Monday, December 29, 2014

Breakfast in Yokohama


MacArthur arrives in Japan on Aug. 30, 1945.

Kamakura's 50-foot Buddha
On Aug. 30, 1945, Gen. Douglas MacArthur flew to Okinawa in a C-54, passing over the serene whiteness of Mount Fujiyama, Kamakura’s 50-foot bronze Buddha and a newly surrendered nation.
His officers weren’t entirely sure about that. Roving bands of young diehards wearing white bands around their heads were engaging in violent clashes in the cities down there, and who knew what the humiliated Japanese troops might do? But when the officers started to strap on handguns, MacArthur said no.
“Take them off,” MacArthur said. “If they intend to kill us, sidearm’s will be useless. And nothing will impress them like a show of absolute fearlessness. If they don’t know they’re licked, this will convince them.”
Landing, they were driven past rubble and ruin on a dusty road lined by 30,000 Japanese infantrymen, their backs turned deferentially and as a security measure. The generals settled in to Yokohama’s New Grand Hotel, where they were served steaks.
“(Gen. Courtney) Whitney thought MacArthur’s might be poisoned and suggested that a Japanese taste it first,” wrote biographer William Manchester. “MacArthur laughed and shook his head: it was good meat and he didn’t want to share it with anyone. The gesture did not pass unnoticed. The hotel staff had anticipated Whitney’s suspicion and expected a tasting of the General’s food. (Hotel owner Yozo) Nomura reappeared at his table to express his gratitude for this demonstration of ‘great trust.’ He and his employees, he said, were ‘honored beyond belief.’
“MacArthur was obviously delighted with this little speech. His officers wondered why. It seemed a very small matter. But the General knew that word of everything he said and did would quickly spread throughout the country. He was determined that the occupation be benign from the outset.
“Moreover, remembering his tour of duty in Germany after the 1918 Armistice, he realized that in a war-torn, defeated country, food would be at a premium. He sensed that the acquisition of these steaks had been no small matter, that all Japan must be hungry, a surmise which was confirmed at breakfast the next morning, after the commander of the 11th Airborne ruefully reported that his division had searched all night and found exactly one egg for the Supreme Commander’s breakfast.
“MacArthur immediately issued an order at odds with the whole history of conquering armies in Asia. Occupation troops were forbidden to consume local victuals; they would eat only their own rations.
“An hour later, he canceled the martial law and curfew degrees (Gen. Robert) Eichelberger had imposed on the city. The first step in the reformation of Japan, he said, would be an exhibition of generosity and compassion by the occupying power.”

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Emperor and the Slave

One had been a tortured slave, the other an emperor. And yet… “It is remarkable that Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius are completely at one on all philosophical questions,” wrote Bertrand Russell. “This suggests that, although social circumstances affect the philosophy of an age, individual circumstances have less influence than is sometimes thought upon the philosophy of an individual. Philosophers are usually men of a certain breadth of mind, who can largely discount the accidents of their private lives; but even they cannot rise above the larger good or evil of their times. In bad times, they invent consolations; in good times, their interests are more purely intellectual.”

