Some lovely and surreal Renaissance images of marvels and unexplained phenomena, from Taschen’s The Book of Miracles.
Some lovely and surreal Renaissance images of marvels and unexplained phenomena, from Taschen’s The Book of Miracles.
An East German propaganda leaflet issued during the Berlin Airlift (1948-1949), when Stalin attempted to blockade the already geographically surrounded people of West Berlin into submission. American and British crews flew in food and other supplies, thereby demonstrating both the superiority of Western air capabilities and the extremes they would go to in order to check Soviet politicking. And so began the Cold War.
This leaflet about Amikäfer (“Yank Beetles”) claims that the airlift is just a pretext for ruining East German farming by dropping “imperialist weapons”: potato-devouring Colorado beetles (Kartoffelkäfer). The back cover warns about confusing them with harmless Marienkäfer (ladybirds).
Ridiculous propaganda even by the standards of ridiculous propaganda, but I have to admit that the adaptation of the beetle’s markings into the Stars and Stripes is pretty good.
Let’s reluctantly step away for a moment from the lovely gay animals of Gay Animal Fortnight, and take a look at one of the most wretchedly un-fun depictions of human beings supposedly having fun that I’ve had the misfortune to witness for quite some time. Can you make it through all seventy two seconds of this without frantically denuding your head of all sensory organs using any available implement?
This is the kitchen of the Overlook Hotel, where you’ll roll the perfect roll for ever, and ever… and ever. Either that or they’re all so manic because the sushi is laced with PCP. Shortly after the scenes shown here they all shaved their own faces off with potato peelers and then rolled themselves in the perfect roll and ate each other.
These poor models are clearly at the very nadir of their careers and we should pity them for having to feign ecstatic delirium at the prospect of their mouths (and at about 00:50… eyes) being stuffed with gelatinous tubes of randomness, but clearly there’s something gravely wrong with every single one of the demented and deluded minds who must have signed off on this monstrosity in the process of it being pitched, commissioned, produced, filmed, edited and distributed.
Even by the execrable standards of German advertising, this is the worst piece of German advertising I’ve ever seen. It makes American infomercials like Head On (apply directly to the forehead) or Japan’s brainwashing chewing gum mantras seem like Citizen Kane.
Top Youtube comments, and quite rightly so:
Do they actually pay an advertising agency to create such crap or are these the employees running around with a camera acting all silly?
This commercial make me want to commit suicide.
The last scans for now from an excellent but sadly out of print book called The Public Notice. The Channel Islands, including Jersey, were the only part of Britain occupied by the Germans during World War II, from summer of 1940 until May of 1945. Even though the Channel Islands are some distance away from mainland Britain, they’re technically spoken of as being among the British Isles. These proclamations (both 1941) give some intimation of a nightmare scenario where the Nazis won and the rest of Britain fell permanently to the Third Reich; a place where a man would be summarily shot for releasing a pigeon or chalking a V onto a wall. As in all the other occupied territories, in the Channel Islands there was resistance both passive and active; there were also people who eagerly availed themselves of the opportunity to snitch and collaborate offered in the second notice below.
For those who didn’t know or realise it already, the real and occasionally fatal practice of signifying that resistance was alive in conquered Nazi territory by defacing walls and official notices with a V sign– for victory, as demonstrated by Churchill’s fat little fingers– is the direct source of its use in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, and in the considerably less subtle Nazi allegory (less subtle, in fact, to the point of not being an allegory at all) of the original, cheesy, shoulder pads and rubber lizard mask 1980s V.
Two of Adolf Hitler’s favourite movies were Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and King Kong. He chattered nerdily and constantly about King Kong for days after it was screened for him at the Chancellery. He also enjoyed whistling the Disney tune Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Hitler was a bit obsessed with wolves, and was undoubtedly very well aware that whistling this tune was some creepy shit. “Adolf” derives from “Athal” (noble) and “Wolfa” (wolf). One of his early aliases was “Mr Wolf”, and he surrounded himself with Wolfshunde (Alsatians/German Shepherds). His French HQ was named Wolfsschlucht (Wolf’s Ravine), a Ukrainian one was Werwolf.
PS: While Hermann Göring was staying at the Ritz in occupied Paris, the corpulent Nazi asked Coco Chanel to design some women’s gowns in his very large size. This was to help him “relax”, apparently. Not that there’s anything wrong with men wearing dresses, of course, although some men (including other leading Nazis) were summarily murdered or sent to concentration camps for similar so-called “perversions”. But it’s certainly, shall we say, an arresting image: a big fat genocidal war criminal kicking back with the latest copy of Vogue and choosing couture dresses for himself while the world’s most destructive and total war ever rages around him. Sort of like a grisly mashup of Inglourious Basterds with Sex and the City.
Source: David J. Skal’s excellent book The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror.
This strange image, which looks like it could be a still from The Twilight Zone, is in fact from a 1952 exhibition in West Berlin: ‘We’re Building a Better Life’ (‘Wir bauen ein besseres Leben’). It was part of the German Industrial Trade Fair; a strange human zoo where the new paradigm of civilian living was played out by two shifts of adult actors playing husband and wife, along with eight pairs of children. In the picture below you can see a bird’s eye view of the house, and of the strange– and disturbing, given that this was less than ten years on from German death camps and the devastation of central Berlin– observation tower with a white-coated narrator. What was the new paradigm? According to the US State Department, who were behind it, the new way of living was to be a “high production, high-wage, low-unit-cost, low-profit margin, high consumption system.” And so it came to pass. One of the actresses playing a housewife was perhaps in the grip of some peculiar combination of Stockholm Syndrome and cabin fever when she said “The house is so perfect that I am afraid we will not want to move out… What will happen if I fall in love with the kitchen too?” A German magazine also described it as a “white paradise”, presumably referring to the kitchen equipment but still demonstrating that sensitivity to political correctness was a long way off.
