Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunday (villain)

Meeting the villains was my favourite part of GK Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.

I found Sunday to be quite memorable and I kept picturing this statue: the head of an Emperor that was part of an exhibit in the Roman Forum. I would design him with sausage like fingers and focus on the size of his shadow. I'd adapt the book to screenplay if Tim Burton and Jim Henson would bring it to life.

Then, as Syme continued to stare at them, he saw something that he had
not seen before. He had not seen it literally because it was too large to see. At the nearest end of the balcony, blocking up a great part of the perspective, was the back of a great mountain of a man. When Syme had seen him, his first thought was that the weight of him must break down the balcony of stone. His vastness did not lie only in the fact that he was abnormally tall and quite incredibly fat. This man was planned enormously in his original proportions, like a statue carved deliberately as colossal. His head, crowned with white hair, as seen from behind looked bigger than a head ought to be. The ears that stood out from it looked larger than human ears. He was enlarged terribly to scale; and this sense of size was so staggering, that when Syme saw him all the other figures seemed quite suddenly to dwindle and become dwarfish. They were still sitting there as before with their flowers and frock-coats, but now it looked as if the big man was entertaining five children to tea.

I'm sure his existence inspired the design of Marvel's Kingpin.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Public Deletion

Facebook is an introductory course in public relations. Members constantly think about their online image, experimenting with branding and spin.

Facebook, my great great grand, is a website that encourages members to put pictures, videos and text online. They share your media with members that you have selected, granting them the power to view and make comments ("friends" in the jargon of the site). In return for this space, Facebook shares a rudimentary level of your information with advertising firms who hope to target you with more relevant and persuasive advertising.

I have added many young friends on facebook. They are part of a generation that had been more woven into expressing themselves online. I have noticed some long term relationships come and go. A few times, I have noticed that when they break up they systemically delete all of the profile pics with their former partner. Many of the photos of cute kissing and mutual silliness disappear. What must it feel like to remove someone from your digital identity? Like burning a shoebox of love letters and gifts only in a more public forum. I think this is why I like tattoos. More permanent reminders of the past.

I feel they are specially suited to understand modern propaganda and that history is an active, daily process of selecting the past.

Photos. Stalin and Yezhov no longer in love.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What I Learned from Eichmann in Jerusalem

Book Review

I finally found Eichmann in Jerusalem in Washinton DC in a used book store. It proved to be one of my favourite nonfiction books for its topic (the trial of a Nazi in Israel) and for the author's (Hannah Arendt's) insight.

After World War II, most of the defeated Nazi leadership had committed suicide. The remains were hung at the Nuremberg Trials (1945). Some of the Nazi leadership had escaped abroad. In 1960, Adolf Eichmann was abducted from Argentina by Israeli agents and put on trial in Israel for 'crimes against humanity'. His role in the Nazi party was in transportation -first deporting Jews abroad and then to extermination camps.

1. The banality of Eichmann
Yes, Eichmann was guilty and it was obvious that he would hang. But the trial was tied up in Israel announcing its power to the world and seeking a dramatic catharsis. The proceedings became a stage for Holocaust survivors to tell their stories (and who would deny them that right?). It was a long attempt to paint Eichmann as a murderous monster. The truth was more sinister. Arendt paints Eichmann as a cliche bureaucrat still irked from being passed over for promotion. He seemed equally satisfied deporting Jews (and wasn't this saving them?) from Germany before he was ordered to send them to death camps when the Final Solution began. He's frustrating because he fails at being a villain.

2. Judenrat. Jewish collaboration with Nazis.
Eichmann, who began his job by helping to deport Jews, often sought leaders in the Jewish community. Arendt insists that the Holocaust would not have been as successful without the help of local Jewish leadership collecting information for Nazis, maintaining a semblance of normality, and policing the ghettos. "The whole truth was that if the Jewish people had really been unorganized and leaderless, there would have been chaos and plenty of misery but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people."

3. Stateless people.
The people that the Nazi party had the most success deporting and murdering where stateless. There was more resistance if they had citizenship. I feel that this provides real preventative information for future state extermination projects. If your state is denying citizenship to refugees they are enabling genocide. Romania and Hungry had particularly murderous governments. Eichmann was more active in these areas than in Poland where most of atocities from the testimonies took place.

4. Denmark was the exception
In Denmark there was more assistance for Jews to escape (to Sweden) than any other country. I have seen this mentioned several times. In Glover's book about 20th Century morality called Humanity and in this book. Both times there are were no specific cases only general mentions of money and lodging provided for escaping Jews.

5. Justice
Justice cannot be separated from history. Even the judges striving for objective sentencing end up performers in a revenge play.

The top photo is notorious. A man looks at the camera about to be executed in a ditch. It is a memento for the murderers who wrote "Last Jew of Vinnitsa" on the back.