Saturday, June 24, 2017

Nazi Rock

If you balk at the idea of Confederate memorials, you'd surely be displeased to learn that for over 20 years a small memorial dedicated to six executed Nazi spies sat on Federal land.  From WaPo:
“In memory of agents of the German Abwehr,” the engraving began, “executed August 8, 1942.”
Below that were six names, and below those was another cryptic line: “Donated by the N.S.W.P.P.”
The  N.S.W.P.P.?  That would be the National Socialist White People’s Party, which until the mid-60's had been known as the American Nazi Party.

The granite slab was illegal, and officials debated how best to deal with it.  Some argued that the memorial be destroyed and the chunks tossed into the river, but conservationists won.  After determining the site wasn't a grave, one day in 2010 a forklift came and, under the supervision of a museum curator, lifted it into a truck and transported it to the storage facility where it still sits as Item OXCO-475, somewhere in a Maryland suburb of D.C.  The Park Service asked the Washington Post to be no more specific than that out of fear the memorial could yet become some kind of shrine.  The same kind of fear that drove the Russians to scatter Hitler's remains, for the CIA to dismember Che Guevara and bury the parts in various locations, or the Americans to dump Osama Bin laden into the sea.  Rangers had already noticed the slab had been cleaned and at times had found it adorned with candles and deer bones.  And, for all the CIA's efforts, Guevara does have a shrine in Bolivia where he is worshipped like a saint.

I wonder how many other secret shrines dot the American landscape?  Swastika-shaped buildings aside, of course. (here | here).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Squeezing the Joy out of the Plush Toy of Life

Dear Laws of Silence:

Sure, you may have heard of the soft-spoken and hard-drinking poet & novelist, but did you know of Charles Bukowski's sideline as a designer of "collectable" stuffed toys?

I didn't think so!

Apparently, "they" haven't released these in the US or UK so as not to damage Mr. Bukowski's street cred.  But in France, where the fine art of plush toy design is as revered as Camembert cheese and stripey shirts, they fly off the shelves like, um, wild horses running away over the hills, or something like that.  Models include the Impotent Old Drunk, the Scabby Crack Whore,  The Unlucky Gambler and the Psychotic Hobo.

Now these are transitional objects to be proud of, to de-simpify your kids who have no doubt been ruined by mawkish cuteness and glorified adverts; food for cretins, in short.  Grab this bull by the balls and squeeze 'til it yells "Uncle!"

Or, as it would yell in France -- the talking bulls of  Limousin are legend:  "Oncle!"

Kind Regards,
Théophile Prades
Beaupuy, France

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Open Source Band Names List for as yet unnamed or non-existent bands

Crash Crew
Many years ago, 20+ years for sure, a friend and I started compiling a list of fake band names.  Every once in a while I add to my list, which I've collected into an Excel file, with sheets listing the names in the order I came up with them and also rearranged alphabetically.  The following list is ordered by date; you can see how dated it is by references to NYC Mayor George Patacki, George Bush I, Friends, Cuba Gooding Jr....

It's an original idea in as much as we started doing it one night on our very own, but it's certainly not unique.  I'm sure kids have been doing this since the beginning of Rock and Roll.  Years ago I saw a webpage dedicated to the idea and a Google search these days brings up a lot of hits.  And of course there are several Facebook groups dedicated to the concept. (I was motivated to finally put this online by the Fictitious Band Names Repository but there are other groups).

But I'm gonna stay away from groups and keep my list here.  My proposal is this.  Anyone can use a name, but if you don't put on a show or put out an album, the name will remain free for the taking.  If someone uses it for a show or a release, it will be taken off the list and people will have to respect the "first come, first served" rule.

My only condition is that if you use the name for a release, you have to credit me somewhere in the liner notes, i.e. "Thanks to Laws of Silence" and provide a link to this post.  I'd also ask that you send me a copy of your album, LP's preferred!

If by some miracle you do very well, like get super-famous and wealthy, you can cut me a generous but reasonable check to alleviate my chronic near-poverty.  Seriously, I'm sick of scrabbling and any extra spondulics in my account would be more than welcome.  I will update the list irregularly as I add new names.  BTW, the very first band name I came up with was for a comic I made, even before my friend and I started this project.  The name was Crash Crew and, as it turns out, is actually the name of a real band.  A terrible name name actually, like many of the names to follow.  Some of them are pretty good, but mostly, they're just silly, often an excuse to make awful puns, which is another hobby of mine....

