Friday, February 20, 2015

Random Restaurant Review: Heimat House

The phrase "German culture" has not been popular for a while. A lot of people ignore thousands of years of perfectly good history, and concentrate all their attention on Germany in the 1940s.

(Actually, an argument can be made for "hundreds of thousands of years" of history, since the oldest known spears were unearthed in Schöningen, near Hannover.)

However, those of us who lived there for 15 years or so have a somewhat different view of the country. It's clean, well-run, and the food is amazing. So I was interested to see what the food was like at The Heimat House, located conveniently near my job, at 6910 Montgomery Blvd NE (basically at the corner of Montgomery and Louisiana).

I'm happy to say it was incredible.

(A quick aside: Heimat is a German word that doesn't translate directly into English. A close equivalent is "home" or "homeland," but a better description would be that it's the polar opposite of "social isolation." The Nazis tried to subvert the word for a while, but they failed.)

The exterior of the restaurant is still being renovated (not sure how much is actually being done), but the inside was done in dark woods (a line of large-screen TV's by the bar sort of ruined the ambiance, but... America, you know? Can't get through the day without enough distractions).

The Trophy Wife had a vegetarian schnitzel - a fried eggplant with standard schnitzel breading. The outside was crisp and delicious, while the inside was buttery-soft. (Not a huge fan of eggplant myself, but if I had to eat it, this would be the way to go.)

It was served with a cucumber salad (good; very traditional), and a large side of the best spätzle I've had since we left Germany. They were soft, creamy and flavorful, and practically melted in your mouth.

(As long as we're talking about the German language, spätzle translates to "little sparrows" for no particularly good reason any more - at first, they were shaped by hand or spoon, and looked vaguely like birds. It hasn't been true for probably a century or more.)

I had a roulade (a rolled pastry filled with a pork cutlet, herbs and a pickle) in an incredible cream sauce, with some basic pan-fried potatoes and a small eggplant salad (which was definitely OK, but did I mention that I wasn't a huge fan of eggplant?).

Overall, it was basic Bavarian "peasant food," but done awe-inspiringly well. Considering the origins of the menu, I should have thought that the food ($12 to $20 per entree) was slightly overpriced, but the quality of the food easily made it worth the price.

In good (if stereotypical) German style, their extensive wine list was equal in size with their beer list.

We'll be going back.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Trotsky, White Supremacists, and the Origins of "Racism"

As I am wont to do, I was skulking around the dark back alleys of the internet, and accidentally stumbled across a newly-revived myth, one that I hadn't heard in over a decade. It was such a ridiculous idea, even at the time, that it didn't make much of an impression on me.

To be honest, I couldn't tell you when, exactly, it started. I first ran across the idea shortly around the turn of the century. Somewhere around 2005 or so, I came across a concept on some white supremacist websites, where they were claiming that the word "racism" was coined by Leon Trotsky as a term to browbeat dissenters in the Communist party, and has now been adopted by the "radical left." The year that he was supposed to have done this ranges from 1927 to about 1934, depending on where you find the claim. In fact, I'll let some reprint of a reprint from the white supremacist website Stormfront explain it.
The word "racist" has for a long time been the single most effective fear-word in the leftist and neoconservative arsenal. For decades, they have successfully used it in the political arena to slander traditionalists, shut down debate, and leave opponents running for cover. In the social arena, they have caused even more damage by using it to brainwash impressionable children and young college students, and to teach people to hate their nation, their cultural traditions, and worst of all, themselves.

What surprisingly remains almost totally undiscussed, even on the hard core traditionalist Right, is the word's origin. Did it come from a liberal sociologist? A 60's Marxist college professor? Perhaps a politician in the Democratic Party? No. It turns out that the word was invented by none other than one of the principal architects of the 74-year Soviet nightmare, the founder and first leader of the infamous Red Army, Leon Trotsky.

Take a look at this document if you would, dear reader.

Славянофильство, мессианизм отсталости, строило свою философию на том, что русский народ и его церковь насквозь демократичны, а официальная Россия -- это немецкая бюрократия, насажденная Петром. Маркс заметил по этому поводу: "Ведь точно так же и тевтонские ослы сваливают деспотизм Фридриха II и т. д. на французов, как будто отсталые рабы не нуждаются всегда в цивилизованных рабах, чтобы пройти нужную выучку". Это краткое замечание исчерпывает до дна не только старую философию славянофилов, но и новейшие откровения "расистов".

This is Leon Trotsky's 1930 work, "The History of the Russian Revolution", from which shown above is a passage. The last word in that passage is "расистов", whose Latin transliteration is "racistov", i.e., "racists". This work here is the first time in history one will ever find that word.
Almost sounds intellectual, doesn't it? Like he did his homework? Maybe knew what he was talking about, right?

Yeah, it sounds that way. It's total crap, of course, but it sounds really smart.

See, this is a basic ad hominem fallacy, where you "shoot the messenger" instead of taking on the argument itself. "This is a concept created by a monster from the old Soviet Union! Nobody ever used it before him! It's evil and tainted and can never be used!"

Except for one little problem. A quick look at the etymology of the word shatters the very premise of the argument.

See, right around the turn of the century, the English-speaking world was using terms like racialism, or sometimes race hatred or race prejudice (one of my personal favorites, dating back to the 1800s, was negrophobia). Around that same time, the French were using raciste or racisme (particularly, a few decades later, to refer to the Germans and their philosophies).

For example, the terms pensée raciste (racist thought) and individualité raciste (racial individuality) appear in La Terro d’oc: revisto felibrenco e federalisto from 1906.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Richard Henry Pratt in 1902 for the first use of the word "racist" in English.

There are probaly earlier versions in both languages, but who needs them? We've already destroyed the basic premise of the argument.

Once again, the Right (and in this case, the Extremely Far Right) is trying to create a little revisionist history to give cover to their sins.