Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Victory in spite of all terror

I got an email from my mother and she included these memories, all of which I'd heard in dribs and drabs, but this is the first time I've seen some of them written down.  She's referring to her experiences during the Blitz in Sutton (Surrey), and it always fascinates and moves me.  I'll press for details on that and try to get her to write a bit on her eventual evacuation to the Lake Country.  Apparently this was late in the Blitz, and her details confirm this as the V-1 (Doodlebug) bombing began in June '44.  Also note that she's referring to some postwar details as well, as her father was away for most of the War in North Africa and Italy.

I lived through a war and everything it entailed. The house I was raised in had no running hot water. No bathroom. Outside toilet complete with Jeremy the spider (if you saw him then it was ok to go in if you kept your eye on him. If he was not in sight then where was he?) No electricity for years only gas lights etc... No heating except a coal fire (if we had any coal). Then coke that we had to queue up for for hours that we carried in an old pram (baby carriage to Americans).

No TV of course only a radio that transmitted the news on the war efforts. We had an Anderson shelter [I think she's referring to a Morrison shelter] in the front room that when the sirens went off and the searchlights began we had to run for, not forgetting our gas masks. Listening to the doodlebugs was nerve-racking. Also the blackout curtains that had to be put up at the windows.

As we did not have a bath room we had a bath tub in the scullery (kitchen) that had a big board over it, which had to be removed before one could take a bath. We had that bath once a week and we all bathed in the same water. 5 of us. Before we were older we used a tin tub in front of the fireplace (the one that did not put out any heat). That fireplace was the sole heat we had in the house. The kitchen (family room) was so small only mum and dad had a small chair. The only other furniture was a table with six small hard chairs around it so if we children wanted to sit on a chair we had to climb over all the chairs to get to our seat. Or we sat on the floor. Which was stony cold as we had thin rugs not wall to wall carpet.

Everything was on ration. We kids would stand for hours in a queue waiting to buy with our coupon a loaf of bread (not sliced). We would buy a half-pound of broken biscuits. Us children would have hand me down clothes even underwear. Our socks were darned so much it was all darn and no socks. We wore cardboard in our shoes because of the holes in the shoes. This was in winter with snow and ice. I could go on and on. So you see life has not always been good for me and my sisters. But strangely enough we were happy but very cold.

I should write my memoirs.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Choco Strip 2

This new strip was was featured yesterday on Vapid Bucephalas: "Gallimaufry tin for vaporslave and knicker-bockins, widdershins, flip-flaps, chimney-knacks, swinedrivers and such."  A bit like LoS, although we generally avoid widdershins so as not to run afoul of the French legal system. 

Artist T. Wilson says: 

"Another Choco strip, one of many featuring the apparent murder of his enigmatic sidekick, DingDing — his visualization is a work in progress … "

But not to worry folks, as any Chocologist can tell you, DingDing can't really die, being as he either a hologram or a figment of Choco's imagination.

Coincidentally, the following images were posted on my facebook page an hour ago by old chum Dr. K Jensen, who wrote a post for us some time back (Sausages in suitcases: A visit to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center) and an avid collector of votive paintings from Honduran Choco Cults.

Hope you're enjoying the strip!

Choco votive painting, acrylic on canvas, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Choco votive painting, detail

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini

album cover courtesy of Wickedpoodia
Whenever I see an American band in Toulouse, I always try to buy a vinyl to help 'em get a tank of gas for the next gig.  Such was the case with Secret Chiefs 3, who I saw rock the house at Mix'art Myris Thurday night.  Great band, great show.  Their chops heavy, tightly structured and Arab-influenced psychedelia, not to mention their cowls and other face-hiding headgear, remind me of the Master Musicians of Bukkake.  I think I've read these guys have played together.  Wouldn't surprise me if they were pals or members had switched through various incarnations of one another's various projects.

SC3, for instance, has a number of "subgroups" and this vinyl is from one of them:  Traditionalists.

I got this one because it was the only one I could afford and liked the cover.  I know enough Italian to have guessed the title Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini had something to do with hands, but it wasn't until I looked at the cover again this morning, sober, that I saw the title translated as The Severed Right Hands of the Last Men.

Which means nothing to you, I'm guessing, but it's highly meaningful for me.  Some time ago the meme of the severed hand crawled all over this blog like Thing from the Addam's Family. 

