Sunday, December 28, 2008

whitebread stomach division

A point of historical interest, from a freelance correspondent:

Walcheren Island in the Netherlands: the Romans called it Vallacra, and there was a temple to Nehalennia there, but towards the end of WW2 it was the scene of the Battle of Walcheren Island. Where, what? I must admit: I am a fan of WW2, battles or otherwise, but, you know, I’d never heard of this battle before. Perhaps it’s because the Canucks were to blame or thank for it ...

Battle of Walcheren Island


The savage fight for Walcheren Island, key to Antwerp, had an almost comic ending when fussy little Lieut. General Wilhelm Daser, commander of the Wehrmacht’s 70th (White Bread) Division, suddenly made up his mind to surrender.

Some 250 British and Canadian troops, ready to drop from battle exhaustion, stumbled into 15th-Century Middelburg to find that Daser had paraded all his available troops—more than 2,500 of them —into the square and ordered them to squat down for the night. Then individualist Daser wrapped himself in a yellow patchwork quilt, retired to his bedroom with quantities of aspirin and Veuve Clicquot champagne, refused to go through with the formal details of surrender before dawn (link).



These quotidian images are disturbing, n’est pas?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

die nazisau

Another missive from a foreign correspondent:

The Mel Brooks video of the previous post reminded me of another contemporary take on the musicality of Adolf, this time hunkering down in his bunker. Walter Moers, a German author, created this great take on the absurdity of Hitler in today’s world.

2B ∨ ¬2B

One of my foreign correspondents sent me the following, and so I quote:

Has it really been a quarter of a century since Mel Brooks re-made Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not To Be? Here’s a little hip-hop number of the same title with Mel Brooks qua Josef Tura qua Adolf H.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Valkyrie

I had intended to discuss the new Tom Cruise epic in terms of its pro-Prussian nationalist blinders and its rather ridiculous implication that Claus von Stauffenberg was some kind of hero to the world for merely coming to the conclusion that, after six years of doing his darnedest for his beloved leader and his beloved leader's inestimable awfulness, that maybe the way things were going wasn't the best for the future of his beloved Deutschland and maybe he and some of his cronies better off the guy in charge before he did any more damage. Not to the world, mind you, but to Germany and especially to its officer corps. But Roger Friedman has already done it for me, better than I could have, in a beautifully lilting and scathing review, from which I quote a choice passage:

... in “Valkyrie” Singer opens the door to a dangerous new thought: that the Holocaust and all the other atrocities could be of secondary important to the cause of German patriotism. Not once in “Valkyrie” do any of there “heroes” mention what’s happening around them, that any of them is appalled by or against what they know is happening or has happened: Hitler has systemically killed millions in the most barbaric ways possible to imagine.

It’s kind of galling to allow now, in 2008, that von Stauffenberg et al were either totally unaware of this, or that they felt their mission superceded it. In “Valkyrie,” at the expense of making a joke, they are almost like Franz Liebkin, author of Mel Brooks’s fictitious “Springtime for Hitler.” His famous line in “The Producers” is: “War? What war? We vas in the back. We didn’t see a thing!”

A good list of Hitler assassination attempts is here, some by people less reprobate. Many involved in the German resistance were less bloody-handed than von Stauffenberg: for example the leader of the anti-anti-Semitic Confessing Church in Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, hanged with piano wire during the post-Valkyrie purges, and the Weisse Rose, all beheaded by the Gestapo in '43.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stalags

Nazi exploitation films such as Ilse, She Wolf of the SS fueled my youthful groping endeavors, and similar imagery has tentacles throughout American culture, including the "Men's Adventure" pulp fiction post WWII, but the weirdest and most Freudian-ly complex conjunction is the immense popularity of the Stalag among Israelis of the second generation post Holocaust, a "peculiar Hebrew concoction of Nazism, sex and violence," no doubt bred in large part by the Israeli culture's repression of the horrors of recent past. In these books, the protagonists are typically Allied soldiers who act out a series of power exchange exercises with jackbooted female SS-Helferin, ending in a rape-snuff orgy where evil gets its due.

