December 2007

31 December 2007
The downside of the British Empire

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I haven’t quite finished Adam Tooze’s The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy but I think it is worth posting an interim review of this monumental3 economic history of the Third Reich while the stuff at the beginning of the book is still fresh in my mind.

The thing that most struck me - and rather unsettled me - was Tooze’s description of Hitler’s underlying philosophy.  The rabid anti-semitism is as well known as it is bizarre - how exactly you convince yourself that Jews run capitalism as well as communism is beyond me.  But it’s the stuff about empire and economics that is was surprising.

Hitler’s Weltanschauung goes like this:

  1. I want Germany to be rich
  2. I look around the world to find examples of rich countries
  3. I find Britain, France and the United States.
  4. They all have empires1.
  5. That’s why they’re rich - certainly not this liberal economics nonsense which is just there to pull the wool over the eyes of the workers
  6. Therefore if Germany is to be rich she must have an empire
  7. We can’t go North, West or South.
  8. Therefore, we must go East.
  9. Sure, there are people in the way but we will treat them just the same way as the Americans treated the Indians or the British treated the, er, Indians.

This article continues...

27 December 2007

So, Will Smith thinks that Adolf Hitler was a good guy?  Actually, no.  What he said was that Hitler thought he was doing good, which is more or less what Solzhenitsyn was getting at when he said: “To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good...”

It is one of the most profound statements I have ever come across.

22 December 2007

So, Time magazine have made Vladimir Putin their Man of the Year.  Well, as Johan Norberg points out this is by no means the first time they have courted controversy in this way.  Take 1938, for instance, and a certain German dictator…

19 December 2007

“I have finally decided to take the plunge. Last night I upgraded my Vista desktop machine to Windows XP...” Coding Sanity

“I never thought I could be so disappointed by a band I didn’t even like in the first place” - Squander Two goes to a Verve concert …link
 
12 December 2007
At the frontiers of science…

...just asking why people drink, as Squander Two points out, just won’t do.  No, at the cutting edge, the art lies not in finding answers but in finding questions.  Like what happens if you take one of these:

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And make it the same size as a human being?

Or, what happens if you hit a journalist with a shovel?

11 December 2007

Today comes the rather depressing news that Al Bangura, a Watford midfielder, it to be chucked out of the country.  This is wrong on no end of levels but I’ll stick to the fundamental one: there shouldn’t be any immigration controls at all.

07 December 2007
What now little man? backy, booze or blow?

When I was fourteen it was a lot easier to buy a block of cannabis than a bottle of vodka.

When I first heard my teenage dinner party co-host utter these words I thought it was a commentary on the failure of the war on drugs - which indeed it is - but it occurs to me that it doesn’t necessarily say great things for government licencing laws either - in that if the government would prefer people (and presumably this includes children) to drink alcohol than smoke cannabis then this is probably the worst of all worlds.  Either make alcohol totally legal - so that it is much easier to obtain than cannabis, or make it totally illegal - so that it is on the same footing - but licencing the product is about the very worst thing you can do.

Watch out for a huge increase in teenage drug taking when the age for buying tobacco rises to 18.

04 December 2007
I've mentioned History According To Bob's series of podcasts before but after listening to Bob Packett's latest offering on the subject of Hitler in the First World War thought I'd do so again.

The main point he makes - uncomfortable as it may be - is that Hitler was a brave man.

02 December 2007
Film Review: Control

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Sam Riley as Ian Curtis

Ian Curtis (in case you didn’t already know) was the lead singer of Joy Division.  He committed suicide in 1980 after which the surviving members went on to form New Order.  Control, a biopic of Curtis’s life was released earlier this year.  I went to see it.

Some thoughts:

1. It brings the music to life in a way the albums and CDs never could.  I never went to a Joy Division concert but this film feels like the nearest thing.  I cannot tell if what I am hearing is genuine Joy Division or a soundalike2.  Someone earnt his money that’s for sure.

2. I remember little about Ian Curtis’s death. I knew who Joy Division were.  I knew that all sorts of people in the know thought that they would be the next big thing.  I think I had listened to Unknown Pleasures.  I think I had because while discussing its gloomy content, a schoolmate advanced the opinion that Curtis’s talking about depression could help the rest of us.  It’s not exactly the thing you would say after Curtis’s death.

3. One of the great tragedies of Curtis’s suicide is that it launched Love will tear us apart to a wider audience.  This was a pity as it meant that Joy Division’s weakest track become its best known - giving many a totally false impression of what their music was like.  It would be a bit like basing your opinion of Paul McCartney on The Frog Chorus1.  Or the career of Field Marshal Montgomery on Arnhem.

4. Sam Riley does an amazing impersonation of Curtis.  But - and this is by no means a criticism of Riley - at the end we still have no clear idea why he killed himself.  We understand that he is desperately torn between the family man and the rock star - a tear embodied by the two women in his life - his faithful wife and his rock chick mistress.  In the end we are able to feel sympathy for all of them.

5. The film also fails to explain the origin of his gloomy lyrics.  He does not appear to have suffered from a history of depression.  Unknown Pleasures and to a lesser extent Closer evoke a world of darkness, decay, isolation, fear and desperation.  But I get very little sense of this world from the film despite being filmed in black and white.  Even the constant reminders that Curtis came from Macclesfield fail to invoke the expected feelings of despondency.

6. Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis is fantastic.

7. Tony Wilson is credited as Executive Producer.  Tony Wilson comes off well.  Surprise, surprise.  May he rest in peace.

Notes

1.  Actually, I quite like The Frog Chorus.
2.  According to Wikipedia one of the tracks was indeed recorded by the actors.  Kudos to them.