner & co:
I Can’t Get Behind That !

Everybody knows everything about all of us!
That’s too much knowledge!
I can’t get behind that!

Student drivers, leaf blowers …

I CAN’T GET BEHIND THAT!

Here’s some background on the 2004 album and recording session.

January 28th, 2011

Year of the Rat?

Yesterday as I stood waiting in the subway, a rat waddled up, politely sniffing, then climbed upon my bag, as if hoping for something to eat.

An omen?

An image of our society in dissolution?

Upon noticing his approach I’d begun to call Shoo, then did something of a St Vitus dance. Finally he respected my panic and scrammed, taking cover beneath a garbage storage bin.

Days before a rat was found making the rounds on a subway car.

Usually of course they’re shy of the Big Folk.

In The Plague, it’s the rats who play harbinger on both ends of the disaster.

They are the first to die in agony on the streets, filling the inwoners with wondrous dismay. And then their reappearance on the streets, going about their business, is the first sign that the pestilence itself is dying out.

So yes, If rats all over New York are suddenly behaving in a sociable manner, why, I wonder what it means.

Years ago, while living on the expanding eastern edge of Chinatown in Manhattan, I was walking home from Wall Street late at night and rats must have been busy at work because as I strode along I was thinking about the portentous rodents of THE PLAGUE …

And suddenly a rat scurried out across my path, directly beneath my foot as it fell — and screamed as his spine snapped with a crunch then bounced straight toward heaven a yard and fell dead.

Perhaps as we are told the Evil flee where none pursueth, but see here too the innocent, the poor fool, mind boggled, who in panic was just trying to get out of the way.

I still recall the crunch of his spine and his scream.

Needless to say I felt terrible, and wondered what it meant.

A friend says the Chinese view rats with great favor.

For it is said that when all the animals raced across the river, the rat with its genius won out — by riding upon the oxen’s back and then at the last moment leaping from its head to reach the bank first.

So it is that to be born in the Year of the Rat is deemed a blessing.

How good of the Chinese to honor the rat. And how interesting to hear that the rat won the race …

The whole Get A Job business always struck me as futile, a poor expense of spirit.

Friends suggest that my encounter with this favored creature yesterday means that I’ve been forgiven for crushing, in my distraction, his ancestor during the 80s on a greasy Chinatown street.

Well and good. But why as a race are they behaving so sociably?

Perhaps the season’s record snowfall — the lack of accessible garbage on the streets — has them desperate?

Or does their frank boldness bode some eruption to our state?

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January 26th, 2011

Death Notice:
Palestinian State finally stillborn.
Now begins the Terror?

The Palestine Papers are clear: Obama gave the Cairo Speech, then promptly sold the Palestinian state down the river.

( Here is Al Jazeera’s search page for the approx 2,000 diplomatic cables and the like, chiefly out of Israeli and Palestinian Authority offices. )

The extent of the collapse — complete — of support for the UN resolution that recognized Israel in sync with a plan for a two-state solution … Shocking.

It’s now clear that when the Israeli foreign minister gave the UN the finger on Palestine this past September, he had the American president in his pocket.

No wonder Knesset member Zaneen Hoabi simply said “No chance” last year.

And no wonder the New York Review of Books (our finest periodical) has just published a notice of surrender:

It’s now clear that the American war in the mideast, pinched upon Iran’s eastern and western borders, was coeval and is conjoined with a final solution in Palestine.

Alan Sabrosky, a Vietnam combat vet, former intelligence officer with the Marines and former director of the Army War College, talks plainly about how the American war got off the ground.

And it’s now clear how the Army of God comes to appoint the Prime Minister of Lebanon. I wonder if Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Zakheim et al. — the creators of the American war under Bush-Cheney — are laughing or crying.

These are the days of miracles and wonder. These are the days when the Justice Department proceeds beyond the bounds of law against Anti-War demonstrators and the free press.

Little wonder, of course, that the American media are all but silent on the truth of 9/11 and, now, the Palestine Papers.

One effect of the latter’s publication in freer worlds abroad seems all but certain: A true war of terror, born of final despair re the fate and treatment of the Arabs of Palestine, in the angry half of the Islamic world. Hope dies last, as Alexander Dubcek observed, but now it is dead.

No more Mr Shoe Bomb. No more Mr Underpants.

It’s well known amid intel types that nuclear devices are loose in the underworld. Every now and then an attempt to sell one surfaces. 1994 was the beginning of this game. It now seems to me only a question of time before angry young men try to set one off in Tel Aviv or New York.

January 25th, 2011

State of the Union:
Activism is a crime

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Maureen Murphy writes:

I have been summoned to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago on January 25. But I will not testify, even at the risk of being put in jail for contempt of court, because I believe that our most fundamental rights as citizens are at stake.