Severed hands!  They just keep on finding me!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

City of Light

Barrière du Trône. (LoS)
The radicals of the French Revolution were ambitious fellows.  They not only sought to overthrow a regime and its accomplices, but to export this revolution around the globe.  Most audacious perhaps was the goal of redefining consciousness itself via the cultivation of reason and a new way of perceiving reality.  If the senses were the gateway to the mind, how they processed that sensorial input, how they measured and categorized it, would need to be reworked.  For this reason the French revolutionaries adopted the metric system, changed the calendar and reorganized the administrative lay of the land, all towards a goal of establishing a radiant citadel of reason.  Paris, if not the geographical center, was nevertheless the center of this beacon.  La Ville-Lumière....The City of Light.

Every man and woman could be a star, but they needed a city to reflect this....and magnify it.  Thus Paris itself is a kind of temple to the principles the revolutionaries wanted to instil...not within its subjects, but its citizens.

Architecture and urban planning became a crucial weapon in this struggle.

The Triumph of the Republic.  Aimé-Jules Dalou, 1889. LoS
Paris's Place de la Nation features a massive bronze sculpture which represents the Republique and its virtues in allegorical form:  The Triumph of the Republic.  At the eastern entrance stands a pair of massive columns, surmounted by globes, marking the Barrière du Trône.  These colums were erected in 1787 and designed by architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux.  Ledoux is believed to have been part of a Rosicrucian order and a Freemason, attending the Loge Féminine de la Candeur.  Perhaps this influenced his design.  Two freestanding colums  have marked the entrance to sacred space since antiquity:  the Egyptians used two obelisks and the Phonecians used pillars, a design reproduced by Hiram of Tyre in Solomon’s Temple, the model for the use of pillars at the entrance of a Masonic Lodge (see previous stuff here and here).  In any event, Ledoux was considered a rigorous Neoclassicist and utopian whose designs reflected the ideas of architecture parlante (both Ledoux and "ap" previously on LoS).

The columns and two nearby pavilions were originally part of the Mur des Fermiers généraux, a series of towers, wall and barriers used to enforce the octroi.  This tax on goods entering the city has ancient roots, but it was certainly a gripe for many.  Tax farming was essentially privatized tax collection, a neat deal in which tax farmers at the head of private companies reaped colossal fortunes at public expense.  The Parisian wall was very unpopular, it was said, "Le mur murant Paris rend Paris murmurant".  (Loosely: "The enclosing wall has Paris grumbling").

There was also an epigram:

Pour augmenter son numéraire (To increase its cash)
Et raccourcir notre horizon (And to shorten our horizon),
La Ferme a jugé nécessaire (The Farm judges it necessary)
De mettre Paris en prison (To put Paris in prison).

The architectural style of these buildings, "dens of the Tax Department metamorphosed into palaces with columns" according to Louis-Sebastien Mercier, highlighted the oppression which the wall represented for Parisians.

The toll on goods was removed on May 1st, 1791 in the early stages of the French Revolution, but was restored in 1798 by the Directory.  The tolls persisted under Napoleon, but the majority of the barriers were destroyed during the expansion of Paris in the 1860's and the octroi that had been collected at the wall was abolished.

Perhaps because this place was so emblematic of the abuses of the Ancien Régime, a guillotine was set up here.  A sculpture was created to honor the centennial of the Revolution : The Triumph of the Republic.  The central figure of liberty, herself mounted atop a globe, looks towards the hated place where the Bastille prison once stood, while four paths (in the four cardinal directions?) and then streets radiate outwards like rays of light.

Placing the columns in the east is also interestng, coincidence or otherwise,  for the east has alway been associated with light and the rising Sun, which as we have seen, was a Revolutionary symbol of both Wisdom (Illumination) and regeneration.  We have also seen this represented by columns themselves.

