Today is Bloomsday, a fact which got me to thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions a few years (3, maybe?) back: one of them was to read “Ulysses.” I did indeed read it, and I’m glad I did. It is brilliant, and I can see why it caused such a ruckus when first published. That said, it is also tedious in parts and a tad earthy for my tastes. So for those of you who haven’t read it but would like to appear highbrow enough to have done so, I give you this wonderful abridged version courtesy of YouTube and some guy with what sounds to me like a German accent.
I am catching up here on things about which I should have posted earlier – for example, the death of animal advocate Tom Regan, someone who has been a big influence on my thinking. One of my favourite Regan quotes:
Because we have viewed other animals through the myopic lens of our self-importance, we have misperceived who and what they are. Because we have repeated our ignorance, one to the other, we have mistaken it for knowledge.
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
A long overdue post about the Turkish referendum. I was certainly dismayed by it, but not surprised. Things had been going that way in Turkey for over a decade. I am in touch with several of my ex-students, all of whom still live in the Istanbul area. In general, they are pessimistic but have families and jobs and don’t want to leave. And, of course, they love Istanbul, as do I. Beyond that, I will outsource my commentary to Dani Rodrik, here. I believe it is a spot-on analysis.
Monstrously depressing. Corbyn’s deranged worldview — which includes praise for all enemies of the West as well as (not so) thinly-veiled anti-Semitism (which I imagine he would insist is “just” anti-Zionism), his praise for Hamas and Hezbollah, his belief that Israel and the United States are central to all evil on this planet — does not appear to have done him any harm. In other words, either his supporters don’t care or more people than I had understood share this upside-down/day-is-night/ignorant-of-history view of things.
Julie Lenarz sums it up so well here.
This talk by Robin Yassin-Kassab sums up almost entirely how I feel about the Euro-American/Canadian left and how, at times, it resembles the extreme right (they certainly meet where their anti-Semitism is concerned). I don’t agree with everything he says here, but I certainly agree with his analysis of the current tragedy in Syria, and his contempt for the left in general, even though he is a leftist. Interestingly, I think in some ways I probably am too (or rather, I think I am a fiscal conservative/libertarian-social leftist/liberal-animal rights advocate/hawk) in some ways, but due to their useful idiocy (at one point in this clip, he uses that term), I never want to be associated with them. At any rate, Yassin-Kassab captures the sophomoric anti-Western sentiments of much of the left since the 1960s, as well as their racism. Honestly, I have come to the conclusion that if one is searching for racism, classism and sexism, one need only glance left. (Yassin-Kassab has a go at Chomsky, Fisk and Cockburn here, too, which is good.)
So I’m feeling that empty feeling one has after Christmas or New Year’s Day or after the last episode of this season’s ‘The Americans.’ Like, wow, that was great and exciting and emotional and now…I’m so down without it. But I have started to realize that I find it bittersweet for another reason: the actor who plays Stan Beeman reminds me so much of my late brother. So much. So I like watching him because it’s a bit like having Alan around, but then it’s so tragic when he’s gone.
I am grateful that ‘The Americans’ does not appear to be going the way of Homeland, the most recent season of which seemed, as my Significant Other put it, to have been written by Barack Obama. For those of you who didn’t watch Homeland this season: first of all, congratulations; second of all, it revolved around a terror attack on New York City apparently committed by an Islamist but actually committed by rogue CIA agents who – naturally – got some help along the way from Mossad.
I am well aware that the left has won the culture wars and that the viewpoints espoused in movies, television and media are going to reflect this fact. But one grows weary. Heck, even my beloved Hawaii Five-0, a show I have long enjoyed because it generally avoids politics and simply shows great-looking cops shooting bad people, had an episode this season where an impending terror attack apparently planned by an Islamist was actually planned by right-wing extremists (somehow affiliated with the government and military, of course).
But ‘The Americans,’ thankfully, has resisted the urge to make communism seem benign and misunderstood. It’s too intelligent for any such nonsense. Oh, it contains its fair share of moral equivalencies, and its share of “no context given” comments: for example, when Elizabeth (as the show’s resident true believer, she is responsible for many silly and baseless assertions) points out that the US can’t be trusted because they are the only country to have used a nuclear weapon. Er, yes, but, you know, some context would be useful here. It wasn’t as though Harry Truman got up one morning and said, “Oh heck, I’d like to nuke someone peaceful and kind today.”
