Radical Second Things

"Stand at the brink of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little, and have a cup of tea." +Elder Sophrony of Essex

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Buy It! The First Issue of Radical Second Things


 Hello all, with the work of both myself and my friend Eva, I finally have put together a published version of my Oscar Romero / Jennifer Reimer work with Jordan Denato,"Evoke."

To newcomers who do not know - Jennifer Lauren Reimer was a "street sociologist" and creator of the cult website Practice of Madness. Oscar Romero was a Catholic saint and martyr during the 1970s/80s El Salvadoran civil war who was beatified by Pope Francis in 2015. This volume contains my writing about both figures, along with that of writer Sharon Cretsinger, writing by Jennifer Reimer that has been previously unpublished and a graphic novel portrayal of both the martyrdom of Saint Oscar Romero during the El Salvadoran wars and Jennifer Reimer's life and death.

This was a group effort. It could not have happened without the help of Eva Gnostiquette and Jordan Denato. They volunteered their effort. I appreciate it so much.

You can purchase a copy of the first issue of Radical Second Things on MagCloud. Digital copies are $9.99 while physical copies cost $14.99: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1255832

Friday, March 10, 2017

Instaread Review: Games People Play


Hello all, I originally wrote this up for the company Instareads, who hired me to write descriptions for their phone app. The individual working there was impossible to work with and asked me frequently to "review" the material without being critical, only to get mad when my material wasn't critical enough because he wanted a review. Not even kidding about that. Well, I'm a good writer and I have an audience. Here is my review for the classic book Games People Play, just for the Radical Second Things audience.

Instaread on

Games People Play:
The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis


By Eric Berne M.D.

Summary
Games People Play was Dr. Eric Berne's brilliant work, which postulated the everyday games that people play with one another in nearly all situations in which they transact goods, power, sex or satisfaction or validation with one another. Far from only opining about the “games” that couples are known to play with another, Berne demonstrates that human game playing goes as deep as competitive games between friends and family.

Games People Play was such a critical hit that its title become a household phrase within the Bay Area especially, where the book's ideas were launched through a series of engaging seminars. There currently is a game shop in Sausalito, an upscale town near San Francisco, called Games People Play.

The psychiatric outlook that powers the various “games” in Games People Play rested on the concept of “transactional analysis,” which started to formulate when Dr. Berne first started clinical writing in 1949. Rejection to membership within the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute resulted in him starting his own ideas, which, by 1958, resulted in publishing his own paper, called “Transactional Analysis,” which eventually led to Games People Play. Seminars were held on the subject throughout the Bay Area, called the San Francisco Transactional Analysis Seminars, with the intent of galvanizing the psychiatric organizations of the area around the ideas in Games People Play.

The idea that people engage in regular transactional “games” in their interactions with one another matched the zeitgeist of other thinkers of the time, such as Ayn Rand, who saw the value of people in their material wealth and what they provide commercially. Games People Play expresses this as an almost mundane practice by everyday people done not out of desire for vengeance or malice but rather relief and satisfaction (although more negative outcomes can arrive out of these games).

Much like Rand, Berne used Games People Play as a launching pad for selling his own ideas. He left behind the International Transactional Analysis Association, much like how Ayn Rand left behind her Objectivist organizations, replete with newsletters that took their ideologies deadly seriously. A similar format has been adopted by the Church of Scientology, which, much like Dr. Berne, markets an independent approach to psychiatry.

The coziness that Games People Play with a lot of pop culture writing of its era provides many of the book's deficits. While the “games” illustrated in the book surely reflect things that most people have seen in daily life, players in the games are portrayed as “black” or “white,” depending on which role they play in the game. The game players aren't seen as real people but almost as live action dolls playing roles out to a T. Every human interaction is little more than a transaction, aimed at getting a little bit more out of the other party.

The reason why people play these games is not fleshed out beyond accusations of cynicism, jealousy, selfishness or perversion. That people could arrive at such place out of difficulty or pain isn't at all considered. An air of misogyny seems detectable in much of the “sexual” games as well, as women are seen as largely leading the other party on whenever there is a misunderstanding. Women are portrayed as playing games due to cynicism about men's motives and to upset other women but the idea that they may be conflicted due to trauma or bad experiences isn't at all considered.

