Bavaria is for Beer, Skiing, Polka and Pilgrims

It seems there is yet another thing I have to cross off of the itinerary of my next Bavarian vacation. The remains of Rudolf Hess, noted Nazi propagandist and skydiver, were exhumed from his grave in Wunseidel, Bavaria. The tombstone was removed and the remains shall be cremated and scattered at sea.

Hess’ grave was a noted tourist destination for goose-stepping tourists from as far away as Iowa who would come to gawk at the tombstone and pay their respects to the ‘last man in Spandau Prison.’ The general creepiness of the visitors who would travel from distant lands to leave flowers and shed tears are one of the reasons that the town of Wunseidel decided that this was one tourist attraction that they would prefer to do without. That and all the skinheads who liked to descend on their town for rallies in which the ‘achievements’ of a dubious regime and it’s suicidal leadership were celebrated. Perhaps Wunseidel’s populace would like to become known for other things… or think that being unknown is preferable to being known as the Neo-Nazi ‘Sturgis’ of Bavaria.

Check out Hess’ Groucho eyebrows in the pic at right. Although Rudolf’s dad was as Aryan as the driven snow, his mother was a Greek, which probably required considerable pruning of the Hess family tree in order to make Hitler’s right hand appear presentably Aryan.

He also provided considerable fodder for conspiracy theorists. Hess started off as Hitler’s right hand man but abruptly ended up parachuting into England Scotland where he was promptly imprisoned. Some said Hess was attempting to broker a peace deal; others said he feared assassination in Germany and decided to ‘escape’ to England Great Britain. Like the child of divorced parents, the former allies and the USSR had a ‘shared custody’ arrangement at Spandau Prison. Hess could look forward to Russian guards one month, American guards the next, etc. Long after the West had lost interest in keeping Hess in prison, the USSR continued to insist he remain there, giving rise to yet more theories on what secrets Hess knew and why the Russians wanted to keep him there. Hess hung himself (or was murdered by the British, according to the theorists) in 1987. Before he died, one of the prison doctors made headlines by declaring that the man in Spandau was NOT Rudolf Hess. Others insist that it was indeed Hess but trying to quash conspiracy rumors with facts is a hopeless enterprise.

Music and Salesmanship

Anyone else remember those pictures of Boris Yeltsin doing ‘The Funky Chicken?’ I can’t decide whether I like Boris more or less after seeing them — sort of the same feeling I got when watching our former President, George W. Bush, funk out with African drummers on the Whitehouse lawn.

Michelle Bachmann recently got taken to task by musician Tom Petty because her crew used his song, “American Girl,’ at one of her rallies. I’m not that familiar with Petty’s “American Girl” pop anthem, but, if memory serves, it’s lyrics might be a bit at odds with Bachmann’s Bible Beater values (something about “making it last all night” makes me think Petty’s American Girl is a bit of a libertine). But I guess since the song has ‘American’ in it, her team feels this gives it relevance. Plus Petty is probably popular with a demographic that doesn’t find much traction in her bible-thumpin’ ways. Anything to appear hip, I guess. But this is apparently just one of a growing number of cases in which a pop star has said to a political candidate, “Hey, stop using my song!”

I remember being a bit taken aback when I heard “London Calling” by the Clash being used to sell Jaguar cars on TV. The context in which I first heard that song seemed greatly at odds with the idea of a luxury automobile. As I recall, the ad just had a few strident guitar riffs and Joe Strummer barking out, “London Calling” and leaving out all those depressing lyrics about the end of the world… perhaps the admen thought that maybe the American ex-punker who had given up on revolution and gotten a career and was now rolling in it would feel the siren song of the half remembered dreams of his former self and head on down to the dealership and buy a really expensive car without really stopping to think about it. Devo as pitchmen for Honda scooters seemed a much better fit.

The world is just getting so fucking weird. Guy DeBord had no idea how right he was.

Triffids invade my Garden!

We have a bad case of ‘Japanese Knotweed’ invading our side yard/compost heap area and Annie is certain that the knotweed will send roots down into the basement walls and attack the foundation.

