Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day
in the United States. sailor

So,

to

my fellow veterans,terdriben

and,

to

our currently serving men and women

in the Armed Forces :

.

in the Navy,usmc
Non Sibi Sed Patriae ! ”
.

in the Army,
This We’ll Defend

.

in the Air Force,
” Fly, Fight, Win

.

in the Marine Corps,air
Semper Fidelis

.

and in the Coast Guard,
So Others May Live
.

I say,

HOY !!!

Thank you for your service.

letter

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Krampus ( No, Not The Stupid Movie )

1

Let’s face it.

Everything is life has it’s polarity.

Even Christmas-time.

My grand father used to tell me about this wild eyed character who would leave coal in your stocking instead of goodies–
if you had been a naughty boy.

Or he might just:
club you in the head,
stuff you in his sack,aaa
and take you away
to where all the bad kids ended up.

I figured it was just a hoax…
dreamed up by grandfather,
outta sheer desperation —
having to deal with his own batty brood,
led in mischief by my future Dad–
and then finally, ME.

Not that I was a bad kid, ya know….

I was a joy.

Ask anybody who thinks that.aa

I really didn’t get naughty
— until —
much, much later in life.

Ahem.

Anyhoo….

Little did I dream that one day
I would find that the dark conspirator of the whole coal in the stocking thing
was the remnant of an ancient European tradition called Krampusnacht .2

Celebrated on the day before St. Nicholas Day —
December 5,

this Krampusnacht holiday is probably not gonna seem all that in tune with modern Western sensibilities,

…. but nevertheless is observed all around the Alpine region of Europe, including:

Austria,
Bavaria,
Croatia,
Slovakia,
Hungary,
Northen Italy…

Not to mention in traditionally ‘Amish’ areas of the United States like central Pennsylvania,
where he is called ‘ Bellsnichol ‘ –kram

He also shows up with that name in some parts of Maryland and Indiana.

The star of this particular holiday is a archetypal trickster type named Krampus

… although he is known by different names depending on the region of Europe ….

like ‘Black Peter’ ,
‘Pelznickle‘ ,
‘Klaubauf’
,
and ‘Knecht Rupert’ .

He visits the homes of children,
usually accompanied by Saint Nick himself,4

….. and deals with the bad kids,
while Saint Nick gives presents to the good ones.

Sometimes,
he just scares the bejeeezes outta them,

…. other times,
he hits em on the bottom
with a birch branch broom called a ‘ruten’,1

Or he threatens to carry them off in his bag or basket to the nether regions.

Another variation of the tradition
has him leaving lumps of coal instead of gifts.

Imagine the good cop-bad cop scenario,
— only with Saint Nick and Krampus.

There has been a long tradition in Europe
of exchanging Krampus greeting cards,

many of them featuring the legend:
Gruß vom Krampus “

( Greetings from the Grampus ).

2Some of the vintage cards picture the Krampus menacing little children,

but he also has a rather naughty reputation with the ladies,
as he is more often shown in cards
leering or flirting with voluptuous women.

He seems to have a particularly strong taste for curvy redheads.

(He’s starting to sound like a rather sensible feller to me…..  )

He can be pictured in a number of ways:
as a demonic type creature with horns and claws,
part-goat, part wild-man ,
or in more of a Pan-esque humorous way….

I dunno how scary he really seems, in any case,
but I guess it depends on where you come from,
3and where you’ve been.

I’ve known scarier people
working at the mortgage department of the bank.

Just sayin.

The word “Krampus”
is derived from the old German word for “claw”,

… and usually he will have that characteristic at least, 1
along with an excessively long tongue.

(Which perhaps explains his appeal to the ladies….)

He is especially fond of maids who are inclined to be a bit free with their attentions.

And he’s not lacking any forward-ness , of course…..

Despite his often demon-like appearance,
— he is not to be confused with the devil —

— more like a horny, malevolent imp—4

and it is said that Saint Nicholas may dismiss the Krampus at his own pleasure.

