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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Diese Stiefel wurden zum Gehen gemacht

A Southern California footwear company has recalled a pair of its boots after a Redditor posted a picture on Imgur of the footprint they leave: a mandorla in glory, with a lucky seven swastikas inside.  A surprise to be sure.

The Redditor writes "There was an angle I didn't get to see when ordering my new work boots...."

Conal International Trading Co., the manufacturer, issued an apology and stated the swastikas are completely unintentional, blaming their Chinese manufacturer for the mistake.

One Redditor countered "The soles don't look that much like swastikas, but the prints are unmistakable and whoever made the soles would have understood that."

That actually might be true.  In many Asian cultures, the swastika still signifies good fortune, which was how it was used in the West for decades until the Third Reich tainted it until now and probably a long time to come.  Until WW2, it was used on everything from Scout badges to Coca-Cola mementos.  It has been used for centuries as a religious symbol, even on synagogues.

Neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer called them a "Perfect footwear for Nazis....wanting to leave a good impression."  Hyuk hyuk.  Stern, a German magazine, notes that the boot's name Polar Fox -- Polarfuchs -- was an operation in WW2 in which German and Finnish soldiers captured  a town in Finland from the Soviet Union.

If the Chinese maker of these boots did this on purpose or by accident, it wouldn't be the first time something like this has slipped through the cracks.  

Back in 2014 a German discount shop sold Chinese-made coffee mugs that featured flowers and....a portrait of Hitler.  Not to be outdone, Migros, a brand of Swiss coffee creamer, sold little doses of cream with a foil lid featuring the man, based on a cigar band.  The creamer company was mortified and issued an apology, but the third-party designer, Karo Shipping, didn't really understand the fuss.  Miglos severed their relationship.

In India and Thailand, the use of Hitler is intentional.  Perhaps after a day of shopping at Hitler and Having a meal at Hitler's Cross, you can have a Hitler Ice Cream, then got home for an episode of Hitler Didi or gt to the movies and see Hitler Hero in Love.  Expat pedophiles need not worry either, because in Bangkok you can go to Hitler for a bucket of chicken.

Sometimes, like with Michael Graves' tea kettle said to look like Hitler, the resemblance a bit of a stretch, as if people are out there looking to get offended.  But the kettle does oddly enough, when seen from a certain angle, resemble Hitler. 

Then there those cases somewhere in-between.  When Trump was still but a long-shot waggling his tiny orange hands about, were the SS soldiers on one of his (hashtag) Make America Great Again tweets a gaffe, or was he trying to tell us something?  I guess we'll see; only 5 short days until the piss hits the fan.  Some people say not to worry, Trump's just playing to the crowd.  But watch out where them Polar Foxes go, and don't you eat that yellow snow....

Hitler and Nazi-related imagery seem to have popped up unexpectedly on products quite a bit recently.  It's as if the universe is telling us to examine what we buy closely.  You buy a coffee mug and you end up staring at Hitler every morning.

P.S.  Just to clarify what we're on about, here's the stock photo of some re-enactors in WW2 German uniforms some either witless or very cheeky graphic designer used in the offending Tweet.  And no, I don't think Trump did it on purpose.  I implied he's crazy like a fox, not stupid.  He could have vetted his propaganda better....

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Gott mit uns: Taiwan on for Christmas

Note:  I really screwed up when I originally posted this yesterday.  Despite reading the articles and watching the video, I somehow had it in my head that this occurred in Thailand, not Taiwan!  I repeatedly referred to Thailand and Thai culture in the post, even asking rhetorical questions about Thailand's royal family to prove a point: that I'm an idiot, apparently.  An idiot in desperate need of a proof-reader.
I did a post a while back about "Hitler branding" in Thailand and India, mentioning "Hitler chic" as a pop cultural phenomenon throughout Asia.  Apparently, a furor has recently erupted in Taiwan over a school parade in which the kids marched carrying swastika placards and wearing black uniforms and swastika armbands.  Although the students chose the theme, the school's principal (or ex-principal; he's resigned) is quick to point out the kids aren't a problem, but that the (lack of) education on the subject is at fault.  A local Jewish leader agrees, and doesn't see the parade as an act of Antisemitism.  Just wildly inappropriate.

As the article states, there are only a thousand or so Jews living in Taiwan, and textbooks there naturally focus more on the Asian war rather than the European theater.  An interesting read; something so sensitive and well-known in the West seems to be something a lot of countries of the world know as much about as, well, most Americans for example, know about Taiwanese history and culture.

From the New York Times.

CNN's photos are pretty eye-popping; those kids' uniforms weren't just cobbled together by mom from old clothes laying about; some time and care went into making those things.  They're quite detailed and very, erm uniform. 

TIME's video shows the high quality of the props such as banners and eagle flag pole tops.  What strikes me is that while researching this stuff -- the banners and regalia are pretty detailed and authentic -- didn't they come across anything about what it all represented, and led to?

That this idea even made it to the voting stage demonstrates the vast cultural gulf between East and West.  We would have once called this a SNAFU, but now it might be what they call a "teaching moment".  One would think that somewhere along the line some adult involved would have said, "Wait a minute here...."  This regalia clearly wasn't clapped together overnight, although the video does mention the theme was chosen in part because it was relatively easy to convert their school uniform into spiffy SS duds!  It also mentions that "some" were unaware of Hitler's atrocities.  So that leaves "some" others with questionable judgment.  But as I've asked in other posts, how many of us know what subject could have the potential to offend the Taiwanese people, a nation of 23.5 million?  How many can even name the current President?  [This is where I originally went full-metal moron by asking how many among us could name Thailand's current king, or if you readers even knew Thailand is a kingdom.  It is.  And Quito is the capital of Ecuador.]

