Camille Claudel’s Mother

Auguste Rodin may have behaved dishonorably towards Camille Claudel (b. 1864)– he carried on an adulterous relationship with her for several years and finally refused to leave his “other” wife of 20 years and marry her– but he was not the one who had her committed to an asylum March 1913 at the age of 49 and he was not the one who refused to allow her to be released for the rest of her life though her supportive father and several of her physicians and caretakers urged it.

There were reasons: Claudel had become paranoid and hysterical and destroyed much of her own work. More importantly, she became an embarrassment to the family.

It was her mother who wanted her kept, and it was her mother who insisted she remain in her prison (though it was her brother who signed the admission papers).

Claudel died on October 19, 1943, in the asylum Asile de Montdevergues). She left many letters, mostly to her brother, describing her predicament. He had no pity on her.

Claudel destroyed most of her work in 1905, but about 90 works survive. In the opinion of some, between her and Rodin, she was the greater talent.

A Woman in a car in Washington D.C.

Is it possible to take a minute and analyze carefully what just happened in Washington D. C. that has the entire Twitterverse buzzing like a chainsaw jackhammer?

First thing I saw on TV was a police officer telling us that the police performed absolutely heroically. They were courageous and smart and wonderful and they got Timmy safely out of the well. Boy, we’re GREAT. I mean it.

Shots were fired. That’s always electrifying and the first reports on CBC stated that “shots were fired”. They were– by the police.

The police sprang into action. Why? Because they saw other police chasing a car and running down the streets. They sprang into action, locked down government buildings, prevented congressmen from crossing the street, and I’m sure a couple of Secret Service agents threw themselves on top of Obama. All of this was the result of the perception that other police were running around pointing guns and chasing people off the sidewalks. Why were these other police running around and chasing people off the sidewalks? Because some police cars went by with their sirens blaring. And shots were about to be fired.

What actually happened: a woman drove her car towards the White House and appeared to try to drive through the very powerful barricades in front of the President’s home. When the police tried to stop her, she backed up, into a police car, and drove away.

Now, I’m as sentimental as the next guy and I’m sure that that woman spokesperson for the police meant well, and wanted to reassure us that there was nothing the police couldn’t do, but it appeared to me that the police at that moment needed more than anything else to immobilize that car, and this they failed to do. They actually let her reverse the car, back up and out, and drive off, resulting in a hysterical chase down Pennsylvania Avenue as she headed towards….. (very loud basso profundo now) CONGRESS. Where clearly she meant to GTA the Tea Party and get the country moving again.

She smashed into a guard hut and the police surrounded her car and shot her to death. Since they seemed clueless about how to block a car in so it couldn’t escape again, I guess they thought they had no choice.

I’m sure the NRA will assure us that cars don’t kill people: only women with babies kill people, and if only an upstanding NRA member had had his car there at that moment, all would be well.

The Terrifying Ebullience of Smart Women

I hate when people in a bar or at a party find out I’m majoring in physics. The minute they find out, I can see the guys turn away.” Yet another went on about how even at Yale the men didn’t want to date a physics major, and how she was worried she’d go through four years there without a date.

Why the hell would she care? Why would she want to date a man who felt that intelligence was not an asset for a woman?

I wondered if this woman was unattractive. I know that women generally don’t get what makes them attractive to men. A woman with large breasts sometimes believes she is irresistible and maybe she is to a certain kind of man but never has been to me.

This is from a young woman studying physics at Yale University. She is upset and feels that she is being discriminated against because some young men at Yale appear– to her– to be uninterested in dating a smart woman.

Another complains that she was “underappreciated”. I tried to connect to that. Would I have ever complained that my professors did not “appreciate” me enough when I was at college? Did they owe me appreciation?

“Big Bang Theory” is proffered as an illustration of persisting discriminations and stereotyping (the characters of Amy and Bernadette).

The problem with “Big Bang Theory” isn’t sexism: it’s that it is a cliché-ridden, mediocre show with a horrible laugh-track.


Conservative Resistance to Hitler

On each occasion when senior officers plotted to resist or overthrow Hitler, it was not because they objected to his basic goals, but because they feared his tactics and pacing. They rebelled, or talked about rebelling, on prudential grounds, not principled ones. New York Review of Books June 10, 2010

I knew someone in college– and someone else much later– who was rather passionate about the “conservative resistance to Hitler”. It was clear that she felt it was very important that nobody believed that communists, socialists, or other progressives get credit for standing up to Nazism.

So she wrote a paper on the “conservative resistance to Hitler”. She argued that these stellar individuals were the real backbone of the resistance to totalitarianism and the pillars of democracy and freedom, in the abstract, if not the reality. These individuals had honor and dignity and should in no way be held responsible for the atrocities which, she asserted, were primarily committed by party members, not the Wehrmacht.

Besides, she liked to say, the Communists were worse than the Nazis anyway.

And there’s the red herring: oh, so Stalin killed millions as well. By golly, in that case, let’s cut Von Manstein and Steiner, and Franz Halder, and Model and Rundstedt some slack.

I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it today. I was more inclined to see conservatives as slightly distant members of the fraternity, not involved, perhaps, in initiating the monstrous atrocities of the Third Reich, but indispensable to it.  They were, in the most literal sense, Hitler’s enablers.

Furthermore, I don’t believe the evils of Nazism can be confined to their treatment of the Jews and the Gypsies and the “mental defectives”. The idea of war itself, of an imperial Germany, of living space– ideals shared by many of these same generals– was all a part of the same culture. Was Stalingrad any better, morally, than Dachau?

“I knew hardly anyone who so overtly rejected the regime, without any caution, without any fear,” recalled one of his friends after his death. But for all his private opposition, he was sufficiently in agreement with Hitler’s goals to fight for them—as was also true of the July 20 plotters. [On General Kurt Von Hammerstein.]

Even Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, the lavishly titled leader of the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944, didn’t take any action until it was apparent that Hitler had taken management of the war away from the generals and would drive Germany into the grave with his insane stratagems. Von Stauffenberg supported (and participated in) the invasion of Poland and the enslavement of Polish workers, which he believed was crucial to Germany’s prosperity.

If Von Stauffenberg had been successful, would the plotters have succeeded in negotiating a “dignified” surrender to the allies? They would have almost certainly asked for certain conditions, and they would have certainly have attempted to guarantee their own positions in the new Germany, along with a large portion of the same infrastructure that carried out the deportations and murder of the Jews. [In fact, upon further research, I found out that, if the assassination attempt had been successful, Von Stauffenberg had intended to demand that Germany be permitted to hang on to some of the territories in the East that they had captured earlier in the war, and their weapons, and their military infrastructure, and he would have insisted that only Germany could put Germans on trial for war crimes, if they felt like it!] They probably would have outlawed the Nazi party and convicted a few leading Nazi party members of atrocities.

Remember: the centrality of stopping the extermination of Jews to the perception of the war against Germany is a post war phenomenon.

So, enough about honorable Germans. Every soldier is an enabler for some dictator or corporation or ethnic group and not one of those entities ever announces to the world that they are evil and selfish and psychotic: they are always patriots.

It was the wide area of agreement on objectives between Hitler and the generals that brought them together. Having become a pillar of the Third Reich, they were disinclined to bring the edifice crashing down about their own ears.

On Von Manstein

Did they know?