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My dad went into the Army when he was 20 years old.

This was not necessarily his idea, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise; it was 1943, after all, and the Army needed as many healthy, fit young men as it could get.  The war in Europe was starting to turn in the Allies’ favor as they advanced up the boot of Italy, and that meant that every man who could carry a gun was welcome.  That Dad was an only child, that his father had recently died, that he was a college sophomore training to be a math teacher – none of that mattered.  America called, and so he dutifully reported to Basic, watched Why We Fight, learned to clean and disassemble his carbine in the dark, and shipped out to Nebraska along with his new best friends for more training until his unit was needed.

In many ways Dad was lucky.  Unlike my uncle Lou, of whom I’ve written before, Dad was in a unit that didn’t see much combat.  This may be why he mustered out with a Good Conduct medal instead of Lou’s battle stars, and why in some ways his war comes across as much less grim than his future brother-in-law’s.  For Dad, who was a talented amateur photographer from a young age, not only took his camera with him, he had the time to snap pictures wherever he went.

I’m still researching just what Dad’s unit did so I can put the cache of photos that Dad took between 1943 and 1945 into context, but what I’ve seen so far is a fascinating look at one ordinary young man’s experiences.  From joking around with his buddies in Lincoln to snapping everyone’s picture in Avignon, carousing on the beach with lovely young Frenchwomen during a leave to visiting relatives in the Home Counties, posing beneath the Eiffel Tower to catching his buddies asleep – in spite of war, destruction, and danger, Dad seems to have spent as much time enjoying himself as anything else.  He might have taken other, less happy pictures, but if he did, either his mother, my mother, or Dad himself didn’t think they were worth preserving.

So far, so good; Dad was far from the only GI to snap a few harmless candids in between bouts of shooting Germans and raiding enemy wine cellars.  As precious as these souvenirs are to me, they’re of little interest to anyone who isn’t a social historian…except for one set of tiny black and white photos Dad took in the summer of 1945.  These four pictures, each one no larger than 1.5” x 2”, show that even after two years of war, Dad still had his sense of humor, at least when it came to the biggest, baddest Nazi of them all.

For it seems that Dad and his friends, all ordinary young men from the Midwest, were somehow, someway, allowed to tour what was left of Adolf Hitler’s mountaintop retreat at Berchtesgaden.

Berchtesgaden, which Hitler had first turned to because it was close enough to the Austrian border that he could slip into his native land if the Bavarian authorities decided to arrest him as a political agitator, had become the place for senior Nazis to rest, relax, and plan the next stage in world domination, genocide, and art theft.  The chalets and cottages weren’t as garish or ostentatious as, say, Herman Goering’s absurdly overblown manor, but they were still far nicer than anything the average German could boast, at least until the RAF bombed the entire complex in April 1945.

Dad, who seems to have taken quite a bit of pleasure in recording both the luxury and the destruction, dutifully labeled each shot of his quartet in his messy, dramatic handwriting:  “Hitler’s House” (the remains of the Eagle’s Nest after the Brits took revenge for the Blitz); “Hitler’s Movie Theater” (now occupied by curious GI’s staring at the damaged screen);  and “Hitler’s Bathtub” (defaced by a soldier from Titusville, Pennsylvania who somehow managed to get his hands on a grease pencil).  Best of all is the dark, obscure photo of what initially appears to be a planter of some sort.  Dad labeled this one “Also Hitler’s,” and it takes a few minutes to realize that it’s what’s left of Hitler’s very own private privy, now bereft of water tank, handle, or seat.  

I’m working on scanning these pictures (especially the one of Hitler’s toilet), since it’s pretty much certain that I’m the only person in Easthampton, Massachusetts, who owns a photograph of an object so intimately associated with history’s greatest dictator.  If nothing else, it’s a way of honoring my father’s little effort in knocking the late and unlamented dictator down a peg (or two, or three….)

Dad may have taken those pictures primarily out of curiosity, but it's pretty clear that at least part of his motive was making fun of the man with the funny little mustache.  He was far from alone in deciding that the best way to defang the chief Nazi was to mock him; beginning with a 3 Stooges shortmocking the dictator of "Moronica" (followed shortly by Charlie Chaplin's masterful The Great Dictator), Americans had been bombarded with media representations of Hitler that made him look weak, foolish, or just plain dumb.  Whether it was comic books showing a super soldier socking Hitler in the jaw, lowbrow humor involving Hitler's photo pinned to one of the 3 Stooges' posterior, songs about the joys of spitting in the former Austrian's eye, even science fiction about cleverly designed chants driving him even crazier than he already was - for a while it seemed that poking fun at Adolf had supplanted baseball as the Great American Pastime.  

And if pro-Nazi groups sent death threats to the Jews who'd come up with the super soldier, or Hitler placed the 3 Stooges on his "to be killed when I conquer the world" list, well, all was fair in the Good War, at least when it came to raising morale on the home front.  Even with all the death, the destruction, the sheer evil of the Nazi regime, it was hard not to laugh at how much Hitler himself looked like the Little Tramp, or how dramatically he ranted and raved and all but foamed at the mouth in front of an audience.

The mockery ended around the time the war did, when Allied forces liberated the death camps and saw first-hand what that comical little man's theories had led to.  Oh, there's been the occasional attempt at mockery - just think of The Producers, or Hogan's Heroes - but any man who could order something as hideous as Auschwitz wasn't funny, and neither were his followers.  Post-war depictions of Hitler have rightly emphasized the horrors that his particular brand of insanity wrought upon the world, whether upon the ordinary citizen, religious, sexual, and racial minorities, or ruined cities, not how ridiculous he was.

At the same time, there's still that faint, all but lost, but unmistakable air of the absurd about the Nazis, especially the way the movement developed until the infamous Night of Broken Glass showed once and for all that that yes, Hitler meant every word he said about his plans for German Jewry.   The homoerotic art, the sleekly pompous higher-ups , the dark-haired leader obsessed with blond perfection, the astonishing excuse for science that flourished once most of the intelligentsia had fled for America and Britain  -

Tonight I bring you something that might seem impossible:  two Nazi-related books So Ridiculous They're Good.  One describes a Nazi-endorsed cosmological system straight out of a bad pulp novel, while the other is an occult mess purporting to link Hitler's life story to a medieval artifact -

Glazial-Kosmogonie, by Hans Hörbiger - One night in 1894, an Austrian engineer Hans Hörbiger went out to gaze at the moon.    Hörbiger, an engineer by training, knew little about astronomy, but as he contemplated the harsh, brilliant surface, he wondered if perhaps both could be attributed to surface ice.

Now, this is not nearly as foolish an idea as it sounds today; remember, this was the time when respected astronomers like Percival Lowell taught that there were canals on Mars, or that Venus was covered with thick, moist clouds that concealed lush jungles.  Hörbiger was far from the only person to think that there might, just might, be ice or water in the otherwise forbidding craters of our little sister world.

Unfortunately for his reputation (but fortunately for lovers of the peculiar), Hörbiger’s theorizing soon jumped an entire school of sharks, if not a veritable kraken.  Thanks to a dream involving pendulums suspended in space, he became convinced that not only was there ice on the moon, this meant that conventional beliefs about gravity, the solar system, and cosmology were completely wrong.  Now convinced that Sir Isaac Newton, then regarded as the last word on gravitational theory, was an inexplicably popular quack, Hörbiger worked on his ideas solo until 1898, when he met an amateur astronomer named Philipp Fauth.  Fauth, who was a schoolteacher, had a small reputation as a lunar cartographer thanks to a large, popular, almost completely correct map he’d published a few years earlier, and so Hörbiger may be forgiven for believing that he knew what he was talking about.  

The two men worked, and worked, and in 1912 decided to publish their groundbreaking discoveries as Glazial-Kosmogonie.  The book came out to little attention, few reviews, and almost no sales, almost certainly because of beliefs that struck the average scientist then (and now) as little better than the ravings of the insane:

-    The solar system originated not in a giant cloud of gas and dust orbiting about what became the Sun, but after a dead, waterlogged (?) star fell into a much larger star.  

-    The resulting explosion scattered water throughout the cosmos, where it froze into enormous blocks of ice.

-    Among these ice blocks are the Milky Way, our solar system, other solar systems, and many, many, many planets that eventually dissolved, or exploded or were used by God in the mother of all cocktail parties

-    Hydrogen gas in the space between planets changes their orbits from nice little Keplerian ellipses to inward spirals.  They’re accompanied by yet more ice blocks, some of which they swallow, some of which are actually meteors.

-    These meteors sometimes collide with Earth, resulting in hailstorms, or the Sun, where they become vapor that covers Mercury and Venus with “fine ice.”

-    What we call “the moon” was actually the sixth terrestrial satellite.  It was only captured by Earth in the Cenozoic area, an event that was preserved in the racial memory

-    All photographs that purport to show billions and billions of other stars, galaxies, dust clouds, nebulae, etc., were faked by “reactionary” astronomers who were too invested in conventional theory to realize that they’d been hornswoggled by mere mortals like Galileo, Keper, Brahe, Newton, etc.  The same applied to anyone who pointed out that the moon’s surface was over 100 degrees centrigrade (well above the melting point of ice), or that there was no possible way his theories made mathematical sense.  "Calculation can only lead you astray,"  Hörbiger sniffed, and went off to publish another book or article.

