Serendipity: ¡Viva La Muerte!

Some of the Issues from the Spanish Civil War Seem Very Contemporary

I am currently reading the First Edition of Hugh Thomas’s The Spanish Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1961).  Many issues between the Nationalists (Franco’s Fascists) and the Republic (very like our Democratic Party) seem to ring equally true for today’s overcharged political environment. On August 15, 1936, the Nationalists adopted the flag of the Spanish monarchy and made a number of speeches. After Generalissimo Francisco Franco and Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Serra, there was a third speaker:

Next to speak was [José] Millán Astray, a man from whom there seemed to be more shot away than there was of flesh remaining. He had but one leg, one eye, one arm, few fingers left on his one remaining hand. ‘We have no fear of them [the Leftists],’ he shouted, ‘let them come and see what we are capable of under this flag.’ A voice was heard crying‘¡Viva Millán Astray!’ ‘What’s that?’ cried the General, ‘no vivas for me! But let them all shout with me “¡Viva la muerte! ¡Abajo la inteligencia!”’ (Long live death! Down with intelligence!). The crowd echoed this mad slogan. He added, ‘Now let the Reds come! Death to them all!’ So saying, he flung his cap into the crowd amid extraordinary excitement. [Page 272]

Fascist General Millán Astray

How like the Fascists to praise death and downgrade intelligence. “Don’t think too much,” they seem to be saying. “Just follow orders!” The Spanish left was like our Democrats: A Circular firing squad. There was the CNT (Anarcho-Syndicalist Trades Union), the FAI (an Anarchist secret society), POUM (Trotskyites), PSUC (the United Catalan Socialist-Communist Party), and UGT (the Socialist Trade Union). On the Left were militias, propagandists, the International Brigades from all over Europe and the Americas, and a whole plethora of irreconcilable beliefs and opinions. On the Right was the Spanish Army led by Franco and supplies and manpower from Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

The Internet Erupts … or Does It?

The Internet Is Bigger Than You or Me

One of the most common “fillers” on news websites is the reaction of the Internet to various news stories. Often this is accompanied by a triumphant tone, such as the recent story that Tomi Lahren, even as she excoriated Obamacare, was enjoying the benefits of Obamacare. The news story usually sounds like this: “The Internet erupted when it discovered that ….”

Except for one thing: The Internet per se does not erupt. Those who hate Trumpf may do a happy dance; but hard-core Trumpf-followers just don’t care. They might even think more of her for her hypocrisy in taking advantage of a program she was attacking, thus helping in a strange way to bring about its demise. I am sure that Tomi Lahren, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, the Mooch, Kayleigh McEnany, and other Trumpf spokespersons do not believe more than a fraction of what they announce to the public. Let me go further: Even Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and other highly paid news-like “entertainers” may very well believe in their heart of hearts what most of us believe, but they have learned that there is big money pandering to fools.

So do not be too heartened—or disheartened—by what you discover on the Internet. It’s just another minor bump on the road hat could, on one hand, be a seaming pile of turds or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

How To Be Hateful

Martin Shkreli As Seen By Court Artist

Some people have a unique ability to be hateful. Perhaps the most obvious example is one Martin Shkreli, who is quite possibly the most hated person in America today. A corrupt entrepreneur, Shkreli is perhaps most famous for raising the price of a vital medication from $13.50 to $750.00 per pill. That, however, is not why he was brought to justice: Rather it was his securities fraud violations of SEC procedures while running MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare. Now it appears that his behavior during and after the trial might result in a heavier legal penalty when the court reconvenes.

The court artist portrait of Shkreli above makes him look like an ogre from a fairy tale. Or look at this depiction:

Gollum + Shkreli


Only in the case of our current president have I seen someone who is so determined to be widely hated. There is one problem with that type of provacative behavior: One usually pays for it in the end.

The Apocalypse of Pop Culture?

Game Boy

Lately, I have seen a number of paintings by Filip Hodas, a self-proclaimed 3-D artist from the Czech Republic. The illustrations shown here can be described under the heading of the Apocalypse of Pop Culture. Not all his work is on this theme, but the images that startled me definitely were. (You can see more of his work by clicking here.)

It is somewhat appropriate that the images of much-loved pop icons in the process of falling into disrepair and ruin comes from a resident of Prague. The Czechs, like the Hungarians and other Eastern Europeans were essentially trashed under the postwar Russian occupation. So now, as the West begins its own decline, why should our icons escape the wrecking ball of history?

McDonald’s Happy Meal

I particularly love the McDonald’s Happy Meal box, turned into a kind of rural slum dwelling. One can almost expect to see an American Hansel and Gretel wending their way to this sagging ruin.

Allow me to leave you with one final Hodas image, that of a wrecked and graffiti-covered Pac Man:

Pac Man

Notice the THX graffiti.

Serendipity: Getting High on … Bananas?

