Rise of the Nazis, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, directed and produced by Julian Jones

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00084tb/rise-of-the-nazis-series-1-1-politics

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0008c79/rise-of-the-nazis-series-1-2-the-first-six-months-in-power

I wasn’t sure about the three-part series Rise of the Nazis. Documentary-dramas rarely rise above mediocrity. I was brought up on the gold standard, World at War series, shown on BBC.  Then, of course, we’ve got Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of Hitler, cut and pasted and ad-libbed on the internet to sell everything from books to 1000 years of the Third Reich. That got me thinking what happened to the other two Reichs? Where they like those buses that come one after the other? Well, it seems, one was the Holy Roman Reich, which at least gets marks for originality. The Second Reich was really the Bismark era, before the First World War (we no longer use capitals for world wars now, downgraded, first world war). You probably remember it from history lessons as the time when the Germans invaded and occupied France, 1872, post- Les Miserables Paris, if my memory serves. Bismark helped unite Germany. He advocated a Kulterkamf against Catholics. Germany had a bit of previous here.

I’m also reading Friedrich Kellner’s Diary, A German against the Third Reich. He pretty much nails it. Hitler’s support was until 1930, largely rural, peasant farmer with a long history of hating Jews. In Laubach, were Kellner was working as justice inspector, for example, Jews often acted as the middle-man in cattle trading, and advanced farmers credit in lieu of goods.   Here we have the beginnings of ideology, the death of German democracy and rise of the Nazi dictatorship. Kellner shows how quickly this happened. ‘Heil Hitler’ became the enforced greeting of 80 million Germans. Discovery of his diary would have meant his death and that of his wife.

In the Rise of the Nazi’s  we look at one of the few who did resist Hitler. I guess that’s to add a bit of lop-sided balance. Josef Hartinger was one of the righteous. A public prosecutor who challenged official versions of death in custody and the legitimacy of the Nazi Party apparatus.

But most Germans were supporters of the ideology of Aryan Supermen and inferior races having little more than use value. That’s what Kellner lived through. He suggests less than one-percent of Germans offered any kind of resistance.  As early as 1941, Kellner also reports it was also common knowledge that Jews and Russians, men, women and children, were being exterminated in the East. The I-didn’t-know, post-war, lie of amnesiac German citizens was fake news, before fake news existed.

Rise of the Nazis isn’t fake news, or revisionist history. Boris Johnston’s attempt to prorogue British Parliament is not Herman Goring giving orders to burn the Reichstag and blame the Brexiter Communists. But it is an attempt to thwart Parliamentary democracy by an unelected British Prime Minister claiming he’s acting on the will of the people.

Paul Von Hindenburg was dismissive of the little Austrian colonel in the same way we can be dismissive of Johnston. President von Hindenberg had been a decorated general during the first world war, Hitler as Chancellor, was a pawn in the great game of state politics, ensuring the right-wing aristocracy and rich businessmen kept the Communists in check. Hitler’s allies put von Hindenberg in checkmate.

Rather than cut through bureaucracy, in Goring and Himmler, we see layer and layer added  and the spoils of German office going to Nazi sympathisers. German Jews were less than one-percent of the population, but in the East, genocide, mass murder and the Final Solution were played out. Dachau, here, is shown as the first of Himmler’s concentration camps. Capacity 5000. Cancerous growths spread quickly.

Watch these programmes and learn how easily it all slips away. A belligerent and successful foreign policy and double-downing on enemies at home sounds familiar.  George Santayana’s quote: Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it is beginning to sound more and more relevant. Heil Trump. Heil little-fart Trumpter, Johnston. History is on a loop. Make Germany great again. Remember that old line?

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Benjamin Percy (2016) Thrill Me Essays on Fiction.

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If like me you like to read and also do a bit of writing, then this is a book you should read. I like the measured approach of Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer. Benjamin Percy gets it from the word go. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions of Writing and Life prioritises writing before life, but, hey, nobody is watching and nobody is perfect.

You can do both. Benjamin Percy bombed on creative writing courses, or workshops, as they call them in America. But he was younger and we all make all kind of mistakes. He liked to read and write genre fiction.

Vampires, dragons and robots with laser eyes. These were the literary stars of my childhood. These stories were unified by the same pattern: they began with a bang –high jinks ensured – then the hero overcame some villainous forces to win love and a heap of treasure. Books were portals meant for escapism.

