Sunday, August 26, 2012

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

What if the South had won the war?  Would slavery still exist today?  What would a Ken Burns documentary about the "War of Northern Aggression" look like?  These and many more questions are answered by the "mockumentary" C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2006).  We rented the film last night and had a lot of good laughs.  Some of the scenes were hilarious.  More troubling were some of the items that were presented in the film as if made up -- but they weren't.  Anyone who grew up in the US in the Fifties or Sixties can probably remember other instances of racism in advertizing or on TV.  If you rent the film, make sure to watch the extra materials, including information about the historical basis for some of the things portrayed in the film.  The film stays true to the Oscar Wilde quote that it cites:  "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you."  Given the film's small budget, Kevin Willmott created a good film.

Jefferson Davis moves into the White House
Abraham Lincoln is exiled to Canada.

There really was a tobacco company
by this name from the 1880's to the
early part of the 20th Century.
Three restaurants operated under
this name in Utah, Washington, and Oregon
from the Mid-Twenties to the late Fifties.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pit Stop in Lyon

At the end of July, we fled cool and rainy Germany and headed to France.  We stopped in Lyon for two nights and spent the extra day sightseeing.  We took the funicular up to Fourvière to enjoy the great view and to visit the Basilique Notre-Dame and the Roman theater.   

Looking across the Saône and Rhône towards

Looking towards the northern part of the Presqu’île

Further South

Place Bellecour, a truly magnificent square

Bloggerboy Junior was going to meet us in Cannes, so, on our extra day the ladies went shopping, and I, lonely male, walked up and down for several hours exploring the Presqu'île and the Sixth Arrondissement, drank coffee, and skimmed lazily through my guide book before heading back to our hotel to freshen up and go to dinner.  The next morning we headed to Cannes along the autoroute du Soleil.  We were lucky: there was more traffic heading north than south on Sunday morning, a day to change beds (German:  Bettenwechsel).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Power of Pussy Riot

Russian Criminals?

"Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetic? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, the state-controlled corporations, or his menacing police system, or his obedient judicial system. It may be that the harsh, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; that otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more persuasive, transcendent guarantees of his long tenure at the pinnacle of power. It was then that it became necessary to make use of the aesthetic of the Orthodox religion, which is historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.

How did Putin succeed in this? After all, we still have a secular state, and any intersection of the religious and political spheres should be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society. Right? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of the Orthodox aesthetic in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had an aura of lost history, of something that had been crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present a new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project that has little to do with a genuine concern for the preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.

It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, given its long mystical ties to power, emerged as the project’s principal exponent in the media."

-- Yekaterina Samutsevich

[As a side bar, I wonder whether the mainstream media in the US is afraid to devote much attention to this case, for fear of having to publish the group's name on its front page.  Today's NYT/IHT website got around the problem with the following headline and snippet:      
"In New York, a Show of Solidarity for Russian Band