I am one of 23 anti-war, labor and solidarity activists in Chicago and throughout the Midwest who are facing a grand jury as part of an investigation into “material support for foreign terrorist organizations.” No crime has been identified. No arrests have been made …

January 24th, 2011

Everything will be alright

This Grasshopper’s got me all Zenned down, I love the guy.

January 24th, 2011

Dying of Cancer — the Film

Posted in Death, Movies, These United States by ed

A somber documentary. How to Die in Oregon.

The cancer business is a travesty in the US. We DO have Death Panels. They’re called Oncology Practice Groups.

Perhaps this is one reason the film is (by reports) so hard to watch.

January 22nd, 2011

Obamarama: Internet IDs
coming this year

Obama will be unveiling a “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” in the next few months.

The “White House Cybersecurity Coordinator” practiced Doublespeak while breaking the news a few weeks ago, pointing out that the Commerce Department:

is “the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government” to centralize efforts toward creating an “identity ecosystem” for the Internet ….

“We are not talking about a national ID card. We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities.”

January 22nd, 2011

From the Archives:
Is Ideology a good idea?

Some fun from the Summer 1992 issue of The New Combat: a Dialogue Game played around the notion of the need for ethical and political ideologies. Camus. Bertrand Russell. Ayn Rand. What a party.

(Comments to the game text may be posted here below.)

So … The Summer of ’92. Jennifer O’Neill, what a babe …

Bill Clinton and Al Gore were running against incumbent Papa Bush and Dan Quayle.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War were yesterday and the day before.

People were looking forward to them Peace Dividends.

The working class still had representation in Washington.

Hardly anyone knew what the internet was or might be.

January 22nd, 2011

Rouault:
The Little Dwarf

Posted in Music, Painting by ed

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Rouault called him Le petit Nain.

Not merely a dwarf, but a little one at that.

And yet, even so, he seems cramped by life. Painted into a corner, as it were.

I find myself now and then in sympathy with the poor fellow.

He’s one among perhaps two dozen circus players that Rouault painted in similar style as a collection called The Circus of the Shooting Star.

I have them in a Mondadori book of the same name in Italian — Il Circo Della Stella Filante — a copy of which I once gave to Rickie Lee Jones on her birthday, recalling her sad daring Deep Space equestrienne in the show of same name:

DEEP SPACE
(AN EQUESTRIENNE IN THE CIRCUS OF THE FALLING STAR)

These stars
no one else can see
trapeze the height of thee
vanish as they call

These blues
no one else can hear

No one else can sing
this one for you
can they, dear?

Things that you do are always with me
when you’re laughing you’re always here
What’s the use in crying?
It won’t matter when we’re old.

This tear
will finally fall

Keep your eyes here
when there’s no net at all

Where the Lord’s face
is an all-night cafe

There’s a woman who will wait on
what you have to say

And your dreams are like marbles
in the pocket of a little boy

And they whisper when you hold them
like a beautiful girl

January 21st, 2011

Pasternak’s granddaughter loathes the new translation of
Doctor Zhivago

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January 17th, 2011

Mother and Child
Father and son

Posted in Painting by ed

Jacopo Bellini, father of Giovanni, late in life, learning something of Naturalism from his son, I’ve always surmised.

The blend of old and new — byzantine icon and the italian naturalism — has always struck me as perfectly beautiful.

January 16th, 2011

True Grit rides anew and leaves Stanley in the dust

The characters in the Coen brothers film are geared to work against both the Old Testament bleakness of the novel and the Waynesian joie de vivre of the first film.

Mattie in the film, at fourteen, is a relentless robotic harridan-to-be, expressing thru caricature the bleak worldview that Stanley Fish here extracts from the novel and offers as the spiritual key to the new film.

Mattie’s been trained as a bookkeepper and, we find, knows nothing about life and justice on the great frontier. Most comico-tragically, she badgers the tumbleweeds of the prairie with threats or promises of treatment by her lawyer. Finally poor Ned shuts her up, for us all, by responding that what he needs is a “good JUDGE” — yearning, it seems, for the Good News god and His mercy as deadly accidents set in train by Mattie’s thirst for revenge snake about his neck like a noose.

Cogburn steadily provides the antidote of worldly experience to Mattie’s booklearning and naive rationalism. Eg, he instructs and insists that Ned Chaney hung in Texas for shooting a senator is as good as Arkansas for shooting Mattie’s pa — and that the financial benefits of the former settle the case. Let’s be reasonable.

The only bit of this Cogburn we see in Mattie is when she goes a bit soft on LaBoeuf, who, at the extreme from her take-no-prisoners egomania, espouses the chivalrous naivete of the Cavalier society that settled Texas. Cogburn, in between, does his best to moderate the romance, but Mattie’s headstrong stone-hearted quest for vengeance must leave Quixote in the dust. “Ever stalwart,” he sadly affirms, too late to be heard, as she rides into the sunset in search of her devil.

