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Hope Springs Eternal: The Mary Wheeler Interview

Mary and Tim Wheeler, with son Christopher.  Courtesy Mary Wheeler. Prepare yourself(s) for an amazing interview with a largely u...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Not to Run a Meme Ragged, but ... 6 Men Play the Harmonica



I'd forgotten, BTW, until recently reminded, that Ozzy played the harmonica on Black Sabbath's "The Wizard".

Any other unusual uses of the harmonica out there?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Canadian Feet (Would that be Meters?)

A recent episode of the TV show Bones lifted an idea from the headlines. As in real life, pairs of feet wash up on the Canadian shore, prompting an investigation.

Curiously, reports of the episode disagree on the number of severed feet, unconsciously mimicking, perhaps, the confusion surrounding the reports of the non-fictional feet--reports that are tangled up by a couple of fakes (animal paws stuffed in shoes) and a pair of chronological outliers (discovered much earlier than the rest).

TV.com reports on 7 pairs of washed up feet in Bones. "Brennan teams up with a Canadian forensic podiatrist to determine the identity of the real victim after seven pairs of feet are found washed up on the U.S.-Canadian border, but six pairs turn out to belong to research. Elsewhere, Cam crosses a major boundary when she takes away Michelle's right to choose her own college."

BSC.com, however, issued a report of 8 pairs of feet! "Weather patterns plotted by Angela indicated that seven sets of feet belonged to cadavers from the body farm at the University of Hogansburg. The farm had recently been flooded, and the waters helped to naturally separate most of the feet from the bodies. The eighth set of feet showed signs of being cut by power tools, indicating murder."

An interesting piece of the show is the idea of tracing back to the feets' point of origin, an idea that popped up in discussions during our previous severed-feet post on LoS.

Currents and weather are complex, however, and the difficultly of such an endeavor is highlighted by a case where one man's feet drifted apart and washed up on opposite ends of the North Sea!

Consider, too, a recent report that "the body of a man washed out to sea last month when the tsunami from Japan hit the Northern California coast has been found more than 300 miles north in Oregon near the mouth of the Columbia River."

300 miles! An entire body!

I'm tempted to inappropriately joke that buoyant shoes must drift more than a few feet.

Seriously, though, check out No Agenda Foot's cool, interactive map that displays the world-wide phenomena of severed feet findings. You can see that feet are washing up all over the place, but there appear to be clusters, the biggest being in the Pacific North West--but smaller pockets seem to appear else: several feet in San Francisco Bay, several more in the North Sea, and a couple in the Bermuda triangle.

Most of these clusters are probably easy enough to explain away. Bear in mind that as a body rots in the ocean, its buoyant shoes tug upwards, sometimes strongly enough to eventually disarticulate the ankle--hence, floating feet. Compound that with lots of suicides off the Golden Gate bridge, and it's no surprise that there must be lots of feet in San Francisco Bay. The North Sea "cluster" is about two-thirds one man, so it's hardly a trend. The Bermuda triangle is probably too big to declare two feet a "cluster", and one of those two only floated after a shark coughed it up.

But the Pacific North West? Now that's a mystery for the information age.

As the number of severed feet in Bones....

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wave 'em like you just don't care

In this post I would like to trace a series of associations which has led me to realize that for some time now, I have been unconsciously intrigued by women's arms.  It has come up in a number of posts without me actually giving it much heed.  It was only after writing my last post on the Marianne, including a reference to John Ashcroft's alledged uneasiness over giving press conferences before a topless woman called the Spirit of Justice, that I saw that I had been half-consciously developing a theme.



This is Ashcroft before the Spirit of Justice.  She is half of a pair; on the other side of the podium is a masculine figure called the Majesty of Law.  I can't find a good shot of him, but he appears to be holding a torch (torch-bearer!) with only one arm elevated.   The Jefferson Madison Center of Liberty has a photo of this "divine couple" here.  They also show a detail of the base:  it appears as though the woman, apparently nicknamed "Minnie Lou" is standing on clouds.  Two blank tablets, like the traditional image of the Ten Commandments, hide her left leg.  (The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was famously depicted in art on similar tablets--a new covenant indeed).  Emblems are affixed to the clouds, a sun perhaps, or a star.  The sun and the moon, perhaps.

