Monday, September 12, 2011

Nazi Thesis- Part X

X means ten in Roman numerals. Here is part ten in my continuing series on the Nazi personality.

There have been many movements and political parties throughout history, but Nazism outmatches most when it comes to the fanatiscm of its members. Hitler was able to tap into the fears and paranoia felt in Germany after World War I, and combine it with popular doctrines of the time. Racism, nationalism and even the dreaded Marxism played into what the Nazis created to gain their “living space,” and the elimination of true evil. By borrowing what he liked from various groups and texts, Hitler could create his own utopian ideology that spoke to everyone in Germany, including the workers who were mainly socialist. The very name of the party conveys this mass appeal, the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. All of these things mean something different, in fact, they contradict each other, but Hitler knew that he needed to gain all the support he could. 

In the Nazi party there was something for everyone, and that is why there was such a grab bag of men that chose to join. No other movement could have culled such a varied spectrum of men into its ranks. Varied only applies to the places they came from, the viewpoints they held were not varied at all. The darkness in the hearts of the top Nazis was what connected them with each other and to the overreaching Nazi idea. Like all groups, the Nazis believed that they were doing good, and that Aryans were the preferred race on the entire planet. An ability to be easily swayed characterizes all die hard Nazis. 

In the Nazi personality there were varying degrees of gullibility, Goebbels represents the highest, and Speer the lowest. Certain men joined because it suited their lifestyle, and gave them the opportunity for success, like Speer. Others used it merely to fill a void in their lives, and bought into every facet of Nazism, like Goebbels. Perhaps gullible is the wrong word for those who completely immersed themselves in the party, but so large was the hole inside of them that a lack of truth in what the Nazis preached did not matter. 

The opportunism that Hitler exercised rendered any disbelievers helpless against the growing throngs of Nazi supporters. Times had been so hard in Germany following the war, and the population was so humiliated that it was easy for the Nazis to rally support, despite the lack of truth in their ideology. Also, the Nazis tapped into long standing social beliefs, mostly concerning the Jews. Among his many talents, Hitler had the ability to tell people what they wanted to hear, but even he was not able to make his people believe as the war turned against Germany.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years On

Ten years ago, during my first week of college, I remember waking up to a ringing phone. My mom was on the other end, and she frantically told me that someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. I scoffed, half asleep, and told her she must be mistaken. I tried to get off the phone and go back to sleep, but she was insistent, so I got up and turned on the T.V. She was right. I saw one of the twin towers engulfed in flame and frantic New Yorkers fleeing the scene. Moments later, another plane flew into the second tower. It was so surreal, it felt like I was watching a trailer for some cheesy terrorist movie. When the reality sank in, a feeling of sickness and shock hit me.

I remember many of the details of that day, but it was all in such a haze that it felt as if I was watching someone else's life from the outside. The whole thing was so jarring and incongruous because here I was a young, bright eyed college student embarking on an exciting new chapter of my life, and then this act of unspeakable evil occurred, threatening our safety and our lives. I knew that our nation and its people would never be the same after the attacks.

9/11 was my generation's Pearl Harbor or Kennedy assassination, not because the magnitude of either of those events is at all the same as 9/11, but because all three events robbed the country and its youth of their innocence. We were all different after 9/11. I saw firsthand how young people changed in the aftermath. Cynicism and hatred became more pronounced, war and its brutal effects were born out of those attacks, and many people I knew, and still know became irrationally fearful. Even though I wasn't directly affected by the events on that day, I do sometimes wonder how different my life would be if the towers still stood and all those people were still alive. It's silly to play the 'what if' game, and pointless because it did happen and we are living in a post-9/11 world. I just hope that we can someday get to a point where we are all a little more open, a little more trusting and a lot less fearful, like I was on September 10, 2001. That's my hope as we sit here, ten years on.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,

AMADEUS (1984)

Starring- F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Jeffery Jones, Elizabeth Berridge

Based on a Tony Award winning play by Peter Schaffer, this film is as close to perfect as any film can be. Schaffer, who adapted the play for the film, crafted an engrossing, beautiful and terrifying story about the life and death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The story is told by Mozart's chief rival, cum enemy, Antonio Salieri (Abraham) in flashbacks. The film is set up like a mystery, as the viewer tries to discover whether Salieri killed Mozart or not. While there is a bit of license taken with the historical facts, the narrative is so moving and well done that even the most strict classical music experts will overlook the inconsistencies.