That was pretty much me too. Or #Me Too. I was a page turner intent on finding out what happened next. Even now I’m not sure if I’ve read a particular book, but bits of what happened sticks to the back of my melting mind. Later in life I did an Open University course on Shakespeare. I always thought I was a bit thick and missing something big. When I sat the exam I answered a question on the role of the fool in Shakespearian drama. Then I stopped. I was bored with what I’d written about Lear’s fool. England’s greatest playwright. The man that had introduced more words to the English language could go and fuck himself. I was never going to be that kind of person. I’d rather read the ingredients on the brown sauce bottle than tackle again Cymbeline, King of Britain. I literally failed the literary test.

I could read a book very quickly but I couldn’t fully understand it. Here’s the bit where I say I knuckled down and…well, you’ll be waiting a long time. When reading becomes like work I’d much rather do something else. You can write about zombies or dragons or robot ghosts and the chances are I won’t read it. If I do it better be better than Shakespeare. Percy asked a workshop tutor he respected for that Rosetta stone of advice that would turn vague scribbling into a published book or story. His advice was simple: ‘Thrill me.’

Imagine there are 1000 books published in English every day. You want to be a writer and work your way to the top, you need to be like Rocky.  Yeh, I know. It’s kind of cheesy. Percy likes Rocky. And I like him for liking Rocky. So you need to have that urgency on the page and in the longer term. You need to take the body blows. So here we have it. Your protagonist needs obstacles in his way to reach his goal. Rocky needs to catch a chicken before he can think of knocking out Apollo Creed. Protagonists need short-term, lower-order goals, before they get a shot at the big prize. In the background there’s always that ticking clock. No chicken is going to wait for you. The bell for the first round is going to ring. The reader needs to turn the page to find out what happens next. To be a writer you need to hook the reader and keep hooking, until you are in the top ten. Then No 1.

In Set Pieces – Staging the Icon Scene you need to cut away the dross and create something memorable. Rocky runs up those steps with thousands of school kids at his back shouting his name. His bloody face after the fight and he looks outside the ring, looking for his wife, and he bawls her name. ‘Adrian…Adrian…Adrian’.

There Will Be Blood, Percy argues violence needs to be earned. Characters do what they keep doing, if violence comes out of nowhere either you’re a genius, or you’ve not caught the chicken first. Violence like love has an emotional arc. Writers should choreograph the dance. Rocky doesn’t just go Pow! Pow! Pow!   Only Rocky can get away with that.

Making the Extraordinary Ordinary is quite a simple idea.

Most beginning writers when they first get caught up in the thrilling idea…Let’s call this tendency giganticism.

He then quotes one of the Russian greats, I don’t really get, Chekov, but who offers good advice about anchoring the universal in specific detail, ‘ on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright star, and the black shadow of a dog or wolf rolled past like a ball’.

In other words the writer is not generalising. Anyone that can write like that, even if it is Chekov or Shakespeare, gets my foolish attention.

He quotes Tim O’Brien in ‘How to Tell a True War Story’ and making the reader believe. ‘Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness.’

Designing Suspense something has got to give. In Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, nothing happens twice.  Phewwwwww – fuck off – twice. Percy argues as a writer that’s what we should be looking at. Our characters face their worst-case scenario. You’re characters must juggle and dance with flaming chain-saws, but the writer must know the ending. Truly incredible craziness doesn’t come easy.

Don’t Look Back, Percy tells us writer and readers he gets irritated by backstory. Novice writers love backstory. It explains away the incredibly exciting story of  how Godot waited and waited or as Percy calls it the Scooby Doo trick. Time moves backwards and the theme tune of Why Don’t You Switch Off Your Television Set And Go And Do Something Less Boring Instead comes on. Only, it would be a smart-phone now and not a telly. You see I’ve taken you backwards with my waffling on. I think it’s quite entertaining. I’m sad that way.

Sounds like Writing, you know it’s not. Percy gets that right? Writers like Shakespeare to me sound like writing. I want to read writers who don’t sound like writing. Who are human. Who are fools in the right/wrong way. Generally, any middle-class twaddle isn’t for me. Stick it. Sounds like Writing. I’ll scroll on past.

Activating Settings is the write what you know school of thought. I get that. I really do. Percy writes about Oregon. I write about Clydebank. When someone asks me what I write about I tell them, I write about us. That’s in theory, because nobody asks. But if they do, I’ll say, so there.

Percy advises writers to Get a Job. No, he’s not Norman Tebbit wittering on about how his dad didn’t go about rioting but got on his bike and got a job. What Percy is saying here is language is rooted in who we are. Our identity often comes from the job we do. Getting a job as roofer, nurse, labourer, dishwasher or working in a Job Creation scheme gives you a common lingo. A guy that tutored writers in Moniack Moor, which describes itself as Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre, told me that typically the would-be writer would be a retired school teacher who decided to spend their remaining years tackling their great opus. Working class writers don’t go on retreats. They simply write. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s not my job. My job is to Thrill You when I do write. I think I can hear the Rocky them tune. Benjamin Percy is a knock-out.