Free Your Thoughts with Stoicism, Buddhism and Epicureanism


I have long been interested in the parallels between Stoic and Buddhist insights about the mind. When people from vastly different cultures arrive at the same ideas about human nature, that's strong evidence in their favor, I think
My point is that their shared insights about the process of the thought — controlling the emotions by controlling the perception of reality — are important because of their implied universality.
The emphasis on thought control and clear vision is the same, I think. “The example is given of the person who mistakes a coil of rope for a snake at twilight and becomes terrified. When he realizes his mistake, his fear subsides and his desire to run away disappears.
“What is needed for liberation, then, Nagarjuna reasoned, is essentially correct vision — to see things as they really are — rather than to embark on a flight from one supposedly imperfect reality (samsara) to a better one (nirvana). Nirvana is thus reinterpreted … as a purified vision of what is seen by the ignorant as samsara. It follows that nirvana is here and now, if we could but see it.”
That’s from “Buddhism: A Brief Insight” by Damien Keown, but the ancient Greeks had the same insight.
Here, for example, Epictetus' thought parallels the Buddhist quote. “As for us, we behave like a herd of deer. When they flee from the huntsman's feathers in affright, which way do they turn? What haven of safety do they make for? Why, they rush upon the nets. Thus do they perish by confounding what they should fear with that wherein no danger lies,” Epictetus said. “Reflect that the chief source of all evils to man, and of baseness and cowardice, is not death, but the fear of death."
And compare the Buddhist emphasis on relief from suffering as the reduction of desire to this Epictetus quote: “The origin of sorrow is this: To wish for something that does not come to pass.”
This quote attributed to Buddha sounds quite Stoic to me: "Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all.” Compare that to Epictetus: “It is the part of an uneducated person to blame others where he himself fares ill; to blame himself is the part of one whose education has begun; to blame neither another nor his own self is the part of one whose education is already complete.”
Epicurus headed a rival school at the time of the Stoics, and Epicurus' view of pleasure echoes the Buddhists: “When we say that pleasure is the end, we do not mean the pleasure of the profligate or that which depends on physical enjoyment — as some think who do not understand our teachings, disagree with them or give them an evil interpretation — but by pleasure we mean the state wherein the body is free from pain and the mind from anxiety.”
Both Buddhism and Stoicism remind you to calmly and carefully observe not merely reality, but the way that reality is reflected in your mind.
“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them,” said Epictetus. “Whenever you are angry, be assured that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit.”
“Zen meditation is often misunderstood as a practice of stopping thoughts or having no thoughts, but it’s actually a practice of noticing thoughts,” author Kim Boykin observed. “Zen is not about eliminating thoughts, but illuminating them.”
I’ve linked an insightful essay by Massimo Pigliucci, a philosophy professor at the City University of New York. He compares Stoicism, Epicureanism and Buddhism. Among other things, he writes: “Both Buddhists and Stoics, for their part, developed techniques to improve people’s mental well being, and there is good empirical evidence that those techniques do work (though my personal preference is for the more reflective Stoic approach rather than the overly meditative Buddhist one).”
“The ultimate goal of the Stoic was apatheia, or peace of mind, which I think is akin to both the Epicurean ideal of ataraxia and the Buddhist goal of nirvana (again, with due consideration given to the significant differences in the background conditions and specific articulation of the three philosophies). And of course Stoics too had a ready-made recipe for their philosophy, in the form of a short list of virtues to practice … These were: courage, justice, temperance and wisdom,” Pigliucci wrote.
“Perhaps more interestingly, though, all three philosophies arose and thrived in times of social and political turmoil, within their respective geographical areas. This is relevant because I think it may go some way toward explaining some of the similarities I am interested in. Of course, Buddhism still thrives today, with hundreds of millions of followers. Epicureanism and Stoicism, on the contrary, largely exist in textbooks, the main reason being Christianity: as soon as the Christians took over the Roman empire they put their newly found political and military might in the service of the one true god and persecuted both Epicureans and Stoics. Both schools were officially abolished in 529 CE by the emperor Justinian I, that prick.”
Times of social and political turmoil, eh? No wonder they’re relevant again.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Mundane as Motive


One of the strongest motives that leads men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness. Such men make the cosmos and its construction the pivot of their emotional life, in order to find the peace and security which they cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.”
— Albert Einstein

Friday, December 26, 2014

Sound and Fury, Right After This Message


American corporate "journalism" persists in putting demonstrably false lunatics on the air. It's as if "Network" has collided with "A Face in the Crowd" and sprayed stupidity everywhere.
The opportunity cost of the corporate news media is ignorance of what's important. Right now, the American public is being manipulating into believing that watching a dumb-ass mediocre Hollywood  comedy is equivalent to fighting in some holy war.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