The columns are a perfect illustration of competing political agendas.  During the Restoration, the globes were fitted with a pair of rather severe statues of Philippe August (1165-1223) and Saint Louis (1214-1270), deftly celebrating both the monarchy and the church.  They separate the avenue de Trône from the Place de la Nation, whose previous names reflect the upheaval of  the Revolution :  place du Trône (Place of the Throne) became place du Trône-Renversé (the Throne Overturned) during the Revolution.  Its less aggressive moniker dates from the Bastille Day festivities (July 14th) of 1880.

from Wikipedia
Post-revolutionary Paris became a series of gateways into new spaces.  Napoleon created the Arc de Triomph on the Place de l'Étoile, so named for the symbolically-laden 12 streets radiating thenceforth like beams of light.  Napoleon's arch is echoed in the La Grande Arche de la DéfenseThis arch in perfect alignment wih the Arc de Triomph along the "axe historique" which radiates westward from the Louvre and includes the obelisk of the Place de la Concorde.

La Défense
The Arche is almost a cube (width: 108m, height: 110m, depth: 112m).  It was inaugurated in July 1989 with military parades to mark the bicentennial of the French revolution...just as the The Triumph of the Republic was created to celebrate the centennialIt is is turned at an angle of 6.33° on this axis. The most important reason for this turn was technical, but the turn emphasizes the depth of the monument, and is similar to the turn of the Louvre at the other end of the Axe historique.

Even as is drives the nation's motors of commerce and finance, Paris remains a kind of ceremonial space, both rational and mystical, organized along various significant axes, boulevards and plazas.  Washington D.C. is such a "ceremonial" city in an even stricter sense.  Unlike Paris, it has only one function:  to house the government and the monuments that glorify its values and accomplishements.  It is a hieratic city, a kind of city/temple and funerary monument.  It is not the home of a significant cultural, financial or commercial industry, aside of course from the very significant governmental or quasi-governmental organisms which partake in those sectors.  I've always thought it quite like Paris in its physical arrangement.  Perhaps this should come as no surprise when we consider the original design stems from the hand of a Frenchman.

Indeed, there is a book called Paris on the Potomac dedicated to exploring the influence of Paris on the US capitol.  Apparently in 1910 John Carrère, consulting architect for the US Capitol complex, said "learning from Paris made Washington outstanding among American cities" and that both plans should "underlie all city planning."  I've only glimpsed through its "Google booked" contents, but it seems clear Washinton was consciously modeled on Paris, a city which didn't become fully rationalized itself until the 1860's, and this at the expense of the medieval clutter which had been growing organically for centuries.

America provided the rationalists with a new and fresh start, not only in forms of government, but in the neat little grids they plopped down and which are characteristic of American cities and which one only finds rarely in Europe.

On the square, as it were.

He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)

Not what we normally do, but I just wanted to share a cool film, It Felt Like a Kiss by Adam Curtis. Okay, okay, so why share it here? Well, there's its attention to conspiracy, its sense of whimsy, it's suggestiveness. And there's the way the director plucks (or perhaps strings & manufacturers) a narrative thread from a pile of data/footage; his selective attention and creative interpretation, presented as if voicing the silenced ... And, well, shit, I dunno foax, hows 'bout you stop being so by god lazy and watch it for your own damn self and then you tell me what the hell you think for a change, huh? Huh!?! How's about that for change, yeah?!?

Sorry, sorry, got a little carried away there. Anyhow, this here's the by goddest documentary I seen in a awhile. Hope you dig it, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Choco Lore: DingDing

More required reading for majors in Choco Studies:

DingDing in Water:Pillow
Unknown origin. He arrives amid a steamed cloud of futuristic hoo-haw, waving a withered mit. His nose is a television dial. He is a television dial. He is given a return ticket to the stars, first class.

DingDing was a representative of the alien race that helped to create Choco. Although he only appeared as a hologram, his sage advice proved a useful source of burlesque humor and moral support to the beleaguered chocolate hero. Kind and witty -- ever a pillar of staunchness -- DingDing communicated in a melange of hurdy-gurdies, clucks and twiddlings. Translations were offered as subtext or in subtitle, though for most it amounted to little: Dacusse described the accompanying transliterations as "vaguely anomic lisping" and "great gloamy piles of steam rising from a woodpile."

Choco, of course, displayed no difficulty in deciphering DingDing's holographic missives, a fact not lost on Dacusse, whose childhood Choco-Envy "was akin to wanting bigger muscles."

He was so popular in Canada that in 1982 he was given his own CBC television show, The DingDing Hour. The program was made with puppets and continues to be diffused to this day under the direction of Argentine puppeteer Pablo Mollusconi.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"I am Immune."