Dr. Berne succeeded some in galvanizing the psychiatric community and eventually reached millions with his ideas. Games People Play was lauded by writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, who heaped praise on it in a review for Life Magazine. “Transactional analysis” continued on to be the basis of several similar books to Games People Play, including Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts, published Claude Steiner, one of Berne's contemporaries, in 1994.

Key Insights
Games People Play is replete with several key insights in to human interpersonal behavior, which are demonstrated in what Dr. Berne's alleged “games.:'

1.The definition of a “game” in the human sociological setting - “when someone creates a commonplace social disturbance in order to gain some secret relief or satisfaction.”
2. 
3.One game is “uproar,” in which a father and daughter argue after coming home from school or work. The possibilities end either with one party returning to their room and slamming the door or both parties returning to their rooms and slamming the doors, thus illustrating that “they can only live in the house together if they are angry at each other and the slamming doors emphasize for each the fact that they have separate bedrooms.”
4. 
5.A more explosive analysis is “the Stocking game,” which is an act of exhibitionism (i.e. casually adjusting one's stocking in the company of others with full awareness of the impact it could cause) that an attention seeking woman engages in on a basis of social cynicism, hoping to arouse whatever men are around while also angering nearby women.
6. 
7.The game of “Rapo” is very similar - a woman signals at a party or other setting that she is available to a man and takes great pleasure in being pursued by whoever the guy is. A polite woman ends the encounter by saying “I appreciate your compliments very much” while moving on to whoever the next guy is while a more rude woman will just leave him – although some women might actually do both.
8. 
9.NIGYSOB is displayed in various setting, from a poker game to financial collection. The person collecting resources is more satisfied with the fact that the other party is “completely at his mercy” than winning a card game or making money.
10. 
11.SWYMD or “see what you made me do” is a game with two degrees in which one party rests on another in a given situation. When the situation turns out well, they enjoy it but when it fails, they can proclaim frustration and shout either SWYMD or “You Got Me Into This.”
12. 
13.“Frigid Woman” is a game much like”Rapo”- a man tries to sleep with his wife several times, only to be repulsed and told that all he wants her for is sex. He gives up, she starts to walk around naked or, at parties, rub up to other men so he tries again, she responds and then at the right moment says, “See, all you want me for is sex!”
14. 
15.“Cops and Robbers” is a game seen in many gambling settings in which mutual parties enjoy and find satisfaction in the chase, in the form of gambling or other bet taking, with the full realization that only one of them can be the winner and the other the loser.

9. While insightful, many of the “games” in Games People Play seem to bely a victim and a perpetrator and the suspicion that Dr. Berne is simply covering episodes that made him upset or disappointed in life is hard to escape.

Important People
Kurt Vonnegut was author of Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions and Cat's Cradle, who helped shaped the modern sardonic American novel and provided both commentary on the experience of total war and of American capitalism. Vonnegut's review of Games People Play, which he wrote for Life Magazine in 1965, is published in the 1996 anniversary edition.

Dr. James R. Allen was the president of the International Transactional Analysis Association, wrote the introduction for the 1996 anniversary edition. Dr. Allen was educated at McGill University and for many years prepared the script, a regular publication sent to members of the ITAA.

Claude Steiner, much like Dr. James R. Allen, was a founding associate of Dr. Eric Berne and his “transactional analysis” movement. He wrote “Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts.” He built the Radical Psychiatry movement out of his friendship with Dr. Berne.

Author's Style
Games People Play author Dr. Eric Berne writes in a style that was very popular during the middle twentieth century. The book is a slim 186 pages, which packs a bunch of 101 “games” that are demonstrated as ways in which in which average people socially manipulate others in order to gain satisfaction or relief.

Non-fiction in our modern time tends to be much more dense – writers like Eric Schlosser or George Packer, critically acclaimed non-fiction writers of the past dozen years, opt for heavily detailed journalistic epochs. Specific people are not spelled out in this volume – rather we just see illustrations of social behavior that is vague enough to resemble things we regularly encounter.

The slim and concise style was very popular in Dr. Berne's time– F.A. Hayek's well known and popular The Road to Serfdom was only 266 pages (subsequent reprints were beefed up past 300 pages). Kurt Vonnegut's own Slaughterhouse Five, a classic of the same era, was 288 pages.