So, without further ado, the list.  

Open Source Band Name List

Bloody Udders
Goon Squad
Genie Patacki
Electric Liquor Binge
The Ace of Dwarf
The Ankle-Biters
Love Blob
Acute Torque Wrench
The Wafflers
The Thousand Points of Light
The Allergies
Chicken-Fried Gomez
Chicken-Fried Swamp
Beer Baby
La-La Landrover
Clever Dick
Chef Boys are Dead
Noble Fink
Friends Cast Bus Crash
Kaiser Mouse
Never Say Satan
Cuba Freebie
Young Goodman Brownie
Cheryl Cow
The Moops
Crack Attack
Line-Item Peephole
Bubble is Us
Rüsty Omën
Ace of Pooch
Elefunk Sackrace
Berkeley Boobwreck
Eyeline Elfboat
The Carbonators
Barley Boy
The Right Wingnuts
Social Piddle
Sonny Distortion
Rock Ball
Johnny and the T-Cells
H.I. Glee Club
G. Gordon Pity
Apple Dumpling Gang War
Sun Hop Station
Ken-L-Ration X
G.I. Germ
9-Mile Leg
Radical Sheik
Radical Platypus Bark-Bark
Sausage Club
Tongue Plant
Binder Clip
Morning Glory Hole
Certified Rattle Rocket
The Awshucks
Spunky Punk
The Plumbers
G-Bone Jimmy
Peter Paul and the Popstones
Pork Rind
River Dip
Roof Mania
Rickshaw to Heaven
Bunghole & Willie
The Raga and Bone Men
Minneapolis Headswim
Hornet Bag
Tribal Noize
The Coffeecups
Alonius Macaw
Felonius Monk
Fella Fella
Public Enema
Enemy Mein Kampf
Market Cher
Magic Marky
Imps of the Perverse
Nukey Brown
5-Alarm Murphy
Kiss n’ Cozen
Sin and a Half
Q-Bert Humperdink
Sonny No Bone
Pol Pot Head
Ubiquitous Elk Poop
Vanilla Cornice
Iced P
My Mesomorphic Doppelganger
Black Dog Imp
Rhythmic Coughing
Turn Yer Head And
Pawn Pusher
Hanson Neez
Punch the President
Czech Mate
Visceral Intent
Triumph of the Willard
Summer Salt
Beer Hall Pooch
Atomic Ribcage
G. Motion
Red Nectar
PBR Streetgang
Capt. Queer and the Butt Pirates
Waves of Damon
We Like Sawyer
Radio Devils
John Wesley Hard-on
The Whorenets
Ectomorph Slim
Trump It!
Trumpets of Doom
Turnip Master
Tears for Tots
Are You Syria?
Shit Creek Paddlers
Toothless in Seattle
Cigar City Singers
Insect Division
Mope Street
David Buoy
The Birthers
Ass, Innate Ass
Tiny Hands
Pee Club
Hobo Diddly
Hobo Derek Jeter
My and Me Vice
Herr Owen Harry
Bilge-Pump Billy
Barrack Alabama
3-Alarm Satan
Bliss Beams of Cunt
Luv It & Leave It
Nat King Coal Mine
The Boot Liquors
Sharon & Karen
Justin Thyme and the Close Calls
Almost There!
Top Ten Hitler
X Flies
Hate Train
Gomer's Piles
God is a Woman (w/a Big Penis)
Lesbian Divorce
Needle of Truth
Cuckster Bubble
Huge Fantastic Flames
Snowflake of Denial
Sam Sung Songs
Soup Wagons

Sunday, May 28, 2017

...a pointless rock wall as a metaphor for the myopia of the culture-bound...

Israeli West Bank Barrier - Justin McIntosh. CC License.
A wall is defined as "a structure that defines an area, carries a load, or provides shelter or security".  Seems simple enough, but simple definitions are themselves walls that hide complex realities. 

Walls can be made from a large variety of materials and serve a large variety of purposes.  There are many kinds:  Curtain, Mullion, Partition, Party, Infill, Fire, Shear, Knee, Cavity, Pony...and that's just in building lingo.  We won't even go into Facebook walls and firewalls.  They can be works or art or canvases, even the screen for vast and complex animated films.  From Banksy to Blu, the ordinary can be made into something extraordinary, a reclamation of our shared environment.  We don't think about them too much, but we should, for they define us as humans as much as opposable thumbs, binocular vision, and the use of tools.  