In many European towns and villages,
the Krampus is said to wander through the streets on the night before Saint Nicholas Day shaking rusty bells and chains,

— to remind children about the importance of behaving themselves….

This is thought to have been part of the original functional source of the legend…

……. teaching that, just as goodness is rewarded,

so misbehavior is punished.

Just how effective this has been over the centuries is difficult to measure,3

….. but the legend has had it’s ups and downs in popularity over the years……..

It can be traced, in its current form,
back as far as the 16th century in Austria,

…. and is thought to have been derived from a much older pre-Christian Teutonic legend.

Popes have been generally hostile to the practices,
and the Catholic Church has played down the practice…

……… while Lutherans replaced Saint Nicholas with a Christ-like child,
or a maiden.

After about 1930,
Krampus2012Austrian authorities have attempted to suppress the Krampus traditions several times, without success.

Current forms of the Krampus image lean toward a fear-mongering horned monster,
as a counterpoint to the joyful innocence of the Yuletide….

There also has been a revival of the ‘ Krampuslauf ‘
(
or ‘Run of the Krampus’ ),

… which involves groups of people dressed up as the Krampus ,

….. inspired,
in some part at least,5
by the copious consumption of Schnapps.

( and when you think about it,
…. what goes better with a little hell raising than a lot of Schnapps? )

These usually occur in the period between December 5 and December 25,

…. and sometimes feature females dressed as ‘Perchten‘ ( female wood nymphs ) .

( actually,
this is starting to sound like a lot of fun, isn’t it ?? )

Yes,
as you can probably tell,

1Krampus-nacht can make for a very sexy holiday festival —
ya know,
temptation
and all that.

Krampus-nacht parties have also gained popularity in the United States,
as an alternative
or adjunct to Christmas celebrations.

The largest one, in Philadelphia,
drew hundreds of folks last year,
and was certainly a spectacle worth seeing.

Yow, was it.

This year’s adult-couples-only festival is being held
at High Protocol on December 5th at 9PM ,
at 2533 Emery Street in Philadelphia.2

And no,
I’m not doing Kinky Santa this year.

Thanks for asking.

I know you’re disappointed —

Well,
you could always do the Krampus Pub Crawl in St. Louis —
starting at Yaquis on Cherokee Street around 5 pm on the 5th.

By the time the party kicks into full gear around 11pm,
you won’t care who’s dressed up as what.

Or
If you don’t wanna drive that far,
you wanna bring the whole family,
(awwwww—
— you’re no fun anymore) 3
and if you happen to live near the Queen City –
Charlotte, North Carolina –

( No,
Cincinnati just stole that nickname from us )

The No-Da arts district’s celebration of KrampusKrawl is also being held
the weekend of December 5 —

— at,
where else,
36th Street and North Davidson.

So…

the whole ‘scare-yer-kids-senseless’ dynamic notwithstanding,

…. the next time you’re looking to spruce up…..
( yes, a Christmas tree pun.. so, sue me )
…………. your holiday celebratin’…

you might consider donning your Krampus apparel….

…… hey, you never know what you’ll get away with dressed like that !!!

5

It’s All in a Name

11

Thinking back to the last motorcycle road trip I made across this country,

( and the pain in my butt and back which still is an active reminder of it )

I had decided it would be fun if I took pictures of all the funny place names I spotted as I went….

But I quickly found that I had grossly underestimated the number of improbable place names there are in this country.

….. to the point that I stopped doing it pretty much after the first coupla states.

I was stopping every fifteen minutes fer cryin out loud!!

It’s amazing. noname

I’m not just talking about the ones you’ve probably heard about like:

Soddy Daisy or Bugtussle (in Tennessee) –

Intercourse or Buttzville (in Pennsylvania) –

Ninety Six or Eighty Four (in South Carolina)

or Bat Cave or Boogertown (in North Carolina)

Errr… wait a minute.

Are there really that many weird place names in the US?

Oh yeah.

truthI’d swear it on the heads of every person in the town of North, South Carolina…

…. if you insist.

And, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

I mean, if you’re gonna name a town, you oughta choose something you’re interested in, right?

How about naming your town after a body part.. like:
My Large Intestine, Texas –
Left Hand, West Virginia,
Elephant Butte, New Mexico,
or Sugartit, Kentucky?

Or your occupation like Cashiers, North Carolina–
Protection, Kansas,
or Grow, Texas.

Or your last meal like Buttermilk, Kansas-
Bacon, Georgia-
Noodle, Texas,
or Sopchoppy, Florida.
(ummm.. what exactly is Sopchoppy… anybody know?)

1Or how about naming a town after a bodily function – like:
Fart, Virginia-
Gas, Kansas,
or PooPoo, Hawaii ?

Maybe a infamous resident – like:
Coward, South Carolina-
Assawoman Creek, Virginia,
or Tightwad, Missouri?

Or a favorite activity – like:
Gnaw Bone, Indiana
(what an unfriendly crappy lil town that one is….) –
or Beer Bottle Crossing, Idaho.

Hell, the name don’t even have to make any sense t’all…. like:
Happyland, Oklahoma (oh yeah, sure….. )
Monkeys Eyebrow, Arizona (huh?)
or Christmas, Florida (I’m dreaming of a swampy Christmas…)

And of course, the slightly more prurient-sounding names like:
Gay Head, Massachusetts,
Sac City, Iowa,
Knob Lick, Kentucky …….

or …. just pick a crazy idea at random,

rabbithashand, presto

there you have your town name—

like:

Unalaska, Alaska–
Pysht, Washington,
or Pippa Passes, Kentucky.

or…. well, I could go on and on….

Hey-

why don’t we visit a couple of these strange and wonderfully weird places—

but I warn ya—

the name of the place is usually A LOT MORE exciting than the place itself.

humptulips-washingtonTake this place in Washington, for instance……. Humptulips .

Aside from a solid waste disposal place,

… and 216 residents,

there’s not a whole lot going on…

But, there is supposed to be some pretty good whitewater around there somewhere.

Some folk in West Virginia were nice enuf to name their town after me…..

Big Ugly, West Virginia is in the heart of coal territory….

And so, the economy is also pretty ugly there, too.

But, you talk about whitewater, well, that part of West Virginia has some, fer sure.

Hey –
hotcoffee
wanna know where to go for your favorite morning beverage?

Look no further than Hot Coffee, Mississippi.

That is…

if you can find Hot Coffee, Mississippi………

Speaking of Hot….

StellaStevensThe gorgeous and talented actress Miss Stella Stevens –

(a wonderful and lovely lady, who also happened to reside two doors down from me in Margate, Florida when I lived there…)

was born there in Hot Coffee in 193 …
ooops, sorry Stella…

…. I mean– sometime in the 60’s..

…. yeah, thats the ticket.

She’s proof that age is just a number, boys.

See my post about “Why Mature Women Are Better” if you don’t agree.

Hey – how about today’s choice for the worst name for a NY town –

Horseheadshorseheads

Just what were their town fathers thinking????

I know they are a bit tetched up there above the bunky line, but..

Now, if we’re talking about crawfish heads, well, now that would be different.

I’m really not crazy over this idea for a town name, either……

aJust what the hell IS a dot.com city, anyhoo??????????????

The idea that the folks in this town care so little about their community’s identity that they would let some corporation use it for a coupla bucks,

well, I dunno–
………. is it just me?

I will say, though………

Whenever I visit Texas, cutshoot
I do expect to do some of this………..

Cut and Shoot.

Like the lady says…
Yee Hah.

I also found a listing for a Frog Suck, Wyoming……..

I guess that’s where Kermit goes on vacation.

But I couldn’t find anything much else on it………..

‘Xceptin a picture of it’s most distinguished resident……

RemyFrog2

Maybe Kermit might wanna stay away from there…………

Wait a minute….

………… here’s a place for him.kermit

Kermit city, Texas……..

population 5714, and 1 frog.