During its three week run, the simultaneously aspirational and voyeuristic exhibition attracted over half a million visitors, nearly 40% of them from East Germany. It later toured to Stuttgart, Hanover, Paris and Milan.
This stuff is from Cold War Modern, a great book about Modernist design and industry between 1945-1970 and based on the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition of the same name in 2008. The exhibition was also good, if a wee bit gung-ho and overly gushing about the design aspects while for the most part noticeably glossing over the suffering and poverty of the millions who found themselves arbitrarily trapped behind the Iron Curtain after the Second World War.
It’s Aquacade beauty Mussolini, photographer’s model Stalin, and charming salesgirl Hitler. With huge butcher knives, on Manhattan Beach. Photographed by Weegee, better known for his horrifying, stark, brutal photos of crime and accident scenes in New York City; less well known as being the vocal blueprint for Peter Sellers’ strangled, adenoidal Dr. Strangelove voice. Perhaps for Weegee, taking photos of scantily clad transsexual dictators amounted to light relief.
The caption notes that the “comely pyramid is spoiled by the faces”, but that’s quite a heteronormative assumption to make, don’t you think? Perhaps the faces are being spoiled by the comely pyramid?
I’ve mentioned before that I absolutely love Werner Herzog. Not so much his films, especially not his dramatic ones. What I love is his Nietszchean, über-miserablist persona as demonstrated in his documentaries and also shown beautifully in the video below about the making of his film/descent into madness/love-hate platonic affair with Klaus Kinski, Fitzcarraldo. I just find Herzog hilarious, especially having heard him talk about yoga or celebrities with the same carefully sculpted loathing as he expresses here for nature: “The trees here are in misery, the birds here are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain.”
I particularly love the German and Japanese languages, although obviously they’re not much alike. The Germans string together long fusillades of smaller words to target concepts that most people recognise but don’t necessarily have a name for in their own language. One of my favourites– both as a word and actually experiencing it because evidently I’m kind of a prick sometimes– is schadenfreude, the pleasure one feels at somebody else’s misfortune. Another great one is Backpfeifengesicht, a face in need of a punch or slap. It literally means something like “cheek-pipe-face” but I have no idea what that derives from or alludes to.
What I’d really like to draw your attention to, though, is the Japanese word bakataa (バカッター). It’s a pun on the word baka (バカ / 馬鹿, stupid or idiot) and Twitter. A bakataa is a person who writes something grossly stupid / illegal / offensive / provocative on Twitter, or does something stupid / illegal / offensive / provocative in real life then documents it on Twitter… and is somehow surprised to find that it backfires on them and causes real world repercussions. I suppose you could translate it literally (and clumsily) as “stupid-ter”, or more idiomatically as something like “twatter” to preserve the pun. But as in the case of schadenfreude, translation is mostly beside the point. Hardly a week seems to go by without at least one bakataa poking their baka head above the parapet to be shot off somewhere in the online world, so let’s just say arigato gozaimasu to whichever Japanese genius came up with a word for these people.
PS: Although it’s not German or Japanese I can’t pass up this opportunity to share the wonderful (and also social network-relevant) imagery of the Dutch mierenneuker, a petty “ant-fucker” who creates a huge fuss about trivial matters or rules.
I think the internet has rewired my brain. Nowadays when I’m reading a book (you know, the things made of bound paper), I’m constantly distracted by passing references or random facts because some part of me immediately knows I could look it up. One recent example occurred while I was reading about Jewish/Zionist terrorism in Palestine after WWII, which was mainly focused on forcing the colonial British to leave. There was a fleeting mention that the Mufti of Jerusalem had been involved in recruiting Muslims into the Nazi SS. Obviously there’s “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” to consider, but Nazi Muslims? Outside of the crazed, ignorant, hateful imaginations of certain Republicans in the US, I mean?
It’s true. The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar didn’t actually operate in Palestine, but they were mostly recruited in 1943 from Bosnian Muslims to fight on the Axis side against Yugoslav partisans. A combination of naive orientalism, pseudoscience and the good old standby of Nazi hypocrisy allowed Heinrich Himmler to convince himself and his racist idiot cronies that Bosnian Muslims fit into the nonsensical genealogy of the so-called Aryan race. They definitely had nothing to do with Slavs, oh no, definitely not. The hardline Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni– fairly indiscriminately opposed to the British and to Jews no matter where they came from– was brought in to convince and legitimise Bosnian Muslims into defying their own Islamic clerics, who had expressly and unanimously (and wisely) forbidden their communities from getting involved with nationalist causes or the Nazis.
In common with all their other Schutzstaffel colleagues, the 13th Waffen distinguished themselves mainly for their indiscriminate brutality both in battle and against unarmed non-combatants. In this case it was mainly Serbian civilians who bore the brunt of war crimes that were punished afterwards with executions of the perpetrators. And of course, much like the rest of the SS with their Hugo Boss uniforms, the horror of what they did was somehow accentuated by the fact that they always turned up for mass murder, genocide and hatred immaculately styled, covered in logos… and in the case of the 13th Division, wearing a fez.