These "Woods" Are Lovely, Dark and Deep, But Promises Go Unkept there

Chris Pine as the Prince who warns he was raised to be charming, not sincere
Disney has produced a perfect adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 stage musical Into the Woods, although — like all of Sondheim’s work — it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
These woods are lovely, dark and deep, but promises go unkept there. Wolves and witches prowl there, it’s true, but so do Bruno Bettelheim and Joseph Campbell.
Sondheim was decades ahead of American popular culture in following the darker streams in classic fantasy to their sources. Between the lines of his wickedly witty lyrics, astute audiences will discern observations about our existential condition — about love, parenthood, betrayal, courage and the disillusionments of maturity.
Sondheim faithfully mixes the elements of a half-dozen fairy tales, faintly mocking their absurdities while mining — and extending — their truths. Those truths are funny, bittersweet, profoundly sad (as in the parent’s lament Stay With Me) and even wise (as in Children Will Listen, the song that soars as we rise from out seats).
I don’t think Matt Mattingly found it as moving as I did, although he too enjoyed it. I wish the whole audience could have enjoyed it as much as I did.
But then you must be careful, you know, what you wish for.
“Careful the wish you make
“Wishes are children
“Careful the path they take
“Wishes come true, not free
“Careful the spell you cast
“Not just on children
“Sometimes a spell may last
"Past what you can see…”

Gen. Douglas MacArthur: An Appetite for Danger


MacArthur wades ashore at Leyte

During World War II, Gen. Douglas MacArthur regularly exposed himself to sniper fire, machine gun attacks and enemy bombs, scorning bomb shelters and offering a distinctive target.
That calm bravado — no doubt related to his vanity and heightened sense of drama— prompted at least one psychiatrist to render a snap diagnosis of “suicidal.”
At Brunei Bay in the Philippines, MacArthur was leading his nervous officers along a beach road battlefield when they came across the freshly slain bodies of two Japanese soldiers.
“An Army photographer appeared, hoping to take a picture of the General and the bodies,” wrote biographer William Manchester. “MacArthur refused, and the cameraman squared away to snap the two corpses. Just at the bulb flashed, the photographer fell with a sniper’s bullet in his shoulder.
“Sir Leslie Morhead, the corps commander, hurried up and said they had reached the front line. MacArthur protested: ‘But I see some Australian soldiers fully a hundred yards ahead.’ Sir Leslie said: ‘General, that is only a forward patrol, and even now it is under heavy fire. You cannot go beyond this point without extreme hazard. The enemy is right in front of it.’ MacArthur said, ‘Let’s go forward.’ Sir Leslie stepped aside and told one of the American aides, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a commander-in-chief acting as the point.’
“The General started to pace toward the Japanese, but (Gen. George C.) Kenney decided to intervene. They had found the enemy’s outpost position, he told MacArthur, and ‘if he wanted my vote, it was for allowing the infantry to do the job they came ashore for.’ Besides, he continued, the captain of the Boise had invited them to dinner, and it would be ‘extremely discourteous to keep dinner waiting when, after all, we were just guests.’ Capping his argument, he reminded the General that the cruiser’s skipper had promised them chocolate ice cream that evening.
“’All right, George,’ MacArthur said, smiling and turning back toward the ship. ‘I wouldn’t have you miss that ice cream for anything.’
“His craving for danger was unappeased, however; the next day they landed on the other side of Brunei Bay. Hearing gunfire coming from the direction of a nearby airfield, they ‘headed,’ in Kenney’s words, ‘for more trouble.’
“Reaching the edge of the landing strip, the General said, ‘Let’s go on,’ but then an Australian colonel stepped out of the bush and barred the way, brusquely telling the commander in chief that he and his entourage were an unwelcome distraction.
“Kenney writes: ‘He was not a bit awed at MacArthur’s five stars and, much to my gratification, refused to let us go forward another inch.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Sordid Telepathy of Douglas MacArthur


