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“STOP immigrants and Drahoš. This land is ours! Vote Zeman.” Election posters all over the Czech Republic, January 2018.

“This is the order of the moment for every one of us, it is the historical task of our generation … Our new republic cannot be built as anything other than a purely national state, a state of only Czechs and Slovaks and of nobody other than Czechs and Slovaks! Although our land is beautiful, fertile, rich, it is small and there is no room in it for anybody other than us … Every one of us must help in the cleansing of the homeland.” Prokop Drtina, Minister of Justice in postwar Czechoslovak National Front Government, 17 May 1945.

The Bohemian Germans of whom Drtina wanted the homeland “cleansed” had lived in the Czech Lands of Bohemia and Moravia since they were invited in by Czech kings in the 13th century.  The chronicle of František Pražský, written in the 1340s, records that as early as 1315 Czech lords complained of “these foreigners who are in the kingdom,” requesting instead that the king favor “us, who were born in the kingdom …”

Six hundred years later Communist Party leader Klement Gottwald echoed the lords’ complaint in Brno on 23 June 1945, denouncing “the mistakes of our Czech kings, the Přemyslids, who invited the German colonists here” and demanding that Czechs expel “once and for ever beyond the borders of our land … an element hostile to us.”

Between 1945 and 1946 over three million Bohemian Germans (and thousands of Hungarians) were forcibly expelled from Czechoslovakia.  At least 15,000 people, and probably many more, perished in one of the worst examples of ethnic cleansing in 20th-century Europe.  Czechs made up 70% of the population of the Czech Lands of Bohemia and Moravia—the present-day Czech Republic—in 1939.  In 1950 they made up 94%.

The Sudetenland was resettled by Czechs and Slovaks, who showed their gratitude by voting in huge numbers for the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in the elections of 1946.  To this day, the region remains one of the most desolate and depressed parts of the country.  Needless to say the former Sudetenland voted heavily for Zeman in the election of 2013 (in which, astonishingly, the events of 1945-6 became a major issue between Zeman and his liberal opponent Karel Schwarzenberg) and again in 2018.

As I said in my previous post, history is never past.


 

PS.  Before the war Prokop Drtina was a prominent member of the National Socialist Party who became Edvard Beneš’s personal secretary and confidant.   He was a member of the London-based Czechoslovak government-in-exile, familiar to Czechs from his BBC radio wartime broadcasts as Pavel Svatý.  He went on to become one of the “bourgeois ministers” in Klement Gottwald’s communist-led coalition government, whose collective resignation in February 1948 precipitated the coup d’état that led to 42 years of communism in Czechoslovakia.  Drtina unsuccessfully attempted suicide three days later and was imprisoned until 1960.  Later he became a signatory of the dissidents’ Charter 77.  He died in 1980, with no end of communist rule in sight.  His autobiography, published by the émigré publishing house 68 Publishers in Toronto in 1982 and in Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1991, is called Czechoslovakia My Fate.

 

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“Years ago we saw No-Man’s-Land, in a film, and because the film took place in 1918, we thought, fools that we were, that it was past history.  We went home from the cinema with a feeling of pride in the free radiant future toward which the people of today walk hand in hand.  At that time we had not yet experienced the strange twists and turns, the detours, dead ends, blind alleys, that history creates” (Milena Jesenská, “In No-Man’s-Land,” Přítomnost [The Present], 29 December 1938; translated by A. G. Brain, in Jana Černá, Kafka’s Milena, Northwestern University Press, 1993, p. 201).

Three months later Czechoslovakia was dismembered and Bohemia and Moravia invaded by Hitler’s Wehrmacht and turned into a Protectorate of the Third Reich.  Milena Jesenská was arrested in November 1939.  She died in Ravensbrück concentration camp in May 1943.

Today, almost 100 years after Czechoslovakia declared independence from Austria-Hungary and 28 years after the Velvet Revolution, Czech history veers off down another inimitably Czech country lane.

Miloš Zeman, who has warned that if the Czech Republic accepts more refugees from Syria (currently it has admitted a grand total of 12) “unfaithful women will be stoned, thieves will have their hands cut off and we will be deprived of the beauty of women, since they will be veiled” was re-elected as President of the Czech Republic.  At least the margin of victory was narrow (51.36% to Jiří Drahoš’s 48.63%) and the major cities of Prague, Brno and Plzen turned out in force for Drahoš.