"Tear down this wall!" signaled the end of a nearly 100-year geopolitical duopoly whose ramifications are still defining the world in which we live.  The wall in question came crashing down, and the clouds of dust are still settling.  Within this murky atmosphere, the blind and our one-eyed kings are clamoring to put walls back up.  The rich retreat behind them and some western nations are debating them as a way to keep the migrants out.  The collision between globalization and nationalism may well be a story of walls, or a lack thereof.

Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv. Public Domain.
But enough with the stentorian platitudes.  This post came about after seeing a photo of Trump at the Western Wall -- he loves his walls, -- and an EFL class I gave using public art and urbanization as its theme.  We discussed the Vietnam Memorial Wall, and I intended to do a short post about the two walls as places to grieve, where people leave mementos of their grief, whether rolled up pieces of paper with prayers written upon them, or mementos of a war whose combatants are now dying off.  The memories will soon be gone, but the wall will remain.

Some of the most famous walls -- The Great Wall of China, Hadrian's Wall, The Berlin Wall, The West Bank Barrier, Trump's proposed border wall -- were erected to keep people out...or in.  There are score thousands of lesser-known walls all across the world, like their cousins the fence, making manifest the abstract lines on a map that define the boundaries of private and public property, from the homeowner to the state, from anonymous mud-brick dwellings to the only human structure visible from space.  They shelter and protect us from the outside world, from threats real and imagined.  But I wanted to speak of other kinds of walls.

Some of these walls are metaphors, like Pink Floyd's Wall, the emotional barriers to shut out the world, to compartmentalize experience, the kind of walls that allow a preacher to spread the gospel on Sunday and snort methamphetamine with male prostitutes on Saturday.  Or in this case "where traumatic experiences are represented as 'bricks' in the metaphorical wall [the hero] constructs around himself that divides him from society."


The Walls of Jericho were blown down a trumpet....the Walls of Jerusalem and countless other cities the scene of great mayhem and carnage.  Alexander the Great scaled walls like a spider, single-handedly jumping into a walled city to inspire his troops along their unstoppable march to India and back to Macedonia.  And when there were no more walls to breach, he died.

"Shaka, when the walls fell" an episode of Star Trek, this is a phrase uttered by an alien trying, incidentally, to break down the walls between humans and his race.  In that episode, the language barrier is eventually overcome.  The aliens speak in allegory and though Capt. Picard and crew understand the words, the meaning is lost without knowing the ur-tales to which the allegory refers.  When the walls fall, the language barrier drops.  Dialogue is established and when Riker asks Picard if they'd made friend that day, Picard can answer that at the very least, they didn't make an enemy.

Some walls exist only because they are all that's left of an edifice, like The Western Wall, the last remaining remnant of Solomon's temple.  Jews go there to mourn the destruction of the Temple and pray for its reconstruction, leaving prayers on rolled up papers pushed into the crevasses.  It is the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray -- the holiest site is actually behind it.  Some rabbis teach that the Foundation Stone is located near the El-kas fountain, opposite the exposed section of the wall and where the Holy of Holies once stood.  As a practical reality, the wall symbolizes the great obstacle to the restoration of Judaism, for Islam's second-holiest shrine, the Dome of the Rock, sits atop the Temple Mount.  Its destruction would unleash Armageddon.  As long as the Dome of the Rock stands, the Temple cannot be rebuilt.  It is an impassable wall with apocalyptic ramifications.  As the location of the Foundation Stone, it recalls that our earthly creation was in effect the separation of Man from God; it is a great wall separating Heaven from Earth.

In addition to the mosque on the Temple Mount, Muslims revere the wall because it is believed that the Prophet's miraculous steed was tethered to it by Muhammad during his night flight to Jerusalem.

Stoning the Devil in Mina - Al Jazeera English. CC License.
During the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca incumbent upon all able-bodied Muslims with the means to undertake it, Muslims also perform a ritual called the Stoning of the Devil.  Pilgrims throw seven pebbles at three walls (jamarāt), from east to west, in order to reenact a part of Abraham's pilgrimage, where he threw pebbles at three pillars.  For safety reasons, in 2004 these pillars were replaced by walls.  The walls represents God's temptation of Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael to renounce the sacrifice of Ishmael.  They also represent casting away base desires and are a repudiation of the self before God.  This renunciation also serves to bring the pilgrim closer to God; the walls in effect represent not just temptation, but sin itself, and thus represent, much like the Western Wall, the separation of God and Man.