MacArthur with Sutherland in Brisbane during World War II

During the Pacific war, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s chief of staff, Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, had a married mistress. MacArthur, concerned about a scandal in the press, ordered Sutherland to get rid of her.
“MacArthur had told his chief of staff that after Hollandia, the round-heeled Australian captain must return to Brisbane, that under no circumstances could should cross the equator,” wrote biographer William Manchester. Sutherland secretly defied him, building a cottage for the woman on Leyte during MacArthur’s invasion of the Philippines.
MacArthur’s other subordinate officers were nervous about breaking the news to him. Telepathy, or perhaps synchronicity, solved their problem. As the woman became increasingly demanding, Dr. Roger Egeberg decided something should be done.
“The doctor crossed Santo Nino Street from the staff headquarters to the Price house and found MacArthur in a rocking chair on the veranda,” Manchester wrote. “Sitting on another chair, Egeberg tried to think how best to broach the subject. He asked perfunctorily about (MacArthur’s wife) Jean and then sat in silence, trying mental telepathy, concentrating on the cottage dweller’s name. Presently the General turned t him and asked, ‘Doc, whatever happened to that woman?’ The doctor spoke her name aloud. ‘That’s the one.’ Egeberg said, ‘She’s 10 mile down the coast. Larry just talked to her.’ The General’s jaw sagged and then set in a grim line. He said: ‘Get Sutherland!’”
The doctor did as he was told, leaving Sutherland in MacArthur’s company. On the way out, he heard MacArthur shout “You goddamned son of a bitch!” and various other choice phrases.
The woman was packed off to Brisbane, but Sutherland apparently couldn’t resist her charms. He pleased toothache as an excuse for joining her there.
“When he returned, the General’s attitude was frigid,” Manchester wrote. “Never again were they on intimate terms.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Juste Entre Nous at the Spy Club

Nicholas Elliott had joined the British Secret Service just before World War II, and after the war they ran a fresh security check on him.
He described it in his memoir, With My Little Eye:
Security officer: “Sit down, I’d like to have a frank talk with you.”
Elliott: “As you wish, Colonel.”
Officer: “Does your wife know what you do?”
Elliott: “Yes.”
Officer: “How did that come about?”
Elliott: “She was my secretary for two years and I think the penny must have dropped.”
Officer: “Quite so. What about your mother?”
Elliott: “She thinks I’m in something called SIS, which she believes stands for Secret Intelligence Service.”
Officer: “Good God! How did she come to know that?”
Elliott: “A member of the War Cabinet told her at a cocktail party.”
Officer: “Then what about your father?”
Elliott: “He thinks I’m a spy.”
Officer: “Why should he think you’re a spy?”
Elliott: “Because the Chief (of SIS) told him in the bar at White’s (the poshest of gentleman’s clubs).” 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hang Your Head in Shame, America


I must be getting old. I can remember a time when Americans didn't delight in being torturers.
"The sterilization of men because of their political beliefs ... The murder of children... How easily that can happen! There are those in our country today, too, who speak of the 'protection' of the country. Of 'survival.' The answer to that is: 'survival as what?' A country isn't a rock. And it isn't an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for, when standing for something is the most difficult! Before the people of the world — let it now be noted in our decision here that this is what we stand for: justice, truth ... and the value of a single human being!"
— Judge Dan Haywood, "Judgment at Nuremburg"

How the Sensible Little Centrist Learned to Love Torture


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Brushing With Plutonium


Some acts are so inherently evil that they're like brushing your teeth with plutonium — so abhorrent that any apparent benefit these acts confer is far outweighed by their long-term corrosiveness to the values that permit human civilization to exist. Such acts include torture, slavery, the killing of children, sadistic abuse of animals, and others.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fox News: They Whore for Torture

Fox News routinely defends bullying, torture, rape and slavery. Connect those dots and the picture that emerges is "fascist propaganda."
Here, Bill O'Reilly claims torture is "morally correct." So far, Americans have been herded into blind acceptance of universal police-state surveillance, permanent war and summary police executions of unarmed people in the street. Now many are cheering for state torture, and Fox News just applauded the idea of slowly cutting off prisoners' fingers and toes. It's pretty unnerving to consider what we're being softened up for.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On Stage With FDR and MacArthur

