Tag Archives: Tel Aviv University

The (Short-Fingered) Man from the Tall Building

Soon we’ll be two months into the Turmp (it’s how my typing fingers want to spell its name) Administration. What we should fear more than anything…is happening—it’s normalizing. No good will ever come from this president, cabinet or congress being accepted as normal. So what to do for myself to make sure I do not succumb to finding those faces and voices normal?

First step. Thank Odin (my personal god) for Coursera. I’m taking a course, The Holocaust – An Introduction: Nazi Germany: Ideology,The Jews and the World from Tel Aviv University and Yad Vashem (Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust). It does not matter which political side one is on these days when considering the Israeli/Palestinian situation (I’m personally on the side of the Palestinians anytime settlements come into the picture); very little in the history of world horrors has equaled the Holocaust.

We study the Holocaust in school; at least I’m hoping it’s still studied, but details become blurry over time. This is a good time to revisit the reality of the Holocaust when our new “leader” and his minions seem to reflect a time and ideology we thought we had, at least partially, put behind us.

The class is simply excellent with a professor of great and fluently-shared knowledge who manages to present dispassionately, a story horrific beyond belief. And…hey folks…it came about gradually throughout the 1930s and early 40s. Hitler did not stand up one day in 1933 and say “I intend to take over a big part of the world, kill all of the people whom I personally consider inferior, and leave Germany and much of Europe a bombed out, starving disaster zone.” No, indeed. He just told the German masses it was all about the Germans and that he alone could fix whatever they believed to be broken in their lives, and make Germany pure and great again. And the rest is history, isn’t it?

 I so very highly recommend this class; it’s midway through right now but you could still catch up; it will also be offered again.

I named this piece after The Man in the High Castle which I’ve just started watching (what if the Nazis had won WWII is the premise); I planned to watch more but the reviews aren’t great so I’m not sure, and as a result I don’t know if “The Man…” is a good or bad guy. In any case it’s a good title I think.

More later on about bingeing on The Americans (Russian spies!) and starting to reread a very good Jackson biography to see if Turmp is just following in Andrew the Populist’s  footsteps, as Melissa McCarthy’s fake stooge Bannon has appeared to claim.

I took these photos around 2005 on a visit to Poland’s Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945). I’ve visited the Genocide Museum in Kigali, Rwanda too, and there’s just no way to feel enough at these sites. It seems like we would come away and devote our lives to the ending of racism, xenophobia, hate, genocide but we manage to go back to our normal lives…

MOOCs Again

Of course I'm interested in Scandinavia. Here's NESET in Norway.
Of course I’m interested in Scandinavia. Here’s NESET in Norway.

Just finished Scandinavian Film and Television from the University of Copenhagen via Coursera. It has taken awhile to adjust to the idea that MOOCs weren’t created to entertain me; they exist to educate. What a concept! That does mean the instructors are not necessarily charismatic but they do seem to be scholars of the first order. Who are, after all, the people best equipped to educate us. I like the word ‘educate.’ In some societies and times people who educate are honored and even well-compensated for sharing their knowledge. The U.S in the 21st century unfortunately is not one of those societies. The truth is that Coursera would not be offering me this wonderful learning opportunity if it did not see profit in its future.

For now though I am most appreciative of this opportunity. So what did I learn? Being enamored of all things Scandinavian, this class affirmed some things I already knew, for example Babbett’s Feast and Dancer in the Dark are brilliant films and the new Nordic Noir TV series are much more interesting than your average television fare. And opened my eyes to some things I did not know, especially regarding the earlier quite distinguished history of the avant garde and eclectic (and, it seems the almost always dark and psychologically-weighted) in the Scandinavian film world. Of course I’ve known of Ingmar Bergman (mostly of interest to me as Henning Mankell’s father-in-law) but now I realize I must see some of his films—maybe not all, but some.

Finally I was especially attentive to the last sessions with a good overview of the present and future of Nordic Noir on the small screen. I’ve watched the BBC version of Wallander, Scandinavian (and American) versions of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, original Danish Borgen, American version of The Killing and now must move beyond one episode of Lillehammer and also check out the Annika Bengtzon series. There’s more of course but those are my favorites or at least the ones I know the most about. Thanks to Netflix I can see them all and, hopefully, even more in the future since Netflix is very involved with the Scandinavian film and TV world.

So did this MOOC open new worlds to me? Well, no. But it certainly enhanced what I know about a world in which I am most interested. Yay MOOCs, yay Coursera and thanks University of Copenhagen (I now forgive you for so thoroughly confusing me with Kierkegaard.).

Now I switch to The Emergence of the Modern Middle East from Tel Aviv University. Here I am learning a great deal of new information. Even though I’ve tried to read and pay attention, and have traveled some in the Middle East/Arab/Islamic world, I am still fearfully ignorant. I was a little reluctant to take a class on the Middle East from an Israeli University but if one cannot trust Universities and scholars to be relatively unbiased then there is no place to go for truth. And even though I’m only through the first two sessions it is feeling like real history, not at all propagandized. I hope that is right. The professors in these two classes are very alike. They are obviously intelligent, knowledgeable and articulate; showmen they are not. I like them better for that.

Cairo, 1089
Cairo, 1989