Iron Sky

Nazi Punks F-Off T-Shirt

Hitler visits a lunatic asylum, where the patients all dutifully perform the German greeting. Suddenly, Hitler sees one man whose arm is not raised. “Why don’t you greet me the same way as everyone else,” he hisses at the man. The man says: “My Führer, I’m an orderly. I’m not crazy!”

Even in the stratosphere of political correctness there is one political group that it is still safe to beat down, the Nazis. I must confess a certain fascination about the Nazis. You just have to love to hate them. I’ve read all of Alan Furst’s WW II era spy novels and I am currently reading, City of Women. This is David R. Gillham’s first novel, which Furst has dubbed, “Extraordinary”. It is set in 1943 Berlin, it tells the story of one woman in a city where all the men have shipped off to war. It is like a Furst novels, in the way that it catches the mood of this period.

The true Aryan is as blond as Hitler, as slim as Göring and as tall as Goebbels.

I watched Iron Sky last night. This indie film won praise earlier this year at its debut Berlin film festival. I’ve been anxiously awaiting it US arrival since I first heard of it and saw its trailer and first four minutes. It is a campy film based upon the following high concept:

In the last moments of World War II, a secret Nazi space program evaded destruction by making a daring escape to the Moon. In the intervening 70 years they have re-colonized, re-armed with devastating new weapons and silently plotted their revenge.

It is a dark comedy. For an Indie film the special effects are quite good. It has real Sci-Fi chops. It makes fun of the Nazis, but more pointedly makes sport of the Tea Party movement. It is set in 2018, in the middle of a ‘Sarah Palin’ administration. The only good news here is that apparently Obama got his second term and the ‘Palin’ character is only in the first two years of her first term. I watched it online at Amazon, so it should be available elsewhere.

Hitler and Göring are standing atop the Berlin radio tower. Hitler says he wants to do something to put a smile on Berliners’ faces. So Göring says: “Why don’t you jump?”

The jokes interspersed among my text are authentic WW II German jokes. A Berlin woman was put to death for telling the immediately preceding one. I wish that I could reference the article where I found these jokes from, but in my haste to create this post I lost the author’s name.

The pictured T-shirt was photographed in the AC/DC exhibit at the EMP Museum, Seattle. It was worn by Krist Novoselic, 1984. Matt Lukin of the Melvins made this shirt, referencing the anti-fascist/racist Dead Kennedys’ song.

If Hitler, Göring and Goebbels were on a ship in a storm and the ship would sink, who would be saved? Answer: Germany.

American Creativity

Redbud on Rooftop

Creativity is the residue of time wasted. – Albert Einstein

Author Jonah Lehrer, has been touting his new book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works”. I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard it discussed on Slate’s “The Afterword”, Terry Gross’s “Fresh Air” and NPR’s “All Things Considered”. Mr. Lehrer has been busy. The book sounds interesting, because the interviews are fascinating. Lehrer covers individual creative genius, like Beethoven’s or Shakespeare’s, but where he is most captivating is when he discusses the creativity of modern, common men. He profiles three businesses, Proctor and Gamble, 3M and Pixar to illustrate his points.

With Proctor and Gamble, he discusses the development of the Swiffer cleaning line, and reinforces the power of persistence. 80% of the job is showing up. The ah-hah moment with Swiffer came, when researchers realized that people spend as much time cleaning their mops, as they do their floors. Hence, the disposable mopping surface.

3M sounds like a fascinating place to work. First it has the 15% rule. All employees are permitted to spend 15% of their work week doing what they want. They can work on their own pet project or they can just goof off. It is at about this time that Lehrer introduces the above Einstein quote. 3M also has a nearly one-to-one ratio between products and employees. This speaks to a company cultural diversity that is unheard of in American industry.

In between his stints at Apple, Steve Jobs ran Pixar. When it came time to set up the company’s new campus the original design called for three buildings, one for the artists, one for the engineers and one for the administrators. Jobs scrapped this idea and threw everybody together in the rehabbed shell of the original Del Monte canning factory. All employee services were placed around a central atrium. Not content with a single cafeteria, I guess he still remembered the cliques of high school; he centralized all of the bathrooms too. Now almost every employee has a “bathroom moment”, a moment in or on the way to or from the bathrooms, when an epiphany happened.