Curiously enough, these fascinating insights did not immediately inspire every astronomer in Germany to rush out and either dance round the flaming piles of conventional textbooks that were now useless, or drown themselves in the Elbe out of shame at having been so gullible.  Much to Hörbiger’s dismay, sales (especially at the universities that were the pride of Germany) remained low, and his masterwork attracted almost no attention.

Of course, a little thing that happened in 1914 called “The Great War” may have factored into this to a certain extent.

Hörbiger was nothing if not determined.  He waited until Germany’s political system and economy had stabilized after the Armistice, then set about promoting his wonderful theories to the general public.  He was convinced that the ordinary German would prove far more insightful and sympathetic to his ideas than those stuffy Herr Professor Doctors at Heidelberg and Jena and Berlin, which meant better sales, more publicity, and maybe, perhaps, eventually, if enough people saw the merit in his ideas and clapped their hands and swore they did too believe in fairies, his brilliant theories might finally gain the academic acceptance he craved.  Public lectures, movies, radio programs, novels, a newspaper modestly named The Key to the World, even academic journals devoted entirely to the promulgation of what he now called the “Welteislehre (World Ice Theory or WEL)” – Hörbiger spared no expense in getting out the word that stars, comets, and hailstones were pretty much the same thing.  

As wrong as he may have been about the cosmos, Hörbiger was right about the German people.  Whether it was because of aftereffects of the crushing defeat the Reich had suffered on the Western Front, lingering horror from hyperinflation, or too much exposure to cabarets and Expressionist films, Germans everywhere were soon crying, "Out with astronomical orthodoxy! Give us Hörbiger!"  Learned societies sprang up, including the grandly named Komotechnische Gesellschaft (gesundheit!) in Vienna, and Hörbiger began to enjoy the fruits of his labor at last.

And then an Englishman who’d married Richard Wagner’s stepdaughter learned about the theory, and Hörbiger’s fame was assured.

This gentleman, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, was the delicate, dreamy son of a British admiral.  Obsessed with Germany, German culture, the German “race,” and at least two German women (both of whom he married), Chamberlain was the author of The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, a repulsive, elegantly written disquisition on the virtues of the Aryan race.  This book was a great favorite of Adolf Hitler’s, who found much to admire in its glorification of the Master Race and its rejection of the theory of relativity promoted by that notorious Jew Albert Einstein.  Rank and file Nazis, playing follow der Fuehrer, agreed, and by the time Hörbiger finally went to the great iceball in the sky in 1931, his followers decided that it was time to ally themselves once and for all with National Socialism.

Soon the WEL was the official Nazi cosmology despite the singular lack of hard evidence that any of it was true.  WEL supporters were openly proclaiming that, "Our Nordic ancestors grew strong in ice and snow; belief in the Cosmic Ice is consequently the natural heritage of Nordic Man," and despite Nazi higher-ups like Heinrich Himmler assuring the educated members of the party that no, they didn’t have to throw their heads out the window and believe in the WEL, Hitler’s plans to build a WEL-compatible planetarium in his hometown of Linz made it pretty clear that non-believers should keep their views to themselves.  Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of ordinary Germans came to believe that Earth had had five previous moons, and if the world at large giggled and almost every decent astronomer or physicist in Germany decamped for the United States, so what?

Unfortunately, what seems to us today like harmless quackery was anything but when Nazi meteorologists decided to apply the WEL to weather forecasting.

During the little conflict called World War II.

On the Russian Front.

Yes, gentle readers, as ridiculous as it sounds, Hans Hörbiger’s crank cosmology was used as the basis for weather predictions that led the Wehrmacht to throw itself toward Moscow and Leningrad with summer uniforms, oil that froze solid at low temperatures, and inadequate supplies.  By the time the Russian winter swept down in all its bitter, blasting glory, it was too late for the badly overextended soldiers to do anything but quietly freeze to death while the warmly clad Russians bombed, shot, and sniped them to pieces.

Perhaps embarrassed by their association with the Nazi Party, or simply ashamed of all the death and destruction their ideas had caused, WEL cultists kept their views very, very quiet for several years after Hitler, Himmler, and their truly believing friends had joined Hörbiger in the chilly afterlife.  The WEL was far from dead, however, and as late as 1953 over a million people in Germany (no surprise), the United Kingdom (somewhat surprising), and the United States (say what?) were still convinced that the WEL was true.  

Whether this has anything to do with the similar (if distressingly Jewish-authored) theories of Immanuel Velikovsky enjoying a ready audience in the United States about ten years after World War II is for better scholars than me for ferret out….

The Spear of Destiny, by Trevor Ravenscroft - One of the best adventure movies of the 1980s, and possibly of all time, is Raiders of the Lost Ark.  This brilliant update on old-time serials has everything one could want in an action picture:  a dashing scientist with a shy streak, a tough and gorgeous dame with a mean right hook, and a set of eminently hissable Nazi archaeologists who attempt to tamper with Forces They Do Not Understand and get their comeuppance in spades, clubs, hearts, and diamonds.  It’s tremendous fun, and if the most recent (and dear God, let it be the last) sequel was something of a mess, that doesn’t detract from the glory of the first film.

Few realize that Indiana Jones’ antagonists were inspired by a very real group of Nazis.  Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, believed that Aryan culture had been shortchanged by archaeologist who preferred to concentrate on the trivial contributions of Middle Easterners to early Mediterranean civilization.  In 1935 he founded the Ahnenerbe, a "study society for Intellectual Ancient History,” to remedy this sad situation.  The Ahnenerbe were sent out into the world with the mission to find any and everything that could be possibly classified as an Aryan artifact, then bring it back to the Fatherland to aid in establishing the hitherto unacknowledged role of Aryans in the founding of civilization.  

Himmler’s teams, many of which included trained archaeologists who should have known better, fanned out across the world.  Tibet…the Middle East…Sweden… Finland …wherever there was even the slightest hint or rumor of an Aryan or Aryan-related archaeological site, the Ahnenerbe soon followed.  And if it turned out that the Aryan site was actually full of artifacts relating to Tibetan Buddhism, or Finnish prehistory, or somesuch nonsense, well, it was up to this intellectual elite to ferret out their true meaning and enlighten the world about the glories of the Aryan past.

Of course the Ahnenerbe did not neglect the Reich itself.   Their scientists uncovered much interesting, if all too frequently bogus, information at allegedly Christian sites throughout Germany, Austria, the Crimea, France, and Italy.   They also served as expert consultants to the great ingathering of German art to the Reich during World War II that has become notorious as “The Rape of Europa,” as works by Germans, or showing German history, or that once belonged to Germans several hundred years earlier, “repatriated” to Germany for inclusion in Hitler’s proposed Museum of German Art in Linz.   Never mind that the owners of this art frequently weren’t paid (wealthy Jews), or that some of these works had been commissioned by non-Germans (Veit Stoss’s altar for a cathedral in Krakow), or had never even been in Germany (the Bayeux Tapestry, which qualified because the Normans were actually Franks, or Vikings, or something).  

And then there was the greatest collection of all:  the crown jewels of the Habsburg emperors.  

This remarkable collection, which includes two crowns, the coronation regalia of the Holy Roman Emperors, divers reliquaries, a couple of swords (one of which supposedly had belonged to Charlemagne, although this was disputed by the French), and the Imperial Orb, was preserved at the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna after the fall of the Habsburgs in 1918.  Hitler, who regarded himself as the spiritual and political heir to the Habsburgs and the Hohenzollerns, reclaimed the collection after the Anschluss in 1938 and returned them to their ancient home of Nuremberg.  By a remarkable coincidence (ha!), Nuremberg was the spiritual home of the Nazi Party, site of their annual rallies so memorably chronicled in Triumph of the Will and other light entertainment.  

For all his flaws, Hitler was not stupid, at least until he decided to believe his WEL meteorological reports and send his troops off across the Russian steppes in their summer uniforms.   Although he owned the Austrian regalia, he never actually went through with a coronation ceremony, although there have been rumors for years that either he or his buddy Himmler considered the idea.  German-American art historian Walter Horn, who was instrumental in tracking the collection down after V-E Day, was convinced that Himmler, who espoused all sorts of weird occult beliefs, had planned to use certain items from the collection as the foundation for a quasi-chivalric order of elite SS officers who would succeed the Teutonic Knights and rule the Reich for generations to come.  

For it seems that both Himmler, a failed chicken farmer who looked about as deadly as, well, a chicken, and Hitler, who looked just as crazy as he actually was, were utterly convinced that these objects, as well as much of what the Ahnenerbe had managed to accumulate, were more than just objects.  They were foci of mystical and occult powers, used by Aryan occult masters for centuries to consolidate and center their power over the Master Race and its subject peoples.

