In Frankreich

Dear readers, I am in France. Paris. Parigi. My better half (he is here, as well) asked me why I always call it “Frankreich” and it is because when I was a student at the Sorbonne, many moons ago, I had nowhere to be at Christmas one year and a Swiss-German classmate invited me to come to Switzerland with her and stay with her family at Christmas. So I did. And as our train pulled past the French border she screamed out — in contempt — “auf wiedersehen, Frankreich!” I  might have forgotten that but for what ensued when we arrived at her family home. “Judgment at Nuremberg” happened to be on TV that first night and when I expressed a desire to watch it — her mother asked me what I wanted to watch — the entire family went bonky and were all, like, oh wow, the war ended over 40 years ago, why do we still have to hear about Jews and how  bad they had it?

It was truly creepy. I could not get out of there soon enough, but unfortunately, I had to wait till December 27th. Have never spoken to that girl or her Jew-hating family since. (I had the good manners to send them a thank you note, though.)

If you want to see some pics of our time here, please do check my instagram and my twitter feed. Will try to post here, but ’tis a bit difficult to do so on a regular basis.

I’m Still Here and I’m Callling all Yentes

As the song said.

I’m still here. Just been a combination of busy and dealing with a great upsurge of various emotions. My better half pointed out that we are coming up on the anniversary of my mother’s death, so I’m guessing that is a trigger. Will try to post more devotedly, but right now I direct your attention to My Uncle’s Letters from the War, a tumblr I started a while back (and which I have already linked to on this site). I have been so happy (though ’tis also rather bittersweet) to be in touch with people who either knew him or are the children of those who knew him and I’m hoping for more such feedback as I continue posting his letters.

Currently, I am calling all Yentes.

Leonard Nimoy: Of all the Souls I Have Encountered…

Sad about Mr. Spock’s death. I became a classic Trek fan thanks largely to one of my brothers. He used to watch it religiously in re-runs in the ’70s and I really had no option but to watch, as well. (We probably also watched the original together, though I don’t remember that far back.) My first thought when I heard Nimoy had passed was to that brother and to a dear friend in Ottawa who has always adored him. I also thought of Sheldon Cooper — speaking of, here is an article (in Italian) about Mr. Spock’s legacy and influence, including said influence on the Big Bang theory characters.

Of course, Nimoy was a fine actor in other roles, but he will always be Spock to most of us. And what was great about him was that he didn’t seem too ungrateful about that — he appeared in the Star Trek movies and had tremendous humour about the role that made him so famous. He was proud of his Jewish heritage, incorporating it into the “Live long and prosper” sign. He was also a vegetarian, I recently learned, and he loved cats! What is there not to admire here, people? As I tweeted yesterday, I have rarely seen the internets so united in grief. And no wonder.

Kitty Foyle

Kitty Foyle is one of my favourite schlocky movies from days of yore: it’s sort of an early rom-com, though short on comedy, more of a romance novel (and it actually was a novel) turned vehicle for Ginger Rogers (who was terrific in the role). One has to take it, though, as being “of its time,” so to speak. There is, for example, one particularly cringe-worthy moment where Kitty says that she is “free, white and 21.” Oy.

I watched it recently on Turner Classic, and I realized that for me, it represents  a connection to both of my parents. My dad told me once that in his youth, he had a big crush on Ginger Rogers, though he got over it when he discovered that she was, in his words, “a fascist.” Now, I did some reading on Rogers, and she was not a fascist. She was a Republican and not a fan of the New Deal or FDR. That said, when the war started, she abandoned the Republican isolationism of the era and became a full-on supporter of the war effort – she owned a ranch that donated milk to soldiers and she performed in numerous USO tours.

It connects to my mom, at least in my mind, because of her love of the word “pill” to describe a certain type of man. What type of man? Well, just watch Kitty Foyle and you’ll see that she is torn between two pills. In the end — spoiler alert — she chooses the pill who wants to marry her, rather than the pill who just wants her as a mistress. It’s a smart choice, I suppose, though one senses Kitty preferred the latter pill.

Here is the original trailer of the movie, in which you can see both pills, and Ginger rocking the role of a white-collar gal. (By the way, I like to think of myself as a “sassy mick,” just like Kitty!)

Sun TV

I was sorry to see Sun TV go under, though I had pretty much stopped watching it over a year ago. The more voices out there, the better, and, of course, nearly 200 journalists out of work is never a good thing. And yes, a number of those journalists were/are friends of mine. In fact, when it first started, I remember a friend and I were joking about how it felt like our friends had started a news network in their garage.  I knew so many people in the original lineup, both people in front of and behind the camera.

That aside, the amount of glee certain people are getting out of Sun’s demise is unseemly, especially when the gleeful folks tend to be fans of the CBC and tend to say things like, “Canadians don’t want Sun TV! Sun wanted a free market, and the free market has spoken!”