The statue is 12.5 feet of cast aluminium, unveiled in 1933.  It is one of many works by C. Paul Jennewein to adorn the DOJ building.  Jennewein produced quite a bit of architectural sculpture and worked on several public monuments.  His style is rooted in classicism but these works reflect the Art Deco style.  (Jennewein was a noted practitioner of this fusion, called "Greco Deco").

Why her arms are raised, I cannot say.

Tanit votive stela, 2nd c BCE, Algeria.  Now in the Louvre, LoS photo.



From The hand is the whole:

"Tanit was symbolized by an ankh-like glyph with a triangular base surmounted by a bar and circle.  This in turn was surmounted by a symbol representing a crescent moon which also evokes the eye.  In the standard work on the symbol, F.O. Hvidberg-Hansen interprets this symbol as a woman raising her hands."

I was looking through this old post for a correlation with another post I've yet to write, when this passage jumped out at me.  I'd just finished the Marianne post and was struck by the repeated occurrence of an image of a woman raising her hands.  Unfortunately, I find no link with Tanit and Justice.  All the other goddesses associated with Tanit are fertility figures.  Tanit was a lunar goddess, patron of Carthage and a goddess of war, fertility and also, a virginal mother goddess.  She is probably a variation on the Ugaritic (Syrian) goddess Anat.  She has a storied history but again, not much to do with justice.  Her virginity is emphasized and she sometimes bears the title "Queen of Heaven".

National Black Theater (NBT)
I had already mentioned Tanit in connection to the above sculpture and the orant posture of prayer, which some interpret as a surrender to higher powers.  Unfortunately for our train of thought here, the NBT figure is male.  But the orant may help us sidestep that.  Unbeknownst to me at the time is that there is a is a specifically female version of the posture called orante, or orans:

The custom of praying in antiquity with outstretched, raised arms was common to both Jews and Gentiles, and indeed the iconographic type of the Orans was itself strongly influenced by classic [not to mention Egyptian] representations.

... the great majority of the figures are female, even when depicted on the tombs of men. One of the most convincing proofs that the Orans was regarded as a symbol of the soul is an ancient lead medal in the Vatican Museum showing the martyr, St. Lawrence, under torture, while his soul, in the form of a female Orans, is just leaving the body....The Acts of St. Cecilia speaks of souls leaving the body in the form of virgins.

In my article on the National Black Theater I emphasized the spiritual mission of that organization.  The satue of a man in prayer-like position before the sun and triangle, a symbol of divinity, reinforces that message.  The theme of virginity is also noted, but to what end I'm not sure.

The Sailor's Wife, Lloret del Mar.  LoS photo.

As I wrote in an earlier post (♀: Matter and Spirit, or Venus' hand mirror....):

Depictions of Venus Anadyomene also have her doing things with her arms:  wringing her hair, strategically placed for modesty or splayed out in erotic invitation.  I have thought long about the Venus of Lloret.  Her arms are like the Pisces fish or a yin and yang.  One is held up as if shielding the eyes, scanning the horizon, a covering, protective gesture; the other seeming to beckon a distant viewer.  They both shield and invite.  Modest yet alluring.

I had forgotten this post when I began my musings on this theme and had looked at all of the previous four images and posts before I recalled it.  But there it is.  I'm already wondering about arm gestures.  I'm still not sure what the Sailor's Wife here is up to....

The gesture I describe appears to me to have a spiritual significance:  a gesture of praise, supplication or communion.  I think it also has an erotic aspect which to be quite frank, is never far from sacred art or the act of prayer itself.  In my mind anyway!

This erotic aspect may come from other uses of the raised arms.  When angry or insecure, a person tends to cross their arms in a kind of symbolic barrier.  It is literally a closed figure.  The raised arms, on the other hand, are quite the opposite, the body is left exposed, vulnerable.  A woman's breasts are lifted, accentuated.  Raised arms are a gesture of surrender.  They are also waved about to attract attention, to bring someone nearer.   All these are definitely sexier than the closed door of crossed arms!  I also though of the Masonic distress signal, or "grand hailing sign of distress."  This gesture is also a variation on raised arms (Google it).

This is probably stretching the point but isn't distress a kind of erotic situation?  Damsel in distress and what not?  But Masons are men so this isn't so fitting.  I just threw that in for good measure because it came to mind.

Anyway, I don't have much more to say on the idea of raised arms at this point.  Just something that caught my eye.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Because none of this ever happened....

