Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Compliments of the Season!

Greetings all,

It's early December, and here in the states that means we're just finishing our leftovers from Thanksgiving. Of the many things for which I'm thankful, I wanted to share two with you.

First is that this podcast was recently reviewed by the foremost blog reviewer Anne is a Man. With over 200 podcast reviews, if you like podcasts - especially those connected to history or politics - his blog is a must bookmark.

When you appreciate your freedoms, your rights, and your heritage (or in my case other people's heritage) it's hard to get excited about the latest iThingie. But if that means your loved ones aren't sure if there's a way they can wrap a piece of their affection for you in a box this holiday season, have no fear; Agnes Humbert to the rescue (again).

Part real-time diary, part memoir, Agnes Humbert's writings on the period have been given an engaging new translation by Barbara Mellor. A remarkably well-educated woman of her time, the author and art historian hadn't needed to stay in Paris during the war. She'd been offered a position with a museum in Palo Alto, California, but rather than flee to the new world she decided to stay and try to fix the old. She went on to be a key player in the Musee de L'homme group, and this volume will certainly be a good match for that other English language tome on this reseau, The Vilde Affair by Martin Blumenson.

C'est tout for now, I'm afraid. But the other project that takes up much of my time will be finished soon, leaving me free to work on new podcast episodes, the next two of which are already being researched and planned.

Until next time, vive la Resistance.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Resistance Is Futile: Why A Resistance Cast?

Good evening cats & kittens!

This episode was meant to answer any general questions one might have about this our dear podcast. So casual, half-a-cast was it intended that for a while I considered going unscripted. FYI: Me passing up the chance to script something is unpossible.

Despite planning in advance, there were were still a few things left unsaid. The script wound up being in part about the spirit of Resistance and a bit about how it feels to discover it. Here are the points I didn't get to make:

1. People who like to read about partisans tend to be a bit partisan. Personally, I have no problem liking the De Gualle of this era and disliking the De Gualle of later years.

2. I also hold Henri Frenay morally responsible for Caluire. Like many, I suppose the trigger man was most likely Rene Hardy, but something must be said about Salieri and his 'fire at will' attitude in the background.

3. In case you haven't noticed, I'm already going to French Resistance buff Hell. Any inappropriate comments thrown on now are just decorating the handbasket.

We also discussed the human nature of Resistance, and why no one ever made a summer tent-pole flick about layabouts with ennui. And the merits of wine by Targét.

Mercury is currently retrograding all over our usual streaming feature, my apologies. I'll update the link above with something that streams as soon as I can. On a more palatable note, someone has posted a new video about Jean Moulin on Youtube. You can check it out here. As usual, I, Kensington, promise to update this blog more often with Resistance findings around the net.

Until next time, mes amies, vive la Resistance.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rock Stars In My Resistance? It's More Likely Than You Think

Rock stars and Resistants - all that different? Duran Duran (the band so nice they named it twice) and James Murphey's shortlisted essay for the 2005 Ben Pimlott Prize don't think so.

I've been reminded of the similar celebrity of covertly fighting Nazis and rocking an arena on two occasions of late. The first came last June when I came to work more nicely attired than usual only to discover that was the day for celebrating the birthdays of famous people you don't know: While I was dressed up for Jean Moulin's birthday two of my co-workers were dressed up to celebrate the birthday of Duran Duran's John Taylor. They beat my modest geekiness by even making cupcakes for the occasion. We spent the afternoon wishing each other 'Happy Jean/John Day!' in the halls.

(FYI: We work in music. You'd have to get up a lot earlier in the morning than that to be considered odd by our building's standards. Although I do get a few raised eyebrows when people learn the name for the office's pet squirrel comes from Pierre Brossolette.)

Another day, one of these two very cool ladies sent out a video link to explain the origins of the Duran Duran symbol tattooed on her arm. Can you spot the Resistance references in this music video?

Take your time. The fashions can't get any older.