Knotweed looks like bamboo (especially after it dries) and I first noticed it last year (before I knew what it was or how persistent it is). Since the neighbors put in an ugly-ass plastic stockade fence, I didn’t mind this mysterious bamboo-like plant that grew tall over the summer and helped obscure the plastic fence. Later we discovered it is considered and invasive species. At first I used a machete to cut it all down. Within days, new plants sprang up, 1′ tall or higher. It was almost as if you could watch that shit growing. Although I hate herbicides (and Annie hates poisons even more), I bought some of that evil ‘Round Up’ and sprayed that on the surface root clusters after having whacked it all down with the machete a second time. Round-Up barely slowed the knotweed down. Now I’ve gotten out a series of tarps and ground cover cloths, whacked down the standing plants with a machete for the fourth or fifth time and covered them up, hoping to light-starve them to death. Already I see that the sprouts are pushing up the tarp and the knotweed colony is sending out shoots to areas not covered by the tarp. Dammit!

This knotweed stuff is adaptable and fast growing. Annie found out you can eat the young stems (steamed), but it just doesn’t taste like anything… chopped knotweed stems in spaghetti sauce or similar dishes just add bulk, not flavor (at least no flavor that I can detect). It is supposed to be a good source of reservatrol. I’ll keep it in mind as a ‘bulk fodder’ to keep us alive after the economic collapse occurs.

99 Followers! Plus: Does Jan Brewer hate Superman?

I now have 99 followers! Yahoo! 100 here I come!

In other news, this morning I wondered if the mean-queen of Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer, hates Superman. Brewer seems to blame absolutely everything that goes wrong on the Mexicans who sneak across the border to pick vegetables, wash dishes and cut grass, and has compared illegal immigration to a ‘terrorist attack.’ Superman came here illegally from Krypton, and, as far as I know, the Kents never filed a request for asylum — so throw all three of ’em in a Kryptonite jail cell!

On a related note, last year a total of eight Americans were killed in terrorist attacks, whereas 29 were killed by lightning strikes. What is Jan Brewer doing to protect the citizens of Arizona from lightning?

Fact or Fiction: Why does it matter?

James over at Grognardia was waxing nostalgic about Erich Von Danikken(sp?) and “Chariots of the Gods?” over on Grognardia. ‘Chariots of the Gods,’ TV programs like, “In Search Of” and similar ‘pop science’ that blurred the line between fantasy/fiction and reality (or at least tried to) was a big part of my growing up in the 1970s. Since the cover of von Daniken’s book is so boring looking, I thought I would dress up my blog with some ‘Eternals’ artwork by the great Jack Kirby.

I have an unabashed love of these ‘Fortean’ type studies… including the story of Richard Shaver and the Shaver mystery, so it probably does not come as a surprise that I’m enthusiastic about seeing Grognardia include von Daniken and similar ‘the pyramids were built by aliens’ and similar psuedo scientific theories in his sources of inspiration for fantasy, science fiction and pulpy stuff. However, reading the comments that followed his post, I was surprised to read several people take issue with the inclusion of von Daniken and his ilk because ‘Chariots of the Gods’ was not intended as a work of fiction.

I guess I find that idea really puzzling. That von Daniken claims that these things are true doesn’t make it ‘ineligible’ for inclusion in inspirational material (at least to me). One person wrote, “This isn’t pulp fantasy. If this is included as pulp fantasy then every book in the New Age or Metaphysical section at Border’s book store is pulp fiction. A dreadful misrepresentation, James.”

“A dreadful misrepresentation?” What did I miss? I don’t get it. Is this just a matter of taxonomy? And, if so, where do you draw the line? If you have strong feelings on the subject (especially if you feel that Grognardia was wrong to include von Daniken in a list of ‘potential inspiration sources), please reply and explain your views; I want to understand where you are coming from because this just makes no sense to me.

Whose fault is it?