A quarter century thence, at film’s end, we see that Mattie’s blindered pursuit of her ideal brought her to a barren life. She is, at 40, an echo of Miss Gulch — from The Wizard of the Oz — an irredeemable witch peculiar to the frontier who demonstrates no more curiosity or compassion for things human than she did at fourteen. She strides through the colorful marvels of a city and a circus without a sidelong glance, and her very last line is an imperious insult — “Keep your seat, trash!” — to an old man who failed to rise in her bristling presence.

The film’s coda, then, cements the notion (which sprouted for me about halfway thru) that the last thing one must do with this story is respect the barbaric worldview of its motor-mouthed bookkeeping upstart protagonist.

Naturally, then, one looks elsewhere — to Jeff Bridge’s Cogburn, who shares the joy of John Wayne’s but whose every decision is shot through by social psychology, and who recognizes a good deal of himself in all the bad guys: “I know him!” he keeps moaning to Mattie as the hapless of the earth wander into his crosshairs.

In short: The last thing I see in this Cogburn is the amoral gunslinging paraclete that Stanley Fish is at such pains to paint.

Affinities between the Old Testament and the amoral Predeterminism of certain Christian schools are oft remarked. And it’s a familiar turn in American letters to use the Old Testament to gloss the New World.

Alfred Kazin was a master of this, and his essays on Lincoln — whom he finds caught between the South’s fundamental sin and the relentless paracletes of Abolition — are among the assessments of the American character that I treasure.

But Mr Fish, falling short of Kazin, offers an impoverished reading of the new film, whether out of doctrine (his distinctive nihilism) or innocently, as it were, I don’t know. What seems clear is that the Coen brothers set out to Deconstruct the novel’s heroine, as a spiritually barren witch — and it’s odd that Perfesser Fish of all people would not notice.

By film’s end I even wonder if she was telling the truth about her devil Ned Chaney.

However that may be, it’s odd to find her, twenty-five years later, venerating Cogburn’s memory and yet so unchanged, so blindly made of stone after all these years. T’would seem that authentic veneration might have tenderized her hide a hair. Perhaps we are to sense that subterranean guilt, for having dragged Cogburn and the rest into her hell, is the real reason she transports his grave to the barren hilltop where her parents lie.

In any case, I mourn for this Cogburn as he tries to rest in peace with Mattie Gulch’s blank stare and recitations from the Bible falling upon his bones.

January 12th, 2011

A Free Man:
Mark Landis, Master Forger

Posted in Painting by ed

Ah, to be free.

January 8th, 2011

Abraham Bolden, Secret Service agent of JFK’s day

Hero Mark Lane will have a documentary this year featuring hero Abraham Bolden, former Secret Service agent and author of THE ECHO FROM DEALEY PLAZA, who was imprisoned for trying to publicize the story of the attempted assassination of JFK in Chicago in early November 1963.

Here’s the two of them speaking.

And here — perhaps more informative — is Mr Bolden with Thom Hartmann (three clips total there on youtube).

And here’s a panel with James Douglass, author of the excellent JFK AND THE UNSPEAKABLE – Why He Died and Why It Matters (2008), with Oliver Stone and Lisa Pease (latter whom has dropped here a few times in the past …) Five clips total.

January 5th, 2011

The Village Voice loses
its voices

The VOICE will now be nothing but Special Lefty whining, petty bickering for crumbs, as the fascist shift accelerates.

It’s a generational thing as much as anything. American society no longer breeds Universalists.

“The left has disemboweled itself,” Nader said. “It doesn’t even have a strategy every four years like a good poker player. The best example is Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO. Obama has given them nothing. Therefore, they are demanding nothing. … And now wait till you see what they will do to the public employee unions. … Everybody is ganging up on them. You have new class warfare. It is non-unionized lower income and middle class taking it out on the unionized middle-income public employees. It is a classic example of oligarchic manipulation.”

One irony is that the undermining of Universalism in American society was the work of people in Academia calling themselves Leftists: Feminists. Progressives. The theorists of the war on the White Male Hegemony.

This new struggle replaced, in hearts and minds Left of center, the traditional class struggle, central to modernity, which was basically about money. Thirty years on, the working class cannot afford to educate or medicate its children and the slide into the Third World seems at this moment inexorable.

The Progressive campaign not only splintered the Democratic Party, taking it out of power in Washington and the state capitols, but also diverted and diluted education. People raised on television and Identity Politics are now shaping the society. The results are plain: 96% of the population is politically powerless.

“We’ll GIVE them civil rights,” Midge Decter once said in my cab, in the late 80s. “But not economic rights. Economic rights are not civil rights.”

So-called Progressives continue to play right into that hand.