The connections between the spirit of Resistance and modern rock music don't stop there. Say what you will about the political climate in America for the last six or seven years (and I could say plenty) but it sure hasn't hurt my cd collection. After Black Holes and Revelations I think Muse may even constitute their own FFI sleeper cell. Ideally, I'd play a song that speaks to a resistant spirit at the start of every episode, and end each 'cast with Invincible, but I work in royalties so I know all the many ways that'd be illegal. (Sigh.)

Work on the new 'cast has to wait until I do more with my other project, the one I cheat on with you (or on you with). This post is part of my plan for world domination making this blog useful between episodes. I hope it'll one day be a nice place for people interested in the Resistance to come for a few minutes of well-designed mayhem. I may add some rants & raves - reviews of the various places one can bump into Resistance in the greater cultural world and on this our dear interwebs. Until then remember the words of Leonard Cohen, "In every generation there is a Resistance, and in every generation it's the only place to be."

Vive la Resistance.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Show Notes - "Of the First Hour: War of the Unknown Warrior"

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and all the ships at sea!

Just when you'd thought I'd found the self-destruct button I come back. I apologize for the delay between posts, I had two trips to make and another writing project to attend to. Now on to the good stuff...

In this episode we look at the birth of the Resistance. We discuss radio speeches, the weather in Bordeaux, a terrorist cell of little old ladies, and the monster of Loch Ness. We also call Marshal Petain a tool and wonder if those people on the Ile de Seine ever got their boats back. In this episode, I start what I'm sure will be a long and inglorious tradition of mispronouncing everything that isn't nailed down.

I wasn't able to find a good place for discussing the D'Astier quote about being maladjusted, but at just under thirty minutes I hope you'll still find this worth downloading. Next episode should involve a Mousekateer roll call of all the BNRs, so that'll be a better time to explore individual psychology.

The Cutting Room Floor:

There are two notes today about individuals mentioned in the podcast.

* The gentleman sent by Edward R. Murrow to retrieve a recording of De Gaulle's first appearance on the BBC was, as mentioned, David Schoenbrun. Yes, that David Schoenbrun. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Mr. Schoenbrun wrote "Resistance," which is so far the definitive English-language over view of the Resistance in France.

* We also had an opportunity to name-check Daniel Cordier, a gentleman who was in the news since our last episode, appearing at a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of De Gaulle's call to Resistance on the BBC.

Because we are serious history buffs here at La Resistance, we won't point out that Mssr. Corider out-fashioned Mssr. Carla Bruni into next Thursday.

The interview with Mssr. Cordier mentioned in this episode can be found here. A word of warning: This cast will take every possible opportunity to mention Mssr. Cordier. Anyone who has a problem with this can write us a detailed letter explaining their concerns and hand deliver it to the bottom of the nearest lake.

* In a perfect storm of war, refugees, and fascist machinations the newly occupied found themselves desperate to communicate news with loved ones at a time when their new governments decided to crack down on communication. In order to spread word of and to loved ones on other sides of the demarcation line, one had to use a form postcard:

______ lightly/gravely - ill/wounded
______ killed/prisoner
Without news of ______

One assumes another line read "Do you like me? ___ Yes ___ No."

* Probably as a holdover from WWI, when many soldiers on each side realized they had at least as much in common with each other as they did with those they left behind, some French officers were often to be seen conversing with their fellow officers around the time of the Armistice, even if those officers were German. When Colonel Groussard observed this phenomenon he told some of the Frenchmen in question "The next one of you who talks to (them), I will knock you down." After taking a moment to recover, General Dentz pointed out that the war was over. Groussard replied "No, it's beginning."

This doesn't translate well ("Just getting started" would be a tonally perfect if liberal interpretation), but in France this story and others like it gave rise to a phrase you bump into now and then in Resistance studies: "C'est fini. Ça commence !"

* I tried to find the origins of the phrase "Make its bones" for you for these notes, but no such luck. If anyone has any info about this expression, do drop us a line!

