world war two

Don’t Let’s Be Beastly To The Nazis

A head-scratching part of the recent terrifying rise of the far right into positions of influence in western democracies has been accompanied by various people on the left loudly saying that (a) we have enabled the far right by making them into comedy figures, and (b) we should engage with Nazis rather than punching the fuckers in the face.

To deal with the second point first: famously-punched Nazi scum Richard Spencer, who was punched while in the middle of a live primetime unchallenged interview with Australian national broadcaster the ABC, and later again whilst being give free, unchallenged access to the masses by television, says he is now too frightened to leave his house to give interviews.

I can’t for the life of me think of a downside to this. A man who preaches hate for people of colour, Jews, LGBT+, anybody who isn’t him, who advocates – indeed, argues strongly for – concentration camps and the mass gassing and cremation of people who aren’t him, is now too scared to appear on TV.

Good. About fucking time.

As for “enabling” the Nazi scum by taking the piss of them: the people who complain about this are an unholy alliance of those who dealt with bullies at school by hiding from them and now never speak up ever…

…and those on the ‘left’ who have drifted so far to the left that they’ve come round and met themselves at the other side and are happy and content in the midst of fascists (you know who you are, Laurie).

The Second World War, you remember, the last time fascism was a powerful force in the world, featured just the same type of people wringing their hands and calling for us to be nice to the Nazis. We were nice to them. And then a war that enveloped the entire world and only ended with the use of nuclear weapons happened.

And during that war, we – the not-fascists – continued to make jokes about our foes, even as they dropped tonnes of bombs on our heads.

And it drove them mad. All the counter-propaganda in world produced nothing like the hilarity in the Home Front and the extreme anger in the Axis as the type of satirical and comedy songs we sang to ourselves and broadcast at them.

For instance, this from Florrie Desmond, laughing at Mussolini:

Or this from Spike Jones in the United States suggesting that farting in Hitler’s direction would annoy him (the song annoyed the people in charge of his jamming equipment, and also the remaining appeasers on the board of the FCC at least):

And Arthur Askey had a thing or two to say about Rudolf Hess suddenly making a run for it in 1941:

On that basis… keep taking the piss of the Nazis, it drives them mad. And keep punching the fuckers, just because.

Rickets for everyone!

As I continue to need distracting whilst I work towards my annual deadline, coming up on iTunes quite regularly are the two songs I have from Gracie Fields. 1,468 to chose from and “The Thing-ummy-bob” and “Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye)” are the ones iTunes has decided to play twice in the last hour.

I can stand a bit of Gracie Fields, based on the wartime connection (when her husband spirited her and her money out of the country) and the general campness that clings to her. But really, I can’t quite see the attraction. She couldn’t sing, she couldn’t act, she was no oil painting, she fell for bastards who treated her like crap and she insisted on being paid in precious dollars when performing “to her people” at the Festival of Britain on a brief visit back from Capri. No, as far as I am concerned, you can keep “Our Gracie” and all her works.

If you’ve never sat down and watched one — and why would you? — then her 1930s films can be summarised as follows: Plutocratic mill owner announces that he is closing the mill/shutting down the hospital/demolishing the sanatorium/being generally wicked in a 1930s way. The workers think things are hopeless, so turn to fellow-but-oddly-better-dressed-worker Gracie for help. She sings a song at them, then goes to see plutocratic mill owner’s son. She convinces him to join her campaign, gets on a train to that London, sees plutocratic mill owner himself, there’s a mysterious gap in the narrative as to what she said or did at this point*, she gets a train back to Grimsfield or Stonyborough or whatever Rochdale is pretending to be in this film, announces that the mill/hospital/sanatorium has been reprieved, links arms with the plutocratic mill owner’s son and sings another song at the assembled crowd.

Every Gracie Fields film is the same, except one, where she wasn’t from Rochdale, she was from Glasgow — but she was unable to maintain the accent so the producers dropped in a line about her being from both Rochdale and Glasgow, thus usefully covering the wandering diphthongs.

This video is an excellent piss-take of the standard ending of a Gracie Field film. The plot: plutocratic mill owner has unilaterally cancelled Sludgetown’s annual Rickets Fair. Sadly missing is an earlier scene, where she turns up in said plutocrat’s office to plead for the fair to go ahead; Josie Lawrence sings a song that starts “You’ll never know/What rickets/Have done for me!” whilst exposing comically bowed legs. You had to be there.

*There’s a possibility that she presented him with the Lancashire speciality of tripe and chips to change his mind. It’s more likely she put out. It was 1930s — they didn’t say.

The dirtiest shelter in town

It's deadline week at work, so I'm doing extra hours and working extra hard. My back and wrists ache and my eyes alternate between so-dry-I-can't-blink and so-watery-I-can't-see. But it's only once a year, so I can't complain too loudly.

To keep myself going and to provide the right degree of distraction (enough to stop me going mad but not enough to prevent me from actually writing) I've had iTunes on a loop with 1,486 songs (2.7 days of music) playing. Oddly, iTunes DJ gets obsessed with certain songs, so about 1,400 songs are sitting ignored while it churns round the other 86. For some reason, the song iTunes DJ loves most is the theme to the BBC's 'Kick Start'. It seems to play every 10 songs and the next time it comes up, I'm fucking deleting the bugger.

The song I love most at the moment (it has only come up once this week) is the one above, seeing as it combines my two favourite things — World War II and smut.