Those who think that this sounds utterly ridiculous, that no modern politician could possibly believe in such nonsense, should keep in mind that Ronald Reagan regularly scheduled important bill signings in accordance with astrological advice, that George W. Bush’s administration appointed numerous Christian Reconstructionists and their allies to high office with an eye to dismantling non-Christian science and health education, and Hillary Rodham Clinton reportedly held a couple of séances in the White House while she was First Lady.   The only difference is that American politicians aren’t in the habit of wearing George Washington’s Masonic apron during Cabinet meetings, donning Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe hat, or smoking Kennedy's fine Cuban cigars.

Also, America hasn’t been around long enough to have what is purportedly a relic dating back to the Crucifixion itself.  

I refer, of course, to the legendary Spear of Destiny.  This ancient weapon, which belonged to the Holy Roman Emperors for generations, was long rumored to be the Holy Lance itself, the weapon used by the centurion Longinus to stab the dying Jesus as he hung on the Cross.   It come had to the Habsburgs almost a thousand years earlier, during the reign of Otto the Great, founder of the empire that was neither holy, nor Roman, nor actually an empire, and its loss was considered deadly to the wielder (see:  Frederick Barbarossa dropping it while fording a stream and promptly being swept down stream to drown).   That there are at least four other Holy Lances in various European countries (including one in the Vatican that had as good, or possibly better, a claim to authenticity), or that the Lance itself seems to have been made around six hundred years after the Crucifixion, does not seem to have made much of a difference to the Habsburg relic’s reputation.   Even today, ten years after chemical and archaeological analysis clearly showed that, at best, the Viennese lance contains a 1st century CE Roman nail that might or might not have been used to crucify Jesus, the mystical glow that pervades the Spear in occult and New Age circles shines as bright as ever.

For this, we must thank the late, great Trevor Ravenscroft.  For it is Ravenscroft’s 1973 book The Spear of Destiny and his somewhat later follow up The Mark of the Beast that irrevocably linked the Holy Lance to the Nazis in the public eye.  

Ravenscroft’s story as exciting, and as accurate, as the average airport paperback about mystical conspiracies involving secret government agencies, evil operatives, and Occult Powers Man Was Not Meant To Use.  He claimed that during the years Adolf Hitler spent as a starving artist in Vienna prior to the Great War, he saw the Holy Lance during a tour of the Kunsthistoriches Museum, heard a guide state that whomever possessed the Lance would rule the world, and immediately resolved that he would do both.  

"I knew with immediacy that this was an important moment in my life, and yet I could not divine why an outwardly Christian symbol should make such an impression on me," said the young Adolf, and even though he had no political experience, no money, and no friends except for a couple of (Jewish) art dealers who helped sell his watercolors to unsuspecting tourists, he knew that he had somehow, some way, learned his true destiny.  

Ravenscroft, who somehow knew exactly what Hitler said and thought despite a complete lack of anything that approached a historically accurate source, went on to record how Hitler spent the next three years obsessed with the Lance.  The future dictator visited it numerous times, researched its illustrious history, and even fell into a trance wherein he supposedly received mystical confirmation that the Lance had " a mighty presence around it -- the same awesome presence which [he] had experienced inwardly on those rare occasions in [his] life when [he] had sensed that a great destiny awaited [him]."

Alas, neither Hitler (nor Ravenscroft) seemed to know, or care, that the Spear of Destiny hadn’t done the Habsburgs much good in the end; leadership of the German-speaking world had shifted to the upstart Hohenzollerns, the bright and promising Crown Prince Rudolf had blown his brains out after shooting his teenage mistress, and the last emperor had abdicated after the Armistice.  Ravenscroft attempted to get around this sad decline by claiming that the Spear was actually controlled by an evil spirit (in which case one has to get around its possession by devout Christians like Maria Theresa, or enlightened despots like her son Joseph II) and the focus of all of human aspirations (even though a large proportion of humanity has never even heard of it).  

Perhaps oddest of all, Ravenscroft claims that one of Hitler’s motives for starting World War II was to possess the Spear…even though it came into Nazi hands over a year before the invasion of Poland.  It’s also hard to reconcile the assertion that whomever possesses the Lance will possess the world with Hitler’s defeat on the battlefield and his eventual suicide, both of which took place while the Lance was safely tucked away in a bomb-proof bunker in Nuremberg.  Of course the latter took place on the very same day that the American conquerors rolled into the shattered remnants of Nuremberg…but the next person who allegedly possessed it, General George S. Patton (!), never held political power, wasn’t even the overall commander of the Allied forces, and died shortly after the war in a car crash, none of which really supported Ravenscroft’s assertions.

Worst of all, the American government, which Ravenscroft claimed reached the heights of global power thanks to its possession of the Lance, never actually owned it or any of the other Habsburg regalia.  It might have been in their keeping during the last few months of the war (or, why Ravenscroft gleefully claimed that the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was at least partially thanks to the evil influence of the Lance, never mind that Harry Truman was several thousand miles and an ocean away from its mystical powers when he gave the order that sent the Enola Gay aloft), but the Americans never considered it their rightful spoils.  It was returned to Vienna as soon as was practical, where it remains to this day.

If anyone truly can claim that Austria is now the dominant country in the EU, let alone the world, I have yet to hear of it.

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Do you own any strange books by or about the Nazis?  A copy of the National Lampoon parody claiming that someone had written a book about Hitler's secret canine air corps?  A well-thumbed copy of Trevor Ravenscroft?  A DVD of the 3 Stooges literally and figuratively kicking Hitler in a delicate area?  Come gather round the field telephone and share...

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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 06:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And you know it's coming (18+ / 0-)

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 06:07:48 PM PST

  •  some of this (11+ / 0-)

    figures into Charlie Stross's Laundry series. He writes a lot better than they did....

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 06:17:09 PM PST

    •  Malfoy-the-cat writes better than they did (10+ / 0-)

      And he is by far the stupidest cat I've ever owned.

      •  Comment of the day! (9+ / 0-)

        (according to moi)

        We can't out-do Jack & Joe's alter-ego socking Schickelrgruber's jaw, but here's Blackhawk.

        Said hero led an international group of aviators against the Nazis in WWII. He was a Polish officer in the origin story by Will Eisner & Chuck Cuidera circa 1940.

        Reed Crandall was one of the great brush-and-ink masters of the mid-XX Century and worked on the best Blackhawk stories IMHO.

        Millions of us – the majority – must come together to insist that President Obama and the Democrats stand up and fight for the things we sent them there to do ... Michael Moore

        by MT Spaces on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 07:09:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That looks excellent (7+ / 0-)

          I've heard of the character - and if Eisner's involved, you know it was good.

          Speaking of Kirby, BTW, evidently drawing comics saved his life a couple of times when he was in Italy during the war.  His platoon got pinned down by enemy fire at one point, and his buddies insisted that he be saved first because they didn't want the man who'd created Captain America getting shot!

          •  He never said anything about Italy ... (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aunt Pat, Dumbo, Dauphin, xaxnar, Ahianne

            ... but ...

            He spoke at length about a prolonged battle over a river valley in France, near Metz -- wounded at least once, and returned to the front after he'd healed (somewhat).

            He drew all the time -- for his buddies, and in letters he sent home.

            Millions of us – the majority – must come together to insist that President Obama and the Democrats stand up and fight for the things we sent them there to do ... Michael Moore

            by MT Spaces on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 07:21:53 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I may be wrong about the location (7+ / 0-)

              I wonder if they'll ever publish his wartime sketches?  I just found thislovely wartime memoir by cartoonist Joseph Farris, who was in the Army during the war and took his sketchbook with him.  Gorgeous art and fascinating letters home, and I can't help but think that one by Kirby would be just as interesting.

              And then of course there's Bill Mauldin, whom the brass hated and the soldiers loved because Joe and Willie said what they couldn't....

              •  We weren't that close ... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Dumbo, xaxnar

                ... but we were friends anyhow. If he was in Italy, it just didn't come up when we spoke.

                Millions of us – the majority – must come together to insist that President Obama and the Democrats stand up and fight for the things we sent them there to do ... Michael Moore

                by MT Spaces on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:22:37 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Bill Mauldin in Italy (4+ / 0-)

                I have Mauldin's "Upfront" in hardback, it belonged to my father. Much more interesting is this crumbling paperback published in 1944:

                Not only did it belong to my dad, but it is extensively annotated by him, including a prefatory letter addressed to me. My dad was in the landing at Salerno, was wounded at Anzio, and fought his way up the Italian boot, even was in charge of the liberation of a minor concentration camp in northern Italy, where some Austrians were held, including Kurt von Schuschnigg, the last head of the Austrian government before the Anschluss.

                If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

                by pimutant on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:30:46 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  PS: Size failure! (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MT Spaces

                  I tried to resize this, but nothing changed! Dang Photobucket anyway! I will strive to remember to always and only upload at the size I want, and never ever try to edit anything once it is there. Sorry.

