Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hitler,the Holocaust and casual Humour

I've watched the German movie Der Untergang (2004) twice now, and I'll probably watch it again. Its a powerful movie that knocked me on my ass, and left me in tears.  It tells the story of the fall of the Third Reich and the final days of  Adolph Hitler in his bunker in east Berlin.  The movie was difficult to make in Germany given their sensitivity to such a topic.  Bruno Ganz's portrayal of Hitler is compelling and controversial, and I believe he took a huge career risk in accepting this role.  I had to push away the idea that the actor and the director were trying to evoke some sympathy about Hitler's character. I didn't work anyway, I felt nothing but loathing from the first scene to the end.

No one really knows what happened in those final days.  But many parts of the story are based on the real memoirs of Traudl Junge, who as a young woman in 1941, became Hitler's favourite secretary and was dictated most of his wartime documents. Through some good luck she escaped the final days of the Reich, was debriefed by the allies, then lived a typical life in postwar Germany  in relative obscurity. In her later years she wrote a memoir called Until the Final Hour.  This story about her life seems to be preoccupied with fairly simple questions,  why did the German people adore Hitler so much, and why did they turn a blind eye to the destruction of European Jews. The irony is that as a young woman she regarded him like a father, a man who was kind to her, and she disbelieved that Germany had done anything wrong.

The last part of the movie is very claustrophobic. Hitler is pinned down in his bunker.  Generals come and go and timidly inform the leader that they should surrender to the Allies. Hitler flies into one rage after another and demands that military strategies be executed.  The generals explain that there are no German armies left. Not long after this intense scene showing Hitler's deepest delusions, his suicide is portrayed.

Enter the clowns.

Because this movie was made in the German language the DVD ships with a number of subtitle files.  These files are easy to edit so you can write your own subtitles if you feel the need to make your friends laugh with a little Hitler humor.

The scene of Hitler raving has been edited hundreds of time on YouTube with subtitles showing the Fuhrer raving about the iPod or whatever other trivial topic that would make people laugh.  I saw about ten of these clips posted on Twitter and Facebook last week with the obligatory LOL's and this is funny preludes. Internet memes being what they are this one has gone viral and I imagine it will keep rolling for some time.

Do you remember how liberals reacted when a Utah movie rental company, owned by religious zealots, wanted to rent movies that they had re-edited to be safe for religious zealots to watch?  Of course they were stopped by the courts since they had no right to edit someone else's copyrighted work.  

In this case I believe these Der Untergang spoofs are copyright violations.  Moreover they are taking an incredibly powerful movie and mocking it. Who knew that the Holocaust could be such a powerful platform for social media humor.

Grow up. Stop watching these clips and go watch the whole movie. This isn't cheeseburger cats.

Please recommend this post

Thursday, January 28, 2010

CAPPYYC Rally Afterburn

Disclaimer: My Blog, this post, and my thoughts here reflect my own views and are not associated with the Organizing Committee of CAPPYYC.


We had a post rally debriefing meeting last night. We put together the following statement for our Facebook supporters:

Our rally outside Mr. Harper’s office this past Saturday was a solid success. Over 350 people attended (based on the 357 signatures on our petition as well as the estimates of the police and news crews!) and we had solid coverage from 3 English television networks, one Chinese network and a wide variety of local papers. The tone of the gathering was polite and positive, attendance exceeded our expectations despite the weather, and we are very happy with how everything turned out. Thank you to everyone who took some time out of their day to come out and make their opinion known!

Here is a link to a video of the event,
plus a link to the delivery of the signatures today,

The steering committee had a debrief meeting on Wednesday to discuss lessons learned and the possibility of future events, and we agreed that much remains to be done. We don’t want this issue to fade or to get lost in partisan posturing! As a result we will begin working on events dedicated toward increasing civic engagement and educating people about our system, as well as a second rally to be held close to the actual sitting of Parliament in March. The fact that concern over the erosion of our representative institutions got over 350 Calgarians out in the January cold seems to us to indicate that there is work to be done before the next election!

I thought the debriefing meeting was a little intense as everyone shared their thoughts about the things that worked well and the things we could have done a better job on.  There were a lot of things we could have done better.  Generally, I think every one felt the rally was a great success.  We got a turn out of about 350 people.  That may not seem like a lot, but consider that it was -10c with blowing snow, and we were in the most conservative federal riding in all of Canada.

