Sunday, February 26, 2017

President Trump Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Yesterday, I watched Trump addressing a crowd of core supporters at the American Conservative Political Action Conference. **

My visceral reaction was a tremendous sense of doom. Not because he said anything new, which was accusing ‘the dishonest media’ and repeating all the platitudes that we heard during his campaign, but because of the crowd’s reaction. The speech went on for an hour and as the crowd exploded in a chant of ‘USA! USA!’ shivers went down my spine. At the height of this frenzy, Trump turned his back to the audience, showing the world that they have completely surrendered to him and nothing that he can do will change their allegiance to their leader.

How did we get to this state of madness? Gone are the good old days when I could go about my daily life, a life of relative harmony, a life of simple pleasures like taking walks in the forest or wonder whether it was too early to plant my seedlings.

Trump has put an end to all this normalcy. Now I worry about politics every minute of the day. It is like finding out that your child has a major disease and suddenly all your time is taken up by learning everything about that disease and feverishly trying to find a treatment plan. But in the end, would I not rely on the medical experts to tell me what to do? Read more...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Evil Rising

I just spent nearly a month in Europe. It’s interesting to compare notes:

Europe is also experiencing a resurgence of nativism, xenophobia, anxiety and rightward politics among its still dominant white bourgeoisie. Like the US, Europe is also flirting with neo-fascism. Holland has its Geert Wilders, France has its Marine Le Pen, Hungary has its Viktor Orbán, etc. These are all far-right demagogues, already in power (Orban) or likely to win upcoming elections (Wilders, Le Pen).

Why is this happening?

There are the obvious alleged reasons, ceaselessly reiterated by the pundits. These include:
1. The threat of foreign influx - largely Muslims in Europe, Latinos in the US. In other words, the demographic threat to the primacy of the traditional, white, European-American dominant majority. This is aided and abetted by the ceaseless chatter about terrorism.
2. De-industrialization due to globalization and automation, greatly increasing economic insecurity.
3. Social change, including the decline of patriarchy, which makes men angry.
In sum: A feeling of being threatened, of losing ground, especially among groups that previously held all the cards.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Art of the Trumpf

Frederick Trumpf, our President's Grandfather

Some people are lucky. They have family names that elicit respect, like names of Scottish clans or old Saxon names like Armstrong or Goodrich. But others have names that are a warning sign for those who are unlucky enough to cross their path.

One of those names is ‘Trump’. It is a surname derived from Old French ‘tromper’, which means, "to cheat". The word ‘trumpery’ first appeared in English in the mid-15th century with the meanings "deceit or fraud". To trump up means, "to concoct with the intent to deceive"

Donald Trump’s original family name was Drumpf. It is derived from the word "Dumpf", which means dull.*

The ‘Drumpf’ family originates in Kallstadt Germany, where the first known person with that surname was Hanns Drumpf. He was so dull, that his relatives advised him to go into the wine business, so that he would be acceptably entertaining, at least when he was slightly inebriated.

Dullness being a trait that is passed on to your offspring, his son Johan Philip Drumpf also remained in the winegrowing business. He was often seen in the local wine cellars, sampling his own wine and making bad jokes, trying to hide his genetic boorishness. ** Read more...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Will the Real Bambi please Stand up?

Mirko Hanák, 1967

The first time I saw Bambi, I was nine years old. Ten minutes into the movie, I had to leave the theatre, unable to handle Bambi’s mother being shot. It took another 5 years before I mustered the courage to watch the movie in its entirety.

You can say a lot of things about Disney, but he was a master puppeteer at manipulating his audience’s emotions, young and old. He was also an incredibly clever businessman who plagiarized most of his stories, including Bambi.

I found this out when I recently discovered the original Bambi story. It is written by Felix Salten, a Hungarian Jew, whose original name was Sigmund Salzmann. Like many Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, (including my own grandfather) he changed his name to be more accepted by the society around him.

He lived in Vienna, which was the center of European culture in those days and became quite famous as a writer and critic. His most famous work: ‘Bambi, A Life in the Woods’, is a masterpiece if you ever read one.

Contrary to Disney, Salten was a terrible businessman. He sold the movie rights to his story for a mere $1000 to MGM producer Sidney Franklin, who in turn, sold it to Disney. The rest is history.

After having read the original, part of me feels that, although Disney’s Bambi deserves a place in history for having captivated the hearts of millions of viewers, it has also overshadowed one of the most beautifully written stories I know. Read more...