I don't know what got into me on the 23rd of November, 2001, but this is a third little ditty I wrote about a poet on that day.  Maybe it was just to lead me, ten years after the fact, to find out that "squib" doesn't mean exactly what I thought it did....

from a photo by Simpson Kalisher
 -- back cover of
The Poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton
Alfred Starr Hamilton is an enigma. His name is dropped at Exquisite Corpse a few times; the front page as of 11/22/01 accuses house poet Mike Topp of ripping Hamilton off. Somewhere else he is referred to as a "folk treasure." That seems a bit condescending but Hewitt substantiates. He seems uncomfortable but says Hamilton is "eccentric." Hamilton lived with his mother until she died in 1964 and left him seven grand. He then moved into a linoleum-floored room in a boarding house at 41 S. Willow St. NJ. As of 1970 he'd been living on 1000 dollars a year (much is made of his penury), visiting the local library and Salvation Army, copping butts. His photograph shows a well-dressed and sane-looking older gentleman. But those could be Army clothes and his nails are peculiarly long.

Speaking of the Army, the US Army, Hamilton was drafted and went AWOL after less than a year. "I got a discharge somehow," he writes in the blurb for his poems appearing in the APR in 1976. This was during the War. Something of this cantankerous spirit survived until 1961. He refused to participate in a civil air raid drill and was fined and briefly jailed. Other than that he can drive, has a sister, drinks Four Roses and once serviced candy machines (after the war; it disgusted him). Biographical information is scant, but he claims to have hitchhiked through forty-three states. If so, Montclair has always always remained his home port: The 2000 Directory of America Poets and Fiction Writers says he's still at 41 S. Willow. That would make him 87.

His first appearance in print, Sphinx (1969), was published out of Montclair by Geof Hewitt aka Kumquat Press. In his review of Sphinx (New, No. 9), Eric Torgersen mentions that these pamphlets were free for the asking. (Online it currently lists for 25 dollars). Torgersen praises Hamilton; he says he's often inaccessible, but when he isn't, he's dead-on. Torgersen also says there are longer poems in Sphinx, which is not the case for what I've seen in print. The poems in APR and Poetry Now are short. These poems published in the mid-seventies have a tendency to catalogue, taking a phrase and repeating it, often asking a question. The tone is bemused and iconoclastic but never mean-spirited. The meanings are enigmatic. It's as if there is a code to be broken. The object of the poems is often the natural world, but rarely the world of man-made things. In the world but not of it, so to speak. Break the code and enter the Hamilton cosmos. One slightly demonic-looking man secretly manipulating the world from the center of the universe.

Needless to say, I like Hamilton. I stumbled across the Jargon book by accident at Cornell's Olin library and was immediately struck by the simplicity and strangeness of the poems. The book itself is a handsome volume and the introductory remarks by Hewitt interesting. Wanting to learn more about this character, I turned to the internet, came up with a few references. It didn't occur to me until some time later to get the articles and poems themselves. I am still waiting for a few things, which I will review here. I'm hoping to reproduce the articles online, but an annotated bibliography will do just as well, for now.

[Scrappy little website can be found here]

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Mimeo Revolution

Another day, another squib I originally put online back in '01....I'm sure much better things on the topic have been published elsewhere, but here's my effort, for better or for worse....

Doug Blazek

The other day I was poking around Olin Library and there in the oversized P's were two bound volumes, each containing four issues of Doug Blazek's pioneering mimeo magazine Ole. That startled me. These are valuable tomes. 1964 onward. A complete set.

A mimeo is what today we would call a 'zine, usually made the same way: saddle-stapled 8.5 by 11 paper. A little booklet selling from 50 cents to a dollar. In the early 60's they became a phenomenon as the spread of previously unavailable technology made the production of mimeos cheaper and easier. They provided a national and international forum for poets not likely to garner much weight in the mainstream. Most of these mimeos were painstaking labors of love, but they were still crude. Ole, for example, bears the stamp of the typewriter.

The poems are often good. Blazek's biggest prize, of course, was Bukowski. He is the big success story of the mimeo revolution and he was real tight with Ole for a while.