                  If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

                  by pimutant on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:33:36 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  That sounds similar to my uncle Lou's war (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ahianne

                  He was a sergeant in a tank destroyer battalion under Gen. Clark, and yes, he was definitely in Italy.  I never dared ask what he saw or where he saw because his regiment liberated Dachau, and evidently what he saw was so horrendous that he simply didn't want to talk about it.

                  •  And that was just a concentration camp. (0+ / 0-)

                    Not a death camp.

                    The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

                    by raboof on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:53:11 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  And even that was bad enough that evidently (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      raboof

                      Some of the Americans present (including members of Lou's unit) basically went crazy and massacred the guards who'd already surrendered.  The most I ever found out that was Lou witnessed the inmates stoning a trustie to death, but I'm sure he saw more than that.

  •  And in the "Books so bad they're appalling" (20+ / 0-)

    category, we have The Pink Swastika by Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams, which claims that Hitler was gay, most high-ranking Nazis were gay (because gay men are so much more violent & dangerous - no, really, that's their argument), and most serial killers have been gay as well.

    This is of course the same Scot Lively who was heavily involved in pushing for the "Kill the Gays" Bill in Uganda, and who is currently being sued by a group called Sexual Minorities Uganda.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 06:25:16 PM PST

  •  I read a book when i was a teenager (8+ / 0-)

    about the "joy houses' where women were pushed into prostitution for the nazi's. i'm not sure if it was fiction or just  sensationalized non-fiction. But, anyone who has a deep need for controlling others, usually has more than one skeleton in the closet. thanks for the diary.

    "Let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation....It's how we are as Americans...It's how this country was built"- Michelle Obama

    by blueoregon on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 06:50:22 PM PST

  •  I can no longer read Gen Patton's name without (11+ / 0-)

    seeing George C Scott. As a result, the thought of him possessing, even briefly, this magic stick seems oddly appropriate, kind of like closing the loop.

    Thank you for another fascinating trip into a world I had no idea even existed. (I'm terribly jealous of your possession of your father's photographs, especially those of the Eagles Nest and Hitler's toilet. Awesome.)

    "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

    by Susan Grigsby on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 06:54:29 PM PST

  •  as an undergraduate (7+ / 0-)

    I really wanted to do a doctoral dissertation on WWII propaganda cartoons

    yksitoista ulotteinen presidentin shakki. / tappaa kaikki natsit "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) 政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 07:28:05 PM PST

  •  Ice Pirates! (6+ / 0-)

    Well, one part of the ice theory is being proven correct - astronomers are finding ice almost everywhere they look in space (as opposed to the old theories that water was rare), with water ice being found in craters on the Moon, permafrost on Mars, the rings of Saturn, more water/ice on the moons of the gas giants than Earth has, and even on Mercury!

    The diary made me (vaguely) remember the horrible 80s movie 'Ice Pirates', about space adventurers who were planning on stealing a huge chunk of ice, because water was incredibly rare in the universe. Of course they were making their plans in space bars where everyone was drinking big glasses of beer.

    "Marco Rubio es un pañuelo Rosa!" - Montgomery Burns

    by Fordmandalay on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:19:38 PM PST

  •  Roy Thomas and the Spear of Destiny (5+ / 0-)

    The Ravenscroft book might well have been the inspiration for Roy Thomas to incorporate the Spear of Destiny into the DC Universe.  During the '70s and early '80s, Roy wrote a number of comics set during the Golden Age for both Marvel (THE INVADERS) and DC (ALL-STAR SQUADRON).  To explain why Superman and Green Lantern didn't just fly across the Atlantic to Berlin and beat the snot out of that little Schickelgruber, Roy had Hitler performing a magic spell involving the Spear of Destiny which would force any super-powered types entering German-held territory to fall under his control.  To explain why Superman didn't fly to Tokyo either, Roy had Emperor Hirohito do something similar with the Holy Grail.  Which makes even less sense.

    Okay, Roy could get pretty doofy sometimes, but I find it hard not to love him; because his love for the Golden Age heroes and stories is so evident, and because of the delight he takes in interweaving bits of continuity, history, pop culture and literature into his tales.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:22:11 PM PST

    •  That's an interesting way to retcon it (2+ / 0-)

      Especially since DC's Golden Age heroes were much, much, MUCH more powerful than the Marvel Product; Wonder Woman and Superman alone could probably take down just about every Golden Age Marvel character without even breaking a sweat, with the possible exception of Namor (whom I've never liked, and how none of the Marvel writers has succumbed to the temptation to have Cap slug him on general principles for being an ass is beyond me).  

      I also have to wonder if that Noah Wyle series about the librarian and the spear somehow was based on Ravenscroft.....?

      •  I loved the first of those movies (0+ / 0-)

        but then they dropped the kickass female character for the sequels!

        I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

        by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:41:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Another Retcon Theory... (3+ / 0-)

        In James Robinson's late '90s graphic novel miniseries THE GOLDEN AGE, he revealed that the "Spear of Destiny" story was actually Allied propaganda.  The truth was that the Nazis had one super-human called Parsifal whose power was to negate the powers of any super-type around him.  After an incident where one of America's heroes barely escaped after an encounter with Parsifal, the government decided that the blow to morale from having a super-hero killed was too great to risk until they could make sure Parsifal was neutralized.  And the Nazis were very careful to keep Parsifal's movement's secret.  

        So the U.S. sent a non-powered Masked Mystery Man called -- I am not making this up -- "Mister America" to go undercover behind enemy lines and gather intelligence about Parsifal.  (You'll be happy to know that for this mission he changed his name to "Americommando").

        But the "Spear of Destiny" thing was the cover story to explain why FDR insisted on keeping Green Lantern and Flash on the Home Front.

        We never see Parsifal in THE GOLDEN AGE.  The story is set after the War and Americommando's actions during the War are part of its backstory.

        "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

        by quarkstomper on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:51:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Spear of Destiny... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, nolagrl

      The spear that stabbed Christ, comes straight out of a source Hitler would have been intimately acquainted with: the opera Parsifal by Wagner.  It's a rare documentary about Hitler that doesn't use some Wagner for background music.

      Of course, the Parsifal/Percival/Arturian legends have their own long mythological genealogy.

      When I heard Spear of Destiny, the phrase itself was a new one to me, but my mind immediately flashed to the final scene of Parsifal.  Gorgeous music, and this dumb guy marching around on stage with this big ass spear like a wooden erection.

  •  Hitler Schmidtler - well somebody had to say it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Purple Priestess, northsylvania

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 09:45:48 PM PST

  •  I've read a couple of books (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, northsylvania, Ahianne

    about the "occult branch" of the Nazi party. The Thule Society, Hitler as a medium, Ernst Kraft.... all of that. I had read that the reason Hitler blundered into Russia was due to losing his official astrologer, who would cast the horoscope before a battle or campaign. The U.S./UK managed to plant "evidence" that caused Hitler to banish his astrologer and, without his guidance, Hitler decided to go into Russia.

    Either way, Hitler relied on pseudo-science that undoubtedly supported his own desires. Dumkopf.

    Thank your stars you're not that way/Turn your back and walk away/Don't even pause and ask them why/Turn around and say 'goodbye'/Just wish them well.....

    by Purple Priestess on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 10:14:57 PM PST

    •  Oh, there's plenty of evidence (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Purple Priestess

      Himmler in particular was convinced that the SS was the spiritual heir to the Teutonic Knights.  Walter Horn, the art historian, visited the Wewelsburg, Himmler's castle, while he was looking for the Habsburg regalia, and if he's to be believed, there was some really weird ritual stuff going on.  

  •  Here's your Magic Spear: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pimutant, raboof, Ahianne

    It sounds like Ravenscroft was channeling Wagner.  Some of the musical should be familiar from its being stolen and used in a host of fantasy epics like Excalibur and The Davinci Code.  G

    Now, about weird Nazi books... You'll probably have trouble finding this, but there's a novel called The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad.  When you open it, though, there is a long introduction about the novel The Iron Swastika, a novel written by Adolf Hitler (in an alternate universe where instead of becoming Der Fuhrer, he moved to America and wrote pulp sci fi.).

    Wiki has a great summary of it here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    The Iron Dream is a metafictional 1972 alternate history novel by Norman Spinrad.

    The book has a nested narrative that tells a story within a story. On the surface, the novel presents an unexceptional pulp, post-apocalypse science fiction action tale entitled Lord of the Swastika. However, this is a pro-fascist narrative written by an alternate-history Adolf Hitler, who in this timeline emigrated from Germany to America in 1919 after the Great War, and used his modest artistic skills to become first a pulp-science fiction illustrator and later a successful science fiction writer, telling lurid, purple-prosed adventure stories under a thin SF-veneer. Spinrad was intent on demonstrating just how close Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces — and much science fiction and fantasy literature — can be to the racist fantasies of Nazi Germany.[1] The nested narrative is followed by a faux scholarly analysis by a fictional literary critic, Homer Whipple, of New York University, which it is said to have been written in 1959.

    The novel tells a story of a post-apocalyptic world that is populated by mutants, and one pure human on a motorcycle who drives all over Europe uring the pure humans to rise up against the subhumans oppressing them.