(Sans Suck.)

Wet Beaver, Arizona is a wilderness area…
……….. great for ALL KINDS of outdoor activities…..

It’s a big place… and theres plenty of Wet Beaver for everyone!!!

But, some names seem to imply facts that ain’t in evidence….

Like Peculiar, Missouri…..
….. the most average looking town I’ve ever seen.

Or Spread Eagle, Wisconsin ….
All I can say here is, well, what a disappointment.

My old friend Debra at Ptero9 sent me one close to her —
— a Wankers Corners, Oregon.
I’m wondering what they do for fun there…….
For some reason, I doubt the town name is an eponym.

Another of my favorite readers, BecomingHIS let me know that singer Tina Turner is from a town called NutBush, Tennessee.
I dunno where I can go with that information but down, man, down…. cause you know she don’t do nuthin’ ‘nice and slow’….
Ahem.

Here’s another case of false advertising—
this one in Pennsylvania– looked all over the place……

No BIG DEAL- in this case, though….

VirginvillePA

I always thought it was over-rated, anyway.

.

And now, our musical selection for a Wednesday…

Take it away, Bebel.

HOY!

.

Ole Uncle Sam

2

Which do you think personifies the modern American nation better?

A beautiful lady named ” Liberty “, or ” Columbia ” —-

Or a grouchy old geezer named ” Uncle Sam ” ?

I guess it depends on who you ask.

I suppose neither one really tells anywhere near the whole story, but then, what single image would?

I personally like the ‘Columbia’ imagery the best.

1

Here she is……

Open arms, compassionate, bright eyed, lovely, and wearing the cap of liberty.

This work, done by Paul Stahr around 1917, was part of a “Be Patriotic” drive geared to help the war effort (World War I).

‘Lady Columbia’ goes back to around to the times of the US War of Independence, and it seems that several of our national symbols have been developed during wartime—

‘Uncle Sam’ first made his appearance in a British song from the Revolutionary War that mocked Americans, called ” Yankee Doodle Dandy” —

From the 13th stanza :
Old Uncle Sam come there to change
Some pancakes and some onions,
For ’lasses cakes, to carry home
To give his wife and young ones ….

Uncle Sam - personification of US

Uncle Sam – personification of US (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…. and the character was popularized with American readers in periodicals published during the War of 1812.

There are also some cock and bull stories dating from the time about the origins of Uncle Sam being related to initials printed on US Army ration packages — but since the usage was already documented about 50 years earlier, I don’t buy it all that much.

The initials U.S. and the name ‘Uncle Sam’ are no doubt related in keeping the epithet alive after the Revolution….

And certainly, there have been changes in the character and how he is perceived over the years.

In particular, it’s interesting to see how the image evolved in the nineteenth century, from a rather disinterested, Benjamin Franklin type , to the image we are more or less familiar with today….

The old “Brother Jonathan” image, dating back to the Revolution, and previously used as a symbol for the average American, now replaced the older, less energetic, less aggressive emblem as the national icon.

brother-jonathan

Some scholars explain this as having been a result of the War Between the States —

The people of the United States, whom had previously had seen themselves as citizens of equal, individual, and confederated States, now were forced to recognize a more centralized Federal authority….

….. and this new perspective of their nation was reflected in a revised image of ‘Uncle Sam’.

By the dawn of the 20th Century and World War I, the United States and ‘Uncle Sam’ had come into their own —

English: Uncle Sam recruiting poster.

English: Uncle Sam recruiting poster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most popularly known image of Uncle Sam dates from a recruiting poster from around this time.

Star spangled top hat, red bow tie, white shirt and broad lapelled blue jacket —

Here is the classic Uncle Sam that most people are familiar with.This work was created by illustrator J.M Flagg.

It was first published in 1917, at the start of the American active involvement in the European fronts of the Great War…..

…. and shows a stern, imposing and determined Uncle Sam.

It was a highly effective recruitment tool for the Armed Forces, and was widely used, not only in World War I, but also during World War II.