Author's Perspective
Dr. Eric Berne resided in San Francisco and was a middle aged 55 years old at the time of the publication of Games People Play. He graduated from McGill University Medical with an M.D. and C.M. (Master of Surgery) in 1935. His arrival in the United States came about with a psychiatric residency at the Psychiatric Clinic of Yale University School of Medicine. He lost his father at only 38 years old and entered through several abortive marriages, while he also had his ideas rejected from established psychiatric institutions, leading him to sell his ideas on his own. All of these factors may have contributed to some of the observations made in Games People Play as well as the manner in which they are presented. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Missing Jen, Three Years On

After the passing of his mother, Christopher Hitchens was quoted saying a number of less than stellar comments about her. When asked about her death in 1973, Hitchens was quoted saying "No. I think she was having a bad menopause, and she was losing her looks, which were pretty impressive."

Those comments are fairly bad, on par with Donald Trump's comments about Megyn Kelly "bleeding out of wherever." The motivation was quite different, however. Hitchens' memorial of his mother Yvonne, who committed suicide in a pact with a priest, was one of the best parts of his memoir Hitch 22. He clearly was fond of her and saw her as a critical part of his life, much more so than his stoic father. There's not a lot of support for grief and the "stiff upper lip" expectation of men, which feminists deem part of "toxic masculinity," can lead toward the expression of grief and other unpleasant emotions in ugliness or bitterness.

I have felt this since the passing of my wife, Jennifer Lauren Reimer. Like Yvonne, Jen was brilliant and inspirational. Like her, she was suicidal. It may not have been a direct suicide like a gunshot but surely a slow motion suicide by way of ingesting toxic drug combinations over a long period of time, combined with a mixture of reproductive disorders and anorexia.

It got a bit worse recently, while staying with a roommate who was bitter toward women for completely different reasons. Until I brutally was demonstrated what was happening by a friend, I ended up adopting his worldview and language (when you are around someone enough, you will do so).

I shook myself out away from crass misogyny as a response to grief but the emotions still overflow. (Nothing compared to what her father incurred but nonetheless substantial.) I tell people it wasn't a big deal but clearly that's a nonsense lie, burying the emotions and letting them come out in ugliness as Hitchens' did. I read and re-read Jen's writing regularly. Jen's website, Practice of Madness, was fairly successful and I'm a big part of whatever legacy it had with her fans (Sharon Cretsinger tells me she had/has many). One of her last essays was about me and the anxiety attacks she was having about me leaving her (note, the main menu of Practice of Madness is pretty accessible but the articles are not - I'm not the one in control of maintaining it).

Jen had talks with a book agent (who knows what stage that was actually at) and was moderately obsessed with me when she passed away. She took a number of blitzed out photoshop pics of me which still adorn my Facebook and hers. Her nightmare vision was of all of those things coming to an end, leaving her alone and abandoned, not of her frail, fragile body finally succumbing to her neglect during her sleep, next to someone who loved her, which is what actually happened.

Jen was a brilliant writer. Her article "Girl X," which she is most proud of, is one of my favorites. She had the skill of verbal illustration that any great writer has. For the years following her death, I have periodically searched for someone like her but not like her, who would be able to collaborate on something the way we did "The American Hikikomori." Girls don't particularly like this. "I have nothing to do with her!" and "Why do you keep talking about her?" have been thrown at me a few times. I get hit on a bit more than most guys, but I generally only pursue girls with creative spirit - and that type generally doesn't like being pursued.

People don't understand. When death happens, usually police or military bag the body behind yellow tape or an addict perishes quietly in a hospice or an old person in a nursing home. Humans have really creative ways of hiding the sight of death from polite society. I not only saw it but saw it in slow motion. Most of the time misogynist comments have bitterly come from my lips in the years since Jen's death, people, until they know me a lot better of course, have responded with "Women don't owe you anything!" or the like. Once they know me, they just nod their head whenever I mention it, politely changing the subject. They may understand it but they don't want to hear it.

I hope someday that I find a woman who had her writing skill, who could work with me like she did. I hope she was also satisfied toward the end, knowing that no outward stimulation matched the acceptance of love of another.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stars of Courage: Seraphim Rose and the "Abnormal Life"


Art by Jordan Denato


In my spiritual journey, I have openly looked at many different incarnations. I grew up in a non-demonational Christian household, with most of our time in a place of worship spent at the Catholic Church blocks from my mom's old house. I had a small exposure to Judaism growing up which I kept up as I put together my Jewish heritage and also worked at a Jewish magazine, Tikkun (where, oddly enough, I spent most of my time writing about Catholicism), when I was most open to religious ideas.