The History of Maine Labor, Panels 1-3 by Judy Taylor.

In the last post or two we've talked about the power of public art and the passions it arrouses....and mentioned in passing the destruction of said art by political opponents.  There was one off-the-cuff mention of the Caesars and Pharoahs who effaced the names of their predecessors or vanquished rivals from public monuments.

These are the first three panels of Judy Taylor's "The History of Main Labor", an 11-panel mural that until recently hung in the Maine Dept.of Labor building.  (See the rest here).

Governor Paul Lepage ordered it removed, citing complaints from business owners that it was too "pro-union" and that it was “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”  As Gid said in a comment, perhaps they should change the name of their department. (NYT).

Because child labor, unsafe working conditions, 14-hour days, 6 days a week, being paid in company scrip to be spent in company stores charging exorbitant prices for the material and equipment workers needed for their jobs, using the Pinkertons to murder protesting laborers en masse, trumped up charges and the current reality that 25% of the nation's wealth is controlled by less than 1% of the population....never happened, it isn't real, don't look at the man behind the curtain, obey, drink tea, refuse to pay taxes and cut everything, gut the schools, privatize the fire departments, the prisons, the police.  Fuck the poor, take their homes and then harass the homeless, or better yet, kill them.  Just don't let them assemble peacably for the purpose of protecting their interests.  Evil unions.  How dare they demand a piece of the pie they baked?  How dare they act upon the 1st Amendement?  Spoiled bitches, they make too much money already.  Our executive bonuses are so meager by comparison....

And certainly don't let them celebrate their victories or remind you of what the US is working its way back to.  Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1899.  Somebody call Xe.  They've gotten a lot of practice recently in security operations under combat conditions....and they don't answer to that silly thing called the Consitution.

Excellent.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Putain, con! Quelles loloches!

A feminine personification of a nation's ideals--a sort of tutelary goddess--looms rather large in the Western tradition.  In the US, we have Lady Liberty and in the UK, Britannia.  Mother Russia comes to mind.  While these symbols may have faded somewhat in these countries, France still has an omnipresent female symbol capable of stoking strong emotions:  Marianne.

Marianne is pictured on the most common French stamp (since at least 1849) and figures in the official government logo.  Many town halls feature her portrait and the Lodges of the Grand Orient display a bust of her.

She is usually pictured as a young woman wearing a Phrygian cap and a loose-fitting dress, sometimes with her breasts exposed, as in Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830).  Said to be an allegory of Reason and Liberty, Marianne also fits nicely within the French tradition of women saviors.  Joan of Arc is widely used, especially by French nationalists, as their symbol.  Not to mention the über-maiden:  Mary.  It occurs to me that Marianne = Mary-Anne.  Anne of course, being Mary's mother and, according to Catholic tradition, a virgin mother....

Attitudes towards prominent breasts like Delacroix portrayed may be changing in France, at least for Neuville-en-Ferrain, a small commune located near Lille.  The mayor had the local, um, bust of Marianne removed because her breasts were too large. (LA Times).The artist who made the sculpture says "I made the breasts prominent to symbolize the generosity of the Republic.  This symbolism was lost on the locals:  'Remarks were made, during weddings for example.  'It was making people gossip.' (Daily Mail).  It has been replaced by a bust inspired by French actress Laetitia Casta.  Odd choice; Casta is something of a J. Lo/Dolly Parton figure; that is to say, known for her curves, especially her bust.  Indeed, the replacement seems even bustier, more natural and perhaps for this reason even sexier.  Maybe the prominence of the first Marianne's breasts was less offensive than their gravity-defying pertness.  Was anger over an impossible ideal at fault?
 

The offending Marianne, France 3 via LA Times.
Replacement Marianne, via Daily Mail

As the author of an article on this story has written, the kerfuffle back in 2002 with John Ashcroft comes to mind.  You may recall that like in this case, breasts were involved.  Apparently, someone was unhappy with the fact that press conferences at the Dept. of Justice took place before a topless woman, hands raised to the sky.

The original Marianne cost the commune of Neuville-en-Ferrain 1400 euros and its replacement 900, a total of about 3300 USD.  This is still less than the 8000 USD spent by Ashcroft's office on curtains to cover up the bare-breasted statue called the Spirit of Justice, a depiction of the Lady Justice based on the Roman goddess.  Ashcroft's people said this was merely to make a better background for press conferences and had nothing to do with being prudish.  In any event, the curtains have since been removed.