Lehrer uses the phrase, “it’s the human friction that makes the sparks”, to summarize the success of these three companies. He disposes with brainstorming, with a pooh-pooh. with brainstorming, the quantity of ideas is held more valuable than the quality of those ideas. He does value criticism. Constructive or not, a polite critique advances good ideas over bad.

To add my own 2¢ to this topic, I offer the following points. This blog is my creative outlet. My real work is still creative, but I have no available outlet to express it. As to whether I am actually creative within this blog, I’ll leave that to the reader’s discretion. I’ll also leave you the following Einstein quote, a quote that only true creative genius could pull off with humor.

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. – Albert Einstein

The Art of Fielding

Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding is a new novel that I first heard about this morning and had to purchase a copy of today. I heard about this book first on Slate. They had a review of it, which had a link to Amazon. Amazon’s page previewed the book’s first chapter, which describes the meeting of the books two main characters. By the end of that chapter, I was hooked and knew that I must own this book. I ultimately purchased it from Barnes and Nobles, at list, such was my haste. I got the only copy. It is pictured above, in Anne’s hands.

The first chapter describes the meeting of Henry Skrimshander, with the internal dialogue by Mike Schwartz. They meet in a weekend tournament, on a hot and dusty ball diamond, in Peoria, IL. Schwartz the winning team’s catcher first dismisses and then ridicules Skrimshander, as he strikes out. Schwartz is the large, athletic and gifted team captain for Westish College’s baseball team. Skrimshander is a scrawny high school kid, from South Dakota, who is playing his last game before graduation. After the game, Skrimshander still takes up his glove again and resumes his position as shortstop. The coach commences to hit a bucket of balls at him. No matter how hard the ball is hit or where it is placed, Henry almost effortlessly, scoops up the ball, pivots to first and fires the ball, always at sternum height, into the first baseman’s glove. The routine perfection of Henry’s performance reminds Schwartz of something from poetry class, Expressionless, expresses God. The first baseman then drops the ball into a second bucket. Once all the balls are moved, bucket-to-bucket, the trio trots off the field, leaving Schwartz transfixed. Mr. Harbach ends his first chapter with these sentences, “All his life Schwartz had yearned to possess some single transcendent talent, some unique brilliance that the world would consent to call genius. Now that he’d seen that kind of talent up close, he couldn’t let it walk away.”

26. The shortstop is a source of stillness at the center of the defense. He projects this stillness and his teammates respond.

Harbach’s book takes its title from the fictional book within a book of Aparicio Rodriguez, an also fictional former Saint Louis Cardinal. Harbach’s book is spiked with Zen like aphorisms from this book, like the one above that Henry uses to guide his game and his life. Aparicio Rodriguez is probably based upon Luis Aparicio, an American League shortstop. Henry’s childhood glove is signed by Aparicio Rodriguez. He calls it Zero for zero errors. All the while he was growing up; his mother would ask him when he came home from a game, “Henry, how many errors did you make?” He would always proudly answer, “Zero!” 

I could wax on about Henry’s perfection on the ball field, but Harbach would have written a boring story if that was always to be the case. His book has many other characters beyond the two that I have described. Not the least is also fictional Westish College, a small liberal arts college. Nestled on Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline, it lies in the corner of the sweet spot that is the mitt made by the map of Wisconsin. I could wax on some more, but I have a book to read, a book that was last seen in the hands of a known biblioklept. Anne’s lawyer points out that the photo was clearly entrapment.

Vultures, Prosecutors & Jackasses

The pictures with this post are from our last walk down the beach on Saturday. While we were walking, six large black birds circled lazily overhead of us. I’m calling them vultures, but I don’t really know what kind of raptor they really are. Sibley’s doesn’t show that either the turkey or black vulture ranges as far north as the U.P., but I don’t believe that eagles congregate like these birds did. There was one exception, years ago, in Missouri. It was a very cold winter’s day and all the open water had iced over, all except below the locks, which were left partially open to keep the gates from freezing up. On that day we saw fifty bald eagles congregated around the only open water for miles around. It was quite the sight.

