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Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Decrepit Beacon of Enlightenment

Blagnac Histoire &; Memoire is an historical society dedicated to the history of, ta-da! Blagnac, a small city and suburb of Toulouse.  It's a wealthy city with lots of tax revenue generated by Airbus and its well-paid employees, so the association gets a decent subsidy from the Mairie to print their review, Blagnac, Questions d'Histoire.  In 2013 the association published a special edition exploring the histories of the city's street and place names.  Almost an entire page is dedicated to the Place de la Révolution, discussed many times here on LoS because of the curious monument located there which has been dubbed the "Illuminati Pyramid" but more accurately is named Le Temple de la Sagesse Supreme.  Oh what a monster we unleashed upon the English-speaking world!  (I can't tell you how many sites reproduce several of my photos and field observations without attribution.  The French pull little these little tricks as well....I just tried to right-click and save an image of the world map from another website but they'd blocked that function and a little message popped up to tell me the image was protected by copyright.  Fair enough, but I'd originally created the image!  The author  had copied a photo I took and had the nerve to claim copyright!)

I've decided to translate the entry regarding this curious plaza for your edification.  For further elaboration, feel free to peruse our posts bearing this tag.


Conceived as the Southern port of entry into the Grand Noble quarter, this plaza was built in 1989 as a solemn commemoration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution; it is also officially known as the Place du Bicentenaire, (Bicentennial Plaza)It displays more or less easily identifiable symbols that recall one of the great founding acts of our history.

A large rectangle, delimited by monumental arcades, the plaza combines a play of circles, ovals and spokes. It starts as a central tumulus, crowned with a pyramid pierced by a window, inserted into a frame in the form of a house.  The pyramid is a fountain where from hundreds of holes water gurgles into a basin in the form of a double hemisphere world map.  In front of the pyramid, bronze stelae represent the cosmos and bear the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.  Facing the pyramid on the North is a large belvedere-gallery and to the South an ensemble with a long shaft surmounted by a tricolor flag and a votive column wearing a Phrygian cap and a cockade.

When he presented his project in 1988, architect Jean-Philippe Dubourg, winner of the contest organized by the city, explained that all these are linked: 
"The belvedere emits a laser, a ray of light pure and abstract, on a North-South axis....This light will modulate, taking on the essence of the Rights of Man as it passes through the Temple of Supreme Wisdom (the pyramid) and the House (allegory of the Homeland)...Thus symbolically metamorphosed, the ray of light will be refracted in the parabola (the cockade) of the votive column of the French Revolution, spreading  the incontrovertible truths contained in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen into the ether....the central tumulus is a also a subtle botanical garden, metaphor of France as a gentle garden of liberty, planted with a Liberty Tree and a multitude of perennial plants, from gaillardia to santolina, plants dating from the Revolution."

In the opinion of his colleagues and fellow architects, Jean-Philippe Dubourg's project paid homage to Enlightenment philosophy and to the revolutionary ideals which it inspired; without a doubt, through the pyramid, to Freemasonry (whose role in the genesis of the Revolution has been greatly exaggerated); and finally to the great architects of the 18th century (Boullée, Ledoux and Lequeu); all the while applying the precepts: 
"A rational architecture using simple geometric forms and having a moral bearing on Man."
Since 1989 the plaza has suffered from the wear and tear of time and from technical failures.  The laser, victim of recurrent outages, never really functioned.  The double hemisphere world map has disappeared under a coating intended to plug leaks.  On the stelae, on looks in vain for the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen; the support panel is loose and damaged...Perhaps it will one day recover its place?  Finally, the garden has lost its luxuriance, the maintenance requiring too much care....Despite all this, the plaza has retained a certain allure.

The plaza has gained, despite itself, a renown well beyond the limits of Blagnac, thanks to the Internet.  According to Internauts fond of esotericism, it symbolizes the "New World Order", a world dominated by a small elite of initiates: the Illuminati.  This thesis hasn't failed to astonish and amuse the citizens of Blagnac; maybe they were flattered to discover that a monument in their city illustrates such a remarkable plan? 