Moral: history is never past.  Good thing Václav Havel appreciated the absurd.

Making America White Again

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House Republicans have introduced the Securing America’s Future Act (H.R. 4760). The bill would institute the most severe restriction on legal immigrants since the 1920s.

H.R. 4760 would reduce the number of legal immigrants by more than 420,000, or 38 percent, in 2019. The bill has much in common with a Trump-endorsed bill in the Senate—the RAISE Act (S. 1720)—that would reduce the entry of legal immigrants by more than 470,000, or 43 percent, in 2019. Each would further reduce legal immigration over time.

Both bills would end the diversity green card lottery and ban the entry of all legal immigrants sponsored by U.S. family members, except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens. Lawful permanent residents would no longer be able to bring in spouses or children. The RAISE Act would also reduce the age at which U.S. citizens can sponsor minor children from 21 to 18, while the House bill would roughly halve the number of asylees. Both bills immediately cancel applications for millions of people who have waited years to become legal immigrants.

MAGA, y’all!


 

You go, girl!

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“Last Friday, the multiple gold medal‑winning US gymnast Aly Raisman delivered an electrifyingly powerful victim statement at the sentencing hearing of the former US gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. If you haven’t watched it, I recommend you take the time. For any 23-year-old to speak with such intensity, poise and control would be remarkable; to do so directly to her sexual abuser in a packed courtroom under the gaze of the cameras is of a radically different order …” (Marina Hyde in the Guardian).  I couldn’t agree more.


 

stay classy, boys

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Meantime in Britain, where they find Donald Trump awfully vulgar, a “charity fund-raiser” takes place at the Dorchester Hotel.

“It is for men only. A black tie evening, Thursday’s event was attended by 360 figures from British business, politics and finance and the entertainment included 130 specially hired hostesses. All of the women were told to wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels. At an after-party many hostesses — some of them students earning extra cash — were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned … Hostesses reported men repeatedly putting hands up their skirts; one said an attendee had exposed his penis to her during the evening.”

Among the guests was Nadhim Zahawi, undersecretary of state for children and families.

Time for the tumbrils?


 

dear white people

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S. T. Holloway very lucidly explains “why this black girl will not be returning to the women’s march”:

“In 2014, I, along with several hundred other people, marched in protest against the shooting of Ezell Ford, an unarmed black man killed by the Los Angeles police just days after the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. And whereas the Women’s March felt like a mosh pit, the Ford protest felt more like an empty parking lot, with protesters walking freely down open streets alongside normal traffic, their movements unrestricted by a voluminous crowd.

While there were certainly some white allies present joining their voices in solidarity, noticeably absent from the Ford protest were the throngs of white women I saw at the Women’s March: the soccer moms, the college students, the housewives with their children in tow, the grandmothers, the career women, the retirees and so on.

Instead, the majority of those present were the regulars, black and brown folks, and in particular, women. On that day, as we have before and have since, we found ourselves alone in our pain. We found ourselves alone in our pleas and cries for justice, for the end to the killing of our children and husbands and fathers and brothers, for the cessation of the systematic dismantling of our families, and for recognition that our lives and the lives of the ones we love do matter.

This willful blind eye, this deliberate ignorance, fosters a culture where millions protest when white women’s access to health care is threatened, but when black maternal death rates in the United States are on par with women in countries like Mexico and Uzbekistan, there is no national outrage or call for reform or worldwide protest.”

Weird.


 

a messy and chaotic mind

zadie smith

“I don’t think of myself as a contrarian. I’m useless at confrontation. But I also can’t stand dogma, lazy ideas, catchphrases, group-think, illogic, pathos disguised as logos, shoutiness, ad hominem attacks, bombast, liberal piety, conservative pomposity, ideologues, essentialists, technocrats, preachers, fanatics, cheerleaders or bullies. Like everybody, I am often guilty of some version of all of the above, but I do think the job of writing is to at least try and minimise that sort of thing as much as you can.”

The wise and wonderful Zadie Smith answers questions from Teju Cole and other fans on the occasion of the publication of her new book of essays Feel Free.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 

Vic Mensa: What Palestine Taught Me About American Racism

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“For once in my life I didn’t feel like the nigger. As I sat comfortably at a coffee shop, gawking at a group of Israeli soldiers harassing a Palestinian teenager, it was clear who was the nigger. My American passport, ironically, had awarded me a higher position in the social hierarchy of Jerusalem than it did in my hometown of Chicago.”