Again, like the Western Wall, walls serve a stand-in for the buildings themselves.  Sacred Walls:  Learning from Temple Symbols, is a book about the symbols found on the walls of a Mormon temple, symbols which communicate to the faithful.
Both books and buildings have voices.... However, even though architectural symbolism existed before the written word, the message of a building is often difficult for most of us to recognize.

For Latter-day Saints, temples are the most important and symbolic buildings in existence. Through temples the unique doctrines of the restored gospel are communicated...

This unique and fascinating book is designed to help you see the House of the Lord with new eyes as you examine the “voices” of temple exteriors along with the “voices” of the Book of Mormon....
Gate of a Hunting Ground - Jean Jacques Lequeu. Public domain.
This is no different from a Catholic cathedral, which is in many ways a Bible in stone, a visual didactic tool for the illiterate.  It is "architecture parlante" -- or speaking architecture.  Architecture parlante may be as simple as an inscription or phrase, a quote perhaps, to instruct and to declare the building's purpose.  Or it may be that building's form reflects its purpose:  the cooper's atelier is shaped like a barrel, the brothel resembles an erect penis (yes, those were real proposals).  The idea of architecture parlante was originally "voiced" at the time of the French Revolution by architects Claude Nicolas Ledoux, Étienne-Louis Boullée, and Jean-Jacques Lequeu"The same concept, in the somewhat more restrained form of allegorical sculpture and inscriptions, became one of the hallmarks of Beaux-Arts structures" and was a recurring feature of American civic architecture.  The severity of Modernist architecture saw a decline in the use of ornament and inscription, but Post-Modernist architects have revived it.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington is composed of three parts: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the Three Servicemen Memorial, and the Vietnam Women's Memorial.  These latter were erected to appease early critics of the original memorial -- which consisted of the Wall alone -- who deemed it shameful because of its unconventional design, black color and lack of ornament.  Sad to say, architect Maya Lin's gender and ethnicity were a factor in much of the negative reaction (Ross Perot reportedly called her an "egg roll").   It's since become highly regarded, if not revered.  The Memorial Wall is a wall that doesn't enclose or bear anything at all.  Like the Western Wall, people leave articles, not prayers necessarily, but personal mementos.  As one travels along the wall it gets higher and the names of the dead eventually rise over one's head.  It's a mournful black, and a mirror in which one can see oneself reflected.  It is spare, elegant and deeply moving.  It has the atmosphere of a holy place, like an outdoor temple.  Visitors are hushed and while there is no wailing, there are a lot of tears.  It's perhaps one of the most powerful memorials in Washington, and has been described as a "wound that is closed and healing".  In a sense, it is architecture parlante, and it is a dialogue.

The three soldiers appear to be looking at the wall and there is something archetypal about their number: Three Kings, Freemasonry's Three Ruffians, The Trinity.... 
Cliff (cliff1066) -  CC License.
The Women's Memorial also depicts three uniformed women evoking perhaps the Three Mary's, with a wounded soldier.  It is a Pietà in all but name.

The wall has proven so popular that at one point three half-sized portable versions traveled across the country and to date have attracted tens of millions of visitors.  There are four other traveling versions of differing scale, and four fixed replicas.

The idea that architecture can communicate something, a set of ideals or civic virtues, may be a high-falutin' topic to be bandied about by art historians and architects, but something in it resonates in the popular imagination:  "If these walls could talk...." some people say, as if the walls, silent witnesses, retain memories of scenes enacted within them, like video cameras which record but cannot play back.  The artists Blu and Banksy have made them speak, however, often quite eloquently.  The simple wall, however, unadorned, can often speak volumes.  While ostensibly barriers, they can serve to identify where one space meets another and serve as points of communication.  Why have more than one space at all?  Boundary stones, fences, great walls....are these basically human equivalents of pissing on rocks to mark a territory, like most graffiti?  One piss stain upon another?  I dunno, It's too late for more of my grade-school philosophizing.  I just thought it was neat how that photo of Trump at the Western Wall popped into my monitor about the same time I was discussing the Vietnam Memorial Wall, two walls where people feel compelled to leave stuff.  The rest is just riffing.  Breaking on through to the other side.

And with that, I'm Audi 5000.


