Sunday, December 10, 2017

Combray & Comintern

We earlier reported an uncanny intersection of the Côté de chez Swann and the Komintern, from the private files of the Riemann Conspiracy :

And, seemingly unrelated, Kafka’s little-known one-night sojourn in Room 1408  of the Hotel Lux:

Yet now there appears the missing link that connects them, from the pen of the “Mata Hari of the Rote Kapelle”:

Die Zeit, da man noch offen von ihm sprechen konnte, ihn zitieren,  sich mit ihm  auseinandersetzen durfte,
gehörte  schon seit Jahren  der Vergangenheit an,

als er   eines Nachts   vor meinem Couchbett stand,
und mich aus einem Alptraum  aufweckte.

» Schweißgebadet«,  wie es das geläufige Epitheton
zu lähmender Angst ist,
sah ich die gespenstische Erscheinung   im Halbdunkel:

vielmehr bloß den Kopf   mit der hohen gewölbten Stirn,
blitzenden Augengläsern  und einem spanischen Spitzbart --

das einzige Bild von Trotski

-- Ruth von Mayenburg, Hotel Lux (1978), p. 149

[For earlier antecedents of the Conspiracy in Mitteleuropa, try this: ]

Saturday, December 9, 2017

feu Johnny, feu la France

Rock ‘n’ Roll was overwhelmingly pioneered by Americans.  Later, a wave of Brits joined in, not merely equaling their Colonial brethren, but redefining the genre, and deepening it.   France, for all its many merits, never significantly contributed to the swell of this international current.


In August of 1966, having just turned 17, I left home to live for several months in France.  Thanks to the good offices of Academic Year Abroad, it was a cultural immersion, living with a French family, attending the theatre twice a week, classes at the Sorbonne, and so forth.  And since I had neither TV nor shortwave radio, a cultural abstraction, from all that was going on across the Atlantic.

Among pop songs I particularly enjoyed that year was “Je l’appelle canelle” -- not R & R, but more like a chanson de cabaret, where indeed the French pioneered.   Or a purely franco-française sotie “Gaston Gaston, y’a téléphon qui son, y a jamais person  qui y répond”, impossible to translate and difficult to categorize, save perhaps as a précis of the nasalization of French vowels. (Still funny and endearing, after all these years.  Closest genre-match: the Australian pop hit "Tie Me Kangaroo Down".)
Then one straight-up rock song by Michel Polnareff, “La Poupée qui fait Non”, in conception simple, and not quite like anything an American had done, and permanently listenable owing to the purity of his presentation.  (Appreciaton here.)  Nothing by Johnny Hallyday  particularly caught my ear.
Besides “La Poupée”, the real stand-out for me that year was “Dis-moi, fille sauvage”.  I bought the single, and at the end of the year, excitedly brought it home to show my brother, a taste of what-all had been going on in the City of Lights.  He listened, somewhat puzzled, and at the end, said simply:  “That’s Ruby Tuesday.”
Indeed, it was a pale Gallic knock-off of that Rolling Stones classic, which, sequestered in the Hexagon, I had not yet heard.


The indisputably most popular French star of R&R, Johnny Halliday, died this week, and his passing dominates their headlines.  He lived long, continued to perform, and aged well, as rock stars go.  Several of his Continental his were simply workmanlike knock-offs of American or UK work.  In the U.S., his death rated barely a mention; and when so, the focus has been on the fact of it being a huge story in France, rather than upon any actual songs an American is likely to remember, or even to have heard.

The crowds on the Champs Elysées today  were immense, the emotion genuine.  Mourning the departing, perhaps, not only of one French star, but of the age (do any recall it?) of French national greatness.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

*Another* Day that will Live in Infamy

Historians have long wondered, how, as late as December 1941, with a world war raging, and a litany of Japanese grievances against the U.S., the officers and sailors at our principal Pacific naval base  were all sitting around with their thumbs up their butts, the ships berthed cheek-by-jowl, an impossibly alluring target.
A secondary puzzle was, did FDR have any advance intel that such an attack was likely, but ignored it?   (Let us set aside the conspiracy-theory that he knew but let it happen.) If so, he would take a seat beside Stalin, who likewise had been remarkably lackadaisical with respect to Nazi Germany, which had been waging blitzkrieg, but from whom he felt safe, owing to the piece of paper known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.  Stalin actually did have warning, from Japan-based master-spy Richard Sorge, and quite precise warning at that:    “Der Krieg wird am 22. Juni beginnen, ” a message sent on 15 June.   This was ignored.

Toleja so ...

