(by Joseph Heller) (1961) “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he…

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Ta Ta

May 18, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | HISTORY, Ulalume, WW2 |

On the Beach (by Ivan Aivazovsky)

May 18, 1944: This day, the deportation of the Tartars started under Stalin’s ‘liberation’ of Crimea, an historic Soviet/Russian hot-spot.  Eurovision has made this an unlikely recent issue: packed off to Uzbekistan they were, along with their families, on trains designed for maximum discomfort. Forced mass movement, especially along ethnic lines, is and was a no-no for humanity, but it is surprising what people can get away with during war-time (especially an alleged ally). With Winter Coming, the US and Europe in flux, and NATO virtually conceding the eastern corridor, who knows who’ll be next?

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April 26, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | TRAVEL, WW2 |

(photo by Zigomar)

P’s father, Hugo, maintained that the only good thing about being drafted by the Red Army was that being captured by any other side would be a bonus.  In 1940, he was deferring his University studies, doing national service, then a requirement in free Estonia.  Then the Ruskies moved in (it was ironic to see them celebrating recently the anniversary of the end of WWII, since they had a pretty big hand in starting it, along with Hitler) and simply annexed Estonia, and the rest of the Baltic States.  Lots of Estonian officials were liquidated (including P’s grandfather) and all private property confiscated (including…

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The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

See "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" instead.

(by Umberto Eco). Umberto Eco may have been a gift from God (Ex Caelis Oblatus) but this novel is not divinely inspired.  Yambo (Giambattista Bodoni), the narrator, is fog-bound.  Following an ‘incident’ (a stroke?), he loses his episodic memory.  His doctor explains, “It’s episodic memory that establishes a link between who we are today and who we have been, and without it, when we say ‘I’, we’re referring only to what we’re feeling now, not to what we felt before, which gets lost, as you say, in the fog.” This concept is applied rather loosely by Eco in the service of allowing Yambo, now in his sixties, to…

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'Non preoccuparti, we left Winston in the car.' (Chamberlain, Mussolini, Lord Halifax & Count Ciano at Rome Opera, Jan. 1939)

(C J Sansom) Smog, smog smog.  There is a lot of smog in this novel, which serves to hide the holes in this rather unlikely  plot.  But it’s an ok read if you believe in “holiday” books. World War I is known only as The Great War because there was no World War II.  Halifax succeeded Chamberlain.  England surrendered and Churchill is now an underground resistance leader.  How differently things actually turned out!  It’s all very well until the erstwhile surprisingly amiable and hands-off Nazis turn a bit nasty and start to disappear people.  Importantly however, Germany’s most effective means of domination is to control Europe with finance rather than jackboots.  How…

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