His debut album The Autobiography is pretty stunning, too.


 

Key findings about U.S. immigrants

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By way of background to what nowadays passes for politics in the United States (or should I say United Shitholes?) of America.

The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 43.2 million in 2015.  Immigrants today account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.7%) in 1970. However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.

Useful data from the Pew Research Center.  In snowflake Canada, by way of comparison, the foreign-born population was 20.6% in 2011 Census.  The sky hasn’t fallen yet (and the food choices get better by the year).


 

Sense and sensitivity

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“After the 10th or so person sent me the stunningly silly anti-#MeToo letter signed by Catherine Deneuve and a hundred other French women (the actual authorship of which we’ll get to), informing me that I’d love it because finally someone was standing up for sanity, I considered a form letter response: ‘If the question is whether #MeToo has gone too far or not far enough, the answer is obviously BOTH. Putting yourself on one side or the other is politically obtuse.'”

Thank you Laura Kipnis.  Pissing off all sides, as usual.  Both/and rather than either/or.  Courage, subtlety, and intellect, very well worth the long read.


 

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at 200

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But Frankenstein is no memoir. The question it asks, “How far is too far?”, is at the very heart of modernity. The Romantics, Mary among them, “leaned in” to progress … Published early in this classical era of modernity, Mary’s novel still helps us define its terms today. Shorthand for the way we experience ourselves within a world of increasing man-made complexity, “modernity” is both positive and negative, signalling hope for progress as well as our fear of change. Frankenstein identifies the mismatch between human experience and what we are expected to become as technology and science advance.  (Fiona Sampson, on her new book on Mary Shelley).

“It is the migrant, the refugee, and the Muslim that have become the poor lone impossible monsters abhorr’d of our time, the nameless figures of terror against whom we must circle our wagons and strengthen our walls.  It is salutary how quickly Helena’s sympathy for the robots [in Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R.] turns to disgust once she learns they are not “just like me”—once, that is to say, they have been convincingly Othered, cast outside the pale of the League of Humanity.  “Oh, stop!  At least send them out of the room!” she begs.  In this respect R.U.R. is a more pertinent text for our times than Frankenstein, because of its grasp of this dialectic of resemblance and alterity, attraction and repulsion, fascination and fear. We can send them out of the room but the suspicion of their humanity can never be exorcized.  It eternally returns to haunt us, pricking the collective conscience—in the image of a three-year-old Syrian boy in blue shorts and red top lying face down, drowned, on a Greek beach, for instance, or in the blank, uncomprehending face of a black man who cannot believe he lost all his fingers to frostbite while trying to walk from North Dakota to Manitoba.  The more we can’t get them out of our heads, the more we wish they would just go away.  Make it stop!  Do I hear murmurings of a Final Solution?  We have been here before, and it wasn’t in 1816.”  My take on why Shelley’s astonishing novel still matters.


 

Nonsense and insensitivity

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London’s oldest strip club, the Windmill Theater in Soho, has lost its license after a women’s rights group hired private detectives to gather evidence that the venue broke a ban on physical contact between dancers and clients.  Stacey Clare is a stripper, performance artist, writer, activist and co-founding member of the East London Strippers Collective.  She writes:

“Closing down a venue may feel like a victory to those who champion the abolition of the industry, but taking work away from women relying on it is tantamount to taking food from our mouths. Thousands of girls who otherwise have less value in the wider job market (foreign nationals, single mums, anyone with any sort of disadvantaged background) are turning to stripping and other forms of sex work to survive. According to the English Collective of Prostitutes, record numbers have moved into the sex industry under austerity, which disproportionately affects women, particularly single mothers. In fact, putting women out of work is about the most un-feminist thing possible …

Their [feminist anti-strip club campaigners’] cloak and dagger tactics reveal the kind of attitude women’s rights campaigners have towards us, the women at the centre of this issue – that we, the ‘victims’, cannot be trusted to have a say in the matter so decisions must be made on our behalf, rather than consult with us directly.”

The infernal problem of false consciousness, aka I know what’s good for you better than you do, dear.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 

1  death of the author?