A lesser-known possibility is that Washington did receive warning of an impending sneak-attack, and indeed from Sorge’s circle.   A Comintern memoirist who had repeated contact with Sorge  writes:

Kurz vor ihrem Hochgehen in Tokio   gab die Gruppe “Ramsay” [i.e., Sorge] noch eine hochbedeutse Meldung  an zwei Adressaten durch:  Moskau und Washingtron.  Gewiß gelangte sie auf auf den Schreibtisch Stalins, vermutlich nicht auf den Schreibtisch Präsident Roosevelts:  die Meldung, daß die Japaner  ohne Kriegserklärung  auf den wichtigsten Flottenstützpunkt der USA im Pazifik, Pearl Harbor, für Anfang Dezember  unter strengster Geheimhaltung  vorbereiterten.
-- Ruth von Mayenburg, Hotel Lux (1978), p. 144

She goes on to state that Sorge’s Yugoslav coworker Branko Vukelić tipped off an American friend as to the impending attack, to no avail.

In any event, the lesson of 7 December was not promptly learned, for on 8 December, in the Philippines, another branch of the service was likewise caught with its breeches down.   Let Professor Wiki tell it:

Even though tracked by radar and with three U.S. pursuit squadrons in the air, when Japanese bombers of the 11th Kōkūkantai attacked Clark Field at 12:40 pm, they achieved tactical surprise. Two squadrons of B-17s were dispersed on the ground. Most of the P-40s of the 20th PS were preparing to taxi and were struck by the first wave of 27 Japanese twin-engine Mitsubishi G3M "Nell" bombers; only four of the 20th PS P-40Bs managed to take off as the bombs were falling.

A second bomber attack (26 Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers) followed closely, then escorting Zero fighters strafed the field for 30 minutes, destroying 12 of the 17 American heavy bombers present and seriously damaging three others. Two damaged B-17s were made flyable and taken to Mindanao, where one was destroyed in a ground collision.

A near-simultaneous attack on the auxiliary field at Iba to the northwest by 54 "Betty" bombers was also successful: all but four of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron's P-40s, short on fuel and caught in their landing pattern, were destroyed No formal investigation took place regarding this failure as occurred in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. The Far East Air Force lost fully half its planes in the 45-minute attack, and was all but destroyed over the next few days, including a number of the surviving B-17s lost to takeoff crashes of other planes.

Thus, not only December seventh, but December eighth,  is draped in crape.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A bushful

many many
many many
many  tiny


[Spotted on my wife-walk  around “Stag-antler Lake”.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Unword of the Day : R*******

rohingya     Rohingya    rohingya   ROHINGYA

    Rohingya     rohingya       rohingya    

rohingya     Rohingya    rohingya   ROHINGYA

    Rohingya     rohingya       rohingya   

rohingya     Rohingya    rohingya   ROHINGYA

    Rohingya     rohingya       rohingya   

rohingya     Rohingya    rohingya   ROHINGYA

                Rohingya     rohingya       rohingya   

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

“A Delicate Truth”

It is not axiomatic, that the ideal Vorleser of a work  should be its author.  (One would not wish to sit through a performance of Heart of Darkness, or A Brief History of Time, under those terms.)   But  David Cornwall turns out to be a perfect interpreter of John Le Carré, in a recent audiobook recording.

Three of the secondary characters have a distinct local accent:  Glaswegian, Welsh, and Irish.  His rendition of these  fixes in pleasure and memory, what are in any event well-sculpted personalities.
Two of the central characters -- professional diplomats -- have professionally and personally  rather flat affect.  The author is sufficiently confident about his own work, to let that happen, without worrying that we’ll be bored.

The story-arc hangs together nicely, moreso than in most of the thrillers we have waded through.
The novel (published 2013) is quite in tune with the times, in selecting, as theme, the beating-up on contractors in the defense/intel field.

Footnote:  The title of the book is as smarmy as that of  An Inconvenient Truth.   But it is a sight better title than Our Kind of Traitor , which we critiqued here.   One wishes to believe that neither stemmed from the author, but were foisted upon the novels by some publisher's underling (chained  drooling  in the basement, and let loose only for such functions) who normally has the last word in such marketing-related decisions.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Défense de fumer

They’re at it again -- the bas-bleus/bluestockings of the Gallic nanny state.