In reality, of course, female guards and the few women that formally made it into the SS did not wear leather Nazi-chic fetish uniforms and those that were most sadistic, such as the notorious Dorothea Binz, later hanged by the British, were of the typical 'banality of evil' type, enjoying the corruption of power over life and death that affected so many ordinary German maids and ticket-takers and accountants, and existing in a netherworld of horror and brutality and filth, hardly the supervillians of such masturbation fodder. But such tidy sexualization of horror is common, clearly the most common progenitor of the grindhouse genre. The best-selling Hebrew novella House of Dolls, linked by some to the rise of the Stalags, which purports to tell the true story of Jewish women forced into prostitution in the camps is marketed as an exposé, but veers dangerously close to pornography in its explicitness. And, maybe even more dangerous is that fact that such ill-supported notions, carried forward into other cultural objects including the Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling vehicle The Night Porter, tend to blame the survivor of the horrors, villifying them for their toady collaboration with evil.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Feliz Nazi Blog

My literate writing time recently has been spent primarily on the blog I started with my sometimes librettist and always friend Jim Bisso, the explanation for which is somewhat difficult but is revealed by the gestalt of the postings en masse. UPDATE: this blog is no more, but its core has been folded into the E.W. blog hierarchy.

But I'm now in the process of composing a new waltz for Lynne, a companion piece as it were to the old one, both of which will be presented by the orchestra in the most waning day of February. My visit to New York has imbued me with a deep piety for all things artistic and renewed appreciation for hard driving ambition and a work ethic that allows not for fiddle-faddle.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Indulgence

I met Jesus tonight at a Party.  He offered me a vegan sweet as the body of Christ.  I told him that I had written much music to his glory. He laid his hand on my head and blessed me.

Conversation

Erling (explaining things to Bruce): I'm not actually pro-Nazi, I'm just fascinated by the Nazis.


Bruce (in simulated conversation, mockingly): voice 1: Oh, I don't actually like chocolate, I'm just fascinated by chocolate. voice 2: Oh, really, what is it that fascinates you? voice 1: The taste!


Erling: point.


Jim (in response): Oh, oh. I think we, and our age cohort, were inoculated with a dirty Axis needle. All those movies, TV shows, cartoons, and other ephemera. But I know what he means, whenever looking into any of this stuff online, I run across both ends of the spectrum (from Holocaust to Neo-Nazi sites), but it's the ones in the middle that usually give me pause. Those U-Boot, Axis military history, Waffen-SS, Iron Cross medal winners, that profess a fascination (phallic gazing) with but protesting an utter horror of Nazis.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Toothbrush with a Smile

The fact that Basil Fawlty can simply put his finger over his upper lip and flick his combover over his brow to evoke the greatest evil of all time shows the intensely iconic nature of these most simple of facial features, notably The Mustache, AKA the Chaplin, the Hitler, the Toothbrush. And in The Great Dictator, Mr. Chaplin exploited his aforementioned painted-on mustache in his excoriating portrayal of the title character, the familiarly fascist and anti-Jewish dictator of Tomainia, made to look so very terrible and ruthless but also somewhat funny and maybe even just a bit understandable, as don't we all just secretly want to be a little bit of a dictator ourselves, and not merely a tinpot one, but the next one up, like way up, because we agree with the following, one of my personal favorite quotes:

"The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters."

to quote Genghis Khan, an even greater megalomaniac than our dear and beloved Führer. And the cutesy-ness of the latter terrible and most evil evil brings us to the cutsily evil tees, marked by the infamous toothbrush, of the squeaky but not necessarily clean, but most prepubescent duo above, the notorious Prussian Blue, named after so many things:

Part of our heritage is Prussian German. Also our eyes are blue, and Prussian Blue is just a really pretty color. There is also the discussion of the lack of "Prussian Blue" coloring (Zyklon B residue) in the so-called gas chambers in the concentration camps. We think it might make people question some of the inaccuracies of the "Holocaust" myth.

Oh my oh my.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

my german question

From Anonymous Admirer: The historian Peter Gay (né Peter Fröhlich) wrote in the preface of his poignant memoir, My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin (1998),And so I asked myself, Why didn’t we pack our bags and leave the country the day after Hitler came to power? It was an agonizing question that I am going to ask again and again in these pages. I came to believe that I could appear as a witness as well as taking satisfaction from unsparing self-examination—and, I hope, giving satisfaction as well. Whether I have succeeded is not for me to say. But if I had thought I had failed I would not have published this book. Gay was born and raised in Berlin and lived there until, at age 16 and just after Kristallnacht, he and his family left for the United States via Cuba.

