In the early 1940s, the Bullis family of Washington, DC adopted a pet squirrel. Mrs. Bullis dressed the squirrel, named Tommy Tucker, in more than two dozen outfits, from a coat and hat to a Red Cross uniform. Like Walter Potter's work, but ALIVE! Our pal and sponsor Shana Victor of ShanaLogic points us to photographic evidence of this fashionable fur ball, over at LIFE. "A Squirrel's Guide To Fashion"
"On the wet windy evening of January 22, a youthful band of idealists went to a lonely cabin in the Maryland woods." Thus begins one of the odder stories LIFE magazine ever published -- a straightforward, tongue-nowhere-near-cheek account of a 1942 "hex party" convened with one aim in mind: "to kill Adolf Hitler by voodoo incantation." According to LIFE, the party, held six short weeks after Germany, Italy, and Japan declared war on the United States, featured "a dressmaker's dummy, a Nazi uniform, nails, axes, tom-toms and plenty of Jamaica rum," and was inspired by a book by occultist and writer William Seabrook that was popular at the time: Witchcraft: Its Power in the World Today.
Richard Metzger is the current Boing Boing guest blogger
I'm not sure this story is an actual anecdote or just a meandering way of introducing an amazing YouTube clip, but here goes nuthin' :
As a lad growing up in Wheeling, WV in the 1970s, at approximately the age of twelve, I decided that I was NOT going to eat the food I was being served by my parents any more. In a home where greasy pan-fried hamburgers (or "Steakums") and Kraft macaroni and cheese were the normal dinner fare, I simply wanted to eat healthier. My parents were not very happy about this this demand --for that is what it was-- but what could they do? However, the severity of my new diet must have really taken them by surprise. I became, pretty much a Fruitatarian, almost a raw foodist, years before this was common. What influenced my twelve year-old mind to do something like this was an obscure book I found in the local library called "The Mucusless Diet Healing System" by Dr. Arnold Ehret.
I won't go into the details of the diet, which extols the value of avoiding "mucus" and "pus" in your food --sounds like an admirable goal, right?-- but suffice to say that while Dr Ehret's work still has many followers --he's thought of as the founder of Naturopathy -- some diet experts consider him a total quack. But I am not here to debate the merits of his ideas, pro or con, merely to offer some brief context before I send you off to read this short essay, The Definitive Cure of Chronic Constipation.
Okay? You got that? At the very least skim it. The language he uses is quite distinctive isn't it? The total disgust he expresses about the digestive system is almost Nietzschean in its peculiar character. The absolutist tone must've contributed greatly to my pre-teen interest in the diet.
Now flash-forward to the late 1990s, New York City. I had become friends with the then 91 year old Theodore Gottlieb, better-known as the infamous dark comedian Brother Theodore, a big influence on Eric Bogosian, Lydia Lunch and Spaulding Gray, who had been performing his totally insane one-man show at the tiny 13th Street Theater for ages and was a frequent guest on David Letterman's show during the 1980s. No exaggeration to say that Theodore had been around forever. He was delivering lines like "The only thing that keeps me alive is the hope of dying young" long before I was born. What was a great gag when he was, say, 50 years old, and then to STILL be delivering a line like that at the age of 93, as he did on my UK television series, well that existential tension is what made his nonagenarian performances so incredibly spell-binding.
The show was in the form of a stern lecture. It was impossible to tell if this was an act you were seeing or if he was utterly batshit crazy, a berserk "genius" impervious to the laughter as long as an audience bought tickets. The props were a chair, a table, a chalk board and a stryrofoam cup. There was a single spotlight. If you were anywhere near the stage in that little theater he could totally scare the shit out of you. Of course, whenever I brought friends, I took them right down the front!
It was an act, I can assure you. Theodore in real life was a mellow old bohemian guy who lived several lives in his 94 years. He'd been in Dachau and he'd also been on Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and most famously on Late Night with David Letterman. He was in "The Burbs" playing Tom Hank's great uncle and was the voice of Gollum in "The Hobbit" cartoon. He had a cameo in Orson Welles' "The Stranger." Theodore was an old Beatnik, that's the way I saw him. (He was even in a porno movie! An X-rated parody of "Jaws" called "Gums." Theo plays the boat captain, in a thankfully non-balling role. In "Gums" he is seen, rather inexplicably, wearing a Nazi uniform for most of the film). In his nineties he was dating a woman in her mid-forties. He rode a bike around New York City until he was late in his eighties. He really wasn't anything like his crazed monk act in real life, though. And let me tell you, when you are in your thirties and have a friend who is in their nineties... you learn things about life. Not all of them good, either. 94-years is a long time to live. Too long, if you ask me. I'm quite sure he felt that way, too.