It is considered to have been the most effective poster ever used by the United States government…. and was still in use in the 1960’s.

4

Flagg’s original recruiting poster was actually based on a British recruiting poster from 1914 featuring Lord Kitchener.

And I’ve always found the similarities, as well as the differences, in the two posters interesting.

Actually, a Sociologist or Psychologist could have a field day with this.

The original “Britons” poster was created by Alfred Leete, for the cover of a London magazine called “London Opinion”.

It has had many imitators over the years, a testimony for just how effective the psychological imaging in the work in evoking the desired response.

Laconic, but aggressive.

Angry, but righteous.

Subtle, yet provoking.

And very, very persuasive.

I bet there are images taken from Leete’s original that are being used even today.

And maybe it is time to revisit our national icon again.

5

I wonder what he’d look like in a red, white and blue suit ?

The Art of Propaganda Posters

1

I have always been fascinated by the visual art of propaganda.

It is one of the oldest forms of visual communication —

…… older, even, than language itself.

From the earliest times, propagandists understood that the idiom of symbolism is a very effective way to provoke strong emotions.

The Pharoahs of ancient Egypt certainly used this principle–

What was the Sphinx, or the Great Pyramid,

…but a symbolic statement of their great wealth and strength?

Fear me” , they say–

Invade my lands at your own peril “.

And, a Maya skull rack —

skull rack…… a visitor from another village, friend or foe alike, would have no trouble interpreting it for what it is, and what it means.

All strong emotions like fear, pity, anger, hate, and love can all be manipulated through the use of some simple symbolic language.

And in no other medium, I believe, does the richness of symbolism come so vibrantly and clearly alive as in the great propaganda posters of the 20th century.

For a student of symbolism like myself, these posters are irresistable.

Of course, those who created them never intended for them to be analyzed –

–they are meant to cause a gut reaction —
an emotion —
that will lead you to an action — or to take up a cause.

You still see this kind of thing– all the time in fact—
TV is rife with moving image propaganda…
–that are really just expanded prop posters–

Examples?

ever see that ASPCA commercial with the abused animals in small cages ——

or the Christian Childrens Fund spot with starving kids searching a dump for food?

Now, you may say something like “well, those are good causes…”

But, for those of us interested in how symbolism works,
– we’re not really interested in what it says –
we care what it MEANS.

The cause isn’t germane-
because these kinds of images are used for all kinds of causes- good or bad.

It’s not enough to understand the image as it’s presented.

To understand how the message is communicated-
–and what is being communicated under the surface,

you can’t just take these kinds of images at face value…

………………. the harder you look, the more you’ll see.

This is an image from the Polish-Bolshevik War (1919-1921)

2

It’s a pretty simple image — a Polish cavalryman smiting a Russian soldier.

The legend says “Fight Bolshevism”

But look closer.

The communist is drawn as a wild-eyed fanatic –
– a barely human-simian barbarian cowering in fear ….

Set upon by the righteous and inevitable victorious onslaught of the noble –
— and clean cut– defenders of civilized society…….

……… the well equipped and fearless Polish Army.

Of course, this war was a result of very complicated and long standing issues, impossible to be properly understood based on either a short hub page or a propaganda poster.

But an explanation of that conflict’s causation is not the intended function of either.

The poster’s creator does not seek to explain the rationale of the regime’s decision to wage war.

The artist is simply trying to provoke anger, fear, and hostility through the use of symbolic imagery.

See?

American (Texaco) 1942

3

Here’s an example of reducing the enemy to the ridiculous.

Buckteeth, overlarge glasses, exaggerated features on a small face and frame,
and an ill fitting uniform — plus hands folded ……

Obviously, this Japanese Officer would like you to take the day off from the weapons plant and get some well earned rest.

But we see right through his nefarious scheme, and work extra overtime instead.

Psychologists suggest that portraying an enemy as cartoonish helps to create a feeling of:
1: confidence in victory- which improves morale —
2: a sense of superiority of the defending culture — which in turn, reiterates the importance of victory.

