this week i

moved most everything.  stereo receiver might end up on craigslist, vlc mutes karaoke for classical music sans hourly talking.  hangars for hipsters


ate duck, duck, mousse with rupak at elle (duck poutine, duck ravioli, graham cracker cheesecake).  hannes sent duckdb paraphernalia, i replied as cinderella.  would a reverse siren be a beautiful woman who sings like a duck?  common ancestor of duck and platypus didn't have a beak.  duck yeah

ask more cia reporting on security risks posed by climate change.  could we replace the main irredentism photo with putin?  kandahar named for alexander.  jude law looks like that punch brother who replaced keillor for a minute.  michelangelo signed his work only once: the florentine did it

read postwar: a history of europe since 1945 by tony judt

world war two was primarily a civilian experience

 during an outbreak of dysentery in berlin during july 1945 - the result of damaged sewage systems and polluted water supplies - there were 66 infant deaths for every 100 live births

there was a feeling among western policymakers that the league of nations, and the minority clauses in the versailles treaties, had failed and that it would be a mistake even to try to resurrect them.  for this reason they acquiesced readily enough in the population transfers

with the exception of germany and the heartland of the soviet union, every continental european state involved in world war two was occupied at least twice: first by its enemies, then by the armies of liberation

gattopardismo ('leopardism' or 'spot-changing')

and the german people were not alone.  in italy the daily newspaper of the new christian democrat party put out a similar call to oblivion on the day of hitler's death: 'we have the strength to forget!', it proclaimed.  'forget as soon as possible!'  in the east the communists' strongest suit was their promise to make a revolutionary new beginning in countries where everyone had something to forget - things done to them or things they had done to themselves.  all over europe there was a strong disposition to put the past away and start afresh, to follow isocrates' recommendation to the athenians at the close of the peloponnesian wars: 'let us govern collectively as though nothing bad had taken place'

the contrast between the britain of george orwell's road to wigan pier (published in 1937) and that of conservative prime minister harold macmillan's famous put-down to a heckler twenty years later ('you've never had it so good') is a tribute to the national health service and the provisions for security, income maintenance and employment that accompanied it

the day hitler died, 10 percent of german railways were operational and the country was at a literal standstill.  a year later, in june 1946, 93 percent of all german rail tracks had been re-opened and 800 bridges had been rebuilt

in a speech on april 12th 1946, vice-president henry wallace reminded his audience that 'aside from our common language and common literary tradition, we have no more in common with imperialistic england than with communist russia.'  wallace, of course, was notoriously 'soft' on communism, but his distaste for american involvement with britain and europe was widely shared across the political spectrum.  when winston churchill gave his famous 'iron curtain' speech in fulton, missouri, in march 1946, the wall street journal acidly commented: 'the country's reaction to mr churchill's fulton speech must be convincing proof that the us wants no alliance, or anything that resembles an alliance, with any other nation'

the famous bon mot of lord ismay, who took up his post as nato's first secretary general in 1952: the purpose of the north atlantic treaty organization was 'to keep the russians out, the americans in and the germans down'

basic food rationing in britain only ended in 1954 - long after the rest of western europe.  street scenes in post-war britain would have been familiar to citizens in the soviet bloc - in the words of one english housewife, recalling these years, 'it was queues for everything, you know, even if you didn't know what you were queuing for . . . you joined it because you know there was something at the end of it'

communist regimes of eastern europe had used the courts to punish and close down the churches everywhere except poland, where open confrontation with the catholic church was deemed too risky

the red army liberated auschwitz

the show trials in the communist bloc were not about justice.  they were, rather, a form of public pedagogy-by-example; a venerable communist institution (the first such trials in the ussr dated to 1928) whose purpose was to illustrate and exemplify the structures of authority in the soviet system.  they told the public who was right, who was wrong; they placed blame for policy failures; they assigned credit for loyalty and subservience; they even wrote a script, an approved vocabulary for use in discussion of public affairs

 from a child's first class with a communist primary teacher, in prague, april 1948: 'children, you all know that in america people live in holes dug in the ground and are slaves for a few capitalists, who take all the profit.  but in russia everyone is happy, and we in prague are very happy too, owing to the government of klement gottwald.  now children, repeat loudly with me: "we are very contented and approve the gottwald government"


