alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I meant to write about this film after Kestrell and I watched it together several months ago, but was distracted by Life. But now seems like a more important time than ever to talk about the power of Art to inspire Deeds.

As you might have guessed from the title, the plot is loosely based on The Scarlet Pimpernel. But instead of Revolutionary France, we are in Nazi Germany. Leslie Howard (who also produced and directed the film) stars as Horatio Smith, an English archaeology professor who is using the cover of an archaeological dig in Germany to rescue “intellectuals” and smuggle them to safety. (Heroic archaeologist versus Nazis – was this an influence on Indiana Jones?)

It’s an exciting and suspenseful adventure film. You could call it a propaganda film, which is accurate, but misleading. The characters are moral, but not preachy. There is a bit of speechifying at the end, but as [livejournal.com profile] sovay points out:
…this is no comfortable re-enactment of settled history. The film is set in 1939, made in 1940—Britain is under the Blitz, America is not yet even in the war; there are no hindsight assurances. So it must be prophecy … sympathetic magic, summoning. Imago. And Howard's ghost is still speaking out of that dark.
But the real reason that I feel compelled to write about Pimpernel Smith today is to point out the inspiring effect it had on one person in particular. Quoting Wikipedia:
When Pimpernel Smith reached Sweden in November 1943, the Swedish Film Censorship Board decided to ban it from public viewing, as it was feared that such a critical portrayal of Nazi Germany could harm Sweden's relationship with Germany and thus jeopardise the country's neutrality in the Second World War. Raoul Wallenberg did, however, manage to see it at a private screening, together with his half-sister, Nina Lagergren.[11]

She later recalled that on their way home after the screening, "he told me this was the kind of thing he would like to do."[12] Since 1941, Wallenberg had made frequent trips to Hungary, and knew how oppressed the Hungarian Jews were. He travelled as a representative and later joint owner of an export-import company that was trading with central Europe and was owned by a Hungarian Jew.

Following the mass deportations that had started in April 1944, Wallenberg was sent to Budapest in August 1944, as First Secretary to the Swedish legation, assigned under secret agreement between the US and Swedish governments to organise a rescue programme for the Jews. By issuing "protective passports", which identified the bearer as Swedish, and housing them in 32 buildings that he rented and declared Swedish territory, he managed to rescue tens of thousands from the German death camps.

Tens of thousands saved. Leslie Howard didn’t live long enough to hear about it, but I’m sure it would have pleased him.

Pimpernel Smith is available on Youtube. I highly recommend it.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, I was watching a cartoon from 1944, Swooner Crooner (link is a brief excerpt), and it featured a trope I didn't think went back that far: that of fangirls screaming and fainting at the presence of famous musicians. I was familiar with it from The Beatles and Elvis, but had no idea it went back to "Frankie" Sinatra and his generation. So how far back *does* it go?

(One could argue for the Bacchantes being the prototype, but I'm looking for more early 20th / late 19th century examples.)
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Huh, LJ now has a "Share" button. Let's try this out...

Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] sovay at I'm a boy, I'm a girl, I'm a boy, I'm a girl, I'm a boy, I'm a girl, I'm a boy, I'm a girl

By popular demand! I just got home, after a day that started at the doctor's in Cambridge and ended with walking home from Arlington Center with [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel (plus an afternoon interlude in Lexington helping take care of my niece, who is nearly six months old now and can roll over like nobody's business). I am on the couch with a fan and two cats. Here's Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius with Saturnalia 3.8.2–3:

signum etiam eius est Cypri barbatum, corpore et veste muliebri, cum sceptro ac natura virili et putant eandem marem ac feminam esse. Aristophanes eam Ἀφρόδιτον appellat. Laevius etiam sic ait,

Venerem igitur almum adorans,
sive femina sive mas est,
ita uti alma Noctiluca est.

Philochorus quoque in Atthide eandem adfirmat esse lunam et ei sacrificium facere viros cum veste muliebri, mulieres cum virili, quod eadem et mas aestimatur et femina.


"And on Cyprus there is a statue of her [Venus] bearded, with the body and clothes of a woman, with the scepter and organs of a man, and they consider her both male and female. Aristophanes calls her Aphroditos (Ἀφρόδιτος). Laevius too says as follows:

worshiping then the nurturing [almus] Venus
whether [s/he] is female or male,
just as the Night-Shiner is nurturing [alma].

Philochorus too in his Atthis affirms that she is the moon and that men make sacrifice to her in women's clothing, women in men's, because she is reckoned both male and female."



So, yeah. That's a thing. In like the fourth century. BCE.

Soundtrack for these last two posts: House Blend (2013), a compilation of mostly trans musicians plus queer musicians with themes of gender. Totally and completely worth its $10. My preferred pronoun isn't "Oops! I'm sorry, I mean . . ."
alexxkay: (Default)
So, it turns out that the Soviets actually *did* build a Doomsday Device. This happened back in the late 80's (the article doesn't mention a specific date, but that much can be inferred). You may be asking yourself, "Why didn't I hear about this years ago?" After all:
"The whole point of the doomsday machine is lost if you keep it a secret!" cries Dr. Strangelove. "Why didn't you tell the world?" After all, such a device works as a deterrent only if the enemy is aware of its existence.
But it turns out that there's another reason one might want to build a Doomsday Device, one that I had never considered before:
According to both Yarynich and Zheleznyakov, Perimeter was never meant as a traditional doomsday machine. The Soviets had taken game theory one step further than Kubrick, Szilard, and everyone else: They built a system to deter themselves.

By guaranteeing that Moscow could hit back, Perimeter was actually designed to keep an overeager Soviet military or civilian leader from launching prematurely during a crisis. The point, Zheleznyakov says, was "to cool down all these hotheads and extremists. No matter what was going to happen, there still would be revenge. Those who attack us will be punished."
I have long noticed how human psychology seems to be hard-wired to put a high value on 'punishment'; a value which may not be logically justifiable. Here is a strange example of two things which individually seem awful -- the desire to seek revenge at all costs, and the construction of a Doomsday Device -- combining in order to *prevent* a disaster. Food for thought.
alexxkay: (Default)
I had a mild interest in this book when it first came out, but not enough to pay new hardcover prices. Recently stumbled across some remaindered copies in a used bookstore, and snatched one up. Sadly, the fact that it was remaindered turned out to be entirely appropriate. I'm a big fan of comics-as-history, and have seen many fine examples of the form. This isn't one of them. It doesn't so much "bring history to life", as euthanize it.

Read more... )
alexxkay: (Default)
The entire photo archives of LIFE magazine have been scanned, and are now hosted by Google. http://images.google.com/hosted/life shows a selection of some of them, but you can search the whole archive by using the keyword "source:life".

[livejournal.com profile] cvirtue, you and the twins might enjoy searching the archive for specific years and keywords like "children", as a sort of impromptu history lesson. The first photo in this search reminded me of Arthur and Eliza :-)
alexxkay: (Default)
The entire photo archives of LIFE magazine have been scanned, and are now hosted by Google. http://images.google.com/hosted/life shows a selection of some of them, but you can search the whole archive by using the keyword "source:life".

[livejournal.com profile] cvirtue, you and the twins might enjoy searching the archive for specific years and keywords like "children", as a sort of impromptu history lesson. The first photo in this search reminded me of Arthur and Eliza :-)

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