    It's actually very fun reading, although there's a ghoulish feeling beneath it, because as familiar and fun as the formula is, the framing makes it impossible to recognize the dangerous parallels.

    Now that I think of it, I can feel some uncomfortable similarities between that book and AMC's The Walking Dead.  The same joy in saying, "These people don't count anymore, so now we can enjoy shooting and dismembering people in as many depraved ways as we can imagine!"  Spinrad tapped into a common vein.

    •  The Iron Dream is a great read (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, llywrch

      Audacious in conception and execution, it turns SF's satirical power back on itself. It makes the mordant point that, had it not been so horrifically real, the story of the Third Reich would qualify as SF.

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 02:24:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it made an even darker suggestion (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raboof, pimutant, nolagrl

        than that, that the whole SF/Fantasy genre had an unconsciously fascist subtext.  I didn't know he was directly addressing Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces, but one of the attacks levied against Campbell is that he was in some ways sympathetic to fascism, although I don't know enough of the details of that to form an opinion.  Hero of a Thousand Faces, though, may be the most important books written in the twentieth century on mythology and culture.

        •  I read the Iron Dream about 30 years ago. It was (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo

          already a classic even then. It was very funny in a sick sort of way. Much as I enjoyed it, I had to put it aside for a couple of days about mid-way through. It's kind of sickening, quite frankly.

          "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

          by Kimball Cross on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 05:13:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think Campbell was a fascist (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, Dumbo

          A later book, Myths to Live By, pointed out that humans need myths, and one of them is the Hero.  Among the examples he used was the parallels between the funeral of John F. Kennedy and the funerals of mythic culture heroes in the past.

          •  I just now read a long debate in LTEs between (0+ / 0-)

            academics in the New York Review of Books from 1989 about Campbell and his alleged political leanings and antisemitism.  I find it more interesting than the original anti-Campbell article that started the argument.  You can read it here if you've got a lot of time or if you find this kind of thing fascinating, like me.

            http://www.nybooks.com/...

            There are a number of unflattering anecdotes shared, but no smoking gun like, "Nazis sure do have good ideas!"

            I think the biggest connection between Joseph Campbell and fascism is a deeper one with a shared common subtext that doesn't make his ideas about myth right wing.  Rather it's a whole orbital sphere of symbolic romantic idealism in which you can find lots of connecting lines but no NECESSARY connecting lines, nothing to say that if you believe in a world of common human symbolism that you MUST then also believe in Aryan world conquest.  There are too many intervening steps between those two positions.

            Here are some of the connections, though.  Campbell was obviously inspired, foremost, by Carl Jung.  (Somebody whose ideas I'm a bit familiar with because my mom was a Jungian groupie of sorts when I was growing up.  I've told her version of Red Riding Hood a few times on here.)  Jung believed in archetypes, that there were basic beliefs and stories common to men across the globe, across cultures, for some reason.  He thought it was biological or because of blood memory or a whole lot of mystical twaddle like that, although he never claimed certainty.  

            Jung himself found great inspiration in Wagner, too.  If you haven't seen David Cronenberg's recent film about Carl Jung and his mistress, A Dangerous Method, it shows some of his interest in Wagner's operas, including a scene where he tests people's individual reactions to scenes from The Ring Cycle.  Wagner was big stuff back in the day.  

            Wagner, himself, had found inspiration for his operas in ancient myth, such as the myth of the Niebelungen, which became the basis of four of his opera.

            There's a common running theme there that you can find to connect all three, Campbell and Jung and Wagner and more, too.  Nietzsche, as well, who Campbell VERY frequently quotes, who wrote two books critical of Wagner's music.

            And then you have the Spengler connection.  I was surprised to see that name come up in the LTE's, but I shouldn't have.  Otto Spengler wrote Decline of the West, a book I haven't read but I'm a little acquainted with Spengler's ideas.  Spengler's book was big stuff in post world war I Germany.  It described how various cultures thrive and survive and then fail, and described how western civilization was about to fail and be replaced by something alien.  From wiki:

            The book also presents the idea of Muslims, Jews and Christians, as well as their Persian and Semitic forebears, being Magian; Mediterranean cultures of the antiquity such as Ancient Greece and Rome being Apollonian; and the modern Westerners being Faustian.

            According to the theory, the Western world is actually ending and we are witnessing the last season - "winter time" - of the Faustian civilization. In Spengler's depiction Western Man is a proud but tragic figure, for, while he strives and creates, he secretly knows the actual goal will never be reached.

            [...]Spengler presented a world-view that resonated with post-WWI German mood - a view of democracy as the type of government of the declining civilization. He argued that democracy is driven by money-breeding and therefore easily corruptible. Spengler initially supported the rise of a strong-willed leader type of government as the next phase after democracy fails.

            The link I gave doesn't provide the connecting glue, so let me take a stab at that as follows:

            Campbell's position is that myths are common to all mankind and cross all cultures.  Spengler's work was in studying different cultures, the philosophies that they lived by, and why they survived and failed.  Nietzsche's work was in studying different MORAL systems peculiar to different cultures, religions, and times in history and comparing, contrasting them, from a relativistic point of view.  

            There's something else though that provides a common link (except with Spengler) and that's the intuitionist aspect of it.  Wagner and Jung and Campbell were interested in this resonant idea from late German romanticism of there being a deeper cultural symbolism.  To a certain extent, Nietzsche had this interest as well, although he was more skeptical.

            Let's put Jung and Campbell apart from them for a moment.  Jung and Campbell found things COMMON across cultural boundaries.  The cultural boundaries that separated Indian myth from Finnish myth, for instance, were proof to them of there REALLY being some deeper underlying symbolism common to all men.  However, much of the language of this (like "race memory", sheesh) evolved out of this earlier nasty stew which was mostly anti-semitic for historical reasons.

            You also see the name Thomas Carlyle pop up frequently in discussions about Campbell and Spengler -- and, through tenuous flaky connection, also in discussions about fascism.  Thomas Carlyle was a Scotch historian who wrote the biography of Frederick the Great, a biography that was very well written, but it's famous for other reasons as well, for it turned into a kind of cult favorite through its Romantic characterization of Frederick.  Any good discussion of "The Great Man Theory of History" usually turns to Carlyle pretty quickly, because Carlyle interpreted the events of the late 18th century through a lens in which great events were the result of the will of this one great hero.  Carlyle reinvented western history by making it more subjective and Romantic through his interpretation, and a lot of people loved it.  It's no concidence that Carlyle's book was the one Hitler carried with him into the bunker and that he had paintings of Frederick on the wall in the bunker as well.  (You can see a sad, thoughtful Hitler looking at that painting in that much-parodied flick Downfall.)

            So what I see, looking at all, is an interesting mish mosh of hero-worshipping, sword and sorceror mythology, mystical intuitive ideas about man's cosmic subconscious, dangerous ideas about the collective destiny of individual cultures, and collisions between them all, like comets bouncing off each other in the kuyper belt.  But the road from the Niebelungen to Campbell to Hitler to Luke Skywalker is such a tenuous one that there's a risk here in that looking for danger in this combination, we might miss how interesting and useful and even beautiful the rest of this mish mosh may be.

            Still, my antennae go up when I sense that mishmosh.  For instance, The Dark Knight, remember that?  When Dark Knight Returns came out, I posted I wasn't going to bother watching it because I was turned off by the fascist overtone of the previous film.  Oh, that got people mad at me!!  

            •  Did you ever read (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dumbo

              Frank Miller's Dark Knight Graphic Novel trilogy? Brilliant execution but creepy.

              Haven't paid much attention to Miller since the abomination of 300.

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:45:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yup, used to own that. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                WB Reeves

                Loved 300 and Sin City, too, although Sin City's warrior hookers were a bit too silly.  Funny how 300 became an instant hit with the neocon keyboard commandos.  Andrew Sullivan called it the gayest movie ever made.

                Frank Miller is above board about his own right-wing leanings.  

                The intersection of the right and romantic art is absolutely fascinating to me.  I always feel that they don't know what it is they are channeling, but, hell, maybe I don't know what THEY are channeling.  

                Found this just now.  Der Blaue Licht (1932) by Leni Riefenstahl.  It's a recompletion of the whole film, with so little talking it's basically silent.  Check out the scene starting around 4:00.  The faux-Wagnerian film music is fantastic and very appropriate for it.  I'd like to know who did that.  That's Riefenstehl in the lead role in the torn dress.

                There's that feeling there of channeling from the collective subconscious.  The same thing was done by the Symbolists, so maybe Riefenstehl qulifies more as Symbolist (capital S) than Romantic, I suppose.  The lines between those two are blurry to me.

                Now, compare that to this, a film clip I found a couple of weeks ago that I bookmarked, a clip from We the Living by (drum roll...) Ayn Rand!  It's an unauthorized film made in fascist Italy during the war, and she disavowed it, but I see that the complete film is being sold by her Objectivist buddies.  It's a great clip, though.  A man on the street mistakes the protagonist for a whore and she goes along with it because, hey, oh whatever.

