Thursday, March 20, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
A former Luftwaffe fighter pilot may have ended the 64-year-old mystery surrounding the death of French writer and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
The author of The Little Prince disappeared during a wartime aerial reconnaissance mission in July 1944.
In 2004, wreckage from his plane was found off the coast of Marseilles, but there was no indication of how he died.
Now former German pilot Horst Rippert says he fears he may have shot down the author - though he cannot be sure.
I presented myself as doing research and he said: 'You can stop researching now because I shot down Saint-Exupery'
French newspaper Le Figaro has published extracts of a book in which the former Messerschmitt pilot describes spotting a twin-tailed Lightning P-38 plane flying below him.
He went in pursuit and shot him down.
"I didn't see the pilot and even so, it would have been impossible for me to know that it was Saint-Exupery. I hoped and I still hope it wasn't him," he said.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was best known for his book The Little Prince, a fantasy about a prince from an asteroid who explores the planets.
But his other works focused largely on his experiences in aviation. Although he moved to New York after the Nazis occupied France in 1940, he returned to join the Free French air force in Corsica.
His disappearance became one of the most enduring mysteries in post-war France.
Eventually, a bracelet belonging to him washed up in a fishing net off Marseille in 1998 and debris from his plane was later found by French diver Luc Vanrell.
With the debris was the engine of a German plane shot down a few months earlier.
Mr Vanrell then set to work with Lino von Gartzen of the Bavarian Society for Underwater Archaeology.
Mr von Gartzen told the BBC News website that he made 1,200 phone calls to former Luftwaffe pilots and their families in search of the man who shot down the French writer.
Finally, he was told about a man who had a clear memory of the events of 31 July 1944, the date Antoine de Saint-Exupery disappeared.
"I presented myself as doing research and he said: 'You can stop researching now because I shot down Saint-Exupery'."
Lino von Gartzen said it came as a big shock: "I never thought I would find who shot him down. I was quiet for some minutes as this was too much for me".
For another two years he continued to check Horst Rippert's story and is convinced by it.
"From my point of view as a professional historian it's a very, very good hypothesis and everything he told us seems to be true.
"He feels guilty and very, very sorry about it. He was very scared that the cheap press would massacre him."
In the published extracts, Mr Rippert describes being a fan of de Saint-Exupery's work. "In our youth, at school, we had all read him. We loved his books," he said.
After the war, Mr Rippert became a sports journalist. He is now 88.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Wallen recently brought to my attention the new movie Funny Games starring Tim Roth (who I am a big fan of) and Naomi Watts. Apparently this is one of those sort of Eli Roth films were innocent people are subjected to all kinds of hideous torture. However, there is apparently something else going on as well in the film.
I think it is this mocking of the "bourgeois" inside us that is what this critic is talking about. The critic is telling us that in its very eschewing of the pornographic qualities of such films as "Hostel" and yet STILL finding that masochism titillating, it is nothing more than an exercise in ridiculing that well-off, middle class set who live in the suburbs, have a nice TV and get off on "Saw 8." Mocking that and yet still exploring the same fascination is perhaps worse than just participating in the mass bourgeois stupidity and blood thirstiness.
Now, if this movie is trying to point to the fact that this sort of gladiatorial blood lust is really nothing better than pornography than maybe it is good. That is perhaps what a good movie in this genre would do: point to the fact that it is evil. I guess we'll just have to see the movie then, won't we?
Is there still such a thing as a bourgeoisie in America or are we really all afraid of that thing inside each of us that doesn't get the new trend, or is to slow to keep up with our progression into post-post modernity?
Saturday, March 15, 2008
By J. MARION TIERNEY *
During his 1969 concert at San Quentin prison, Johnny Cash proposed a paradigm shift in the field of developmental psychology. He used “A Boy Named Sue” to present two hypotheses:
1. A child with an awful name might grow up to be a relatively normal adult.
2. The parent who inflicted the name does not deserve to be executed.
I immediately welcomed the Boy Named Sue paradigm, although I realized that I might be biased by my middle name (Marion). Cash and his ambiguously named male collaborator, the lyricist Shel Silverstein, could offer only anecdotal evidence against decades of research suggesting that children with weird names were destined for places like San Quentin.
Studies showed that children with odd names got worse grades and were less popular than other classmates in elementary school. In college they were more likely to flunk out or become “psychoneurotic.” Prospective bosses spurned their résumés. They were overrepresented among emotionally disturbed children and psychiatric patients.
Some of these mental problems might have been genetic — what kind of parent picks a name like Golden Rule or Mary Mee? — but it was still bad news.
