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Monthly archive

May 2017

Christopher Browning’s “Ordinary Men” & The Dynamics of Mass Murder

When one considers the full effects of the Nazis’ Final Solution, it is easy to assume a uniformly efficient and orderly method to their ideologically driven madness. Yet, in Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, we instead see a side of the Holocaust marked by fits of doubt, tears, vomit, and drunken stupor. That this perspective lacks the utterly depersonalized and mechanized nature of murder seen elsewhere in Nazi bureaucracy is not to suggest its outcome was any different, only that the perpetrator was often not afforded any distance between his actions and their consequences. Accordingly, Browning’s book, which focuses on the Reserve Police Battalion 101, offers a thorough examination of the dynamics of genocide on an individual, actively participatory level. Further, it seeks to explore how ordinary men not only assented to participation in such travesties but could transform so radically into murderers capable of killing innocent men, women and children alike.

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William Faulker’s Nobel Banquet Speech (& Planet of the Apes)

Three years ago, I chose to recite William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech for a Public Speaking class in college. I had so loathed the prospects of taking that course that I was the sole senior in a class full of freshmen and sophomores. Begrudgingly, I got through it though if memory serves correct, I made a miserable job of it. In any case, the text itself–which speaks to Cold War fears and anxieties–is masterful.

Imagine my surprise, however, to hear bits of it used in the recently released teaser trailer for this summer’s War for the Planet of the Apes. Granted, it’s not his voice and the words have been fairly condensed and reworked, nevertheless I quite liked its inclusion and thought it a rather unexpected place to find Faulkner! (Full disclosure: I quite love this Planet of the Apes reboot so perhaps I wouldn’t be okay had another film done this.) Below’s the film’s teaser trailer, Faulkner’s delivery of the speech from 1950, and the full text from his speech.

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Advertisements from 5/14/1917 (New York Tribune)

Here’s a selection of four ads pulled from the New York Tribune exactly 100 years ago today. They’re a fairly NYC-centric bunch. I’m especially partial to the pitch to invest in Bronx real estate on account of the expanding 6 train line. Though I must say I’m not sure how I feel about its shameless use of the ongoing war as a marketing trick.

The other ads include one for a introduced ferry service up the Hudson River from NYC to Albany; a tourism invitation from the Canada Pacific Railway; and a sell on the suburban life from the LIRR. All these and more can be found here at the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America project (my favorite offering of theirs).

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Listerine Ad, 1944

Below’s an advertisement for Listerine that was printed in the September 1944 issue of Ladies Home Journal. Not unlike many other ads from the era, it required a bit of reading in order to figure out what exactly was being sold. In the course of doing other research with the Journal, I thought this worth snapping a photo of and saving for posterity sake.

"Whew! Sis won't be an old maid after all!"

A Plumber’s Guarantee

With all the talk of Nixon and the “Saturday Night Massacre” lately, I decided to watch the BBC’s 5-part documentary on Watergate from 1994 (available in its entirety on youtube here). First, It’s a very good, and features interviews with all the major players from the scandal. Second, some of the stuff is patently absurd (and a bit hilarious), particularly those bits with the White House “plumbers.” Above, I’ve clipped a story about an incident of miscommunication and Gordon Liddy who thought he was tasked to “take care of” journalist Jack Anderson…the stuff of a farce.

Book Review: “To Save the Children of Korea”

When activists of the late-1960s began to brandish the phrase “the personal is political” it is unlikely any thought was given to the thousands of Korean children that had traversed the Pacific in the prior decade and a half. Yet, as Arissa Oh demonstrates in To Save the Children of Korea: The Cold War Origins of International Adoption, the blurring of the private and the political took many forms including that of the emerging international adoption complex she assiduously explores in her book. Focusing on the birth and evolution of a practice that saw thousands of American families adopt “orphaned” Korean children, Oh charts the infusion of global implications into a once intensely private endeavor. Her book, in turn, examines issues as varied and significant as race, identity, class, gender, colonialism, victimhood, and privilege, all of which are invariably suffused with Cold War ideology from the period in focus. Keep Reading

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