Nothing ever exposed me to the Russian Orthodox Church, however. The narrative about Russia in the 1990s and 2000s was pretty black and white - communism was godless and atheist and hostile to all religion. I had heard of the Greek Orthodox Church but never the Russian Orthodox. Honestly, it's only been in very recent years that it seems to have formed a place in the mainstream American consciousness.

The Orthodox Church has a rich and long history that extends through the Soviet Union. Whatever Vladimir Lenin may have said about religion, Josef Stalin found it beneficial to keep the church going, especially during the dark days of World War II. It has been a massive part of the ideology surrounding the rise of Vladimir Putin as Russian president - with Putin often taking press shots during mass or having Russian patriarchs accompanying him during press conferences and speeches.

Putin has said of the orthodox church that it is "closer to Islam than Catholicism is."  Indeed, one of the interesting ways that the Orthodox Church is so different is that much of its aesthetics are so exotic. They likely are mundane to anyone who grows up in it but their unique cross logo and the use of a headscarf to instill modesty in young women, much like within Islam, show a synergy of East and West. Much of the church's artwork is also simply gorgeous:



It did have a reach in to Western though as well. Just as the Catholic church had Thomas Merton as its American intellectual, so too did the Orthodox Church have Seraphim Rose. Born Eugene Dennis Rose in 1934, he died during middle age in 1982. In that time he made a series of talks that synthesized many of the beliefs of individuals like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who, despite his time in the gulag, was very hostile to "the misuse of liberty" that he reported from his experience with Western society. Seraphim Rose expressed this same sentiment in my favorite work of his - "The Abnormal Life:"
 


 At first, Seraphim's sentiments sound cliched. "The new generation has it easier than we did," that sort of thing. His talk of "children today" being treated "little Gods or goddesses" whose every need is taken care of certainly sounds that way.

However, when you juxtapose the world he grew up in, southern California, with the world in which he attracted to of Eurasia, his comments seem less trifling. Poverty and life on the edge of the earth breeds people who are much more likely to value and foster tradition, as opposed to rejecting or mocking it. Marriage occurs and lasts more often and family is much more heavily valued.

Rose gets at his most weighty in "The Abnormal Life" when he juxtaposes the faith he discovered with the "plastic" religion of countries like the United States, he is speaking in the context of the early 1980s. That period was when Ronald Reagan had just recently been elected to the presidency of the United States, riding on the wings of an invigorated Religious Right. It was a time when Billy Graham drew enormous crowds throughout the world and venues like Christian Broadcasting Network were first starting up. Rose, in an opinion that had to be extremely unpopular to most audiences back then, said that the atheist regimes of China and the Soviet Union were closer to the reality of life than the plastic theology practiced within much of the West.

Unfortunately, despite his influence, Rose didn't make a whole lot of other speeches like that one - not that I am aware of anyways. (If anyone more read about him than I knows of, please let me know.) We do seem to be entering an age that illustrates a return to orthodoxy in religion - Donald Trump's daughter is an orthodox Jew, while the Pope and Russian Patriarchs get more press and adulation than any contemporary evangelical leader. Perhaps another like Seraphim Rose will arise - this stuff, with the venue of social media and a much larger audience before him.

An Interview With Mohamed Zeeshan

It looks like I am doing a lot more posts for Radical Second Things than I usually do. Following is an interview with Mohamed Zeeshan. Mohamed has been my friend for a few years now, via Facebook, and I have seen him grow from a young intellectually curious kid from India in to a graduate student in International Affairs at Columbia University! Mohamed contributed with the Hampton Institute alongside me and I am very proud of his success. He has also contributed to the Huffington Post. His views are a bit more centrist than you usually see on this website but I think that people will learn from them. 

As always, if you like interviews like this, please consider a donation to Radical Second Things. Donations allow for the freedom to not only conduct works like this but also to make the website more interactive and attract collaborators.
Donald Trump as president! Once this actually happened, I actually began to see the benefits. In my view, Trump is what America actually is like unfiltered and he isn't the worst the world has produced. You said you liked things he has said about China. What is your view of him?

I think it's difficult to form a coherent opinion of Donald Trump as yet. He's a complete outsider and has often walked back statements, so we don't quite know what his administration might or might not do.