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The car could have come from anywhere from Halifax to Vancouver and one thousand and one places in between.  Who knows who wrote what bits of this rolling conversation where or when or why?

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Likely the tagging went like this:  (1)  Islam sucks  (2)  But not as much as Christianity  (3)  Sucks deleted and I ♥ added.

But what if it went like this:  (1)  Islam sucks  (2)  Sucks deleted and replaced by I ♥  (3)  But not as much as Christianity added?

 

2  the last of a/fucking culture

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SHOULD FIND SOMETHING BETTER TO/DO WITH MY TIME BUT THIS IS JUST A/MORNING EXERCISE BEFORE I GO AND/RENOVATE MY HALF A MILLION CONDO/WHILE YOU LOSERS FIRE UP THE BANG (?)/AND PLAY CALL OF DUTY WHILE ITS NICE/OUTSIDE.  HOPEFULLY SOMEONE MARKS/THIS WITH A SWEET THROW UP THAT/BELONGS ON A WALL

graffiti crop

 

 

 

 

 

Roads to nowhere

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The postwar passion for highway construction saw cities around the world carved up in the name of progress. But as communities fought back many schemes were abandoned – their half-built traces showing what might have been.

Among others: the Lower Manhattan Expressway, New York; Spadina Expressway, Toronto; Marina Freeway, L.A.; Glasgow Inner Ring Road (Charing Cross); Plan Pompidou, Paris; Olympyka highway, Poland; Borovsko Bridge, Czech Republic.


 

Modern cruelty 1 (Making America Great Again)

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Nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been allowed to live in the United States for more than a decade must leave the country, government officials announced Monday. It is the Trump administration’s latest reversal of years of immigration policies and one of the most consequential to date.

Homeland security officials said that they were ending a humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status, for Salvadorans who have been allowed to live and work legally in the United States since a pair of devastating earthquakes struck their country in 2001.


 

Concerto Al Quds

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A man who loves his shackles,
a wife fully veiled,
a girl wearing a headscarf,
and halal meat.
A hotel, a restaurant, a coffee shop, a graveyard.

Donald Trump recently and controversially announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the seemingly endless debate over the city and the possibility of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine flared up again in the headlines. Coincidentally, recent weeks have also seen the publication of Concerto al-Quds, a book-length poem meditating on the history and fate of Jerusalem, from the renowned poet Adonis.


 

Modern cruelty 2 (England for the English aka Taking Back Control)

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‘I cry most days.’

An 83-year-old widowed nurse who worked for the NHS for 30 years before retiring to Jamaica has had multiple requests to visit her family in the UK refused, despite drawing an NHS pension and a full British state pension.

Icilda Williams moved to the UK from Jamaica with her husband in 1962. Both were Commonwealth citizens and British subjects. The couple bought a house in Bradford, had children there – all of whom are British passport holders – and Williams devoted her life to caring for mentally ill children in two local hospitals.


 

My skin is contraband

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“I pull on a long black-and-white mottled skirt, a black t-shirt, and black flats. Each of these items of clothing is carefully considered. The skirt covers my legs and tattoos. The shirt is loose, but not too loose, and covers other tattoos. The shoes are unlikely to set off the metal detector. It’s 65 degrees out and so I risk a light sweater. Here I might run into problems. It’s voluminous and has a cowl neck, both of which might raise suspicions that I’m smuggling in contraband. It also has a meshed back which, though I’m wearing a shirt under it, may still be too suggestive of the possibility of seeing flesh that it will be nixed …”

A woman dresses for a prison visit.  A remarkable essay by Tiffany D. Vann Sprecher.


 

Modern cruelty 3 (Making America the Greatest Ever, Baby)

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Five-year-old Gamila Almansoob has asked the same question for years: “When are we going to daddy?” Each time, the Yemeni girl’s mother gives the same reply: “When we get the paperwork.”

Gamila’s father, Ramy Almansoob, a US citizen, moved to Virginia in 2015 with the hopes that his wife and three daughters could soon follow and escape their war-torn home country. After a lengthy vetting process, the visas were approved on 4 December 2017. That same day, however, the US supreme court ruled that Donald Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, could go into effect.

 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 

 

Three days after I posted my reflections on Trump’s Cabinet, Brexit voters, and Rolling Stone’s top twenty albums of all time on my blog, this appeared on Stereogum.  Another petrifying coincidence.