Abraham's Salieri is the focal point of the story as we see the action through his eyes. He serves at court composer to Emperor Joseph II of Austria, but is quickly outshone by the young, and very uncouth Mozart (Hulce). A somewhat friendly competition between the two men turns more vengeful when Salieri, who is a model of virtue, is outdone at every turn by Mozart. While he plots to have Mozart marginalized at court, he is also secretly his biggest fan, which sets up some very amusing and riveting scenes. Perhaps the best scene in the movie illustrates this conflict best when Salieri helps an ailing Mozart write his Requiem, seeing that the voice of God is coming through the vulgar little man.

The acting and cinematography are top notch, all the mark of Director Milos Forman who shot the film in his native Prague. While there are moments of high drama, Forman and Schaffer mix in some very funny moments, namely scenes where Mozart has occasion to do something crass or giggle. It is hard not to laugh when you hear Tom Hulce laugh in this film. The supporting roles add to the richness of the film, namely with Jeffery Jones as the Emperor and Roy Dotrice as Mozart's domineering father. No score was composed for the film, because each piece of Mozart's music was chosen specifically by Schaffer and Forman to reflect the mood they hoped to achieve or the time in Mozart's life. I must say that they did a superb job and that the soundtrack is one of the all time greats in film history.

I can always watch this film if it is on, and I try to watch it at least once a year. If you have a chance, also watch the behind the scenes documentary on the DVD because it is just as compelling as the movie itself. Amadeus is easily in my Top Five films of all time. I'll favor you with that list sometime soon, but until then- watch Amadeus.

Things to watch for-

Simon Callow (who originated the role of Mozart) as Schikaneder
Nipples of Venus
Mozart changes the March of Welcome
The Requiem
The Queen of the Night
The Creature

"Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Five Top 5 Lists

Here now are five top five lists on a variety of subjects-

Top Five Steven Spielberg Movies-

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Schindler's List

Jurassic Park

Top Five Beers-

Newcastle Brown Ale
Miller High Life
Uinta Cutthroat Pale Ale
Pabst Blue Ribbon


Top Five Candy Bars-


Milky Way Midnight
Oh Henry!

Top Five Shows Currently on T.V.-

Mad Men

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
30 Rock

Top Five Secondary Star Wars Characters-

Bib Fortuna

Wedge Antilles
Admiral Ackbar
Aunt Beru
Jar Jar Binks (Just Kidding)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book of the Month

This Month,


By James Herriot

I am not what you would call an animal lover, and yet I love this book about an English vet who tells charming vignettes about his life and work in the Yorkshire Dales. James Herriot is the vet in question, and his life story is full of fun, touching and enthralling stories that make you keep turning the pages. This is actually just the first in a series of books about by Herriott and each one builds upon the narrative of his provincial life.

In addition to many great animal characters like Tricki Woo, the main focus is on Herriot and his two vet colleagues- Sigfried Farnon and his brother, Tristan. All three men are compelling and quirky characters that add to the richness of the book. Sigfried is an eccentric man who is always contradicting himself and making James laugh at his foibles. Tristan is a lazy prankster who sometimes allows his cavalier attitude impede his work. James functions as the everyman in the book and as the narrator he gives us good insights into what it was like to be a young vet during the 1930's in Darrowby.

This book, and its many sequels, are some of my favorites because they are so full of life and great characters. All the farmers and villagers are one of a kind people that Herriot truly relishes recounting. If you enjoy this book, I highly recommend the T.V. series of the same name that played on the BBC in the 1970's and 80's. It starred Christopher Timothy as James and Robert Hardy as Sigfried. I've been watching them on Netflix lately, so they're still available. Here's a photo of Timothy and Hardy from the show.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio, Fred Gwynne

If you are looking for a hard-core, suspenseful courtroom drama- this isn't it. It is a very funny, somewhat suspenseful courtroom comedy that won Marisa Tomei a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Mona Lisa Vito, fiance of the main character, Vincent LaGuardia Gambini (Pesci). Ms. Vito and her lawyer beau, Vinny are sent to rural Alabama to get Vinny's cousin and his friend off for a murder that they didn't commit.

This movie showcases the talents of Pesci, as he blends his wiseguy persona with a touch of heart and humor in a true fish out of water story. Vinny has no background in trial law and is up against damning evidence, a solid prosecutor and a judge with a grudge against him. The judge is portrayed by T.V.'s Herman Munster, Fred Gwynne, in a rare, but hilarious film role. Gwynne and Pesci's scenes are some of the best in the film, as Vinny tries to sidestep the judge's no-nonsense demeanor with his Brooklyn bullshit.