                Beats the hell out of Atlas Shrugged.

                •  I have to confess (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Dumbo

                  Leni at the waterfall put me more in mind of Wilhelm Reich than Jung.

                  It does have a dreamy, ethereal quality, leavened with dollops of kitsch. It strikes me as rather formalistic, despite the romantic mysticism of its theme. I get a hint of the sensation induced by seeing Jean Cocteau's "Orphee" for the first time, albeit in an extremely muted fashion.

                  The film's composer is listed as Giuseppe Becce.

                  I don't believe it. The day has finally come when I agree with Andrew Sullivan about something.

                  Sorry but by presenting the Spartans as defending liberty and denouncing the Athenians as "boy lovers", the author entered an Orwellian alternate universe. Eliminating the role played by the heavy bronze armor worn by the Spartan Hoplites, while good for titters and some heavy breathing, turns the whole into a sweaty fantasy having no factual relation to the event it exploits. This is leaving aside the racist caricature it draws of the Persians.

                  We the Living is the one book of Rand's that I'm interested in taking a stab at. Since it's set in the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the revolution and civil war, it's material she knew from first hand experience.

                  I think the motivation for the woman going along with the john's mistake is to emphasize how little sense of her own value she has. The atmosphere seems calculated to evoke depression and despair.

                  BTW, did you notice that the bar's name is The Tractor? I understand that in the first decade of the revolution both Lenina and Tractorina became popular names for girls.

                  I have to admit, I don't see much comparison between the two clips.

                     

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 01:25:50 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  That wasn't a suggestion. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo

          It was a crowbar hit.

          Spinrad knew exactly what he was doing, and has said so often.

          The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

          by raboof on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:58:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Are You Sure it wasn't John Campbell? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WB Reeves, Dumbo, SoCalJayhawk

          Are you sure Spinrad was attacking Joseph Campbell?  Granted, I haven't read The Iron Dream, but from what I know of the book, I would have assumed that Spinrad would more likely be poking at John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction and the most influential editor of SF's Golden Age.

          John W. Campbell liked expressing outrageous ideas, although he seemed to like to think of himself as a gadfly challenging conventional wisdom.  

          The Wikipedia article on him quotes the opinions of several writers about him.  Michael Moorcock's comments, I think, are particularly relevant:

          British SF novelist Michael Moorcock, as part of his Starship Stormtroopers editorial, claimed Campbell's Stories and its writers were "wild-eyed paternalists to a man, fierce anti-socialists" with "[stories] full of crew-cut wisecracking, cigar-chewing, competent guys (like Campbell's image of himself)", who had success because their "work reflected the deep-seated conservatism of the majority of their readers, who saw a Bolshevik menace in every union meeting". He viewed Campbell as turning the magazine into a vessel for right-wing politics, "by the early 1950s ... a crypto-fascist deeply philistine magazine pretending to intellectualism and offering idealistic kids an 'alternative' that was, of course, no alternative at all".
          I suspect if John W. were alive today, he would be a vigorous cheerleader for the Tea Party.  But for all his flakiness, he was a shaping force in the field of science fiction and nurtured many of the writers who became the field's giants, such as Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.  He challenged his writers to make stories about people rather than gimmicks and helped the genre to grow up, even if was only from infancy to adolescence.

          "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

          by quarkstomper on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 09:21:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is pretty much my understanding (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ellid, quarkstomper, Dumbo, SoCalJayhawk

            Spinrad wasn't indicting SF as a genre, rather a particular flavor of SF that reflected a militaristic, authoritarian and racist outlook.

            Campbell certainly promoted a lot of stuff that would fit the bill. One has only to inquire into the genesis of R.A. Heinlein's "Sixth Column". Campbell's insistence on resuscitating the "yellow peril" trope drove Heinlein up the wall. So much so that he actively subverted Campbell's intentions in the story.
             

            Nothing human is alien to me.

            by WB Reeves on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:39:22 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Weirdly enough, he was an isolationist (0+ / 0-)

            to the point that Heinlein wrote him a letter basically telling him to leave L. Ron Hubbard when Hubbard was in the Navy because Campbell was enough of a pacifist (at least at first) that Heinlein was afraid Hubbard would desert or something.  Heinlein himself had been to Annapolis and was enough of a Navy man that he tried to reenlist despite a medical discharge, but Hubbard had been a civilian, and not all that stable, so it's easy to see where Heinlein was coming from.

          •  There were a number of writers (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves, quarkstomper

            who despised John W. Campbell for just that.  And not just for the differences over politics but because they felt that it was oppressive and that they all had stories to tell of great stories turned down, and Campbell retaliating when they succeeded in getting published elsewhere the stories that he had turned down himself.  So there's near universal agreement that JWC was a dickhead.

            However, the Wiki article refers explicitly to Joseph Campbell and The Hero.  Campbell was coming into the prime of his popularity about then (he would peak with Moyer's PBS series), so I find it credible.  The connection between Joseph W. Campbell's ideas and hero-worshipping fantasy and SF may be deeper than the one between John Campbell and the stories that he published in Amazing.  Joseph may not have had direct contact, but he describes well a certain Wagnerian Jungian kind of thinking about story telling as myth that has some right wing fascist elements to it -- and we can trace those same sentiments to the roots of right wing political movements themselves, including Hitler and the manufacturing of the whole Nazi Aryan mythos.  It's a fascinating, fascinating subject that's hard to even get started on.

            And read my reply I'm going to write to Ellid below.

            •  How much do myths underly (0+ / 0-)

              all forms of storytelling? Is it really possible to draw a bright line between fascist and non fascist aesthetics based on their relation to mythic archetypes?

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:51:05 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think it's too big an issue to address (0+ / 0-)

                just that way.  

                You know how Freud described the Oedipus Complex as being a syndrome similar to what happened in the Greek tragedy of Oedipus?  Jung would have put that the other way around, that the original play Oedipus Rex was channeling something common to the collective subconscious of the human race.  You could make a thin argument that all art does that, but some art does it more deliberately.  

                I don't know any clear way to separate fascist from non-fascist aesthetics.  Fascist aesthetics seem to be pretty damn interesting, to judge by Wagner, and I think we'd have a crappier world without the music of Wagner or the novels (some anyway) of Ayn Rand or the comics of Frank Miller or the poems of Yeats, despite how we feel about their politics.

      •  Science fiction is always a commentary (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WB Reeves, Dumbo

        Seriously.  Even the pulpiest space opera.

    •  I read it years ago (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo

      Fascinating concept.

    •  "Iron Dream" is a rare book? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo

      Damn, I owned a copy of that book years ago & sold it back to Powell's not long afterwards during one of my periodic purges of SF paperbacks.

      Well,  I still have a number of valuable books in my library. (Examples include an autographed first edition of Hitchhiker's Guide, a 1930 paperback copy of The Postman Always Rings Twice, & a copy of the Weather Underground's Prairie Fire. And academic monographs always seem to be good investments, for some reason.) When I die, I hope she'll find an honest bookdealer who can get fair value for them & not just dump them at the local Goodwill.

      •  I'm not sure if it's still in print (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dumbo, llywrch

        Ditto Bug Jack Barron, Spinrad's eerily prescient look on the modern media.

      •  I just assumed it would be rare (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ellid, llywrch

        because I bought it so long ago and it was a cheap pulp paperback back then that I never saw again nor any discussion of.  Opne of the best things about it was the blurbs on the backcover with rave reviews by people like Harlan Ellison "4 stars!" for the brilliance of Adolf Hitler's writing.

        Okay, I looked up the book on Amazon:

         2 new from $194.57 14 used from $43.00 1 collectible from $38.00

        Damn.  I have that book in a box somewhere in my garage under 20 year old christmas lights and possum shit!  

        •  The possums are shitting on your Xmas lights? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          llywrch

          What, they don't have Xmas lights of their own?

          •  They go in my garage and poke around in everything (0+ / 0-)

            I haven't laid out poison because I have cats.

            Besides, who cares, 20 year old christmas lights.  Still, that Spinrad book is probably underneath them, with a lava light and an old Cheech and Chong vinyl.

            I've also developed a skunk and raccoon problem recently.  The raccoons I can live with, although they scared the holy living crap out of me the first time I saw them, a whole family, staring back at me from the porch where they were stealing some cat food from my cat.  They even growled at me instead of scattering, maybe just to see if I'd bolt first.  Ballsy little fuckers.

            But skunks... No, I don't want to live with that.  My renters, for one thing, don't like it and I could understand if one moved because of it.  I need to get a shotgun and shoot the damn thing.  I've put that off hoping I could trap it, but not even the possums will touch the havahart traps, and I don't want them anyway.  The police wouldn't like the sound of gunfire, but I doubt anybody in the neighborhood would hate me very much if I waste that skunk.  

            "Come on out and say your prayers, skunk, before I blast you to smithereens!"

  •  I read a book on Nazi archaeological fantasy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo

    that was a terrible bad book.  It was apparently a sequel to another book, but there was nothing that made me even want to finish that book let alone read any others.  
    I don't remember much more than that or who the author was.  It was that terrible.