Without a doubt you have already heard too much about how a 22 year old man shot Arizona Rep. ‘Gabby’ Giffords and several other people (including a judge and a child) at a public event in a grocery store in Pima County, Arizona. Within hours of the shooting, people were weighing in (pro and con) if the ’emotionally elevated rhetoric’ of political and public discourse in recent times has anything to do with the shooting. It was noted that Sarah Palin, former govenor and prom queen as well as moose hunter and reality TV star, had hosted an image of a map with the locations of various state representatives who were ‘ideological opponents’ marked with symbols that resemble either the cross hairs of a gun sight (if you dislike Palin) or a suyveyor’s symbol (if you like her… the graphic is reproduced below, left). This, coupled with Palin’s longstanding love affair with gun related turns of phrase (telling her twitter supporters to ‘target’ and ‘reload’) has led some to question if the users of such ‘elevated rhetoric’ bear any responsibility in at least inspiring the shooter at the Arizona grocery.

(BTW, the picture at right is not actually Sarah Palin, but instead is pornstar Lisa Ann who portrayed Palin in a porn film. Lisa Ann is as close as you will get to a picture of Sarah Palin in my blog… unless you have a picture of Sarah Palin killing a puppy or slapping a child; I’ll put that on my blog).

One of the Palin ‘SarahPac’ spokespersons, Rebecca Mansour, has claimed that Sarah Palin and her supporters have been unfairly targeted by the media and states that the symbols are not ‘gunsights’ but map surveyor symbols. Strange how someone else gets shot and Sarah Palin is suddenly the victim. Shortly after the controversey, the graphic disappeared from the SarahPac website (which begs the question of whether or not those ‘cross hairs’ were indeed ‘surveyor symbols’ rather than gun sights… if they were just innocent surveyor symbols, why suddenly decide to take the graphic down?). Back in March of 2010, even media personality Elizabeth Hasselbeck, a Palin supporter, said the ‘gunsights’ were in poor taste and no one from the Palin campaign contradicted Hasselbeck or corrected her by announcing that they were ‘surveyor’ symbols at that time. It’s pretty clear (to me at least) that if Sarah Palin and her followers claim that there was no ‘violence’ in the message they were giving out, that they are lying sacks of shit — but, then again, what else is new?

However, despite my active dislike of Sarah Palin and everything she stands for, I can’t honestly say that I think she is responsible for the shooting. The things she says and tweets and posts on Facebook are stupid and reprehensible and I wish she wouldn’t say them… but they are also just words, and, unfortunately, given her right of free speech she has as much a right to say those words as I do to criticize what she says.

From my recollection, in 1995 when Timothy McVeigh detonated his bomb at the Alfred Murrah Building in Oklahoma, there was a period of stunned silence afterwards. The Limbaughs and the O’Reilleys and the others (whomever the lefty equivalents of Limbaugh might be — Rachel Maddow?) didn’t immediately chime in to offer blame (although, let’s be honest, then President Clinton did benefit, politically, from the unfortunate event — and his opponents like Newt Gingrich were forced to step back a bit from their anti-federalist rhetoric). Today it seemed like the politicals and pundits couldn’t wait to start blaming each other — the blood and brains were not yet cleaned up off the floor of the Safeway before the finger pointing began.

Thoughtcrime 1.0

Philip Greaves, the man who wrote a ‘how to’ book on pedophilia that was briefly for sale on Amazon, has been arrested in Florida even though he lives in Colorado. Greaves wrote and self-published the book, “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct,” in Pueblo, Colorado. It was briefly carried on, but, after considerable protest, removed from Amazon’s list of products for sale. Detectives in Polk County, Florida, apparently purchased the book from Greaves through the mail, had him arrested by the Pueblo police and are now seeking to have him extradited to Florida where he will be charged. Sheriff Grady Judd said, “The message is very clear: If you write a book, if you sell that book, if you transmit that book to anyone in our jurisdiction, then we will investigate you and arrest, because our goal is protect the children.

I would never say that I like the idea of someone writing a book like Greave’s book. There is no doubt in my mind that pedophilia is wrong. But I’m extraordinarily disturbed that a Sheriff in Florida would first ask someone in another state to send him a book and then seek to arrest that person for having sent them the book. The arrest hinges on the fact that such a book is illegal in Florida (Mr. Greaves may have been ignorant of that fact), but Mr. Greaves did not violate the Florida law until detectives in Florida wrote to him and asked him to send them the book. The Sheriff is arresting Mr. Greaves for a crime that law enforcement officers encouraged Mr. Greaves to commit. Aren’t there any actual criminals in Florida in need or arrest?