About his comments on China, well, again, it's hard to quite know for certain what his administration's policy towards Beijing is going to be. Having said that, China has had a recent history of diplomatic impropriety, especially in the neighbourhood. It refuses to honour commitments made under international law in resolving the South China Sea dispute. It poked holes in India's claims over Kashmir by signing a deal with Pakistan to build a highway through that region - effectively offending India's sentiments of territorial integrity. It does similar things to threaten other neighbours, from Mongolia to Japan and the Philippines. So China is no great standard of diplomatic propriety, in my view. Along that line, I think it's important, for the cause of maintaining the balance of power in Asia Pacific, that the US takes steps to push back - militarily and politically - against Beijing's newfound belligerence.

The Syrian army took Aleppo. I remember you opposing the Syrian war when Obama wanted to intervene. What do you think Syria will look like a couple of years on?

I opposed Obama's policy of arming rebels in Syria years ago. I said at the time that it was potentially very dangerous to arm common civilians in fighting against a government, especially in a volatile region infested with radical elements. The proliferation of weaponry, coupled with the complete breakdown in law and order, has helped the rise of militancy and terrorism in the region, including ISIS. So I think that was always going to be a fatal strategic error on the part of the US - to arm common civilians who were not trained in military battle. What the US should have done instead was to politically organise the rebel groups, so that political dialogue could have taken place early on.

I think that the failure to politically organise the Syrian rebels and create an atmosphere for political dialogue has now effectively made Assad the only way to stability in Syria. Despite years of US intervention in Syria, we still don't have a political alternative to Assad. There's no one there who can keep the country together, save for Islamist radicals. If Assad leaves, the radicals will fill the vacuum and that will open a whole new can of worms. I think the US has to therefore rethink its strategy - and I don't see too many options at the moment besides some sort of a compromise arrangement that keeps Assad in power and works out a practical framework for his eventual removal.

The image of Russians liberating Aleppo reminded me way too much of Auschwitz, which the Soviets liberated. If we really are in an end of WW2 climate, what suggestions do you have for structures we should build after conflict has subsided?

Well, that's a hard question, because there's really no one-size-fits-all solution for this. The structure for Syria will have to come from within. That's why it was so important to politically organise the rebels. There's really no coherent or cohesive political alternative to Assad, and unless you create something of that sort which will really reflect Syrian society, you'll just end up back at square one.

The other issue is one of national identity. Germany had a national identity which kept its people together after WWII and allowed reunification to take place after the Cold War. But I'm not sure if Syria has a coherent national identity today. We're seeing sectarian sentiments that were long suppressed come out into the open and it's going to take a long time and much dialogue to bring all those identities back together. You have to start by stopping the violence and turning militias into political organisations capable of engaging in dialogue. Militias are not much good for state building.

How are you liking New York? What do you like about it and what do you not like?

There's not much to dislike about New York! I think it's a really charming city - it's got something for everybody. It's diverse, cosmopolitan and sometimes feels like an international city with an identity of its own.


How do you like Columbia?


Columbia is really enriching! I've enjoyed every moment of my time and there's so much that I've got lined up in terms of research over the coming months. It's really very exciting.

The Man in the High Castle Second Season Review



For its first season, I reviewed The Man in the High Castle, which portrays the United States in the early 1960s, in the aftermath of a Japanese and German victory in World War II, for the leftist Hampton Institute. My review was written in early 2016, just as Donald Trump's campaign was heating up in the Republican primaries. That was Trump, seen as a "proto-fascist" by many, at his nastiest - doing his best Biff Tannen (a character that, ironically, was based on him) impression, bullying a conglomerate of Republican candidates that didn't know what to do in defense of him.


As much as people laughed off what I said, I did believe Trump could win. I live in the United States - I see every day how bitterness and despair has settled in on many people who genuinely thought that if they worked hard, things would work out for them. Many people have multiple jobs and can't afford to live. Homeless people are everywhere in urban centers. Our national leaders of both stripes are immature and narcissistic (see Obama's deplorable scapegoating of Russia) while the ones who weren't were derided and told off (see Bernie Sanders).


I ended that original review with "The United States now is in unchartered territory for its history, but one we’ve seen before in other countries. For these reasons, “The Man in the High Castle” doesn’t seem as much like fictional, alternative history; but rather a portrayal of our near and possible future."