Blazek was a strong poet of his own and a tireless essayist. His line: DEDICATED TO THE CAUSE OF MAKING POETRY DANGEROUS was emblazoned somewhere in every issue, which are full of bravado. Wm. Wantling, Al Purdy and Harold Norse were published in its' pages.

Perhaps more revealing is the list of bookstores that carried Ole. Asphodel Bookshop in Cleveland, City Lights, Peace Eye and Gotham Book Mart in NYC, Earth Books & Gallery in Santa Monica. Lesser known bookstores in Lawrence, KS, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, New Zealand and London also carried it. A virtual who's who of the 50-60's poetry axis.

At Issue 5 Ole became larger in format. This issue was a Harold Norse special. It's full of Norse's poetry and tributes, as one might expect. Bukowski writes an appreciative introduction: "Hal can write. umm." Issue 7 is a "Godzilla" review issue. Bukowski again makes a noteworthy appearance in the form of a review of Ginsberg's Empty Mirror. It's full of left-handed compliments but surprisingly appreciative. Despite the "asshole" image of Bukowski, he gives a fair review, dealing with the poetry and citing both weak and strong lines. All in all, it's honest. Ginsberg is disparaged, but within the context of being an undisputed trailblazer.

In a separate but related quest for information on poet Alfred Starr Hamilton, I came across another mimeo called New: American & Canadian Poetry. Blazek has an essay in No. 15: "Poetry is not for the slouch." Robert Bly is the next essayist. Lyn Lifshin is ubiquitous in these pages. Though poets from the northeast predominate here, there are contributors from all over the country: Florida, Wisconsin....

The mimeos were a vibrant thing, a community. The Do it Yourself ethos run amok. It was part of the warp and woof of the beatnik and the hippie and the punk, for whatever those terms are worth: the everyman and woman of the counterculture could become a publisher overnight. If the quality was often uneven, it's because so many people were doing it. It's interesting to see that d.a. levy has been reprinted recently. Mike Golden's intro to the BUDDHIST 3RD CLASS JUNKMAIL ORACLE gives a vibrant if lurid picture of the mimeo scene of the late 60's. Academic papers have appeared recently on the "dangerous" poetry of levy, Bukowski and Blazek.

It's hard not to get dazzled by the big guns, but the real joy of these mimeos are the relative unknowns and the one-hit wonders. Names you won't run into at the local chain store. The mimeos were as instant as it got in the 60's. And they haven't really gone away, they've just gone online. The populist outpouring of our own generation. And plenty of 'zines still litter the floors of the local record store. Save these things, even if they are bad. They are waiting to become artifacts, perfect little windows into the past.


the shoes will hold together
another month
& the chair won't fall apart
as I put on some Jug Band music.
the walls flex shyly as a bus
snorts up the hill like a green animal.

a girl is walking
dressed in candy wrappers that
have been peeked into.
her breasts move like puppies.

a beach of dust covers the furniture
& the window's mucus saddens
the sky's gray lumber. no
sun crudely burns holes in the sky
nor any hothouse joy,
just a comedy with no laughter,
just the promise of a
raggy soliloquy of beer &
a continuation of the continuation.

Doug Blazek. New, 13. Sept. 1970.

"....martyred in the process."

I wrote this little "squib" nearly ten years ago and put on my old website.  Thought I'd pop it up here.

d.a. levy

Cleveland-based poet/agitator d.a. levy epitomizes the do it yourself ethic.   levy was an ultra-prolific producer of screeds and poems, collage, mail and stamp art, posters and 'zines (they called them mimeos then).  His BUDDHIST 3RD CLASS JUNKMAIL ORACLE is legendary.  It makes other mimeos such as OLE and NEW seem pretty tame.  He died by his own hand on Nov. 24, 1968.  A .22 between the eyes at 26, some have called the circumstances "suspicious." 

Whatever the case, levy was persecuted mercilessly by the local authorities and was under enormous strain because of it.  The charges were related to obscenity, but the subtext was that levy had incurred the wrath of local developers by helping make the student ghetto around the university an attractive interracial, bohemian mecca.   Fact is,  his death did much to deflate an already beleaguered scene.  His neighborhood succumbed to developers and has since become "gentrified."