  •  The Normans (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, jabney, Ahianne

    actually were the descendants of Norse Vikings. I certainly didn't learn that Stateside in World History, nor heard much about it since, but it's general knowledge over here.

    "We are monkeys with money and guns". Tom Waits

    by northsylvania on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 02:17:02 AM PST

    •  That's right (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, northsylvania

      The first ancestor of the current British royal family was a Viking named "Rollo" or "Hrolfgar" or something like that, who invaded Normandy and became its Duke.  William the Conqueror was his illegitimate grandson or great-grandson.

    •  Angles, Saxons, Normans, Danes, Jutes... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      northsylvania

      The big old mush of . . . Germans.

      The "time of migrations" bugs me. Why did they all migrate?

      Anyway, the Germanic tribes were all pretty buff, and they were running from something. They went east, so it was one Germanic group whooping on another. Hitler made a big deal out of that, telling the English that they were fellow Germans.

      What's crazy is that the only ones who weren't were Basques, Ibernians, Celts (?), Italians, and Greeks. Of course everyone else had had the good sense to drop the racism at some point.

      People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

      by The Geogre on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:34:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why did they all migrate? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        northsylvania

        Turf and bling.

        Why else?

        best,

        john

        Strange that a harp of thousand strings should keep in tune so long

        by jabney on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:52:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm at least a third Celt on my father's side (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        northsylvania, The Geogre

        Welsh and Scotch-Irish, with some English thrown in.  

        Mum's family was all German, from Baden-Wurttemberg.  We still had relatives in Karlsruhe when war broke out, and after V-E Day Lou tried to get a pass to go check on them.  Unfortunately, their last known address was in the Russian occupation zone so he never was able to find out if they'd managed to survive.

        •  Welsh isn't German, but. . . . (0+ / 0-)

          Given all the invasions and incursions of Saxons, it's hard to say that Scots aren't Germans, as the Norse got there and mixed in, and the English came and take (and forgot they were English). The Celtic Scots were probably pretty dilute by the 20th century, so even there "Germanic peoples" were present. The Irish, obviously, had Norse populations.

          The Germanic tribes were really, really . . . invasion-happy?

          I once saw a Euro-Asian White Wagtail (a bird) at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The bird had gotten there all the way from Asia. The guy's migration compass got turned on with "East" as its only direction, and it kept going until it got to ocean, then got to America and kept going all the way to the next ocean. I figure that's sort of what it means to be a "Germanic people," only in reverse.

          People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

          by The Geogre on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 05:54:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Don't Forget the Detour to... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pimutant, northsylvania

      ...Sicily. (At least, so I've read.)

      best,

      john

      Strange that a harp of thousand strings should keep in tune so long

      by jabney on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:54:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep, they were there (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jabney, Ahianne, northsylvania

        There is a tiny bit of architecture, here and there, in Sicily that one might characterize as Norman-Italian-Moorish. Rather weird stuff, and quite beautiful. I got pretty fascinated with the Normans there after visiting Sicily awhile back. Saw a museum show about it somewhere. Going back even further, there is also some very strange, and very lovely, Sicilian art from the Greek settlement period. Sicily is a VERY mixed culture!

        If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

        by pimutant on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 09:13:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Has anyone read "Moon of Ice"? (0+ / 0-)

    It's an unabashedly right-Libertarian alternate history in which the Nazi's won WWII. It's told largely through the Journal entries of Joseph Goebbels. It opens in a Libertarian USA established after FDR was impeached but rapidly shifts to a Europe ruled by the Nazis ever since their victory via A bomb in WWII.

    Full disclosure: I know the Author, Brad Lineweaver and was privileged to see how the story developed from a Novella in Amazing Stories Magazine to its publication in Hardback. I can't pretend to a great deal of critical distance. I'd love to hear what others think of it.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 02:41:59 AM PST

    •  Sounds interesting (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WB Reeves

      How did the Nazis develop an A-bomb, may I ask?  Evidently the Allies found after the war that the Nazi team was nowhere close to achieving results, probably because the only physicists they had left were Heisenberg (who was on the wrong tangent) and some guy named Johannes Stark who was sort of the equivalent of a grumpy old man yelling at the damn kids to get off his lawn.   How did Lineweaver get around this?

      •  Well it's been awhile since I read it. (0+ / 0-)

        I still have my copy though, complete with a jacket blurb from Wm. F. Buckley. As I recall Brad was a bit vague on the A Bomb stuff. The advantage of alternate histories is that crucial events happen differently or not all compared to actual events. That the Nazi's manage to get the Bomb despite the fact that they were nowhere near achieving such a thing in reality is part and parcel of the story's "what if?" premise.

        Part of it was that with the impeachment of FDR and the collapse of the New Deal before triumphant Libertarianism led by Pres. Dewey, there was no US entry into the war against Nazism and no US Atomic Bomb program.

        Of course all this is pretty much incidental to Lineweaver's main concerns: imagining how the world might have looked if the Nazi's had won and if Rooseveltian liberalism had been quashed. He also postulates a generation gap and youth rebellion by the offspring of the generation that fought the war and examines the differing mindsets between say, Goebbels and Himmler.

        Perhaps I should re-read it and do a diary?

        Brad collaborated on another alt history of few years ago titled "Anarquia" which I haven't read. It's set during the Spanish civil war and features a team up between Hedy Lamarr and Werner Von Braun on the anti-fascist side, with appearances by Ernest Hemingway, Ayn Rand, George Orwell and others.  

        Nothing human is alien to me.

        by WB Reeves on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:34:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A diary sounds like a great idea (0+ / 0-)

          Especially since I can't imagine how, or why, FDR would be successfully impeached.  He was wildly popular and had a heavily Democratic Congress.

          •  Roosevelt was before my time, but he inspired (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves

            vicious hatred from some of the most influential newspapers of the time. I think it would be safe to say that Roosevelt was widely popular amongst the poor & working classes, who he struggled to bring out of the Depression.

            But his ideas and ideals definitely struck a lot of his day's power-brokers as dangerous and they hated him with a passion.

            Remember that the Republicans hatred of Social Security stems from its very inception, and hasn't dimmed much since then.

            •  Very true, but again: FDR had huge majorities (0+ / 0-)

              In the Electoral College, the breakdown was like this.  Keep in mind that for there to have been a President Dewey, FDR would have had to have been impeached after the 1936 election, which FDR won by an overwhelming margin AND came away with enormous Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.  

              1932 -  

              FDR 472     Hoover 59

              1936

              FDR 523     Landon 8 (that's right, 8)

              1940

              FDR 449     Wilkie 82

              1944

              FDR 432     Dewey 99

              Hearst and other conservative media moguls may have hated FDR's guts, but unless they had been able to produce irrevocable proof that he'd been having dirty weekends with Hitler, Betty Grable, and most of Himmler's chickens, impeaching him at all would have been impossible, let alone getting a conviction.

              •  Remember "A Sound of Thunder" (0+ / 0-)

                by Ray Bradbury? A time travel tale in which an accident in the primordial past reverses the political reality of the present with catastrophic consequences?

                I've often wondered if that story was an inspiration for Chaos Theory. The death of a butterfly causes the death of a world. Bradbury was very cagey in structuring the story, neatly eliding any detailed explanation of the chain of consequences that led to the disastrous outcome.

                I'm with you though, on the question of plausibility when it comes to alt history. Some authors imagine that it permits them to ignore history altogether rather than extrapolating.

                I think I will re-read Moon of Ice and see how it stands up.

                Any nominations for worst alt history evah?

                Nothing human is alien to me.

                by WB Reeves on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:30:36 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Hm. That's a good question (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  WB Reeves

                  Maybe The Alteration, Kingsley Amis's odd little "the Reformation never happened and Martin Luther became Pope" novel.  There are so many, many, many things wrong with this in terms of cultural history that I simply could not read it.

                  •  Gad! (0+ / 0-)

                    Why not have John Calvin become Pope? After all, he was down with the whole burning heretics thing.

                    For myself I avoid alt histories where the South wins the Civil War. Lost cause and American Exceptionalist mythology substituted for a critical reading of history.

                    Nothing human is alien to me.

                    by WB Reeves on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 08:44:23 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Enjoyable - and, an odd relic of Adolph .. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    Very informative - good stuff.

    My family is German - mom, from a rural town; dad, from a town outside of Berlin - both of my parents were pre-teens during WWII. A fact I learned relatively recently, was that as a teen, my father collected groceries for his family at a distribution center during the Berlin airlift.

    When I was young, my father showed me a slide taken of Hitler, Bormann and other (unidentified, I think) officers in a somewhat formal pose at what must have been an early point in the Nazi's rule. From what I remember, an uncle of my father worked at a photo studio in Berlin, and he acquired it as a "souvenir" after the war. It barely registered with me, seeing as the subjects were all long dead, and it was just an image.

    It was only many years later, when I came to realize that slides differed from prints, and that it was that actual 1" x 1" pane of photo-sensitive film which was in the room, while in the camera, a few feet from the maniac, that it took on a much more creepy level of association in my mind - spiritual totems aside(!).