B.Q.H n. 1-2-3-4-8

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Battle of the Battle of Liberty Place

White League propaganda. These are the fellows honored by the Battle monument.... (Wikimedia Commons)
When the Battle of Liberty Place monument, a memorial honoring those who died in an attempt to overthrow the city government after the Civil War, came down two weeks ago, contractors did the work in the middle of the night wearing kevlar and face masks.
WaPo: Tensions rise....

It irks me a bit that this article conveys the message that everybody against removing Confederate memorials are either racists and/or apologists for slavery.  Camo-clad, pistol-packin', Trump-lovin', flag-wavin' good ole boys sittin' on the porch with a moon-pie in one hand and a Mason jar of RC Cola in the other.  That said, take a good look at that cartoon.  One would hope that the Liberty Place monument's defenders are ignorant of exactly what it was they are defending when it comes to this particular chicken-fried obelisk.  Sadly, I can't escape the fact that many of them know exactly what it means.  David Duke certainly did when he tried to hold a rally there.  And I'd bet the phoned-in threats that made spiriting it away like thieves in the night a necessity weren't made by kindly old ladies dividing their Golden Years between the Daughters of the Confederacy and the flower-arranging club.

I think that somehow contextualizing these kinds of monuments would be better than just taking them away in the dead of night.  Are we eventually going to take down any memorial to the Confederate war dead?  If you look at the history behind the Liberty Place monument, and the literal white supremacist messages inscribed upon it, it's hard to lament its removal.  But its presence at least reminded people of the events which it honored, and those are events worth remembering.  I would suggest a kind of counter monument that incorporated the original, a way to re-interpret both the event itself and the earlier monument that sought to glorify it.  Becoming a kind of monument about a monument.  A meta-monument.  Or shit, just take it down and put it in a museum.  But doesn't stealing it away under cover of darkness send a message of fear, or give the impression that there's more support for it than there actually is?

It's like the KKK gravestone in Deland, Florida I've written about.  It would be a forgotten bit of local folklore if removed.  As it is, the stone radiates a kind of forlorn air, covered as it is with the stains of piss and beer bottles, perhaps other effluvia.  It reeks of defeat.  At worst, neglected; at best, covered with marks of loathing for what it represents, pooh stains on a white sheet.  The dank drapery of a defunct douche-bag.  But trying to erase history is always a bad move.  That grave inspired a lot of research on my part, edging me me towards investigating many facets of African-American history I might not otherwise have been motivated to learn about.  I felt I had to counteract a monument to the despicable.

Some kind of interpretive stelae for the Liberty Place monument may have been more powerful than a midnight removal.  Imagine coming across a glorious obelisk and then learning it carried blatant messages of white supremacy and sought to honor a white supremacist army?  A good number of people would check it out, learn something about how the end of the Civil War didn't necessarily mean the end of racial bloodshed and armed civil strife.  About how the League operated in the open, explicitly agitating for the overthrow of the Reconstructionist government and then trying to make it happen through intimidation, murder and in Liberty Place, armed insurrection.  And where they failed in violence, they succeeded through democracy.  Democrats regained control of the state legislature in 1876, two years later.

So now they're preparing the removal of statues to Generals Lee and Beauregard and President Jefferson Davis, and the situation is fraught with tension, primed for some kind of violent reaction.  Interesting story.  I wrote about the decision to remove the statues back in 2016 and had some more cogent comments.  As a historian, I'm simply loathe to cover up the past, no matter how loathsome.  Although I'm not really torn up about it, I do think it would be a shame if the next targets are monuments to Confederate war dead.  People should be able to honor their ancestors.  I know, why would I bother to defend these people?  I just don't "get it".  I do get it, but this kind of controversy doesn't do nuance very well.  Some of those soldiers were despicable men, but many of the grunts were just kids, protecting their lands and their sovereignty.  Call me naive, but I've always been in the "better to let ten guilty men go free than convict once innocent man" camp.  One of the pitfalls of actually believing in the ideals of the Founding Fathers.  Beauregard and Lee I could care less about.  History will remember them.  But who will remember those poor young dudes they led to the slaughter?