Well, we are here in that future now. Donald Trump will be president no matter what his critics say - he won election through the system, the Electoral College, that the United States has and has agreed upon. The response of much of the Left in the United States at least seems a bit like flailing - the sort that Donald Trump mocked so infamously - not quite understanding what has occurred.


Whatever their motivation, the writers of The Man in the High Castle do have intuition. The show takes leaps of storytelling way beyond the Philip K. Dick novel, including turning the simple character of Joe Blake away from a former Italian fascist that Juliana Crain casually hooks up with and transforming in to a very different central character in the show, a Lebensborn bred estranged son of a figure who attempts a post-Hitler coup attempt.


The first season was filmed in 2014, at the height of Ferguson and American racial tensions. The second season, which is much more nuanced and daring, was filmed in 2015, just as the climate that launched Donald Trump was coming to a head. The second season dares to go in some places that only our contemporary political climate would allow writers to dare to go - humanizing the Nazis and Imperial Japanese.

In the second season, the Imperials are vastly more sympathetic than the "Resistance." Opergruppenfuhrer John Smith, played by Rufus Sewell, struggles with the Nazi policy of euthanizing the disabled as his son is stricken with muscular dystrophy. The sympathy is not even light weight - the scene where him and his wife speak frankly with their son about the condition is possibly the most sympathetic than any characters in either season ever appear.

On the other aside, the Resistance fighters seem nihilist, crass and vindictive. After Juliana Crain, played of course by Alexa Davalos, fails to apprehend one of the films the show centers around from Joe Blake, resistance fighters Lem Washington (played by Rick Worthy) and Gary Connell (played by Callum Keith Rennie) are seen chasing after her, screaming "Come here, bitch!" and shooting anyone in the way. A priest who speaks at a funeral that Frank Fink (played by Rupert Evans) attends tells him that "religion is a bunch of shit" after he complements his sermon. Sarah, a love interest of Frank's played by Cara Mitsuko, has a motivation for joining the resistance that doesn't really make much sense and George Dixon, played by Tate Donovan, threatens multiple times to use John Smith's sick son against him. The writers did this intentionally - I will leave it up to audiences to gather why they did so.


Despite all the material that is there, humanizing the Third Reich is something that most writers just couldn't do until recently. Biopics like The Rise of Evil made Adolf Hitler seem cartoonishly nefarious, as if all the dark energy in the world was only ever situated on this one man. The reality of the world seemed to settle in for the writers of The Man in the High Castle, however.


The few shots we see of Hitler show up shaking with a horrible tremer or having bouts of horrible anxiety (muted for cinematic effect), illustrating that some of his policies (such as euthanizing of the disabled) may have been riddled with self-hate. This is hardly empathetic toward him but it is a leap beyond how portrayal of the Reich has been in cinema.


Most interestingly, we see both the Reich and the Japanese evolve. Events in the second season are juxtaposed with the filtering in and out of reality of Trade Minister Nobosuke Tagomi, who, during meditation sessions, finds himself in our world. The parallels are succint - in one world, the Japanese and Germans are headed toward a potential nuclear showdown while in our world, the Soviets and Americans are headed toward such a showdown. Hippies and beatniks experiment with drugs in American cities like Berkeley in the 1960s, while they do so in Berlin in Man in the High Castle's 1960s.


Tagomi has direct access to the source for the films that make up the film's title. The films, and the filmmaker who we meet at the beginning and end of the film, has access to the same plane of reality - the films become a national security threat for clear reasons and, as you will see when you watch it (I can't spoil too much), are also used for career benefit by certain players.


The juxtaposing of our world and a world of Axis victory which is seen in this series makes for uneasy observations about our own world. It is ironic that populist authoritarianism is popping up in countries that fought hardest against fascism during the 1930s and 40s - America, Russia, the Phillipines. This could mean that there are not particular inherents to certain peoples that attract them to personality driven leaders but that certain events and conditions push people in that direction instead.


Indeed, it should make us not simply revise our knowledge of WW2 by simply being more empathetic of the other side but rather to finally look at that conflict as it was - as a brutal competition of various nationalist and economic ideologies, with Zionism, Americanism and Soviet  and Chinese communism winning out over Nazism, Fascism and Imperial Japanese ideology.


