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21 August 2014

Leon TrotskyLeon Trotsky died 74 years ago today. He was a Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet commissar, first leader of the Red Army, and founder of the Fourth International. Trotskyism, his theory of Marxim, involved support for a vanguard party of the working class, proletarian internationalism, the need for 'permanent revolution', and advocacy of a United Front of revolutionaries and workers throughout the world opposing capitalism and fascism. He was born Leiba Davidovich Bronstein on 7 November 1879. He was one of eight children. His parents, David Leontyevich Bronstein (1847–1922) and Anna Bronstein (1850–1910) were wealthy, middle-class Jewish farmers, based in Yanovka, which is now in southern Ukraine.

 

20 August 2014

H. P. LovecraftH. P. Lovecraft was born 124 years ago today. Though obscure and increasingly impoverished in his lifetime, he has since been recognised as one of the most influential writers of supernatural horror fiction in the 20th century. Lovecraft was born in 1890, into a conservative upper middle class family, in Providence, Rhode Island. His father, Winfield, was a travelling salesman, employed by Gorham & Co., Silversmiths, and his mother, Sarah, could trace her ancestry back to the arrival of George Phillips to Massachusetts in 1630. His parents married in their thirties. The young Lovecraft was talented, intellectually curious, and precocious, able to recite poetry by age two, and to read by age three. Growing up at a time when school was not compulsory, Lovecraft would not be enrolled in one until he was eight years of age and his attendance would be sporadic, possibly due to a nervous complaint and / or psychosomatic condition. But he was well ahead of his coevals in any event, having been exposed, and thereafter enjoyed ready access, to the best of classical and English literature.

 

12 August 2014

Fran FullenwiderFran Fullenwider was born in Harlingen, Texas on 16 November 1945. We can deduce German ancestry, though the Anglicised surname, which in Fran's case was a source of amusement, must originally have been Fullenwieder (literally: refill). In the 1950s she moved permanently to the United Kingdom. As a child, she performed horse stunts in films. Later she studied at the New York University film school and also graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Fullenwider’s physique would pre-determine her acting career: at 5ft 2in and 110 kg, she would be chosen primarily for character or comedy roles. Initially, like most young girls, and with Twiggy all the rage, she dreamt of a svelte figure, but by the age of 21 she realised this was pointless and decided to let it rip.

 

1o August 2014

Daughter of Charity with cornetteThe second season of American Horror Story is set in a lunatic asylum, where just one song is offered to inmates for purposes of recreation. The song is left playing in the common room over and over again, all day long, and inmates are forbidden to stop it or prevent it from playing; indeed, doing so results in punishment (the asylum is run with an iron hand by a cruel nun, played by Jessica Lange). If the inmates were not crazy before being committed, they were surely driven crazy once they were, if only from having their psyches ceaselessly pounded by a song that, on top of it, consists of two melodies repeated without variation from beginning to end.

 

6 August 2014

Theodor AdornoTheodor Adorno died 45 years ago today. He was a sociologist, cultural critic, musicologist, and a leading member of the Frankfurt School. He is associated with critiques of modern society, fascism, anti-Semitism, and the culture industry, and 64 years on he still taken seriously by Left-wing academics in Western universities. His writings strongly influenced the development of the New Left. Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund—also called Theodor Ludwig Adorno-Wiesengrund, Theodor Ludwig Adorno-Wellington, and Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno—was born on 11 September 1903, son of a singer and a wine merchant. His mother was a Corsican, and professed Catholicism; his father was an assimilated Jew who had converted to Protestantism. Said to have been a child prodigy, he enjoyed playing Beethoven on the piano aged 12. He also excelled in school, gratuading at the top of his class. Unfortunately, he was quickly led astray, for he had not even yet obtained his diploma when György Lucáks and Ernst Bloch poisoned his mind with their Marxist theories.

 

29 July 2014

Herbert MarcuseHerbert Marcuse, so-called 'Father of the New Left', died 35 years ago today. Marcuse was a philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist associated with the Frankfurt School of Social Research. He was born in Berlin in 1898 to Jewish parents, Carl Marcuse and Gertrud Kreslawsky. In 1916 he was draughted into the army, but he only worked the stables. Apparently fond of horse manure, after the Great War he got involved with communism, and became a member of the Soldier's Council, which participated in the Spartacist Uprising that involved Rosa Luxemburg's Communist Party. His hatred for Germany manifested early. He then returned to education, and after completing his PhD at the University of Freiburg in 1922, he spent a spell working in publishing, before carrying on his studies at Freiburg under Edmund Husserl (the founder of phenomenology). He wrote a Habilitation under Martin Heidegger, and at first he sought to synthesise Heidegger's ontology with Marxism, but Heidegger's support for the National Socialists got in the way.

 

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