Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oscar Wilde's jail time

One of my favorite classics that I read in my youth is Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. The idea of your sins being collected in a portrait of you while you walked around guilt-free is a fascinating one. Wilde saw one's public and private personae to be two very different things. The more I hear about his private life, the more I understand the book. I must reread it soon. Its been a couple of decades at least.

I knew he went to jail for sodomy and suffered a great deal while his lover, a wealthy guy with connections, Lord Alfred Douglas, stayed free. I just watched the film Wilde and it showed the details of the situation. I have been checking the details of the film with information on the net and it seems to be quite accurate so far.

First thing I learn is that Oscar was Irish, born in Dublin, not British. He first moved to English after getting a scholarship to Oxford. I thought he died in jail in England, but he only went to jail for two years (of hard labor) in 1895. When he got out of jail, he went into self-exile in France and died in Paris three years later of meningitis. He lived in Paris under the assumed name of Sebastian Melmoth.

The law he was convicted of gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. His young lover's father, John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, hired several detective to follow him around London and documenting his activities. That was enough to convict him.

Stories like these remind you that progress really has been made.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Superman is a Fascist

It bothers me, a bit, about Superman. He fights crime under one personae and then under another personae .... writes about it. Talk about controlling your own message. No wonder everyone in his world thinks of him as being super ... he was the media ... he told them he was super and they believed him. A bit fascist, don't you think?

Two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, created Superman in 1933. This was during the height of fascism in Europe and antisemitism, not only abroad but in the states as well. Surely what was going on in the world had some influence on them. Superman was clearly a leftist in the early days taking on the KKK and promoting the New Deal. It is unclear whether they took the name of the character from the Nietzsche concept, the Superman, but the fact that Nietzsche was also a major influence of Hitler always seemed ironic to me. The name Clark Kent comes from the movie stars Clark Gable and Kent Taylor (a B movie star from the 50's). Many of the other names they took from Hebrew with Superman's real name, Kal-El resembling the Hebrew word for "the voice of god" while his childhood mythos resembles Moses in that they were both cast out by their parents to save him. Moses was sent down the Nile in a basket, while Kal-El sent in a pod to Kansas. So maybe, Superman isn't a fascist, but perhaps, he's just Jewish.

I have always been more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan anyway. Spiderman is more my style. He worked for a newspaper too, but he just took the pictures. Others were open to interpret what he was doing in them. He didn't control his own message ... it controlled him.

Check out this Archive of Studio 360. It was a good one:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Stasi

The Stasi I watched the German film, The Lives of Others, this weekend. It was an incredible film and very much deserving of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar that it won this year. It was about the Stasi which is short for Staatssicherheit which translates to State Security in English. The Stasi in the old East Germany (the GDR) is basically the equivalent of the KGB in the Soviet Union or to a lesser extent, the FBI in the US. By the time the wall fell in 1989, the Stasi had over 91,000 employees and 300,000 informants. Approximately, 1 in 7 citizens were informing on their neighbors and family.

At the end of The Lives of Others, one of the main characters gets to look at the Stasi's file on him. He sees that his wife was informing the Stasi about him. The screen writer of the film,
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck,was actually sued for libel about this by his wife and it was revealed that she actually was spying on him during the era.