Monday, February 28, 2011

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Am I the only one that finds this photograph positively frightening?

It is one of the most starkly chilling photographs I have ever seen—as chilling as any photograph that came out of Nazi Germany—and would inspire a grim 10,000-word essay on The State Of America if I did not have more important things to do with my time.

The photograph is not a fake, and the photograph is not intended as comedy—although anyone might be forgiven for assuming that some massive joke were being played, or that the persons in the photograph were play-acting a family of nitwits and boobs.

The photograph is from a 2009 issue of the Cornell alumni magazine, which I was flipping through this weekend at the home of one of Andrew’s friends, who is a Cornell alumnus (and not an especially proud one).

The photograph was taken during the 2008 election campaign. As a matter of good taste, I have excised a figure on the right—although it was impossible to remove this figure entirely from the photograph without interfering with the portrait of the gruesome harridan of a mother standing alongside, which I did not want to do.

The photograph is an instant classic. At one glance, it captures and summarizes—as well as satirizes—The State Of America at the end of the last decade. Through dress, hairstyles, postures, facial expressions and eyes, the members of this vapid and unappealing family are revealed as unintelligent, half-educated, self-indulgent, lacking character, lacking probity—and profoundly and fundamentally in need of regeneration.

Is the family in the photograph even aware, in offering for publication this ridiculous yet somehow iconic portrait of itself, that it invites ridicule?

I grieve for the children in the photograph, appalling as they are.

Of greater importance, I grieve for this nation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Capitulation Never!

The Austrian Parliament in April 1945, immediately after the conclusion of The Battle Of Vienna, at which time Vienna became a Russian-occupied city.

The fate of Austria had not been decided at any of the wartime conferences involving Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, so Stalin took it upon himself to capture and occupy Vienna before any other power might do so. Indeed, The Russian Army was prepared to advance upon Berlin no later than February 1, but Stalin delayed the Russian march toward Berlin by a full two months in order to assure that the prize of Vienna first became his.

The Russians were to continue to occupy Vienna until 1955.

The posters proclaim "The Bolsheviks: Capitulation Never!" and "The Anglo/Americans: Capitulation Never!".

Things did not quite work out that way.

Street By Street, Block By Block

April 1945: Russian forces engage in street fighting during The Battle Of Vienna.

From the right half of the photograph, it is seen that the day was a sunny one, although the gloom and smoke of the left half of the photograph leave a very different impression.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ludwig II Lying In State

Ludwig II of Bavaria, lying in state in 1886.

Ludwig was responsible for the splendor of Herrenchiemsee, which we visited during our trip to Bavaria and Austria in 2009. Our day in and around Lake Chiemsee was one of the most memorable days of that particular trip.

My entry about our visit to Herrenchiemsee is the most-visited item of my weblog.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meryl Streep As Margaret Thatcher

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, currently before the cameras in London.