 

Conspiracy Files: The Billionaire Global Mastermind? BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, directed by Mike Rudin.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0008c6g/conspiracy-files-the-billionaire-global-mastermind

George Soros is a billionaire. In 1992 British taxpayers handed Soros over $1 billion. Soros gambled that the British pound would continue to fall in value. He shorted the pound in the currency market and won his gamble. Britain’s financial loss was Soros’s gain. Soros also happens to be Jewish.

Remember the Protocols of the (Learned) Elders of Zion. The Learned part is optional. It’s the kind of hokum that brings together ideology, literature and eugenics. Jews are subhuman monsters that want to take over the world. Stir in a bit of natural selection and Darwinian influence channelled by the Nazi Party in post-Wehrmacht Germany and you’ve pretty much got the modern version. George Soros is a Jew. George Soros therefore wants to take over the world.

I used to have this belief that all Americans were stupid, I’m not therefore immune to sweeping generalisations. Then they elected the moron’s moron as President. In August 2017 at Charlottesville neo-Nazi marchers were met by anti-fascist demonstrators. James Fields, a neo-Nazi, drove a speeding car at the demonstrators, killing one and injuring 28 people. Brennan Gilmore filmed the speeding car with his phone. If you go online you can read that he was a CIA/ State Department plant for the deep state. Here we have a couple of shock-jocks re-iterating this kind of lie.

LIAR > AMPLIFICATON ONLINE> FOX NEWS > AMERICAN PRESIDENT > LIAR > Amplification

Initially, the American President claimed both sides were to blame. We’ve become so inured to President Trump’s alternative view of the world it doesn’t really register. Now imagine that after the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, when asked about it, argued both sides were to blame. That’s how far we’ve gone backwards.

There’s nothing new about creating a bogey man, or women. Witches used to fit the bill quite well. The other is not always Jewish. Often he or she is Muslim. Immigrants carrying contagion and wrong-headed beliefs. Terrorists and rapists. That’s the kind of arguments we here in, ironically, largely Muslim Turkey, Italy, Hungary, China, Russia, Britain and of course, bearer of the flag, America. Soros would fit the bogey man position better if he were Muslim and Jewish and, of course, if he arrived off the coast of Cornwall in a ship in the dead of night and turned into a bat. Dracula was a Hungarian Jew. Soros is Dracula.

Soros is Dracula? > Amplification> Fox News> Tweet by moron’s moron, ‘watch your children, Soros wants to suck your blood.’

  • Don’t elect a moron.
  • Follow the example of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, JACINDA ARDERN, after the mass killings in Christchurch and do not name the gunman. Do not give moron’s a platform to promote hate.
  • Follow the example of our European Union leaders and call out and fine corporations such as Facebook and Google by no longer letting they get away with a legal technicality that they are not responsibility for content.

A Black and White Killing: The Case that Shook America, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, directed by Guy King

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0007zb6/a-black-and-white-killing-the-case-that-shook-america-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0007zbb/a-black-and-white-killing-the-case-that-shook-america-series-1-episode-2

This is a two-part investigation into a killing. The viewer is left in no doubt that a white man in his mid-forties, Russell Courtier, in his Jeep, ran over and killed a black man, nineteen-year old Larnell Bruce. We are shown CCTV footage from outside the supermarket of what happened and its aftermath. Then shown how far Bruce’s body was pushed by the vehicle mapped out by A to B by forensics with the blood still on the road. Bruce is dead. Courtier killed him. Open and shut case.

But this is Portland, Oregon. Throw into the mix Oregon’s racist past, a white’s only state, with more Ku Klux Klan member’s demographically that anywhere else, depicted in Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. Whisper it America’s racist past, where blacks in the Lyndon Johnston era were told not to bother registering to vote and presented with a bullet as a gift if they did. Black (and poor white) votes were also disregarded and stolen. Think about how rich Republicans got together to fund legal action to recount chads to get  President George W Bush elected and to thwart a Democrat candidate. How money moves to the white and the right.  How the birthing movement was used by the moron’s moron on the campaign trail, by the now President Trump, to challenge the validity of President Obama holding public office.

Throw into the mix the decision by the prosecution to add to the charge sheet that this was a racially motivated crime. Russell Courtier had spent most of his working life in prison and was a member of the white-supremacy European Kindred gang. He had the marking of the gang’s tattoo on his leg. He was wearing a European Kindred cap when he killed Larnell Bruce.