* We limited ourselves to radio broadcasts, but another force should be singled out as being a great source of inspiration/direction: Nazi warnings and propaganda posters. They posted signs warning people of all the things they didn't want them to do:

Don't harbor English soldiers
Don't be out past curfew
Don't spread news... of a nature to provoke disquiet among the population
Listening to foreign radio stations as well as the diffusion of news from them is forbidden

One can almost picture a burgeoning resistant looking over such notices and wondering 'Do they just mean the BBC or are there more stations I should be looking for?'

There was more to the list, but it appears to be this episode's thing I find during research but can't locate again. However I can offer a special nod to whichever Vichyite or Nazi had the bright idea to give Joan of Arc her own propaganda poster, connecting her death with the English bombing of the French Navy at Mers el Kabir. True 'The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime' was a good tagline, but Joan of Arc posters? Really? Did no one on the chain of command think there was a chance they could backfire? Yes, when it came to inspiration, it must be said that Vichy and the Nazis certainly did their share.

Thank you again for sharing your time with La Resistance. I'm hesitant to give you an ETA for the next episode, but I will bring you more Resistance-related posts on this blog in the meanwhile.

Until then, vive la Resistance.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Bastille Day

Rest assured I'm hard at work on the new episode - or rather I will be when this lovely Merlot wears off. I hope you've all enjoyed a fine holiday. For m'self, I've been traveling and working on other projects, hence what I hope will be an unusual amount of time between 'casts. The new ep up for you sometime next week.

Vive la Resistance.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Show Notes - "Paris: Open City"

"In the space of several days we have lost all certainty...Nothing that we can fear is impossible; we can fear and imagine absolutely anything." Paul Valery, 18th June, 1940

Show Notes for La Resistance I - "Paris: Open City"

First, I'd like to apologize for discussing a quote in which Marshal Pétain linked the low birth rate in France with personal decadence without giving the quote itself. I came across it in my recent research but promptly lost it. I apologize if I'm misrepresenting Marshal Pétain, that was not my intent. If anyone can point me in the direction of this or another quote on the topic, it'd be appreciated.

I'd also like to apologize for any problems with the sound quality of the file. I'm still in the 'what does this button do?' stage of learning audio editing.

The Cutting Room Floor:

* France was actually ready for the Germans from a supplies standpoint. Relaxed immigration policies after WWI meant they had enough manpower to keep themselves well-armed. I don't know if military high command was aware of this though, and I can't blame them if they looked at the Blitzkrieg and felt under-dressed.

* When thousands of refugees were pouring through Paris a farmer from Holland who'd refused to leave his livestock behind could be seen letting his cows and sheep graze on the grass by Les Invalides.

* The strength of the Maginot Line may have been over-stated, but there's no reason to believe the Germans didn't believe the hype. Bear in mind their assault went around it, entering the country through the Belgian boarder in the Northeast and then swinging down like a door on its hinge.

* Pétain was so trusted that for months many believed he was playing a double-game, encouraging the Germans to spread themselves too thin and/or let their guard down while the army prepared a counter-attack. Some even believed Pétain was in league with De Gaulle and that the two were acting as a sword and shield.

* If you like irony, remember Pétain's description of the sort of people who were the cause of the defeat: the childless, Socialists, and politicians, and that he said courage and duty needed to be 're-introduced' in France. Bear all this in mind when we get to an episode called "Herding Lions: Maximizing the Resistance." Trust me, Alanis Morissette would love this one.

Also, if anyone finds 'the military' on Pétain's list of people responsible for the defeat, please inform the house manager or turn it into the lost and found.

* If you were a British citizen alive during the invasion of France, félicitations ! Vous êtes presque devenu un citoyen français ! At the 11th hour, in an attempt to co-ordinate and ensure the continuation of the fight, the UK war cabinet proposed to offer duel-citizenship* to the British and French populations. It was one of those ideas that should've been followed by someone saying 'that plan's so crazy it just might work!' But it was no joke: There was a croissant in their pocket, and they were happy to see you.