The other part of the story that disturbs me is that Mr. Greaves isn’t being arrested for commiting acts of pedophila. He is being arrested for writing about pedophila. I think that’s an important distinction. I’m certain that rape is wrong and I think rape should be illegal, but I don’t recall anyone having suggested that it would be right to arrest Ayn Rand for the rape scene she wrote about in “The Fountainhead.” On a practical level, I am very uncomforable with laws that don’t limit themselves to what the criminal does, but instead extend into what the criminal might think or write about. Reading books about murder or fantasizing about murdering someone or even writing a book about killing someone is not murder. And yet, Sheriff Judd claims that he wants to protect the children by arresting someone in another state who wrote a book. Should the authors of ‘Lolita’ and ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ also be arrested since those works of fiction contain references to pedophilia?

The entire story worries me because it makes me wonder what the next logical progression of this event might be. If Greaves can be arrested for writing a book in Colorado that is illegal in Florida, where does Florida’s juristdiction end? If writing the book is illegal, how about owning or reading it? (and, honestly, I don’t know how anyone could judge the legality of the contents of the book without reading it) If writing or reading about certain matters is illegal, then shouldn’t thinking about them be wrong as well? And, if so, how do you enforce that law?

In the end, the issue isn’t pedophilia because, as far as I know, the author is not going to be charged with physical sexual misconduct. The author wrote a book in which he apparently described how one might go about seducing children… which, no matter how distasteful we might find that, is much different than actually doing it. If anyone deserves to be arrested on the basis of the Florida law that makes it illegal to import ‘pedophilia instruction manuals’ across the state line, shouldn’t it be the detectives who caused the book to be shipped to Florida by ordering it?

The Human Centipede (film review)

Every once in a while you see a movie that is so awful you want to stop watching, but a weird kind of fascination, the same kind of fascination that makes you want to look at traffic accidents, keeps your eyes on the screen. “The Human Centipede” is such a film.

This film got 5.1 stars (out of 10) on IMDB… which is my opinion is about 4.1 stars too many. The real problem with the movie is that it is so stupid. Unfortunately, it’s not stupid enough to be funny, or interesting, or campy or even noteworthy — it’s just stupid.

The film starts off bu introducing us to a German doctor, Dr. Heiter, in his car by the side of the road. The actor who plays Heiter looks like what one might get if one mixed equal parts Christopher Walken and Klaus Kinski. Dr. Heiter is sitting in his Mercedes by the side of the road looking at a picture of three dogs (who are standing in a row; each dog appears to have his snout in the ass on the dog ahead of him, but, hey, they are dogs, they sniff each other’s butts all of the time, right?). Dr. Heiter looks sad and crazy. A semi pulls up behind him and the truck driver gets out to go take a shit in the bushes. Dr. Heiter follows him with a rifle (later we find out that the rifle fires tranquilizer darts).

Cut to two American girls in a hotel, gabbing with a third girl on the phone. They announce that they are going out to a club in hopes of meeting up with a boy one of them met earlier. One of them is getting directions from the concierge on the room phone and it becomes clear that she is not the sharpest knife in the block.

In the next scene, the girls are driving around, lost in the woods and they get a flat tire. An old, bald, fat and disgusting guy who is driving around at night in his undershirt smoking and looking for people to harass comes up and sexually harasses them in German, but they don’t understand until they look up “ficken (fucking)” in their German/English dictionary. They ignore him and he drives away. They decide to walk through the woods at night in their mini-skirts and high heels. It starts to rain and, after getting lost and having their mascara run down their cheeks, they see a light in the distance. They run up and bang on the door. The door opens, and, hello! It’s Herr Doktor Walken, err, Heiter!

Heiter is really weird and rude but they come in and he promises to call the rental car company for them. Heiter has a house that is a DWELL reader’s wet dream with lots of wood and white but has a large painting of Siamese twin fetuses on the wall. While pretending to call the car service, Heiter puts two pills in two glasses of water and gives them to the girls. The ditzy girl falls asleep as the other girl realizes they have been drugged and tries (and fails) to get away. She passes out and Heiter is triumphant.