Looks like I hit "Publish" too soon.  Reading about the Robert Frost poem "Mending Wall" (of "Good fences make good neighbors" fame), I came across the following analysis of the themes, stating more or less what I was trying to say at some point in the post:
The poem explores the contradictions in life and humanity, including the contradictions within each person, as man "makes boundaries and he breaks boundaries".  The poem also explores the role of boundaries in human society as mending the wall serves both to separate and to join the two neighbors, another contradiction....Then, in "Mending Wall", Frost meditates on the role of language as a kind of wall that both joins and separates people.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Decrepit Beacon of Enlightenment

Blagnac Histoire & Memoire is an historical society dedicated to the history of, ta-da! Blagnac, a small city and suburb of Toulouse. It's a wealthy city with lots of tax revenue generated by Airbus and its well-paid employees, so the association gets a decent subsidy from the Mairie to print their review, Blagnac, Questions d'Histoire. In 2013 the association published a special edition exploring the histories of the city's street and place names. Almost an entire page is dedicated to the Place de la Révolution, discussed many times here on LoS because of the curious monument located there which has been dubbed the "Illuminati Pyramid" but more accurately is named Le Temple de la Sagesse Supreme. Oh what a monster we unleashed upon the English-speaking world! (I can't tell you how many sites reproduce several of my photos and field observations without attribution. The French pull little these little tricks as well....I just tried to right-click and save an image of the world map from another website but they'd blocked that function and a little message popped up to tell me the image was protected by copyright. Fair enough, but I'd originally created the image! The author had copied a photo I took and had the nerve to claim copyright!)

I've decided to translate the entry regarding this curious plaza for your edification. For further elaboration, feel free to peruse our posts bearing this tag. 



Conceived as the Southern port of entry into the Grand Noble quarter, this plaza was built in 1989 as a solemn commemoration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution; it is also officially known as the Place du Bicentenaire, (Bicentennial Plaza). It displays more or less easily identifiable symbols that recall one of the great founding acts of our history.

A large rectangle, delimited by monumental arcades, the plaza combines a play of circles, ovals and spokes. It starts as a central tumulus, crowned with a pyramid pierced by a window, inserted into a frame in the form of a house.  The pyramid is a fountain where from hundreds of holes water gurgles into a basin in the form of a double hemisphere world map.  In front of the pyramid, bronze stelae represent the cosmos and bear the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.  Facing the pyramid on the North is a large belvedere-gallery and to the South an ensemble with a long shaft surmounted by a tricolor flag and a votive column wearing a Phrygian cap and a cockade.

When he presented his project in 1988, architect Jean-Philippe Dubourg, winner of the contest organized by the city, explained that all these are linked: 
"The belvedere emits a laser, a ray of light pure and abstract, on a North-South axis....This light will modulate, taking on the essence of the Rights of Man as it passes through the Temple of Supreme Wisdom (the pyramid) and the House (allegory of the Homeland)...Thus symbolically metamorphosed, the ray of light will be refracted in the parabola (the cockade) of the votive column of the French Revolution, spreading  the incontrovertible truths contained in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen into the ether....the central tumulus is a also a subtle botanical garden, metaphor of France as a gentle garden of liberty, planted with a Liberty Tree and a multitude of perennial plants, from gaillardia to santolina, plants dating from the Revolution."

In the opinion of his colleagues and fellow architects, Jean-Philippe Dubourg's project paid homage to Enlightenment philosophy and to the revolutionary ideals which it inspired; without a doubt, through the pyramid, to Freemasonry (whose role in the genesis of the Revolution has been greatly exaggerated); and finally to the great architects of the 18th century (Boullée, Ledoux and Lequeu); all the while applying the precepts: 
"A rational architecture using simple geometric forms and having a moral bearing on Man."
Since 1989 the plaza has suffered from the wear and tear of time and from technical failures.  The laser, victim of recurrent outages, never really functioned.  The double hemisphere world map has disappeared under a coating intended to plug leaks.  On the stelae, on looks in vain for the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen; the support panel is loose and damaged...Perhaps it will one day recover its place?  Finally, the garden has lost its luxuriance, the maintenance requiring too much care....Despite all this, the plaza has retained a certain allure.

The plaza has gained, despite itself, a renown well beyond the limits of Blagnac, thanks to the Internet.  According to Internauts fond of esotericism, it symbolizes the "New World Order", a world dominated by a small elite of initiates: the Illuminati.  This thesis hasn't failed to astonish and amuse the citizens of Blagnac; maybe they were flattered to discover that a monument in their city illustrates such a remarkable plan? 

B.Q.H n. 1-2-3-4-8