The Cultural Life of Berlin, circa 1933

Self is on p. 404 of Richard J. Evans’ magisterial tome, The Coming of the Third Reich.  The Germany it conjures is a scarily violent place, with brownshirts ruling the streets and giving the Nazi stiff-armed salute to mock officials who were considered “degenerate” or “tinged by Jewish-ness.”  Here’s what self discovers, from a chapter called “Hitler’s Cultural Revolution” :

  • The creation of what the Nazis regarded as a truly German musical culture also involved the elimination of foreign cultural influences such as jazz, which they considered to be the offspring of a racially inferior culture, that of the African-Americans . . .  It confirmed the widespread Nazi view of American degeneracy . . .
  • The swooning tones of the newly popular saxophone also came in for criticism, though, when saxophone sales began to slump as a consequence, German manufacturers of the instrument riposted by trying to claim that its inventor Adolphe Sax was German (in fact, he was Belgian) . . .
  • And yet, Richard Evans writes, jazz did continue to survive in Germany, through the 1930s, because “jazz proved almost impossibly difficult to define, and with a few deft rhythmic tweaks, and a suitably conformist demeanour on the part of the players, it proved quite possible for jazz and swing musicians to continue playing in the innumerable clubs, bars, dance-halls and hotels of Germany throughout the 1930s.  Bouncers at swanky Berlin nightclubs like the Roxy, Uhu, Kakadu or Ciro turned away the invariably shabbily dressed spies sent by the Nazis, ensuring that their chic clientele could continue to swing to the latest jazz and pseudo-jazz music inside.  If a spy should gain entry, the doorman simply rang a secret bell and the musicians rapidly changed the music on their stands before he reached the dance-floor.”

Self loves reading about all the cloak-and-dagger antics (artists are incorrigible!), and she loves in particular the descriptions of German bars, in one of which, the Femina, “swing bands continued to play to over a thousand dancers through the night, while a system of 225 table telephones with instructions for use in German and English enabled singles to ring up potential partners seated elsewhere in the hall.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

These are Frustrating Times

. . .  if you happen to be a Palin-lover in California (like self’s students).

For one thing, she’s made herself scarce in this-here golden state (just like Bush II  —  in eight years he’s dropped by oh, let’s see, less times than the fingers on both hands?), her one-and-only campaign appearance being in Burlingame (Dearest Mum’s fave hang-out!)

Not to worry, however, for intrepid Halloween party-goers have just the ticket for all those craving a Palin-fix.  In today’s paper, The San Francisco Chronicle weighs in on this very issue:

Every five years or so, a Halloween costume idea comes along that’s so perfect that half the population seems to simultaneously dress up as the same thing.  If you were a woman and participated in Halloween 10 years ago, chances are 50-50 that you went as Monica Lewinsky.  Other trendy Halloween costumes from the past include Luke Skywalker (1978), Tammy Faye Bakker (1987) and Austin Powers (1997).

Based on several nonscientific indicators, the widespread presence of Palins this Friday night may eclipse them all.  There are three things needed to make the perfect trendy costume, and she has them all:

  1. Her position in the zeitgeist happens to be peaking right at Halloween.
  2. She’s a controversial figure, with a hint of sexy.
  3. The costume is easy to throw together at the last minute.

As usual, the Chronicle outdoes itself, showing how articles can be spun out of such fluff elements as “nonscientific indicators” and pronouncements of what is “sexy.”  Hey, maybe it’s time to dust off that red St. John suit that Dearest Mum bought for self (a Fab Find from the Great Mall) two decades ago!  A suit self rarely wears, for she has to be in a fairly energetic mood before she can traipse around in head-to-toe red!   Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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