On the eve of the anniversary of his death [November 24, 1968], I write this to salute levy:  for all his faults and excesses, he was a unique and courageous spirit, burned up too soon.  "The Man" may not have killed him, but it certainly put his heels to the fire. 

levy saw what was going down and made an effort to carve out for himself  some SPACE.  He relentlessly pursued Cleveland as a subject, shoring up with words what he couldn't with actual barricades.  The Man may have bulldozed the places, but the words remain.   levy, you chaotic angry echo, when I think of Cleveland I think of you. 

To see some of levy's work the best starting point is the d.a. levy home page.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"Love Ain't Sweet!"

Brief Treatise on Choco, 1995 collage by Timothy Wilson

Thanks too our pal .sWineDriveR. (previously mentioned here) for yet another cool new banner.  Just in case you're wondering what it all means, check out Choco on Plastic Tub:

The origin is simple. A small alien probe descends upon earth, dispensing pancakes and sausages to befuddled farmers, nomads, tribesmen and campers. Eventually it falls into the hands of U.S. government agents, who succeed in discovering the probe's mission. In addition to providing the alien race's favorite foods to the Earth-masses, it contains alien DNA and instructions on how to turn the raw material into an alien capable of sharing its wisdom. The device for making the transformation is built from material found readily in any American kitchen. But there is a problem. An Air Force Colonel attached to the project, a religious fanatic, sabotages the device which he believes to be a Satanic plot.

As the experiment begins, a scientist munching a bar of chocolate is caught in an unfortunate explosion, but instead of dying, begins a slow transformation. After 27 agonizing days, he emerges from his room as a five-foot chocolate bar. He walks, he talks. He is an anthropomorphic chocolate bar. His powers include telepathy, levitation and telekinesis, in addition to an almost inexhaustable range of knowledge and abilities. He is subjected to a barrage of tests and it is determined that Choco's DNA is a mix of human, alien and chocolate bar.

True scholars will also want to check out Choco Cults:

These groups are not linked, and are often in violent opposition to one another. However, they are all obsessed with creating a rich and creamy milk-chocolate homunculus.

What is mystifying about the cults is that they seem oblivious to the fact that their violent activities are anathema to the spirit in which Choco conducts himself. Irregular Choco public service announcements seem to have no effect at all. Some pundits are led to wonder, at times aloud, if this is not merely an expression of "the end justifies the means mentality gone awry, amok even" (Dan Rather), but a "Psy-op perpetrated by Gnomes" (Michael Hoffman).

On the other hand, take care not to succumb to Choco-Envy:

Fondle examined the lifestyle of four children from the Midwestern town of Silonon, Kansas, and elaborated a complex treatise revolving around their use of mediated entertainment, translation devices and "hyper-sexual grimacing, the untoward bending of limbs and a striking predisposition for shapeless homunculi, robots and monsters of all variety."

Thanks .sWineDriveR.!  And thanks also to Kevin Statham, author of Choco's motto:  "Love Ain't Sweet!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Unscrupulous Masonic braumeisters in cahoots with Lego: a twisted plot targeting children to get them hooked on beer

Okay, now that I've got your attention with a ridiculous title I can regale you with some more of what one recent reader referred to as "ludicrous nonsense".  We would add "incoherent" to that as well.

Fumer tue

I've always liked the logo for Camel cigarettes.  A chilled out camel in front of some pyramids, facing East, a cluster of palm trees in the background.  Classic.

But every urban folklorist knows that there's another "subliminal" image in the camel's front flank.  One need not even squint to distinguish the form of a man who appears to be holding his schlong, having a wee perhaps....although I've seen it somewhere that it's actually Mae West.  Others assure us that it's Manneken Pis--"Little Man Pee"--a famous sculpture fountain in Brussels.

(The origin of this little piss-ant is cloaked in legend, some involving a lost little boy found the spot, others involving the boy squelching a house fire with his pee or even saving the city by peeing on the fuse of an explosive charge laid by enemies, or again, a little boy pissing on enemies from a tree.)

Flash forward to 1987.  Camel re-brands itself and updates the Camel into a hip dude, shades and baseball cap, cigarette perpetually dangling from the side of his snout.  Joe Camel.  The subliminal messages continue.  Many swear that the snout depicts nothing less than a cock and generous balls.  Others say it's the base of a wang inserted deeply into a vagina.  I guess that's to be expected when a phallic obsession meets an oral fixation.

