Friday, 30 November 2012

Military History: A Child's Guide

This week we have something a little different.  In the Lafayette College Libraries’ East Asian digital collection, there are images from a set of 48 “Japanese History Study Cards” from 1935.  Aiming to “make entrance examination preparation truly fun,” it was supposed to teach elementary school children phrases about Japanese national history.  Of course, Japan was gearing up for Super Fun War Times, so all the cards are related to “soldiering and martial values.”  And thus you get some bizarre blending of children’s drawings and implied brutality.

Some of my favorites:

"The bomb-dropping flying corps."

See?  Dropping bombs is a friendly activity.  The little green pellets of friendship rain down from a happy little bluebird.  Well, maybe happy is the wrong word.  Those eyes kind of suggest “mind control technology.”

"The Yell that Accompanies a Bayonet Thrust."

You should always keep your mouth wide open while bayoneting someone, the better to catch the spray of blood and gore and consume your enemy’s power.

"Octopus-shaped gas mask"

Poison gas attacks are adorable.

"In the blink of an eye, it takes only a single blow."

What is this soldier striking down in a single blow?  Is it a beaver?  A giant squirrel?  I did not realize these things were major national security threats in Japan.

"Heave-Ho! The artillery squad pushes the gun carriage."

A naked baby leads a rabbit, a masked monkey and a bear in a cannon charge.  Note that both the rabbit and the monkey are more clothed than the commanding baby.  I am not sure that promoting infants to commanding positions is a wise tactical strategy, but then giving a cannon to a bear is also questionable.

"The Robotic Soldier Works Splendidly."

Holy crap, Japan had robot soldiers in WWII?  And they were evil robot soldiers, from the look of things.  How did they not win?  Also, I suppose those are supposed to be bullets hitting it, but they look kind of like angry cotton spiders. 

I must say that I feel deprived, not having had such educational cards as a child.  You can see the full collection here. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Bonus Post: Black Friday Edition

Thanksgiving gets feasting, but the day after Thanksgiving has long been associated with another tradition: lining up and mauling fellow shoppers to get a discounted Shiny New Thing of the Year, or as many SNTotYs as one can grab without being stabbed in the face. 

This painting by 16th century Dutch painter Cornelis van Haarlem, “Massacre of the Innocents,” is actually really horrific.  But because I am a terrible person, this vignette made me decide Black Friday was the time to bring it out here.

These ladies are ready to do ANYTHING for a great deal.  I assume they are scratching that man’s eyes out for a terrific new flower-print tunic.

Overlooking the overwhelmingly horrendous slaughter and the extremely prominent male buttocks displayed at the front of the painting, the other bit that caught my eye was this group:

That nude man has possibly the most unlikely “about to murder someone” pose that I have ever seen.  It is a pose that says, “Excuse me, miss, I have something I think you’d like to see.”  And behind the main group there is a lady that appears to be performing the YMCA dance.  So at least someone is having a bit of fun in all this.

Stay safe this megashopping day!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Successful Family Feast Tips: Provide Hats and Alcohol

In honor of the American Thanksgiving celebrations, I thought today we’d take a look at a feast painting.  After a search for large images of feast paintings revealed first John the Baptist’s head on a platter, and next a bunch of animals feasting on raw rabbit hearts, I decided that despite not being specifically Thanksgiving-related, this image would do.

“The Bean Feast,” by 17th century Dutch painter Jan Steen, shows a rollicking party indeed.   

You know things are wild when small children are standing on the table and a nun is helping them drink up.  Chug, chug, chug!

Behind them, some of the family is having an impromptu Funny Hat Party.  The child is literally a basketcase, and a man appears to be auditioning for the role of the Tin Man while beating a griddle with a spoon in a fit of hysteria.  The third man just seems to be desperately sipping from a straw; I assume he’s got a keg of hard cider back there.

Here is the crazy uncle of the gathering.  He is mixing something in a jar, and based on his expression I am willing to bet it is not the gravy.  Or if it is, it undoubtedly has some special ingredients.  I am not sure what the story is with his hat, but it looks a bit like a feathered squid died while devouring the side of his head.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Mating Game (With Beer and Bagpipes)

We’re looking at Pieter Huys’ work again today, although this time with 100% less naked bums and animal demons.  No, this is a simpler time, a simpler theme…and that theme is bagpipes.

"The Bagpiper Player and His Wife" is apparently “humorous treatment of the heterosexual joie de vivre.”  The bagpipes represent his man-bits, and the tankard, her lady-bits.  So apparently in life a man has a massive bag, some reedy bits, and whines a lot, while a woman has the capacity to put away a gallon of lager without batting an eye.  I’m less sure about whatever it is the woman is holding.  Is it a slice of buttered bread?  Does that represent the sexy buttery-ness that results from storing your bagpipes in a lady’s tankard?  She even brought the bedsheet to the performance, wrapped around her head. 

He doesn’t look very happy about this whole situation.  He holds his bagpipe defensively, and his expression says, “Dammit Mildred, you know I don’t have the teeth for your buttery bread anymore!”

Saturday, 10 November 2012

It's Tough to Be the Queen - Part 6

Finally, finally the couple meet.  Although apparently after Marie turned up in France she still had to wait a week to see him because ole’ Henry was too busy with one of his mistresses.  A lovely start to an ideal marriage, as shown here.

They’re so very much in love they are literally floating on air, or on cloud which is like air.  Everything is sunshine and rainbows and peacocks.  They waste little time exposing themselves to each other despite being outdoors and kind of surrounded by people—because let’s face it, they’ve been married without seeing each other longer than most celebrity marriages last at all.  Also, nothing is sexier than being watched in your fist nuptial encounter by a small crowd of naked children.  

