That $88,000,000 Apartment

An “apartment” located on Central Park West in New York City has sold for its asking price — $88 million.  It was bought by a fabulously wealthy Russian fertilizer czar whose 22-year-old daughter apparently will live there.  (I hope she at least said, “Spasiba!”)

Of course, calling it an “apartment” is kind of silly.  It’s the penthouse of an apartment building that occupies an entire block.  The apartment encompasses 6,784 square feet — which is significantly larger than our home — and includes a library, four bedrooms, a den, a gallery, and three large terraces overlooking Central Park and the surrounding neighborhood.  You’d have to sell a lot of fertilizer to afford such luxury.

My first apartment, a two-bedroom job located just off the Ohio State campus that I rented in 1976, cost $150 a month.  It had a cheap stucco exterior, ultra-thin walls, puke green carpeting, and a complete lack of any security devices.  It was humble, but I called it home.

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The Republican Campaign Rolls Into The Buckeye State

On March 6, the Ohio Republican primary will be held.  Today, when I was driving to and from Cleveland — more on that later — I heard the first radio ads of the primary season, which means that the vote cannot be far away.

Today a Rasmussen poll reported that Rick Santorum has a big edge over Mitt Romney among Ohio voters.  I don’t question the mechanics of the poll, but I suspect it means very little.  Santorum was the Senator from neighboring Pennsylvania for years, but I think very few people know much else about him.  Those who say they currently support him, I would wager, are expressing support that is probably not much more than skin deep and largely a reflection of their lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney.

I’ve not heard anyone in Ohio talking about the Republican candidates in any kind of significant way.  There have been jokes about the peccadilloes and blunders of candidates who have since withdrawn, and some water cooler chatter about the seemingly endless debates, but very little discussion about the candidates’ respective substantive positions or other attributes.

That probably makes Ohio fertile ground for aggressive TV and radio campaigns and the kind of “negative advertising” that everyone bemoans — but that has been proven, repeatedly, to be effective.  In Ohio, the Republican candidates largely remain blank sheets of paper.  What will that paper look like when March 6 finally comes?  Over the next few weeks, I’ll report on what I see and hear in that regard.

Lessons Of The Lunar Nazis

The hottest ticket at this year’s Berlin Film Festival is a self-proclaimed “B Movie” called Iron Sky.  Its consciously over-the-top plot features Nazis trying to conquer Earth from a swastika-shaped base on the far side of the moon.

I doubt Iron Sky will ever make it to our local multiplex cinema, but the movie’s popularity shows, once again, that people are endlessly intrigued by Nazis.  Books, movies, and TV shows involving Nazis always seem to find an audience.

The original Star Trek had two episodes involving Nazis — one in which a drug-deranged Dr. McCoy goes back in time and changes history so Germany wins World War II, and another where a famous historian tries to help a culture by modeling it on Nazi Germany, with predictably disastrous results.  Nazis make great bad guys (and often comic relief), as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Inglourious Basterds, among many others, have demonstrated.  Some years ago the book Fatherland, about a detective who uncovers a dark secret in a triumphant Nazi Germany, was a best-seller.  Alternative histories in which Germany prevails in World War II also are a staple of that genre.

Nazi Germany was one of the most brutal, bloody, awful regimes in the history of the world.  Why is it such a popular subject for fiction — to the point where it can even be the subject of humor?  Why does Nazi Germany seem to be a far more popular setting for fiction than, say, Imperial Japan?

Perhaps it is just because Nazi Germany, with its goose-stepping soldiers, stiff-armed salutes, and elaborate uniforms and ceremonies, already seems so fantastic that it is especially well-suited to whatever embellishment a creative mind could supply.  I also wonder, however, whether fictionalizing Nazi Germany is just a kind of cultural defense mechanism.  If you routinely depict Nazi Germany as a setting for outlandish activities, maybe it is easier to forget that a racist, bloodthirsty, soulless government actually existed, slaughtering Jews by the millions and dominating Europe, only 70 years ago — within the lifetimes of millions of still-living people.