Both Churchill and De Gaulle approved, but this is one of the things filed under the heading 'Too Bad De Gaulle Wasn't In Charge at the Time." The idea came too late, to the wrong leaders in France, and to nothing.

(Before you write in to correct my spelling of 'dual-citizenship' remind yourself which two countries we're talking about here. My spelling's not looking so bad now, is it?)

* There was a General in the French high command that had a good understanding of the potential of tanks and their uses. He was such a nut on the subject he was referred to as 'General Tank.' His theories were unpopular, but there were some high-ranking men who understood his vision. Unfortunately, they were German.

Say what you will about General De Gaulle, but he had every right to give post-war France a pretty big 'I told you so.'

*I couldn't add this because I wanted the only geography in this ep to be Parisian: When he Marshal gave his famous radio address, the moment he began to speak a torrential thunderstorm broke over the city of Bordeaux. Pétain was broadcasting from Bordeaux at the time.

* Bill Bullitt has the best name ever for an American ambassador in WWII. By Hollywood law he should be forced to also run a private detective agency. Or fight crime.

Before our next episode, there may be an episode 1.5 where I'll make the standard introductions and answer any questions I think you may have. The reason you don't have this already is it seemed presumptuous to expect anyone to be interested in background info for a podcast that hadn't been created yet.

ETA for the next real episode will be after I recover from this one in about a month or two. If that sounds like a long time, bear in mind the audio quality level of this one and ask yourself what it would sound like if I rushed. (Not a pleasant thought, is it?) In the meantime, I'll provide extra Resistance-related content on this blog.

Thank you all for sharing your time with La Resistance. On a side note: I'm happy our premier came at an hour that counted as May 27th in France but here in America was still May 26th, Memorial Day. I can't think of a better hour to offer something in memory of the people who stood by democracy when it had a target on its back.

Until next time, vive la Resistance.

Sources: "France: The Dark Years," Julian Jackson - "The Fall of France," Julian Jackson - "The Week Paris Fell," Noel Barber - "The Trial - Marshal Pétain," Jules Roy - "The Collapse of the Third Republic," William Shirer - "An Uncertain Hour," Ted Morgan - "Vichy France: Old - Guard and New Order" Robert Paxton - "The Resistance," Martin Blumenson -

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

La Resistance I - "Paris: Open City"

Welcome to the first podcast of La Resistance - "Paris: Open City."

In this episode we discuss the exodus, Marshal Pétain, the political history of the Third Republic, and the relationship between the French and their dogs. Show notes can be found at

Vive la Resistance.

Friday, May 9, 2008

This Past Traversed with Extreme Enthusiasm

This will hopefully soon be the home of the first podcast series dedicated to the improbable, unbiddable phenomenon known as the Resistance in WWII.

While primarily concerned with the French Resistance (due to a bias in your intrepid host's personal library), we will also hopefully discuss Jewish Resistance (such as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the partisans of Vilna), German Resistance (White Rose, etc...), the rescue in Denmark, and others.

Until then, I can't think of a better way to end this post and begin our adventure than with the words of Daniel Cordier:

"This past, still so alive for me, seems to me like the improvisation of a jazz band whose instruments have been lost and much of their recordings destroyed. This past traversed with extreme enthusiasm, with devotion without calculation, resembles a concert played only once, and which specialists endeavor to reconstruct with bits of documents or testimonies.

At the end of their investigation perhaps they will discover... the composition of the orchestra or the kind of music played. But whatever their patience, whatever the exactitude of their research, no one can ever again perceive in this music the particular sensitivity of the musicians and their instruments, nor the richness of its melody or the complexity of its harmony, such as it was on the day it was performed.

Only those who assisted with it will preserve in their minds the plenitude of improvisations in this concert, without being able, because of their deformed memories and impotent vocabulary, to share their pleasure, fixed forever in their solitary memory."

Vive la Resistance.

Sources: L'inconnu du Panthéon, Vol 1. pg 303.