Theodore apparently had great difficulty memorizing lines, even his own material and so he only really ever did two major monologues --he'd switch off between them when he felt like it-- for over 40 years. One was called "Foodism" -we'll get to this one in a minute and the other was called "Quadrupidism" where he'd extol the virtues of human beings getting down on all fours.
One day I was visiting Theodore at his apartment and I was looking at his sparse book shelf. On it sat "The Confessions of Aleister Crowley," Baudelaire's "Les Fleur du Mal," an Edgar Alan Poe anthology, The Portable Nietzsche, St Augustine, and... ta da... "The Mucusless Diet Healing System" by Dr Arnold Ehret. I remarked to him that I myself was a pre-teen adherent to Arnold Ehret's ideas about diet and he replied that it was the inspiration for his "Foodism" monologue. "I merely exaggerated his writings. Just slightly. That was all it took!" My jaw hit the ground. He'd managed to craft one of the most brilliant comic monologues of all time based on Ehret's zany diet-sprach. I was awestruck at how amazing this revelation really was. I mean... how creative!!
You read that essay about constipation, right? Promise me? Now go watch this extended excerpt from "Foodism" performed on Letterman in the mid-80s.
A Secret Noodle Ring in MinnesotaNew York Times obituary for Theodore GottliebBrother Theodore is Dead by Nick MamatasBrother Theodore by Jon Kalish (the "TV producer" referred to here is probably me)
A radio tribute to Brother Theodore on WNYC's "The No Show"
Tears from a Glass Eye... with a Tongue of Madness! (Brother Theodore record)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (on the Theodore documentary)
To My Great Chagrin (Brother Theodore documentary)
Note that there are several torrents of Brother Theodore performances out there on the Interwebs.
Cracked has a list of five Fortune 500 companies that profited greatly by their active collaboration with the Nazis, from IBM (punchcard tabulators to count the concentration camp dead) to Hugo Boss (designed the Nazi uniforms) and others -- check out how incredibly evil Siemens is:
Siemens was the major player in the Nazification of Germany. The company, run by Werner's son, Carl, and then his grandson, Hermann, struggled in the wake of World War I and the Great Depression and had to earn some dough fast. When Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, it was the signal for the Siemens executives to start building factories, and nowhere was the real estate better than near the homey neighborhoods of Auschwitz and Buchenwald...
At the height of the Nazi terror during the 1940s, it was not atypical for a slave worker to build electrical switches for Siemens in the morning and be snuffed out in a Siemens-made gas chamber in the afternoon...
Well, a few years ago, in an act of insensitive fuckery so colossal it could blot out the sun, Siemens tried to trademark the name "Zyklon" with the intent of marketing a series of products under the name. Including gas ovens.
Prince Harry was photographed at a formal costume party sporting a Nazi uniform. The Sun newspaper ran the picture on the front page, resulting in a quick mea culpa from the possible future King of England.
UPDATE: BB reader Greg Phillips kindly pointed out that a "fancy dress party" is the equivalent of a "costume party."
The Pope -- who's been lobbying against war in Iraq -- isn't gonna like this. National retailers including Kmart, Rite Aid and Walgreens are selling Easter baskets in which the traditional choco-bunny centerpiece is replaced with plastic gun-toting miltary action figures.
At the Astor Place Kmart, the encampment is on display just inside the main entrance. A camouflaged sandy-haired soldier with an American-flag arm patch stands alert in a teal, pink, and yellow basket beneath a pretty green-and-purple bow. Within a doll-arm's reach are a machine gun, rifle, hand grenade, large knife, pistol, and round of ammunition. In the next basket a buzz-cut blond with a snazzy dress uniform hawks over homeland security, an American eagle shield on his arm, and a machine gun, pistol, Bowie knife, two grenades, truncheon, and handcuffs at the ready.
One must hunt a little harder to find the Easter sniper at Walgreens, but what lies in wait among the bunnies and chicks there is perhaps even more surreal. The Super Wrriors (sic) Battle Set and Placekeepers (sic) Military Men Play Set bristle with toy assault rifles and machine guns, tanks, troop transports, bomber planes, commanded by armored men with shaved heads and sunglasses. The assortment also includes a space-age ray gun and other imaginary hardware for orbital combat. Packets of jellybeans are tossed in as if an afterthought, nestled in the cellophane underbrush like anti-personnel mines.
Not surprisingly, the merger of religious observance and jingoistic lust sparked the ire of Christian leaders. Bishop George Packard, who oversees spiritual care for Episcopalian members of the armed services, worries about practical issues. He's concerned about creating a backlash against the military, and questions the message sent to Muslims by the melding of a Christian holiday with images of war.