MacArthur, FDR and Admiral Chester Nimitz
Politically in opposing camps, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and President Franklin D. Roosevelt were alike in many ways — including their shared flair for the dramatic.
“Both were intensely patriotic, authentic patricians, and always onstage,” wrote biographer William Manchester in American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964. “Each was dominated by an ambitious mother who lived to great old age, and each cut a dashing figure.
“Roosevelt was subtler and more of a fixer, but the greatest difference was in their political outlooks. FDR was guided by his liberal vision. Despite the whispers of some New Dealers, MacArthur was not a reactionary of the Father Coughlin stripe. As he would demonstrate during his proconsulship in Tokyo, he too cherished liberal goals. But in the 1930s, he was still a Herbert Hoover conservative and good friend of West Pointer Robert Wood, who was now head of Sears, Roebuck and who probably introduced him to James H. Rand of Remington Rand at this time. Like them, MacArthur was appalled by the social programs which Hoover’s successor was passing through Congress.
“He was also baffled by the new president’s finessing skills. Roosevelt could charm anyone, even MacArthur. Once during a White House dinner, the general asked: ‘Why is it, Mr. President, that you frequently inquire my opinion regarding the social reforms under consideration … but pay little attention to my views on the military?’ His host replied: ‘Douglas, I don’t bring these questions up for your advice but for your reactions. To me, you are the symbol of the conscience of the American people.’ This, MacArthur said, ‘took all the wind out of my sales.’ It meant, of course, absolutely nothing.”
MacArthur wouldn’t prove to be as smoothly persuasive with FDR. “The Bureau of the Budget, determined to pull the government out of the red, announced that War Department appropriations for the coming fiscal year would be reduced by $80 million. (Secretary of War George) Dern asked for a conference with FDR and took MacArthur with him. Roosevelt was adamant: funds for the regular army would be cut 51 percent; funds for the reserve and the National Guard would also be reduced. The general, his voice trembling with outrage, said: ‘When we lose the next war, and an American boy with an enemy bayonet through his belly and an enemy foot on his dying throat spits out his last curse, I want the name not to be MacArthur, but Roosevelt.’
“FDR, livid, said, ‘You must not talk that way to the president!’ MacArthur would remember long afterward that he apologized, ‘but I felt my Army career was at an end. I told him he had my resignation as Chief of Staff.’ He turned toward the door, but before he could leave Roosevelt said quietly, ‘Don’t be foolish, Douglas; you and the budget must get together on this.’
“Outside, Dern said jubilantly, ‘You’ve saved the Army.’ The general recalled: ‘But I just vomited on the steps of the White House.’”
FDR wouldn’t be the last president MacArthur crossed, and I don’t mean Harry Truman. I mean his Republican successor, who had worked for MacArthur. MacArthur described Dwight Eisenhower as the “best clerk I ever had,” and Eisenhower, when asked by a woman whether he’d ever met MacArthur, returned the compliment. “Not only have I met him, m’am; I studied dramatics under him for five years in Washington and four years in the Philippines,” Eisenhower replied. Who says Ike wasn’t witty?

They Laughed All the Way to Pearl Harbor

The persistent sneering devil of American racism led to a grave military error in the Pacific.
“(A)s the 1930s drew to a close, most American officers in the Philippines regarded conflict between the United States and Dai Nippon (literally Great Japan, as in Great Britain) as inevitable,” wrote biographer William Manchester in American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964. “But few of them doubted a swift U.S. victory.
Japanese propaganda art from World War II
“Even MacArthur was misled by racial chauvinism; when he saw the skill with which Japanese warplanes were flown in the first days of the war, he concluded that the pilots must be white men.
“The Japanese, Americans agreed, were a comical race. They wrote backward and read backward. They built their houses from the roof down and pulled, instead of pushing, their saws. Their baseball announcers gave the full count as ‘two and three.’ Department-store bargain basements were on the top floor.
“Japanese women gave men gifts on Saint Valentine’s Day. Papers were stapled in the upper right-hand corner. To open their locks, you had to turn the key to the left. If they fell in the mud, they laughed; telling you of grave personal misfortunes, they grinned. Japanese murderers apologized to the victims’ families for messing up the house, and the Japanese host who received you into his home with exquisite courtesy might, upon meeting you in the street, shove you rudely into the gutter.
“They were stocky, bandy-legged and buck-toothed. Their civilians wore rumpled hats, dark alpaca suits and tinted glasses in public. Their soldiers suited up in uniforms resembling badly wrapped brown paper parcels. The notion that they could shoot straight — not to mention lick red-blooded Americans — was regarded in Manila as preposterous.” But, as Manchester observed, “Really it was the Americans who were comic, or, considering what lay ahead, tragicomic.”