I’ve written about my friend and co-worker Steven Pogue before here. He got his fifteen minutes of fame last month, when he was cited for giving another motorist the finger. He was supposed to go to trial tonight, but the City of Baldwin’s prosecutor called up Steve’s ACLU lawyer and offered to drop the charges in exchange for Steve’s promise not to sue. This arrangement was quite agreeable to Steve. He was ready to put this incident behind him. His planned defense was to be a first amendment argument; he was simply exercising his freedom of speech. I guess you could say that this makes Steve a bit of a freedom fighter? Coincidently, Anne and I watched “My Cousin Vinny” on Netflix, last night. It has a great courtroom scene that culminates with the prosecutor saying, “Your honor, the prosecution would like to dismiss all charges.”

I spoke with Dave at work today. Dave is always a great source of blog fodder and today was no different. He had a book on his desk called, “It’s a Book” by Lane Smith. It looks like a children’s book, but is so much more. It wouldn’t be too surprising if Dave did have a children’s book on his desk, he has the best at work Lego collection. It fundamentally violates the premise of “It’s a Book”, but since it was uploaded by the publisher and adequately captures the feel of the book, I offer this link to a YouTube version of “It’s a Book”.  In the book, the last time “It’s a Book” is spoken, it is embellished, “It’s a Book, Jackass!” I got grief over vacation, because while everyone else had their noses buried in a book, mine was in my iPhone. I guess that maybe at the cabin, I was the Jackass?

The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett’s 1989 novel, is an epic, soap operatic, Oprah book club selection of an extravaganza that is really all about building beautiful cathedrals, in 12th century England. No really it is all about blood, sex, rape and murder, or what passed for political discourse back then. Last year it was made into an eight-part, TV miniseries. Anne and I watched this series, via Netflix, and liked it. Anne had plowed through the book, years ago, so that was not too surprising for her, plus it had enough mayhem in it to appeal to me.

In this story all politics is personal. The state is the king, the king is the state and the king is just a man, but not a just man. The story unfolds during a period of English civil war known as the Anarchy. As in the American Civil War, English society is quickly divided into two warring camps, with a schism that flows from royal society down to lowly commoners. This division created in the show’s first episode, takes the remaining seven to eventually reconcile.

These days, America is politically divided, like it was in our own Civil War and like England was during the Anarchy. Whether you call this political divide, Republican versus Democrat or liberal versus conservative, it is there, in the news, everyday. In the Anarchy, you were either a follower of King Stephen or Empress Maude. Your allegiance then was governed by kinship, money or more likely, the allegiance of your immediate superior. Politicking was frequently done, sword in hand, and it was a bloody, personal affair.

The passage of time has built up a veneer that both softens and diffuses the hard, sharp edges of our current political divide. We call this veneer civilization. In civilized society, we no longer murder our political adversaries, at least not with dagger or poison. No, these traditional methods are now considered trés gauche. It is much more acceptable to kill a political opponent by wielding the press, rather than a sword. Just ask Anthony Weiner about that.

I’ve returned back home to Saint Louis, after my week-long trip with the Perma-Bear. I think that he would agree with me that we are at near opposite ends of the political spectrum, even if we can’t agree on much else politically. This was made abundantly clear when we listened to NPR together on the drive home. Still, we managed to get along all week and remain friends. Maybe this civilization thing is really working after all, at least among us civilized people.

Make Way for Ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey. The book tells the story of a pair of mallard ducks who decide to raise their family in the lagoon of Boston’s Public Garden. The photographs with this post are of wood ducks, not mallards, and the park is Saint Louis’ Forest Park, not the Boston Public Garden. I’m sure though that Mrs. Wood Duck named her seven ducklings, the same names that Mrs. Mallard had in the book, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Pack, and Quack, because that is what all ducks do, don’t you know. Anne and I bicycled in the Park, after work, on Monday. After the weekend’s cold, grey and wet weather, Monday evening was beautiful. Continuing with Anne’s theme of riding everyday this month, she rode 16 miles (me too), for 16 out of 16 (not me), on the 16th.