Um, well yes. It has spoken for Sun, because Sun didn’t get a billion dollar hand-out from the feds every year, the way the CBC does. If the CBC ever had to answer to the free market, it would go under, and probably much more quickly than Sun. The CBC’s ratings are dismal, but their ratings don’t matter, because they are guaranteed funding. In all probability, if Canadians had the choice of whether to pay for the CBC or not, they wouldn’t want our public broadcaster anymore than they want Sun.

At any rate, there were some talented folks at Sun, not the least of whom is Ezra — I wish him luck with this venture.

Pessimism

As previously mentioned here, I have started a tumblr of my uncle’s letters from World War II. I was thinking about the post I just put up, the beautiful quote from one of his letters, the absolute moral clarity and it occurred to me that in the current generation of my family there is someone who said, a few years back, that every day he woke up and hoped that more American soldiers had died in Iraq.

I hadn’t thought about those awful, stupid words in a while, thankfully. But today they came to me, in stark contrast to my uncle’s wonderful words.

My late brother, Alan, was appalled by the comment in question, as was I, but more to the point, he was shocked. I really wasn’t shocked, because I had a clearer view of the person who said it. (Alan had a certain naivete.) But it made me deeply depressed, nonetheless.

One lives in hope, as I always say, but one can contemplate “devolution” and become quite pessimistic…

Israeli Election

One of the things many people outside Israel don’t understand about it is that none of the mainstream political parties are going to be anything but tough on matters pertaining to Israel’s security (thankfully). While Likud members might have different ideas about the economy or social issues than more left-of-centre parties, that is pretty much where significant differences end. It was, after all, Ariel Sharon — hardliner of all hardliners — who made the decision to have Israel disengage from Gaza. In other words, labels like “right” and “left” can be inadequate. As long as the party the Israelis elect protects Israel, I’ll be happy. That said, it would be fun to see Netanyahu win again for one reason: it would make Obama’s head explode.

On that note, enjoy this Likud campaign ad, which I find very fun. It could actually be adapted to Canada — I would trust Harper with my kids, but I would never leave them with Justin. And while I think Mulcair would probably be a responsible babysitter, I also think he would frighten the children.

2 Broke Girls

I have become totally hooked on 2 Broke Girls. Yes,  I know, I am always late to the party. It has been on since 2011. I started watching it in Italy (in Italian) and now am catching up on re-runs (in English). It is terribly funny and I can’t believe some of the stuff with which they get away, especially given their 8 p.m. time slot. A friend of mine, who has a ten-year-old son, tells me she cannot let him watch it because she finds herself having to answer too many awkward questions.

The ‘But’ Brigade

I thought I’d plug a couple of pieces I have on Huffington Post. I thought this first one, about Charlie Hebdo, was pretty good, until I read Howard Jacobson’s piece saying the same thing a billion times better. This second one is about some nasty folks in Iran who think they are very clever.

I continue to be amazed by the specious comparisons and attempts at mitigation people make when these events occur, and lest you think I am exaggerating, I’d like to draw attention to part of a comment I saw on Facebook, which effectively compared the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Muhammed with the sort of cartoons that appeared in  Der Sturmer under the Third Reich. (I will not correct the grammatical/spelling errors in the comment.)

SOme forms of sarcastic critique (nazi cartoons about Jews in the Prewar Germany) to me are counterproductive to the circumstance they portray. I dont want to ban them but I wont hold them out as symbols of freedom either.

Wow. Just…words fail. There was more to this comment, believe it or not, but I think you can get where it was going and this part made me sick enough. Very big of the commenter to say they would not hold up Julius Streicher-type anti-Jewish vitriol as a symbol of freedom. Especially as they weren’t, unlike the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Let’s compare, shall we?

The anti-Jewish caricatures of which the commenter was writing, were drawn under a dictatorship as part of state-sponsored persecution of Jews. There was no freedom for anyone to draw any counter-cartoons, so to speak. And they made no political point other than “Jews are bad and we want make you all hate them even more than you already do.” They were also not caricatures of a god or religious figure. They were caricatures of Jews, Germans citizens who had been contributing members of society and posed absolutely no threat. The cartoons at Charlie Hebdo were almost all caricatures of a religious figure — Muhammed. Occasionally there were caricatures of terrorists, Islamists living in France or elsewhere. They were drawn as a response to threats on freedom in a free society and they were drawn — here is the key — with no state support whatsoever. The government of France neither opposed nor supported nor insisted upon such caricatures (as did the government of Germany in the 1930s). Other journalists and artists were free to draw counter-cartoons challenging Charlie Hebdo’s choices.

That the person who made the silly (and rather scary) comment is ignorant of history should not come as a surprise. I remember another time, this person asserted to me that Zionism “was started after World War II by Theodor Herzl.” Um, no. Herzl died very early on in the 20th century, I think around 1904. Zionism began, officially I suppose you could say, in the 19th century, though really, there have always been Jews in what we now call Israel. The movement goes way back.

So click on the links above, if you wish, but especially the Howard Jacobson piece. It’s a good intellectual antidote to some of the profound foolishness out there.