at the close of the second world war, the peoples of western europe - who were hard put to govern or even feed themselves - continued to rule much of the non-european world

the red army would come in and restore order in any case; the only question was which hungarians would have the honour of collaborating with them

the dutch economy grew by 3.5 percent each year from 1950-1970 - seven times the average annual growth rate for the preceding forty years

the first european hypermarkets, defined as stores with at least 25,000 square feet of space on a single level and typically located at least two miles from a town center, began to appear at the end of the 1960s.  by 1973 there were about 750 of these giant stores in western europe, 620 of them in france and west germany alone.  in italy in that same year there were just three.  twenty years later there were fully 8,000 hypermarkets and superstores in france . . . but still just 118 in italy

build not economic utopias but good societies

the older generation was convinced that sexual restraints had completely collapsed - and it pleased their children to nourish the nightmare

'kommune 1', a maoist micro-sect that aggressively promoted sexual promiscuity-as-liberation, circulated a self-portrait in 1966: seven nude young men and women splayed against a wall - 'naked maoists before a naked wall' as the caption read when the photo ran in der spiegal in june 1967.  the emphasis on nudity was explicitly designed to recall pictures of helpless, naked concentration camp bodies.  look, it said: first came hitler's victims, now the rebelliously unclothed bodies of maoist revolutionaries.  if germans can look at the truth about our bodies, they will be able to face other truths as well

yesterday came suddenly

by the early sixties, the 3 percent of cultivated soil in private hands was yielding over a third of the soviet union's agricultural output.  by 1965, two thirds of the potatoes consumed in the ussr and three quarters of the eggs came from private farmers

power rested not - as most social thinkers since the enlightenment had supposed - upon control of natural and human resources, but upon the monopoly of knowledge: knowledge about the natural world; knowledge about the public sphere; knowledge about oneself; and above all, knowledge about the way in which knowledge itself is produced and legitimized.  the maintenance of power in this account rested upon the capacity of those in control of knowledge to maintain that control at the expense of others, by repressing subversive 'knowledges'

la france profonde, unsullied by cities and cosmopolitanism

after greenland achieved self-rule in 1979, a referendum was called in which the country voted to leave the eec, the only member-state ever to do so

communism was the dark mirror that history was holding up to the west

gorbachev, in the view of one of his close advisers, was 'a genetic error of the system'

the author, who was in prague at this time, can vouch for the intoxicating feeling that history was being made by the hour

romanian communism in its last years sat uneasily athwart the intersection of brutality and parody.  portraits of the party leader and his wife were everywhere; his praise was sung in dithyrambic terms that might have embarrassed even stalin himself (though not perhaps north korea's kim il sung, with whom the romanian leader was sometimes compared).  a short list of the epithets officially-approved by ceausescu for use in accounts of his achievement would include: the architect; the creed-shaper; the wise helmsman; the tallest mast; the nimbus of victory; the visionary; the titan; the son of the sun; a danube of thought; and the genius of the carpathians

august 23rd 1989..a human chain ('hands across the baltic') 650 kilometers in length, reaching from vilnius through riga to tallinn, to mark the 50th anniversary of the molotov-ribbentrop pact

local commentators were pessimistic about the chances for pluralist politics.  if capitalism without legal restraints descends readily into theft, then - in the absence of agreed and understood boundaries to public rhetoric and political competition - democracy, it was feared, risks slipping into competitive demagogy

english is now the common language of belgium

henry kissinger's sardonic question of an earlier decade - 'if i want to phone europe, what number do i call?'

when mozart headed west from vienna en route for prague in 1787, he described himself as crossing an oriental border.  east and west, asia and europe, were always walls in the mind at least as much as lines on the earth

in eastern europe and iberia, the long absence of a free press meant that many people, especially outside of the large cities, had missed out altogether on the newspaper era - transiting directly from pre-literacy to the electronic media

few would have predicted it sixty years before, but the twenty-first century might yet belong to europe

 memory is inherently contentious and partisan

'european union' may be a response to history, but it can never be a substitute