Makes ya run right out and sign up for some of that overtime…………….

China – 1955

4

Here you have the essence of what makes poster propanganda so persuasive…

all the emblems are here: beauty, youth, vigor, courage, homeland.

As usual, the legend only tells a small part of the overall message – translated it states:

“The motherland reconstructs, flowers are in full bloom, our vigilance is increased, we guard against tigers and wolves.”

Much of Chinese propaganda was directed at both internal and external targets-

you would see this kind of art on their international postage stamps for instance.

Its meaning to the outside world is meant as something like:

” Imperialists beware: we are reconstructing our society in the Maoist model.
The youth of both sexes from all regions of our land are well armed and united in the struggle against the aggressive and greedy enemies of our beautiful China.
We can do this without undue suffering or sacrifice – you are few and we are many.
We have no fear of you. ”

For the Chinese eye, it meant more like:
“Young people – your land is in danger –
– while your revolution is in full bloom- come defend her. ”

Interestingly, Chinese propaganda has both advantages and disadvantages when directed toward the West.

Ethical virtues in relation to their importance to the State are often assumed to be universally understood in their context, but, for good or bad, often fall flat when interpreted by modern Westerners.

But this same quality tends to express a feeling of nobility, simplicity, and purity which many Westerners find appealing.

The North Vietnamese used much of the Chinese propaganda iconography with high effectiveness against the French and U.S in the fifties and sixties.

United States – 1917.

5

The United States was neutral during the opening years of the
First World War…
However, there was a strong desire in certain economic and political domestic circles to turn around the isolationist tide, in favor of going to war against the Germans and Ottomans.

This poster is a later version produced for the U.S. market from a British poster of similar design, framing the war as a battle against the naked brute of mindless militarism, wearing a Prussian helmet.

Here, Europe has been ravaged, beaten down with the club of ignorant German ‘kultur’-

Lady Liberty is in danger of being carried away,
and our coastline is now at risk of being invaded.

Very effective, but believe it or not, a little highbrow for propaganda.

Italy – 1943

6

Despite the fact that Italy was an ally of Germany for most of World War II, most of the Italian people ( who had fought against the Germans in WW I ) were, shall we say, ambivalent about having German troops occupying a good deal of Italian territory.

This poster’s legend says it all: “Germany is truly your friend”

Now, you tell me.

If somebody’s really your friend, does he need to plaster posters reiterating his generosity and amiability all over your territory that he happens to be occupying ???

Look at the German soldier in the poster.

He is heavily armed, although his rifle is slung, his hand is out, but the other hand is in the ready position.

He is powerfully built, to indicate the strength of the German war machine.
(“It is useless to resist”)

He is smiling…. in that condescending “You can trust me, ya poor ignorant Itai bastards” kinda way.

As he approaches the foreground, the dark background is dispelled, as if the soldier is bringing light.

The Germans are, in essence, shown to be making the world “safe for fascism” .

It is interesting how differing political philosophies share much the same iconography and techniques of propaganda, isn’t it?

This, for instance, is the type of campaign you might call “winning hearts and minds”.

The U.S. used a similar campaign in South Vietnam…. and with similar results.

The problem with such a program is — by the time it becomes necessary to use one–
……………… it’s usually too late to be very effective.

Germany – 1944

Here’s an interesting way of stirring up resistance to the successful landings at Normandy.

This poster was produced in several languages… this one is in German and English.

7

You take all the nasty things you can say about an enemy, lump them all up in symbolic language, and print you as many posters as you can print.

Unlike the previous examples, there’s really nothing subtle about this poster….

It’s message is actually much simpler than the sum of it’s parts —

“The Americans will bring violence and ruin to your culture and your country.
Look what they’ve done to their own people.
Look who is controlling them.”

Of course,
The people who were exposed to this poster had also already been exposed to four years of Nazi brutality on an unprecedented scale, so, it wasn’t the most effective of campaigns, either.

Even propaganda has it’s limits.

Ahh well….
you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear all the time, right?