While the entire cast is very solid, the real kudos go to Tomei who steals every scene she is in. Her best and most memorable scene is on the witness stand, as she rattles off her vast knowledge of cars. She is all at once cute, charming, crass and trashy. The story unfolds somewhat predictably, but it doesn't matter because the audience is having so much fun and enjoying the jokes that are mixed in with a few sweet moments. My Cousin Vinny is Twelve Angry Men meets Goodfellas meets Night Court. If you see it, you'll know what I mean.

Things to watch for-

The Sac-O-Suds
Bruce McGill as the Sheriff
Lisa's pink camera
2 Utes

"Dead on balls accurate?"
"It's an industry term."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top 10 Rolling Stones Songs

The Beatles are hands down my favorite band, but not too far off in second place are the Rolling Stones. Mick, Keith and the boys are masters and have contributed so many great songs to the rock and roll genre over their almost 50 years in the business. Here now, in no particular order are my picks for their 10 best songs. It was hard to pick only 10, kids.

GIMME SHELTER- This dark rock anthem from the Let it Bleed album is not only a staple in Martin Scorsese films, but it signaled the end of the flower power sixties and commented on the growing violence in the world, namely the Vietnam War. Of note in this song is the great complimentary vocals by Merry Clayton.

BROWN SUGAR- This has always been one of my favorite Stones songs. The song opens with one of the great guitar riffs of all time and has some of Mick's most suggestive lyrics- alluding to drug use and interracial sex. In addition to the killer guitar by Keith and Mick Taylor, the song also boasts some sweet saxophone action.

HONKY TONK WOMEN- Another song that benefits from a strong horn section, Honky Tonk Women has two versions, but the more sparse Country Honk is not as good as the more rock inspired version. Mick gets off one of the best rock lyrics of all time in this song- "She blew my nose, and the she blew my mind." The bluesy guitar, horns and vocals compliment each other perfectly.

MONKEY MAN- Not as well known as some Stones songs, this song is said to be about a bad heroin trip. Whether that is true or not, this song flat out rocks. It begins with Stones' contributer Nicky Hopkins playing tinkly piano and a guitar riff from Keith that gets progressively more aggressive as the song moves along. This song also appears in one of my all time favorite movies- Goodfellas.

JUMPIN' JACK FLASH- One of the most recognizable opening riffs of all time begins this classic tune. Mick and Keith were trying to get back to their rock and roll roots with this song, after completing the psychedelic Satanic Majesty's Request. I'll never forget the first time I heard Mick sing the opening line- "I was born in a crossfire hurricane." This is absolutely one of the best rock songs ever written.

TUMBLING DICE- Recorded during the Stones exile in France, this song has a great classic bluesy feel to it. The subject matter for the song is also very old school blues- love and gambling. While this song has the kind of impromptu feel of a blues song, it took over 150 takes to get the basic track. It was worth all the work because it is the best song on Exile on Main Street.

LET'S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER- Controversial because of the lyrics, this song almost got the Stones banned from an appearance on Ed Sullivan. It was only after they changed it to "Let's spend some time together" that Sullivan allowed them to play it. The piano and guitar drive the song and give it a fun tone while the vocals have a nice combination of blues and do-wop that I feel gloss over anything tawdry in the lyrics.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL- Another song that sparked controversy because of the lyrics, Sympathy For the Devil is a first person narrative from Lucifer as he comments on violence and atrocities committed by mankind. It is notable for the piano riff and the opening that begins with various percussion and Mick screaming. I find it hard to dislike any song that rocks hard and has social commentary in it at the same time.

MIDNIGHT RAMBLER- This song used to be my cell phone ring, but it hardly did this hard driving blues song justice. The lyrics are a bit dark as is the very fuzzy guitar riff played by Keith. Mick gets off some good old blues lyrics while also playing harmonica. My favorite part of the song is how it changes tempo several times from fast paced to almost snail-like before coming back more aggressively at the very end.

(I CAN'T GET NO) SATISFACTION- No Stones list would be complete without this classic rock anthem. Their first big hit, Satisfaction is a great treatise on celebrity and how it can affect people caught up in it. Again, the song begins with a great guitar riff that gives way to some of the truest words ever written about rock and roll.


These songs very nearly could have made the list.

PAINT IT BLACK (Sorry Emily)