The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'ww2'
If World War 2 documentaries were interpreted as fiction, the writing would suck:
So it's pretty standard "shining amazing good guys who can do no wrong" versus "evil legions of darkness bent on torture and genocide" stuff, totally ignoring the nuances and realities of politics. The actual strategy of the war is barely any better. Just to give one example, in the Battle of the Bulge, a vastly larger force of Germans surround a small Allied battalion and demand they surrender or be killed. The Allied general sends back a single-word reply: "Nuts!". The Germans attack, and, miraculously, the tiny Allied force holds them off long enough for reinforcements to arrive and turn the tide of battle. Whoever wrote this episode obviously had never been within a thousand miles of an actual military.
Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender, and there's no way to take the Japanese home islands because they're invincible...and then they realize they totally can't have the Americans take the Japanese home islands so they have no way to wrap up the season. So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they've never mentioned until now. Apparently the Americans got some scientists together to invent it, only we never heard anything about it because it was "classified". In two years, the scientists manage to invent a weapon a thousand times more powerful than anything anyone's ever seen before - drawing from, of course, ancient mystical texts. Then they use the superweapon, blow up several Japanese cities easily, and the Japanese surrender. Convenient, isn't it?
I'm not even going to get into the whole subplot about breaking a secret code (cleverly named "Enigma", because the writers couldn't spend more than two seconds thinking up a name for an enigmatic code), the giant superintelligent computer called Colossus (despite this being years before the transistor was even invented), the Soviet strongman whose name means "Man of Steel" in Russian (seriously, between calling the strongman "Man of Steel" and the Frenchman "de Gaulle", whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot).
A French artist is working on a Nintendo DS game about the Holocaust. Titled Imagination is the Only Escape, the game will place players in the role of a young boy in Eastern France who uses his imagination to escape the horrors of war during the German occupation of World War II. (Sounds like a real barrel of laughs, doesn't it?) That is assuming that Nintendo sign off on this; the New York Times reported that they had refused to release it in the US, though this report has since been denied.
(via Wired News)
Read: Notes of a Japanese soldier in the USSR; the story of former Japanese prisoner of war Kiuchi Nobuo's journey through the Soviet labour camp system, told in watercolour drawings with captions. It's surprisingly lighthearted; while Nobuo mentions the death and hardship, he chooses instead to linger on the camaraderie between prisoners of different nations and the small moments of joy, beauty and levity.
Frank Broughton, co-author of Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, writes about how the Nazis were responsible for disco, or more precisely, how the peculiar phenomenon of dancing to records in cellars originated with a subculture of French kids who defied the Nazis' bans on jazz and swing, dressed up in ostentatious costumes and called themselves les Zazous.
Imagine, amid the grey serge of wartime France, a tribe of youngsters with all the colourful decadence of punks or teddy boys. Wearing zoot suits cut off at the knee (the better to show off their brightly coloured socks), with hair sculpted into grand quiffs, and shoes with triple-height soles - looking like glam-rock footwear 30 years early - these were the kids who would lay the foundations of nightclubbing. Ladies and gentlemen, les Zazous.
The Zazou look was completed with high collars, impossibly tight ties and long sheepskin-lined jackets, with a curved-handled umbrella carried at all times (copied from British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, regarded as quite a style icon). Female Zazous wore short skirts, shabby furs, wooden platform shoes and dark glasses with big lenses, and chose to go hatless, to better show off the single lock of hair they had bleached or dyed. They took their name from the Cab Calloway-style scatting in a song Je Suis Swing, by their hero, French jazz singer Johnny Hess.
As the pogroms began, some Zazous went even further and took to wearing yellow stars of David to show solidarity with the Jews. To underline their outlaw musical taste, they wrote "swing" across them. Several found themselves in internment camps as a result. Even stranger, when liberation was imminent, female Zazous blacked up their faces to show their love for jazz and America.