La ministre de la santé pourrait interdire le tabac dans les films

Doit-on interdire la cigarette au cinéma au nom de la lutte contre le tabagisme ? Le sujet n’est pas nouveau mais revient dans l’actualité cette semaine. Alors que les sénateurs ont adopté jeudi une mesure consacrée à l’augmentation du prix du tabac d’ici 2020, la sénatrice PS de la Sarthe Nadine Grelet-Certenais en a profité pour interpeller la ministre de la Santé Agnès Buzyn sur la responsabilité du cinéma sur le tabagisme en France.

Readers respond:

Dans les films de Gabin, il n'y aura que le générique..
et le narguilé ????
Après le tabac ce sera l'alcool, le sexe, la religion, la guerre , la politique. Elle ferait mieux de s'occuper de son ministère comme si il y avait pas plus urgent à traiter !
Il faudrait alors aussi interdire l'alcool dans les films, puis les armes à feu, interdire la violence, la guerre, mec racisme... Pas qu'au cinéma d'ailleurs, mais également dans les livres !!!

In the face (or butt) of all of which, we repost our earlier  doigt d’honneur.


“Do you mind my smoking?” he asked.
“Oh, not at all, sir.”
-- Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbevilles (1892)

Stout lass!

The latest from France,  from the bobos-fachos, in their chasse au fumeurs:

Marisol Touraine, ministre de la Santé, annoncera mardi 17 juin une série de nouvelles mesures qui devrait placer la France en pointe dans la lutte contre le tabagisme.
Parmi les plus spectaculaires, la mise en place du paquet de cigarettes neutre, sans marque apparente, ainsi que la possibilité d'actions de groupe, permettant aux fumeurs malades de faire condamner les fabricants à des dommages et intérêts.
Le vapotage, quant à lui, serait banni des lieux publics. [-- Le Figaro]

“Lèche mon cul, Marisol.”
Tu parles, Charles

"D'accord !"

[Update 19 July 2014]   The hypocritical vindictiveness against tobacco  leads to other legal skulduggery as well.  Thus

No-one born after 1950 has any excuse for being ignorant of health hazards from cigarettes.  The guy started in chain-smoking at age thirteen and never let up.  His choice.   Appropriate damages in this case:  Zero.   But a … Florida jury  (a phrase proverbial for imbecility) decides that a Saganian figure -- biyyuns and biyyuns of dollars -- should be paid.

Tha's messed-up, man ...

Second that, brother.


[Original post from January 2014]

Back of the Bus

Suppose that, in some country that vaunted itself on its record of human rights, in North America or Western Europe, there was a cardiac hospital whose waiting-list for heart-surgery numbered both black and white patients.   Now suppose that the hospital had -- not surreptitiously and shame-facedly, but quite openly and unabashedly, even as something to pride themselves on -- a hard-and-fast rule:  So soon as a white becomes a candidate for surgery, he automatically zooms ahead of all the blacks on the waiting list;  and so on forever.   Assuming that, as in most places, the demand for the surgical service always slightly outpaces the supply, the upshot is that no black could ever receive heart surgery.

This morning there appeared a radio essay by the Dutch-Moroccan academic and journalist Fouad Laroui, Je fume, donc je suis, reporting just such a case, in the north of ultra-bien-pensant Holland;  only, with one difference:   The group continually sent to the back of the bus  are not blacks, but smokers.
Here's looking at *you*, kid...

And such is the climate of political correctness there reigning, that the principal challenge to this invidious rule  has come, not from the quarter of general societal welfare and logic (shall such exclusions be applied, on the same grounds of ills abetted by personal behavior, to other risk groups, such as the obese or homosexual?),  but rather, from the ranks of Identity Politics themselves!  For the Turks resident in the Netherlands have -- not opposed the rule per se, but merely demanded that they themselves be excepted, as a group, on the grounds that, in their culture, smoking is not an individual choice, but an ethnic identity badge: Among Turks, a man wears a moustache, and smokes;  un-point-c’est-tout.

Laroui regularly reports on issues affecting Muslims in his current country of residence, les Pays-Bas;  and generally to defend them.   But in this case, he twits the Turkish case for absurdity, pointing out that it is a slippery slope down which other groups can be expected to snowboard, as some already had:  Muslim Somalis in Holland demanded group exemption from Dutch anti-narcotic laws, on the grounds that qât is part of their culture.   (Such an exemption was successful in the United States, in the case of Amerindians and peyote.)   He does not, however, take explicit exception to that hospital regulation itself;  perhaps deeming such comment superfluous in the case of so evidently overweening a rule, but perhaps not.

[Update 13 Feb 2015]  ISIL dislikes smoking.  Smokers dislike ISIL

Islamic State fighters prepared to burn confiscated cigarettes last year in Raqqa
[Source: ]