Propaganda

There is quite a wonderful archive of German propaganda from the Nazi years and beyond at the Calvin College website. Propaganda works quite well, and the average person basically accepts it either whole or half heartedly, and so it's worth a look to see something of the point of view of the Germans during the conflict. As an example, the cartoon on the right is quite enlightening. The context is the (from our point of view) accidental bombing of Switzerland, a 'neutral' country (more on that in a later post). The guilty airman is being questioned as to why he made the mistake and his response is that the flags of Switzerland and the Red Cross look so similar. To understand the humor of this cartoon, you have to know that it was a common belief in Germany that the Allies were deliberately bombing hospitals and Red Cross vehicles and facilities. Maybe we were, maybe we weren't. In Chunk Yeager's autobiography, he describes being given an order to go to a particular mile-square grid location in Germany and kill every living thing in it: person, animal, etc. He says he didn't feel too good about it, but he did it because that's what you did when you were given an order, the classic Nürnberg defense. Luckily for him, there are two major requirements for being a war criminal: one is committing the atrocity and the second is losing the war. Victors so write the history books as we know.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The German Problem

In the afterword to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer looks back at the unexpectedly overwhelming response to his book, positive in the former Allied countries and decidedly defensive in the former Axis. In recalling the attack on the book by the then-chancellor Konrad Adenauer, he points out that the Germans simply could not face up to their past, i.e., rampant adventurous conquest and slaughter. It is in this context that he discusses, as he calls it, 'The German Problem:"

And now, as the thirtieth-anniversary edition of The Rise and Fall goes to press, the world is suddenly confronted with a new reunification of Germany. Soon, united, Germany will be strong again economically and, if it wishes, militarily, as it was in the time of Wilhelm II and Adolf Hitler. And Europe will be faced again with the German problem. If the past is any guide, the outlook is not very promising for Germany's neighbors, who twice in my lifetime have been invaded by the Teutonic armies. The last time, under Hitler, as the readers of this book are reminded, the German behavior was a horror in its barbarism.

This raises the curious question: is there really something different about the Germans, different from the rest of us? If we say, yes, that there is inherent evil in the German People, then aren't we faced with an issue similar to that hallucinated by the Nazis, i.e., the alleged "Jewish Problem?" Or was Hitler somehow irresistibly charismatic and is there something inherently evil in all of us, although a difficult and bitter cup to drink, possibly true, and, as we face the current descent into economic chaos and the decline of the American Empire, maybe a glimpse into our own future?

I remember, after the wall came down, the raised hands of the nervous peoples of Europe, asking the obvious question, to wit: What are your intentions toward our sons and daughters?" and the hesitation of Germany, just a beat, but a hesitation nonetheless, to promise they wouldn't try to rebuild Grossdeutschland or maybe even just a bit more. As the Wikipedia article says:

To facilitate this process and to reassure other countries, some changes were made to the "Basic Law" (constitution). Article 146 was amended so that Article 23 of the current constitution could be used for reunification. After the five "New Länder" of East Germany had joined, the constitution was amended again to indicate that all parts of Germany are now unified. Article 23 was rewritten as keeping it could be understood as an invitation to e.g. Austria to join. However, the constitution can be amended again at some future date and it still permits the adoption of another constitution by the German people at some time in the future.

The final line is, of course, the kicker, and shows the apprehension of the encyclopedist, but I guess, if I had to choose, gun held to my head, that there is a little German in each of us, that given the proper confluence of economic misery and jingoist propaganda, we could find ourselves swept away, wondering why the bombs are now falling on us. No, wait, I'm wrong, it really is just them - the evil others - and now I may sleep a bit more soundly.

Friday, December 12, 2008

die untertitel sont erronés.

Also from an anonymous admirer: The film Der Untergang (2004) has spawned a slew of viral videos. One scene in particular. Deep in the Führerbunker, Hitler (Bruno Ganz) has realized that his house of cards is about to collapse. While the German soundtrack remains the same, folks have added new subtitles with alternate content. The first one I saw involved Hitler’s car getting jacked. The meme has just about run its course, but recently a sort of meta-meme has arrived on the scene. Quotha: Bad subtitles are sweet. All our base are belong to you. That is the fucking benchmark, not this shit.
"

take your daughter to work day

From an anonymous admirer, a picture of Heinrich Himmler’s daughter, Gudrun Burwitz, visiting KZ Dachau with her father and SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff. Born in 1929, she’s still alive and the “fickle Nazi Princess” (schillernde Nazi-Prinzessin) of the Stille Hilfe, a relief organization for arrested, condemned and fugitive SS members.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Music Theater