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Succeed in the Pentagon (By Trying Very, Very Hard)


Gen Douglas MacArthur in 1930
When it came to crawling up the butts of superiors who were in a position to do him some good, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was determined to be second to none. MacArthur could have put J. Pierrepont Finch to shame in his shamelessness.
“He had been carefully feeding the hungry ego of the new president’s secretary of war, Patrick J. Hurley,” noted biographer William Manchester. “Seeing his chance when Hurley sent the Senate a routine communication on the Philippines, the General sent him an oleaginous missive:
‘I have just read in the local papers your letter … and I cannot refrain from expressing to you the unbounded admiration it has caused me. It is the most comprehensive and statesmanlike paper that has ever been presented with reference to this complex and perplexing problem. At one stroke, it has clarified issues which have perplexed and embarrassed statesmen for the past 30 years. If nothing else had ever been written on the subject, your treatise would be complete and absolute. It leaves nothing to be said and has brought confidence and hope out of the morass of chaos and confusion which has existed in the minds of millions of people. It is the most statesmanlike utterance that has emanated from the American Government in many decades and renews in the hearts of many of us our confirmed faith in American principles and ideals. You have done a great and courageous piece of work and I am sure that the United States intends even greater things for you in the future. Please accept my heartiest congratulations not only for yourself personally but the great nation to which we both belong.’
“For a while he heard nothing. … But the administration was giving serious thought to a successor for (Army Chief of Staff Charles P.) Summerall, who would retire in the fall of 1930, and MacArthur’s name was being discussed seriously. Hurley had at first balked, arguing that a man who ‘couldn’t hold his woman’ shouldn’t be Chief of Staff. Since then, however, MacArthur’s remarkable letter had impressed the secretary of war with its wisdom and insight.”
MacArthur got the appointment he so keenly wanted — but not, of course, without pretending that he hesitated to take the job. He only finally and reluctantly accepted the post at the urging of his dear mother, or so he said.
Source: William Manchester,  “American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964”

Sunday, December 7, 2014

And Death Was Dead Ahead


Douglas MacArthur at a French chateau in 1918
During World War I, Douglas MacArthur, then a brigadier general, was provided plenty of chances to test his courage.
“The 42nd had been trying, with little success, to advance northward from the Ourcq to the Vesle, which runs roughly parallel to it. A Boche deserter reported that the enemy was pulling back, but there was no sign of it.
“In the small hours of Friday morning, MacArthur crawled into no-man’s-land with an aide: ‘The dead were so think in spots that we tumbled over them. There must have been at least 2,000 of those sprawled bodies. I identified the insignia of six of the best German divisions. The stench was suffocating. Not a tree was standing. The moans and cries of wounded men sounded everywhere. Sniper bullets sung like the buzzing of angry bees.’”
“Abruptly a Very flare blazed overhead, and he and the aide hit the dirt. In the flickering light, MacArthur saw, dead ahead, ‘three Germans — a lieutenant pointing with outstretched arm, a sergeant crouched over a machine gun, a corporal feeding a bandolier of cartridges to the weapon. I held my breath waiting for the burst, but there was nothing. The seconds ticked by, but still nothing. We waited until we could wait no longer.’
“Watching the Germans’ position, the aide ‘shifted his poised grenade to the other hand and reached for his flashlight. They had not moved. They were never to move. They were dead, all dead — the lieutenant with shrapnel through his heart, the sergeant with his belly blown into his back, the corporal with his spine where his head should have been.’”
— William Manchester,  American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964

Fox: TV News by Gaslight

Ingrid Bergman in the 1944 film "Gaslight"
Fox News is dedicated, not to journalism of course, but to gaslighting. It’s the perfect term for their modus operandi of propaganda peddling. "Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception and sanity,” Wiki notes. “Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to the play ‘Gas Light’ and its film adaptations."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

How the Superhero Rose in the East


One of the original street paintings of the Golden Bat
I came home to find a package of Christmas presents I’d ordered from Edward R. Hamilton, including one for myself — Eric P. Nash’s Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theatre.
Street performers painted and performed comic-book-like adventures in Japanese cities, selling roasted potatoes and chestnuts to the kids who thrilled to them. The exploits of characters like the extraterrestrial Prince of Gamma and the Golden Bat were featured.
Wearing a skull mask and a flowing red cape, the Golden Bat flew to the rescue from his lonely arctic fortress and used his  superstrength to fight weird menaces like dinosaurs, giant robots and space aliens.
But this character debuted in 1931, seven years before the appearance of Superman. “Perhaps as a product of some collective unconscious,” the author suggests.
That fascinates me. Were superheroes not invented, but inevitable?