Throw into the mix the BBC’s representative, journalist Mobeen Azhar, a British Muslim with Pakistani origins and give him access to family members of the victim, the killer, and former members of his prison gang and wait for it to fizzle.

Add to the drama at the trail, when the police expert was shown by the defence to get his sums all wrong. The defence lawyer pointed out that he’d confused kilometres-per-hour with miles-per-hour. Back to police school for him.

But the big reveal for the defence was that Larnell Bruce was holding a machete when he approached the Jeep.  A female witness said that Larnell was at the convenience store trying to sell the machete. This is about believable as Russell Courtier’s mum and brother’s view that their son and brother wasn’t really racist and just happened to get into a fight with a black man.

The cartoonish some-of- my-best-friends-are-black argument is tested by their interrogator a British Pakistani.  But I didn’t really take to Mobeen Azhar as a presenter. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in the company of Louis Theroux where every expression from mock disbelief to indignation is expressed by a cocked eyebrow. And the Case That Shook America, after early dramatics, doesn’t shake very much, not my belief in the American legal or economic system. It doesn’t prove very much at all. Intent is a balloon that floats or is pricked. But, for the record, the defence, despite their early blooper, walked away wrapped in American Glory.

Colson Whitehead (2016) The Underground Railway.

 

Leila Slimani (2018) Lullaby, translated by Sam Taylor.

lullaby

Leila Slimani (2018) Lullaby, translated by Sam Taylor.

Lullaby, the bestseller and Prix Concourt, winner, written by Liela Slimani, sticks the ending at the beginning. I got to page 65, before giving up. I couldn’t shake the thought that I’d turned my back and that it had been written by software programme as nearly all books will in the future.

The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds…The little girl was still alive when the ambulance arrived…Eyes bulging, she seemed to be gasping for air. Her throat was filled by blood. Her lungs had been punctured, her head smashed violently against the blue chest of drawers.

The culprit, the nanny, is still alive, Myriam, the mother of the children, is in a state of shock. She lets out ‘a howl of a she-wolf’. Maybe something lost in translation. Cliched. What is left is backstory.

Here we have it, the set-up. Myriam and Paul have a nice little apartment on Rue d’Hauteville in Paris’s tenth arrondissement. Both are lawyers. Paul works in the music industry and Myriam has taken a break from her career –which never really started, pregnant at law school – to bring up their two children. Adam who is a baby, and Mila, eighteen-months older, a tot with tantrum issues.

They would like their children to go to nursery, but complain they haven’t the political connections in city hall, and they aren’t poor enough to get subsidised child care. In other words they’re upper middle-class and the poor are slackers.

In order to make the middle-class, more working-class, Myriam channels her frustration with bouts of kleptomania. She’s already rehearsed what she will say, she simply the forgot about the pair of socks, or whatever else she’s stolen, because she’s a harassed and muddled, mother. Not being a slacker, she decides she wants to go back to work. Then she bumps into Pascal, with whom she went to law school.

Voila. Pascal offers her a job. Here we have a floating point of view and see Myriam through Pascal’s eyes. Lazy narration.

Myriam and Paul need a childminder. They agree that they are poor and can’t really afford to pay much and ‘No illegal immigrants’.

Myriam approaches an agency that hires out nannies. Again we have that floating point of view. Myriam is snapped at by the boutique owner because she looks dowdy, with untended curly hair and here’s a corker, she can speak Arabic. She’s one of them that should really be living in the banlieues. That floored me for a second.

But here we are back with Myriam and she needs a nanny, but not like her, one that does live in the banlieues. Even a Filipino or African, she was not racist. As long as the nanny was cheap and Paul agreed. He’d need to be won over.

Now we are in Louise’s apartment. She does live in a studio apartment in the banlieue. She’s not Filipino or African and she’s so organised the window she looks through hurts from being over cleaned.  Her references are impeccable. We later find out she has a daughter.

Slowly, Louise moves herself spider-like into the centre of Myriam, Paul, Adam and Mila’s  myriad lives. She cooks, she cleans, she does everything they ask of her and more. Louise, aged forty, looks twenty, she is a dream come true.

The question of why she kills the kids? Dit moi. I don’t care.

 

Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, directed by Ursula Macfarlane.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p07hbyjc/untouchable-the-rise-and-fall-of-harvey-weinstein

I watched this with interest. For those of you that don’t know the story, Bob and Harvey Weinstein came from rags to riches, rent-controlled housing, worked hard and lived the American dream. They created a media monster, Miramax, named after their mum and dad, which was gobbled up by an even bigger player, Disney. And they went on to live happily ever after in La La land.