What concerns us here, however, are not the alleged sexual images in this logo, but the controversy surrounding the use of a cartoon character for marketing cigarettes.  After years of criticism, lawsuits and government pressure, RJ Reynolds stopped the campaign in 1997, denying all the while that they were not targeting children.  However, 

Internal documents produced to the court in Mangini v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, San Francisco Superior Court No. 959516, demonstrated the industry's interest in targeting children as future smokers.  The importance of the youth market was illustrated in a 1974 presentation by RJR's Vice-President of Marketing who explained that the "young adult market . . . represent[s] tomorrow's cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume - for at least the next 25 years."  A 1974 memo by the R. J. Reynolds Research Department points out that capturing the young adult market is vital because "virtually all [smokers] start by the age of 25" and "most smokers begin smoking regularly and select a usual brand at or before the age of 18."

Boire avec moderation

So, if cigarette companies do it, why not breweries?  And what better way to get into a kid's head than with toys? (See alcopop).

Dig, if you will, the following photograph of a Lego chevalier I purchased recently for my son:

Sir Drinks-a-Lot

Now take a gander at the Kronenbourg beer logo:
Kronenbourg (whose name could translate into "Crown Town" if one wanted to play loose with the etymology) is a pale lager produced by the Kronenbourg brewery based in Strasbourg, founded way back in 1664 by Geronimus Hatt.  Despite the fact that it's almost universally denigrated by people I know, everyone seems to drink it.  Personally, I find a frosty 25cl bottle goes down especially well and when I open my first of the day I gulp it down like Bukowski, tilting my head back and downing it in one long swallow.  Then I crack another.

A bit lower on the respectability scale is "33 Export".  Now, I'm not saying that because the number 33 is present we're looking at Masonic symbolism.  Fact is, however, there are 32 + 1 degrees in the Scottish Rite, so a link exists, if only by "passive" association (meaning I can't help it that Freemasonry pops to mind everytime I see the number 32 or 33).  I thought the name might have something to do with the compass rose sometimes pictured in the logo, but the compass rose only has 32 points.

It occurs to me now that the Sol de Mayo on the Argentine flag also has 32 points and in this bears a resemblance to the compass rose, perhaps suggesting the radiation of its revolutionary ideas in all directions...32 export.  Maybe 33 refers to a mysterious unknown direction?  But seriously, that the sun represent a compass is reinforced by taking a look at the Uruguayan version, which features 16 rays, the four cardinal directions decidedly compass-like.  A compass rose is often depicted in a simplified 16 (or 8) point form.

16-point compass rose:  Tossa del Mar, Catalonia.
Actually, French Wikipedia informs us that the number comes from something more prosaic--the original size of the bottles, 33cl.  Rats, foiled again.
Now, this 33 reminds me of another beer, Rolling Rock.  One mystery of this beer is why "33" is present on the label.  Does it have to do with temperature, the number of words in the little text on the label....or is there something else.  Jesus' age perhaps....or the number of Scottish Rite degrees?  More than a coincidence that early Freemasons met in bars and taverns?

Of course not.  But it is funny.
And none of these things really have anything to do with the other.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Robots in Pyramids

How's this for a job?

* Egyptologist with robots to explore secret passages in Egyptian pyramids.
* Requires experience deciphering secret codes left by ancient masons.
* Must be able to analysis copper pins for evidence of ancient electrical systems.
* Speculations of aliens assisting ancient Eygptians may be left to bloggers.

Dang. I was a English lit major...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Feet Identified

We've been following the strange story feet washing ashore on the Salish Sea shore (Pacific Northwest).

By our count:

* 10 have washed ashore since 2007
* 2 fakes have been planted
* 1 early foot was found in 1999
* 2 pairs are officially matched

And now one of the two pairs has been identified as belonging to a missing man from Surrey, England, no further details provided.

This is the third identified ... body, for lack of a better word.

Interestingly, as the incidents have become more numerous, the officially released details have been become more vague. Early on, shoe size, left/right, color, make, and gender were identified. The 2 most recent findings seem to have been reported without a left/right designation; 3 of the 5 most recent reports seemed to have failed to commit to a gender designation.

Why the increasing vagueness even as more concrete details (like matches to actual missing people) are apparently being discovered?