Went to The Cell Theater in New York tonight to see a panel discussion of the book on the left.  Eric Salzman also wrote Twentieth Century Music, which many of us read as children, and this latest is coauthored by Thomas Desi, whom I met at NewOp, I think in Amsterdam, which is how I met Eric as well.  Eric and Thomas are both talented composers and impresarios, and the book looks great. It's waiting for a read after The Piano Teacher. Afterwards, dinner with the two authors and Grethe Holby, who danced in Einstein and started American Opera Projects.  Eric doesn't like using "opera" or "chamber opera" for what we all do, as he thinks it carries too much baggage and too much of a connection to the opera singer voice of the 19th century. "Music Theater" is his preferred term, although I think that term is usually confused with American Musical Theater, and I kind of like taking back the Opera word. It sounds highfaluting and pompous but it's all meaningless to the person on the street anyway.



Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Polish Anti-Nazi Art




I had a lovely visit with my Art History Teacher Aimée Brown Price, whom I hadn't seen in a dog's age, today and noticed some Polish and Polish-Soviet War and Nazi Resistance art sitting about. Created soon after the war, they show a somewhat romanticized view of the Soviet involvement in the liberation.


Too Big

My fellow new music blogger Kyle Gann recently wrote a discussion of a discussion of the Nazis and the Republican Party, but the truth is you can't really compare anything to the Nazis. They are just too big. As Godwin's Law implies, they are the super-ultra-end of all comparisons, off the charts. Hollywood and the Video Gaming industries have always plucked them out of the bag when they need some Unrepentant Evil that requires no character development, no softness, no compassion, no other side to the argument that is their malevolence incarnate. I remember reading that Kubrick always wanted to make a film on the Holocaust but decided that it could never be done, that Schindler's List isn't really about the Holocaust, it's actually about the opposite of the Holocaust, hope in the face of hopelessness, but the reality of the Holocaust is really the all-encompassing horror of horror and hopelessness without end, with no escape, an abyss and a void, even the concerted disremembering of its own existence in the fall of the Reich. Even The Producers, which so wonderfully skewers the Prussians, doesn't mention the Shoah; its inconceivable savagery would overwhelm. The Fox News-ites who paint Obama as a Messianic Charismatic Hitlerian figure who will lead us into a Götterdämmerung are simply idiotic, simply haven't read their histories. There is no way to again be as big as he was, as big as they were.

Cold Comfort

I'm having sex in Ron Kuivila's bed, guest bed that is, with one of the other guests here in the house he shares with Bobbi and their young 'un in Middle Haddam, just north of Lower Haddam in the 'fucking Xmas card' that is Connecticut of the Holiday Season.  Ron and I have some connections going way back, having both appeared on Tellus cassettes back in the day (I particularly liked Canon X), and Ron and David Anderson collaborating on the design of FORMULA, a FORth-based Music LAnguage which I've very surprised didn't have broader uptake. It was amazingly well-designed, with a highly-threaded process-based model that seemed remarkably suited for music.  My late and amazingly talented composer buddy Jim Horton used it exclusively near the end, when his arthritis got so bad and his hands so crabbed and swollen that he could only peck at the keyboard, but through the tidy naming of a few very simple processes, could generate huge masses of sound. Dave was a professor at UC Berkeley when I was a grad student there and later was the ex-boyfriend of my now girlfriend: a plaything of We who struggle in the Incestuous Appalachia that is the Life in New Music.

It's so wonderful to be here, to talk about Music and Art with someone who knows more about it than me.  I don't get that much in SF these days.  I need to come back soon to the Methodist-sanctified ground here in the shadow of Wesleyan University.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Die Aktphotographie

I've always been fascinated by the utterly insane and so, toward that end, I present a feast of Scientific Racism, the perfectly sculpted Aryan Master Race Corpus:

Aryan nude

and let's not forget Leni, who tried so hard later in life to find absolution for her early sins, namely and once again, the perfectly sculpted Aryan Athletes in their many and womanly almost-nakedness, putting the shot and throwing the javelin and in general prancing about:


Hey, it's funny


"For the amoral herd that fears boredom above all else, everything becomes entertainment.  Sex and sport, politics and the arts are transformed into entertainment. Even religion will have to become show business if it is to survive. Nothing is immune from the demand that boredom be relieved (but without personal involvement, for mass society is a spectator society). If television does not yet exist in this society, it will have to be invented."

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