Japanese War Tubas. I repeat, Japanese War Tubas:
Seen on this page. The war tubas look like a musical instrument (some kind of Dadaist/Futurist sound-art device, or perhaps a super-loud military-band instrument designed to strike terror into the hearts of enemies, much as bagpipes were), but they were actually devices for acoustically locating incoming aircraft. I wouldn't be surprised if the photograph in question has graced at least one CD of experimental music/noise-art.
(via The Athanasius Kircher Society)
It now emerges that many buildings in Moscow have large quantities of explosives hidden under them. The explosives were buried by officers of the NKVD (which became the KGB) during World War 2, in case the Nazis captured Moscow:
"At night, they descended into the hotel's basement, designated a man to watch, and dug. They dug through the brick foundation and made a cache beneath the basement. Then, on another night, other NKVD officers secretly delivered a truck full of TNT right into the hotel's inner yard. The officers quartered on the first floor helped unload the explosives and carry the packages one by one into the cache beneath the basement. When they were through, they covered up the cache."
"My father said that the plan went like this: the Germans weren't supposed to suspect anything when they examined the premises. They say that the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels wanted to be housed in the Moskva Hotel and turn it into his personal propaganda office with a view of the Kremlin."It is presently not known where exactly there still are explosives.
Another chapter in the annals of if-value-then-right: as maximalist interpretations of intellectual property dominate, defense contractors are fulfilling their duty to their shareholders by shaking model kit manufacturers down for hefty royalties, sometimes demanding as much as US$40 per kit. The old way of doing things, letting modelmakers sell kits for free and treating it as good publicity, is no longer accepted practice; these days, it's considered less as good publicity and more as negligence or mismanagement. Ironically, one effect this may have is the disappearance of kits for anything but royalty-free items, such as WW2 Nazi vehicles (for which there is no rightsholder*) and World War 1 items.
* Surely this is an oversight; had today's concept of intellectual property been current in 1945, the Allies would not have allowed the intellectual-property rights to Nazi vehicles to expire; perhaps they would have been auctioned to licensing companies shortly afterward. (On a tangent, had intellectual-property maximalism been the dominant doctrine in 1945, a lot of other things would have been possible, such assigning the swastika and the name and likeness of Adolf Hitler™ to an anti-Nazi foundation and allowing them to sue neo-Nazis for infringement, but I digress.)
Anyway, it's interesting to note that Allied vehicles from WW2 are still intellectual property. It was asserted, not too long ago, that the reason why historical cable-TV channels show so many World War 2 documentaries is because there is a lot of footage from that era which is in the public domain; elsewhere, it was suggested that in more recent documentary footage, if someone is accidentally filmed wearing a trademarked brand-logo hat, that requires the filmmaker to obtain rights from the owner of the trademark to use the footage. I wonder if whoever owns the rights to the Spitfire and such can figure out a way of putting these two facts together and monetising the rights to their trademarks appearing in WW2 documentary newsreels.
Had the Nazis invaded Britain, they would have had a wide range of puppet leaders to choose from, from the Duke of Windsor (formerly Edward VIII) as king to the Duke of Bedford, and Maj. Gen. John Fuller (a close friend of the owner of the (then) notoriously pro-Nazi Daily Mail), who was tipped to be the British counterpart of Vichy puppet ruler Marshal Petain. Or so a list of potential traitors (to be arrested and interned immediately upon invasion), recently released by the National Archives, says. The list also includes Irish, Welsh and Scottish nationalists thought likely to bet on the Nazis and miscellaneous working stiffs overheard by neighbours making suspiciously pro-German remarks.
Just the thing to wear for when Osama comes to take out the mall: Mickey Mouse gas masks. Originally designed for children during World War 2, perhaps we can expect them to return to shops in a few terrorist alerts' time. Though perhaps this day we'd be more likely to see Hello Kitty or Jar-Jar Binks gas masks. (via bOING bOING)
Strange bedfellows: It has emerged that, during World War 2, Scottish nationalists allied with the IRA attempted to establish an alliance with Nazi Germany, with the aim of establishing a Nazi-allied Scottish Republic in the chaos of the Blitz, (via Lev)