In fact, Elizabeth, with her endless yammering about “justice” and constantly using her interpretation of that word to justify terrible acts, reminds me a lot of the social justice bullies of today. You can draw a line, I believe, from her 1980s-Soviet-totalitarian-bromides to today’s fascism of the left (and make no mistake, it is fascism). And I mean, you can draw that line in real life. I refer here to those lefties who are – and who have long been — pathologically anti-Western.
Enough about such clowns – let’s get to this season of ‘The Americans.’ It has had as its theme, food – the want of the USSR, the excesses of the US. Philip, who way back in the first season was talking about defecting, makes a comment about how the endless fields of wheat in Kansas (where he and Elizabeth are on a mission) remind him of home. “Why,” he asks, “can’t we feed our own people?”
This is an excellent question. The series’ writers have constructed storylines around corruption in the USSR as the main reason for the food shortages. On a micro-scale, yes, that may have been the case. But, of course, the macro-picture, the main reason the USSR could not feed its own people, was that it did not have a free market. So far, this has not been clearly articulated in the show, but at least the writers of ‘The Americans’ have moved away from the absurd notion – hinted at early on in the season — that the United States was planning to try and starve the Soviets (or any other people). One of the best moments this season was when the Jennings realized the US was not only not trying to starve everyone, but rather, was trying to feed everyone. Anyone who knows America and American idealism would not be surprised by that. As my Significant Other said, as we watched that episode, “Twenty years in America and Philip and Elizabeth don’t know America at all.”
They really don’t. (Not to mention that it was their own government that had deliberately starved people in the past.) They will be in for quite a surprise when/if they return home. Gabriel, I think, is beginning to understand one thing about America – it has already won the Cold War. That is how I interpreted the scene where Gabriel visits the Lincoln Memorial before announcing that he has decided to leave. He knows the Soviet jig is up-ski.
Oleg has already returned home, and is getting his own share of surprises: seeing how messed up the food situation is; seeing the embedded corruption; hearing colleagues say matter-of-factly that they have to send someone to prison for ‘treason’ even though all that person did was tell the truth about something or voice a political opinion. But his biggest surprise is learning that his mother had been in a gulag after the war.
Philip has his own revelation about the gulags this season, when he discovers — from Gabriel — that his father had been a guard in one. It causes Philip to view his childhood memories differently: those boots his father brought home one night, for example, were they stolen from a prisoner?
So I tip my hat to the show’s writers and creators…but one cannot stop celebrities from being morons, can one? Alison Wright, who so magnificently gave us the tragedy of Martha, revealed herself in an interview to be not so magnificent when it comes to political/historical analysis. In this interview, she claims – referring to the execution of Nina Sergeevna Krilova on the show – that the Soviets were more ‘humane’ than we (i.e., the United States) about such things because they just snuck up beyond you and shot you in the head. Whereas, you know, we put you on death row and make you wait.
Well, yeah, but we also give you a lawyer, an appeal system that is not a joke and that doesn’t amount to a kangaroo court, and plus, we have the added bonus of actually having to prove our charges against you! Fairly certain that makes us more humane.
Gosh, maybe Martha belongs in the Soviet Union after all.
JFK would have been 100 tomorrow. Here’s a clip of him dealing with the press. At about the 55 second mark, May Craig — a great journalist and one of the few women at White House press conferences 50 and 60 years ago — asks him a question about equal rights for women. His reply is terribly charming and witty and were any president today to try it they’d get blasted by the angry mob. The whole clip is full of gems, so watch and remember — this man would NEVER be selected as presidential candidate for the Democratic Party today. You can also get a sense of why, as my father once told me, more people were weeping on the street when JFK died than on VJ-Day.
Here is some good — no, excellent, deserving-a-Pulitzer — journalism.
Here is some garbage journalism, from, of course, the CBC. This is an actual paragraph from an actual CBC report on the Iranian “election.” (I am too mortified to link to the story.)
Rouhani is a reformer who, in addition to signing the nuclear deal, has opened his country to the world and loosened restrictions on the country’s citizens.