Harvey never really had any friends. What he had a genius for was bullying and marketing. Deterrence did not deter him. No doesn’t mean no.

Paz de la Huerta, ‘You put on a happy face, but inside your dying. I wanted to take back what he stole from me.’

Hope d’Amore, ‘Nobody would have believed anything I said. He used to say he owned the cops in Buffalo.’

Journalist Andrew Goldman was a minor causality when he was put into a headlock and punched in the head by Harvey Weinstein. His girlfriend got a quote that sums up Weinstein (and Donald J Trump). ‘I’m glad I’m the sheriff of this shit ass fucking town’. Partygoers took plenty of pictures of this altercation, but none emerged to support the reporter’s claims.

Untouchable, appeasement is not just between nations but begins at home and is a come-on for the bully boy.  Wars break out not because a country becomes reckless. Countries go to war because they continue to do what they’ve always done. Weinstein’s brute strength wasn’t in his obese frame overwhelming a hundred pounds of female flesh, but in the economic strength he projected.

We know the story of how he worked. Like Michael Jackson it’s told here again and again. Pattern recognition: An invitation of a lift home. The offer of a part in movies. The sore neck that needed massaged. The locked door. The penetration. It wasn’t a secret. It wasn’t a lie. People knew, but most weren’t talking.

One of his victims summed it up by saying she was a nothing, he was a ten. But Weinstein was no longer a ten when he voluntarily placed himself in custody. He was no longer, like the pussy-grabber and moron’s moron in the Whitehouse, king of the hill. Disney had let Miramax go, and after spectacular early success, Bob and Harvey had blown $1.2 billion of other people’s money on film flops. They were vulnerable. Harvey was especially vulnerable. Sure they still had millions of dollars to throw around intimidating victim with smear campaigns, litigation and phone calls in the middle of the night, but he was no longer ‘the sheriff’, in the way that the moron’s moron is still President.

Those of us that stood around whistling and waiting with foreboding for the latter’s impeachment are gloomy. The floppy haired grabbers just keep going on grabbing to fill their oversized egos. Women are fair game, the weaker sex.

Benito Mussolini and his fascist troops occupied Ethiopia and a bit of France. There’s a sense of national histrionics and entitlement recognisable in that other caricature of humanity this side of the Atlantic in Boris Johnston. No ideology but self. The strong man. No coherent plan. Waiting to see what way the wind blows and humanity be damned. Women be fucked.

Weinstein is the lesser monster of our imagination. One that is behind bars is never that threatening. If he was up for re-election, we’d have something to fear. Stupidity is contagious, appeasement continues and it’s not too early to say the future of the world is at stake. If I’m still alive in ten years I hope and pray there’s an outbreak of common sense and a documentary about the women the moron’s moron has raped and his ever-growing, multiple, abuses of power. Trump’s still at ten in his power base, eleven even. Few sitting Presidents up for re-election lose. We need to wait for the fall.  Weinstein be damned. Weinstein is history.

 

George W MacPherson (2019) Sgaith Amazon Queen of Skye

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I read George W MacPherson’s Sgaith Amazon Queen of Skye straight through in about four hours. It seemed to me an early draft. There were a number of grammatical errors. Characters seemed one dimensional.  Descriptive prose that did take hold was often spoiled by an over-reliance on cliche. Here are a few examples from the start of the book.

Without further ado, she stepped forward naked as she was born

The cold and the dark seeped into her very bones

Just as she thought she was drowned, the water suddenly receded and she dropped on the floor of the chamber like a rag doll.

blade was fairly broad and not too long, its point sharp as a needle;  [cut] through the hardened leather armour as if through butter

The story mirrors, in many ways, Arthurian legends, but with female faces. The rhetoric claiming the druidic and poetic tradition of learning by the spoken word has been erased by a different kind of vessel, the written word is, ironically, failed by the written words of the author.

Sgaith’s rise to power and the retention of power takes over 300 years. Women were made of better stuff in those day. A subplot, Sgaith being bound by oath not to harm her sister,  is in mythology a gift or a curse, often both.

Let’s jump to what we know will happen. Aoife, is raped by Sgaith’s would be lover, Cuchullin. Aoife has had none of the training of Sgaith, yet she matches the legendary Cuchullin in battle. Not only does rape subdue her, but she also falls in love with her rapist and bears his child. Sgaith planned this misogynistic stew. She loves Cuchullin too.

I’ll finish with that less than poetic flourish. This book didn’t resonate with me, but might with you. Read on.