Today, though, the case for Mr. Cash’s theory looks much stronger, and I say this even after learning about Emma Royd and Post Office in a new book, “Bad Baby Names,” by Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback.
By scouring census records from 1790 to 1930, Mr. Sherrod and Mr. Rayback discovered Garage Empty, Hysteria Johnson, King Arthur, Infinity Hubbard, Please Cope, Major Slaughter, Helen Troy, several Satans and a host of colleagues to the famed Ima Hogg (including Ima Pigg, Ima Muskrat, Ima Nut and Ima Hooker).
The authors also interviewed adults today who had survived names like Candy Stohr, Cash Guy, Mary Christmas, River Jordan and Rasp Berry. All of them, even Happy Day, seemed untraumatized.
“They were very proud of their names, almost overly proud,” Mr. Sherrod said. “We asked if that was a reaction to getting pummeled when they were little, but they said they didn’t get that much ribbing. They did get a little tired of hearing the same jokes, but they liked having an unusual name because it made them stand out.”
Not too much ribbing? That surprised me, because I had vivid memories of playground serenades to my middle name: “Marion . . . Madam Librarian!” (My tormentors didn’t care that the “Music Man” librarian spelled her name with an “a.”) But after I looked at experiments in the post-Sue era by revisionists like Kenneth Steele and Wayne Hensley, it seemed names weren’t so important after all.
When people were asked to rate the physical attractiveness and character of someone in a photograph, it didn’t matter much if that someone was assigned an “undesirable” name. Once people could see a face, they rated an Oswald, Myron, Harriet or Hazel about the same as a face with a “desirable” name like David, Gregory, Jennifer or Christine.
Other researchers found that children with unusual names were more likely to have poorer and less educated parents, handicaps that explained their problems in school. Martin Ford and other psychologists reported, after controlling for race and ethnicity, that children with unusual names did as well as others in school. The economists Roland Fryer and Steven Levitt reached a similar conclusion after controlling for socioeconomic variables in a study of black children with distinctive names.
“Names only have a significant influence when that is the only thing you know about the person,” said Dr. Ford, a developmental psychologist at George Mason University. “Add a picture, and the impact of the name recedes. Add information about personality, motivation and ability, and the impact of the name shrinks to minimal significance.”
But even if a bad name doesn’t doom a child, why would any parent christen an infant Ogre? Mr. Sherrod found several of them, along with children named Ghoul, Gorgon, Medusa, Hades, Lucifer and every deadly sin except Gluttony (his favorite was Wrath Gordon).
You can sort of understand parents’ affection for the sound of Chimera Griffin, but Monster Moor and Goblin Fester? Or Cheese Ceaser and Leper Priest? What provokes current celebrities to name their children Sage Moonblood Stallone and Speck Wildhorse Mellencamp?
“Today it’s all about individuality,” Mr. Sherrod said. “In the past, there was more of a sense of humor, probably because fathers had more say in the names.” He said the waning influence of fathers might explain why there are no longer so many names like Nice Deal, Butcher Baker, Lotta Beers and Good Bye, although some dads still try.
“I can’t tell you,” Mr. Sherrod said, “how often I’ve heard guys who wanted their kid to be able to say truthfully, ‘Danger is my middle name.’ But their wives absolutely refused.”
Is it possible — I’m trying to be kind to these humor-challenged fathers — that they think Danger would be a character-building experience? Could there be anything to the paternal rationale offered in Johnny Cash’s song, the one that stopped Sue from killing his father: “I knew you’d have to get tough or die, and it’s the name that helped to make you strong”?
I sought an answer from Cleveland Kent Evans — not because he might have gotten into fights defending Cleveland, but because he’s a psychologist and past president of the American Names Society. Dr. Evans, a professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska, said there is evidence for the character-building theory from psychologists like Richard Zweigenhaft, but it doesn’t work exactly as Sue’s father imagined it.
“Researchers have studied men with cross-gender names like Leslie,” Dr. Evans explained. “They haven’t found anything negative — no psychological or social problems — or any correlations with either masculinity or effeminacy. But they have found one major positive factor: a better sense of self-control. It’s not that you fight more, but that you learn how to let stuff roll off your back.”
After hearing that, I began to reconsider my own name. Although I’d never shared Sue’s Oedipal impulse — I realized my father couldn’t have anticipated “Music Man” — I’d never appreciated those playground serenades, either. But maybe they served some purpose after all. So today, to celebrate the Boy Named Sue paradigm shift, I’m using my middle name in my byline for the first time.
Also for the last time. As Sue realized when it came time to name his own son, you can take a theory only so far.
* This article is written by John Tierney