I thought the Calgary media was really good to us in terms of coverage and reporting the event fairly. I really didn't know what to expect from the media. The 3 or 4 Calgary Police Officers assigned to the event were really nice to us even though we spilled out onto the road due to a lack of room on the sidewalk.

We feel we picked the right location in front of Stephen Harper's constituency office.  I had some off and on worries that the location might not work.

Another thing that totally impressed me was the attitude of the crowd and the atmosphere.  Everyone was really happy and friendly.  Everyone I talked to agreed that it was a fun atmosphere.

While it would not be fair for me to divulge specific comments of other committee members, I can tell you the list of "learn from" issues that I brought to the discussion:

  • Not enough time to recruit volunteers. Five people did all the work, and among us the work wasn't really distributed properly.
  • Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogs has mixed results for generating interest. This may have been due to the compressed delivery time, or we just may not have been messaging properly.
  • I thought people with key tasks should have some redundancy or backup in case they couldn't deliver their responsibility for some reason.
  • If we had more time we could have identified people's skills and interests more and mapped tasks a bit better.
  • There was no real project time line to see where we were in the planning.  Again, due to compressed time frame.
  • Our  petition  should have gone out much earlier. 
  • We should have had some type of hand-out at the event. (There were about 4-5 other groups that showed up and handed out their stuff.)
  • I would have liked to live blog the event, or video stream it.  We didn't have the time or resources

All of our self-criticisms seems to come out of not having enough time and people.  Nonetheless I am personally very happy with the way the event turned out.  And I also am in awe of my fellow committee members for their smarts, determination, and passion.

We now look forward to planning another event that we hope will be even more successful. Stay tuned. Please recommend this post

Friday, January 22, 2010

CAPP YYC Rally Tomorrow

Thanks for all who worked to get the Calgary Rally off the ground, and thanks ahead of time for all of you who are going to show up tomorrow.

Here is a link to our petition document.  It got out a bit late, but whatever signatures you can get is great. We will have lots of places to sign tomorrow at the rally.

Two final reminders:
1. Parking is very limited around Mr Harper's office.  Please try to avoid driving if you can.  There is lots of parking in South Glenmore park, but its a 10-15 minute walk.
2. We still need volunteers.

Map Please recommend this post

Thursday, January 21, 2010

CAPPYYC Needs Some Volunteers

We're getting more excited about the CAPP rally on Saturday.

If you're in Calgary and are attending we really could use some volunteers.  We realized that our venue is somewhat sprawling with multiple entry and exit points so we want some people to direct participants to the right location. Its a fairly simple job and we'll buy you all the sugar free bran muffins and green tea you can eat.  Or, cheese burgers and coca cola.  We're not here to judge you.

Drop me a line if you can help out.  And thanks. Please recommend this post

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CAPPYYC Rally Blogger Plug

Calgary's CAPP rally is this Saturday, January 23,2010, on the parking lot directly outside Stephen Harper's Constituency Office.

The address is:

1600 - 90 th Avenue SW
(also known as Glenmore Landing, a popular shopping centre.)

We recommend you not bring your car to the event due to limited parking.  There is a lot of parking in nearby, but not in the shopping centre.  There are maps and transit info on the event page.  We also wanted to avoid causing a problem for the retail businesses around Mr. Harper's office.

If you like walking, the location is about 15-20 minutes from the Heritage CTrain Station.

The rally will start at 1pm and will go for at least an hour, and longer if the participants want.

Because of the right leaning nature of Calgary's Social media, and the completely appropriate  attention shift to the Haiti relief efforts, it has been difficult to get our rally talked about in the blogosphere or on Twitter. If you are a Calgary blogger please help us and blog about this non-partisan event.  There are tonnes of excellent opinion blog posts about the Prorogue so I won't cover that territory here.

We will be presenting a petition to Mr.Harper's constituency office and hope you will help gather signatures. The petition asks that Parliament return in January. A PDF version of the petition and signing sheets will be available sometime today.

A link an image of  one of our posters is here.

Our press release is here

Follow the organizers on Twitter.

Thanks to the Calgarians who have supported this event, and the organizers who have worked very hard.