Cut to a room in Heiter’s basement. The girls awaken and discover that they are tied to beds in a hospital-like room. The Dutch truck driver from the beginning of the film is tied to a bed as well. Doctor Heiter announces that the two girls are a “match” but the truck driver is not a match and uses a syringe full of drugs to kill him. He his later shown burying the body in his garden. Nearby is a gravestone marked, “My beloved 3 dog.” They show that gravestone several times… along with the creepy art in Heiter’s house that all seems to deal with Siamese twins.

Heiter goes out with his tranquilizer gun and returns with a Japanese man. Everyone other than Heiter is freaked out and screaming about what a rotten fuck Heiter is. Using overhead transparencies that look as if they were drawn by a 12 year old, Heiter explains that he was the foremost surgeon specialized in separating Siamese twins, but he has retired from that and now wants to create a living work of art. He explains that he joined three dogs together, ass to mouth, to form one long creature… but it died (hence the grave) and now he wants to replicate the experiment with three humans. He will start by cutting the tendons in their knees (so they can’t stand) and removing the teeth and lips from the second and third person and the anuses from the first and second person. He will then sew them all together, forming a creature with a single intestinal tract: “the human centipede.” And, yes, that drawing on the right, with “food goes in here and poop comes out there” is really what Heiter shows them to explain how it will work. As the evil and totally fucked-up Heiter is administering anesthesia, the one slightly less stupid American girl gets away. Heiter chases her around and she sneaks back downstairs and gets her friend. As she is trying to drag her unconscious friend to safety, Heiter nails her with the tranquilizer gun.

Then there is a montage of Heiter pulling out teeth and slitting buttocks and knees. Eventually they wake up and are disturbed to discover that Doktor Heiter has succeeded in making them into a ‘human centipede,’ but, instead of being terrifying, it just looks silly. All three actors are wearing bandages on their knees and bandages that look like diapers and each actor’s head is bandaged to the ass of the actor in front of them. I just looks stupid and fake. I hope the actors were not farting in each other’s faces during the filming.

At this point there is still about half an hour left and we get to see Heiter training his centipede to crawl around and fetch the newspaper. At one point, the Japanese man apologizes because he has to shit and he can’t hold it in because Heiter removed his sphincter… so, apologizing in Japanese, he shits in the mouth of the woman who is sewed to his ass and she can’t help but shit in the mouth of the woman who is sewed to her ass… and, ladies and gentlemen, we have just arrived at this film’s big moment. Yep. This film exists to give the director a “plausible” reason to have people being forced to shit in other people’s mouths. Fortunately, we don’t really have to see anyone eating shit… the actors just grimace and make gagging noises as Heiter crows, “Feed her, yes… feed her!” Did I mention that at some point Heiter donned jack boots and picked up a riding crop? The director, Tom Six of Holland, is a master story teller (that was me being sarcastic).

There’s more (including a visit by two of the most incompetent detectives in Germany), but I think you get the point. I would tell you not to watch it, but at this point, if you have read this far, you are probably saying to yourself, “It can’t really be as stupid as he says it is; I must see for myself…” Go ahead. Watch it. But afterward you will want those 92 minutes of life back.

Let me say in advance, “I told you so.”

Something weird happened with my blog

Recently I was backing up my blog by exporting it. I must have done something wrong, because some of the posts vanished… so I used the recently created back-up to replace them. Now I see that some of the posts which vanished seem to have re-appeared in the blog-stream as new… so if you are seeing 2 month old posts in your ‘latest posts on the blogs I am following’ list, I apologize. I have no idea why.

When bad neighbors get worse

The other day, I posted about a local story in nearby Trenton, Michigan, about the neighbor from hell. Interestingly, my significant other and I had a continuing problem with our next door neighbors, but it was in no way as bad as the Trenton story… but it is perhaps illustrative of some of the problems of modern living, so I will post it anyway.

Short version: My partner likes a semi-wild looking garden with lots of native plants, vines, etc. I consider grass just a place for the dog to poop and have no lawn pride whatsoever, mowing only when absolutely necessary. The folks next door like their plants in neatly ordered rows and sorted by color… they are retired and the husband of the couple spends many hours every week manicuring and fertilizing his lawn.