In any event, the people have spoken, the monuments will fall.  I really do hope they do something though, to explain the story of Liberty Place.  That was pretty messed up.  The White League that initiated the insurrection was a nasty bunch.  The whole business had started in 1872 over a disputed election and had already led to one conflict, or massacre, at Colfax, where 150 freedmen were killed by a white militia.  At least 50 of them had been killed after having been taken prisoner.  These were not the gallant warriors of myth, and many of these militiamen were part of the White League that later tried to capture New Orleans, and succeeded, until Federal troops moved in and ousted them.  No one was ever prosecuted.  The 1891 monument interpreted the ensuing events in order to honor the insurrectionists and in 1932 the city added an inscription stating that the election of 1876 vindicated the insurrectionists, recognizing white supremacy in the South.  No tears here to see it go, but mightn't it have served a better role as a kind of elaborate public urinal?

If the vow to set these statues in a museum is honored, I think the public would be better served than placing them in secret warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant and the alien cadaver.  The monument is a powerful shock to our modern sensibilities, which is a good sign that times have changed.  That they had to take such extraordinary precautions to remove it shows just how much times haven't.

So I guess this is a contradictory mass of feelings about the issue after all.  Many people want them removed and I think I want them to stay for the very same reasons.  A question, then, not of the goal, but of the strategy on how to attain it.  Or maybe not.  I don't want people to forget this stuff.  I want them to remember....

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Assassin's Creed! Art that Kills! Art Imitates Death!

This is such a Postmodern mind fuck I don't where to even begin.  Picture of Russian ambassador's assassination wins World Press Photo award.  A photograph of an assassination in an art gallery with a photography exhibition entitled "Russia through Turks' eyes."  Russian victim, Turkish assassin.

A photo that looks staged but isn't.

The Tarantino-attired hit-man straight out of Reservoir Dogs yelled “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria! Step back! Step back! Only death can take me from here.”

The Atlantic lays out some context and the Franz Ferdinand analogy that popped into my head.
It is also difficult not to draw historical parallels to other assassinations that have sparked broader conflagrations; despite the limits of the analogy many drew to the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914, which led to the First World War, global tensions today are such that seemingly small events could easily escalate, with dire geopolitical consequences. Though Turkish-Russia relations have thawed since the downing of the jet last year—after which, at one point, a poll found Turks viewing Russia as the country’s top threat—thousands of Turks have in recent days protested Russia’s involvement in Syria as the rebel-held enclaves in eastern Aleppo have collapsed.
The pristine white floor under the ambassador's back compared to the painterly strokes of blood around the dead assassin.  Burhan Ozbilici manages to get a perfectly crisp shot of the assassin while he's waving a gun about and yelling at the cowering patrons, but it all gets fuzzy and out of focus when the assassin is dead and no longer a threat.

Which is actually how it kind of works.  I've had a gun pointed in my face and I was as calm as an egg, everything before writ in crystalline clarity, all sharp edges and a purity of thought and action in an almost Zen-like harmony.

And then, when it was over, at the next red light, hands trembling, confusion, fear, a wellspring of emotion.

But this is old news now, just wanted to get a few random thoughts out there into the ether.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

C'mon Get Happy

Back in December I put up a few links to stories about and pages made by The Partridge Family Temple.  I didn't comment because to be honest, the group befuddles me entirely.  But I think I love them.

Dangerous Minds has now put up an article and asks a very sensible question:

But it’s really just a bunch of quasi-evil 90s vintage hipsters fucking with you. Clearly, it’s satire, but what’s the joke? That religion and TV are the same thing? It’s a lot easier to just say that. You don’t need to invest 20 years into a fake cult for that.
First of all, I'm not entirely sure it's satire or "fake."  I don't know what it is though, hence my initial reluctance to comment.

One day, Martha, I'll share the story about how a "fake" fraternity I co-founded circa 1990 ended up on the FBI's radar in connection with the so-called "Gainesville Murders".  Relax, they caught the guy and executed him in 2006.

But it just goes to show that a befuddling joke with a hard edge can make people think and say all sorts of things.  Sometimes when people are puzzled, they get hostile, especially when people think you're laughing at them.

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 for 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, the use of Hitler is intentional.  Perhaps after a day of shopping for clothes at "Hitler" and Having a meal at "Hitler's Cross", you can have a "Hitler" Ice Cream, then go home for an episode of Hitler Didi or go 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 is a bit of a stretch, as if people are out there looking to get offended, or just be silly.  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?  (and yes, I actually do think it was an error).  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 that some 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 though  We originally posted on this here.