How I Learned About Bananadine aka Mellow Yellow

It was the March 24, 1967 issue of the Los Angeles Free Press that taught me all about how to get high on bananas. You can see the cover of the issue in question illustrated above. Did I run to the nearest supermarket and buy up all the bananas in sight? No, I didn’t. It was just six months after my brain surgery to remove a chromophobe adenoma from the center of my head; and I was not about to go experimenting with psychedelic drugs. I was just finishing my first quarter as a graduate student at UCLA’s Film School. Although I loved the Free Press and looked for it religiously each week, I was both impressed and somewhat repelled by the whole hippie phenomenon.

What is this about getting high on bananas? Just read this excerpt from Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, which reminded me of this news story that happened some half century ago:

Bigfoot had been driving around once a week to Kozmik Banana, a frozen-banana shop near the Gordita Beach pier, creeping in by way of the alley in back. It was a classic shakedown. Kevin the owner, instead of throwing away the banana peels, was cashing in on a hippie belief of the moment by converting them to a smoking product he called Yellow Haze. Specially trained crews of speed freaks, kept out of sight nearby in a deserted resort hotel about to be demolished, worked three shifts carefully scraping off the insides of the banana peels and obtaining, after oven-drying and pulverizing it, a powdery black substance they wrapped in plastic bags to sell to the deluded and desperate. Some who smoked it reported psychedelic journeys to other places and times. Others came down with horrible nose, throat, and lung symptoms that lasted for weeks. The belief in psychedelic bananas went on, however, gleefully promoted by underground papers which ran learned articles comparing diagrams of banana molecules to those of LSD and including alleged excerpts from Indonesian professional journals about native cults of the banana and so forth, and Kevin was raking in thousands.  Bigfoot saw no reason why law enforcement shouldn’t b cut in for a share of the proceeds.

So, as you see, however much I dearly loved the Freep, the whole thing was an early instance of fake news on the (far) left.

The Free Press Called it “Bananadine”

I remember that the Free Press even had a bookstore on Fairfax, specializing in subversive titles, but with enough interesting general literature available to whet my appetite. A big plus is that it was right across the street from Canter’s Deli, which was open all hours, making it a popular nosh stop for film addicts discussing the pictures they had just seen. Martine and I still go there from time to time for their corned beef, pastrami, and other delights.

Up-Yours-Ism

Promise Them Anything, But Give Them the Finger

It has not taken long for Americans to find out what they have in President Trumpf. During the campaign, a number of different positions were taken. Let’s face it: Many of them were contradictory. What we ended up with was lots of promises, few of which were kept. Our Presidente is not a particularly bright man whose political philosophy appears to be Up-Yours-Ism.

Unless you are either a billionaire or a tyrannical dictator, you are probably a pathetic loser. So, basically, Up Yours! Remember that famous White House Press Dinner at which Barack Obama lambasted Trumpf, who sat glowering in the audience, resolved to completely undo everything his predecessor ever did. (And he’s still trying to prosecute “Crooked Hillary.”) This is a man who wants to get even with everybody who ever mocked him—and that includes most of the American people. They don’t like me? Then, Up Yours!

Funny thing, though, it’s not always a good thing to have all your wishes come true. Look at the stories of Croesus and Midas. Trumpf lives all by himself in the White House, which he thinks is a dump, probably because it doesn’t have gold plumbing fixtures. His wife doesn’t want to live with him. He doesn’t trust anyone for more than the lifetime of a fruit fly. His only out is golf at various clubs he owns around the world. Plus, he must be aware that the wolves are gathering in an attempt to put an end to his presidency. But that only feeds the troll, to which his inevitable response is: Up Yours!

This is a new experience for the American people, being treated as a bunch of losers by a self-styled billionaire. How does he feel about those ever-declining poll numbers. Wait, never mind! That’s just fake news. Up Yours!

 

Italy’s “Other” Orgy Island

The Mediterranean Isle of Zannone

The original orgy island was Capri, where the Emperor Tiberius dwelt in the Villa Jovis and was entertained by nude underage “spintrians” in his pools and grottoes. You can read about the whole sad affair in Suetonius, or if you are pressed for time, try here.  (It is for a reason that Capri means “goat” in Italian.)

More recently, there was a nearby island, slightly to the north and west, called Zannone. The tiny islet contained a single villa owned by the Marquis Camillo Casati and inhabited with his sexy actress wife Anna Fallarino. The Marquis let his wife have public sex with visitors, handymen, boatmen—whoever—just so long as he was able to watch and take pictures. He eventually accumulated 1,500 photos of his wife enjoying the favors of a range of men.

The Marquis’s Actress Wife, Anna Fallarino

But all good hings must come to an end. It appears that Anna fell in love with one of her transient paramours, which gave the Marquis pangs of envy. On August 30, 1970, he got a pistol, shot Anna and her lover, Massimo Minorenti, and then turned the pistol on himself. There was brain matter and blood all over the seventeenth century paintings at the scene of the crime. You can read more about this scandalous affair on CNN or this website.

I decided to write this post today because my most popular article in the last five years was about news orgies and showed a picture of several kangaroos in compromising positions. My guess is that a lot of pizza-faced youngsters Google “orgy” and “orgies” for prurient reasons. So, let the games begin!