Tell your friends. Please recommend this post

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I have a copy of The Well Educated Mind by Susan Bauer.  It’s another book of lists suggesting what books you should read to have a better knowledge of the so called western canon.  But the author goes  beyond just listing books and explains how to critically read literature, a skill that I was never taught anywhere in my education. Yet, when I got to university it was presumed I would know how to read Plato with no problem.  (ed. You bitter?)

A third edition of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die will be out in March 2010.  I’ve written about this book a number of times and I still think it’s great.  The blogger Arukiyomi has updated his spreadsheet for this book. The spreadsheet has a full list of the books so you can keep track of what you've read, plus links into Amazon for each book. You have to see this spreadsheet, its monumental, and evidently they put quite a lot of work into it. I still figure I would have to read about 5 of the listed books per month to get through the list.  Unlikely, given half my time is spent with a vicious online gambling addiction….
But you shouldn’t not try.

Sadly,  P.K. Page one of my favourite Canadian Poets passed away last week. Canadian post-war poetry was mostly dominated by men.  She competed well against the like of  Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, Al Purdy, and many others.  She had a very unique voice and style.  She was also a visual artist, under her married name P.K. Irwin. I have a great admiration for all those who wrestle with words and create something lasting.  We see through a glass darkly. Please recommend this post

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Saturday Night Skeptic.

Mr. Deity and the Skeptic:

That touches my raw points on so many levels its actually funnier than the funniness of the video.
Please recommend this post

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Down the Canwest Rabbit Hole

Yesterday’s Canwest story about supposedly missing ammonium nitrate in the lower mainland was short on details and high on irrelevant fear mongering.  I think it was rushed out. Or maybe a night cleaner got on someone’s computer.

Four quick paragraphs to remind you who to fear and loathe:
VANCOUVER — Up to two tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which can be used to make explosives, has gone missing on its way from Alberta to North Vancouver, the Vancouver Province has learned.
Kinder Morgan, a pipeline and energy storing company, was transporting a huge amount of the chemical compound in one-tonne cubes, but two cubes did not make it to their final destination in North Vancouver.

Ammonium nitrate has been used by the Taliban in Afghanistan to make explosives.

Col. Mark Lee, who heads NATO's effort to stop bomb-makers in southern Afghanistan, was recently quoted in the New York Times saying, "You can turn a bag of ammonium nitrate into a bomb in a matter of hours."
Around the same time the Globe & Mail wrote the same story except they included more facts.  The main fact was that the RCMP and the company believed the missing chemicals to be a clerical error. The RCMP believed they had no probable grounds to believe the stuff was missing, and certainly no reason to suspect a terrorist plot.

Canwest quickly re-wrote their story after the clerical error clarification and over-wrote, with the same URL, the original story quoted above.. Down the memory hole.

It’s not that I trust the RCMP in particular, I just think if I were a journalist I would be skeptical and lean to the clerical error explanation in the absence of any proof whatsoever of a theft or a plot.

But Canwest wasn’t done humping my leg. In the final story they couldn’t resist throwing in a pointless reference to the Oklahoma City bombing. So now in return I get to throw in a pointless reference to white hyper-patriotic opus day Catholics.

We know how dangerous ammonium nitrate is, and the thought of a few tonnes going missing made me very nervous. Especially when you consider that there has been sporadic bombings of oil and gas facilities in Alberta and B.C.  It may or may not be helpful to point out that the so called En Cana bomber is likely a rural land owner, demographically likely to be a Harper voter. (Zing)

I must stop reading these people’s junk.  My left eye has been twitching for two days. Please recommend this post

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Calgary's Rally Until Now Noticeably Lacking

I was surprised to learn Calgary, Alberta was one of the few cities in Canada not organizing an anti-prorogue rally.  Ok, I wasn't really surprised I was just being polite.

Although I loath facebook it is somewhat useful for organizing groups and events. Please join the group I created attempting to organize a rally in Calgary. If it falls on dead ears, at least we tried.  Sorry, typo, I meant deaf ears. I was thinking of brains.

What we need now are ideas, facebook tips, admins and joiners.

If you can think of any other social media sites we could supplement this group with please let me know.

In the meantime a little Bruce Cockburn:

Please recommend this post