    If it ever comes into my hands, it'll quickly be on its way to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. - which has a very worthwhile collection and informative layout for anyone that hasn't been.

    Thanks for this!

    ..now, where did I leave my torches and villagers?

    by FrankSpoke on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 04:20:25 AM PST

    •  Forgot - the novel "Fatherland" .. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne

      A good read. Imagining what could have occurred if Nazi Germany had fought the Allies to a stalemate, approached in the form of a police crime drama.

      Don't think I ever caught the made-for-TV movie, but with Rutger Hauer and Miranda Richardson, and Golden Globe nominated (she won) performances and picture, I may need to keep an eye out.

      More trivia - Werner Klemperer (aka, Colonel Klink) narrates the audiobook version.

      Fatherland - the novel (wiki)

      ..now, where did I leave my torches and villagers?

      by FrankSpoke on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 04:42:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Klemperer was another actor (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, FrankSpoke, a2nite

        who took great glee in mocking the Third Reich - evidently he accepted the part only if the producers would promise that the Nazis would never, ever beat Hogan and his POW team.

        Weirdly enough, there actually was a Colonel Hogan who was imprisoned at Stalag 13.  He wasn't a commando, though.

    •  I'm looking for a home for the photos in time (0+ / 0-)

      Normally I'd look to the local historical society, but Dad has no connection to Massachusetts.  I'm thinking maybe the University of Pittsburgh, which has a huge collection of local history items...?

      •  When it comes to items of Nazi history.. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a2nite

        .. I always think of the D.C. Holocaust museum, because I visited it early in its life. For the manner in which the items on display are arranged, and the presumably wide access of the info/objects to scholars, researchers, etc., I assumed they would be the best choice.

        You could contact, say, the head of the History Dept. at Pitt, and the Holocaust Museum curator(?) and see what value they would attach to your collection. They might recommend a good course of action.

        ..now, where did I leave my torches and villagers?

        by FrankSpoke on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 10:56:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pimutant, Ahianne, WB Reeves

    Are there any good books rounding up crackpot cosmologies through history? I'd love to see something like that.

    I have to say, though, that I read through this diary expecting the title to be a reference to Tom Lehrer, specifically his song "Werner Von Braun."

    Let me sing you a song now of Werner Von Braun,
    A man whose allegiance was ruled by expedience.
    Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown:
    "Ha, Nazi, Schmazi," says Werner Von Braun.
    Don't say that he's hypocritical;
    Say rather that he's "apolitical."
    "Vunce ze rockets go up, who cares vere zey come down?
    Zat's not my department," says Werner Von Braun.
  •  I actually bought and read Spear of Destiny in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite

    the 70s. Yeah, if it was a serious of fantasy novels it could have been great, but shakes head it took itself seriously.

    "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

    by Kimball Cross on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 05:14:42 AM PST

  •  Ahnenerbe: CONTINUING effects (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    One of the projects of the group in language was to show the "true" Germanism of various things. They were the first ones to mount the argument that Beowulf is truly German with "Christian interpolations" that must be scrubbed from it or dismissed as feminizing.

    I said "continuing" effects.
    It is popular today, still, among those who want to discover the ecological (not kidding), neo-pagan (yep), and Jungian "truth" of the poem to build on these suspect works and to proceed as if, of course there is this pure German thing that was polluted by those nasty Christians.

    Beowulf is a single document as we have it. Analogs, sources, and backgrounds are very important, but the work we have been captivated by for over a thousand years is one thing. Further, I doubt the wisdom of any scholar today who believes he or she can tell the difference between a pagan moral code (cf Njalssaga) and an early conversion Christian one (cf Guthlak B, which is pretty pagan hagiography).

    People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

    by The Geogre on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:29:45 AM PST

  •  Best BAd Nazi Pulp cover of all time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite

    http://pulpcovers.com/...

    So what did men want from Nazi stories?  Degrade women,attack less manly men and generally separate themselves from ''the others''   You know the guy next door who might be a red.

  •  The power of stories to motivate people... (0+ / 0-)

    ...is a sobering thing to contemplate. Humans often use stories as a tool to understand and frame the world into something they can feel comfortable with. What's frightening is the way in which fiction becomes unquestioned 'fact' and terrible consequences follow - because to question the story might mean having to abandon the seductive bits that meet needs and desires of the believers.

    I recently read an advance copy of Bob Harris's upcoming book "The International Bank of Bob" He tells of traveling to Rwanda and trying to make sense of the genocide there. The scale of it is mind boggling.

    As Harris describes it, imagine the death toll from 911 in a population the size of Manhattan - times 300. Imagine it happening three times a day - breakfast, lunch and dinner - for more than three months, with frequent rape of women thrown in. So many people were caught up in it, to arrest and imprison the participants would require locking up most of the country. Instead, they're left with concentrating on the ringleaders and worst cases while trying to remake a society in which ordinary murderers are just part of the mass of survivors trying to find a way to go on.

    As he tells it, Tutsis and Hutus were an artificial creation of the Belgian Colonial powers that occupied the country for so many decades. They arbitrarily divided them into the two groups on the basis of physical features which not coincidentally reflected "superior" European/White characteristics. They used that as a basis to give preferential treatment to Tutsis.

    There was even a theory to explain the difference. Supposedly, the 'superior' 15% labeled Tutsi were descendants of Noah's son Ham and thus were inherently better fitted to bring the gifts of civilization to the benighted savages - the Catholic Church bought into this especially. (Which is why one Bishop presided over the massacre of members of his own congregation within a church.)

    Harris travels to other places in the world where toxic stories have decimated populations: Beirut, Bosnia, Cambodia... One of the questions he keeps asking is "How do you keep from going insane?" While the book contains much that is depressing and horrifying, in the larger context of the story he's telling, it's all about hope and love. These are places where micro finance and Kiva.org loans are giving people what they need to build better lives for their children and themselves. It's a powerful book that deserves to become a bestseller.

    But we don't have to resort to toxic myths to get into trouble. The other day I diaried about the outstanding reporting Kevin Drum has done on the increasing evidence that the great crime wave from the 1960s to the 1990s is strongly linked to the use of lead in gasoline.

    While some were making the lead connection at the time it was happening, many did not and developed their own theories and policies to deal with the problem. Zero tolerance policing, mandatory sentencing, racial stereotyping, assorted social pathologies as rationales - all of these things were attempts to provide some kind of story to explain what was going on.

    They're still with us too. Not all of them reflect the darker tendencies of humans - sometimes people honestly come up with what turn out to be wrong or incomplete answers. That doesn't mean they don't lead to bad consequences if we don't re-evaluate them in the light of what we learn.

    The world is made up of stories. Change the stories, change the world.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 08:12:28 AM PST

    •  Or, why the first thing a dictator does (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar

      Is crack down on artists, writers, and journalists.  We're the ones who see what's actually going on and speak the truth even if our voices shake.  A tyrant cannot stand this.

  •  Thank you Ellid for this well writtten gif, such (0+ / 0-)

    detail and knowledge makes me know why I am a KOS.

  •  Does anyone have suggestions for books (0+ / 0-)

    published between circa 1936 and 1944 about the run-up to WWII? It's fascinating to me to read contemporary takes on the period while the outcome was still unsure.

    Help us to save free conscience from the paw Of hireling wolves whose gospel is their maw. ~John Donne

    by ohiolibrarian on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:22:19 PM PST

    •  Hm (0+ / 0-)

      Maybe Berlin Diary, by William L. Shirer?  It's based on his diary during the late 30s/early 40s when he was a foreign correspondent based in Berlin.  It's clear that Shirer despised the Nazis, but then again, he knew most of them pretty well.

      There's also a recent book called Hitlerland that deals with Americans living in Nazi Germany during the 30s.  The bibliography probably would be very useful.

  •  2 of thee favorite stories of my youth: (0+ / 0-)

    When I was 18 I played on a soccer team founded by german jews. We had a player, Bernie, who during practice sessions would refuse to play on the "skins" team. We used to give him a joking hard time about it, assuming that he had some sort of shyness issue. Well, one day we finally got fed up and demanded he take off his shirt, (it was a very cold day and this time he sounded selfish) and there it was, a tattoo on his arm that was illegibly distorted by growth stretching his skin - see, we had never thought of the possibility because he was "too young" - he was born in 1938.

    A few years later I was riding on San Francisco's 38 Geary bus line - the heaviest travelled bus in the world - during the evening commute. At the end of the ride I made a "nacht und niebel" joke. Well, the next day the person I told the joke to came in looking very sheepish. It turned out he had repeated my joke, and a little old man sitting next to him on the bus said, "if you don't know you shouldn't talk".

    •  I ran into a birther on-line (0+ / 0-)

      Who kept spouting nonsense about "blood and soil."  I thanked him for exposing the racist and Neo-Nazi roots of his beliefs.  Didn't shut him up, unfortunately (nothing shuts birthers up) but it sure had the rest of the Obots pigpiling on him.

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