“The Beatles finish 2017 [sic!] with the top two selling vinyl LPs of the year: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (72,000 — powered in large part by the album’s deluxe anniversary reissue in 2017) and Abbey Road (66,000). The soundtrack Guardians Of The Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 is the third biggest with 62,000.”

 

Sgt.Pepper.Faces_

 

trump camp david jan 2018

 

Trump defends his “I am a stable genius” tweet at Camp David, surrounded by loyal toadies.  All white, all but one male, and almost all past retirement age (Paul Ryan was just born old).  And still partying like there’s no tomorrow.

 

Selective humanitarianism

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Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, was recently arrested in a night-time raid on her home. The Israeli authorities accuse her of “assaulting” an Israeli soldier and an officer. A day earlier she had confronted Israeli soldiers who had entered her family’s backyard. The incident happened shortly after a soldier shot her 14-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet, and fired tear-gas canisters directly at their home, breaking windows.

Her mother and cousin were arrested later as well. All three remain in detention.

There has been a curious lack of support for Ahed from Western feminist groups, human rights advocates and state officials who otherwise present themselves as the purveyors of human rights and champions of girls’ empowerment.

Their campaigns on empowering girls in the global South are innumerable: Girl Up, Girl Rising, G(irls)20 Summit, Because I am a Girl, Let Girls Learn, Girl Declaration …


 

Israel Offers African Migrants a Choice: Ticket Out or Jail

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“Every country must guard its borders,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, announcing the plan. “The infiltrators have a clear choice — cooperate with us and leave voluntarily, respectably, humanely and legally, or we will have to use other tools at our disposal, which are also according to the law.”

Later, on Facebook, Mr. Netanyahu wrote, “The government approved a plan today that will give every infiltrator two options: a flight ticket out or jail.”

It is the latest phase of Israel’s long campaign to expel tens of thousands of African migrants and asylum seekers, mostly Eritrean and Sudanese, who entered the country illegally. At least 20,000 have already left Israel. “The mission now,” Mr. Netanyahu said, “is to deport the rest.”

Absolutely not an apartheid state, and to criticize it as racist is anti-Semitic. After all, isn’t the US doing the same thing?


 

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

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A bitter row over the difficulties of debating racism in France has erupted after a high-profile feminist and anti-racism campaigner was forced off a government advisory body, prompting the resignation of the director and most of its members.

Journalist Rokhaya Diallo has repeatedly spoken out against what she calls institutional racism in France, notably police stop and search practices against non-white young men …

“When I talked of institutional racism in France, I was hugely reproached for it,” Diallo said. “The fact is that Jean-Michel Blanquer, instead of concerning himself with the racism that is produced by the state, prefers to take legal action against an expression …”

“The foundation stone of the French Republic is that all citizens should be equal and free from distinctions of class, race or religion. It is illegal to classify people by ethnicity or to collect data or ask census questions on race or origins.  But campaigners say this masks ongoing problems of racism and discrimination in society.”


 

Moby dick

 

moby

A possible plan to move the city’s dogs onto a plant-based diet has the backing of prominent vegans such as Moby, but others warn it could get messy.

Proponents say it will make Los Angeles the world’s progressive capital.  Sceptics say it will mean diarrhea, lots of diarrhea.

The proposal, which has divided scientists and animal rights groups and inflamed social media, is to put dogs in the city’s public shelters on a vegan diet.

First world problems, much?


 

Lana Del Rey’s America

 

lana del rey

Del Rey’s America was always a kind of dystopia—a bubblegum pastiche, except peopled by lecherous old bikers and drug addictions and bad boyfriends who stalk her through beaches and deserts and stifling small towns. America is as much a character in her work as a setting, shaping and stealing scenes. What’s made her brand of Americana endearing to many is that it manages to be enthusiastic about the idea of America while filtering its reality through enough hazy nostalgia to wipe out any notion that she’s talking about a country that actually exists—or ever did …

With Trump’s election, the bleak, kitschy America Del Rey holds onto has acquired another layer. Trumplandia has made her rethink her patriotism, in other words, but not abandon it.  In an interview with Pitchfork, the singer said she would stop flying the stars and stripes behind her when performing “Born to Die,” the title track off her first album.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.