They take their parades seriously, I suppose.  That's a lot of work for a one-off event!  It happened at a Catholic school....maybe they saw some of those "Gott mit uns" belt buckles worn by the Wehrmacht and thought they must have been OK guys.  How can you be wrong with God on your side?

The Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And then we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now, too
Have God on their side

Kind of reminds of a book I read long ago called The Wave, a novelization from a film by the same name, loosely based on an actual experiment.  In the book, a school lesson/role play on how people came to embrace Nazism goes dangerously awry as the students actually begin to transform themselves into a movement of facho bully-boys.  From what I remember of my high school experience, this isn't much of a leap....

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Schwarze Notmuttergottes and Our Lady of Dublin: Two more Black Virgins

I've seen upwards of 20 Black Madonnas since stumbling half-drunk into the dark and cool confines of the Notre Dame de la Daurade basilica in Toulouse 15 years ago, so astonished at its Black Madonna that I embarked on a near-obsessional path in search of more "Vierges Noires".  The flame has abated, but it still gives me an excuse from time to time, when I travel someplace new, to visit an out-of-the-way village church or chapel in order to see another example or to simply poke around some place I might not otherwise have visited.

That said, I've never seen anything but "Latin" examples, for lack of a better term, in the south of France, Spain and Catalonia and, to my surprise, Andorra.  So it was with great pleasure that I was able to see a couple of examples outside of those countries.  The first is in Luxembourg city, the second in Dublin.

Schwarze Notmuttergottes

The first thing I noticed about the Luxembourg and Dublin Madonnas is that there is no origin story similar to the Spanish and especially French Madonnas.  These are almost to a number described as having been found after the strange behavior of animals, usually cows or oxen.  They were often found in springs, buried or hidden within bushes or trees.  They usually could not be moved from where they had been found.

Like most Black Madonnas, the Schwarze Notmuttergottes is renowned as a miracle-worker.  Many scholars date her to ca. 1360 and from the Cologne school, but there are no documents to support this; some Medieval accounts say she was brought back from the Middle East during the Crusades, which may account for one of her titles, the "Egyptian Mother of God."  We have seen a strong link between the Black Madonnas with Egypt before, not only in connection with Isis, but with Saint Sarah and the "three Marys".  It occurs to me that her mysterious origin may be a key feature to an especially fervent cult; not knowing from where or when she came, it's easier to imbue this ambiguity with a sense of mystery and miracle.  Having detailed documentation of being sculpted in a workshop makes it more difficult  to imagine her a  miracle-working wonder sent from God.  To my eye, her posture, s-curve, coloration, crown and baton make here a dead-ringer for Notre Dame de Bonne Délivrance, located in the wealthy Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, said the be a 14th c. copy of an 11th c. original, though some say she is far more recent.

Her titles have included "Star of the Heavens" and the "Queen of Peace".  Already dark due to the wood in which she is made, she was inevitably darkened by years of burning tapers and incense, becoming specifically the Schwartze Notmuttergottes, or "Black" Mother in the wake of a plague epidemic, when she was charged with protecting children.  The centrality of her blackness as a salient feature is attested to not only in her name at this event, but in the fact that in later restorations her skin has been painted black; by the time of the plague, her blackness had become a critical part of her power.

The "Emergency Mother" was housed in a Franciscan monastery which ws destroyed during the French Revolution; She was hidden for a while at the convent in Marienthal until in 1805 it became possible again to publicly display her at the church of Saint-Jean-du-Grund.  She is especially venerated during Lent.

Our Lady of Dublin is housed in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland. It is sculpted in wood and probably dates from the 16th century

Local legend says she started her life at  St. Mary's Abbey, which was dissolved in 1539 as part of the Henrician reforms.  The first documentary evidence has her at St. Mary's Lane Parochial Chapel in 1749.  This chapel was razed in 1816, and (according to newspaper accounts in 1947 and 1974) Our Lady was found by a Carmelite priest in 1824.  It had been thoroughly disrespected at his point.  The priest is reported to have found Her for sale in a common shop, and that it had in the interim, perhaps just after the dissolution, been placed face down in an Inn's courtyard to serve a a pig trough!

Reports of neglect are a common theme in her story; a newspaper account from the 1830's reports that Her silver crown had been sold off; an article from the 60's states that when the Jesuits relocated the St. Mary's Lane chapel to Anne St., they simply left the statue behind.  In 1947 She went on temporary display at the National Museum of Ireland "as an example of a Catholic statue to survive the Penal days in Ireland"  She had obviously been rehabilitated; indeed, it has been on display in its current chapel since 1915, and rededicated in 1974.  (https://comeheretome.com/2013/11/13/our-lady-of-dublin-a-pig-trough-and-the-pillar/)

Her neglect and disrespect is perhaps why she has been so revered.  The Irish survived English attempts to subjugate them as their Catholicism the Protestantism the English brought with them.  She thus has a kid of nationalist role like the Black Madonnas, for example, of Mexico, Poland, and Brazil.