Commentaries - December 2009

From Charles Bernstein's blog today: "Abraham Ravett, a film maker and photographer who teaches at Hampshire, made a recording of Charles Reznkioff reading from Holocaust on December 21, 1975, almost exactly 35 years ago. He has sent the recording and photographs to PennSound and we will be making them available soon." More...

One of my favorite archives is the New Deal photo library of the National Archives & Records Administration (One of my favorite archives is the New Deal photo library of the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA). Thousands of photographs are organized in categories: Art, Civil Works Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, Conservation, Disaster Relief, Education, Farm Security Administration, Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Film, Health Care, Historical Projects, Housing, Issues and Events, Music, etc. Under "health care" there are hundreds of posters, including anti-quack warnings such as the one I've reproduced here. It is dated August 30, 1938. I'm glad to see that the good doctor was one who did not "demand advance payment." And don't you love the evil dark image of the monocled medico shown toward the right side of the poster? We should beware the pencil mustache too, I suppose.

The final tell-tale sign of the quack cancer doctor? That he advertises.

If someone tries to fence (as it were) this sign, please let us know. It's been stolen--yes, can you believe that?--from the gates of Auschwitz. This sort of thing is the occasion of journalistic writing in which every phrase pounds with irony. This, for instance: "Police have launched an intensive hunt, with criminal investigators and search dogs sent to the grounds of the vast former death camp, whose barracks, watchtowers and ruins of gas chambers still stand as testament to the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany on Jews, Gypsies, and others." There's a scene for you. The Polish police have finally gone into Auschwitz with full force--barking dogs, searchlights, etc.--looking for evidence of a crime. I wonder if they'll see any.

(Anyway, ponder this: Why--I mean, seriously--are they looking inside the camp? Aren't they as likely to find guilt in the Polish countryside?)

Lee Eisenberg over at Shoptimism links me with this headline: "Mutually Assured Consumption."

At a conference on Totalitarianism held at the American Academcy of Arts and Sciences in 1953 (proceedings published in 1954, edited by Carl J. Friedrich), David Reisman (author of The Lonely Crowd and other books), who was one of the speakers at the conference, put forward his elaborate plan for a "nylon war" that would cater to the ordinary human appetites behind the Iron Curtain by bombarding the Russians with luscious consumer goods.

Ah, academic conferences in the 50s! Don't you wish the social sciences were into stuff like this now?