Depictions of Marianne can be highly charged.  Feminists were outraged back in February 2010 because of an image publicizing one Sarkozy's plans; in this image Marianne is pregnant.  It was an ad for a development program to invest in a wide variety of initiatives but which had nothing to do with literal motherhood.  (The Times)


“The hand of the state should not be in my uterus, and certainly not to look for money,” said Le Féminin l’Emporte, one of France’s most influential feminist blogs. Detractors also said that the image evoked the slogan “Work, Family, Fatherland” used by the Vichy administration, which collaborated with Hitler during the Second World War.  

Olympe, another feminist blog, said that the Government appeared to be “suggesting that a woman’s work is to have babies whilst the men handle the billions from the loan”. 

Far be it for me to say how women should feel about this, but I get what they're saying.  Making Marianne pregnant to symbolize re-investment in "higher education, research, technology, fast internet access and small business" seems dubious to me.  This image isn't exactly the dynamic ass-kicking Marianne of Delacroix.  More like a knocked-up and spaced out Smurfette.  Not there's anything wrong with being pregnant and it's a logical choice to represent rebirth.  But maybe something more along the lines of J. Howard Miller's "We can do it" poster would have been in order.

In any event, I see this post links nicely to my last about the power of political symbols, how they can encourage vandalism or and anger.  It wasn't my intention.  Just saw the two items at about the same time is all.

So, here's a report (in French) on the story in Neuville-en-Ferrain.  Looks okay to me!  For more on women in French iconography, see my post entitled, curiously enough, Women.  For more on Marianne, includingsome rather sexier versions than the one seen here, check out the French blog Marianne Republicaine.

Whatever happens next, we'll be sure to keep you abreast....



Saturday, April 2, 2011

....and then bomb it.

Back on July 24, 2010 (Smash it Up) we reported that the so-called "Illuminati Pyramid" in Blagnac had been damaged.  As you can see from the following picture, a portion of one of the bronze tablets symbolizing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is still missing a piece.

At the time we asked: 

Did it come loose? Had it become wonky, forcing the municipality to remove it for repair?

Or was it vandalized? Did some angry guy come along and bang it off? Was this a political act? Will we see more of this in the future?


Well, it has happened again and there's no doubt this time it was an act of vandalism, albeit not likely for political reasons.  As the second shot makes clear, it's more of the "carve a heart on a tree" kind of vandalism than anything else.

  

This monument's in constant evolution.  In February 2010 the city covered up the mosaic on the floor of the basin into which the water from the "Temple of Supreme Wisdom" flows.  This mosaic map of the world was probably leaking and causing damage to the surrounding earth; several paving stones have in fact sunk and/or otherwise become unaligned.

Anyway, this kind of thing isn't unique.  I titled my brief post on the Georgia Guidestones "God is stronger than the NWO" after some graffiti left on that cryptic monument which has come under repeated attack.

Anyway, I'm sure I could go on to a survey of political vandalism, history is rife with it:  Pharoahs and Ceasars effacing names from monuments, Spanish Republicans decapitating statues of saints, etc. but to be honest, I'm a bit too lazy.

Personally, I find tagging to be an annoying form of semi-permanent territorial pissing and have little tolerance for it.  Then again, back when I was a college student we used to impress people by taking them to the town cemetery to see the enormous headstone of one Roy L. Cook (Royal Cook!), which  features the initials KKK and a tilted cross, in flames.  That stone bore the marks of repeated abuse from various liquids and food items and I myself pissed on it more than once.  Googling it, I find Cook appears in a book entitled (Haunted Deland : the ghosts of West Volusia County).

So, I understand the urge to desecrate that which one doesn't particularly appreciate.  On a related note:  in Gainesville, not far from that burning cross in Deland, that pastor dude went ahead and burned a Koran, something he'd threatened to do last year among much media hand-wringing.  Riots have erupted in Afghanistan and at least 16 people have been killed; seven of these were UN relief workers who were shot after rioters stormed their compound.  Which of course helps said pastor make his point.

But anyway, I don't have any particular point with this last paragraph.  It seems relevant though.

Now I can spend the night wondering whether or not an open display of KKK pride justifies pissing on someone's grave....please tell me yes, dear readers!