Five or so years ago my partner had a native plant called “pokeberry” growing in the yard (on our side of the property line) which was one of her favorites. It grows fairly tall and has reddish colored stems; late in the year it puts out grapelike clusters of juicy purple berries that the birds love to eat (see pic at right). Apparently, the birds scattered some of the berries on the neighbor’s driveway and, after they stepped in the mess, some of the purple juice got onto the carpets inside their home.

One afternoon, my partner was out in her garden in late summer and noticed that all the pokeberry was wilting. She looked closer and saw that it appeared that someone had used scissors or a knife to cut off the berry clusters. Eventually, she found out that the neighbors had snuck over at night and poisoned her pokeberries because they were angry about the damage to their carpets (although why it should be our responsibility to check their shoes for berries before they walk on their own carpet is not clear to me). We were not happy about it, but they apologized and we decided to try to forget about it.

Each year, however, a similar event would occur. Other plants mysteriously died or were uprooted. The neighbors put in a fence but left scraps of lumber and concrete rubble in our yard until Annie reminded him that he had left all the refuse in our yard. Some of Annie’s flowers would ‘poke thru’ the pickets of their fence and this irritated them so they sprayed round-up through the fence and killed a foot wide swath of plants along the edge of our yard. I don’t dispute their right to clip or cut any plant that grows or hangs over the border, but once they started defoliating on our side of the fence I began to get very irritated.

The arguments grew less and less rational, but the neighbors seemed to follow a yearly policy of “poison plants in spring/summer, apologize later” almost like clockwork for about 4 years. Annie stopped gardening (an activity she loved) because she just felt uncomfortable about the folks next door looking daggers at her whenever she was out there.

The weird thing is that these people didn’t seem to want to leave us alone. Throughout our period of conflict, they always seemed to want to say, “Hello” and “Good Morning” and “Nice weather we are having!” even though they might have been sneaking across the property line the week before to poison Annie’s plants. Annie noticed that the more she pointedly ignored the neighbors’ greetings, the fewer incidences of poisoning/plant uprooting/etc., occurred. They didn’t stop entirely, but if we were nice to them during the daytime, it seemed as if they felt more comfortable doing whatever “covert garden control” they felt was appropriate on our side of the property line. Perversely, being nice and forgiving seemed to just encourage them in their bad behavior. We finally began to ignore them entirely.

After one poisoning too many, she called the local police and asked what to do. The officer was sympathetic, but said that unless we caught the neighbor in our yard, there was little he could do. He suggested we file a claim against them in small claims court.

We filed, went to court and both sides told our story. We showed photos of the dead and dying plants, photos of the ‘dead zone’ along the fence and a note from the neighbors that said, “I am sorry we poisoned your plants.” They showed photos of flowers poking through the slats of the picket fence and photos of our yard and admitted that they had done at least some of the poisoning, but they did it because our garden was “ugly.” The judge found in our favor and awarded us $350.00. Compared to the heartache and the aggravation of dealing with these people for 4+ years, the money seemed like a pittance, but it had a satisfying effect on the evil neighbors. The husband lined their picket fence with some sort of clear plastic panel to keep our plants from poking through the slats instead of continuing to spray herbicide.

I guess I feel like there are a lot of potential messages in my little story. One of them is to perhaps not underestimate the power of the craziness of some people. The fact that being rude to them (i.e.: pointedly not acknowledging their greetings) actually seemed to encourage them to behave seemed counter intuitive to me at the time. I wanted to believe that there is something good in most people and most problems can be worked out if people try to understand each other’s point of view and work out a mutually satisfying solution. I would have surmised that if my neighbor was doing me wrong, it would actually be a good strategy to be nice to him since that might make him feel bad about what he was doing. But my partner’s strategy (along with the lawsuit) were the only things that worked. “Forgive and forget” seems to have convinced the neighbors that the poisoning and garden vandalism was OK and they could do it again and again and get away with it. Rudely ignoring their greetings and dragging them to small claims court (which was a big pain in the ass and a huge karma suck, so I recommend it as a solution of last resort) were the only things that did work.

I don’t like what this story says about the nature of human beings.