Tuesday, December 29, 2009
He fought the Nazis. He braved the Pacific. And he hated being called a hero. Jonathan Brown looks at the extraordinary career of Knut Haugland, the last Kon-Tiki survivor
Adventure stories rarely come more epic than that of Knut Haugland, the Norwegian resistance fighter who died on Christmas Day at the age of 92. His exploits were already the stuff of legend even before he joined Thor Heyerdahl's crew aboard his balsa wood raft, Kon-Tiki. Together they not only conquered the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean using only the most primitive of technologies but in doing so, they helped rejuvenate the crushed spirit of human endeavour in the bleak aftermath of the Second World War.
A heavily decorated commando who escaped three times from the clutches of the Nazis, his bravery and endurance gave rise to one of the most enduring legends of the Second World War one retold in spectacular style in a Hollywood movie.
Yesterday Haugland's successor as director of the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, where thousands flock each year to relive the optimism and excitement of that intrepid voyage, announced that the former radio operator had succumbed to natural causes in a city hospital, closing the final chapter on an extraordinary life.
Haugland's death, following that of Heyerdahl himself in 2002, marks the passing of the last of the six-man crew that set sail from Callao in Peru in April 1947, bound several thousand nautical miles for the far-flung islands of Polynesia based on little more than an anthropological hunch. That journey set a new benchmark for modern adventurers, spawning an international best-selling book published in 66 languages and an Oscar-winning film in which Haugland played himself. It also helped popularise Heyerdahl's passionately held belief that the great oceans had been highways and not barriers for the movement of ancient seafaring civilisations.
Books by Chris Hedges, Thom Hartmann and Cass Sunstein suggest that we've nearly lost our sense of self-government. None show the way to get it back.
By Kirk Nielsen
I read the three books in less than two weeks; friends ask how that was possible. The trick is to avoid not only Facebook and Twitter but also: celebrity news, cable news, Oprah, Jerry Springer, American Idol, The Swan, other reality-TV shows, professional wrestling, violent pornography, positive psychology and right-wing Christian fundamentalism.
The latter list includes some of the spectacularly mind-numbing American pursuits that Chris Hedges examines in Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. Hedges submits that while they mesmerized large portions of the American citizenry, CEOs being paid millions of dollars a year to run companies that feed on taxpayer money usurped our government with the help of elected officials bought by campaign contributions and tens of thousands of corporate lobbyists who now write many of the nation's laws.
"Those captivated by the cult of celebrity do not examine voting records or compare verbal claims with written and published facts and reports," Hedges writes. "The reality of their world is whatever the latest cable news show, political leader, advertiser, or loan officer says is reality. The illiterate, semiliterate, and those who live as though they are illiterate are effectively cut off from the past. They live in an eternal present. They do not understand the predatory loan deals that drive them into foreclosure and bankruptcy. They cannot decipher the fine print on credit card agreements that plunge them into unmanageable debt. They repeat thought-terminating clichés and slogans. They seek refuge in familiar brands and labels. ... Life is a state of permanent amnesia, a world in search of new forms of escapism and quick, sensual gratification."
The wider public might view investment bankers as 'vampire squid', as one commentator put it, but the newspaper of the business world has made him its 'person of the year'
Hats off to the Financial Times for refusing to pander to lily-livered liberals. The pink paper has opined that its "person of the year" for 2009 is none other than Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of the widely reviled Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs.
In the parallel universe inhabited by the FT, Blankfein is a hero - a "master of risk". The FT accepts that Blankfein has struggled to find an effective rebuttal of a deluge of public criticism unleashed on his bank.
But it says the former gold trader from the Bronx has "steered Goldman adeptly through the crisis, betting correctly that the global investment banks would survive the turmoil (with government help) and not be dismantled by regulators".
The FT's John Gapper continues: "The bank has stuck to its strengths, unashamedly taking advantage of the low interest rates and diminished competition resulting from the crisis to make big trading profits."
Remember, as far as most of the Republican establishment is concerned, disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is the ultimate "ideas man," if not a bona fide "visionary." National Journal recently asked Republican insiders to name "the most creative thinker" in the GOP. Gingrich was easily the biggest vote getter.
If ol' Newt is the intellectual Republican powerhouse, the GOP has cause for concern.
Newt Gingrich became the latest to play the ridiculous "it's snowing so global warming must be a hoax" card. Gingrich took to Twitter -- where he's been schooled before -- on Saturday morning to share a few thoughts about the storm:
newtgingrich As callista and i watched what dc weather says will be 12 to 22 inches of snow i wondered if God was sending a message about copenhagen
Got that? A snowstorm along the East coast in December was, according to the former Speaker, a divine signal about international efforts to combat climate change. Seriously.
The 'Family Guy' creator talks about his 'Star Wars' fixation, his visit to George Lucas' ranch and being targeted by the Parents Television Council.
Very often. About half the jokes that are on our standards list in every episode don't make it into the show. You trade. It's about quantity.
You raised another firestorm recently by suggesting that Stewie is gay.
No, that was a journalist printing only part of the comment and making a story out of it. I said we had written an episode at one point in which Stewie comes out of the closet. But we scrapped it because we felt like we got a lot more mileage out of him being uncertain and not making that decision just yet.
That whole press whirlwind was hilarious to me. It's not even news. He's not gay -- he doesn't even exist!
Carol Burnett also sued you -- unsuccessfully -- over a parody that spoofed her famous cleaning-lady character. Do you think she has a sense of humor?
I would certainly hope so. I was at the Creative Arts Emmys this year, and Carol Burnett was one of the presenters. And when she came out, everyone gave her a standing ovation, including me. It was a moment that you only get in Hollywood: Giving a standing ovation to somebody who sued you a year ago.
How did it make you feel?
Like I had no spine.
Posted by Rack Jite
I dare YOU to watch a full hour of Glenn Beck on Fox News. I DARE YOU! I did not long ago and realized that no matter his father reported him or not, he is a mentally unstable radical who should be put on every NO FLY list in the world.
I also believe that his belief that Jesus is from Michigan is religious radicalism. So too is his End of Times desire to have Jesus murder every man, women and child (and unborn children) in the world but him and a few others. That is not only radical but insane.
I also listened to his radio show a few days back in which the Senators voting for health care reform were referred to as "criminals" and "traitors" followed by not a few references to the second amendment and then the coup de grace, that WE KNOW where these treasonous criminal Senator's friends and family live.
DO NOT GET ON A PLANE WITH GLENN BECK. If you see him on your flight, ask to be let off.