There are propaganda films made by Zionists during the 1930s, most notable being "The Land of Promise," that are loaded with anti-Arab racism - that film in particular made the claim multiple times that no one had grown anything in the Fertile Crescent since the Jewish exile. Many Nazi style science experiments and racialist brutality occured in the United States - it once was common practice to use electroshock therapy to "cure" homosexuality, for instance. Those sides won the war, however, and therefore were given a historical privilege that the losers were not. History really is written by the winners - it is acceptable for outgoing American president Barack Obama to avoid apologizing for the Hiroshima bombing, while it likely would not be for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to avoid an apology for the Nazi death camps.


However thought provoking it is, I still have serious qualms with The Man in the High Castle. We only see glimpses of the world beyond the United States - much of this series takes place in Berlin and there are appearances by people with British accents or, most interestingly, one Argentinian desperately fleeing Buenos Aires for the Reich. In the fictional map of the Man in the High Castle universe, Argentina (I imagine headed by Juan Peron) is part of a greater "Co-Prosperity Sphere" with Japan.

Italy, a much bigger ally of the Nazis than the Japanese, is not even mentioned in the whole series, which is really strange when specific elements of Nazism, like Lebensborn, which usually only political nerds know, are a big part of the storyline. We see absolutely nothing of Asia under the Japanese. We did see much more in this second season than the first. Perhaps this will be improved upon.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Few Questions for Sonnenkind

Sonnenkind is a German neofolk artist who has put together some really incredible music. I listen to it regularly, along with artists such as Spiritual Front, Sol Invictus, Mantus, Infamis and others that I think fit in that genre like Smashing Pumpkins or Loreena McKennit. This was my first time interviewing anyone in the genre and some parts of the interview went well whereas some areas need improvement.


RST: I only found your music on Youtube and not Spotify or Tidido or any of the streaming services. Do you have plans for an official release?

SK: I really have no clue about streaming services and I‘m also not interested in it. I personally almost never download music. I highly prefer physical albums, and I actually released two physical albums, "Völkerfrühling“ in 2005 and "Eulenspiegels Wiederkehr“ in 2013. Both are available via Discogs. There are also contributions from me on a few compilations, and I collaborated with artists as Porta Vittoria, Uwe Nolte, Qvercvs and Thulesehnsucht in der Maschinenzeit (TSIDMZ). At the moment a new album is not possible due to financial reasons, but maybe I will release a compilation of home recordings next year.



RST: I really liked your song "Ulaanbaatariin Udesh." My roommates did too and we listened to a whole bunch of Asian musicians doing different renditions of it. It was very hard to find an English translation or any translation for that matter. How did you learn this song well enough to play it? What about the history of the song appealed to you?

SK: I listened to far eastern folk music for many years now, and I was also interested in Mongolian throat singing. A Mongolian friend taught me some Mongolian phrases just for fun, and by looking for Mongolian music on YouTube, I found a version of "Ulaanbaatariin Udesh“, which I loved a lot. I showed this to my friend and said I wanted to make a version of this, and she gave me a rough translation, and then I learned it and sung it to her a few times and when she eventually said that it was all clearly understandable, I recorded that version in spring or summer 2015. I tried to find Mongolian guest musicians and a female singer, but the results were not satisfying, so I finally asked a friend to release that version on YouTube. Unfortunately until now it has not become famous in Mongolia, but who knows, maybe one day they‘ll discover it over there, hehe…

Btw, I also did two cover version of a Vietnamese song by singer/songwriter Trinh Cong Son, but I wrote German lyrics for it. Now it‘s named „Die Brücke“. Both versions, of which one is a collaboration with the fantastic Italian Avantgarde Pop band Porta Vittoria, can be found on YouTube. I also have the idea of recording some songs in Vietnamese language, together with a Vietnamese friend, who is a quite talented singer. Let‘s see.


RST: I have noticed much of the political content of your music and postings. Do you consider yourself part of the Alt Right?

SK: No, as I consider the Alt Right is very much a genuinely US-American movement, naturally trying to give an answer on American questions. Germany‘s political situation is different, and we have very different political and philosophical traditions. Then we have the question, what Alt Right actually means. It seems to be a very broad term for many various groups and ideas.


Somehow, if we assume, it just means "alternative right“, I could somehow agree, as I am probably a person with right wing views, and alternative, if we say that this means an alternative to the cliché of the right wing person, as portrayed by the mass media (and, of course, as every decent right wing person will admit, unfortunately corroborated by those who are mislead enough to identify with that hilarious image).