 Wikipedia further notes that it is “Hymen who unites them.”  And how.

The sexual tension is so great that Henry is carrying actual lightning bolts.  This eagle also seems remarkably ok with being used as a royal footrest, possibly because it is concerned about being zapped with lightning. 

Below them is a cart pulled by lions ridden by more naked children with fire.   

The internet informs me that the figure in the cart is a representation of the city Lyons, at which we should all have a hearty chuckle at classical visual puns.  Personally I suspect Marie hired the lion-cart to fend off all of Henry’s mistresses from interrupting her long-anticipated wedding-consummation night.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Hollywood and the Cathedral of Doom

Dear readers, I recently had the good fortune to accompany my partner on a work trip to Anaheim, California—best known as the home of Disneyland.  While the partner was off working, I spent a lot of time searching for things to do that did not involve spending lots of money or worshiping the Great Mouse.  In my meanderings, I inadvertently discovered an amazing place that combined both excessive consumption and “worship”: the Crystal Cathedral.

Opened in the 80s, the Crystal Cathedral is the world’s largest glass building.  Its weekly church service “Hour of Power” was broadcast across the country, and it featured speakers such as Arnold Schwartzenegger and Charlton Heston.  With over 3000 padded theater-style seats, it also allows overflow visitors to experience the service from the comfort of their own cars in the lot.

It’s not just the one building, either—although the main sanctuary is by far the most impressive.  There is even a map to show you how to find your way around the megaplex.

There’s a “Welcoming Center”…

A “Family Life Center”…

A “Tower of Hope” with carillon…

An art gallery (with no doors, so I just sort of zoomed in through the windows)…

A Box Office…

And this crystal tower complete with a marble prayer-dome.

 As you can imagine, this kind of religious theme park cost a lot to keep up and running.  The establishment certainly encouraged donations….

But when that wasn’t enough, and charging $25-30 a ticket for entry to their Christmas and Easter pageants (the latter of which included the scene with Jesus throwing out the money lenders) didn’t bring it together either, they went bankrupt.  It is now owned by the Catholic Church, which presumably is rather more fiscally capable of maintaining this sparkling Jesusland.

So you may be wondering why this place is being featured in an art blog.  Well, in part it is because this place was so fantastic and ridiculous that I felt the need to share it; but also it features a whole collection of life-sized sculptures dotted around the place that really deserve a look here.  So, let us begin the tour. 

From the entrance, everywhere there is sidewalk there are marble engravings with the names of donors.  It is the religious Hollywood Walk of Fame, only instead of doing anything impressive, all you have to do to be included is donate a suitably obscene amount of money.

The first thing you come to is the marble temple below the crystal tower.  Inside there is a rotating marble pedestal, upon which is a crystal block with a laser-etched 3D Jesus attempting to claw his way out of it.  There is a padded ring surrounding it on the floor to allow for more comfortable adoration of the crystal.

The sanctuary itself is indeed a glittering architectural wonder.  We’ve already seen the “Joy of Giving” statue at the entry; going a bit further inside we see the “altar.”

It’s not so much an altar as a giant marble stage to show off the massive pipe organ, choir, and a lighting setup worthy of Broadway.  Note the cross set off to the side so as not to obstruct the view.

A giant TV screen is, of course, a vital part of any church service.

There is also a fountain running the length of the sanctuary (switched off in the off-hours).  Is it for impromptu baptisms?  Wet Sunday-best Contests? 

Moving on, we come to the ladies’ room, which gets a mention because it was fancier than those in some 5-Star hotels, including marble pillars and floors, floor-to ceiling mirrors, sofas, and original Thomas Kinkade paintings.

Outside the ladies’ room we look at our first statue: the return of the Prodigal Son (note the ladies's sign emerging from the shrubbery).

It seems quite deliberately placed here; is this a subtle message encouraging women to return from their wanton feminist ways into the welcoming arms of the Father Church?  Stop worrying about freedom or personal responsibility, and go get gussied up before the luxurious mirrors. 

On close inspection, it looks a little like the Prodigal Son is feebly attempting to strangle his father.
Continuing on, Jesus waves for you to join him in walking on water.  This is actually perfectly possible, as the water there is about an inch deep.

There were several statues of Jesus surrounded by children, and in all of them he looks uncomfortably like someone I would not want to leave my children with.

This is my favorite.  It’s supposed to be the finding of the lost sheep, but his face has this terrifying glee on it, and the kid next to him looks like she’s saying, “Please, sir, don’t slaughter our only lamb for your unholy sacrifice!”

Outside the Memorial Garden, there is this eagle that apparently ate something terrible.

Then there is this.  The story goes that the Bad Guys brought this woman caught in the act of adultery and tried to get Jesus to say they should stone her, but he says that the one without sin should cast the first stone.

The artist has certainly captured the Cartoonish Bad Guy look. 

However, Jesus isn’t so much standing up for her, as ducking out of the way and saying “Yeah, you shouldn’t stone her (but please don’t hurt me)!”

The lady herself has opted to turn the covered part of herself away, leaving her suggestive adulteress back open for rock-pelting.

For the finale, we have this amazing depiction of the Holy Family.

This was the only statue in the place that was painted.  However, close inspection reveals that a key bit has been left untouched.

As Mother Mary looks on with a slightly spacey look of peace, Baby Jesus is apparently the descendant of the Terminator.

Although his skin and hair have been left a gleaming silver, we note that his eyes have been carefully painted blue.  Because of course Jesus had blue eyes.

At least Father Joseph has the decency to look horrified.